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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 35            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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A transformation in the Osa
Sierra Goodman then

Vida Marina founder
visualizes her way to thin

By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A well-known personality on the Osa Peninsula, Sierra Goodman, makes the news for her non-profit work toward creating a marine sanctuary off the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  While she continues to support the whales with her Fundación Vida Marina, Ms. Goodman may be about to become even more widely known for something else: her impressive weight loss.

Ms. Goodman has lost over 170 pounds, jump-started by a green tea diet.  She is hard at work to finish penning a biography that documents her total transformation, tentatively titled "From Paralegal to Paradise: 170 Pounds Lost and Happiness Found." 

It's not your average how-to diet book, however.  “I started it not as a weight-loss book,” she emphasized, “but as a book about creating the life of your dreams, including weight loss.”  Ms. Goodman moved to Costa Rica 10 years ago, bought oceanfront property, began dolphin tours, opened and closed an eco-lodge, got thin and continues to investigate local marine life.

Ms. Goodman is conscious and cautious about making recommendations to others.  “I don't want to create 'Sierra's Diet,'” she said.  “I want everyone to listen to their own intuition and create the diet that works for them.”

Green tea was a deciding factor for Ms. Goodman.  Many medical studies have highlighted the beneficial effects of the hot drink in recent years, and Ms. Goodman thinks it worked for her.   

“I think green tea is pretty universal,” she said.  “I believe that it raises your metabolism and it regulated my whole system.  I can't believe that all the pills and the Lipton green tea has all the power as the tea I get from Japan.  But they could work for other people.”  Ms. Goodman special orders specific Japanese varieties of green teas and offers them for purchase on a Web site.
Sierra Goodman after

Green tea aside, the 5-foot, 3-inch Ms. Goodman followed the tried-and-true weight-loss technique: healthier meals and exercise. 

A longtime vegetarian, she was a fairly healthy eater and swam a good bit on her dolphin tours. 

“I was probably the healthiest 300-pound person,” she said.  “But I wasn't aware of my body size.  It was changing my mentality, it's all about balance.  My diet did change, I was eating too much food before.  I cut out the processed food, and the fried stuff is really bad.”

She laughs, “What I cut out was the gallo pinto!  The Ticos are going to kill me, but its not the beans but the white fried rice that's so bad.  My diet now is vegetables, fruit and fresh fish.”

Ms. Goodman did add one unique component of her own to the standard weight-loss diet: Visualization.  She pictured herself how she wanted to be instead of how she actually was.  “A really important thing when losing weight is seeing yourself thin and not saying 'Oh, when I'm thin, I'll do this.'  In my mind, I already saw myself as that person.  It's about making your life better right now.”

The activist swears by this method and has used it for years.  Ms. Goodman attributes virtually every positive change in her life to her dedicated visualization practices.  She employed visualization for her move to Central America, her property purchase and her marine work, she said. 

Ms. Goodman says, “I've used this in every aspect of my life except for MYSELF and I said, 'Wait a minute, why am I not using this for me?'  I had to accept myself the way I was and be happy in the moment.  You have to start by being happy right now.  Put positive feelings behind it.”

Sierra Goodman has the land, the work and the body, but what does she visualize now?  “Oprah,” she says.  “I have high ambitions!  Oprah's on my vision board.”  Ms. Goodman plans to take her finished book on the megastar's talk show. 

So down on the Osa Peninsula, Sierra's thin.  And possibly on the verge of stardom.

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Woman faces investigation
in poisoning of her father

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have arrested a woman who will face an allegation that she poisoned her 70-year-old father, said officials.

The victim, Rudulfo Bjarano died last October in Hospital San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José.  Officials said that his daughter, Giovanna Bjarano Zamora, 33, brought a meal to her father shortly before he became ill. She laced it with a harmful drug, they said.

Doctors who preformed the autopsy said that cause of death was poisoning by a pesticide known as Lannate, also known as methomyl. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  classifies Methomyl as a highly toxic insecticide because of its effects on humans.

Toxicology exams detected remnants of the poison on the plate which the man ate from the day he died, said officials.

The Sección de Homicidios agents said they suspect that the daughter brought her father the plate of food hours before he entered the hospital. The motive is suspected to be money, said a spokesman for the Judicial Investigation Organization. 

According to the Extension Toxicology Network, severe poisoning from methomyl, may cause symptoms of “twitching, giddiness, confusion, muscle in-coordination, slurred speech, low blood pressure, heart irregularities, and loss of reflexes. “Death can result from discontinued breathing, paralysis of muscles of the respiratory system, intense constriction of the openings of the lung, or all three,” it said.

Hit-and-run suspects in death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials found the body of a man on the highway in Pérez Zeledón Sunday night, they said.

The Judicial Investigation Organization reported that the death looked like the results of a hit-and-run. There were no vehicles near the body when authorities arrived at the scene, they said. The victim, Umberto Cisnero Gambor, 37, appeared to have injuries compatible with a car accident, said officials. They are waiting for autopsy results to be certain, they said.

Officials found the body on the side of the road in Villa Ligia at around 8 p.m.

Our readers' opinions
He finds domain options
are better elsewhere

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was excited to learn about the new .cr domain names. I was really excited to learn that I would simply lose the three existing domains I invested in for my businesses here, including the one I just registered.

Even more excited to learn that not only would I not even get the full time left on them, but that they would expire in 90 days! And, well, I was ECSTATIC to learn that not only would I be forced to reregister my domain, but that they wouldn't cost the already outrageous $39 annually! Yes, they're only $100 per year!

But I think the height of my excitement came when I realized that I was going to be out of the marketing monies I put into my domains, be forced to reconfigure web sites, e-mail accounts, and (wait! there's more!) have to reprint business cards, digital signs, brochures, and all other print materials as well as do the work of contacting all the sites I have linked to mine! Ah, those monopolies!

Will I be taking advantage of this scam? I think not. I think if I'm going lose that much I might as well make sure I never lose again. I'll just register new .com domains in the U.S. for $9.95 per year and never again be foolish enough to invest time, energy, and money into Costa Rica's wonderful NIC agency.

Silly me, thinking that Costa Rican domains were a good idea! Let's see, hhhmmm, $100 or $9.95? A secure domain name or one that can simply disappear at the whim of a government monopoly? A .cr or a .com? Which is more exciting? You decide.
Dennis Sinacola,
Puerto Viejo, Limón

Catch and release policy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thanks for reporting the news of two incidents of criminal "injustice" Feb. 12.

I usually read the news as I'm having breakfast, but I may alter that after the indigestion I got from reading of the release of two sets of predatory scumbags now back on the streets, after the excellent police work done in capturing them went for naught.

If the judiciary in this country is indeed making a concerted effort — as has been previously reported — to tackle these exact types of crimes, then apparently they haven't gotten the word out to those two judges yet. This is serious dysfunctionality.

If I were a police officer working on either of those cases, I'd have to feel less enthusiasm for my work upon learning of the release, and subsequent disappearance of the perpetrators.

Hari Khalsa
Santa Teresa

EDITOR'S NOTE: Eventually agents recaptured the suspects involved after other judges agreed with the letter writer.

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Decline in numbers of sharks prompts call for catch limits
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Sharks are disappearing from the world’s oceans. The numbers of many large shark species have declined by more than half due to increased demand for shark fins and meat, recreational shark fisheries, as well as tuna and swordfish fisheries, where millions of sharks are taken by accident each year.

Now, the global status of large sharks has been assessed by the World Conservation Union, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, scientific-based information source on the threat status of plants and animals.

"As a result of high and mostly unrestricted fishing pressure, many sharks are now considered to be at risk of extinction," explained Julia Baum, a member of the union’s Shark Specialist Group

"Of particular concern is the scalloped hammerhead shark, an iconic coastal species, which will be listed on the 2008 IUCN Red List as globally endangered due to overfishing and high demand for its valuable fins in the shark fin trade," added Ms. Baum, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Ms. Baum pointed out that fishing for sharks in international waters is unrestricted, and she supports a
recently adopted United Nations resolution calling for immediate shark catch limits as well as a meaningful ban on shark finning, the practice of removing only a shark’s fins and dumping the still live but now helpless shark into the ocean to die.

Costa Rica is a major supplier to the international shark fin trade.

Research at Canada's Dalhousie University over the past five years, conducted by Ms. Baum and the late Ransom Myers, demonstrated the magnitude of shark declines in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. All species the team looked at had declined by over 50 per cent since the early 1970s. For many large coastal shark species, the declines were much greater: tiger, scalloped hammerhead, bull and dusky shark populations have all plummeted by more than 95 per cent.

A commercial fish factory vessel was boarded this month by Costa Rican officials because they said it was involved in illegal fishing in the protected area of Isla del Coco. However, investigators had to let the 25-person crew go because there was uncertainty in the law regarding this kind of activity. The crew was seeking tuna but sharks, including hammerheads for which the waters around the island are famous are likely victims, too.

The issue still is being discussed in prosecutorial circles.

U.S. Congress will have chance to dump tax exemption cap
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bills in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate seek to eliminate the ceiling on income that overseas Americans can protect from income taxes.

The bills, H. R. 4752 and S. 1140, are identical and seek to amend the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate the cap on earned income that can be excluded from the computation of U.S. income taxes.

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, a New York Democrat who is a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, is the House sponsor. The sponsor in the U.S. Senate is Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican known as a conservative. Chuck Hagel, a Republican of Nebraska, is a cosponsor.

Measures in both houses have been sent to committees for study.

Although many retired expats do not have to wrestle with the income exclusion cap, many U.S. executives working overseas face the prospect of double taxation.

The U.S. tax code allows U.S. citizens working overseas to exclude a bit more than $80,000 each year. In 2007 the amount is $85,700. The exclusion does not apply to U.S. employees overseas. Some lawmakers and expat advocates think the income tax rule is restrictive, hence the name of
the pending legislation: The Working American Competitiveness Act.

"Americans are desperately needed overseas to develop new and existing foreign markets and to increase sales of U.S. goods," says the American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva and Washington-based expat group. The organization says that double taxation is counter productive.

The United States is one of the few countries that levies an income tax on money its citizens earn outside the geographical boundaries.

Income tax computation by U.S. citizens living abroad are complex. There is an offset in many countries for taxes paid to the local government as well as adjustments for housing costs. All U.S. citizens are obligated to file a tax return if they have more than $6,400 in earned income or $2,400 in unearned income or any capital gains income, according to  American Citizens Abroad.

In Costa Rica U.S. citizens frequently overlook capital gains tax because this country does not collect such a tax. Amid the soaring real estate prices of Pacific land many U.S. citizens have made a killing, usually through a local Costa Rican corporation. Some try to reduce or eliminate their U.S. tax liability by paying themselves a salary through the corporation rather than simply taking a distribution of dividends.

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Wednesday is a time to stay up and watch the lunar eclipse
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who needs an excuse to stay up later Wednesday has one: There is an eclipse of the moon that will be visible all over Costa Rica, weather and clouds permitting.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that the lunar event would start about 7:43 p.m. with the total eclipse beginning at 9:01 p.m. and ending at 9:51 p.m. The eclipse will end at 11:09 p.m., NASA said.

Said NASA:

"An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at full moon, and only if the moon passes through some portion of earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where earth blocks some (but not all) of the sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon."

The eclipse will be visible from western Africa and Europe, in all of Latin America and most of the U.S. states. Viewers west of Kansas in the United States and in the western Canadian provinces will see the eclipse
elipses graphic
NASA graphic
Graphic shows the various stages of the eclipse

already in progress at moonrise, said NASA. The next total eclipse for this area will be Dec. 21, 2010, said NASA, although the agency listed a half dozen partial eclipses between Wednesday and then.

Unseasonable rain is expected to linger through Wednesday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They may call it the dry season, but sometimes that's too much of a good thing.

So Costa Ricans welcomed a little freshening rain Monday afternoon. Much of the country got very little. San José and Limón only got 3.2 millimeters or about .13 of an inch, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Juan Santamaría airport was hit with 21.4 millimeters between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to the institute's
automatic station there. And higher up in Santa Bárbara de Heredia the automatic station measured 51.6 millimeters or 2.03 inches.

The weather experts said that the winds that usually keep rain away have weakened, plus there is a front north of Costa Rica producing instability in the atmosphere.

They predicted continued instability in the Pacific with some heavy downpours in the central and southern Pacific, as well as perhaps in the Central Valley. The rain is expected to linger through Wednesday.

Another truck found at border with illegal cocaine cargo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police seized a truck with 138 kilograms (304 pounds) of cocaine hidden inside it Monday, said officials.

Border officials and the Policía de Control de Drogas surprised a driver in Peñas Blacas, on the northern border, when they extensively searched the trailer he was driving, said officials. Police found packets of cocaine hidden in a secret compartment under the floor, they said. The driver, Motalbán Navarrete, 41, was a Nicaraguan citizen, said officials.
“The skills of the police were what brought agents to the meticulous and exhaustive review of the trailer,” said Gerardo Lázcares, vice minister of the Ministerio de 
Gobernación, Polícia y Seguridad Pública.
The driver is being held on charges of international drug trafficking, said officials.

Last week prosecutors presented formal accusations against eight persons charged with transporting cocaine in trailers. The case was presented to Juzgado Penal del II Circuito Judicial in San José and involves more than $2 million and 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lbs.) of cocaine, said officials.

Drug dealers hid the cocaine in secret compartments of semi-trucks and attempted to transport the drug across the Northern border various times in 2006. The cocaine shipments were all on their way to Guatemala, said officials. Authorities have not said if the cases are related.

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