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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, Feb. 6, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 26       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez              
There is hope for tomorrow, this rainbow over the downtown seems to say
Caribbean and Sarapiquí facing more tough times
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country kept shivering under the coldest temperatures of the year Thursday while some residents of Sarapiquí lost their homes to raging river water.

In Miramar high winds pulled whole roofs and sheets of steel and plastic laminas off homes and businesses.

A bus carrying 30 passengers was blown off the highway into a ditch along the Caribbean coast.

Some 240 persons were in government shelters by Thursday night, and rivers kept rising in the Provincia de Limón and in the Cantón de Sarapiquí.

Water was waist deep in a number of coastal communities.

The forecast? More of the same for Friday through Saturday.

Along the coast, rains in the hills brought these rivers to overflowing: Sixaola, Chirripó, Banano, Blanco, Pacuare, Reventazón, Parismina and La Estrella. Residents along the Río Sarapiquí said that river had risen dramatically and had ripped away some bankside homes and chunks of riverside properties. One shelter was established there in the  Escuela de Cristo Rey in la Virgen de Sarapiquí with 100 residents, said the national emergency commission.

In the Cantón de Talamanca the commission said about 50 persons from Sixaola were being housed in the Escuela de Margarita.

The commission said it had issued warnings for San Carlos, Los Chiles, Upala and Guatuso.

North of Heredia and Alajuela centros, the highway from Cartagos to Vera Blanco was closed until Monday because of rain-induced slides that blocked the road, Ruta 126. This is the area that was hit by an earthquake Jan. 8, and there are plenty of fresh scars in the earth vulnerable to rain.
The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said incidents due to the wind were reported in Grecia, Naranjo, Liberia and Puntarenas Thursday. 

The Cruz Roja said that two dikes were near failure and threatening nearby communities. One was at  Cairo de Siquirres, Limón, and threatening la Catalina and 6 Amigos. A dike in Matina was threatening San Miguel, Los Berros and La Esperanza with more flooding.

The Cruz Roja also said it had rescued four adults and five children who were trapped in  Puente Negro.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that it was trying to fix 800 power outages, mostly caused by falling trees and limbs. The company estimated that 100,000 of its customers were without power. Additional customers of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz in the Central Valley and of various power cooperatives also were without electricity.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said the bulk of its outages were in the central Pacific, Guanacaste, Alajuela, San Isidro de El General and the northern zone.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted winds today from 50 to 80 kph (30 to 50 mph).

The rain continued to fall along the Caribbean Thursday night. Limón airport reported 38 mms (1.5 inches) since 7 a.m. Thursday. Some 167.5 mm (6.6 inches) fell from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday. Manzanillo reported 107 mms (4.2 inches) since 7 a.m. Thursday.  Turrialba has 140.2 mms (5.5 inches) by 7 a.m. Thursday and 68.3 mms (2.7 inches) since 7 a.m., according to an automatic weather station there.

Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia reported a wind gust of 85.1 kph (52.9 mph) but no rain.

Tobias Bolaños airport reported a gust of 64.9 kph (40.3 mph), the highest in the metro area.

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Costa Rica to begin case
on Río San Juan March 2

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will get its day in the World Court in the Hague March 2.  In fact the justices there have blocked out the period to March 12 when they will hear Costa Rica's case against Nicaragua, according to the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

The dispute involved the right of free passage on the Río San Juan.  Costa Rica filed its first brief Sept. 29, 2005. As the foreign ministry pointed out Thursday, then-president Arnoldo Alemán prohibited passage of armed Costa Rican police officers in 1998. The international boundary is not the center of the river but the south bank, so Nicaragua controls the entire river.

Later Nicaragua began impeding the passage of ordinary Costa Ricans.

Costa Rica maintains its citizens have a legal right to use the river for transportation. Roads are few in the northern part of the country. In addition, Costa Rica said that police officers need their weapons when on duty because of the lawlessness of the area.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem between the two countries. The International Court of Justice will lean heavily on existing treaties.

Identity theft arrests
bring five into custody

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained four women and a man Thursday and said they made up a band that used stolen documents to get loans and buy electronic items. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that in 15 cases, the amount of the thefts was about 30 million colons, about $54,000.

Thieves would impersonate those who had lost their purses or other personal papers at various appliance stores and even lending agencies, said investigators.

Arrests and raids were made Thursday in several areas of Desamparados, Cartago and San Ramón. Investigators were able to trace the crimes to individuals who had been victims of robberies or thefts in which they lost their personal documents.

Our reader's opinion
Immigration legislation
is going the wrong way

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Criticizing the Costa Rican government is like kicking a blind horse for going in the wrong direction, but this latest lunacy, making it more difficult instead of EASIER for foreigners to come here and retire/invest is just dumber than a bag o' hammers!

Without being able to cite facts/figures directly, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that foreign residents who come from developed countries and who are of even the most humble means spend at least four to five times as much per annum as the average Tico. We're not the problem! The government should be focusing on ILLEGAL immigrants from Nicaragua and Colombia who come here penniless and take even the most low-paying jobs from Ticos and/or make significant contributions to the rising crime problem.

Have the legislators been living under rocks? There's a global economic crisis afoot, and it's going to get much, much worse before it gets even a little bit better. (Anyone who tells you something else is selling something.) Costa Rica should be looking for ways to enhance our economic future, to compete for new residents. They shouldn't be creating reasons for people to look somewhere else to retire and spend their money, like Panama for instance, which has been writing/modifying laws right and left that favor foreign investors/retirees.

Nor should they be attacking residents who are already here and who have made substantial contributions to the Costa Rican economy, by threatening to raise the income requirements when they renew their residencies.

Does the government plan to expell current residents whose pension payments are less than the new requirements? That would make for some really great press, don't you think? I'm 100 percent certain it would be front page news in every retirement newsletter and magazine, worldwide. CNN would LOVE it!

Since this latest legislation makes no sense whatsoever, economically speaking, I can only assume that it is a dark and hostile manifestation of misguided nationalism and xenophobia combined with the growing influence of the Chavistas and their loud mouthed, Napoleonic bullyboy, Hugo Chávez.

While it's certainly understandable how Ticos might resent the influx of foreigners who are wealthier than they are, I'm also assuming that these same folks have been enjoying the increase in the standard of living over the last 20 years which is due in large part to the increase in foreign tourism, immigration and investment. But if the government sends a message to us that we're not wanted here any longer, it could spell economic disaster for Costa Rica. This is obvious and irrefutable, but it seems that these very nasty potential consequences are being ignored.

I don't read the Spanish language newspapers, so I don't know what the legislators, the president or the people on the street are saying about the new immigration legislation. But if it passes as written, Costa Ricans will live to regret their lack of vision.
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mario Zamora Cordero, the immigration director, said in an online chat sponsored by la Náción this week that the immigration law will not be retroactive. That would mean that current residents would not be affected. But he will not be on the job after May 2010, and a clause in the law suggests retroactivity. This section needs to be eliminated.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 26

Gasoline prices take a turnaround and are headed up again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's price regulating agency is blaming the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip for an increase in the local gasoline prices.

The agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, said Thursday that the latest price fixing was based on the economics of the period from Dec. 25 to Jan. 8. It said the price of the colon versus the dollar and the spike in the world price due to the Mideast war were considerations.

Super gasoline is going up 16 colons (about three U.S. cents) per liter, and plus gasoline is going up 18 colons (about 3.2 cents).

The liquid petroleum price increases, too, and the agency
said this also was because of the use of the fuel in the north during winter. The increase was 21 colons (3.8 cents) per liter to 254 colons (45.7 U.S. cents) per liter. this product is used widely for cooking and in water heaters.

The new prices, effective when published in the La Gaceta official newspapers, are: super gasoline, 432 colons (77.7 cents) per liter, plus gasoline, 426 colons (76.6 cents) per liter.

Diesel only increased three colons, about one half of a U.S. cent.

There are about 3.79 liters to a U.S. gallon, so the price of super gasoline will be 1,635 colons a gallon or $2.94. This is the first increase in gasoline after a series of cuts as the world petroleum price declined.

Banco Nacional cuts its interest rate to comply with Arias
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional said Thursday that it would cut interest rates for about 98 percent of its borrowers and take a hit of some 26 billion colons over two years.  That's about $47 million.

The bank also said it would make more credit available for certain borrowers.

The changes are to comply with President Óscar Arias Sánchez and his plan to shield the country from the effects
of the worldwide financial crisis.

The bank said it will cut interest by 2 percent on existing housing loans of 50 million colons (about $90,000) or less.

It also will make a 2 percent interest reduction in the BN Desarrollo accounts for small and medium businesses. About 90 percent of its loan business is in this area, the bank said.

The changes take effect Feb. 15. Banco de Costa Rica has said it will make similar changes.

Will she or won't she? That's the Epsy Campbell question
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who follow politics have their eyes on Epsy Campbell, the president of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. The political organization meets this weekend to pick a core group that eventually will choose the party's 2010 presidential candidate.

So far, Ms. Campbell has not confirmed her desire to run for that nomination.

There is the little problem of Ottón Solís. He is the founder of the party and twice ran for president. He was defeated
narrowly by President Óscar Arias Sánchez in 2006.

Solís was the assumed candidate again for 2010, particularly since he was highly visible in the fight against the free trade treaty with the United States.

Ms. Campbell might face some hard questioning because she was one of the many politicians who accepted a contract job from Arias for political consultancy. To some the contracts looked a lot like trying to win support for the final passage of the free trade measure, particularly since the relationships were not revealed until La Náción, the Spanish-language newspaper, did so.

Personal responsibility and the treatment of illnesses
The other evening a friend told me of her nightmare experience with a prescribed drug.  The drug was a bisphosphonate, given intravenously for osteoporosis.  The doctor who prescribed it assured her that his mother took it with good results. 

Practically the next day, my friend reported, every joint in her body was hurting, and her right ankle and foot were hugely swollen.  She then Googled the drug and discovered that these were possible (actually rather common) side effects of the prescribed medication.  Her doctor had not mentioned them.  Another doctor prescribed something to help her pain and swelling.  Now she has a serious case of the hives.

Another friend, over a year ago, while traveling in Scotland, was prescribed the antibiotic Cipro for her bronchitis.  She has lost her senses of taste and smell.  This, along with other quite serious health conditions, is a possible side effect of the drug.

If you have a computer, it is possible to check out drugs and their side effects online.  Unfortunately, neither of my friends could do that at the time.  It does seem that sometimes doctors are interested only in curing the ailment that you are there to see them about and not what may result from the treatment. (“The treatment was a success, unfortunately, the patient died” is not just a joke.)

I recently had an operation for cataracts and new lenses so that I would not have to wear glasses.  Now I still have to wear glasses to work on my computer, but not for reading.  Most of my work involves a mixture of the two, so I am always putting on and removing my glasses or wondering why it is I cannot see (and then putting on or taking off my glasses).  Lately I have noticed that with or without glasses I am not seeing too well.  It seems I have to have another operation to correct my astigmatism, which was supposed to have been corrected before.  The doctor is very nice, but I went to him in response to one enthusiastic recommendation.  I now think I should have gotten more. 

From time to time I have written about placebos and that I am very much in favor of them as treatments.  One reason is that they have a respectable record of working as well as the more risky (and expensive) drug that is being tested.  There is a lot to be said for the power of the mind to heal.  The other reason is that just about the worst side effect is that it is not effective in treating the ailment.               
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Homeopathic medicine is the same.  I have heard of times the treatments didn’t work, but I have never heard of dire side effects from the treatments.  However, my experience is not extensive in this department.

The upshot of all of this is to warn people that they should take charge of their health.  Ask your doctor about the side effects of the prescription he or she is giving you and how it might interact with other drugs you are taking. 

Make sure that the drug you buy at the pharmacy has a list of the precautions and side effects (one with large enough print to read).

In the middle of the 19th century, before the germ theory of disease was developed, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis tried to convince interns at the Vienna General Hospital to wash their hands after they had been working on cadavers and before delivering babies.  It was a time when puerperal fever (childbed fever) was rampant in hospitals.  They scoffed at him and continued to simply wipe their hands on the front of their white coats.

He was dismissed from the hospital, and over the years he became so obsessed he wandered the streets pleading “Wash your hands.”  We all should heed his words and wash our hands.

There are still hundreds of thousands of deaths in hospitals that are not the result of patients’ primary ailments.  These deaths occur even in modern hospitals – I got staph infections during two of my stays in hospitals in the States.  Some are due to mistakes in medications, and some are the result of lethal bacterial infections contracted while in the hospital.

Don’t be afraid to ask doctors to wash their hands or wear rubber gloves, if they are not doing so.  This is not an easy thing to do, but we each have only one life and finally are the ones who must take responsibility for its health and care.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 26

Pre-conquest use of chocolate traced to New Mexico
By the University of New Mexico news service

Inhabitants of Chaco Canyon in today's New Mexico apparently drank that Central American mainstay — chocolate — from ceramic cylinders about a thousand years ago. That’s the finding by a University of New Mexico researcher.

She is Patricia L. Crown, a professor of anthropology.  She collaborated with W. Jeffrey Hurst of The Hershey Co., the chocolate processor.

Ms. Crown has long been fascinated by ceramic cylinders excavated at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon excavated in the Hyde Exploring Expedition from 1896 to 1899 and the National Geographic Society Expedition from 1920 to 1927. Only about 200 of the cylinders exist and most were found in a single room at the site. The cylinders are now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. and at the American Museum of Natural History.

Archaeologists generally agree the vessels were used for some ritual, but there has been great disagreement about the specific use of the vessels. Ms. Crown was thinking about how the Maya drank chocolate from ceramic cylinders and wondered whether the cylinders found at Chaco might have been used in the same way.

It was clear that the Maya used the cylinders for chocolate. Experts could read the glyphs on the vessels that made it clear they were chocolate containers.

Graduate and undergraduate students had excavated the trash middens directly south of Pueblo Bonito and uncovered thousands of pottery fragments that could be used for analysis. Ms. Crown selected sherds that were from cylinders or pitchers. She could tell they were dated between 1000 and 1125 A.D. based on the decorative style. She selected a few sherds and worked with a  graduate student to grind off the edges for testing, then sent the material to Hurst at the Hershey Center of Health
chocolate ceremic vessles
Ceramic cups like these were used for chocolate drinks
and Nutrition in Pennsylvania. He tested the powder using an analytical method he had developed and found the presence of theobromine, a marker for theobroma cacao or chocolate.

The finding is the first concrete evidence that the people of Chaco Canyon or anywhere in the southwestern United States traded for cacao beans. It’s long been known there was trade with the Maya in the southern lowlands of Mexico from evidence of copper bells, cloisonné and skeletons of scarlet macaws. Until this discovery, cacao had been found no further north than central Mexico. The bean also was used as currency by the Aztecs.

Ms. Crown says anthropologists don’t know whether the people at Chaco walked to Mesoamerica to trade for the cacao beans or whether traders brought them north or whether the beans simply passed from hand to hand from one group of people to another.

The finding does not mean that the Pueblo Bonito residents drank chocolate as it is prepared today. In Central America and what is now México residents made an alcoholic drink.

Colombia rebels release the promised sixth hostage, a former lawmaker
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's leftist rebels have freed a former lawmaker they held captive for more than six years. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross Thursday announced the release of 45-year-old Sigifredo Lopez, who was flown out of the jungle by helicopter.  The rebels Thursday handed López to a Red Cross humanitarian mission that flew by helicopter into the jungle to pick him up.  López was then flown to the city of Cali, where he was reunited with family and greeted by other well-wishers.

López was kidnapped from the Valle del Cauca
departmental assembly in April 2002. Eleven other deputies were seized with him, but they were killed in June 2007 in what Colombia's government says was crossfire between two rebel units.

López is the sixth hostage to be freed by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia this week, out of the hundreds believed held in jungle hideouts for ransom or political leverage.

The rebels released four members of the security forces on Sunday and a former governor on Tuesday. The rebel group has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 26

A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Castro asks hard questions
of the new U.S. president

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro is asking U.S. President Barack Obama some pointed questions about U.S. policies towards Cuba over the past 50 years.

In an article posted on a state-run Web site, an article attributed to Castro asks if Obama is aware of what he called "sinister" actions carried out by former U.S. presidents, including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Castro also questions the fairness of the longstanding U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

Obama has said he would be willing to speak with Cuba's leaders but that he would maintain the embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the island.

In the Fidel Castro essay called "Contradictions between Obama's Politics and Ethics," the ailing former leader also points out problems he sees with Obama's own policies.

He asks how Obama's promise of U.S. energy independence will affect countries that depend on oil exports for money. He also targets the U.S. president's pledge to manufacture energy efficient cars and create nuclear power plants, asking whether such actions can be done without damaging the climate or violating ethics.

Castro made clear that it is not his intention to blame Obama for things done before he was born or when he was a child. Last week, the former Cuban leader published an essay demanding that the U.S. president return Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban people.

Obama has ordered the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo closed within a year. But Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raúl Castro, want the entire base closed and the land returned.

The 82-year-old Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.

Quake victims to get homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 25 families who last their homes in the Jan. 8 earthquake will get new ones Saturday, and President Óscar Arias Sánchez will be there to make the presentation. Homes are in the  El Abanico project in  San Isidro de Peñas Blancas in San Ramón.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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