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(506) 2223-1327         POsted Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 48          E-mail us
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Costa Rican women, nearly all public employee union members gather with a banner at the Plaza de la Cultura to mark International Women's Day. When asked when is
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Agents nab 12 suspected of terrorizing their barrio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators rounded up 12 persons Tuesday in an unusual series of 20 raids in Barrio Sagrada Familia in southern San José Centro.

Seven of the suspects were juveniles, said the Poder Judicial. They face allegations of aggravated robbery, attempted murder, threats, extortion and weapons violations.

Agents detained one suspect as far away as San Carlos. Police and investigators still were in the barrio after 5 p.m., presumably seeking other suspects.

The Poder Judicial said that the crimes alleged stemmed from October through December.

The raids validate police concerns that juvenile crime is on the increase.

Security ministry officials were miffed that the director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, Jorge Rojas Vargas, said that part of the problem in the barrio was the absence of street policemen. The regional director of the Fuerza Pública, Raúl
Rivera Bonilla, was quoted in a release saying that his officers helped investigators identify and locate the juvenile violators.

The gang was described as being particularly violent and even set one barrio resident afire. In addition, the gang members were engaged in extorting money from residents in exchange for their safety. Sometimes homes were raked by bullets. The criminal activity extended into adjacent barrios, police said.

The youngsters were heavily armed. The five adults were being considered to be the individuals who directed the criminality.

No identities of those arrested were released.

In an unrelated case, Fuerza Pública officers in Tibás got the news that men in a vehicle were driving around robbing pedestrians. Officers caught up with three suspects in Calle Blancos north of San José in Guadalupe and made the arrests Monday night. The trio were submitted to the flagrancy court because police detained them quickly after a robbery and then found suspected stolen property in the car.

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Life self-discovery process
uses a unique Tarot system

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Susan K. Cole wants people to know themselves, and she gets help from the Priestess, Fortune, the Fool and a host of other symbolic characters.

Ms. Cole, who lives in San Francisco, California, is in Costa Rica to consider living here, but she also has a desire to continue her 30 years of using the Thoth version of Tarot cards as a tool to help individual and even groups to see themselves.

The 72 cards in a Thoth deck frequently are considered to be something mystical, more at home with the witches of Escazú than a 64-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, native.

Ms. Cole, who trained as a teacher and a dancer at the university of Wisconsin acquired her practical psychology informally, but when she first picked up a tarot deck she said the cards "opened up something I already knew."

Now she travels the world finding individuals who "are burned out on that old psychology junk."

Each card in a tarot deck is replete with symbolisms, and it is with these that Ms. Cole plumbs the mind of the individuals she meets in her consultations. She agrees that the cards are not something to predict the future but that they simply provide an entry point for self discovery. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of the symbols and cards and also uses numerology.

Costa Rica gets more than its fair share of scamsters, fakes and charlatans. To some extent, the expat population here has a disproportional number of vulnerable persons in search of something. It is this group that Ms. Cole hopes to reach with her unique methods. She said her years as a trainer at a major insurance company, her work as a dancer therapist and with deaf children, as well as time with the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, prepare her to help others discovery why they are on the planet.

Distemper epidemic hits
dogs on Pacific coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An animal welfare organization in Jacó is warning dog owners about an epidemic of distemper, a usually fatal disease of animals.

The organization is McKee-Jacó. It said in a newsletter that  "There is still a frightening number of distemper cases in the area spanning Tarcoles to Hermosa – every day many dogs are dying because of this highly contagious disease."

The organization said that it was able to purchase 100 distemper tests but that some owners, even when their dog tested positive, chose to bring the animal back home.

McKee-Jacó staff members are worried about infected dogs running free giving the disease to other animals.
"If you decide to try any of the miracle treatments, please separate your animal from other dogs, and be aware of the long term effects of this disease, which can turn up months or even years later as convulsions and/or damage to the nervous system," the newsletter said. "And please, please  don’t let your animal suffer – waiting and hoping is not effective and not humane."

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 48
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Both Nicaragua and Costa Rica claim a victory in court
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although both Costa Rica and Nicaragua are claiming victory in a decision handed down by the International Court of Justice Tuesday, the action is only temporary and the case has not been decided on its merits.

The standard that the court used in making its decision was plausibility, being worth of belief. ". . . the court needs only to decide whether the rights claimed by the applicant on the merits, and for which it is seeking protection, are plausible," the judicial panel said in defining its jurisdiction in the case.

Costa Rica presented a plausible case that the disputed territory belongs to it. But the judges were not asked to determine the plausibility of Nicaragua ownership, so it did not, according to the court decision.

"Nicaragua, for its part, contends that it holds the title to sovereignty over the northern part of Isla Portillos, that is to say, the area of wetland of some three square kilometers between the right bank of the disputed caño, the right bank of the San Juan River up to its mouth at the Caribbean Sea and the Harbor Head lagoon (hereinafter the “disputed territory”), and argues that its dredging of the San Juan river, over which it has sovereignty, has only a negligible impact on the flow of the Colorado river, over which Costa Rica has sovereignty," the decision said.

Without determining which nation owns the disputed territory, the court ordered both nations to withdraw all police and soldiers. Costa Rica had no such personnel on the disputed territory, and Nicaragua told the court that all of its soldiers and workmen had been withdrawn.

So the court ratified the current conditions without making any decision on the major question of ownership.

The court declined to forbid dredging by Nicaragua on the Río San Juan, in part because that is clearly its territory and in part because Costa Rica did not make an overwhelming case that dredging would damage the flow into its undisputed territory.

The caño is the ditch Nicaraguan workers dug that is expected to become a new mouth for the Río San Juan. The new mouth will provide better access to the river and enhance the tourism potential of the undeveloped area.

The ditch is finished project, and locals are aware that flooding by the river will widen and deepen the ditch into a navigable channel.

Costa Rica made much of the environmental damage Nicaraguans inflicted on the territory. Trees were cut, and dirt was moved. Nicaragua asserted that the cleaning and clearing operations in respect of the caño were over and finished, the court said.

Costa Rica can claim a degree of victory in the decision's environmental aspect. It said:

Having observed that, in the disputed border area, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have respectively designated, under the Ramsar Convention, the “Humedal Caribe Noreste” and the “Refugio de Vida Silvestre Río San Juan” as wetlands of international importance, the court considers that, pending delivery of the judgment on the merits, Costa Rica must be in a position to avoid irreparable prejudice being caused to that part of the “Humedal Caribe Noreste” wetland where
Laura Chinchilla
Casa Presdiencial photo
President Chinchilla appears pensive after hearing the decision of the international Court of Justice.

the disputed territory is situated. It finds that, for this purpose, Costa Rica must be  able to dispatch civilian personnel charged with the protection of the environment to the said territory, including the caño, but only in so far as it is necessary to ensure that no such prejudice be caused. It adds that Costa Rica must consult with the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention in regard to these actions, give Nicaragua prior notice of them and use its best endeavors to find common solutions with Nicaragua in this respect."

Ramsar refers to the 1971 Convention on Wetlands that was signed in the Iranian city of that name. The decision gives Costa Rica the right to take steps to prevent pending damage, but the degree appears to be limited by interjecting another international body into the mix. The Ramsar secretariate appears to have a voice. Officials from that office already have inspected the land from the air.

Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rican president said Tuesday that she would consult with the secretariat to set up a mission to visit the disputed territory. She called the decision a conclusive victory, but in Managua Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said pretty much the same thing. Nicaraguan newspapers are reporting the right to continue dredging as a victory for that country.

Ms. Chinchilla also said that she would consider negotiating with Nicaragua once it was clear the country had taken steps to follow the dictates of the decision.

The real winners in the decision Tuesday appear to be the lawyers who will be disputing this case for years at The Hague and Nicaraguan soldiers who will not be living on the mosquito infested territory.

Nicaragua kicked off the dispute in October when soldiers and workmen began dredging the river and dumping the sediment on Costa Rican territory. Then it became clear that Nicaragua was digging some form of channel that would intersect environmentally sensitive lagoons.  Costa Rica reinforced the border but declined to take any offensive action.

Nicaragua claimed that one reason its troops were there was to stop drug trafficking. Costa Rica has generally ignored the area which is remote and part of a reserve. In the decision the judges said that both countries could keep watch for lawlessness without entering the disputed territory.

There seemed to be little reaction among members of public
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Isla Calero situation seems to have failed to resonate with the Costa Rica public.

There have been no marches or protests. The only violence came from motorists who threw a firebomb at the Nicaraguan Embassy in November.

Analysis of the news

The central government has been preoccupied with the invasion by Nicaraguan soldiers and the efforts to create a new mouth for the Río San Juan in northern Costa Rica. But the area is a wetlands, isolated and of little economic value.

No students have marched. No unions have picketed. And the bulk of the taxi drivers in the country were listening to music or soccer news Tuesday when the international Court of Justice handed down a preliminary decision.

Expats in e-mails repeated their frustration that President Laura Chinchilla had not taken direct action when the  Nicaraguan soldiers first appeared on Costa Rican territory.
The government had in place elaborate security measures in case local trouble followed the release of the decision.

There was no need to put the plans into action, in part because the decision provided something for everyone regardless of which country they supported.

Ms. Chinchilla listened to the decision on a computer at her office along with her cabinet, and a Casa Presidencial photographer took mostly photos of a jubilant president. She later gave a talk at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The executive branch has avoided beating a patriotic drum, and the drawn out court process has left many in the public bored with the situation.

That probably is not the case in the small section of Costa Rica in the vicinity of the disputed territories. Barra de  Colorado residents worry what Nicaraguan dredging will do to the flow of the Río Colorado. They are happy that the dispute brought more police to the small town and renewed interest in social programs from the central government.

There also are plans for development.

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Al andaluiz

Al Andalus, the Costa Rican Flamenco troupe, will celebrate the closing of the Festival Veranos Sunday in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura with 30 dancers east of Parque España. The free show is at 4 p.m. The group also is scheduled to perform with the Orquestas
Sinfónicas Intermedia, Juvenil and Nacional with the  Coro Sinfónico Nacional at the inauguration of the new national stadium March 30. The program includes Ravel's "Bolero." An admission is being charged for this event.

Wording and political views affect belief in climate

By the University of Michigan news staff

Many Americans are skeptical about whether the world's weather is changing, but apparently the degree of skepticism varies systematically depending on what that change is called.

According to a University of Michigan study published in the forthcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly, more people believe in "climate change" than in "global warming."

"Wording matters," said Jonathon Schuldt, the lead author of the article about the study and a doctoral candidate in the university's Department of Psychology in Ann Arbor.

Schuldt co-authored the study with university psychologists Sara Konrath and Norbert Schwarz. For the research, they conducted a question wording experiment in the American Life Panel, an online survey conducted by RAND, with a national sample of 2,267 U.S. adults. Participants were asked to report their level of certainty about whether global climate change is a serious problem. In the following question, half the participants heard one version, half heard the other:

"You may have heard about the idea that the world's temperature may have been going up [changing] over the past 100 years, a phenomenon sometimes called 'global warming' ['climate change']. What is your personal opinion regarding whether or not this has been happening?

Overall, 74 percent of people thought the problem was real when it was referred to as climate change, while about 68 percent thought it was real when it was referred to as global warming.

These different levels of belief may stem from the different associations carried by the two terms, Schuldt said.  "While global warming focuses attention on x
temperature increases, climate change focuses attention on more general changes," he said. "Thus, an unusually cold day may increase doubts about global warming more so than about climate change. Given these different associations and the partisan nature of this issue, climate change believers and skeptics might be expected to vary in their use of these terms."

As part of the study, the researchers also analyzed the use of these two terms on political think tank Web sites, finding that liberals and conservatives used different terms. Conservative think tanks tend to call the phenomenon global warming, while liberal think tanks call it climate change.

And when the researchers analyzed responses to the survey by political orientation, they found that the different overall levels in belief were driven almost entirely by participants who identified themselves as Republicans. While 60 percent of Republicans reported that they thought climate change was real, for example, only 44 percent said they believed in the reality of global warming.

In contrast, about 86 percent of Democrats thought climate change was a serious problem, no matter what it was called. Why weren't they influenced by question wording?

"It might be a ceiling effect, given their high level of belief," Konrath said. "Or it could be that Democrats' beliefs about global climate change might be more crystallized, and as a result, more protected from subtle manipulations."

The good news is that Americans may not be as polarized on the issue as previously thought. "The extent of the partisan divide on this issue depends heavily on question wording," said Schwarz, "When the issue is framed as global warming, the partisan divide is nearly 42 percentage points. But when the frame is climate change, the partisan divide drops to about 26 percentage points."

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Women's Day in Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican women marked the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day in various ways around the country.

At the Plaza de la Cultura, teachers and public employees, all female, gathered to hold up a banner marking the day.

The group was about half teachers and have employees of such state companies as the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, which is a few blocks away. They had finished a day of work and met at the plaza in the mid-afternoon.

The women handed out flyers that contained a summary of the day and its origins among union members and Socialists in Europe.

The flyer briefly repeated what women have been saying for years in Costa Rica. They seek an end to sexual harassment femicide, a just salary, parity with men in unions and reproductive rights.

A recent law provides jail for men who insult their female partners in public or otherwise inflict emotional stress.

International Women's day
marked around the world

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Women joined together all over the world to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day Tuesday.

Women poured through London’s streets on Tuesday singing loudly for women’s rights. The banners they carried trained a spotlight on the range of issues still at hand: health, education, and politics to name a few.

Among the demonstrators in London was the musician and activist Annie Lennox. She said the fight for women’s rights isn’t over.

“There is still so much work to be done with regards to parity for women, equality for women’s rights all around the world - not only in the developed countries," Ms. Lennox said. "We’re here in the UK, and there’s actually four other marches going across different bridges across the entire world.”

The march on London’s Millenium Bridge Tuesday signified the Bridge of Peace that organizers say they want to build through conflict zones all over the world.

Women gathered in the conflict-ridden eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They gathered in Afghanistan, and they gathered in Iraq.

In London, a number of leading female politicians and activists joined the demonstration. One of them was Dr. Habiba Sarabi. In 2005 she was made Afghanistan’s first and only female governor. She says she wanted to empower women in her country and show the international community that Afghanistan is moving forward.

“Working as a female governor is not an easy job. It was for the first time in Afghanistan," Ms. Sarabi said. "But I did it because I wanted to prove that women can do in a society like Afghanistan something that men can do.”

She says her role as governor of Banyam province shows that Afghanistan has come a long way since the Taliban was ousted a decade ago. But she says it hasn’t been easy.

“There were so many people who were against me, they wanted to start some activity and also propaganda against me and they started to make demonstrations," Sarabi said. "But anyway I didn’t go backward.”

Another Afghan activist in London for Women’s Day was Asila Wardak Jamal, who co-founded the Afghan Women’s Network.

She says empowering women in Afghanistan is hard when many people are still struggling for basic needs like food.

“There are lots of problems still. Security is a big concern and a big obstacle for [the] women’s movement and for women’s development," Jamal said. "And also violence against women it’s a big concern for Afghan women. The violence against women at the familial level and at the societal level, it’s increasing. But still there’s a way to go.”

That’s why these women in London said they, and others around the world,  turned out for International Women’s Day - to keep women’s needs at the forefront of the global agenda.

Women’s Day was first celebrated in Germany in 1911 and is now marked by over 100 countries around the world.
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Christian period of Lent
begins with ashes today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today marks the start of the Christian period of Lent in which individuals are supposed to prepare themselves for Easter.

Ash Wednesday is when priests put a cross in ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ash comes from last year's palm fronds mixed with a bit of oil.

Still the 40 days of Lent are supposed to be a time of sacrifice and penance.

These days there are no public displays of hair shirts and self-flagellation, at least not in Costa Rica. Still psychologists wonder if self-inflicted pain really alleviates the guilt associated with immoral acts? A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, explores the psychological consequences of experiencing bodily pain.

According to scientists and the University of Queensland, Australia, unpleasant sensations are filled with meaning. Humans have been socialized over ages to think of pain in terms of justice, they said after conducting an experiment with undergraduates. Humans equate it with punishment, and as the experimental results suggest, the experience has the psychological effect of rebalancing the scales of justice — and therefore resolving guilt, they said.

The scientists measured unethical behavior and responses after a hand was held in ice water. Pain appeared to reduce the volunteers' guilt.

Lent also is the spring break period when college students come to Costa Rica. And the activities of Holy Week before Easter are tourist draws.

Carrillo is tourney location
for Presidential Challenge

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The official kickoff to the 2011 Presidential Challenge fishing tournament season, the Presidential Challenge of Costa Rica, is scheduled for March 24 to 27 in Playa Carrillo.

Teams depart from Carrillo, spending their days in some of Costa Rica's most productive fishing grounds, especially for marlin. In the weeks leading up to the tournament, the fishing has been nothing short of spectacular, with several local charter boats reporting double digit shots at sailfish plus three different billfish species, multiple blue and striped marlin releases and even a 200-pound class yellowfin tuna, said the tournament organizers.

In addition, Carrillo resident Gary Carter recently battled a blue marlin he estimated to be well in excess of 800 pounds in his quest for the 8-pound test world record for the species--unfortunately, the marlin won this fight after a three-hour battle.

As with all Presidential Challenge events, the tournament kickoff will require the use of non-offset circle hooks, with the Eagle Claw 2004EL the preferred hook of the tournament. Berkley Big Game 20-pound test line is also mandatory and will be supplied to the participating anglers by the tournament staff. Observers will be in place on each boat to ensure that all tournament rules are followed.

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