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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, March 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 57         E-mail us
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Cold fronts give an early taste of the rainy season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rainstorms spawned by a series of cold fronts have pounded the northern zone and parts of the Caribbean coast.

In just two hours Monday night, 19 millimeters, about three-quarters of an inch, fell in Limón Centro adding to the 15 millimeters (six-tenths of an inch) that fell earlier.

The Instituto Meteorological Nacional issued a 7 p.m. warning that rivers were rising in the northern zone and along the Caribbean coast. The weather institute cited the Río María Aguilar and the Río Sarapiquí which were rising due to rain, mostly in the mountains.

The institute predicted more rain overnight accompanied by winds between 40 and 60 kph., some 24 to 37 mph.

The institute warned of slides and flooding in areas
such as Orosi, Zurquí and Cinchona. Mountains around the Central Valley were bathed by continual flashes of lightning in the evening followed by rolling thunder.

The rainfall was less on the southern Caribbean coast. Some 25.8 millimeters fell at Manzanillo since 7 a.m. Monday. That's just about an inch.

Further north fishermen at Barra de Colorado were said to be holed up in the various lodges and tourist accommodations because the weather was too bad to seek tarpon. A day of heavy rains was reported.

The situation looks better for today. The institute said that the cold front would continue generating some rain in the morning and then give way to partly cloudy skies as the cold front dissipates.

The Pacific coast was seeing none of this, and nearly clear skies were predicted, although there is a chance of isolated showers, the institute said in its forecast.


Chief magistrate asks U.N. to help on youth crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the courts has asked the United Nations Children's Fund to conduct an objective assessment of the country's laws on juvenile crime. The president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia,  Luis Paulino Mora Mora, said that he was concerned that so many youngsters are participating in crimes and at a younger age.

"We have to be worried about this social danger," he said. "For the number of youngsters who are being displaced from work, who are not going to school, who walk through the streets and consume drugs in the parks . . . ."

Mora said that a deep analysis of the problem was necessary before there was any effort to present legislation.

The Poder Judicial said that the Children's Fund had accepted the task. Mora called it an organization highly specialized to do such a study and to enumerate the major elements to combat the problem.

Mora said that reform of the juvenile laws need to

 be done quickly. But he said that repression and higher penalties would not be sufficient. The idea is to have a deep analysis and to find new solutions, he said.

Mora said that there are many abandoned children and homes disintegrating and that the juvenile justice system is not getting the attention it deserves.

He said one idea is to create a police archive of youthful offenders. But he said he believes that minors need to have special protection and that the system should not mark the young violator for his or her whole life for being a criminal. But it is necessary that the police and the courts have a report on prior crimes of juveniles in the system, he said.

Mora also said that the branches of government have to work together on this problem, and he asked President Óscar Arias Sánchez to call a meeting of the high level security commission that met last year.

Judicial officials have been shocked that so many teens have been involved in gun crimes, robberies and murders.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 57

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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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.
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Hearing consultant

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Arias in Colombia
Casa Presidencial photo  
  President Óscar Arias Sánchez is greeted by an honor
  guard of Colombian soldiers as he arrives in that South
  American country's capital for a state visit Monday.
  With him are Brig. Gen. Fernando Cabrera and Miguel
  Camilo Ruiz, a vice minister of foreign relations.


Our reader's opinion
Money belongs to those
who filed a case in courts


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Criticize, then join them.

This is what those who criticized the Villalobos investors who filed in court seem to believe now, according to the article on the Villalobos Brothers fraud published Monday in A.M. Costa Rica.

The money recovered belongs to those who filed in court. If others want to collect, they should also file complaints in court and not expect money for doing nothing in regards to collecting their investments.

After all, why are they so worried ?

Their honest businessmen will come back and pay them every cent back, right ?

This only shows how losing large amounts of money overnight can do to some peoples brains and cause them to think without any type of reasoning.

Do they expect to collect money without filing in court, or did they get their common sense back and decide to file a lawsuit also?

The same applies to the Savings Unlimited investors and all the other smaller investment businesses that folded at that time.

Those investors who believe that Villalobos will pay them back should keep waiting.
Gregory Kearney Lawson 
Rohrmoser


Utility poles being replaced

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, the electric company, will be replacing utility poles in Asserí and in Moravia Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the company said.

In Aserrí, the affected area is in Barrio Corazón de Jesús in the vicinity of the Escuela Corazón de Jesús.

In Moravia, the work will be from the Iglesia San Blas to the antigua Pastas San Vicente, the company said.

Other utility outages might also take place depending on what lines are carried on the poles.


Garbage collections suspended

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday, April 1, and Friday, April 2, are legal holidays as well as religious holy days, so San José will not be collecting garbage those two days, the municipality has announced. Collections resume Monday, April 5.

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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.


For your international reading pleasure:


News of Nicaragua
News of Central America
News of Cuba
News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
News of El Salvador

News of Honduras
News of the Dominican Republic
News of Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 57

Osa hotel owners dispute evironmental report conclusions
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Hotel owners mentioned in a report by the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo roundly disputed the conclusions about their respective properties. Most of those threatened with sanctions are in the Drake Bay area and the Osa Peninsula. Additional hotels, as well as a number of private houses, are also under investigation, according to a report from the agency.

The primary problem cited in the investigations is usurpation of the 50-meter zone of public property. According to the 1977 maritime law, all land within 50 meters of high tide is public and cannot be developed. Access to the public cannot be denied either. Buildings in the 50-meter zone are subject to demolition with no grandfather clause allowed.

The strip from 50 to 200 meters inland can be leased on concession under control of the local municipality.

In order for a concession to be granted, the 50 meters from high tide should be surveyed and marked with posts referred to as “mojones.” This has been done for only a small part of the country’s coasts.

The action taken by the environmental court so far is to open an investigation of each case, then confirm ownership status, titles, concessions, environmental impact studies, and building permits.

One of the worst offenders according to the study is the Hotel Aguila de Osa, which, in addition to having multiple constructions in the 50-meter zone, encroaches on the estuary of the Río Agujas and has a boat shop considered a potential source of pollution. Manager Olman Brenes characterized the allegations as “not the truth” and added “we don’t pollute the river.” “SETENA is here twice a year and has never said anything,” Brenes maintained, referring to another branch of the environmental ministry, the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental. The business has a concession for the 200-meter maritime zone and permission for the dock, he said.
The Corcovado Tent Lodge, called Corcovado Lodge in the ministry’s report, has been closed since August 2008 according to Michael Kaye of Costa Rica Expeditions. Operators plan to construct a new hotel higher on the hillside in an area that was pasture and is now secondary forest. As for the encroachment on the 50-meter zone described in the report, Kaye said that the ocean has eroded its edge and all buildings are behind the mojones.

Brian Chaves  was more sanguine, saying he and the other owners are ready to rebuild the Jinetes de Osa Hotel away from the 50-meter zone as soon as their concession is approved. He said it is held up by a dispute between the Osa municipality and the environmental ministry over jurisdiction. Once that is cleared up, he said “we’ll be more than happy to move the hotel.” He did complain that the hotels targeted are foreign owned when other Costa Rican-owned properties are similarly in violation of regulations.

The owner of Hotel Pirate Cove, Liliana Bravo,* expressed irritation at how allegations appeared in the press before any formal accusation was filed with the courts. “Not even murderers get treated this way,” she said. The report is full of deceptions, starting with the photo of Manuel Antonio National Park which is on the cover. It is 100 kilometers up the coast. The ministry report shouldn’t have been released without the approval of the environmental ministry’s press agent, and the journalist who covered it for the weekly El Financiero would have to issue a retraction, Bravo said.

She insisted their cabins are behind the mojones and since the adjacent Río Drake is not navigable, the 200-meter required buffer zone does not apply.

Kaye also complained of learning about the investigation in the press and not being directly informed. The report said that inspectors for the tribunal were on the properties in December. That is when a series of photos of each hotel was taken.

The Casa Corcovado Hotel and the La Paloma Lodge, while not given a totally clean slate in the report, were categorized as the least problematic of the hotels named.

Editor's note: Following publication, Ms. Bravo identified herself as the administrator and not the owner.


Tough fines still in effect for Semana Santa motorists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic police officers will be enforcing the new law that went into effect March 1 because the legislature has not passed the many changes that have been approved provisionally.

That means tough laws will be in force for Semana Santa, which begins Friday for many.

Tránsito officers will be targeting drunk drivers, persons failing to use seat belts and motorcyclists without helmets.

The fines continue to be harsh, and a system of points still is in effect which can lead to loss of license.

For example, driving with .5 to .74 grams of alcohol per liter of blood brings a fine of 293,400 colons, and the vehicle is held. The fine is about $560. Drivers with more than .75 grams of alcohol in a liter of blood are sent to prosecutors and perhaps jail.

Lawmakers have increased the threshold for drunk driving to .75, and they have agreed informally on that percentage. But until the measure is passed as a package and published, the older, stiffer fines are in effect. And lawmakers may decide not to pass the package.

Speeding at more than 150 kph, some  93 mph, sends a driver to prosecutors and the vehicle to the impoundment lot.
Speeding below that figure but over 120 kph (74.5 mph) still draws a 293,400-colon fine, some $560. The fine is the same as for a child who fails to wear a seatbelt or use a special car seat, depending on age.

Talking on a cell phone while driving is 220,050 colons or $419. The fine is the same for going 20 kph over the limit or for an adult failing to wear a motorcycle helmet or a seatbelt in a car.

Lawmakers have cut these fines to about a third, but those decisions still have not become law.

Traffic officers will be setting up checkpoints starting Friday. They also said they will be doing so on the nation's two new hard surface roads: The Ciudad Colón-Orotina highway and the Costanera from Quepos to Dominical.

Some 700 officers will be on the highways and they will be using 100 devices to measure alcohol.

Checkpoints will be at the Naranjo toll plaza, Ruta 1 between San José and Peñas Blanca and the Carretera Braulio Carrillo between San José and the Caribbean coast. The checkpoints will be operated day and night.

For motorists staying in San José the downtown license plate restrictions will be lifted for Semana Santa. However, there will be police activity and road blockages during the various religious processions each parish has. Plate restrictions go back into force Monday, April 5.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 57


U.S. plans unusual worldwide Internet discussion forum

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is conducting Global Pulse 2010, a three-day virtual event aimed at bringing together thousands of people from around the globe to discuss the world's most pressing challenges and envision solutions.

The online event begins Monday.  Global Pulse was created to enable listening, learning and sharing of ideas, this initiative marks the commitment of the U.S. to meeting the challenges of the 21st century by working towards universal goals in partnership with a wide variety of persons and institutions, said the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"We want to hear from individuals who are not normally seated at the table with key decision makers," said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. AID. "To meet our collective challenges, we must take advantage of new technologies that allow us to engage in dialogue with individuals and communities from around the globe."

The themes for Global Pulse 2010 are 10 pressing global challenges within the fields of science and technology, economic opportunity, and human development. This global event will feature international leaders from government, private industry, and civil society organizations, along with influential individuals who will log on to guide the live conversations, encourage participation, provoke deeper thinking, and offer insight into the topics at hand.

Global Pulse 2010 is sponsored in partnership with the Departments of State, Education, Commerce, and Health and Human Services. The Global Pulse 2010 platform will support thousands of participants and guide them to the conversations in which they are most interested.

The U.S. Government hopes motivated individuals will join this global conversation, and online ideas are turned into real world action, U.S. AID said. Registered participants can enter and exit discussions as often as they like. Participants can actively engage in the event by posting comments to any of the discussion forums or by responding to another participant’s comments, the agency said.

Participants in Global Pulse 2010 will need Internet Explorer 6 and above or Firefox 1.5 and above running on a high-speed internet connection. The platform is IBM's Jam. The Web 2.0 platform provides for a  
Global Pulse logo
meaningful brainstorming environment where groups of individuals ranging from a few hundred — to hundreds of thousands — can join in, said the agency.

The Jam platform is especially adept at bringing communities together to discuss social issues, it added. For more information Global Pulse 2010 is at www.GlobalPulse2010.gov.

The designated topics are:

• inspiring a new generation: developing global citizens of the 21st century;

• empowering women and girls: making equality a reality;

• enabling the essential education: what everyone should learn to succeed in the 21st century;

• building stronger partnerships: exploring new ways to promote partnerships between societies, citizens, community organizations, and businesses as a means of creating sustainable solutions to shared development priorities;

• exercising political and civil rights: understanding rights, increasing citizens participation and expanding accountability;

• promoting global health: connecting and empowering individuals and communities to take charge over their own health and well-being;

• advancing entrepreneurship, trade & economic opportunity: finding new ways to advance entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic opportunity;

• fostering science, technology & innovation: discovering new ways to support societies and build capacity by leveraging science and technology;

• supporting a sustainable planet: exchange lessons learned on how to address global climate change;

• pursuing grand challenges: identifying the “grand challenges” of the next decade.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 57

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Monarch navagation linked
to insect's antennas


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services


Deep in the forests of Michoacán, several hours drive north of Mexico City, tourists watch millions of Monarch
butterflies as they cling to fir trees, gather on bushes, or take off in flight.

The striking black and orange insects winter in these mountains every year, traveling up to 4,800 kms to get here, from as far away as Canada. They stay through the winter, then, in the spring, the females leave these fir tree
mornarch
forests and head as far north as Kansas, to lay their eggs on  milkweed plants.

It's an odyssey that inspires Chip Taylor, director of the Monarch Watch program in Lawrence, Kansas, over 2,000 kms north of the butterflies' winter habitat.

"We see them usually between the 14th and 21st of April if they get this far north," he says, adding that many of them can barely fly after their journey.

Just as remarkable as the distance they fly is how the butterflies navigate. After all, they don't have guides, or maps, or GPS equipment. Instead, they use sight, smell, touch and other senses to find their way. To study that, butterfly scientists track the insects' normal flight paths, then they confuse them and track their path again.

Taylor says his research teams used this method to discover that butterflies need accurate information about the earth's magnetic fields. "Ten seconds of exposure to the strong magnetic field was enough to totally disorient the butterflies. They could not maintain a course," he reports.

Sunlight matters, too, and by manipulating artificial sunlight, scientists can fool butterflies into traveling in the wrong direction.

At the University of Massachusetts, neuroscientist Steven Reppert studies the Monarch butterfly's migration with a sophisticated apparatus. It's a kind of flight simulator; essentially a large barrel. His research team connects a butterfly to a thin wire tether to track its normal flight path and then to track how that path changes once they've confused it.

Based on flight simulation studies, Reppert says that Monarchs use visual cues about the daylight sky to set their internal compass, as well as their brain's circadian clock, which regulates hormones and behavior. Reppert says researchers thought they had this control system mostly figured out. But then they took a closer look at the insects' antenna.

"The antenna are really remarkable organs," Reppert says. "They're odor sensors. But they do a lot more than that. They can sense vibrations, they can act as ears, they can sense changes in barometric pressure, so there's a number of things that the antennae can do."

To study these abilities, Reppert's team decided to confuse the butterflies, at least a little, by removing their antenna. But this did more than eliminate their sense of smell and vibration. It totally befuddled their navigation.

Reppert says, "This finding was actually quite heretical to us. We did not know quite what to do with it at the time." So, they devised another experiment.

On the chance that smell mattered more than they had realized, the researchers painted butterflies' antenna to block their odor receptors. And just in case sunlight played a role, Reppert's team used clear paint on some butterflies' antenna and black paint on others. The clear paint allowed in daylight, and those butterflies navigated normally. The ones painted black could not.

This meant that the Monarch's antenna can detect light. But an even bigger surprise was up ahead. Scientists knew that the circadian clock in the insect's brain responds to light signals from the eyes. They had assumed that that system provided all the daylight data that the butterfly's navigation system needed.

But it turns out that the circadian clock signals produced in the butterfly's antenna are at least as crucial as the clock in its brain. The butterfly's bug-sized GPS needs that antenna data, so when winds and other surprises hit, the Monarch still flies in the right direction.

As for how all these pieces work together, Reppert says, the clues are tantalizing. "The antenna are talking to the brain and controlling the behavior in a very specific way. And we need to understand that." 
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 57


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Fighting cyber threats begin
with personal computers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

If you have ever received email, at some point you may have opened an attachment, only to find it infected your computer with a virus. Email is one of a growing number of ways that hackers use to gain control of personal computers.

With the help of a virus or malicious software hackers can even make personal computers part of a larger robot network or "botnet" – that can be operated remotely and used for broader attacks.

According to Randy Vickers, acting director of the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, Department of Homeland Security, many home computers simply don't have adequate, or updated, security software.

“We know good and well that Grandma Smith isn't the bad guy,” said Vickers. “That computer just happened to be compromised and it's just one of the zombies in a botnet, it's one of the hot points that some malicious actor is using.”

Computer experts note that just as quickly as technology expands, hackers find ways to exploit it. That is why security software updates are so important, whether on home computers or government and corporate systems.

Vickers points to the earlier lack of now-common safety features in cars, saying cyber security is something many companies add only as problems develop.

"The first car that was built, if you look at the . . .  even something as sophisticated as the Model-T, didn't have seat belts, didn't have a windshield,” says Vickers. “You hit something and . . .  but over time what have we done? We've learned to anticipate, based on what we've learned in the past."

Steve Lukasik, a national security expert who looks at cyber attack scenarios, says that once hackers get into a network, the range of possibilities are limitless.  "I mean it's like, once you get past a guard gate in a building or at a facility, unless there are other locks and security check points, you can go anywhere," Lukasik added.

One of the attack scenarios that Lukasik has studied in depth is a possible attack on infrastructure, such as a power plant and electrical grid.

"The essence of a cyber attack is to break things. Now that's somewhat different from what a lot of people are concerned about,” Lukasik adds. “But if you want to do damage to a country you have to bring things down in a way that makes the recovery time long."

A 2007 U.S. government video of a simulated hacker attack on the electrical power grid shows just how destructive such an event could be.

In the video, the massive turbine first spews out white smoke, then jolts suddenly, and then more smoke comes pouring out as the system is brought to a complete halt. Lukasik says that one attack like this might not be a big problem, but many attacks could be catastrophic.

He says that while making preparations to defend critical infrastructure systems such as the electrical and communication system is crucial, there is no one solution in the fight against cyber threats.

Winning, experts say, is more a matter of shoring up critical infrastructure, having the agility to adapt and keep up with attacks as they arise. Fighting cyber threats, they say, is a constant battle that never ends.










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