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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, March 14, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 51          E-mail us
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Tsunami alert causes anxiety among some travelers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The possibility of a tsunami Friday gave the Costa Rican emergency system a test.

The national emergency commission issued a low-level alert at 3 a.m. Friday. By that time scientists had calculated that any serious tsunami effect would touch northern México and not Central America.

The tsunami originated with the 8.9 earthquake off the eastern shore of Japan. Although there were reports of secondary effects of the earthquake and the aftershock on the Pacific beaches, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias lifted the alert Saturday and said that there were no effects of consequence here.

The Canadian, U.S. and British embassies issued alerts to their citizens based on the emergency commission report. Each embassy has its own network of persons who registered their presence here.

The concern about tsunamis caused anxiety among Costa Ricans Friday. Some delayed planned trips to Jacó and other Pacific locations because of tsunami concerns. México got the strongest waves in Latin America, as had been predicted shortly after the quake. The highest was about 70 centimeters, about 27.5 inches.

Costa Rica got much less. The first wave arrived here about 4 p.m.

In the United States hardest hit were Oregon and California, where authorities estimate the more than two-meter (6.5-foot) tsunami caused millions of dollars in damages, according to the A.M. Costa Rica news services. One man was washed out to sea while taking photographs of the wave and is missing and feared drowned, a news service report said.

The tsunami first hit the United States when it washed up on the shores of Hawaii early Friday. Residents and visitors had been warned hours before the two-meter wave arrived.

Residents of the Pacific coast reported continued movement of the sea much of Saturday due to secondary waves, according to Guillermo Quirós Alvarez, a Costa Rican oceanographer.  He noted that some of the bays on the Pacific trapped the energy of the waves, which resulted in greater effect at the shoreline.
Japan is experiencing more than 100 aftershocks, with a handful in the 6.2 to 6.9 magnitude range. The bulk are below 5.0 magnitude. Some of these are generating ocean waves.

Costa Rica pays close attention to earthquakes elsewhere because the country is vulnerable to such events. There have been six felt quakes in Costa Rica already in March with the strongest being 5.0 magnitude.

Costa Ricans also know that there is a high probability that a strong quake will take place in the Gulf of Nicoya. There have been 11 major quakes in and around the Nicoya Peninsula since 1827.

Costa Rica is one of the most earthquake-prone and volcanically active countries in the world, according to the University of California at Santa Cruz, which has studied the area extensively. Just off the west coast is the Middle America Trench, where a section of the sea floor called the Cocos Plate dives beneath Central America, generating powerful earthquakes and feeding a string of active volcanoes, said researchers.

This type of boundary between two converging plates of the earth's crust is called a subduction zone ― and such zones are notorious for generating the most powerful and destructive earthquakes.

The National emergency commission has the job of responding to quakes and attempting to mitigate their effect by prior planning. The most recent event was a killer quake Jan. 8, 2009, in Cinchona north of Heredia and Alajuela.

That quake did not involve the Nicoya fault.  Some 25 persons died as a result of the quake, mostly due to landslides.

In addition to the Nicoya peninsula, the entire central Pacific coast south to Panamá is an earthquake-prone area.

Had the quake Thursday been off the Costa Rican shore, there would have been no warning of a tsunami. The first emergency commission warning came at 3 a.m., more than three hours after the Japanese quake. The wave would have made it to shore first.

The major concern now among Costa Rica officials is the possibility that damaged nuclear rectors in Japan will give off radioactive clouds. A hydrogen explosion rocked one of the damaged plants Sunday.

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100 bills are in the hopper
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch now has an agenda of some 100 bills that it has presented to the legislature. Until May 1, the legislature may only consider bills forwarded to it by the executive branch.

Among the bills are some proposals that have been sought by opposition legislators. Marco Vargas, minister of the Presidencia is trying to knit together coalitions of lawmakers to pass bills favored by President Laura Chinchilla.

Among these is one that would level an annual assessment of $200 on every corporation and the omnibus tax package that the president has presented, Vargas noted.

Among those measures favored by most lawmakers is a bill for a national refuge at Ostional. There also is a proposal to create housing for the middle class, which is favored by most opposition lawmakers, Vargas noted.

U.S. ambassador will open
leadership speaker series

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anne S. Andrew will inaugurate the Women's Club of Costa Rica's Women in Leadership Speaker Series. That will be Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Aurola Holiday Inn in downtown San José.

The ambassador is the first female to hold that position in Costa Rica. She is expected to discuss the U.S. role in promoting the empowerment of women in Costa Rica, said the sponsor, the club's Professional Women's Network. The event includes an optional lunch.

Ms. Andrew is from Indiana and a graduate of Indiana University's School of Law. She was active in Democratic politics and worked as a lobbyist in Washington., D.C.

She was a founder of New Energy Nexus, LLC a consulting firm advising companies and investors on strategies related to clean energy technology, said the U.S. Embassy here, adding that she also co-founded a medical biotech consulting company, Anson Group LLC. Her husband, Joseph, was chairman of the national Democratic Committee for two years.

Pursuing police are met
with hail of bullets


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in pursuit of at least eight robbery suspects ran into bullets directed at them by young men early Sunday in San Sebastián, south San José. Police commanders had to bring six other patrol cars and occupants to the scene to surround the persons wielding the weapons.

Police managed to detain four persons. Officers said that two men told them that while they were walking in the vicinity of the Pina subdivion in Paso Ancho they were held up by eight armed men who then fled.

Our reader's opinion
Young criminals recruited
because the system is lax


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Follow the money seems to be the theme of detectives to nab criminals. At least I hear that often watching shows like “Law and Order.” An article last week reported on the two adults arrested for laundering money, valuables and guns while using juveniles to commit extortion on law abiding citizens.

The opportunity exists for these adult thugs to use juveniles to commit these crimes because of the lax judicial system for punishing not only adult criminals, but especially the so-called youth. I've hit on this before in at least one previous article and the situation seems to be escalating.

It would be my wish and hope that A.M. Costa Rica takes the initiative to follow this one case in particular. Lets the readers see what the Judicial system does with these two adults and the seven so-called youths as far as prosecuting and the punishments that will follow.

Does anyone think that in this lax judicial system here towards violent youth will have an answer to rehabilitate them and release them on society. I would bet it all that they will be out the revolving door to terrorize the citizenry in short time. Wikileaks has it right about embassy staff being houses away from the crime ridden areas of Costa Rica. “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, indeed!
Tom Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

 
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!

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





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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 51
Latigo K-9

Taiwanese boat captain in court today in shark finning case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Taiwanese boat captain goes before a judge today in Puntarenas faced with the allegation that he unloaded shark fins that were not attached to sharks. He is the first to be detained based on a rule that all boats must unload their catch at the public dock in Barrio El Carmen de Puntarenas.

The boat captain was identified by the last name of Yu. He commanded the fishing vessel Hung Chi Fu 12. Inspectors from the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuacultura encountered the captian and the crew March 2.

He is being tried in a flagrancy court for those who are caught in the act of a crime or nearly so. The boat captain
 has been free since his detention basically on is own recognizance. The court hearing is scheduled for 5:15 p.m., said the Poder Judicial.

Puntarenas is a major port for shark finning activities. Environmentalist are outraged that sharks would be caught, stripped of their fins and then dumped back into the ocean to die.

The Minsiterio de Obras Públicas y Transportes reached an agreement that as of Dec. 1, all ships would unload thier cargo at the public docks where they could be observed.

Nevertheless, some boats did not and docked instead at private docks. The public dock rule was challenged in an administrative court. But the court upheld the measure.


Reports from troubled highways chronicle problems
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Autopista del Sol remains closed because a final inspection of the Atenas-Orotina stretch had been delayed, and on the Autopista General Cañas chaos reigned over the weekend because the infamous bridge over the Río Tiribi was shut for repairs.

The Sociedad Concesionaria Autopistas del Sol said Sunday that it had requested an inspection of the work and that one was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. However, for undisclosed reasons the inspection was put off.

This is the roadway where rocks have been falling, including some on motorists. There has been one death.

The new highway was closed to allow workers to reduce some of the steep slopes and to put up protection for motorists. This is the much sought San José-Caldera  highway that has been 40 years in planning. It finally
 opened in the last days of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration early last year. Since then there has been one problem after another.

The Río Tiribi bridge was just finished two weeks ago, and the concrete of the bridge deck began to flake and crumble. Officials still don't know why, but workers were on the bridge over the weekend applying a quick fix. They applied concrete on top of the eroded concrete after digging out what they could between a reinforcement grid of metal.

Meanwhile, weekend traffic detoured through back roads. The highway is the main connection between San José and Alajuela with its Juan Santamaría airport.

The bridge deck was replaced in the recent work that began just after Christmas. There has been one death here, too. A highway worker died one night while working near the bridge. Agents later detained a Canadian and said he was the hit-and-run driver.


New page contains important links and information
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper published today for the first time a page of important links and services. It is HERE!

Over the next week the page will be expanded and improved. However, the page still will contain embassy listings and emergency numbers, flight information for both international airports, immigration contacts, links for movie listings, traffic information and weather and disaster links.

There also is a link for activities at the Teatro Nacional.
Listing for services could use improvement. We ask readers to recommend to us tradesmen and women who can be trusted to do the job assigned.

Employees will contact these individuals to see if they would like to be listed.  We will charge a reasonable fee for this service, but the main goal is to assemble a team of craftsmen, from plumbers to auto mechanics, who come recommended by fellow expats.

Everyone knows how difficult it is to find good craftsmen and repair personnel. Please send names of those you recommend to editor@amcostarica.com.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 51


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20-year study turns rules for longevity on their heads

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 20-year study of human longevity has major implications for Costa Rica, which likes to style itself incorrectly as the world's happiest country.

Those participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking, said the study released by the University of California, Riverside. It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest, researchers concluded.

Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula has been designated a so-called blue zone by best selling author Dan Buettner and others. Buettner and his Quest Network Inc. did a television documentary on the area after a visit in 2007.

Buettner says he studies the world's longest lived and happiest people and tells others their secrets. However, the new research would seem to challenge that point of view.

"It's surprising just how often common assumptions – by both scientists and the media – are wrong," said Howard S. Friedman, the professor of psychology who led the 20-year study. He was quoted in a university summary.

Friedman and an associate examined, refined and supplemented data gathered by the late Stanford University psychologist Louis Terman and subsequent researchers on more than 1,500 bright children who were about 10 years old when they were first studied in 1921. "Probably our most amazing finding was that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one's risk of dying decades later," Friedman concluded.

The Longevity Project, as the study became known, followed the children through their lives, collecting information that included family histories and relationships, teacher and parent ratings of personality, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service and numerous other details, the university reported.

"When we started, we were frustrated with the state of research about individual differences, stress, health and longevity," Friedman recalled. "It was clear that some people were more prone to disease, took longer to recover, or died sooner, while others of the same age were able to thrive. All sorts of explanations were being proposed – anxiety, lack of exercise, nerve-racking careers, risk-taking, lack of religion, unsociability, disintegrating social groups, pessimism, poor access to medical care, and Type A behavior patterns." But none were well-studied over the long term. That is, none followed people step-by-step throughout their lives.

Part of the explanation lies in health behaviors – the cheerful, happy-go-lucky kids tended to take more risks with their health across the years, Friedman noted. While an optimistic approach can be helpful in a crisis, "we found that as a general life-orientation, too much of a sense that 'everything will be just fine' can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to health and long life. Prudence and persistence, however, led to a lot of important benefits for many years. It turns out that happiness is not a root cause of good health. Instead, happiness and health go together because they have common roots."

Many of the research findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom, according to a university summary. For example:

• Marriage may be good for men's health, but doesn’t really matter for women. Steadily married men – those who remained in long-term marriages – were likely to live to age 70 and beyond; fewer than one-third of divorced men were likely to live to 70; and men who never married outlived those who remarried and significantly outlived those who divorced – but they did not live as long as married men.

• Being divorced is much less harmful to women’s health. Women who divorced and did not remarry lived nearly as long as those who were steadily married.

• "Don't work too hard, don't stress," doesn't work as advice for good health and long life. Subjects who were the most involved and committed to their jobs did the best. Continually productive men and women lived much .
Greek goddess
Photo by Tom Oates via Wikipedia.
Bas relief of Greek goddess Atropos cutting the thread of life.  

longer than their more laid-back comrades

• Starting formal schooling too early – being in first grade before age 6 – is a risk factor for earlier mortality. Having sufficient playtime and being able to relate to classmates is very important for children.

• Playing with pets is not associated with longer life. Pets may sometimes improve well-being, but they are not a substitute for friends.

• Combat veterans are less likely to live long lives, but surprisingly the psychological stress of war itself is not necessarily a major health threat. Rather, it is a cascade of unhealthy patterns that sometimes follows. Those who find meaning in a traumatic experience and are able to reestablish a sense of security about the world are usually the ones who return to a healthy pathway.

• People who feel loved and cared for report a better sense of well-being, but it doesn't help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become – healthy or unhealthy.

Buettner's book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest," has spawned a cottage industry of those who seek to tell other how to live longer.

The Blue Zone theory merges seamlessly with the Happy Planet Index that purports to show Costa Rica as the happiest country.

"A progressive British think tank has pulled off the public relations coup of the month with a press release promoting its happy planet index," said A.M. Costa Rica when the index came out, adding: "Costa Ricans, based on three variables and a couple of fudge factors, have been crowned the world's happiest people."

The part of the study that did not receive wide distribution said "The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible."

That is why A.M. Costa Rica headlined the news article "Sadly, the happy planet report is mostly ideology.'

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 51

Medical vacations in Costa Rica


U.N.'s Ban to Guatemala
to visit Dall'Anese's agency

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Guatemala next week for a three-day visit that will focus on peacebuilding issues and the Central American country’s efforts to combat impunity.

Ban is set to arrive in Guatemala Tuesday and will meet with President Alvaro Colom and members of his cabinet, the secretary general’s spokesperson, Farhan Haq, told journalists Friday.

Ban will visit the offices of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, Haq said. That is the agency now headed by former Costa Rica chief prosecutor Francisco Dall'Anese.

The United Nations and the Guatemalan Government set up the international commission as an independent body to support the public prosecutors’ office, the national civilian police and other institutions to investigate a limited number of sensitive and difficult cases regarding illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations and also dismantle them.

Based in Guatemala City, the capital, since it began operations in early 2008, the commission seeks to bolster the rule of law and is permitted by its mandate to conduct independent investigations and help authorities bring representative cases to trial in national courts.
 
During his visit to Guatemala, Ban will also take part in a ceremony to launch the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund’s engagement with the country and meet with representatives of local civil society, including indigenous groups.

The U.N. chief will also attend a meeting with the heads of State of Central American countries to discuss regional issues. Among those who will meet with Ban is President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica.

This will be Ban’s first visit to Guatemala since he became Secretary-General at the start of 2007.

Spokesman Crowley quits
over Wikileaks comment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

U.S. State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley has resigned over remarks criticizing the Pentagon for its treatment of a man accused of leaking classified information to the Wikileaks Web site.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a statement Sunday that she had accepted Crowley's resignation. Crowley said in the same statement that he takes full responsibility for his remarks.

Crowley told a small audience at a university on Thursday that the Defense Department's treatment of former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive.

His jailers have him on suicide watch and are taking his clothes at night in a procedure which resembles mistreatment more than security.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday said he has been assured Manning's treatment is appropriate.

Manning, who is accused of giving classified information to Wikileaks, has been held in detention since July at Quantico military base, outside Washington, D.C.

Cuba frees physician
who was honored by U.S.


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Cuba has released from prison one of its most prominent dissidents. The man, Oscar Elias Biscet, was freed Friday and returned to his home in Havana. The 49-year-old physician was serving a 25-year sentence. 

Biscet was part of a group of 52 dissidents arrested in a 2003 Cuban government crackdown on opponents.

Most of the 52 dissidents have been released in an accord reached with Cuba's Catholic Church last year.  Many are living in exile in Spain, which agreed to accept them.  Three of them remain imprisoned.

Cuban authorities view dissidents as mercenaries working for their archenemy, the United States.

For Biscet's opposition to Cuba's government, then-U.S. president George W. Bush awarded him the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in absentia in 2007.  
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 51

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fake plates
Ministerio de Gobernación,
Policía y Seguridad Pública
Traffic office checks what are being called fake plates.

Jacó sweep nets drunks, gals
and fake license plates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 70 police officers swept Jacó Saturday night and Sunday morning, but the best they could come up with were two drunk drivers, a man they believe made his own license plates, and nearly two dozen foreigners without papers.

Officers visited eight bars and nightclubs and interviewed 220 persons, they said.

Some 23 foreigners, mostly Nicaraguan and Colombian women who worked as dancers, did not have papers, said officers. They were cited to appear before immigration officials.

On the highway, police and traffic police checked 150 vehicles and 180 persons, they said. In addition to the two drunk drivers, officers said one man appears to have fabricated his license plates from metal roofing. He had documents supporting his license plates, so he was cited for using false documents, police said.

In addition to Fuerza Pública officers and traffic police, the Policía Especial de Migración, and the Policía Municipal de Garabito participated.


Soccer player falls victim
to high tension line

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 18-year-old Quepos soccer player died Thursday after he followed a ball onto a construction site and stepped on a high-voltage line, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The youth was identified by the last name of Alvarez. He died about 8:50 p.m. in the Quepos clinic.

He was playing soccer with a brother in the public right-a-way of Los Reformadores de Quepos, said agents.






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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 50


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Useful links
Foreign Embassies
in Costa Rica
Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
after hours call
506 8863-4895

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Apartado 815-1007
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San José
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Box: 351-1007,  San José
506 2242-4400
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San José
506 2296-1490

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Box 4017-1000,  San José
506  2290-9091
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