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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 54          E-mail us
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Country gearing up for 10-year population census
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More than 25,000 teachers will be knocking on doors from May 30 to June 3 as the 10th national census takes place.

The teachers are expected to visit an estimated 1.3 million homes to obtain basic demographical data. This is the first census since 2000.

Conducting such a project in a country without firm street addresses is a trick in itself. Most of the teachers will be from the local schools, solving some of the problems of unfamiliarity.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos has its own mapping division that has or will prepare maps of the 473 districts in the country. More than 25,000 maps will be produced the census institute said.

The census institute conducted a trial in August in Palmares. The trial run gives a snapshot of what the full census will find. Palmares is west of San José and Heredia in the province of Alajuela.

Surveyors determined that the population in Palmares had increased 5.9 percent as had population density. The census found 15,511 men and 16,019 women and 828 persons per square kilometer in the canton. That density was up from the 2000 finding of 782.

Some 50.8 of those interviewed reported having employment and of those 66.2 percent were in some sort of service job. Construction employment had fallen to 23.2 percent from the 2000 figure of 30.5 percent, reflecting the general downturn in business due to economic changes.
The Palmares workforce was better off than the estimated national average. The census reported 3.9 percent unemployment, less than the national level of 7.3 percent at the time.

Surveyors located 9,131 homes with 67.5 percent characterized as being in good condition. The number of homes was up 18.8 percent from 2000.
I exist
Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos photo
Mobil advertising was used to promote compliance in Palmares. The sign says 'I exist.'

The number of persons in each household decreased from 4.1 to 3.7, the census said.

Nearly all the homes (99.8 percent) had electricity and 4.2 percent had water from the street.

Some 50 percent of the homes had computer but only 27.6 had Internet, the census said.

The general population level was higher in 2010 with residents reported an average of 7.9 years of schooling, up from 7.7. There was a slight reduction in reported illiteracy at 3.2 percent.

The birth rate was down slightly with each woman reporting an average of 2.2 children.That was down from 2.5 10 years earlier.

The census institute has been using teachers as surveyors since 1950. School children will be out of school the days of the census.

The government said it is paying 9 billion colons or about $18.2 million.

The census institute keeps a running estimate of population. The figure Wednesday was 4, 563,538, but that number is just an estimate.

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Gore told of Tico efforts
to reduce carbon emissions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States and presidential candidate, was in Costa Rica Wednesday promoting his vision of carbon offsets to a mostly enthusiastic crowd at the Hotel Marriott in Belén.

Gore won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his presentation "An Inconvenient Truth," in which he warned of the effects of climate change.

Acting President Alfio Piva was quick to outline for him the sustainable efforts being made by Costa Rica, including the action this month to create a reserve around Parque Nacional Isla del Coco. President Laura Chinchilla was returning from a meeting with heads of state in Guatemala City.

Gore has made substantial investments in so-called green energy companies and has been called by critics the first carbon billionaire. Gore is an easy target. A Tennessee policy group revealed in 2007 that his mansion there has a monthly electric bill of $1,359.

Gore is calling for a freeze on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and a system of carbon credits that would monetize the emissions, as well as a tax.

Piva also noted that Costa Rica generates about 90 percent of its electrical power from hydro, wind and geothermic sources. Piva also noted that coffee producers in San María de Dota are producing what they call carbon neutral coffee.

Legislative measure creates
more than 4,000 taxi permits

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new measure that would create more than 4,000 special taxi licenses for the country is advancing in the legislature. The measure is a technical change in the commercial code, but the effect would be far-reaching.  A legislative panel with the power to pass laws have given the measure a favorable nod.

Affected would be the porteadores, the contract transportation drivers. The measure would create licenses up to 30 percent of the number of official taxis. The drivers under these special licenses could only carry passengers from one point to another on contract, much the same way that porteadores do now.

There is bad blood between taxi drivers and porteadores, and lawmakers have been wrestling with the situation for years. Periodically taxi drivers or porteadores stage roadblocks with their vehicles or slow-moving blockades. The measure likely will go to the Sala IV constitutional court for review.

Money laundering case
draws preventative detention

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Juzgado Penal de San Ramón has remanded three persons to preventative detention for a year in a case of money laundering involving Banco Popular.

A couple with the last names of Mora Badilla and Alfaro Castro are accused of using credit issued by the bank to hide money-laundering activities. The Poder Judicial identified them Wednesday. They were detained Tuesday. The bank officer has the last names of Hidalgo Hidalgo, said the Poder Judicial.

The financial maneuvers were detected by bank officials in 2009 and turned over to the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera del Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas, said the Poder Judicial. The couple was using credit advanced by the bank to purchase property and other goods, said the Poder Judicial. The credit was paid off quickly with funds alleged to be from a Mexican drug cartel, said the Poder Judicial.

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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St. Patrick's Day drinking masks a history of troubles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

St. Patrick's Day is a good time to reflect on the religious division that has driven the history of the Western Hemisphere.

The division between Catholic and Protestant has defined much of history. And it also explains why the Irish were treated as second-class citizens during much of their time in the United States.

Spain and the former Spanish empire in America, then as now, was principally Catholic. Henry VIII of England created the dividing line. So the British colonies in North America came from Protestant traditions and existed uneasily with the Catholics to the south.

The same tension existed in Ireland where the British conquerors created anti-Catholic laws that forbade education, land ownership and voting by Catholics. The so-called Irish Problem was a continuing political irritation to England. It still is.

Curiously the first St. Patrick Day celebrations in what is now the United States were in Boston and New York and the participants were mostly Irish Protestants. That was before the U.S. Revolutionary War.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on the Batallón de San Patricio, a U.S. unit of Irish Catholics who switched allegiance to México during the Mexican-American War. They claimed prejudice and mistreatment due to their religion.

There were other troubles including the 1863 draft riots in new York City, popularized by Leonardo DiCaprio in "Gangs of New York." Religion and discrimination were factors.

During the various turbulent times in Ireland, the
Henry and Patric
Henry VIII of England and St. Patrick in stained glass

parades in the United States reflected the local support for the Irish. 'England, get out of Ireland," was a frequent slogan. Some U.S. officials worried, sometimes with reason, that citizens and Irish immigrants would side with Germany during World War I and World War II because of their hatred of England. The British had the same problem but much bigger.

Somewhere along the way, St Patrick's Day evolved into a time for amateur drinkers who would down a concoction of green dye and beer. Most drinkers do not reflect on the discrimination and social problems that made St. Patrick's Day and its parades a time for protest.

Few remember that John Kennedy had to speak before Protestant clergymen during his presidential campaign to vow that he would not be beholden to the pope, if elected.

Now the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere is faced with another religious division that has sown terror, fear and mistrust. There may be some lessons from the Irish experiences.

Business chamber says action needed as economy slows
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A chamber that represents business operators has called upon the central government to take action against what it says is 11 months of declines and a clear deceleration in the national economy.

The chamber is the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado.

In a release the organization said that the monthly index of economic activity has been in decline.

The chamber called on the government to inject confidence in the economy.
Manuel H. Rodríguez, chamber president, said national authorities should act rapidly and concretely.  He called for simplifying business paperwork, and providing unspecified help to some production sectors. He said that Costa Rica responded well to an injection of credit in 2006.

Elsewhere tourism operators are concerned by declines in that industry. Tuesday the Cámera Nacional de Turismo complained that bad roads have been hurting tourism and that tourism operators around the Volcán Poás and in Sarapiquí have experienced sharp reductions in tourism.

Sarapiquí, at least, will be the host of part of a regional arts festival there for two weeks. The other location is in Turrialba. Large crowds are expected.

Environmentalist want to throw the book at shark finner
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmentalists are hoping that a shark finning boat captain will have his vessel confiscated and get two years in prison.

The environmentalist are members of the Program de Restauración de Tortuga Marina, which is following the case closely in Puntarenas.

On trial is Tsa Yu Jen, captain of the Belize-registered boat. He is accused of unloading 20,000 kilos of shark fins without the shark attached, as Costa Rican law requires. He is the first person caught after a court decided that the
country could enforce its rule that all fishing boats unload at a public dock.

The trial in the flagrancy court in Puntarenas was continued
 next Tuesday. Six witnesses are participating, including employees of the state Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura, which is supposed to supervise the unloading, and the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas.

The institute presented photos and videos relating to the case, according to the environmental organization.

The chances that the boat captain will be jailed are slim. Those with a clean record usually are released if the prison sentence is three years or less.

The Costa Rica law is supposed to make it less efficient for shark finning operators to kill sharks. Usually they simply slice off the fins and dump the wounded fish back into the ocean to die. Some have gone so far as to tie or tape shark fins to shark carcasses to comply with the law that the fin must be attached to the shark.

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Ocean sediment cores show spikes of abrupt warming

By the University of California at San Diego news staff

Bursts of intense global warming that have lasted tens of thousands of years have taken place more frequently throughout history than previously believed, according to evidence gathered by a team led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers.

Richard Norris, a professor of geology at Scripps who co-authored the report, said that releases of carbon dioxide sequestered in the deep oceans were the most likely trigger of these ancient events. Most of the events raised average global temperatures between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 and 5.4° F), an amount comparable to current conservative estimates of how much temperatures are expected to rise in coming decades as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming. Most events lasted about 40,000 years before temperatures returned to previous levels.

"These hyperthermals seem not to have been rare events," Norris said, "hence there are lots of ancient examples of global warming on a scale broadly like the expected future warming. We can use these events to examine the impact of global change on marine ecosystems, climate and ocean circulation."

The hyperthermals took place roughly every 400,000 years during a warm period of Earth history that prevailed some 50 million years ago. The strongest of them coincided with an event known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the transition between two geologic epochs in which global temperatures rose between 4° and 7° C (7.2° and 12.6° F) and needed 200,000 years to return to historical norms. The events stopped taking place around 40 million years ago, when the planet entered a cooling phase. No warming events of the magnitude of these hyperthermals have been detected in the geological record since then.

Phil Sexton, a former student of Norris' now at the Open University in the United Kingdom, led the analysis of sediment cores collected off the South American coast. In the cores, evidence of the warm periods presented itself in bands of gray sediment layered within otherwise pale
greenish mud. The gray sediment contained increased amounts of clay left after the calcareous shells of microscopic organisms were dissolved on the sea floor. These clay-rich intervals are consistent with ocean acidification episodes that would have been triggered by large-scale releases of carbon dioxide. Large influxes of carbon dioxide change the chemistry of seawater by producing greater amounts of carbonic acid in the oceans.

The authors concluded that a release of carbon dioxide from the deep oceans was a more likely cause of the hyperthermals than other triggering events that have been hypothesized. The regularity of the hyperthermals and relatively warm ocean temperatures of the period makes them less likely to have been caused by events such as large melt-offs of methane hydrates, terrestrial burning of peat or even proposed cometary impacts.

The hyperthermals could have been set in motion by a build-up of carbon dioxide in the deep oceans caused by slowing or stopping of circulation in ocean basins that prevented carbon dioxide release.

Norris noted that the hyperthermals provide historical perspective on what Earth will experience as it continues to warm from widespread use of fossil fuels, which has increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere nearly 50 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Hyperthermals can help scientists produce a range of estimates for how long it will take for temperatures to fully revert to historical norms depending on how much warming human activities cause.

"In 100 to 300 years, we could produce a signal on Earth that takes tens of thousands of years to equilibrate, judging from the geologic record," he said.

The scientists hope to better understand how fast the conditions that set off hyperthermals developed. Norris said that 50 million year old sediments in the North Sea are finely layered enough for scientists to distinguish decade-to-decade or even year-to-year changes.

Facebook rape case prompts warning from law officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization is warning the public to be cautious with social networks.

The warning came after the arrest of a man who is accused of rape of a woman he met on Facebook.

The agency said that unknown persons can generate
confidence via the social networks.

In the current case a woman arranged to met a Facebook contact near her home in San Luis de Santo Domingo de Heredia. They had been communicating for a month. When they did meet in December, the woman said the man pulled a knife and forced himself on her. 

The man was detained Wednesday morning near his home.

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Ban in Guatemala praises
country and Dall'Anese

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday expressed appreciation of Guatemala’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations, but also voiced alarm at the worsening rate of crime, insecurity and human rights violations in the Central American country.

“Guatemalan troops are serving with peacekeepers in Haiti and in conflict zones such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire,” said Ban at a joint news conference with President Alvaro Colom in the country’s capital, Guatemala City.

“A distinguished Guatemalan, Edmond Mulet, is my special representative in Haiti. I am especially pleased that a number of Guatemalan women are serving in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

“I value this contribution, but I know it has taken a toll. Tomorrow I will solemnly dedicate a monument to the Guatemalan U.N. peacekeepers who died while serving the cause of peace. The only way to truly honor their sacrifice is to carry on our work for peace, security and justice, here in Guatemala and around the world,” said the secretary general.

Ban told reporters that at a meeting with members of the Guatemalan cabinet, he had expressed alarm over rising crime and insecurity and that he was particularly concerned about abuses of human rights. “Ending impunity is critical to protecting all Guatemalans from violence,” he said, adding that the U.N. will provide additional support.

“We have to foster security for all Guatemalans and their children. I am sure the people of Guatemala agree they did not end 36 years of armed conflict only to see violence take other forms.  Now it is time to end all violence,” said  Ban.

The secretary general recalled that Guatemala is known throughout the world for its ecological diversity, its rich culture, and its proud history. “Our shared challenge today is to ensure that Guatemala also earns a reputation as a haven of justice, respect for human rights, and true security.  We have serious work ahead,” he said.

He described his talks with Colom as constructive, saying they covered important issues of concern to both of them, including insecurity, poverty, violence against women, regional issues, and the Millennium Development Goals, the global commitments to reducing extreme and boosting social-economic progress by the target date of 2015.

He said that Colom and he were in full agreement on the importance of the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. “I expressed the U.N.’s strong support for CICIG and Commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese,” Ban said.  Dall’Anese is the former Costa Rica chief prosecutor.

The secretary general also met Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu.

Ban also met with Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica.

Children in Mexico killed
in drug gang shooting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican officials say a convoy of gunmen chasing a rival killed three people, including two children, after opening fire on a home in the resort city of Acapulco.

Officials in Guerrero state say the gunmen began shooting at the house Tuesday after the man they were pursuing attempted to hide in it.

A 60-year-old woman was killed along with two children, ages 6 and 2. A 23-year-old woman was wounded in the shooting.

It was not clear what happened to the man being chased.

In another attack in Acapulco, a 15-year-old boy was killed along with two other men.

More than 34,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on drug cartels in 2006.
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Murder cases involve
teenagers as suspects

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four minors are accused of murder in two separate cases. In yet another case involving juvenile crime two others are accused of stabbing a high schooler as he left class in San José.

Agents have detained a minor in the murder Tuesday evening of a woman on the public street in La Carpio. The woman, identified by the last name of Sequeria, was 45. She was gunned down as she walked with her two daughters, 14 and 21, about 5:45 p.m. in the low-income settlement. She was dead at the scene.

The Poder Judicial revealed Wednesday that she was in the witness protection program because she had made allegations against a neighbor. The neighbor's son is suspected in the shooting, agents said.

In Alajuelita, the Judicial Investigating Organization made two raids Wednesday to detain three minors in the killing of a taxi driver Saturday in the same area. An autopsy showed that the victim died of gunshots instead of as the result of a traffic accident that was thought at first, said agents.

It was at the Liceo de Costa Rica about 3 p.m. Wednesday when assailants on a bike confronted a student and demanded his briefcase.  Then they gave him a wound in the stomach about 30 centimeters long, said agents. That is nearly a foot long. The robbers fled on the bike, but two suspects were detained not far away in Plaza Víquez, based on descriptions by witnesses, agents said. The suspects are 16 and 17.

FBI chief cites threats
of unprecedented complexity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation says terrorism in general and al-Qaida and its affiliates continue to pose the most significant threat to the United States.

Robert Mueller testified Wednesday at a House of Representatives committee hearing. 

He told lawmakers the threats include extremists in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabab in Somalia, and the radicalization of lone individuals in the United States.

He said al-Qaida and its affiliates remain committed to conducting attacks inside the U.S.  He noted recent attempts, including the 2009 thwarted Christmas Day bombing of an airliner by a young Nigerian man who U.S. authorities say was directed by al-Qaida in Yemen.

Mueller said the FBI has "never faced a more complex threat environment" than it does currently, with not only terrorism, but espionage, cyber-based attacks, and other crimes such as public corruption and organized, financial and violent crimes.

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