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(506) 2223-1327       Published Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 35       E-mail us
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New study estimates greater rise in ocean levels
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New estimates of sea level rise suggest inundations could be worse than anticipated.

The report is not good news for Costa Rican coastal dwellers who have been warned
by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to expect a maximum sea level rise during the next 100 years of about 1 to 4 inches.

A greater estimate from the University of Colorado said the increase in sea level could be at least 20 centimeters (about 8 inches).

A more complex study now says that if global warming some day causes the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse, as many experts believe it could, the resulting sea level rise could average between 16 and 17 feet and may be as much as 21 feet in some areas.

Many coastal areas would be devastated. Much of southern Florida would disappear, and coastal areas of this country would be under water.

The report is by researchers at Oregon State University and at the University of Toronto. They introduced new variables, including gravity, changes in the Earth’s rotation and a rebound of the land on which the massive glacier now rests.

“We aren’t suggesting that a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is imminent,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University. “But these findings do suggest that if you are planning for sea level rise, you had better plan a little higher.”

Early predictions of what would happen if the ice sheet collapsed put the sea level increase at 16 and 17 feet around the world,

In Costa Rica, predictions were that ocean levels might increase as much as a full meter within 100 years. The country has a 1,100-km. pacific coast line. That’s about 680 miles. There are 200 kms. (124 miles) on the Caribbean coast.

Right now, this Antarctic ice sheet has a huge mass, towering more than 6,000 feet above sea level over a large section of Antarctica that’s about the size of Texas, said the university. This mass is sufficient to exert a substantial gravitational attraction, researchers say, pulling water toward it — much as the gravitational forces of the sun and moon cause the constant movement of water on earth commonly known as tides.

“A study was done more than 30 years ago pointing out this gravitational effect, but for some reason it became virtually ignored,” Clark said. “People forgot about it when developing their sea level projections for the future.”

Aside from incorporating the gravitational effect, the new study adds further wrinkles to the calculation — the weight of the ice forcing down the land mass on which it sits, and also affecting the orientation of the earth’s spin, said the university.

When the ice is removed, it appears the underlying land would rebound, and the Earth’s axis of rotation defined by the North and South
one-meter rise
Center for the Remote Sensing
of Ice Sheets graphic
One-meter increase

six meter rise
Center for the Remote Sensing
of Ice Sheets graphic
Six meter increase

poles would actually shift about one-third of a mile, also affecting the sea level at various points, the university said in a summary of the report.

When these forces are all taken into calculation, the sea level anywhere near Antarctica would actually fall, the report concludes, while many other areas, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, would go up.

The report was published this month in the journal Science.

If the West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely melted, the East Coast of North America would experience sea levels more than four feet higher than had been previously predicted – almost 21 feet – and the West Coast, as well as Miami, Fla., would be about a foot higher than that. Most of Europe would have seas about 18 feet higher, the report said.

Researchers at the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at the University of Kansas have prepared maps showing areas of the earth that would be inundated by sea level rise. The maps show significant inundation in Central America and Cuba with a one-meter (3.28-foot) rise in the sea surface.

Costa Rica would see inundations in the central Pacific coast and in the vicinity of Tortuguero, the maps show.  With a six-meter increase (19.7 feet) there are inundations all along both coasts.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional already has computed that much of the Puntarenas peninsula where the city is located would be flooded with a much smaller sea level rise.

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Third businessman dies
in new murder on coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gunman killed a U.S. businessman execution style at a dance club in Los Angeles de Parrita late Wednesday.

Dead was James Norris, 47, the operator of the dance club, the Bougainvillea, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The shooting happened within the establishment about 11:30 p.m.

Norris was hit with seven bullets, investigators said, suggesting that the motive of the crime was to kill him. There was no robbery, and the assailant fled after Norris fell to the floor. Investigators said that perhaps as many as 13 shots were fired from a 9-mm handgun. The dance club or disco is on the main highway between Jacó and Quepos.

Norris previously operated a bar in the area, and he had lived in the central Pacific community for several years.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said he was the victim of an attack Jan. 9 in which he suffered a bullet wound of the arm from a small caliber weapon. That happened elsewhere in Parrita.

Norris is the third businessman to die by murder this week on the central Pacific coast. Monday morning a bar owner in Playa Hermosa was found dead within his establishment. He was Arno Phifer, a French citizen of Israeli origin, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was shot in the head.

Later that same day at 5:30 p.m. two men on a motorcycle pulled alongside a car driven by Adrián Castro Velásquez, president of the Puntarenas Fútbol Club, one of the nation's major league teams. Castro died from a bullet in the head fired by one of the men.

Revisions of election law
given priority in legislature

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With less than a year to go to the next presidential election, the executive branch has earmarked a reform of the electoral law as a priority in the legislature.

The action followed a meeting Wednesday at Casa Presidencial among President Óscar Arias Sánchez, his brother Rodrigo, who is minister of the Presidencia;  Maureen Ballestero, head of the special legislative committee studying the changes, and the magistrates of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

It was Luis Antonio Sobrado, president of the tribunal who pointed out that the 2010 elections are near. They fall on the first Sunday of February.
Rodrigo Arias said that he hoped that the new law would be approved by April. Ms. Ballestero said that she hoped to give all the nation's lawmakers a chance to see the proposal soon.

Until May 1 the executive branch sets the agenda for the legislature.

Woman fails to escape
her husband's gunfire

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man chased his estranged wife into a hardware store and then fired at least five bullets into her.

She died at the scene. The Judicial Investigating Organization identified her as Andrea Jiménez, 24.

The man was detained.

The shooting happened in the center of Río Frío de Sarapiquí.  The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the woman had filed a domestic violence case against her husband who has been living elsewhere.

Trio face investigation
in cloned credit card case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men have been detained for investigating into using cloned credit and debit cards to withdraw money from the accounts of foreigners. All of the victims appear to be British.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said they detained the three men Tuesday night in Pavas after having followed them for some days. Agents said they confiscated 400 cloned credit cards and about $15,000 at a hotel room the men were using.

The three men are from Trinidad and Tobago. They came under suspicion when they arrived at Juan Santamaría airport from Panamá Feb. 12 in possession of a laptop capable of cloning credit cards, said investigators.

Investigators have made several other mass arrests of suspects in an international ring of thieves who target the bank accounts of foreigners.

Residents win their cases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents of Curridabat and Aserrí  got support from the Sala IV constitutional court in their battles to have their municipalities fix sewage problems.

The court gave Curridabat six months to resolve problems of waste water in the  Urbanización Biarquirá and three months for Aserrí to resolve the problems in  Barrio El Alto.

In both cases residents argued that the lines either collapsed or became blocked and sewage was running overground. In the case of Curridabat, the outflow went into a ditch. Both appeals complained of the smell.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 35

Fake check scammers more sophisticated and organized
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fake check scammers have moved up the sophistication scale.

Time was when the scammers would contact advertisers in the classified ads here seeking to purchase a car or other big-ticket item. Sometimes the scammers would not even know what the item was, and simply sent a generic e-mail seeking to purchase "your item that was advertised." Some of these people are grammatically challenged.

Not so the new generation of scammers.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said this week that its investigators have seized tens of thousands of additional mailings bound for the United States and containing counterfeit checks.

A team of Canadian and U.S. fraud investigators based in Montreal, Quebec, announced the seizure of more than 50,000 pieces of mail containing fake checks with a face value totaling nearly $195 million. The announcement was made by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who spearheaded “Project Colt,” a cross-border partnership aimed at disrupting and preventing fraud.

No arrests have yet been made.

The scam is a variation on the advanced payment scheme. But the scammer who has been involved unknowingly with an A.M. Costa Rica reporter for a month used the Internet and the telephone as well as the mails. He was a native English speaker.

The idea is that the recipient is told he or she won a lottery. Instead of just asking for money, as several scamming gangs based in Costa Rica used to do, these crooks send what appears to be a real check.

Saray Ramírez Vindas, A.M. Costa Rica associate editor, managed to get the scammer to mail a $150,000 check. Eventually the crook would have asked her to mail back a portion of her winnings for various alleged fees and taxes.

The recipient is asked to cash the check and quickly return all or part of the proceeds, usually via wire
fake check
Alas, the $150,000 check was a fake

transfer, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service observed. By the time the check is found to be fake, the scammer has the money and the recipient is on the hook to their bank to repay the amount, inspectors noted.

“Although more than 600,000 fake checks have been seized since the global initiative to stop these scams began earlier this year, the scammers have not stopped trying,” said Alexander Lazaroff, chief U.S. postal inspector . “We are grateful to the RCMP for continuing to lead this cross-border partnership, which aims to keep these scams from reaching U.S. and Canadian consumers and maintain their confidence in the mail.”

Postal inspectors warn there is no legitimate reason for any contest promoter, business, or organization to send someone a check and ask that it be cashed and wired back to them — especially for a promotional campaign or contest the individual never entered.

The check mailed to A.M. Costa Rica was supposedly drawn on the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and showed the name of a legitimate checking customer. The bank, of course, said the check was no good.

In another variation, scammers place ads, frequently for cute dogs, accept the payments and never delivery the animals. A.M. Costa Rica routinely rejects requests to publish such ads. The advertising copy is accompanied by a cute photo and the e-mail address always is an untraceable Yahoo account. Sometimes the ad tells a sad story.

A reader in Atenas got a fake check more than a year ago because he advertised a car for sale. He was told to wire a portion of the check proceeds because the supposed seller overpaid. That check appeared to be certified, although the reader still would have been on the hook if he cashed it.

Readers respond to article on citizen security proposals
Why Costa Rica can't handle
organized crime cases

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here are the top 10 reasons Costa Rica is incapable of dealing with organized crime:

(1) Money: The criminal organizations have it, Costa Rica doesn't. It would take a massive investment of capital in every aspect of the antiquated crime fighting machinery to bring the country up to the levels of competency that developed countries had 50 years ago.

(2) Corruption: Fighting organized crime requires confidentiality of operations. If criminals have prior knowledge of investigations, they can avoid them. Officials at every level of government can and have been bought by criminal enterprises, so to expect that sensitive information will remain confidential is just plain silly.

(3) The courts: The courts are already dysfunctional. To add the burden of large, complex cases of the kind associated with organized crime would only hasten a complete collapse of the system.

(4) Judges: They demonstrate again and again their unwillingness to put even small time, habitual criminals behind bars where they belong, instead turning them loose to prey upon the public. And organized crime has a long and colorful history of bribing and/or threatening judges who hear their cases. How can anyone expect these spineless jurists to bring down violent, well-funded criminal organizations?

(5) The police: They're under staffed, under equipped, over tasked and shamefully under paid, which makes them targets for corruption as well. In most rural areas they don't even leave their offices after dark.

(6) Investigative resources: Since the police and district attorneys have little or no past experience in dealing with organized crime, it is logical to assume that they lack the investigative skills to mount a serious campaign against them.

(7) Scientific resources: I don't believe Costa Rica has the equipment or the know-how to effectively investigate crime scenes.

(8) Border control: The borders with Nicaragua and Panamá are porous, allowing the easy movement of drugs, weapons, people and money in and out of the country, and the coast guard doesn't have the capacity to control the seas.

(9) The Laws: How can a country that doesn't even have laws against CONSPIRACY hope to fight organized crime?

(10) Witness protection: The new laws mandating the protection of victims of and witnesses to crimes, while certainly well intentioned, aren't worth the paper they're written on, and the public knows it. Who's going to protect them and their families and their places of business, the same police who haven't been protecting them in the past? Testimony against organized criminals, or even unorganized criminals for that matter, will continue to be a suicidal proposition that very few Costa Ricans will undertake.

How about scrapping the plans to use $70,000,000 of communist Chinese money to build a soccer stadium and re invest it in law enforcement?
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio
It's too late to fix country,
so he moved to Colombia

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding crime in Costa Rica:
It's too late. The horse is out of the barn. The sucking sound you hear is the black hole of crime and danger that is rapidly consuming the individual's right to live in peace and safety.

The "teeter totter" has tipped and no one is on the high side to restore balance to the society. It's supposed to be about human rights, not criminal's rights!
Any middle school civics student knows what happens when the government fails to act responsibly and in it's citizens best and basic interest:
Impunity prevails in Costa Rica:
Impunity means "exemption from punishment or loss".  It refers to the failure to bring perpetrators to justice. It constitutes a denial of the victims' right to justice and redress. Impunity is especially common in countries that lack a tradition of the rule of law, suffer from corruption or that have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak or members of the security forces are protected by special jurisdictions or immunities.

"Impunity arises from a failure by states to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations."

When Don Oscar and his fellow peaceniks finish studying Civics 101 they should stay after school and google "Anarchy," because that's the next social disorder in store for Costa Rica.

A ninth grade history course might be of value too. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The Costa Rican government passed new and "not worth the paper they are written on" laws.
The Nobel Prize people should add an asterisk next to Senor Arias' prize with a footnote,"he later went on to sit on his hands while his country destroyed itself from within." Don't bother closing the barn door. It's too late! Anyone with any sense is already gone or making plans to flee.
The vigilantes have already entered the void created by government failure. San José now has handicap access to it's pensiones, everyone has nice clean T shirts and the marching bands have new found purpose. Good work, Señor Presidente.
Robert Rutgers Venhuizen
Former resident of Lourdes, Montes de Oca, where everyone lived in fear.

Currently residing in Medellin, Colombia, where the words "law and order" mean something!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 35

ICE cries foul over competition for long-distance service
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The former telecommunications monopoly has reacted in its traditional fashion when competitors arrive and offer cut-rate telephone service. The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, has filed formal complaints against the interlopers.

One firm, Inter Tel, is putting up pay phones around the metro area that are connected to the Internet and not the  traditional telephone system. Computer users for years have been connecting with the voice over Internet protocol. At times the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad caused officials to crack down on Internet cafes that were offering that service. Other times they took technical means to stop the service.

At the same time, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, has joined in a contract with a San Diego, California, company that is notorious for charging hundreds of dollars in fees to tourists and others who use their distinctive wall phones.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad also is unhappy with a company providing satellite telephone service.

The legal director of the institute, Erick Jiménez, defended the company's position to reporters Wednesday. He noted that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is working within a legal framework of tariffs and the other firms are
not. The Inter Tel long-distance charges are said to be 20 percent of that charged by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The case eventually will be resolved by the new  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, which was created by the same law that ended the telecommunications monopoly of the institute. The institute was successful in shutting down cell service in Costa Rica for nearly two years when it managed to oust a company providing those devices. Since then the institute's own service has been spotty.

An additional problem is that lawmakers are about to approve a $500 million loan for the institute. The loan is supposed to strengthen the company. If competitors routinely offer services at a fraction of what the institute charges, paying back the loan will be a problem.

In another development in the changes wrought by the free trade treaty with the United States, Seguros del Magisterio S.A., a subsidiary of the Magisterio Nacional, the teachers' welfare organization, said it had been approved to begin offering insurance to the public. It becomes the first competitor to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, which until recently held a monopoly for providing insurance services in the country, except to small segments like teachers.

Approval came from the Superintendencia de Pensiones de Costa Rica.

Unrest strikes French islands in Carribean as workers protest their salaries
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In an act that is sure to have repercussions on tourism, officials on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe said Wednesday that rioters shot and killed a union representative overnight during escalating demonstrations over high living costs.

Authorities say the union member Jacques Bino was shot in his car by armed youths manning a barricade in Guadeloupe's largest town, Pointe-a-Pitre. He was the first person to die in the unrest.

Three policemen were injured by gunfire as they tried to reach the scene.

The government in Paris appealed for calm Wednesday and called for a special meeting on the security situation. Speaking on Europe-1 radio, a government spokesman
urged protesters to return to the negotiating table. Paris has refused to bow to strikers' demands for a $250 monthly pay raise for low-wage workers. Residents of Guadeloupe have been protesting the high cost of food and fuel imports for nearly a month. 

The unrest has also spread to the French island of Martinique. Salaries on both islands are lower than in mainland France, while their unemployment rates are higher.

Similar protests have taken place in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, also a French territory. There are fears the protests could spread to France's other overseas territories or to France itself.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a government body to review the country's policies toward its overseas territories.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 35

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.

Ecuador is not justified
in booting staffer, U.S. says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The State Department Wednesday called Ecuador's expulsion of a U.S. diplomat unjustified and said the United States will respond appropriately. The expulsion was the second of its kind this month.

The State Department also says the Obama administration wants good relations with the South American country and hopes to continue working with it to curb regional drug trafficking.

Officials here identified the U.S. diplomat ordered to leave Ecuador within 48 hours as Mark Sullivan, first secretary in the embassy's regional affairs office. A senior Ecuadoran official told reporters in Quito the American diplomat had been meddling in the country's police affairs.

In a talk with reporters, Gordon Duguid, the State Department's deputy spokesman, said the United States will comply with the expulsion order but denied Sullivan had been involved in any improper activities:

"We regret this decision by the government of Ecuador," said Duguid. "We also reject any suggestion of wrongdoing by the embassy staff. Despite the government of Ecuador's unjustified action, we remain committed to working collaboratively with Ecuador to confront narcotics trafficking."

Duguid said the United States will respond to the expulsion in an appropriate way, diplomatic language suggesting an Ecuadoran diplomat in Washington may be asked to leave. However, he did not elaborate and said the matter is still under discussion.

Earlier this month, an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the Quito embassy, Armando Astorga, was also ordered to leave the country under similar circumstances, with officials in Quito accusing him of using U.S. economic aid to try to influence the leadership of an Ecuadoran police unit.

A senior official here said in both cases, Ecuadoran authorities apparently objected to efforts by the U.S. diplomats to select among potential candidates in the Ecuadoran security forces for U.S.-sponsored anti-narcotics training.

The official said Ecuadoran authorities did not like the vetting, but that the selection process is required by U.S. law to root out potentially corrupt officers or those with other problem issues.

The United States has had a difficult relationship with the left-leaning government of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, who was a persistent critic of the former Bush administration's Latin American policy.

President Correa has said his government will not renew an agreement that expires in November allowing U.S. Air Force planes to use Ecuador's Manta air base for anti-drug surveillance flights.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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