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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, March 8, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 46      E-mail us
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Another tree falls, thanks to a little push from a backhoe.
Trees suddenly become ill at entrance to stadium
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workmen were on the job Sunday cutting down what were described as sick trees in Parque la Sabana. The ailing trees just happened to be in
tall trees
Doomed trees
front of the main entrance of the new stadium being built by the People's Republic of China.

The Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación announced the cutting in a press release Friday. It said that about 100 cyprus and eucalyptus trees would be cut by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The electrical and telecom agency was
doing the job because it has the equipment.

Working with the agency known as ICE were Chinese laborers who were removing parts of a plywood fence to reveal the nearly completed, majestic entrance to the stadium.

Most of the trees were in the 24-inch diameter range. The sports institute said that the trees had no commercial value. Despite the press release, there were no obvious signs of illness on the trees. All appeared to be a pine-like species, despite the mention of eucalyptus. They resemble closely the misnamed Australian pine, Casuarina equisetifolia, which is really a deciduous specie despite its appearance.

That the eucalyptus trees in the park were to be removed is well known. The fast-growing trees are now aged and in danger of dying natural deaths. Park officials said they would replace these trees with native species. The Australian pines can live 50 years or more and reach 110 feet. The age of the trees being removed could not be determined.

The sports institute said Friday that the trees being removed would be replaced with others, but that would mean planting trees in front of the stadium entrance.

The sports institute news release said the trees being removed were adjacent to the new national stadium but made no mention that the trees were directly in line with the concrete entrance steps.

The doomed trees line much of the northwest corner of the park and stand in three straight rows. The institute said that the trees were pronounced ill by the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) and the Universidad Nacional.

The cutting of trees was authorized by the Colegio de Ingenieros Agrónomos, said the press release
tree stumps
The morning's work includes cutting more than 30 trees.

sent out over the name of Jorge Muñoz Guillén, director of the sports institute. The institute has been the liaison between the central government and the representatives of the People's Republic which is building the $83 million stadium.

The press release said that the transportation of the trees had been registered with the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. Costa Rica has laws about transporting trees to prevent the theft of wood from public lands. Each log must have a ticket attached.

The sports institute said that the trees have no commercial value and that they would be taken by the telecom agency to its own saw mill for processing.

Costa Rica has strict rules on the cutting of trees, as many land owners have learned the hard way. Parque la Sabana is a municipal park. A workman Sunday would not say by whom he was employed.

When asked if he was a contractor or public employee, the man shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. There also were several backhoes in operation moving downed trees and pushing trees as a workman cut the base with a chainsaw.

A pickup bearing the name of ICE was parked nearby. Workmen cut off the northbound lane of the four-lane divided road in the area where the cutting was taking place.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 46

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dog lover
A.M. Costa Rica photo 
Olga Argüello Mora, a San José policewoman, was among the happy pet owners who attended the 13th Festival de Canes Sunday in Curridabat. She brought Macheta and Naomi Talé, two puppies she has rescued.


Cartago father facing
claim he killed daughter


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Cartago man, who had a history of shooting at his ex-wife's home, nevertheless was allowed to take his two children out unescorted Saturday.

He ended up taking them to San José and now faces an allegation that he murdered the youngest, a 16-month old girl.

The death was particularly gruesome. The child died because her mouth and face were taped over. That happened in a San José hotel where a maid discovered the tiny body.

The dead girl was identified as Yoheny Madriz. The 3 year old is Gabriela Madriz. The older child was unharmed when she and her father came into police hands shortly before 11 a.m. in Parque la Sabana Sunday.

The man appears to have had the legal right to pick up his children and take them with him unescorted. He picked them up at a home in El Guarco de Cartago Saturday.

Police said that the man had been divorced but at one time drove to the home of his ex-wife and fired eight shots at the dwelling.

Bullock movie a benefit
for attention deficit group


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foundation DA, which provides support for sufferers of attention deficit syndrome and their families, is screening "The Blind Side" as a benefit Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

The presentation is timely because Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for best actress Sunday based on her role in the movie.

The film is a true story based on the life of a poor, inner city black teenager who ends up being a National Football League draft pick. However, he had to fight low academic achievement to get a college football scholarship.

The movie will be shown at Cine Magaly as a benefit. Tickets are 3,000 colons and can be purchased at the door. More information is available at 2280-1901.

Man who promoted car deal
and visas now in custody


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man encouraged residents of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas and in San Ramón to invest in the purchase of newer cars for resale, but then vanished, said the Poder Judicial.

The man, identified by the last names of Valverde Hernández, is now in custody facing 13 minor fraud charges and one major charge, said the Poder Judicial.

The man also is accused of accepting money with the promise that he could obtain U.S. visas, the Poder Judicial said. Once the man had the money from the vehicle purchases and for the visas, he vanished, investigators allege. The amount involved is about 28 million colons, about $52,000, agents said.

Investigators suspect that more persons will come forward when they learn of the arrest.


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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 46

Compared to some, Saturday's quake was on the puny side
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A sharp tremor hit east of San José Saturday night, providing a jolt to the densely populated area. Though only 4.6 magnitude (4.4 on the Richter scale), it was close to the surface at three kilometers deep.

Intensity figures are often referred to on the Richter Scale although large earthquakes are measured with the Moment Magnitude Scale. The two scales are similar at levels of about 4.5 to 5.5. The old Richter scale loses its resolution when measuring large earthquakes and is no longer used in scientific circles. The system is logarithmic so the recent 8.8 magnitude quake in Chile was 500 times stronger than the 7.0 magnitude one in Haiti, in strict terms of energy released.

For reference, 7.6 magnitude like the 1991 Limón earthquake means about eight times the energy of the 7.0 Haiti quake. Meanwhile the 8.8 in Chile was about 63 times the 7.6 magnitude here. Depth of the rupture and distance from the epicenter to populated areas greatly affects the amount of damage.

There is a different system not based on specific energy release. The Mercalli intensity scale measures subjective ratings of an earthquake’s impact locally. It ranges from Level I Instrumental (not felt by people) through IV Moderate (dishes rattle, car alarms go off) to X Disastrous (almost all buildings severely damaged).

For those near the epicenter of Saturday night’s temblor, it was level V Rather Strong, with vibrations like a freight train passing near the house. It was barely felt outside the Central Valley.

However, monitoring stations at Poás and Volcán Irazú registered a strong vibration that lasted nearly a minute in two waves.

The quake Saturday was estimated to be about two kilometers south of Sabanilla in Montes de Oca near San Pedro, just east of the San José line.
quakes chart

magnitude chart


Minor Arenal eruptions prevent big ones, scientists say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite raising concern among its human neighbors, the activity at the Volcán Arenal in the last 10 days probably was the mountain clearing its throat. Scientists say this is a good thing that might prevent a major explosion.

Eruptions increased at the mountain starting Feb. 27. Scientists said these events may have been caused by the volcano emitting lava that was blocked by chunks of rock in the pathways inside the volcano. Lava and ash roll down the volcano's side.

The eruptions increased until midday Feb. 27, which was a Saturday. The estimated 12 explosions allowed the mountain to clean the chimneys and permit the exit of more
lava, the scientists said.  Observers saw three hours of continuous lava flows.

A report of the activity came from Waldo Taylor Castillo and Gerardo J. Soto and was published by the Red Sismológica Nacional of the Universidad de Costa Rica.

They noted that the activity began a short time after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile, however, they discounted any influence on Arenal. The waves from Chile took nine minutes to reach Costa Rica, they noted.

The scientists concluded that the activity at Arenal is normal and that they expect in a few days a change in the direction of the lava from the crater to the north northwest due to structural changes.


Inauguration Friday for Grecia's central judicial building
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grecia residents now have all aspects of judicial services under one roof.

The Poder Judicial will inaugurate the new, $5.3 million structure Friday with a visit by Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, and other magistrates.

The building is 600 meters north of the community's Catholic church. In the past, the judicial services that existed in Grecia were spread out in separate offices.

The three-story building contains the criminal courts, the Judicial Investigating Organization, civil, traffic and family courts and the public defender. There also is space for domestic violence and juvenile courts, said the Poder Judicial. There also is space for related services, including a photocopying center and a gym.

The Poder Judicial was quick to point out that the
Grecia judicial
Poder Judicial photo
New location for courts and judicial offices in Grecia

building complies with all national laws on access for the disabled.

All the offices also have access to the Internet and the judicial intranet, the Poder Judicial said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 46

Stay away!

This construction site is a good reason to avoid the intersection at the McDonald's fast food outlet in Sabana Sur until Friday at 6 p.m. The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, said that traffic will be restricted there all week as part of paving improvements for what is called the old road to Escazú which parallels the Autopista Próspero Fernández on the south. In the distance is the Estadio Nacional.

concrete work
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Union leaders bring their wish lists to Laura Chinchilla

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President-elect Laura Chinchilla Miranda is winning points from observers because she has reached out to political opponents and to various influential groups and seems to be sincere in listening to what they say.

The union movement, a perpetual trouble spot for presidents, said Friday that leaders had met with Ms. Chinchilla and made some suggestions.

Among others, the union officials lobbied for a professional head to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social instead of a political appointee. The Caja runs the nation's public health care system.

The groups were the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social and the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados.

A summary of the meeting provided by the unions also  said that leaders would like to see more women on the
board of directors of various government institutions.

The union leaders also said that the central government should honor its debt with the Caja, which now amounts to some 329 billion colons or about $608 million. This amount is sufficient to create 150 local clinics or pay for 700 specialists, they said.

The union leaders also asked Ms. Chinchilla to evaluate objectively the effect of the free trade treaty with the United States on the operations of the Caja.

The leaders also cited the bottleneck in providing results of biopsies. Some 60,000 are pending, they said. They also urged the creation of constitutional protection for water and health as human rights and reduce waiting lines at medical facilities

Otto Guevara of the Movimiento Libertario promoted in his campaign a reduction in waiting times at health facilities. Ms. Chinchilla met with him shortly after the election.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 46

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Improved public relations
urged to polish U.S. image

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. scholars and polling experts say improving America's image in the world is crucial for its security, enabling more effective foreign policy, and attracting major investment and influential students.  Even though the American image abroad has gone up since U.S. Sen. Barack Obama became president, they say major challenges remain, especially in Muslim countries.

Polls released last year by the U.S. Pew Research Center, showed favorable perceptions of the United States and its government went up substantially around the world with exceptions in Muslim countries, such as in Turkey and Palestinian territories.

Pew president Andrew Kohut told the International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight Subcommittee Thursday that his research indicates this is tied to problems with the historical U.S. ally Israel.

"Years of polling that we have done suggests there will be really little progress until most Muslims come to see the United States as being fair minded in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian situation," said Kohut. "And, even though, Obama was seen in a much more positive light, few Muslims that we polled last year believe that Obama would be fair-minded with regard to this relationship."

Kohut says having American forces remain on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, two Muslim countries, does not help either. He said one area research shows many Muslims are favorable to the United States is in the way it conducts business and commerce.

"To my mind that is a nerve and I am hopeful the State Department public diplomacy program is operating in a strategic way, looking for the right buttons to push," he said.

Joseph Nye, a Harvard University professor, said even with a better image outside of mostly Muslim areas, such as in Europe, it remains difficult for the U.S administration to convince European leaders to help with more troops in Afghanistan or accept the resettlement of terrorism-related detainees from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay military prison.

"You could say that yes you can find some positive effects from this increase in reputation described by the Pew polls, but one should not overstate it," said Nye. "It is a modest effect, not a huge effect."

Nye said the United States should promote its world leadership in a category he calls public goods, such as promoting green energy, international development and dealing with climate change, rather than being viewed as a military hyper-power acting unilaterally.

"There had been a problem of the past few years, in which we were exporting fear, rather than hope," he said.

Nye also said media which is becoming more and more diverse and accessible is very important.  He says when there are reports of civilian casualties during U.S. bombings or evidence of U.S. prisoner abuse, this can create more terrorism, rather than reduce it.

"The extent to which the United States violates human rights or develops a reputation which is symbolized with photos like Abu Ghraib, we essentially help our enemies to recruit," said Nye. "Somebody said in today's world, it is not just whose army wins, it is whose story wins.  And if we are not able to get our story across and we give them fuel for their story, it enhances their recruiting."

A third expert, Michael Waller, from the U.S. Center for Security Policy, said the United States should be more aggressive in pushing negative stories about terrorist enemies and those it is trying to contain.  He gave the example of Iran's controversial nuclear program, and perceptions of its supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

"He has created himself to be such a super moral figure, a humble man of humble means, but it was in the paper the other day that he is estimated to be worth $30 billion," said Waller.

Waller said discrediting Iran's supreme leader, as well as terrorist leaders, when information is found to counter the images of purity they disseminate, would further isolate and marginalize them.  He said victories in information battles would make U.S policy goals, such as stopping terrorism and keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons much more attainable, as well as continuing to improve its image around the world, after years of steady decline. 
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'The Hurt Locker' dominates
Oscar awards ceremony


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

The 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood brought together the movie industry's biggest stars to recognize the year's top films and filmmakers.

Best actress is Sandra Bullock for her role in "The Blind Side." The best actor Oscar went to Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart"

Christoph Waltz won the best supporting actor for his role as a cunning Nazi officer in "Inglourious Basterds."

Actress Mo'Nique won best supporting actress for her role as an abusive mother in the drama "Precious."

Mark Boal took an Oscar for "The Hurt Locker" as the best original screenplay. The movie is about the Iraqi war. Jeffrey Fletcher won best adapted screenplay for "Precious."

The science fiction epic "Avatar" and the critically acclaimed Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker" topped the list of contenders with nine Oscar nominations each. "The Hurt Locker" emerged with the Oscar for best picture. "Avatar" took three Oscars in technical categories,. including visual effects.

Those include best picture and best director for James Cameron of "Avatar," the highest grossing film of all time, and best director for Kathryn Bigelow of "The Hurt Locker." Ms. Bigelow edged out her ex-husband for the best director Oscar. She became the first woman to win in that category.

She received a series of awards seen as early indicators to Oscar success.

Facelift for U.S. $100 bill

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is redesigning the $100 bill again and will be making the design public in April.

The redesign is done to stay ahead of counterfeiters, said the Department of the Treasury. The redesign will be available on the Internet April 21, and the release of the design will kick off a worldwide public education program in 25 languages.

The $100 bill is the highest denomination in general use, and it is used all over the world.





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