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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, March 16, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 52     E-mail us
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You won't need your flannel long johns tonight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least with the weather, Costa Ricans in the Central Valley are spoiled. Let the temperature drop a degree below 60 F, and residents report they are freezing and the popular Spanish-language press runs drawings of little men with icicles hanging from their ears.

This week the situation is the reverse. Nowhere in the country, it seems, did the mercury hit 100 degrees, and in the Central Valley the highest was barely 90 F. Still taxi drivers and police officers, street vendors and grocery clerks all are complaining about the weather. Some folks even like standing on the long bank lines to take advantage of the air conditioning.

They will be back in line today. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says more of the same with perhaps the heat cranked up a bit. The weather report said that the stable dry air and little rain allows the radiation of the sun to augment the perceived temperature.

Today's predictions are for 35 C (95 F) in Puntarenas, 34 C (93.2 F) in Quepos, 35 C in Nicoya and 37 C (98.6 F) in Liberia. Central Valley predictions include 30 C (86 F) in Alajuela, 28 C (82.4 F) in San José and 30 C in Heredia.

San José reached just 26.7 C (80 F) Monday, although the sun made people think the mercury was higher.

Juan Santamaría airport saw a high of 32.2 C 
baking tourist


(90 F) and Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia hit 35.6 C (96 F), according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Any North Americans who stacked hay bales or worked construction in July are not likely to be too sympathetic, although the heat wave is good for tourism.

However, weather reports say that a cold front with thunderstorms and falling temperatures is likely to arrive by Thursday.



Hacker attacks on feed provider triggers warnings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some readers who use Google's experimental Safe Browsing API got a warning Monday morning when they attempted to open A.M. Costa Rica pages that contained news feeds.

The warning came because the news feed provider, Feedzilla.com, had been listed as a possible source of so-called malware by Google partner StopBadware. Feedzilla has been targeted among the thousands of sites that crooks try to compromise.

StopBadware said that after a review Feedzilla was taken off the list of suspects later Monday. Periodically hackers manage to slip past Feedzilla's tight security and put trojans and other malware in the company's news feeds.

Feedzilla obtains news stories from all over and packages them for Internet publication. In A.M. Costa Rica, the news feeds include the newspaper's own Top Story feed of major headlines. Feedzilla also prepared for publication news feeds from the British Broadcasting Co. And there are news feeds of sports, Latin American news and Internet news headlines.
Feedzilla was one of 70,000 legitimate Web sites that were compromised by hackers in late August 2009, according to news clips. Google said on its online security blog that the number of compromised sites on its list of malware-hosting URLs has grown to more than 300,000 this year, according to one report.

The malware tries to cause a Web user to go to an infected site where other software might try to steal private information or install a virus.  The Web security firm ScanSafe said that hackers registered  a number of sites to host their malware via the reputable GoDaddy.com Inc. in advance of their attacks.

Rather than detecting malware, the Google Safe Browsing API just matches a Web sites name against those listed by StopBadware.

StopBadware said it is an anti-malware effort started at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, that has begun operating as a standalone non-profit organization.  Google, PayPal, and Mozilla have together committed the initial funding to support the launch of StopBadware, Inc., the firm said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 52

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Real estate agents and services

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Hearing consultant

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Two agencies give approval
to mobil phone band auction


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telecom agency got the green light Monday to proceed with its plan to auction the radio spectrum for mobil telephones.

The approval came from the Contraloría General de la República and the Procuraduría de la Ética which looked into the participation of a firm of lawyers.

The law firm helped the telecom agency, the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, to set up the spectrum auction, but it also has done work for Digicel, a firm that is a likely participant in the auction.

The two oversight agencies said that the auction process had been transparent and legal. That gave the Superintendencia the right to proceed.

The telecom agency sees three more firms entering the mobil telephone market in addition to the current provider, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Only those firms that have demonstrated their capacity to run a cell phone operation are being allowed to bid for the use of the spectrum.


Our reader's opinion
Are motos somehow special
and have their own rules?


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have lived in Belén for three years and have visited Costa Rica for the past 10 years prior to my decision to retire here. Daily I am baffled, frustrated, and angered at the lack of respect many motorcycle riders have for any traffic laws. I am equally baffled, frustrated and angered at the lack of any type of law enforcement to stop such behaviour.

With the advent of the new traffic laws and the addition of new police officers to enforce the law, I, for one, support the new law and higher fines designed to curb poor driving habits. But it appears to me that motorcycles operate under a completely different set of rules. Perhaps I am ignorant of the laws for operating motorcycles on public roads in Costa Rica, but logic would dictate that all motorized vehicles follow the same rules and regulations for safe motoring. If this is the case, can someone tell me why or how motorcycles somehow have the right to weave in and out of traffic, pass vehicles on the left and right at will, drive past all stopped or slowed traffic and bunch themselves up in front of all stopped vehicles at a traffic light?

Perhaps you can also explain to me why traffic police watch motorcycles perform these behaviours and take no action. In addition to driving defensively in this country (i.e. trying to avoid cars running stop lights at will, drunk drivers, buses turning left from the right lane while the traffic light is red), one also must look both ways in their rear view mirror constantly while simply driving straight down the road to avoid being sideswiped by a motorcycle passing you on the right or left. God forbid you should decide to make a right or left turn.

I personally was struck by a motorcycle who was illegally passing me on the left. I was in a clearly marked left lane, with my signal light on, with no oncoming traffic, I made the legal left turn only to be sideswiped by a motorcycle passing me on the LEFT. After a slide on the pavement of some 30 meters the rider collected his bike from the pavement and sped away, so I never got to ask him why he drives the way he does or for a copy of the "rules of the road" that motorcycles operate by because clearly they do not use the same laws that cars, trucks, and other vehicles use. Of course, motorcycle drivers will be quite offended should you cut them off in traffic, obstruct their attempts to squeeze past 20 vehicles at a stop light, cut in front of a line of traffic, prevent them from using the road in any way they please. So again, I ask, "Why are motorcycles allowed to get away with this kind of driving behaviour and why does no one complain?"

Is it because many of the motorcycle riders do not have the money to purchase a vehicle so the rest of us that operate vehicles on the public streets should feel sorry for them and let them drive any way they want? Are all people on motorcycles in a bigger hurry to get where they are going so they should be free to cut in front of traffic, weave in and out of lanes and "own the road."? Is it because they just don't count as motor vehicles and thus are not considered as part of the driving population and therefore free of any rules or laws?

It does appear to me that motorcycles and motorcycle drivers count in one area. In the time and money they cost every driver on the roads in Costa Rica. In the time you and I wait in stalled traffic while the police and Cruz Roja clean dead motorcycle drivers from the roads. In the added insurance fees and hospital costs you and I pay to deal with the head injuries and extended hospital stays of these vehicle operators who "own the road" and follow a different set of rules.  In the personal frustration or guilt you may have to deal with if you are hit by one of these happless vehicle operators or if you hit and or kill one of them on the road.

If you do not care about the poor driving habits of motorcycle drivers in Costa Rica, you should. They cost you time, money, and put your life at risk daily. If everyone else has new traffic laws to follow, why don't the motorcycle drivers have to do the same?
William Ruzicka
Belén

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 52

Bathers along the coast of the city probably are unaware of the lack of refuge if a tusnami arrives.
Puntarenas beachs
A.M. Costa Rica photos/ María José Alvarado

Puntarenas appears to be a sitting duck for a big tsunami
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The coasts of Costa Rica are the potential targets of tsunamis caused by earthquakes locally or even from the Pacific coast of South America. The city of Puntarenas is especially vulnerable.

Most potential tsunami zones are along the Pacific coast, though the Limón earthquake of 1991 produced a mini-tsunami that registered seven centimeters (2.75 inches) on a tidal gauge in Colón, Panama. Eyewitness accounts reported waves as large as two meters (6.5 feet) around some of the Bocas del Toro islands. The epicenter of that quake was inland.

The Pacific coast and especially the city of Puntarenas are more vulnerable. The town itself is located on a long sand spit nowhere more than about two meters above mean sea level. Its population was about 10,000 at the time of the 2000 census, and has probably not changed much as it was already densely populated at that time.

A scientific paper published by local seismologists projected two scenarios that could produce a three-meter tsunami (nearly 10 feet) aimed at Puntarenas. One is the result of a smallish earthquake in the Costa Rican trench just offshore of the south end of the Nicoya Peninsula. With a slippage of about six meters (nearly 20 feet) on the sea floor, a three-meter wave would go towards Puntarenas. It is the sloshing of water as the two plates abruptly shift which creates the wave. According to the mathematical models used, the wave would arrive about 35 minutes after the quake.

A similar result could be produced by a magnitude 8+ earthquake off the coast of Colombia, producing a regional tsunami which would take longer to arrive but might be the same height. There was an earthquake there in 1906 of about magnitude 8.6, which was used as the model. However, any resulting wave apparently arrived at low tide and there is no record of the event in Puntarenas.

According to the model, the wave would take about two and one-half hours to arrive.

The state of the tide would make a huge difference in the potential impact of a tsunami. Most of the town is at about two meters above mean sea level, which is to say mid-tide. The tide typically varies about 1.5 meters each way, so if a three-meter wave comes at high tide it can easily reach built-up areas. If at low tide, it will not.

Puntarenas did see exceptionally high tides last year of over five meters (more than 16 feet), which would not be too much different from a three meter tsunami wave on top of a normal high tide. Residents reported sea water coming up from sewer drains, with limited flooding around the town.

Any plans to evacuate Puntarenas were put to the test in August 2007 when an earthquake off central Peru sent a tsunami into the Pacific. The result was a large traffic jam
Puntarenas coastline
Construction is not far from the tide line in Puntarenas.

with some people trying to walk the 10 to 12 kilometers to high ground. Not many had made it out when the harmless 40-cm (15-inch) surge arrived, and the lesson was clear.

Sigifredo Pérez of the national emergency Commission indicated the agency is preparing materials to use in coastal schools. In Puntarenas, students have not received any formal training on what to do in the event of a tsunami warning, according to María José Alvarado, a local high school student.

Pérez suggested Puntarenas residents can climb the taller structures in town, such as the municipal building (two stories), water tank, and the football stadium. The latter holds 4,000 for games but not too many seats would be above three meters. It would likely be locked anyway.

The outer Nicoya Peninsula is a likely location for a major earthquake, but is not considered a major tsunami risk. Marino Protti of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said in an e-mail message that a good tsunami needs a sharp vertical dislocation in the sea floor, and the expected quake on that fault will be inland.

He said that an event in 1992, when about 170 people were drowned by a tidal wave on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, the earthquake was offshore.

Protti said that “although a tsunami caused by an earthquake under the Nicoya peninsula wouldn’t have disastrous consequences, people should know that anytime they feel a strong earthquake near the beach, they should head to higher ground.”

A local earthquake that might produce a tsunami would be readily felt, and there would indeed be time to move to higher ground in most places. If it comes from South America the longer lead time would allow some opportunity as well.

Unless you’re in Puntarenas.


Canadian and his bodyguard convicted of killing employee
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian and his bodyguard have been convicted of killing an employee they thought was defrauding the sportsbook the Canadian operated.

The action took place Monday in the Tribunal de Juicio de Desamparado, the same canton in which the man was killed Sept. 7, 2006.

The men are Ali Mohamed Eltaib, a naturalized Canadian, and the bodyguard, Juan Carlos Flores Altamirano, said the Poder Judicial. Both got 22-year sentences.
The men were ordered to be held in preventative detention while a higher court reviews the sentence.

The defense lawyers are expected to appeal.

Not at the trial was Franco Palermo, another Canadian, who is a fugitive.

Investigators alleged that the two Canadians along with the Costa Rican bodyguard set up a meeting with the victim, Luis Diego Muñoz Vargas, on the pretext of purchasing a car.  When Muñoz arrived for the meeting in Desamparados centro, he was greeted with bullets.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 52


Map gives the prediction for the arrival of the rainy season in the major sections of the country. The arrival of the rains moves from south to north each year.
rainfall map
Instituto Meteorológico Nacional/A.M. Costa Rica


Weather predictors say rainy season will be slightly early

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local weather forecasters say that the rainy season will be slightly early this year in all areas except the Central Valley.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the season would arrive May 6 to 10 in the Central Valley, as normal.

In the south Pacific, the season is expected March 27 to March 31, slightly earlier than the average of April 1 to 5.

The rains in the central Pacific should start around April 21 to 25 instead of the average of April 26 to 30, the agency said in a report released Monday.

The north Pacific, which has the longest dry season, should see daily rain moving in around May 11 to 15, instead of May 16 to 20, the forecasts said.

The institute is predicting 20 to 25 percent more rain than
normal this year in Guanacaste, the Central Valley and down to Quepos. Other areas will see normal rainfall, the institute said.

Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray at Colorado State University expect to see the 2010 storm season to be more active than the average of the 1950 to 2000 seasons. They estimate 11 to 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. The institute here accepts that assessment. However, the Colorado researchers warn against long-distance forecasts and are expected to come out with an update soon.

The Colorado forecasters expect to see the strong El Niño condition to diminish by the 2010 hurricane season, which begins officially June 1.

In Costa Rica, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that El Niño in 2009 cut rainfall in Guanacaste and in the Central Valley 25 to 30 percent. But in the Province of Limón, rainfall has been up 15 percent, the institute said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 52

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Juárez consulate murders
might affect U.S. policy


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the city of Juárez, Mexico, gunmen murdered 19 people this past weekend, including two U.S. citizens associated with the American consulate in the border city across from El Paso, Texas.  The killing of the Americans has raised concerns that Mexican drug cartels might now be targeting Americans in retaliation for U.S. cooperation with the Mexican government's war on organized crime. 

Saturday, gunmen apparently followed two cars leaving a child's birthday party in Juárez.  Two of the victims, a married couple, both of whom were U.S. citizens, were attacked in front of city hall.  Their uninjured baby was found in a car seat in the back of the car.  The other victim, a Mexican citizen who worked at the U.S. consulate, was murdered at about the same time at another location.

Killings are common in Juárez, which is recognized internationally as the most dangerous city outside of a war zone.  But this is the first time that gunmen seem to have targeted U.S. citizens or people associated with U.S. diplomatic missions.

Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical intelligence for Austin, Texas-based analysis firm Stratfor, says the killings might have been related to a recently announced U.S. plan to increase cooperation with Mexican law enforcement agencies.

"We believe that it is likely related to a decision last month to start working more closely with the Mexican government by the Americans," said Scott Stewart. "They were going to put some personnel into a joint fusion center in Juárez."

The people killed were not high-ranking U.S. officials and there is no indication that they had anything to do with law enforcement.  But Stewart says they might have been killed simply because they were easy targets.

"One of the things we see in terrorist attacks as well [is that] many times they cannot get to the target they require or desire," he said. "But they will go and divert to a secondary target who is more vulnerable."

The U.S. State Department has called on its diplomatic workers in Mexican border cities to send their families home as violence continues to rage across the northern part of the country.

Mexico political expert George Grayson, author of the new book "Mexico:  Narco-Violence and a Failed State?," says that is a wise move.

"Any way you slice it, the border is going to become increasingly dangerous," said Grayson. "And even though, up to now, the cartels have not focused on foreigners — certainly have not focused on Americans — one can never tell when their tactics will change."

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has used the military as his principal agent in carrying out the war against drug gangs he initiated after taking office in 2006.

But the Mexican constitution does not allow the use of the army for police work, and analyst George Grayson says many Mexicans complain of abuses.

But the military and a few units of elite federal police are Calderon's only assets in the fight against the powerful drug cartels.  And the U.S. government is faced with the question of how deeply involved it should be in Mexico's operations. 

In 1985, when a drug gang tortured and killed U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camerena near Guadalajara, Mexico, the U.S. government put a great deal of pressure on Mexico to bring the killers to justice.

Stratfor's Stewart wonders whether that will happen again.

"That is the critical question we are looking at right now, whether or not these killings will steel U.S. resolve or whether they will cause the U.S. to back off," he said. "If we look at the historical precedent with the Kiki Camerena case in Mexico back in 1985, it really caused the DEA to focus on dismantling that organization and becoming very aggressive and active.  And it will be interesting to see whether we have that effect now."

U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned the killings in Juárez and vowed to continue U.S. efforts to help to "break the power of the drug trafficking organizations that operate in Mexico."  He says the responsibility for fighting the drug traffickers must be shouldered by both nations.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 52


Latin American news
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Costa Rican firm finishes
in top three of competition


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Costa Rican company has been recognized as one of three winners in the 2010 Pioneers of Prosperity Central America program.

The company is Florex of Costa Rica, which was founded in 2003 by Silvia Elena Chaves Quesada and Carlos
Enrique Araya Arias. It is a cleaning products company that develops and produces environmentally friendly cleaning products, utilizing an education-led market campaign to win sales and cultivate demand for their product.

Florex finished as runner up to a Nicaraguan company that was given the top award. That company is Adenica, founded in 2000 by Carolina López. The firm manages the full spectrum of logistics and import/export paperwork for major national and international firms operating in Nicaragua, making it a leader in the importing and exporting fields.

Ten finalists from six countries across Central America competed for a grant of US $100,000 to invest
in the growth of their company.

From a pool of over 650 applications 10 companies emerged representing some of the most innovative, dynamic businesses in the region, said organizers.  Each one of the finalists has already won a grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank of US $40,000 and will be connected to a global network of technical expertise, potential investors, and other cutting-edge entrepreneurs, organizers said.

"Businesses around the world have created more wealth for more people than all the aid, charity and government actions combined," said Michael Fairbanks, co-founder and co-director of the Social Equity Venture Fund. "People in industrialized nations don't need to tell poor countries what to do: all we need to do is find great entrepreneurs and give them rocket fuel.  Carolina López, who works in the difficult business environment of Nicaragua, is the latest, greatest example. Her actions and results are eloquent testimony."

Also a runner up was Ernestina Castro S.A. de C.V. (Pan Santa Eduvigis), founded in 1955, a producer of specialty breads and operator of a chain of branded bakeries. The El Salvador company is famous for its trademark Semita, which serves local, regional and international markets through its wholly owned bakeries, supermarket and other retail distribution channels as well as through exporting to international markets.

The Pioneers of Prosperity Program seeks to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs in emerging economies by identifying, rewarding, and promoting outstanding small to medium size businesses who will serve as role models to their peers, according to organizers.  The awards ceremony was in Suchitoto, El Salvador.




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