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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 54                            Email us
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New study reduces estimate of sea level rise in oceans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Scientists generally agree that sea level has risen eight inches since the 1880s and that it is rising about an inch every 10 years.

The big question is how high can it go. The answer has major importance for Costa Rica which has oceans on both coasts.

A new study in the journal Nature estimates the seas rose 20 to 43 feet higher than today during a warm period between ice ages 440,000 years ago.

That estimate is up to a third less than previous estimates, but still a drastic change, according to the Earth Institute at New York's Columbia University.

The increase in sea level is driven by thermal expansion of seawater and melting of glaciers and ice sheets, including the still mostly intact ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica, the institute noted.

Meanwhile another study of the coastal United States said that nearly 4 million persons and 32,000 square kilometers (about 12,300 square miles) are at risk by sea level rise in the next century. That study was published in Environmental Research Letters and bases its estimates on a sea one meter higher than
today. A meter is about 3 feet, 3.4 inches.

The Colombia University study was based on cliff tops in Eleuthera, Bahamas, that are nearly 70 feet above the present sea level. Since there are marine fossils at the top, the first assumption is that the sea rose that much.

The study says this is incorrect because the island has been pushed up and down by the weight the Ice Age put on North America.

Costa Rican coastal residents do not need to buy a boat just yet. Other scientists say that an estimated sea level rise of 20 to 43 feet would take hundreds to thousands of years, noted the university.

Of more immediate concern is the prediction by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which estimated that the seas could rise up to two feet by 2100. That could have major impact on coastal areas. The Instituto Meteorológical Nacional already has done a study to show the impact that amount of sea level rise would have on the Puntarenas Centro peninsula. Anywhere from a third to half the land area would be under water.

The U.S. study was by researchers at Climate Central and the University of Arizona. 


Asamblea gives initial approval to massive tax plan
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers gave initial approval to the controversial tax plan Wednesday night by a 31 to 19 vote. There was a recount with the same outcome. The vote did not take place until nearly 8 p.m.

The tax plan has been under discussion for more than a year, noted María Jeannette Ruiz Delgado of Partido Acción Ciudadana. There were more than 2,000 motions to review in order for the vote to take place. An alliance was formed by the two major supporters of the plan, Partido Liberación Nacional and Partido Acción Ciudadana. Both parties agreed to waive the motions in order to vote.

Our opinion
HERE!


The new taxes have been eagerly awaited by President Laura Chinchilla.

The opposition was upset by the lack of extensive debate, denied by a fast track-rule. This did not allow lawmakers to speak more than five minutes on aspects of the proposal. Some lawmakers have sought a ruling from the Sala IV constitutional court to invalidate the process.
Earlier Wednesday lawmakers spent hours discussing their position. There were no new points that hadn't been discussed in the past.

There were the usual complaints from the opposition about the proposed fiscal plan, such as that it is  retrogressive, will only affect the poor, it's a joke, and only benefits the rich.

And there were the usual praises from supporters They have said the fiscal plan is progressive and absolutely necessary for the financially strapped country.

During the discussions, at one point all but three members from the Partido Acción Ciudadana walked out. Two of them, María Muñoz Quesada and Juan Carlos Mendoza García, opted out of the alliance and voted against the fiscal plan. Mendoza is the president of the Asamblea Legislativa.

The appeal to the Sala IV freezes a second and final vote. 

The tax plan creates a 14 percent value-added tax that covers many more transactions than the current 13 percent sales tax. It also taxes private education, private medical care and professional services.

An outline of the specifics is HERE!

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 Cutter Northland crew members take inventory of the
 bales captured on the high seas.

Drug fastboat in Caribbean
no match for Coast Guard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Coast Guard captured a fast boat carrying more than 3,500 pounds of cocaine earlier this month.

The seizure was part of Operation Martillo that is run by the U.S. Southern Command in an effort to close the coastal routes for drug smugglers.

The Coast guard said that the 270-foot Cutter Northland stopped the 35-foot boat March 3. The report did not say where except that the capture was in the Caribbean. Typically drug smugglers take a route that is far out in the ocean from Costa Rica.

A helicopter that is part of the equipment carried by the cutter spotted the boat with four crew members and bales on its deck, the report said.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 15, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 54
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High rise drill
gives training

Fire fighters conducted a fire drill Wednesday afternoon at the Instituto Nacional de Seguros headquarters in north San José. The building is among the tallest in the city.

Among other procedures, fire fighters used a high rise platform to bring two supposed victims from the third floor to ground level.

Workers evacuated the structure for the 30-minute drill. Among other aspects, officials measured response time.
drill
Instituto Nacional de Seguros photo

Forest fires creeping toward national park on Panama's border
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials are calling this dry season the worst in 10 years because of forest fires.

There are four wind-fanned fires blazing in the canton of Buenos Aires. Some 600 hectares are affected. That is nearly 1,500 acres.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias stepped up the emergency alert Wednesday for the canton and maintained a lower level alert for the canton of Pérez Zeledón.
The blazes are moving downwind in the direction of the  Parque Internacional La Amistad, which is on the border with Panamá. The amount of impact on protected forest areas is 200 percent that of the previous year, officials said.

Involved in the fight against the fires is the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación of the Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones as well as crews from the  Cuerpo de Bomberos, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados and the Fuerza Pública. The fires are on the Pacific slope where there has been little moisture this dry season.


Liberia will host celebration of the consumer today and Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio will start a consumer support group today in Liberia, as part of a two-day celebration for the World Consumer Rights Day.

The support group is supposed to help regulate merchants and keep consumers safe, said Cynthia Zapata, director of consumer support. She also said people should attend because experts will offer tips, teach, and accept complaints.

The international day dedicated to the consumer was first celebrated in Costa Rica in 1995. And it wasn't until five years ago that the ministry turned it into a festival, said a representative for the ministry. In the past, the celebrations have taken place at the Plaza de la Cultura. This year the change was made because of interest for Liberia community members to join the support group, said the representative.

According to the Web site for Consumers International, the concept of World Consumer Rights Day was an initiative started by former U. S. President John F. Kennedy. On this day, in 1962, he gave a speech to Congress and became the first world leader to use the term, and it stuck. The consumer movement marked this day as their day, stated in the Web site.
Ms. Zapata will be accompanied for Friday's ceremony by Mayi Antillón, minister of Economía, Luis Álvarez, vice-minister of economy, and Luis Gerardo Castañeda, mayor of Liberia.

The pro-consumer festivities begin today with a workshop on how to protect yourself as a consumer and what are the obligations of a merchant. Ms. Zapata said some of the obligations of a merchant are to inform the consumer and to follow good practice. All lectures will take place inside the auditorium of the Corte Suprema de Justicia of Liberia.

The time is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday the celebration will change location to the Liberia central park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be cultural events added to the list of consumer educational tables. Among the many participants some are from the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones de Costa Rica, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and Correos de Costa Rica. There will also be the usual food, music, and fair activities, the ministry said.

Those interested can visit the ministry Web site at www.meic.go.cr. 

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Two teens held in murder of elderly man in San Carlos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police have detained a 15 year old and an 18-year-old woman in the murder of a 65-year-old man in Pueblo Nuevo de Venecia, San Carlos.

The man, identified by the Judicial Investigating Organization by the last name of Carvajal, was found dead Tuesday
afternoon in his home with the apparent cause being blows to the head.  The two suspects were detained in La Fortuna based on information from a neighbor and relatives of the dead man.

Meanwhile, in Escazú agents were investigating the case of a body found in the truck of a car Wednesday morning.  The body, that of a man, still is unidentified but the circumstances suggest murder.


Quepos clinic invaded by robbers who took money and phones
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bold robbers barged into a private medical clinic in Quepos Tuesday night and threatened the physician and five patients there.
The Judicial Investigating Organization said the clinic was in Barrio los Ángeles.                 

The gunmen showed up about 7 p.m., according to agents. They took cell telephones and 195,000 colons, about $385.


Singer/artist taps pre-Columbian traditions for her subjects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Stories, songs, and rhythms from her mother became Guadalupe Urbina's basis for her professional career as a singer and songwriter. She has performed throughout Latin America and Europe, Central Africa, the United States and Canada.

But she also is a painter and author. She paints with acrylics and oils using paper made from natural fibers in tropical countries. Her works will comprise an exhibition that opens Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Liberia. The exhibition is titled “Colores y Sonidos Sagrados”


The biggest sources of inspiration for her paintings are the myths of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, said the gallery, adding:

She paints images that have deep philosophical meaning within rural indigenous or mestizo peoples such as quetzals, butterflies, snakes and trees, in both distant and present time. Her stories and songs are based on the myths and imagery of the peoples of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican. Sequences reflect the story of creation found in cosmogonist Costa Rican thought, including that of the BriBri, Boruca and 
grandmother on the way to paradise
This work is titled "Grandmother on the way to paradise."

Ngöbe cultures, all living examples of centuries-old resistance to assimilation who have a love for nature, the Pop Vuh, the Book of Wisdom, and ancient Mayan, Aztecan and Mayan codices.

The opening from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., when the artist also will be performing her music.

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U.S. economy looking up
after bailout of Greece

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Federal Reserve is staying the course on monetary policy, taking no action and leaving interest rates at historically low levels.  This, despite a steady improvement in economic conditions in the U.S. and around the world.

Gasoline prices are on the rise, but it doesn't seem to be slowing down American consumers.  Retail sales rose in February at the fastest pace in five months fueled by higher demand for automobiles.

The steady recovery in the U.S. job market and a second bailout for Greece also helped to lift investor confidence, pushing stock prices higher on Wall Street for the fifth day in a row.

But even as fears of a Greek default fade into the background, German market analyst Robert Halver says investors are already looking ahead to the next potential worry for the Eurozone. 

"We've got a new problem child in Euro-land: Spain. Spain should do its homework, especially economic reforms," he said. "Spain has to deregulate its absolutely inflexible job market."

Spain missed its deficit target last year and is unlikely to reach it again this year. And with an economy four times bigger than Greece, experts say a potential bailout is not in the cards.


Imported food gets blame
for some disease outbreaks


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Imported food is making Americans sick more frequently than ever, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The increase in illness comes as the U.S. increases its consumption of food from other countries.

The study looked at disease outbreaks linked to imported food between 2005 and 2010.  It found that the rate of outbreaks had more than doubled, to 6.5 per year, compared with an earlier study.

Food from Asia was the leading source of the outbreaks, followed by Latin America.

According to Centers spokeswoman Lola Russel, one category of food stood out. "Overall, there were 17 outbreaks related to fish, and they were the most common source of the implicated foodborne disease outbreaks that we found, followed by spices," she said

"It's really not a surprise when we have this confluence of events with a lot of imports and very little checking," said Erik Olson, deputy director of food programs at the Pew Health Group, a nonprofit research group that seeks to prevent health risks.  He notes that U.S. food imports have grown steadily in recent years, making up about 15 percent of the nation's food supply, and 80 percent of its seafood.

Meanwhile, Olson says, the Food and Drug Administration inspects only about 2 percent of imported food.

But imports account for only a small fraction of all the foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States each year, says Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, an industry trade group.

"The CDC is talking about somewhere north of a dozen outbreaks, when there are maybe 1,000 or 1,200 outbreaks annually from all sources.  So the FDA appears to be doing a pretty good job," Gibbons said.

New U.S. legislation seeks to increase inspections and improve safety at foreign food manufacturing facilities.

Olson says new rules to implement these changes are overdue.  And he notes that the Food and Drug Administration might not receive the funds it needs to follow through.

"Our concern is that with all of the new requirements for imports and all the new protections that are envisioned that unless FDA gets a bump-up in resources, it's going to be very hard -- if not impossible -- for the agency to do its job," Olson said.


Pakistani peacekeepers
sent home over rape charge

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.N. official says three Pakistani policemen that are part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti have been found guilty of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Spokesman Martin Nesirky said Tuesday Pakistani military judges who traveled to Haiti ordered a court-martial of the three policemen.

He said the three have been sent back to Pakistan, where they will be dishonorably discharged and serve a jail sentence.

Two of the peacekeepers were sentenced to a year in prison for their role in raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy.

A Pakistani official notified U.N. and Haitian authorities last week about the Pakistani military trial of the three policemen, who were based at a U.N. camp in the city of Gonaives.
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Latin America news
Two generals predict
more cartel violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two high-ranking U.S. military commanders say Mexico's violent war against drug cartels has moved into other parts of Central America.

Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that transnational organized crime rings are threatening to overwhelm law enforcement and are seriously impacting civilian safety in the area.

"Senator, it is - is an effort that we see is moving down through Central America," Fraser said.  "As Mexico increases their pressure, we see that the networks from especially Los Zetas and Sinaloa are moving into Central America.  Guatemala is obviously that first location, but we see their - their footprints further down into Central America as well."

More than 50,000 people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched a massive military crackdown against the cartels in 2006.

But U.S. Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, the head of the U.S. Northern Command, told the committee the violence has risen despite Calderon's strategy of targeting the leaders of the cartels.

"I also believe the decapitation strategy - they've been successful at that: 22 out of the top 37 trafficking figures that the Mexican government has gone after have been taken off - taken off the board, but it has not had an appreciable effect - an appreciable positive effect," he said.

Fraser also testified about Iran's increasing diplomatic role in Central America, along with the activities of the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups in the region.  Fraser says there is concern Tehran sees the region as a way to circumvent international sanctions over its nuclear program.


Sea Shepherd activists
claim victory over Japan


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After claiming victory against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica, members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have returned to the Australian port of Hobart. Last week the whaling fleet abandoned its annual hunt for a second year in a row.

Sea Shepherd activists say they have won a decisive victory against the Japanese fleet, which caught less than 30 percent of its annual quota.

For almost a decade the U.S.-based anti-whaling group has tracked the whalers into the Southern Ocean, in an attempt to disrupt their hunt.

This season’s campaign was called Operation Divine Wind, after the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of the World War II.

The Sea Shepherd ship the Bob Barker sailed into Hobart to a small crowd early Wednesday.  Onboard were 28 volunteer crew members, half of them Australian. They hope that economic losses will soon force Japan to end its controversial hunt in Antarctic waters.

Japan’s Fisheries Agency denies the whaling ships were bullied by activists and insisted they left the Southern Ocean “as scheduled."  The fleet ended its annual hunt with a third of its intended haul.

Commercial whaling has been outlawed for 25 years, but Tokyo has an intention to catch about 1,000 whales annually in what it says is a scientific research program.









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