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(506) 2223-1327                      Published Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 32                            Email us
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Avenida Secunda
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A place
to avoid

 
This week would be a time to avoid Avenida Segunda. Workers have scraped the top asphalt from the street, and now the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad wants to bring in a day crew to augment the night work. Crews will be on the street from 9 a.m. to noon through Friday and from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday.



Where are the most romantic spots in Costa Rica?
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's most romantic places are Playa Tamarindo and Hotel Villa Caletas. Manuel Antonio came in a close second. Followed by the locations of Volcan Arenal, Tortuguero and Monteverde.

Guanacaste is the most romantic province because of the blue water beaches such as Playa Potrero, Playa Conchal, Playa Carillo, Nosara and it's also the province in which Tamarindo is located.

To help those looking into a romantic spot for a Valentines Day getaway, reporters polled professionals in the romance field. They included party planners, wedding planners, travel-adventure tour agents, and dating Web sites.

The most romantic location most cited was Tamarindo because of its beach beauty. There was no doubt in the voices of those who answered. Within the area there are several other beaches such as Playa Langosta and Playa Grande which is famous for leatherback turtles laying their eggs.

In talking about the most romantic hotel, many professionals gushed about Hotel Villa Caletas. The lodging is nestled between the jungle and near Jacó in the central Pacific. It sits on a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The limited rooms and location all play a part in the villas exclusivity and romance, according to the responses.

Manuel Antonio is one of the more popular wedding locations in the country, according to Costa Rica Paradise Wedding. A wedding planner for the business said the firm averages about 30 ceremonies a year there. The public beach and the national park all make it one of the better places for a wedding.

The privacy and beauty of surrounding hotels in La Fortuna around the Volcan de Arenal make it  romantic, according to the experts. The volcano is one of the more active, and there are locations
Romantic Costa Rica

where the lava can be seen. There are also hot springs in the area as well as Lake Arenal.

Tortuguero is like getting married in the jungle, said a representative for Costa Rica Expeditions when asked about romantic locales. Located on the northern Caribbean coast, the sand bar island is only accessible by boat or airplane. The island is famous for its different species of tortugas, or turtles. The eco-friendly area is small and not like most bustling beach towns. It caters to preserving the environment, as the nearby Parque Nacional Tortuguero is a safe zone for a variety of creatures, including  jaguars, birds and monkeys.

Monteverde is considered one of the most romantic places in Costa Rica because of its mountainous beauty. The town is in Puntarenas province, about five hours from San José. As the only mountainous and colder place that made the romantic list, features are mainly the forest surroundings. Monteverde is considered one of the seven wonders of Costa Rica. There is found the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde and a paradise for birding.



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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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If I Can Learn To Speak Spanish, Anybody Can!

It is very important that as residents of Costa Rica, we at least learn to speak basic Spanish, especially at the bank,supermarket, etc. We at Epifania Spanish School want to help you.  Our teachers are all courteous professionals and will teach you basic Spanish as well as Spanish you 
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Quake zone near Dominical
has a long seismic history


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The offshore zone that gave the country a seismic wake up call Monday is well known to geologists. This is about the same spot where a 6.9 magnitude quake took place Aug. 20, 1999, according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The quake at 4:55 a.m. Monday had a magnitude now estimated at 5.9, said the Laboratorio.

The location is about the same where there was a series of weekend quakes. There was one, a 4.5 magnitude jolt, that took place Saturday at 2:43 p.m. There were three lesser quakes Sunday at 1:39, 2:38 and 2:39 p.m., according to the Laboratorio records.

There also were four quakes there in 2011. The section is about 40 kilometers off the Pacific coast near Dominical. That's about 25 miles.

Informal reports from expats say there was no serious damage as a result of the Monday quake. Online discussion lists chattered all day over the quake.

Quake magnitudes are expressed exponentially, much like the fictional warp drive on the USS Enterprise spaceship. So a 5.0 quake is 10 times stronger than a 4.0 magnitude quake.

The Red Sismológica Nacional, Costa Rica at the Universidad de Costa Rica noted that a series of smaller earthquakes followed the 4:55 a.m. one. There was one at 6:59 a.m. estimated at 3.8 magnitude, one at 7:07 a.m. estimated at 3.6 and one at 7:36 a.m. estimated at 3.8. There also were many lesser quakes that were not felt by humans.

The Red Sismológica Nacional noted that this is an area of subduction where the Coco tectonic plate is moving under the lighter Caribbean plate.

Although some coastal residents are worried about a tsunami as a result of Pacific earthquakes, the structure of the sea floor would require a quake in the 7 to 8 magnitude range to generate a large wave, said the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica, based on studies by the U.S. Geological Survey.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary






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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 32
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Latin policymakers considering decriminalization of drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. officials are trying to stem the growing frustration among Central American officials with the war on drugs.

A clear example is the new Guatemalan president, former general Otto Pérez, who is suggesting that the United States and Central American countries should debate the decriminalization of drugs with the goal of reducing violence and the income to trafficking cartels.

He voiced that idea over the weekend and Monday in a meeting with Mauricio Funes, the president of El Salvador.

The idea drew a quick response Sunday from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. The embassy noted in an unsigned statement on its Web site that the idea of decriminalization has come up before even in some U.S. states. Said the embassy:

“The United States continues to oppose such measures because evidence shows that our shared drug problem is a major public health and safety threat. In the U.S., drugs are present in roughly half of all those who commit crimes, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Research shows, however, that drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated.”

The embassy aid that U.S. cocaine use has dropped 43 percent and the use of methamphetamine has been cut in half, adding:

“Just as these programs have shown that we can succeed in reducing demand for illegal drugs, the case of Colombia shows that strong multilateral commitment to combat narcotrafficking and transnational criminal activity can succeed. Violent deaths in Colombia fell by half between 2002 and 2011. The government recovered both control of its territory and the confidence of its citizens. With similar political will, other governments can have that same success.

“If the trafficking and use of illegal drugs were decriminalized tomorrow in Central America, transnational criminal organizations and gangs would continue to engage in illicit activity, including trafficking in persons and illegal arms, extortion and kidnapping, bank robbery, theft of intellectual property, and money laundering. Corruption and homicides in Central America are certainly exacerbated by the transit of illegal drugs, but with increased cultivation and consumption of decriminalized drugs, crime in Central America could well increase as the drug cartels shift their focus to these other forms of illicit activities.”

The embassy said that the difficult situation that Guatemala confronts today includes combating poverty and malnutrition, rebuilding institutions and respect for the rule of law, and re-establishing an effective state presence in all areas of the country. The United States provided $220 million in the last fiscal year to Guatemala, it said.

The violence in Guatemala and the territorial control exercised by drug cartels are not what Costa Rica faces yet, although some suggest that more problems are coming.

In fact, Costa Rica has taken steps to tacitly decriminalize drugs for personal use, at least in the eyes of the chief prosecutor, Jorge Chavarría. But then the security ministry announced what is basically a zero tolerance approach. Even
intercept at sea
U.S. Coast Guard photo
A Coast Guard helicopter tails a suspected drug smuggler's boat in this undated graphic posted to the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

in the legislature there is resistance to the U.S. war on drugs. Lawmakers have declined to approve supply stops for U.S. ships that are on anti-drug patrol. That approval is required by the Costa Rican Constitution.

Feelings are also mixed within the public. The Pacific coast fishing fleet has been infiltrated heavily by the drug cartels. Colombian smugglers are counting on fishermen here to provide fuel on the high seas, and some fishing boats carry drugs, too.

The anti-drug units of the Judicial Investigating Organization and the security ministry routinely intercept cocaine headed north, mostly hidden in tractor trailers. What is unknown is how much they fail to find.

Two court trials are in progress this week, one where the charge is money laundering and one where the crash of a light plane revealed more than 170 kilos of cocaine stashed in a wing. The latter case was expensive for Costa Rica because the surviving pilot spent more than 400 days in the hospital and generated substantial medical expenses.

Every week drug rings are broken up in communities all over the country only to have other vendors fill the void.

And periodically even police officers are linked to the drug shipments.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala suggests a societal approach:  “The solutions to the difficult situation that Guatemala confronts today include combating poverty and malnutrition, rebuilding institutions and respect for the rule of law, and re-establishing an effective state presence in all areas of the country. The United States government's assistance to Guatemala (valued at $220 million in the last fiscal year) is focused on exactly these objectives.”


Autopsy may help solve death of U.S. expat living in Jacó
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Jacó operator of a vacation rental firm died in his luxury condo under circumstances that are mysterious.

Police responding to an emergency call found the American citizen dead at the condominium complex Sunday.  The man had a plastic bag covering his head.

The man was Michael Thomas Manley, 44, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Cruz Roja medical technicians said Manley was already dead when they arrived on the scene around midday Sunday. Investigators confirmed that Manley was the property manager of the luxurious Monte Carlo condominiums, located right along Jacó beach.

Agents said they suspect that he committed suicide and had no marks on his body nor were there any signs of robbery or foul play. An Investigator with the judicial organization said there is reason to believe Manley may have been experiencing
emotional problems which may have led him to suicide. Manley's body will undergo an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Manley had been in Costa Rica since at least 2007 when he was involved in the construction, pre-sales and rentals of the condos. For a time he was associated with Concierge Costa Rica which sought to provide a range of services to visitors and residents.

Although investigators are quick to dismiss many deaths here as suicide, the use of a plastic bag to do that has precedents.

The use of a plastic bag filled with certain types of gases can eliminate the panic attack that humans naturally feel when their oxygen supply is cut off, according to medical reports on the Internet.

Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society, described the method in his 2010 update of his book “Final Exit.” This third edition gives updated guidance on a helium hood method and exit bag (plastic bag) and other techniques, said an online summary.

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Two more expat scam suspects detained on U.S. indictments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two more expats in Costa Rica have been detained as workers in the long-running business opportunity frauds that preyed on frequently elderly U.S. citizens. The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced the arrests Monday.

The suspects are John White, an American, and Kerry Michael Deevy, a Canadian. The U.S. prosecutors say they were involved in the USA Beverages Inc. and Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee, Inc., scams. Eight persons already have been detained, and seven of them already have been sentenced.

The scams were run out of Escazú, Santa Ana and also in offices in the Sabana Office Center, although the scammers gave would-be customers the impression that the businesses were located in the United States.

The two newest detainees were indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on Nov. 29, 2011, said the Justice Department.

Beginning in May 2005, White, Deevy and their co-conspirators are alleged to have fraudulently induced purchasers in the United States to buy business opportunities in USA Beverages Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc., The Coffee Man Inc. and Nation West Distribution Co., said the Justice Department.   According to the indictment, the business opportunities the defendants sold cost thousands of dollars each, and most purchasers paid at least $10,000.   Each company operated for several months, and after one company closed, the next opened.   The various companies used bank accounts, office space and other services in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that the defendants, using aliases, participated in a conspiracy that used various means to make it appear to potential purchasers that the businesses were located entirely in the United States. In reality, according to the indictment, White and Deevy operated out of Costa Rica to fraudulently induce potential purchasers in the United States to buy the purported business opportunities. 

According to the Justice Department:

According to the indictment, the companies made numerous false statements to potential purchasers of the business opportunities.   Among the misrepresentations alleged in the indictment are that purchasers would likely earn substantial profits; that prior purchasers of the business opportunities were earning substantial profits; that purchasers would sell a guaranteed minimum amount of merchandise, such as greeting cards and beverages; and that the business opportunity worked with locators familiar with the potential purchaser’s area who would secure or had already secured high-traffic locations for the potential purchaser’s merchandise stands.   Potential purchasers also were falsely told that the profits of some of the companies were based in part on the profits of the business opportunity purchasers, thus creating the false impression that
the companies had a stake in the purchasers’ success and in finding good locations, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that the companies employed various types of sales representatives, including fronters, closers, and references.   A fronter spoke to potential purchasers when the prospective purchasers initially contacted the company in response to an advertisement.   A closer subsequently spoke to potential purchasers to close deals.   References spoke to potential purchasers about the financial success they purportedly had experienced since purchasing one of the business opportunities.           

The indictment alleges that White, using assumed names, was a fronter and reference for USA Beverages, a fronter and reference for Twin Peaks, a fronter and reference for Cards-R-Us, a fronter, closer and reference for Premier Cards, and a fronter, closer and reference for Coffee Man.

The indictment alleges that Deevy, using assumed names, was a fronter and reference for Cards-R-Us, a fronter and reference for Premier Cards, a fronter for Coffee Man, and a fronter and reference for Nation West.

Each of the companies was registered as a corporation and rented office space to make it appear to potential purchasers that its operations were fully in the United States.   USA Beverages was registered as a Florida and New Mexico corporation and rented office space in Las Cruces, New Mexico.   Twin Peaks was registered as a Florida and Colorado corporation and rented office space in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Cards-R-Us was registered as a Nevada corporation and rented office space in Reno, Nevada.   Premier Cards was registered as a Colorado and Pennsylvania corporation and rented office space in Philadelphia, and The Coffee Man was registered as a Colorado corporation and rented office space in Denver.   Nation West was registered as a Colorado corporation and also rented office space in Denver. 

A.M. Costa Rica verified that the Fort Collins location was simply a mail drop.

The Justice Department said that both defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and with committing their offenses via telemarketing.    In addition, the agency added, both defendants were charged with five counts of mail fraud and 13 counts of wire fraud.   If convicted of conspiracy, White and Deevy face a maximum statutory term of 25 years in prison, a possible fine and mandatory restitution on the conspiracy count.   They also face a maximum statutory term of 25 years in prison on each of the mail and wire fraud counts, a possible fine and mandatory restitution.

The United States intends to seek the extradition of White and Deevy from Costa Rica, said the Justice Department. 

Prior court cases involving the same companies established that there were some 250 victims in the United States and each put up at least $10,000, the Justice Department has said.


Environmental group plans protest today over revised traffic law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An environmental organization is planning to show up at the Asamblea Legisaltiva today at 2:30 p.m. to protest aspects of the revised traffic law.

The organization, Preserve Planet, said that lawmakers in committee decided to impose stiff taxes on environmental friendly vehicles, like electric cars and hybrids.

Lawmakers also are in the process of changing the current
vehicle inspection system to allow many other inspectors than the current monopoly firm. Riteve SyC, the organization noted.

The organization in a press release said its activists would carry signs into the visitor area of the legislature to express their views. They said that the proposed changes would do great harm to air quality.

Luis Diego Marín, spokesman for the organization, said some of the proposals in the revised traffic law are not constitutional.

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Grammar seems to influence
perceived gender of objects


By the University of Alberta news staff

Talk about gender confusion! A study by University of Alberta into whether speaking French influenced how children assigned gender to objects yielded some interesting observations. Researchers found some differences between the unilingual English children and the bilingual French-English children they surveyed.

Some of the more startling results from the Anglo crowd? Cows are boys. Cats and stars are girls.

The researchers showed objects or images to the children participating in the study and asked them whether the objects seemed to be masculine or feminine in nature. While the unilingual children seemed to identify most objects as masculine, many younger bilingual children were willing to consider that, globally speaking, some objects could be feminine in nature even though, researcher Elena Nicoladis says, “their categorizations didn’t correspond very well to whether the objects were masculine or feminine in French.”

As to how Bessie may have inadvertently became Bernie, Ms. Nicoladis says that there is an explanation as to why the children may have chosen masculine more often than feminine, even for cows: It reveals a bias embedded in the language.

“Traditionally, in most languages – and English is no exception – the kind of default pronoun is a masculine pronoun,” Ms. Nicoladis says. “If you read prescriptive grammar books, they might say ‘everyone put on his coat’ not ‘everyone put on his or her coat.’ The default, even when the gender isn’t specified, is masculine.”

The researchers note that the identity issues were actually relatively common among the unilingual and bilingual kids, with French seeming to have only a small influence with pre-school children.

“What we found is that the monolingual children had a huge boy bias for all of the objects we asked them about,” says Ms. Nicoladis. “Cats are girls, stars are girls.” But to the participants, pretty much everything else was masculine, including cows. To the researchers, it said more about culture and language rather than factual knowledge.

Nicoladis says that the gender identification is not based on biological knowledge in the younger years. She notes that the older children she surveyed seemed able to reason that cows were the female members of the cattle clan, indicating their understanding of the biology of the animals. And, while some may be tempted to chalk it up to “kids saying the darndest things,” some adults seemed to get a little mixed up, too.

“We found the same trends with adults who clearly should be able to reason about the biology,” says Ms. Nicoladis.  “But I think when you’re just answering the question really fast, it’s picking up some other aspect of their understanding of the world.” The embedded bias towards the masculine pronoun was, in effect, trumping the obvious fact that cows are female.

Ms. Nicoladis says that, with older participants,  speaking French seemed to give the kids a different perspective on objects, likely due to the use of masculine and feminine determiners in the language. She notes that the older bilingual children were more apt to identify objects in English as feminine corresponding with their feminine counterparts in the French language, such as: cow/la vache. But she says this is more likely an influence of the structure of the language than it is a reflection of their knowledge of biology.

It’s quite possible that the gender in French is making a difference, and not that bilingual children’s factual knowledge about cows is any better than that of monolingual children, says Ms. Nicoladis. “It’s just that the association – how they associate cows – is a little bit changed when they know something about French.”

The study with researcher Cassandra Foursha-Stevenson was published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology


Obama proposes budget
with higher taxes on rich


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama is proposing higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, along with cuts in many government programs as he submits his 2013 federal budget to Congress.

Obama spoke at a community college near Washington, highlighting his push to boost funding for the education needed to help students get technical skills needed to land good jobs.

He says the $3.8-trillion spending plan is aimed at stimulating the economy in the short term and cutting the federal deficit by around $4 trillion during the next decade. He proposes raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans by about $1.5 trillion during the next 10 years, and trimming government spending. The proposal would leave a $1.3-trillion deficit next year.

The budget covers the 2013 fiscal year that begins in October, just a month before U.S. presidential and congressional elections. Congress has to approve the budget before it can become law, and members of the opposition Republican Party are sharply critical of Obama's budget priorities.

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions, said the Obama proposal is full of budget gimmicks that overstate savings and understate costs. Republicans in the House of Representatives are preparing their own budget proposal.
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Isla de Coco museum
proposed but not at Coco


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Biologist, author and director Ina Knobloch is proposing that the Costa Rican government create a new museum dedicated to the Isla del Coco. Ms. Knobloch recently wrote a book about the island entitled, “Das Geheimnis der Schatzinsel,” which translates to the “Mystery of Treasure Island.” The book recounts the history of the island located more than 300 miles off the Pacific shore of Costa Rica.

During a forum with the officials of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones as well as other public and private representatives in the field of conservation, Ms. Knobloch made her pitch. She also shared facts and information she discovered in her studies of the place. Her idea is to put the museum in a new space in the Parque Marino del Pacífico in Puntarenas with the goal of promoting the islands history, science, education and tourism.

“A majority of people don't have the possibility of visiting world heritage such that is housed in the the Isla de Coco, so to bring the Isla del Coco to the people is the principal idea behind the project.”


Lawmakers fail to agree
on tax plan process

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers spent two hours in private discussions trying to reach accord on how the president's tax proposals would continue to be discussed.

This is the measure put forth by Laura Chinchilla Miranda that would bring in an additional $500 million to the government.

The Partido Libaración Nacional, the party to which Ms. Chinchilla belongs, proposed that the thousands of motions that are being considered be voted on without discussion. What followed was a recess that lasted two hours as members of various parties discussed the idea.

No agreement was reached.


Robbery suspect held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police reported Monday that they detained a suspected bank robber after a series of raids in Alajuelita in an area known as Urbanización Vistas del Sur, in Concepción Arriba. The man is accused of robbing a Banco de Costa Rica in San Rafael Abajo in Desamparados Feb. 1.

Feb. 10, another suspect in the bank robbery had been detained by agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents reported that the suspects' houses were being searched for evidence. The men are believed to have stolen 7 million colons in the bank heist.





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