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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, March 3, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 43      E-mail us
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A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce
A municipal policeman and a Banco de Costa Rica guard respond to the mishap.
A standpipe at the Teatro Nacional blew its top Tuesday afternoon, knocked down a woman passerby and blocked traffic on Calle 3. The force of the water pushed the woman down into the street and soaked her, but did not appear to
cause serious injury. The standpipe protrudes from a small wall on the theater property and can be reached from the Plaza de la Cultura. The water flowed for a short time until workmen turned off the line. 


New legislature will face decisions on rising seas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New legislators who take office in two months will be facing major decision involving the rising sea and coastal changes during their four years in the Asamblea Legislativa.

This is a topic that has not been discussed much by the media or the general public. However, extensive work on the possibilities has been done under the supervision of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional and the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones.

The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration has stressed mitigation of global gases in his Peace with Nature proposals and has set as a goal to make Costa Rica carbon neutral by 2021. Not much has been said about taking action to prevent flooding along the coasts.

Coastal residents of Costa Rica could face sea level increase of between 75 and 190 centimeters by 2100, according to a study by European researchers. Converted to the U.S. measurement system, the rise would be between 29.5 and 74.8 inches.

An extensive 2009 study for the institute and the minister, paid in part by United Nations Development Programme money, calls climate change a strong threat and urges adaptation to minimize the impacts.

Australian politicians in the Victoria state
government there have rejected plans to build homes on sand dunes at Port Fairy, 300 kms west of Melbourne, because of threats posed by rising seas.   The decision was based on a projection that sea levels will rise by 80 centimeters, in the next century.

Port Fairy Mayor James Purcell says allowing houses and apartments to be built on such a vulnerable strip of land would have been irresponsible, according to a wire service report Tuesday.

In Costa Rica the most vulnerable aspect of the geography is the maritime zone, the 200-meter strip along the coast. In many areas this strip and its 50-meter public zone are marked with survey monuments, but with rising oceans, the public area will decrease. Lawmakers have to establish some mechanism to compensate for this. Coastal development plans in the northern Pacific and in the Central Pacific have been interpreted more as stimuli to construction instead of mitigation of potential rising seas.

Recent high tides in Puntarenas and other sections of the Pacific coast last month gave a preview of what rising oceans can do.

Global warming is a controversial issue. Most of the debate revolves around how much of the increase in temperature is caused by human activity. Less controversial is the fact that the sea level is rising regardless of cause.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 43

Costa Rica Expertise
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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.


Real estate agents and services

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with Great Estates of Costa Rica

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We offer real estate law, due diligence and escrow services,residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.
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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.
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Our readers' opinions
New laws and the old laws
have this reader confused


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First I want to say that this is one beautiful country to live in with all of the beautiful treasures to behold. From beaches to mountains to all the rivers, the volcanoes, the gentle people, etc.

But you only have to read the articles surfacing with the laws being presented to the public that affect the expats living here, among others. Not only are we confused, but the Costa Rican populace must be just as confused, but they seem to take this in stride and go with the punches. We, as expats, don’t know how to cope with this and it is not in our makeup to accept this so easily.

Take the new traffic laws. I have heard so many versions to the law that even the legislators are confused. Like the health care issue in the States, its time to go back to the drawing board and start over again. Are any of these politicians reading what they are going to sign into law before voting for them? I have read all the news from A.M. Costa Rica, La Nación and others and still my head is in the clouds. When and what do I need to get ready for all of the requirements to conform to the new traffic laws? I ask friends and officials and receive multiple answers from the same questions.

And now once again, we have all the confusion with the new immigration laws that have changed. If the leader of the immigration himself is confused and is not familiar with the new laws, how confused do you think we are about this?

People have been told that if they have their residency in process and have a file number, they no longer have to leave each three months. Ask this question to three lawyers here dealing with immigration or even officials in the office of immigration and you will receive three different answers. Now we are going to have a new change in those laws.

This is my third time around to try to receive my residency and I am even married to a resident for more than three years. And now this time with the Association of Residents of Costa Rica after having two other entities trying to extort thousands from me for a legal residency and promised by the A.R.C.R. that I would have my residency in eight months and 12 months maximum, now it has been 15 months and I’m still waiting.

Does anyone out there know if I still have to leave every 90 days? Do I have to pay the $100 extension fee? I’m very confused, are you?
Thomas Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

EDITOR'S NOTE: The traffic law still is being reworked. As to immigration, if you filed your paperwork and have a recipt, you probably do not have to leave the country, but ask your own lawyer.

Users are the big danger.
not highway's design

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mike Michael with just one one-way chauffeured trip on the Caldera Highway must truly be a road engineer extraordinaire  in addition to being a soothsayer capable of predicting gloom and doom during the upcoming rainy season.  I guess he must have missed a lot of the on-going construction to prevent rock and mud slides  as he was ensconced in the back seat and reaching for his bottle of champaign in order to recharge his flute.  I'd love to see what his comments would be about the roads from either Orotina to Atenas or from Orotina to Puriscal or if he was chauffeured from San Isidro over the Cerro de la Muerte.
 
My wife and I have traveled both ways on the Caldera Highway twice.  It is a speedy, comfortable ride that has shaved over two hours off our trip from Matapalo, just south of Quepos, to the Central Valley.  We  have talked to several others who also have made the trip both ways, plus they drove themselves verses being driven. They have nothing but praise for the highway.
 
It is dangerous though.  Not through design.  It is dangerous through the shear stupidity and totally ignoring speed limits and warning signs by many.   It's like kids let loose in a toy store on Christmas eve and told to grab what they want while others drive the Caldera as if it is a Le Man's class race course.  Going downhill in a 60 kph zone I've been passed many times by vehicles traveling at extremely high rates of speed or have seen vehicles pass at high rates of speed on blind curves or on bridges with on-coming traffic approaching.  Many drivers show no concern for others or for the traffic laws.  Their only concern is themselves.
 
If one exercises common sense, obeys warnings and the speed limits and drives defensively as one would do anywhere in the world, the Caldera is as safe as any road or highway I know of.
 
Frank Walker
Matapalo de Aguirre 

He will keep using
the Caldera highway

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I have read a few of "Our reader's opinion" concerning the new road from San José to Caldera and find myself in a quandary.  Being a "permanent tourist" I am very careful to avoid discussions of local customs, laws, and the government.  But I must take exception to the opinions that the new road is dangerous.
 
I am a retired engineer/contractor and have driven in EVERY state and country from Panamá to Canada;  and, several in Europe and Asia.  I find this new road to be one of the finest.  The grades, curves, drainage, signage, markings, etc. are right up to date and comparable with roads in the U.S.A. and elsewhere.
 
In retrospect;   I think:   (1) this road is TOO GOOD for the average Tico/Tica;  (2) it is too advanced for the M.O.P.T. to properly patrol;  (3) it should have a higher 'toll rate';  (4) there has been too many emotional and quasi-professional opinions expressed.  I intend to keep on using this road and the new Pacific road, in any weather, only being concerned about the Tico coming at me with a motorcycle, car, bus, or truck.
 
E.J. Hauser
Puntarenas/ Orlando

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A.M. Costa Rica 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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 43


And then there is humor when it is least expected
computer nerd
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Somewhere in the sub-basements where the info tech nerds of Banco Nacional work, someone is smiling.
In an organization not known for humor much less initiative, the programming nerd has made his mark, and it is hard to tell how long his electronic joke has endured.

The jokester speaks English and has some responsibilities for programming the electronic teller machines.

Probably during a boring early morning session with code the idea came to his mind: What would happen if the machine talked back to the user?

Consequently certain automatic teller machines at the bank's central offices say this when a foreign debit card is used to withdraw money: "You took too long in withdrawing your money so the ATM will keep it!"

Of course the machine really does not keep the money, but the statement in English might jolt a foreign tourist.
Now if he (or perhaps she) can just program the ATM machine to chuckle.



Lawmakers discard point system for penalizing bad drivers
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers acted Tuesday to eliminate the point system for traffic violations, but they might change their mind and reinstitute the system today.

That change was the major outcome of a meeting by legislators on the new traffic law that has been in force since Monday.

In the law that was passed in November 2008, motorists were given a limit of 50 points. Each traffic violation carried with it a subtraction of points as well as a fine. Typically one infraction could cost a motorist 15 points.

Lawmakers Monday argued whether the point limit should be 50 or 200 points. With a 200-point limit, a driver would have to be caught making 14 serious traffic violations before losing a license.

But when lawmakers convened Tuesday, legislator Lorena Vásquez Badilla, a Unidad Social Cristiana from Alajuela province, proposed dropping the whole idea. She was joined by most lawmakers except those from the government Partido Liberación Nacional.

Oscar López, the sole representative of the Partido
Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión, opposed the idea and said that bad drivers should be off the highways. The former rule would have cost bad drivers the loss of their license for three years.
 
Lawmakers had expressed concern for drivers who needed a license to perform their daily jobs.

The way the situation is developing at the legislature, nothing is certain until the final measure is compiled and passed. Lawmakers considered a number of motions again Tuesday but many more still are on the table.

This is the same group of legislators who passed the original traffic bill in 2008. The effective date of that bill was postponed until Monday by lawmakers who had a change of heart. The new law was considered draconian. Stiff provisions against drunk driving and reckless driving did go into effect for the Christmas holidays in 2008. No lawmaker seems prepared to change those sections.

In general violations like talking on a cell phone or failing to use a seatbelt can result in fines from 150,000 to 200,000 colons. That's $275 to $365.

Lawmakers are expected to reduce drastically those fines in the next few days.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 43



Tax agency told to get moving on luxury home enforcement

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The national government's financial watchdog has ordered tax authorities to move on their plans to enforce the tax on luxury homes. The deadline for voluntary compliance was Jan. 15. In theory enforcement will start later this year.

But analysis of the task and resources needed is only now underway.

The tax agency was told to make a database of the properties which have paid, 2,998 in total. Authorities speculated before the process finished that 10,000 homes would be appraised at more than the 100 million-colon threshold for the tax obligation. In all, about $5.5 million was collected.

Having completed “phase one: voluntary payment,” preparations are under way for “phase two: required payment.” The plan is to use information (eventually) provided by the municipalities and contained in the “homogeneous zone” scales to identify undeclared luxury properties. Since the homogeneous zone concept is based on land values and the luxury tax on construction, it will
be difficult to identify properties that way. Phase three is “forced payment” when they get to that.

Anticipating the enforcement phase, in October Tributación, the tax-collecting entity, asked for information from 15 municipalities about houses likely to pay the tax, asking for exact location, information about the owner, a breakdown of construction and land values, and information about construction permits. As reported by the watchdog, the Contraloría de la República, “as of December, only some had met this requirement.”

Even for the wealthier municipalities, that demand is unlikely to be met on the short term. Those chosen, and presumably the areas first slated for enforcement, are Curridabat, Belén, Escazú, Santa Ana, and Mora in the Central Valley, and Liberia, Carrillo, Santa Cruz, Nicoya, Cóbano, Paquera, Puntarenas, Garabito, Parrita, and Aguirre on the Pacific coast.

The Contraloría now has a standing order that the tax agency report on plans for execution of the next stage and the required budget within 90 days.



Bar owner here illegally scheduled to be expelled today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators detained another illegal U.S. citizen Tuesday and scheduled him for rapid expulsion to face a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in Orange County, Calfornia.

The man is Robert Benjamin Adams, 47, who is the owner of a bar in the center of Santo Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia. The bar is named El Club.
Local agents of the International Police Agency said that Adams entered the country from Panamá last June 17 and never made any additional effort to legalize his status here. Immigration agents also participated.

Because Adams is in the country illegally, there will be no court appearance or an effort to avoid extradition. He will be expelled instead.  Agents said that probably will happen today.



Environmentalist selected to head nation's foreign ministry

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's new foreign minister will be René Castro Salazar, a Harvard-educated professor at the private Central American Institute of Business Administration, known as INCAE.

President-elect Laura Chinchilla announced that Tuesday as she named the members of her transition committee that will handle the May 8 inauguration.

The current foreign minister, Bruno Stagno, will become the country's ambassador to the United Nations.

Castro headed the country's delegation to the Copenhagen
climate change conference. Ms. Chinchilla said that the environment will be one of the central themes of her administration.

Castro got both his master's and doctorate at Harvard. He is a civil engineer. His postgraduate work involved environmental economics and natural resources..

Castro also has held posts in government, including minister of Ambiente y Energía, vice minister of Gobernación and president of the San José Consejo Municipal. He also is credited with making the world's first transaction involving carbon dioxide credits. He is a member of Partido Liberación Nacional and was head of the recent political campaign for the party.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 43

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


U.S. Congress urged to fight
restrictions on the Internet


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Search engine giant Google is urging the U.S. Congress to make the promotion of an open Internet a key part of American foreign and trade policy.  Nicole Wong, Google vice president and deputy general counsel, told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday that Internet censorship not only stifles business and investment for U.S. companies but also for any enterprise that relies on the World Wide Web for its operations. 

Speaking at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Internet freedom and the rule of law, Ms. Wong called for Internet openness to be a major plank of U.S. diplomatic efforts.  She said that the free flow of information will help promote foreign assistance efforts and diplomacy as well as engage other countries on human rights.

She also said an open Internet should be part of the U.S. trade agenda because of the economic impact censorship has on companies.

"It tilts the playing field toward domestic companies and reduces consumer choice," said Ms. Wong. "It affects not only U.S. and Internet companies, but also hurts businesses in every sector that uses the Internet to reach their customers."

Google has been at the forefront of recent rising concerns about cyber security and Internet freedom.  In January, the company announced it was considering pulling out of China after its corporate infrastructure was the target of what it says was a highly sophisticated cyber attack.  Google says the attack, which occurred in December and involved other companies, including media, chemical, technology and finance, originated in China.

In light of the attack and what Ms. Wong said is a measurable increase in censorship in China in all mediums, including the Internet, during the past year, Google is reviewing its business operations in China.  It is also working to end its censorship of search results on Google.cn, the Chinese version of its search engine

When Google launched its Chinese search engine in 2006, it agreed to censor material deemed objectionable by Beijing authorities.  At the time, the company argued that people having limited access to content was better than no access at all.  Google does not have a timetable for when its censoring of searches in China will end.

Ms. Wong told the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law that promoting openness requires collaboration.

"No particular industry, much less any single company can tackle Internet censorship on its own," she said. "Concerted collective action is needed to promote online free expression and reduce the impact of censorship."

Ms. Wong said one way that companies can help is by joining the Global Network Initiative or GNI, a coalition of Internet companies, human rights organizations, investors and higher education institutions that sets guiding principles on human rights and privacy for high tech companies.

Rebecca MacKinnon, a GNI participant, also testified at the hearing.  She said the initiative aims to promote accountability while remaining flexible to the demands of individual markets.

"Fundamentally it's reasonable, I believe, to expect that all companies in the information and communications technology sector should acknowledge and seek to mitigate the human rights risks and concerns associated with the businesses just as they and other companies consider environmental risks and labor concerns," said Ms. MacKinnon.

Getting U.S. high tech companies involved in the push for Internet freedom has not been easy.

Since GNI was formed in 2008, it has struggled to increase its membership.  Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are its only three high technology industry members.

Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who heads the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Law, noted that several other high tech companies were invited to the hearing but declined.

"With a few notable exceptions, the technology industry seems unwilling to regulate itself and unwilling even to engage in a dialogue with Congress about the serious human rights challenges the industry faces," said Durbin. Durbin said that social networking Web sites Facebook and Twitter were invited as was Internet security software maker McAfee, but that all declined to attend.  
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 43


Latin American news
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Irazú hour of tremors
blamed on a local fault


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local fault is being blamed for a flurry of earthquakes that have been detected in the vicinity of the Irazú Volcano.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica reported 12 quakes Monday. They ranged in magnitude from 1.5 to 3.2.

The observatory said that the quakes were located a few kilometers northeast of the volcano crater and that they had no relationship with volcanic activity. The quakes took place in less than an hour from 7:08 to 7:55 p.m.

Irazú has been active emitting acidic gas and steam.

The observatory is affiliated with the Universidad Nacional.

Another hot morning
with winds expected


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley will be baking again this morning as few clouds block the sun.

However, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that a cold front will increase the cloud cover by afternoon and produce rain on the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone. The Central Valley and the pacific will see higher winds.

The weather institute issued a caution Tuesday for those who might be exposed to heavy rains. It included aircraft that might see turbulence and small boat owners and bathers.

There were traces of rain in the Central Valley and points east Tuesday but hardly any measurable rain was more than half a millimeter, about two hundredths of an inch.

World College in Santa Ana
plans dance show April 8


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United World College in Santa Ana will be performing it's anniversary Mosaic of Dance show April 8 at 7:30 p.m.  This event is performed by the students, ages 16 to 20. They represent 67 different countries.

School supporters said that this is a wonderful show to take the entire family to. Tickets are available at La Cocina de Robin or at the school.  There are reserved seats at 12,000 colons and general admission for 6,000 colons. 

This school is in Santa Ana and has many activities relating to world peace, environmentalism and cultural diversity throughout the year.  More Mosaic of Dance information is available here: http://uwccr.com/aniversario.  The school Web site is:  http://uwccr.com.





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