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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, April 11, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 71             E-mail us
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Monitoring stations show the bulk of the radiation has gone to the Arctic.
Winds protect Costa Rica from Japanese radiation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The trade winds appear to be protecting Costa Rica from even tiny amounts of radioactivity produced by the March 11 Japanese earthquake and subsequent damage to the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant.

Data from the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources and the Vienna, Austria,-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

The Preparatory Commission was set up in 1996 to monitor compliance with a nuclear test ban treaty. It has 63 stations around the world that monitor radiation.

Based on reports from these stations, the commission said that radioactivity from Japan has spread nearly all over the Northern Hemisphere but has not entered the Southern Hemisphere. The German institute has produced a map that shows negligible radiation has passed over Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has a monitoring station in Abangares linked to the commission, but it does not detect radiation. The nearest station that does is in Panamá. The Abangares station is designed to detect seismic shocks of nuclear bomb blasts. There also are radiation detection stations in Guadelupe and Melbourne, Florida.

The commission said that radiation from Japan spread all over the hemisphere within 15 days after the earthquake. The German institute's map shows
that radiation in the latitudes where Costa Rica is located appear to be going in a circle in the Pacific. The trade winds blow from the northeast over Costa Rica and appear to cause radioactive material to spin clockwise before it reaches the country.

The commission said that the stations that detect radioactivity are so sensitive that they can detect a concentration of one-tenth of a gram of radioactive xenon evenly distributed within the entire atmosphere. The sensor in Vienna sometimes registers traces of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Although constructed to monitor the  Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the stations are now used to provide seismic and underwater data to tsunami warning centers, the commission said. Japan received data March 11, and the commission said this contributed to rapid evacuations that saved many lives when the tsunami hit.

The tsunami flooded the nuclear power plants and led to the malfunctions, explosions and release of radioactive gases.

Said the commission:

" . . . the levels detected at stations outside Japan up until April 7 have been far below levels that could cause harm to humans and the environment. The levels are comparable to natural background radiation such as cosmic radiation and radiation from the environment on earth and lower than from manmade sources such as medical applications or nuclear power plants (under normal operations) or isotope production facilities."

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Pesky bridge closed again
three nights this week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials are closing the Autopista General Cañas at the Río Virilla bridge again Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The closing will be at 10:30 p.m. and last until 5 a.m. the following day, officials said.

This is yet another effort to repair the recently repaired bridge. The effort this time is to finish repairing the faulty concrete that began breaking up as soon as the highway was open to traffic again earlier this year.

The concrete was spread on a grid of steel bars to form the bridge deck.  Officials still have not said exactly why but the concrete began breaking up in the spaces between the steel.

Contractors did work nights for a time ending last March 20.

Traffic police keeping eye
on buses for Semana Santa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic police will be in civilian clothes during Semana Santa, which starts in a week, in order to keep close eyes on bus drivers.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that these undercover officers will ticket the bus driver, usually at the final stop, if he has committed any violations during the trip. The violations can include talking on the cell telephone while driving, being rude to passengers or for carrying too many passengers.

The ministry said that police awarded 48 tickets to bus drivers for violations last year during the Easter vacation.

Officers also will be checking buses at depots for correct paperwork, the ministry said.

Bus companies add extra vehicles to accommodate the Semana Santa rush as many Costa Ricans head for the beaches and mountains. There also is heavy traffic to both Nicaragua and Panamá by persons with families there.

Orchestra going to Pacific
for series of four concerts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional is going on tour to the Pacific coast.

The first concert is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Escuela Julio Acosta en Paquera. Wednesday the orchestra will play in the Gimnasio Municipal in Cóbano at 6 p.m. Both communities are in the southern part of the Nicoya peninsula.

Thursday the performance will be in Mirama at 8 p.m. Friday there is a 10 a.m. concert in a gym at a school in El Roble de Puntarenas, according to the program.

The concerts are free, and orchestra members also will be giving lessons to students of the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical, said an announcement.

Our reader's opinion
Restaurant owner showed
contempt for his patrons

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I've lived in Costa Rica for 14 years, 12 of those in the neighborhood where Cafe Mundo is located. I've enjoyed literally hundreds of meals there over the years including birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners, and meals with friends and business associates. I've known some of the wonderful staff for years.

Over the past year or so my impression is the food quality has suffered as the restaurant has grown larger. As they've expanded, they've enjoyed more and more business from groups of tourists who stay at many small hotels in the neighborhood.

When I found out Cafe Mundo received a warning from the health authorities 40 days before they were closed, I was amazed at the level of contempt demonstrated towards their clients. Imagine serving both locals and tourists, here for a limited time, food prepared in conditions the health authorities declared unacceptable. Health Department report is HERE.

Imagine the locals and tourists who suffered hours or days of disruption of plans and great discomfort because of the disregard of Cafe Mundo for their well being.

I will not return.
Charles Gohmann
San José

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, Monday, April 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 71
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Protest Thursday against plans to reopen Bellavista mine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thursday will see another protest by anti-mining activists. This time the principal target is the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental and the reborn Bellavista mine in  Montes de Oro near the town of Miramar east of Puntarenas.

The protest will be at the environmental watchdog's office in Barrio Escalante at 7:30 a.m. The organizer is Ni Una Sola Mina, the group that has battled the Crucitas mine recently.

The protest is triggered because the operator of the closed mining operation seeks to reopen it, said the organization.

Heavy rains caused the soil on which refining operations at the mine rested to move, and key elements of the mining process slid downhill. Mining operations there started in April 2005, and operator Glencairn Gold Corp. ended them in August 2007 due to ground movement. The landslide happened the next October. Gold has soared in value since the closing.

The mine concession now is held by a firm called B2Gold, which said that it and Glencairn have conducted an extensive monitoring program and site reclamation. The firm said that the Secretaria Tecnica National Ambiental conducted audits of the site that show the soil has remained
 stable and that there has been no contamination of surface or groundwater.

B2Gold said it had planted 1,000 trees on the mine site to control runoff.

The company said that the Bellavista property has proven and probable reserves of 314,000 ounces, and measured and indicated resources of 421,000 ounces.

B2Gold said it is investigating various alternatives relating to the Bellavista property, including the potential for re-opening the mine using different technologies. Glencairn used a heap leach operation that involved leaching the gold from rock with cyanide.

Since the Belevista mine was closed, the legislature passed a law forbidding open pit mines in Costa Rica and restricting other types of gold mining. The Glencairn concession, now in the hands of B2Gold predates that law.

Ni Una Sola Mina said that B2Gold has plans to build a 7-kilometer (4.4-mile) water line to Agua Buena.

The current mining site is adjacent to the Río Ciruelas that flows into the Gulf of Nicoya.

15-year-old girl, in search of her pet, dies in flaming home
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 15-year-old girl died in a fire that swept her home late Saturday because she stayed on the structure to find a pet dog, firefighters said.

The blaze, later blamed on an electrical problem, took place in La Trinidad de Moravia.

Fire officials said that the girl escaped the blaze along with her parents and a 12-year-old brother.  All of them managed to get onto a roof from the second-floor window of the home. The parents and the brother jumped to safety into a neighbor's yard after a sofa was positioned to cushion their fall.

The girl, however, remained on the roof, and firefighters said the roof finally gave way and she fell into the flaming first floor. The girl's body was found in a bathroom on the
first floor, said a report from the Cuerpo de Bomberos. She was the nation's first fire death in 2011, the bomberos said.
Her name was not available immediately.
Earlier Saturday Firemen in Cartago extinguished a blaze they said they believe was set. The fire was in the center of town in an apartment. Inside was an 82-year-old man, they said.

The man suffered burns of the head and his lungs, said firemen. He was in Hospital Max Perralta. Firemen managed to save the bulk of the structure, and the case was turned over to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Sunday another electrical problem, this one in a television set, caused a blaze in living quarters occupied by a man who was on oxygen. Firemen managed to get him from the scene without damage.

They said he suffered from emphysema.

The blaze was in La Uruca about 7:50 a.m., a fire report said.

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Cost of crime in Central America reported as staggering

By the World Bank news staff

Growing crime and violence in Central America not only have an immediate human and social toll, they also pose a tremendous threat to development potential in the region. These sources of instability may decrease regional gross domestic product by 8 percent, once health, institutional, private security, and material expenses are accounted for.

According to “Crime and Violence in Central America: A Development Challenge,” a new World Bank report,  a 10 percent reduction in homicide rates could boost annual economic growth per capita by as much as one full percentage point of gross domestic product, in those Central American countries with the most homicides.

As it stands now, however, much of the region is headed in the opposite direction. Conditions in some areas of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are so extreme — with nearly 1 homicide per 1000 inhabitants — they have undermined the prospects of peace and stability that emerged following the resolution of the region‘s civil wars. Meanwhile in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, crime and violence levels are significantly lower, but their steady rise in recent years emerges as a serious concern.

“Public opinion polls show that a large majority of the population in these countries view crime as an unsettling deterrent to their current and future well being,” said Rodrigo Serrano-Berthet, World Bank senior social development specialist and one of the authors of the report. “Crime and violence also drag down economic growth in significant ways. Aside from the victims’ lost wages and labor, high crime rates harm investment climates and divert scarce government resources to strengthen law enforcement rather than promote economic activity.”

According to the report, these threats weaken key institutions. Existing evidence indicates that drug trafficking increases corruption levels in the criminal justice systems and tarnishes the legitimacy of state institutions in the public mind. Victims of crime, on average, tend to distrust criminal justice systems more. They also approve of taking the law into their own hands and believe less strongly that the rule of law should always be respected, the report said.

The report presents a detailed analysis on three main drivers of high crime and violence rates in Central America: drug trafficking, youth violence and gangs, and the widespread availability of firearms:

•  An estimated 90 percent of cocaine arriving into the United States travels through the Central America corridor. Drug trafficking is the single main factor behind rising violence levels in the region. “Hot spot” drug trafficking
areas tend to experience crime rates more than 100 percent higher than non-“hot spot” areas.

•  There are more than 900 gangs or maras in Central America today, with some 70,000 members. Men age 15 to 34 comprise most of their membership and account for the overwhelming majority of homicide victims. Still, while gangs are doubtless a contributor to crime in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, multiple sources suggest only about 15 percent of homicides are gang-related.

•  Lengthy civil wars and increases of imported firearms in the years since have left Central America awash in weapons. Separate studies indicated about 4.5 million small arms were in the region in 2007 — the vast majority of them illegal. All Central American countries have legislation to control gun ownership; still implementation and enforcement remain poor.

The report also examines weak criminal justice systems that exacerbate crime and violence. While maintaining high levels of impunity, these institutions are further undermined by the corruptive power of drug trafficking.

“Clearly, there is no quick and easy fix to Central America‘s crime and violence spiral,” according to Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank country director for Central America. “Rather, the bank‘s analysis indicates government leaders will need to persevere because the fight is likely to be long lasting, requiring a multi-pronged strategy in the short, medium and long term.”

Reducing illegal drugs and arms trafficking will be key in any regional strategy to fight crime. Still, the transnational nature of these criminal enterprises suggests that the region cannot do it alone and will need the support of the United States and other neighbors in this effort, the report said.

In that regard, focusing resources on prevention represents a wise policy option. Existing evidence suggests that the most cost-effective prevention programs focus on children and families, such as early childhood development, effective parenting or school-based violence prevention programs, the report said, adding that initiatives that provide meaningful alternatives to at-risk youth are also critical.

The report also said that such prevention efforts need to be complemented by criminal justice reform. Today all six Central American countries have advanced towards more transparent adversarial criminal procedures. Reforms should now focus on improving judicial efficiency and effectiveness, reducing corruption and impunity, boosting inter-agency collaboration, and improving access to justice, especially for poor and disenfranchised groups, it said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 11, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 71

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Cities found unprepared
for climate change impact

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Cities worldwide are failing to take necessary steps to protect residents from the likely impacts of climate change, even though billions of urban dwellers are vulnerable to heat waves, sea level rise and other changes associated with warming temperatures.

A new examination of urban policies by Patricia Romero Lankao at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., in conjunction with an international research project on cities and climate change, warns that many of the world's fast-growing urban areas, especially in developing countries, will likely suffer disproportionately from the impacts of changing climate.

Her work also concludes that most cities are failing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that affect the atmosphere.

"Climate change is a deeply local issue and poses profound threats to the growing cities of the world," said Ms. Romero Lankao. "But too few cities are developing effective strategies to safeguard their residents."

Ms. Romero Lankao's studies appear this month in a special issue of Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability and in a synthesis article in an upcoming issue of European Planning Studies.

Ms. Romero Lankao, a sociologist specializing in climate change and urban development, surveyed policies in cities worldwide while drawing on a number of recent studies of climate change and cities.

She concluded that cities are falling short in two areas: preparing for the likely impacts of climate change and cutting their own greenhouse gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel use.

With more than half the world's population living in cities, scientists are increasingly focusing on the potential impacts of climate change on these areas.

The locations and dense construction patterns of cities often place their populations at greater risk for natural disasters, including those expected to worsen with climate change.

Potential threats associated with climate include storm surges that can inundate coastal areas and prolonged hot weather that can heat heavily paved cities more than surrounding areas.

The impacts of such natural events can be magnified in an urban environment.

For example, a prolonged heat wave can exacerbate existing levels of air pollution, causing widespread health problems.

Humala again is first
in Perú initial voting round

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Exit polls show left-wing nationalist Ollanta Humala has won the first round of Peru's presidential election Sunday.

The polls indicate a close race for second place between Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, former World Bank economist and investment banker.

Official figures released late Sunday with 43 percent of the votes counted said Humala had 27 percent of the votes, Kuczynski 23.6 percent, and Ms. Fujimori 21.8 percent.

Trailing in fourth place with 15.4 percent was former President Alejandro Toledo. 

With no candidate expected to capture a simple majority, the top two vote-getters will vie for the presidency in a June 5 runoff.

Humala prevailed in the first round of the 2006 presidential election only to lose a runoff.

Humala was winning with 31.6 percent in one exit poll,  followed by Fujimori with 21.4 percent; Kuczynski with 19.2 percent; and Toledo with 16.1 percent.

Peru has seen a decade of rapid economic growth, but a third of its population still live in poverty.  Much of the campaign has focused on continuing this growth while ensuring the poor also see some of the increased prosperity.
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Acoustics, music failings
hurt Shakira's performance

By Stephen Petretti*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A long-awaited concert for Costa Rica with one of the most famous international stars was a bit disappointing Sunday night.  Nothing to do with the performance of Shakira.  But rather the organization of the acoustics within the stadium. 

After a two-and-a-half hour delayed start, the first song went with an unsettled booing from the crowd.  Apparently the microphone of Sharika wasn't working properly.  It took midway through the second song of predominately booing that the concert was halted.  After a 15-minute adjustment, the concert resumed.  Still with an inadequate volume that required audience members to strain to hear well over the other instruments. 

Along with the poor acoustics at the stadium, the mixing of tracks and instruments was less than professional.  The crowd sounded louder singing along with Shakira than Shakira herself.  You couldn't hear her own singing.  But her famous moves and pelvic vibrations help offset some of the discrepancies.  After all isn't that what helped her get famous.  

The whole concert lasted only an hour and a half. One  of the shortest concerts I have ever attended.  Which included the encores of "Hips Don't Lie" and "The World Cup Sud Africa" song.  She was also the only act there. No warmup bands. And not counting a DJ who tried doing something. But once again the volume of his mike was horrible and inaudible.  When he was through, the audience waited another hour of no music being piped through the speakers that could be heard.  That is a must at all concerts, playing music very loud before and in-between acts.  That should of been a clue with the stage hands and engineers to fix the problem before Shakira took the stage. 

The last concert I attended was the Green Day concert at the old Ricardo stadium.  That blew away Shakira's concert.  We love you Shakira, and it wasn't your fault.  You are still the most hottest and talented artist alive right now.

The national stadium needs to get their ACT together if they plan to continue entertaining concert venues.  Acoustics is THE main priority.  A set of real sound engineers a MUST.  And  they must do comprehensive sound checks during the day before the concert.

There is a lot of room for improvement.  Lets hope it is accomplished before the next major musical event.

*Mr.  Petretti is a reader who volunteered this review.

Parade in Alajuela today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Juan Santamaría Day festivities begin at 9 a.m. today in the Alajuela park that carries the name of the hero of the Battle of Rivas.

A parade is expected to start about 10 a.m. made up mostly of Alajuela area students.

Today is a legal holiday. The U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions are closed. A.M. Costa Rica is open.

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