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Scientists say quake data are really just estimates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats sometimes wonder how an earthquake can be reported differently.

For example, a quake in the upper gulf of Nicoya Monday at nine seconds to 2 p.m. was of a magnitude 5.0, according to the Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica. But the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the same university listed it as 4.8 magnitude.

The Red Nacional has published an article on this topic. It said that such discrepancies are inherent in the system.  Costa Rica has had regular earthquake monitoring for 40 years, but now there are three different systems that measure different aspects of an event, the Red Nacional noted.

In addition to the Red, earthquake reports in Costa Rica come from the Laboratorio and from a network run by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

When an earthquake hits, scientists quickly try to estimate the magnitude and the depth as well as the location. They also try to figure out why the earthquake took place. Is it the result of movement in a volcano? On the coast the usual culprit is the subduction of the Cocos plate beneath the Caribbean tectonic plate. There also are local faults. Finding the location is not just academic. The location and magnitude can have a bearing on the emergency response.

The Red Sismológica Nacional says that the U.S. Geological Survey has 150 sensing stations around the world. But these are not sufficient to collect data on small quakes. Usually the Survey only reports small quakes in the 2.5 magnitude range when they take place within the borders of the United States. Elsewhere the cutoff point is around 4.5 magnitude.

U.S. Geological Survey lists 26 events in the U.S. and the world Monday. Expats frequently express their frustration on online discussion lists when they cannot find an earthquake report in English on the  Geological Survey list. Usually that is because the magnitude was less than the threshold.

Costa Rica has networks of sensors, too. They are not only on land but also on the floor of the oceans.

That is why the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica, which maintains 24 sensing stations, can say that  the quake Monday was felt strongest in Paquera where the sensing device is in the Cruz Roja building, in Cóbano, in the Fraijanes branch of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the library at Cañas. The sensations were considered light to moderate. The Laboratorio estimated the depth at 43.8 kilometers, about 27 miles. The Red Nacional said 40 kilometers, about 25 miles.

As A.M. Costa Rica has reported, the Observatorio 
earthquake location
Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica graphic
Yellow dot shows the estimated epicenter of Monday's earthquake.

is replacing analog equipment with digital sensors, geographical coverage is expanding and satellite technology brings an extra element to tracking earth movements.

The new network has 32 stations around the country, all with seismographs and real-time data transmission. Each station is on a solid base reaching bedrock and powered by solar cells. Communication with computers in Heredia is by internet where feasible, with radio connections for the more remote sites. The older system used radio communication with limited range.

The satellite system can measure ground movement as small as a millimeter.

Earthquakes happen all the time, but there are scientific predictions of major ones to come. Sceintists from the  Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico have been holding community meetings on the Nicoya peninsula because they expect a major quake to take place through the middle of the Gulf of Nicoya, perhaps running through the point where the quake happened Monday. They expect the peninsula to shift so that one coast subsides and the other is raised higher above sea level.

They base their predictions on previous quakes in records going back to 1827. There have been four 7.0 magnitude or better quakes in and around the peninsula since 1950. The last was March 25, 1990.

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

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

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Hackers deface Web site
run by Casa Presidencial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hackers successfully entered the Casa Presidencial Web site Sunday and put up a caricature in place of official content, the Presidencia reported Monday.

The cyberattack took place around 10 p.m. after technicians put up the weekly Cadena Nacional television spot.

The Presidencia said that government Web sites receive multiple attacks each day, but they usually are rejected by the security devices in place. Officials attributed the Sunday attack to a group called LatinHack, which has hundreds of members and has perpetrated at least 13,000 attacks of government sites in Spain, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, Chile and the Dominican Republic, said officials.

The presidential Web site has mirror sites containing the same material, so technicians were able to restore the primary site quickly, officials said.

Much of the information of the Presidencia is stored in other servers and never were vulnerable to intruders, said the Presidencia.

Our reader's opinion
Retrain and fine legions
of misbehaving motorcyclists

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your article Monday about the number of deaths and injuries caused by and to riders on motorcycles.  It suggests that there be higher insurance premiums for people who ride motorcycles. 

Well, I think we all know that isn't really the answer.  As long as the riders are still weaving in and out of traffic, turning where they want and doing all the other dangerous things we see them doing, there isn't going to be any change.  Higher insurance premiums mean a lot of riders out there probably will have to walk or take the bus instead of using their motorcycle. 

Wouldn't it be more prudent to "retrain" motorcyclists or start fining them for doing the stupid things they do on the road?  Maybe if they learned to be better drivers and followed the (oft-ignored) rules of the road, there wouldn't be so many accidents. 
Nel Cameron

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, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 57
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Reynaldo Quiros is at work. In front of him are the cheaper sombreros pintados, at 35,000 colons, about $70. Behind him are the more expensive ones.

A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

Art fair vendors rebound after a weekend they call crazy
By Shahrazad Encinias Vela
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Feria Internacional de las Artes is in full swing this week. The festival has trickled into San José since the beginning of the month with art exhibits at various galleries. Since Friday the event has become a 10-day extravaganza with vendors, activities, and musical performances.

Parque La Sabana was divided into stations where different activities, vendors, performances, and lectures have been set up. Each vendor is assigned a location based on the product and theme of the business.

Monday was a day for vendors to catch their breath and relax from the inaugural weekend. According to many artisans, the weekend was crazy. They said there wasn't room for everyone. Some even said they had run out of certain products. They took the day to make and replace what was sold.

One of the artisans to use his down time productively was a man who makes accessories with leather. Federico DiCapua, is the owner of the business that carries his family name DiCapua. He sat on a folding plastic chair. He took another empty chair and used it as a table to make a purse. He leaned forward and grabbed a special tool used to shave leather in order to thin out the edges he had cut. The tool looked like a rough version of a metal razor.

DiCapua has turned his family trade into a small business. He said the business is new but that his dad used to work with leather, and now he does. He said his father teased him that he began sewing leather at 3 years old. DiCapua laughed at his anecdote and continued to shave the leather.

But not all vendors come from a family line of artisans. Ofelia Reategui, 61, discovered her artisan skill during her late 50s. At a time when most people who have worked go into retirement, she uncovered a secret talent. She has the ability, creativity, and the eye to make women's accessories such as purses, wallets and belts. From this she created a small business, Manos Latinas.

Ms. Reategui uses all recycled material, she said. She is one of many Costa Rican designers who are part of an ecological
fair vendors
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
Federico DiCapua shaves leather while Ofelia Reategui relaxes amid her products.

fashion trend. The main materials she used are newspaper, leather, and a canvas banner. She said her idea came from the concept of recycling. From there, she said, she started to experiment with designs and then somehow she got creative.

Other vendors stick to what is known, popular and organic.
Reynaldo Quiros has been a Panama hatmaker for more than 30 years. He specializes in a custom hat that is famous, the sombrero pintado. Although his hats look very similar, he said he has more than 20 different styles on display. The styles vary on the design, color, and the amount of sewn laps or seams on the hat. The quality of the hat depends on the amount of laps. Any hat with more than 10 laps is considered to be quality, he said. Each one varies in price, from $70 to $250.

The hat is made of bellota (Cardulovica palmata), fiber from palm.

The Feria Internacional de las Artes will end on Sunday. The music, food, games, exhibits, performances, and vendors will continue to run during the week.

Emergency officials meet
to plan 2012 strategies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sure sign of the approaching rainy season has nothing to do with the sky. The clear indication is the beginning of meetings by emergency officials to discuss how to handle the problems that are to come.

The sessions begin today in the Hotel Radisson and are described as the first meeting of the national emergency commission. Those attending include local responders who have to face slides, flooding and other rain-caused disasters. Some areas have such problems with regularity each year. The meetings also will prove useful in the event of earthquakes and volcanic activity, said the emergency commission.

The sessions will be held over three days where various agencies will share success stories and also those that were not. The idea is to identify the principal imitations that face local emergency committees in the performance of their duties, said the national commissions.

Outside of the meeting room, as is customary at this time of year, workers are moving emergency equipment, including foam mattresses, blankets, non-perishable foods and other items to various storage spaces around the country in anticipation of the probable lashes form Mother nature.
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Humane Society condemns plans for Costa Rican bull run
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Humane Society International has come out against the proposed bull fiesta event Pamplona y Más scheduled to take place next month in Costa Rica. This kind of copycat spectacle, intended to emulate the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, serves only to torment bulls, the organization said.

The proposed festival Pamplona y Más, sponsored by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Costa Rica, centers around the release of several bulls to run through enclosed spaces. Humane Society International urged the Costa Rican government to take a strong stance against allowing the import of what it called a cruel event. Costa Rica already bans cockfighting and dog fights.

“The tormenting of animals for amusement can never be acceptable,” said Cynthia Dent, director of Humane Society International-Latin America. “We encourage the Costa Rican authorities to refuse authorization for this event, and we
strongly urge the Spanish government and representatives to start listening to the call of compassionate activists from around the world and stop their efforts to perpetuate these events, both in Spain and abroad.”

The encierro or bull run of San Fermín is a yearly activity that takes place in July, during which hundreds of people run in front of bulls through a half mile stretch of narrow streets. This event not only causes great distress and fear to the bulls, but it usually results in hundreds of people being injured and sometimes even the death of some unlucky bystander, the organization noted.

While bullfighting and related bull fiestas are still held in countries such as Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Perú and Ecuador, worldwide audiences have increasingly expressed their opposition to bullfighting and bull fiestas in general in recent years, the organization said. Humane Society International condemns both bullfighting and all other bull fiesta events, which cause unconscionable stress and panic to bulls, it said in a release.

Another study concludes that sea-level rise is inevitable
By the Rutgers University news staff

Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.

The researchers, led by Kenneth G. Miller, professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University, reached their conclusion by studying rock and soil cores in Virginia, Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific and New Zealand. They looked at the late Pliocene epoch, 2.7 million to 3.2 million years ago, the last time the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was at its current level, and atmospheric temperatures were 2 degrees C higher than they are now.

“The difference in water volume released is the equivalent of melting the entire Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, as well as some of the marine margin of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet,” said H. Richard Lane, program director of the National
Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the work. “Such a rise of the modern oceans would  swamp the world’s coasts and affect as much as 70 percent of the world’s population.”
“You don’t need to sell your beach real estate yet, because melting of these large ice sheets will take from centuries to a few thousand years,” Miller said. “The current trajectory for the 21st century global rise of sea level is 2 to 3 feet (0.8 to 1 meter) due to warming of the oceans, partial melting of mountain glaciers, and partial melting of Greenland and Antarctica.”

Sea levels won't get as high as depicted in this fanciful image for a long time. But a substantial rise is inevitable, Rutgers scientists say.

Miller said that this research highlights the sensitivity of the earth’s great ice sheets to temperature change, suggesting that even a modest rise in temperature results in a large sea-level rise.

“The natural state of the earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 20 meters higher than at present,” he said.

A news story last week contained lesser estimates of sea level rise. A Columbia University team, whose work was published 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.

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British pubs are facing
a rocky time and future

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The British pub is famous worldwide, part of the social fabric of the land and a draw for tourists visiting the country. But hundreds of pubs across Britain are closing down every year.

A roaring fire, a pint of beer, a cozy corner and good company; the British pub is famous worldwide as a place to escape the outside world.

Names like the Rose and Crown, the Red Lion or the Three Horseshoes are an embedded part of culture. But this institution of British life is suffering.

John Cryne is from the Campaign for Real Ale, which is leading the charge to save the British pub. "Sixteen a week in the UK are closing, often forever," said Cryne. "And it’s community local pubs, those that support their neighborhood, that are often the most under threat."

Up and down the land, the boarded-up shells of former pubs are becoming a common sight.

The Campaign for Real Ale says the problems stem from too much tax and the complex relationships between pub owners and managers, known as the tied pub system.

"Pubs that are owned by large pub-owning companies are faced with a bit of a double-whammy" added Cryne. "In the first instance, they have to pay a rent for their premises, and we feel that in many cases the rent is a bit overstated. Then they’re caught out twice as they can only buy their beer through the pub company."

The British Brewing and Pub Association represents the companies that own pubs. Its chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, rebuts the accusation that owners charge too much and says it all comes down to tax.

“Brewers are only making a penny a pint," said Ms. Simmonds. "For pubs, because they are small businesses, they have to pass on that increase in tax to the customer, and they’re really struggling in this economic climate as people are struggling throughout the world. But there are some great pubs out there. Pubs are the third reason why the majority of people want to visit the UK.”

Pubs and breweries do agree on one thing, lower taxes on liquor sold in stores means more people choose to drink at home.

Plenty of pubs are bucking the trend.

The Pineapple in north London dates from the 19th century. Its carved wooden interior enjoys protected heritage status.

The owner wanted to sell it to be developed into apartments, a common fate for closing pubs. A vociferous campaign by local residents saved it, and Simon Rennie took over the management.

"I think it was Prince Charles that actually said, 'The pub is the hub.' And it really is. The pub is the hub of the community," said Rennie.

Supernatural and romance
boost young adult books

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A movie version of Suzanne Collins' popular series of novels, "The Hunger Games," opens in U.S. theaters this month.  It is expected to provide an even bigger boost to what has become one of the most lucrative segments of the publishing market: Young adult fiction.  While book sales overall have dropped by 5 percent, sales of these novels, many of which feature romance with a supernatural twist, have gone up more than 80 percent.

In the Houston suburb of Tomball, these women get together frequently to socialize and chat about the books they are reading.

Cathy Clark says many of those books targeted at teens also attract adult readers like her.

"You have those really strong authors in Young Adult and no matter what your age, they appeal and paranormal is something different," she said.

Some 70 kilometers away, in west Houston, fans of young adult supernatural romance novels recently packed the Blue Willow bookstore to meet four authors on a tour sponsored by their publisher, Harper Collins.

Cynthia Hand, author of two books about Clara, a teenage girl with special powers, says she has found a bond with her fans.

"I love the idea that we are sharing the same story, that we know the same people," she said.

Courtney Allison Moulton's books are full of sword fights and other action that she says resonates with a lot of male readers.

"I had a buddy who spent a couple of years in Afghanistan and he brought my book over there with him and he shared with the other, you know, these really tough Army guys reading my book and they are excited about the action," she said.

The supernatural quality of that action attracts 25-year-old Exal Iraheta.

"It takes you out of the normality that is your life, your routine life, and who doesn't want to feel special," she asks.
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President praises arrival
of digital TV transmitter

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla Monday welcomed the change to digital transmission by Canal 13 of the Sistema Nacional de Radio y Television and announced that the government was the first to use the Japanese-Brazilian digital format.

Viewers quickly asked the television channel via its Web site what would happen to television sets that now use the Advanced Television Systems Committee standards or ATSC. The Japanese-Brazilian system is called ISDB.Tb.

Ms. Chinchilla negotiated a grant from the Japanese to obtain the equipment for the transmissions. A committee has been set up to study the various digital systems and pick one for the country. Resident Oscar Arias Sánchez issued a decree in 2010 adopting the Japanese-Brazilian system.

Canal 13 made a broadcast from Casa Presidencial, and called it the first in Costa Rica. However, foreign digital programming has been here for years. Amnet, for example, offers at least 240 different digital channels. Amnet requires persons with older television sets to obtain a convert box to change the digital signal into analog data. However, the president's message and Canal 13 made no mention of the compatibility situation.

Other television stations are broadcasting digitally now, but just to the Internet. Teletica and Repretel both have feeds that send selected programming to computers. So does the new Canal 9.

White House criticizes
Cuba's actions on dissent

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The White House says the detention of protestors in Cuba ahead of a papal visit underscores Havana's disdain for the universal rights of its people.

In a statement Monday, the White House called for Cuban authorities to abandon their tactics of intimidation and harassment to stifle peaceful dissent.

Cuban authorities detained more than 50 members of the Ladies in White protest group late Saturday and Sunday, including many who intended to participate in the group's weekly protest march Sunday through Havana. 

An activist with the Ladies in White said more than 30 of the women were detained Sunday as they prepared to attend Mass at a Roman Catholic Church. Others were arrested late Saturday. They have all since been released.

Pope Benedict, who is visiting the island next week, is expected to encourage the government to grant increased rights to political activists.

The Ladies in White are relatives of some of 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 government crackdown in Cuba. Those dissidents have all since been released.

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