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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 53                            Email us
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La Nina conditions
U.S. National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center graphic  
Chart shows the annual fluctuation between cooler La Niña and warmer El Niño
Forecasters watch La Niña for hurricane season clues
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first estimates of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will not be out until early next month, but one fact is clear. The current La Niña conditions of colder water in the Pacific is moving toward a neutral condition, according to the U.S. National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The above- or below-average temperature in the Pacific is a key component for the prediction of hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1. Emergency officials are gearing up. The predictions by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the Tropical Research Center at Colorado State University serve as guides.

The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force Reserve have embarked on a series of visits to encourage residents to prepare for the 2012 hurricane season. Bill Read, director of the administration's U.S. National Hurricane Center, and a WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be in Costa Rica today and tomorrow. The visit today is at the Limón airport. Thursday they will be at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela.

The public is being invited to visit the aircraft and talk to the crew members. These are the individuals who fly their planes into hurricanes to obtain vital scientific data.

The reservists are from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi.

“We are in an active hurricane era,” said Read in a news release. “While 2011 was not as catastrophic as recent seasons, the Caribbean and Latin America still experienced tragic loss of life from flooding caused by hurricanes. This tour is an opportunity for us to educate coastal communities about what they need to do to prepare for a hurricane. Preparation will reduce the human and economic toll.”

Read's hurricane center analyzes the data from the hurricane hunter aircraft and from satellites to predict the force, direction and possible landfall of tropical storms. Although hurricanes seldom hit Costa Rica, the extended effects can be devastating.

During the 2011 hurricane season, the Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew 88 missions and 13 investigative flights over the Atlantic for the center. It also flew four missions over the eastern North Pacific, said the news release.
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Patch worn by those who fly into hurricanes.

Neither the hurricane center nor Colorado State University has firm predictions for what may happen during the Atlantic season that ends Nov. 30.

However, the U.S. National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center said Monday that La Niña has weakened across the tropical Pacific and the sea surface temperatures remain at least 0.5 degrees C below average in the central Pacific, but have warmed considerably across the east-central and eastern Pacific Ocean over the last month.

La Niña is expected to transition in a neutral condition by the end of April, it added.

The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University involves William Gray and Phil Klotzbach. They will be making their first prediction early next month.

Their predictions are based on the temperature in the Pacific and the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, the marine conveyor belt that creates currents throughout the ocean.

In December they gave four scenarios based on what conditions might exist in April.  They said if no El Niño or above average temperatures in the Pacific develops there could be 12 to 15 named tropical storms this season.

Of these, they estimated seven to nine would be hurricanes and three or four would be major storms.

Their scenarios ranged from one with no or just one major hurricane to four to five major storms.

The Pacific has a hurricane season, too, and that starts May 15. Storms there can bring heavy rains and flooding to western Costa Rica.

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Motor fuel prices ready
for a significant increase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gasoline will be increasing to $5.43 a gallon for super and $5.30 for plus. That is an increase of 18 percent.

The nation's regulating agency said that a liter of super would go from 615 colons ($1.22) to 724 colons ($1.44) and that plus would go from 600 colons ($1.19) to 706 colons ($1.40).

Diesel is increasing 12 percent from 575 colons ($1.14) to 645 colons ($1.28) per liter. That means the gallon price of diesel will be $4.84.

The new prices were expected to be published and to go into effect today.

The higher prices reflect higher international prices of crude, said the agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

Bus routes announced
for Festival de las Artes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Different bus routes will benefit those who attend the Festival Internacional de las Artes beginning Friday, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The changes will only affect those traveling to and from Parque La Sabana and Parque La Libertad. The alternative routes are only in the evenings. And will end March 24 for La Libertad and March 25 for La Sabana.

The reason for the alternate routes are for pedestrian safety, the ministry said. And to offer alternate modes of transportation to alleviate expected heavy traffic.

The temporary bus stops for La Sabana area will only be in effect after 9 p.m. for Friday and March 25.

The temporary stops for La Libertad will be Friday, Saturday, and March 24 and 25 with the times from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Full detail are HERE.

Ciudad Colón employees
stage protest over money

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Municipal employees in Ciudad Colón have walked off their jobs and protested in the street, according to the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. The union organization says the dispute is the refusal of the mayor to pay what are known as salarios escolares.

The money amounts to 8.19 percent of the annual salary and is designed to provide funds to purchase items for youngsters going to school. Public sector employees receive the money from the central government. In the private sector, employees can elect to have the funds withheld from their salaries to avoid paying taxes and social charges.

The union organization said that the mayor, Gilberto Monge Pizarro, had given no reason for not paying the money. The employees are seeking negotiations. Ciudad Colón is in the Municipalidad de Mora.
Find out what the papers
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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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Bikers will congregate along controversial northern Ruta 1856
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega, was unhappy when Costa Rica built a road parallel to the Río San Juan. He hasn't seen anything yet.

Costa Rican officials announced plans Tuesday for a recreational bike event on the new highway and said they expected more than 2,000 persons.

To bring out the crowds, contractors who built the roadway are donating the use of 30 buses to carry Costa Ricans to the northern border.

The highway is the Ruta de la Paz or Ruta 1856 with the name Juan Rafael Mora Porras. The designations are designed to tweak Ortega. 1856 was the year Costa Rican soldiers under president Mora defeated forces of the U.S. filibuster William Walker in Nicaragua. The bike event is April 15, just a few days after the commemoration of the Battle of Rivas, April 11.

Ortega has blamed Costa Rican officials for environmental damage of the river. The south bank is the international border. The claim follows Costa Rica's action to bring Nicaragua into the International Court of Justice over its invasion of territory near the mouth of the river.

Luis Liberman, a vice president, outlined plans for the bike event in a presentation at the Estadio Nacional Tuesday. The event has a short course and a longer course mainly for mountain bikes. Sponsoring agencies are the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación, the Federación Costarricense de Ciclismo and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, which is the road agency.
cycle map
Consejo de Vialidad graphic/A.M. Costa Rica  
Here is a map of the two routes

Liberman said the event was for all Costa Ricans so they could travel along the river and visit communities that always have been isolated. Until the road was built, most travel was by river, and Nicaragua imposed many restrictions.

The road, which is not complete, is 160 kilometers (99 miles), but the longest course will be just 53 kilometers (33 miles) from Boca de San Carlos at the mouth of the Río San Carlos to Alto de la Paz, Santa Rita, and return.

The shorter course is 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Boca de San Carlos to Palo Seco.

Entry to the bike event is free, and the government soon will put up a Facebook page for enrollment. The first 2,000 participants will receive commemorative t-shirts, said Casa Presidencial.

Business chamber reports stronger optimism and confidence
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Merchants in the Costa Rican commercial sector have confidence that the economy for this year will have a better outcome than the previous year.

Arnoldo André Tinoco, president of the Cámara de Comercio de Costa Rica, said during a press conference Tuesday that the country has done better economically than during the same time in 2010 and 2011. Businesses have confidence in a better economy, he said.

The pessimism that came from the global depression is now changing in the country, said André. The negative attitude is disappearing, he said.

Business people believe there are three reasons to blame for the central government current deficit, said André. Based on a survey, representatives of 39 percent of the firms believe the increase in public spending is to blame. Some 26 percent blame tax evasion. And 15.5 percent blame the deficit on the structure of public employment.
André said the government has spent an overwhelming amount of money compared to what the country is making. He said the numbers didn't add up.

One of the reasons for public spending as a problem is lack of control by officials of salary increases, he said.

“What we learned in school about private sectors having more money is not the case anymore. The private sector doesn't make more money than the public sector employees. It has changed,” said André.

He recommended the government to step back and take a serious look at what is happening with the economy. He said officials must look at what has happened to education and health, and figure out if all the spending has been worth it. The public deficit has a direct bearing on the condition of the national economy.

At the same time, President Laura Chinchilla is trying to win passage of a broad series of tax increases. A first vote on the package is expected today. The tax plan is expected to take $500 million from the private economy.

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Campaign for Guayabo museum bus has just a short time to run
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Few schools in Costa Rica, especially the rural schools, have the resources to take students on a field trip or to even provide an in-class session on the cultural resources of Costa Rica, such as the important archaeological site at Guayabo National Monument.

The national monument, 18 kilometers (11 miles) by road north of the city of Turrialba, encompasses a partially excavated ceremonial center and capital of a chiefdom. Apparently first occupied about 3,000 years ago, the city was at the peak of its size, power, and influence between 1000 and 1400 A.D., but was then abandoned shortly before the arrival in Costa Rica of the Spanish.

Fundación Tayutic, a non-profit tax-exempt organization based in Turrialba, is seeking to help Costa Rican students learn about this part of their cultural heritage by creating a mobile museum in a bus with which to take the story of Guayabo National Monument to the schools. The mobile museum will include interactive exhibits teaching about the archaeological 
site, the science of archaeology, and the lifestyles of the people who built Guayabo’s ancient city and lived there for about 2,500 years.

Fundraising for this effort is being conducted through Fundación Tayutic, using the Web site as a place where donations may be made and where information about the Mobile Museum in a Bus Project may be seen. Donations, which are tax-exempt in Costa Rica, may also be made directly to Fundación Tayutic by contacting the volunteer executive director, Robert Oldham, who is retired from a career in the museum field in the United States, having worked at history, science, and children’s museums. Information about contacting Oldham can be found at the Web site of Fundación Tayutic at

The IndieGoGo campaign will end March 24. The fundraising goal for the Mobile Museum in a Bus Project is $10,000, which will be used to acquire, convert, and equip a bus, probably a used school bus, for operation as a mobile learning center to support education about the prehispanic cultural heritage of Costa Rica.

Case of canceled Laura Pausini concert being sent to prosecutors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's consumer agency said that it has turned over to prosecutors the case of the canceled Laura Pausini concert.

The agency is the Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor in the  Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

The agency used the harsh words of fraud of the consumer in a press release noting the action.
The agency said that prosecutors would present to a criminal judge the details of the case to outline ways in which those who purchased tickets to the concert would get back their money.

The Italian singer was supposed to perform in the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia in late January. At the time a spokesperson for the singer blamed TMG Producciones for contract failings that led to the cancellation.

TMG promised at the time to refund the money.

Mexican senate makes acts against free expression federal cases
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has welcomed the passage in the Mexican senate of an amendment to make crimes against freedom of expression and the right to information federal offenses, calling such approval a significant move ahead for combating the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists in Mexico. The journalism advocacy organization further urged the relevant authorities to take action for the constitutional change to come into effect immediately.

Earlier Tuesday, on the unanimous vote of the 95 members present, the senate passed an amendment of Article 73 of the constitution, which establishes that “the federal authorities shall be able also to deal with offenses of general jurisdiction when these are connected to federal offenses or crimes against journalists, in the exercise of freedom of expression, information, and the press.”

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chairman of the Inter American Press Association’s Impunity Committee, who was present during the senate’s approval session, declared, “This is a fundamental advance, a demonstration of the sensibility of Congress, which thus is acting on a long–voiced demand by the Mexican press and the IAPA.”

Ealy, executive chairman of the board of directors of the Mexican newspaper El Universal, added, “What are needed are new steps in this line of action to effectively fight against impunity and prevent new attacks on journalists.”

Prior to the start of the debate, the members of Congress observed a minute of silence in homage to murdered journalists.

For 15 years the Inter American Press Association has been stressing, with emphasis at various levels, the importance of
pursuing legislation on bringing these crimes against journalists under federal jurisdiction in order to minimize the impact of such offenses and the impunity surrounding them.

The efforts on behalf of such federalization date back to 1997. Since then, more than 20 association international delegations have visited Mexico and met on eight occasions with Presidents Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, and Felipe Calderón, to whom they stressed the urgent need to bring crimes against journalists under federal jurisdiction, to make such offenses not subject to statutes of limitation, and to stiffen penalties.

The hemispheric organization since then has sent to the Mexican congress and other authorities resolutions in this regard adopted at its twice-yearly membership meetings, which urged approval of reforms needed to prevent crimes against freedom of expression going unpunished.

The Inter American Press Association in Mexico also held national and international conferences, among these the 2nd Meeting of Mexican Editors and Publishers in June 2008, from which emerged a draft bill for legal reforms that was presented to congress by newspaper executives, seeking to make crimes committed against free speech and press freedom federal offenses and subject to harsh penalties.

Aware in addition of the risks to reporters in covering the news in Mexico, where since 1987, according to figures compiled by the Inter American Press Association, 84 journalists have been killed and another 19 have gone missing, the organization has held seminars, workshops and courses in various Mexican states on violence, organized crime, and justice and the press, in which some 600 Mexican members of the press have participated.

* The parent corporation of A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the association.

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U.N. torture expert criticizes
U.S. treatment of Manning

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations' special rapporteur on torture says the U.S. military's treatment of an Army intelligence specialist accused of leaking military secrets to WikiLeaks was cruel and inhuman and could even be classified as torture.

U.N. expert Juan Méndez this week wrapped up a 14-month investigation of the confinement conditions of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence in prison.

Méndez said Manning had been held in solitary confinement for 11 months despite not being convicted of a crime.  He said if the effects of that treatment on Manning were severe, it could be considered torture.

After his arrest in 2010, Manning spent 11 months confined at the U.S. Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia, where the harsh treatment is alleged to have taken place.  He was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, last year.

Detention officials said Manning was kept isolated and closely watched because they feared he would hurt himself.

Méndez said in a report last month that he tried without success to get permission from military officials for an unmonitored interview with Manning.  He says Manning's treatment has improved since he changed locations.

Manning's release of the diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks infuriated the international community, often providing blunt and unflattering U.S. views of world leaders' private and public lives.

U.S. officials say WikiLeaks' publication of the stolen document put lives in danger, threatened national security and undermined American efforts to work with other countries.

Guatemalan ex-soldier gets
symbolic prison sentence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An ex-Guatemalan soldier has been sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the 1982 massacre of 201 people.

A court sentenced Pedro Pimentel to 30 years in prison for each of the 201 victims, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity. The sentence is largely symbolic, since the maximum prison term under Guatemalan law is 50 years. Pimentel was extradited from the United States last year to face the charges.

Four other soldiers have received similar sentences.

The horrific killings occurred in December 1982, when dozens of soldiers raided the village of Dos Erres searching for missing weapons. The soldiers then bludgeoned the villagers to death with a sledgehammer before throwing them down a deep well.

The massacre occurred during the bloody 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

Indian court OKs copies
of expensive cancer drug

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

India has authorized a domestic pharmaceutical company to manufacture an expensive anti-cancer drug developed by Bayer Corp. The move undermines Bayer’s patent on the drug, but has been praised by activists because it will make the drug cheaper and more widely available.

Under the ruling by the controller of patents in Mumbai, the Indian drug company, Natco Pharma, can make a generic copy of Nexavar and sell it for a fraction of the price charged by Bayer.

The patented drug is used to treat liver and kidney cancer. The Indian company will sell it for about $175 for 120 tablets compared to approximately $5,500 charged by Bayer. It will pay a royalty to Bayer of 6 percent.

The move effectively ends Bayer’s monopoly on the drug. Authorities used a rule under which they can grant a compulsory license if a drug is not available at a reasonably affordable price. This is the first time India has applied the rule.

The Indian patent controller says the drug was clearly unaffordable to most of the country because very few patients had used it.

Bayer had argued that the price should reflect the development cost and not just the public’s buying power. The company has said it is disappointed with the decision and will evaluate its options to defend its intellectual property rights in India.

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Arrow indicted estimated epicenter

Quake interrupts lunch

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.1 earthquake rattled the central Pacific coast at lunchtime Tuesday.

The epicenter was 9.2 kilometers east southeast of Dominical directly under the Costanera Sur highway, according to a map provided by the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica.

The exact time was 12:19 p.m., according to the Red Sismológica Nacional de Costa Rica.

Quakes are not unusual in this area due to the contact between the Coco and Caribbean tectonic plates beneath the country. There have been a flurry of quakes about 20 kilometers (12 miles) offshore, too.

Contaminated loads of corn
returned to Nicaragua

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agriculture officials say they have identified a shipment of corn from Nicaragua as being contaminated with aflatoxin. The Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado confirmed the contamination based on results from the Laboratorio del Centro de Investigación en Granos y Semillas at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The shipment is 21,818 kilos in three containers. The loads were checked at the Peñas Blancas border crossing, officials said. They were not permitted to enter the country, officials said.

Aricultural officials said that the contamination amounted to from 62 to 91 parts per million when the permitted level is 20 parts per million. Aflatoxins are produced by a small fungus and they can be toxic and even cause cancer, said agricultural officials.

Free gallo pinto Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is another day of free food on Paso Colón. It is the  Fiesta Nacional del Gallo Pinto, and that is what is for breakfast.

The organizers, the Municipalidad de San José and a commercial firm, will serve thousands of plates of the Costa Rican rice and bean specialty. Serving starts at 9 a.m., and there is entertainment.

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