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Amigo Realty
(506) 2223-1327                     Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 51                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Semana Santa shutdown will begin in just 10 days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Only 10 days remain before offices and businesses begin to shut down for the Semana Santa vacation. Easter is March 31 this year, and Holy Week starts March 24.

Thursday, March 28, and Good Friday, March 29, are legal holidays. The real holiday usually starts a week earlier as government workers and those in private firms apply some vacation time to get away earlier. Banco Nacional already announced that its offices will be closed March 28 and 29.

For expats, Holy Week or Semana Santa is a time when nothing gets done. For tourists, the week is one of pageants and religious processions. For religious Costa Ricans, this is a time to participate in a week of services climaxing with the Easter Mass, March 31. For others, the week is one to spend at the beach or mountains.

The Cámera Costarricense de Hotels reported survey results Tuesday that estimated beach and mountain occupancy would be about 82 percent for Semana Santa. As is typical during holidays, hotels in the metro area and other cities will not fare as well.

The hotel chamber polled 45 of its members to determine that Guanacaste hospitality providers expect 89 percent occupancy. The Caribbean responses estimated occupancy at 85 percent.

The chamber also reported what it called alarming data for January. The chamber monthly survey showed only 64 percent of the nation's hotel rooms filled, it said. That was a percentage point lower than the same month in 2012.

Semana Santa begins Sunday, March 24, which is Palm Sunday in Christian tradition. There will be processions all over the country commemorating the biblical account of the arrival of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. From there on the religious activity depends on the local church. La Fortuna de San Carlos near Arenal volcano is known for a photogenic procession Good Friday, March 29.

At the Catederal Metropolitana, there are a series of processions through downtown San José all week ending with two Good Friday. Participants include Roman soldiers, apostles, Mary Magdalen, the municipal band playing a dirge, larger than life
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
 Tourists flock to San José to photograph the
 colorful Good Friday procession with the crucified
 Christ going to the tomb.

statues of religious figures and the casket bearing the body of the crucified Christ to his tomb.

Law enforcement officials soon will announce their plans for the week. While many Costa Ricans are on holiday, Fuerza Pública officers, tourist police and traffic officers are on alert. The Servicio Nacional de Guardacoastas will be patrolling beaches offshore to protect swimmers.

Hospital emergency care will be normal, said the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Meanwhile, supermarkets will be counting their cash. The economics ministry plans to report today the results of another one of those holiday price surveys. The survey will show that retailers jack up the prices on seasonal products.

Semana Santa is a time for fish, including sardines, cod and shrimp. Also a star at the table are the various manifestations of the chiverre, the squash that becomes a sweet treat. There also are the many rice dishes and special deserts.

The Museo Nacional points out that a long-standing tradition is for religious Costa Ricans to refrain from cooking during the week. There also is a tradition of maintaining silence on Good Friday and not even bathing.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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Our reader's opinion
Newspaper denigrates Caribbean
for its crime and lawlessness

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You recently published an essay titled “It took murder to generate action on Caribbean coast,” which discusses the tragic murder of a shopkeeper’s daughter, the dramatic robbery of a popular Caribe hotel, and a horrible invasion on a family in a vacation rental.

Your basic premise seems to be that there was a coordinated effort of the tourism industry to squelch any negative press and to tar and feather any heroic whistleblowers, while the bulk of the community members, law enforcement and business owners sat idly by allowing mayhem to run amuck.   Then… BAM, a really bad thing happened, news escaped through the bamboo curtain and made it’s way to your desk where, “A.M. Costa Rica editors and reporters monitor such news closely.”

You state, "Not a single tourism operator sought help from reporters in getting more police into the Caribbean coast area." Wow. Whoda thunk? I've read the op-eds in A.M. Costa Rica denigrating the Caribe for it's crime, lawlessness, and grand cover-up schemes. It never occurred to me that you were waiting for me, a lowly tour boat operator, to say... "Dear A.M. CR staff, please tell the police we need help,” Can someone provide me the name of the reporter with all this power? Cause I've been waiting eight years for ADS and I want, heck, NEED this reporter to get some action!  Or to get more street lighting, or install a speed bump in front of the school, or to increase garbage clean-up after Semana Santa.  Seriously!

On the other hand, maybe A.M. Costa Rica wants to open a reasonable line of communication with the citizens, residents and business owners of the Caribe Sur.  Rather than rely on op-eds from voluntary writers, why not conduct some true journalism?  You say the “two crimes [Samasati and Las Delicias] were the first public notice by police agencies”.  Is it typical for the police to call the paper to report crimes?  I thought it was the other way around; journalists investigated the happenings of the community.  In this area, an on-line forum pre-empts any national publication.  Case in point, a hit-n-run incident in this week was resolved not because AM Costa Rica, El Diario, or La Nación reported it, but because participants in a Facebook forum reported and identified the culprits.  Have you been here?  Have you talked with community members about our concerns, our efforts, our successes?  Are you aware of the progress of the local Judicial Investigating organization and Fuerza Publica at improving arrest and conviction rates?  Or the dead-on response and progress they had made on gathering intel and moving toward arrests on the recent home invasions.  

It’s the norm, blacklist the Caribbean because, well, it’s different than the rest of the country.  But, having family in Nuevo Arenal, and having spent ample time in the Central Valley and on the Pacific, there is NO community in Costa Rica where I see as much coordinated, committed and genuine altruistic concern for protecting the residents and tourists alike.

Your un-tested claim “nothing is done” promotes your conspiracy theory but falls well short of responsible reporting.  Allow me to fill in some of your gaps with a sample our collective activities over the past 18 months.

•    An on-line database collects date, location, and type of crimes that are committed.  This information is used to track trends, determine strategies, and evaluate effective efforts.

•    Two communities (Playa Negra and Playa Chiquita) have undergone 12 weeks of courses with the Fuerza Pública to become Barrio Organizado(s).

•   A community group of residents and business owners fund a beach patrol program employing guards who increase security, warn beachgoers of risks and even conduct litter clean-up.

•    The business community is developing a safe lodging program that will educate and encourage hostels, hotels and rental homes to assure policies and procedures that are proven effective to reduce crime. 

•    A tourist advice poster was created to raise awareness and help guests pro-actively understand steps to reduce their risk of crime.

•    Local businesses and vendors offer their space as victim assistance centers to help victims of crime by contacting the police, facilitating efforts to file/follow through with reports to OIJ, providing emotional and logistical support working through a complex legal system.

•    Community meetings have been held to discuss preventative options, such as street cameras and private security.

•    Fund-raising recently netted over $18,000 toward the purchase, installation and monitoring of surveillance cameras placed in public areas.  This amount was raised in just 22 days with prescribed limitations of no more $200 per resident and $400 per business to assure that the project had broad community support.

The above efforts are why, in late February, “a police officer reported that crime had decreased in the area” because the data from OIJ indicated such.  Crime has gone down by about 20 percent in the area.  Little of this success is attributed to A.M. Costa Rica or the central powers in San José generously and expeditiously flooding the Caribe Sur with additional manpower, funds or resources.  Quite contrary.

•    Local residents funded and built a holding cell for detainees.  Prior to that, police would transport the detainee to another facility 40 kilometers away, rendering the officer and the ONLY patrol car out of commission for several hours.

•    Residents also improved the officer’s dormitory and remodeled the police station to allow separate offices for victims reporting crimes and criminals in custody to be interviewed.

•    Local residents have donated computers, offered automotive and mechanical services and provided meals when additional officers were brought into the area. 

So, we aren’t hiding under our beds, wringing our hands and hoping the boogeyman will go away.  We are also not, by and large, spending our time writing scary letters to a one-sided paper intent on perpetuating a negative image of Costa Rica’s dark and dangerous side.  Most days we, personally, are on the sea with the pescadores who settled this precious gem of the Caribbean, relishing in the simple life, the rich culture, and the deeply held traditions of hard work, plentiful play, and pure living.  Shame on you, A.M. Costa Rica, for taking the well-worn path of blaming and shaming the Caribbean, its residents and the community leaders instead of doing a miniscule amount of work to understand the true nature of Costa Rica’s other coast.

Janet Jones & Nick Varnum
Puerto Viejo

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

Costa Rican news summaries are disabled
on archived pages.

Have you seen these stories?
From A.M. Costa Rica

Top story news feeds are disabled on achived pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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Three major concerns tied for top spot in minds of Costa Ricans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just hours after La Nación reported the results of another survey by Unimer Costa Rica, the security ministry was issuing a press release lauding the numbers.

The problem was that the ministry did not get the details correctly.

The survey showed that insecurity no longer was the top concern of the majority of the residents. The ministry correctly noted that those listing insecurity as their top concern amounts to just 18 percent of those surveyed. That is a big drop from the 48 percent who said the same thing in 2009.

The ministry said that concern about insecurity had dropped to third position among Costa Ricans. Actually the news story in La Nación showed it to be in second place.

Some 21 percent of the respondents said the employment was their main concern. In third place was the cost of living, cited as the primary concern by 17 percent of the respondents.

Lesser primary concerns were corruption, the economy and poverty, according to La Nación.

The Laura Chinchilla administration certainly will be remembered for the way it put a favorable spin on daily events. But it appears that at least the security ministry will get a failing grade in statistics.
Likely sentiment of all Costa Ricans
Margin of
error range
23.8 to 18.2 %
20.8 to 15.2%
Cost of living 17%
19.8 to 14.2%
Source: La Nación, March 12, 2013

What the Unimer firm did was survey about 1,200 Costa Ricans. Then they projected the results from these respondents to the Costa Rica population. This is inferential statistics, and it is not a good idea to consider the results as highly accurate.

La Nación itself reported a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent for the results. That means employment, cost of living and insecurity are basically tied for the top concern of all Costa Ricans.

If the Unimer survey is accurate and not one of those soundings that are incorrect one out of 20 times,  the security ministry has less to cheer about.

Such surveys give broad answers, as those who follow election polls know. The closer the election race the less useful are the polls.

Skateboard extravaganza due
to attract 5,000 participants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers predict that 5,000 youngsters on skateboards and longboards will take to the streets March 24 for another  Emerica Wild In The Streets event.

The skaters will travel from Barrio Aranjuez through the city to Parque de la Paz on the city's south side.

This year five of the 10 best skateboarders will visit Costa Rica for the event and some promotional activities before and after the Sunday skateboarding event. They are Bryan Herman, Leo Romero, Brandom Westgate, Collin Provost and Jerry Hsu.

Last year the estimate was that 4,000 youngsters participated.

Organizers said that this is just not a lark for youngsters but that the activities have raised awareness of skateboarding and that 10 new skate parks have opened to accommodate the sport. They are in Coronado, Barrial de Heredia, Heredia Centro, San Rafael, San Antonio de Belén and Sabanilla, among others.
The visiting professional skateboarders also will appear at Skatepark de Arenas in San José Saturday, March 23 and at Tico Skate in Heredia, Tsunami Skate Shop in Belén and in PLX Skate Plaza in San José, all Monday, March 25. The next day the professionals will be at Skate Street in Puntarenas.

The  Emerica firm manufactures gear for skateboarders.
wild in the
Transworld Skateboarding photo
 Bryan Herman, one of the visiting professionals,
 demonstrates his art.

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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute /U Terpisichores
Male fiddler crabs use their large claw in combat to win a mate.

Fiddler crabs with big claws
still can win pinching match

By the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute staff

The longer a male fiddler crab's big claw the scarier he is to competitors and the more attractive to mates. But, like chop sticks, long claws cannot pinch hard at the tips and long-clawed males may lose fights with males with shorter, more powerful claws.

This idea is known as the paradox of the weakening combatant: as a weapon increases in length, the combatant's ability to deliver forces with it in a fight decreases. But do male fiddler crabs fight with the tips of their claws in chopstick fight fashion?

John Christy,  a Smithsonian scientist, and Stefan Dennenmoser, an intern now at the University of Calgary, found that male fiddler crabs don't usually unleash a crustacean death grip with their claw tips. Instead, crabs grasp each other's claw with the mid-section of their claws as they attempt to flip the competitor or eject him from his burrow, thus winning the tussle for a mate.

The scientists conducted their study around the Pacific gateway to the Panama Canal, including at Culebra Point. They observed crab fighting, collected them and measured the relative position of tubercles — bumps on the serrated inner claw where the crabs pinch in a fight.

As claws grow, the tubercles stay close to the inner part of the claw's gripping surfaces, which may compensate for the disadvantage posed by a longer claw. So claws can be “both beautiful and powerful weapons,” the researchers write in the journal Evolution.

Death of Chávez leaves a gap
for Latin American new left

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez leaves a void for the left in Latin America that most analysts say is unlikely to be filled soon.  His death could also eventually affect Communist Cuba, which has benefitted from cheap oil and other subsidies from the petroleum-rich nation.

In death, as in life, Hugo Chavez won acclaim from the leaders of Latin America's new left, united in their opposition to what they see as U.S. domination of the region.

For them, the late Venezuelan leader has joined the pantheon of Latin American revolutionary heroes.

"We are fully committed to continuing with these battles, to give continuity to the dreams of Bolívar, Sandino, Marti, Fidel, and Hugo Cheavez," said Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua.

During his lifetime, Chávez tried to fulfill the dream of Simon Bolívar, the 19th century South American liberator who aimed to unite the continent. 

Former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wrote in The New York Times that history will remember Chávez for this effort and his commitment to alleviate poverty.
To this end, he formed regional blocs, aimed at countering the free market and free trade policies promoted by Washington to advance what he called 21st century socialism.

The rise of like-minded leaders in Latin America helped push these projects forward.  But it's unclear if anyone can take Chavez's place, according to Michael Shifter who heads the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group.

"His money was an important part of his power base and he helped a lot of people. So he really created a sense of loyalty and allegiance among a lot of people and a lot of governments in Latin America.  And there’s not going to be anybody who is going to fill his shoes in the region," Shifter said.

Because Venezuela is a major oil producer, money was readily available.

And Cuba became a major beneficiary, receiving heavily discounted oil and other subsidies from the late Venezuelan leader, who viewed Fidel Castro as a mentor.

Cuba paid a tribute to Chávez after his death with a 21-gun salute.  But the honors did not ease the anxiety of some.

"It is a loss, because Chávez helps our country a great deal.  Without him I think things will be a bit more difficult," said housewife Yuney Valladares. 

While Cuba has been able to reduce its dependence on Venezuelan oil by developing its own resources, there is still concern, said Philip Brenner, a Cuba specialist at American University in Washington.

"Venezuela clearly was a ready source of oil and it’s not a ready source anymore if there’s going to be a change there," Brenner said. 

But no immediate change is expected, given that acting President Nicolas Maduro is favored to win next month's election. Even though he was handpicked by Chávez, analysts say he will likely focus primarily on Venezuela's domestic needs instead of fostering Latin America's left.
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Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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Cyrus the great
Smithsonian photo
This is the cylinder that is in Washington now.

Cylinder of Cyrus the Great
has major influence to today

By the Smithsonian news service

The Cyrus Cylinder, sometimes referred to as the first bill of human rights, traces its origins to the Persian king Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Almost 2,600 years later, its remarkable legacy continues to shape contemporary political debates, cultural rhetoric and philosophy.

One of the most celebrated objects in world history made its U.S. debut when “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia” opened at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian in Washington, D..C.  On loan from the British Museum, the cylinder will be on view at the Sackler through April 28, travelling afterwards to Houston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“You could almost say that the Cyrus Cylinder is a history of the Middle East in one object, creating a link to a past that we all share and to a key moment in history that has shaped the world around us,” said Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. “Objects are uniquely able to speak across time and space, and this object must be shared as widely as possible.”

The cylinder—a football-sized, barrel-shaped clay object covered in Babylonian cuneiform, one of the earliest written languages—announced Cyrus’ victory and his intention to allow freedom of worship to communities displaced by the defeated ruler Nabonidus. At the time, such declarations were not uncommon, but Cyrus’ was unique in its nature and scope. When contextualized with other contemporary sources, such as the Bible’s Book of Ezra, it becomes evident that Cyrus allowed displaced Jews to return to Jerusalem.

“One of the goals of this exhibition is to encourage us to reflect that relations between Persians and Jews have not always been marked by the discord that disfigures the political map of the Near East today,” said Julian Raby, gallery director. “Cyrus was the very image of a virtuous rule — inspiring leaders from Alexander the Great to Thomas Jefferson — so it is apt that the first time it will be seen in the West is in Washington, D.C.”

Under Cyrus (ca. 580–530 B.C.), the Persian Empire became the largest and most diverse the world had known to that point. Subsequent generations of rulers considered it to be the ideal example of unified governance across multiple cultures, languages and vast distances. Cyrus’ declarations of tolerance, justice and religious freedom provided inspiration for generations of philosophers and policymakers from Ancient Greece to the Renaissance, and from the Founding Fathers to modern-day Iran, so much so that a copy now resides in the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.

The message of the cylinder and the larger legacy of Cyrus’ leadership have been appropriated and reinterpreted over millenia, beginning with its creators. The Babylonian scribe who engraved the Cylinder attributed Cyrus’ victory to the Babylonian god Marduk, a stroke of what could be considered royal and religious propaganda. In the fourth century B.C., the Greek historian Xenophon wrote "Cyropaedia," a text that romanticizes the philosophies and education of Cyrus as the ideal ruler, which greatly influenced both Alexander the Great and, much later, Thomas Jefferson in his creation of the Declaration of Independence.

When the cylinder was rediscovered in 1879, it immediately entered the fray of public debate as invaluable proof of the historical veracity of events described in biblical scripture. In the early 20th century, supporters of the creation of the state of Israel compared the actions of British King George V to those of Cyrus, allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem. When the cylinder was loaned to Iran in 2010, it was viewed by more than 1 million people, one of the most visited exhibitions in the country’s history.

“The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia” includes related objects that highlight some of the artistic, cultural and historical achievements of the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 B.C.) of Iran, such as architectural fragments, finely carved seals and luxury objects from the Oxus Treasure.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

Intelligence chief seeking
flexibility on budget cuts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The top U.S. intelligence official says automatic government spending cuts are reducing the nation’s ability to detect and respond to threats across the globe, from terrorist plots to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. The comments were made in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper told senators Tuesday that budget sequestration is degrading America’s early warning apparatus for threats at home and abroad.

“Let me now be blunt for you and the American people," he said. "Sequestration forces the intelligence community to reduce all intelligence activities and functions, without regard to impact on our mission.”

Clapper said intelligence agencies will have to, in his words, “do less with less.”

“We will reduce human, technical and counter-intelligence operations, resulting in fewer collection opportunities, while increasing the risk of strategic surprise,” he said.

The national intelligence director provided an example. “Our cyber efforts will be impacted," he said. "This is an area where, you all know, we need to keep ahead of rapid technology advances to maintain and increase access to adversaries, as well as provide warning of a cyber attack against the U.S.”

Clapper said the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks demonstrated the consequences of inadequate intelligence capabilities — a mistake he said the nation risks repeating.

“Unfortunately, I have seen this movie before. Now, if we are not careful, we risk another damaging downward spiral,” he said.

Clapper said the timing of across-the-board budget cuts could not be worse for intelligence agencies.

“In my almost 50 years in intelligence, I cannot recall a period in which we confront a more diverse array of threats, crises and challenges around the world. To me, this makes sequestration even more incongruous," he said.

The national intelligence director urged Congress to give the intelligence community flexibility in implementing budget cuts to minimize their impact on national security.

Senators of both parties on the Intelligence Committee voiced support for the request.

“We are committing to do everything within our power to ensure that the resources are there to allow you to continue to do what you are asked to do every single day,” said Saxby Chambliss, a Republican.

The committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said she will press the Senate to authorize greater budgeting flexibility for intelligence agencies. This week, the chamber is debating a bill to fund the U.S. government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

White House official warns
China on litany of cybercrimes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A senior White House official is calling on China to take serious steps to stop cybercrimes, saying the issue is a growing challenge to U.S.-China relations.

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon on Monday called on China to acknowledge the scope of the problem and engage in talks with the U.S. on acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday that Beijing was open to talks, but insisted that China is a victim, not perpetrator of computer crimes. "What the Internet needs is not war, but rules and cooperation. China is willing, on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and mutual trust, to have constructive dialogue and cooperation on this issue with the international community, including the United States, to maintain the security, openness and peace of the Internet," he stated.

Several large U.S. technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, were hacked earlier this year. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post newspapers also say they were attacked by China-based hackers.

Last month, U.S. Internet security group Mandiant accused the Chinese military of stealing large amounts of data from about 150 U.S. companies and organizations.

China's defense ministry denied the charge, saying Mandiant's report lacked proof. It also returned the accusation, saying several Chinese military Web sites have been attacked by U.S.-based hackers.

U.S. officials have increasingly criticized China-based computer hacking attempts. But they have been less pointed in making direct accusations against the Beijing government, instead hoping to use talks to solve the problem.

In a speech Monday to the Asia Society in New York, Donilon said Chinese hacking attempts represent not only a national security concern, but also an economic one. He said U.S. businesses are increasingly concerned about "sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information."

The U.S. last month unveiled a new strategy to counter hackers and cyber spies, including the use of fines and trade actions against those targeting trade secrets.

Some U.S. lawmakers estimate that American companies lost more than $300 billion last year to trade secret theft, much of it to due to hacking by Chinese cyber spies.

Facebook activity distilled
to guess personality traits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

According to a recent study by researchers at Cambridge University, easily accessible online digital records can be distilled to predict some personality traits or behavior users might prefer be kept private. Among those traits and behaviors, according to the study, are “sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age and gender.”

The analysis was based on 58,000 volunteers who offered to share their Facebook “likes.” Using the information gleaned from Facebook, the researchers were able to accurately tell a man’s sexual orientation 88 percent of the time, whether they were white or African-American 95 percent of the time, and whether they were a Democrat or Republican 85 percent of the time.

Even religious affiliation, specifically determining if a person was Christian or Muslim, was predicted accurately 82 percent of the time.

Intelligence was another trait researchers were able to accurately measure, and Facebook “likes” associated with intelligence included “thunderstorms,” “The Colbert Report,” a popular comedy show in the United States, “science” and “curly fries.”

Clues to lower intelligence were liking “Sephora,” a chain of perfume stores, “I love being a mom,” “Harley Davidson,” a popular manufacturer of motorcycles and “Lady Antebellum,” a popular country music group.

According to the paper, published in the journal PNAS, information like this could be used by corporations to better target potential consumers.

For example, a U.S. retailer tried to predict pregnancies among its female customers, so it could send them discount offers for prenatal vitamins or maternity clothing.  While the offers might have been welcomed by some, the negative side is that it might lead to sending offers to unwed women from a culture that frowns on pregnancy out of wedlock.

“As this example shows, predicting personal  information to improve products, services and targeting can also lead to dangerous invasions of privacy,” according to the paper.

Scientist think Mars supported
life, based on Curiosity data

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NASA says there is new evidence that ancient Mars could have supported microbial life.

The space agency's Curiosity rover has drilled into a rock near an ancient stream bed on the Red Planet, and the rover has analyzed the powdered sample of the rock's interior in its onboard lab. 

Scientists say the sample from an area known as Yellowknife Bay contained some key chemical ingredients needed for life, including oxygen, hydrogen and carbon.

The lead scientist of the Mars Exploration Program, Michael Meyer, revealed the findings Tuesday at NASA headquarters in Washington.

"This was an ancient environment with the right elements, minerals indicating a near-neutral environment and slightly salty liquid water, all the pre-requisites to support life — a habitable environment," said Meyer.

Researchers say the Martian bedrock shows evidence of multiple periods of wet conditions.  Clay minerals, which indicate water, are present in the grayish sample of Martian rock.   

Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger said "I think we have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it," said Grotzinger.

Curiosity is exploring within a deep, 150-kilometer-wide depression called Gale Crater, and it will head toward a Martian peak called Mount Sharp.  The car-sized rover landed on Mars in August on a two-year, $2.5 billion mission to explore the Red Planet but is not equipped to look for any microbes that may live on Mars today or fossils of those that are extinct.

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View from Orosi home

Majestically situated overlooking the Orosi Valley and the tropical rain forest, this 2-bedroom, 2½-bath home with a separate office is offered at $550,000.  From the extensive use of glass windows visitors are easily captivated by the unbelievably 7 acres of pure, natural Costa Rican landscape.   The property is located 15 minutes from the Cartago metropolitan area, an hour from San José, 1¼ hours to the Juan Santamaria International Airport, 2 hours to the beaches of the Pacific West Coast, or 3 ½  hours to the beaches of the southern Caribbean coast.
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Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:

Morazan building for sale
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1 lot (1.5 acres)  at SIBU (8 lots total) amongst 50 acres of protected jungle gardens with sunset ocean views of Playa Nosara. Underground electric and water.13 minutes from Playa Guiones. Gated. In house financing available. Home of SIBU Sanctuary.

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- 2-bedroom house in gated community, $92,500.
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- 3-bedroom house in gated community, furnished, walk to the beach, $125k
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Business for sale or lease (paid category)7115-12/16/11

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2013 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Hospitals searched in case
of high court magistrate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio Público said Tuesday that two public hospitals and a clinic have been searched for evidence in a case of a high court magistrate accused of rape.

The Ministerio Público houses the prosecutors, and the fiscal general, Jorge Chavarría, supervised the searches. Prosecutors and agents were acting on the order of the Sala Tercera high criminal court. The magistrate involved, Óscar González, sits on the Sala Primera. the high court for civil cases.

A female judge has accused him of rape.

The Ministerio Público said that agents were seeking files related to the case. and that a judicial order was required because medical files are confidential.

The two hospitals were México and Calderón Guardia. Also searched was a clinic in Heredia.

$55 million loan gets an OK
to improve docks at Moín

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a $55 million loan to improve the docks at Moín. There were no negative votes.

The work will be under the Junta Administrativa de la Vertiente Atlántica, which runs the ports on the Caribbean.

The Moín port is used only for cargo, petroleum and chemicals, unlike the docks at Limón where cruise ships frequently dock.

The government has contracted with a Dutch firm to build a $1 billion container handling facility, and workers at the public docks staged protests and strikes until the government agreed to improve those docks, too.

APM Terminals will be building its container facility at Moín, too.

Another fast boat beached
with shipment of cocaine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement agencies are seeking the three- or five-person crew of a drug boat that was beached near Mazanillo on the Caribbean coast Tuesday.

The combined efforts of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea and the Fuerza Pública trapped the 50-foot boat.

The open boat carried four 300-horsepower motors.

The Fuerza Pública said that there was about a ton of cocaine on the boat as well as 29 containers for fuel. Officers speculated that the crew dumped cocaine into the sea during a chase and that the original load might have been two tons.

The full details on the chase and breaching have not been released. Usually there is a U.S. Navy or Coast Guard ship at sea that spots the fast boat and its illegal cargo initially.

Police are seeking the crew members who fled into the jungle.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 51
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dark beer
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
One of 13 million pints of Guinness

The Irish: Inescapable pressure to drink

By the  Northumbria University news staff

Irish people will feel compelled to drink alcohol to celebrate St Patrick’s Day this Sunday – whether they want to or not – according to a Northumbria University academic.

Alcohol consumption is romanticised in Irish culture, and many Irish people regard drinking on St Patrick’s Day as a symbol of patriotism to their country, the research reveals.

Marketing lecturer Matthew Kearney asked 70 Irish people in their 20s and 30s to keep shopping diaries and analyze their feelings about their spending as part of his doctoral research into the experiences of and attitudes to shopping with a particular focus on excessive shopping habits. He then conducted in-depth interviews with a third of those who took part.

The research revealed that every single person who took part in the research celebrated St Patrick’s Day and many maxed out their credit cards and borrowed from friends and family to support the celebrations.

Even those who declared themselves as teetotalers the rest of the year felt compelled to drink alcohol to celebrate St Patrick’s – a day when it is estimated that more than 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed around the world. 

Matthew, from Coleraine in Northern Ireland, said: “Alcohol consumption, when placed in the context of Ireland, becomes instantly romanticized, attributed to one’s underlying Celtic soul. Ireland is synonymous with alcohol; although Ireland boasts world heritage sites, titanic museums and the birth and death sites of numerous authors and poets, its most popular tourist attraction is the Guinness Storehouse.

“When Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip make a point of publicly enjoying a Guinness experience while visiting Ireland, it starts to become even more apparent that alcohol consumption is so completely intertwined with Irishness."

The research highlighted the perceived cultural importance of celebrating St Patrick’s Day. While everyone who took part in the research ‘did something for St Patrick’s Day,’ not all those with a partner celebrated Valentine’s Day, for example.

The fact that the research sample was split almost equally between men and women shows that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are far more than a symptom of lad culture. Participants who had no intention of celebrating eventually gave in to the mockery and cajoling of their Irish friends and spent considerable amounts of money on the day with one woman recalling spending 350 pounds on celebrating.

Other participants recalled spending the day away from Ireland but being pressured to join in the celebrations by their English counterparts.

Matthew added: “Many of the people who took part in the research seemed to feel an inescapable pressure to drink as though it is part of Irish consumers’ culture and heritage. When this is combined with the expectations of others, created by the concerted efforts of marketers, the result appears to be inevitable.

“However, many of those I interviewed expressed extreme regret in the aftermath of the day while others demonstrated a learned helplessness towards stopping drinking on the day. There seems to be a perception that it’s their duty,” he added.

Red tide
 Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute photo
A red tide bloom off the coast of Florida. 

Low levels of phosphorus
linked to toxic red tide

By the North Carolina State University news staff

When Gulf of Mexico algae don’t get enough nutrients, they focus their remaining energy on becoming more and more poisonous to ensure their survival, according to a new study by scientists from North Carolina State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study shows that harmful and ubiquitous Karenia brevis algae, which cause red tide blooms across the Gulf of Mexico, become two to seven times more toxic when levels of phosphorus, a major algal nutrient found in fertilizers and human waste, are low. Like wearing a suit of armor, producing highly toxic cells allows the algae to defend themselves against opportunistic waterborne grazers like zooplankton.

Red tide blooms are linked to fish kills and other ecological and economic damage in the region, and are also linked to respiratory ailments in humans. These blooms occur annually in the Gulf, but it’s hard to predict where or when they’ll occur or how long they’ll last.

Rance Hardison and Damian Shea, co-authors on a paper appearing online in the journal PLOS ONE, say that the findings could help coastal managers make better predictions about the harmful effects of red tide blooms.

“Public-health managers can test phosphorous levels in waters across various Gulf locations,” Hardison said, “and know that low levels could indicate highly toxic red tide blooms. Then they can close nearby shellfish beds or take other measures to keep sea life – and humans – safe.”

The researchers tested five different K. brevis species from varied geographic locations and limited some samples’ growth by withholding phosphorus while allowing others to enjoy a full diet of phosphorus. Depending on the species, algal cells with limited access to phosphorus had 2.3 to 7.3 times more toxin than algal cells that were filled up with phosphorous.

“At the end of a red tide bloom, when the nutrients are used up, K. brevis cells produce a burst of toxicity. Now we understand the biological mechanism behind some of the varied toxic levels seen in Gulf algal cells,” Shea, a professor of biology and environmental toxicology, said.

The irony of the inverse relationship between phosphorous and algal toxicity is not lost on the researchers. In a modern-day catch-22, excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen play key roles in fueling algal growth and harmful algal bloom development. As bloom density increases, cells use up the available nutrients such as phosphorous. This slows the growth of K. brevis cells, causing them to become more toxic. Previous research conducted by Hardison, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer who received his doctorate from North Carolina State University, showed similar effects when nitrogen was the limiting nutrient.

“We believe the findings will be useful to help model future toxic algal blooms and how harmful they’ll be,” Hardison said.

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Apartado 815-1007
Edificio Centro Colón
(Piso/floor 11)
San José
506 2258 2025

Oficentro La Sabana
Building 5, Third floor
Box: 351-1007,  San José
506 2242-4400
Canadian flag
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Dutch flag
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Oficentro la Sabana,
P.O.Box 10285-1000
San José
506 2296-1490

Torre Sabana, 8° floor,
Sabana Norte.
Box 4017-1000,  San José
506  2290-9091
After hours 506 8381-7968

German flag
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Other foreign embassies in Costa Rica
Click HERE!

Costa Rican embassies in the world
Click HERE!

Teatro Nacional logo
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Teatro Nacional
Drama, dance, theater
orchestras, concerts

Multiplaza Escazú
Multiplaza del Este


Terramall and Desamparados
CCM Cinemas
San Pedro, Alajuela, Heredia, Plaza Mayor, Cine Magaly, Cariari, San Ramón, San Carlos
Jacó Beach Cinema
Airline info
flight stats
Juan Santamaría in Alajuela
Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia
Other airports of the world

Weather and disasters
Current weather

Instituto Meteorological Nacional
Instituto Meteorological

U.S. National
Information Service



Turrialba volcano
Live camera
on Turrialba volcano

Arenal volcano is HERE!
but it is out of service

World Earthquakes


Live reports of quakes
recorder display
Instituto Nacional
de Seguros

Vehicle inspection

Riteve link
Policeía de Tránsito
Policía de Tránsito
Highway info

Autopista del Sol
Web Page

Autopista del Sol

Dirección General
de Miración
main page is HERE!

Appointment to renew
cédulas for residents
900-00-DIMEX (900-00-34639)
Or click HERE!

Banco de Costa Rica
Community groups
Association of Residents of Costa Rica
Community alliance
Apdo 384-4250
San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica
Phone: 8333-8750

Real Estate
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