A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, April 12, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 73          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Chiverre is squash that looks like a watermelon, but the shell is very hard.  It is the Semana Santa vegetable from which  traditional chiverre honey is made. Although
in shorter supply this year than normally, you can try your hand with our instructions. This shot was made at a Desamparados farmers market. See story and recipes  HERE!

Tourists should leave pets in jungle and cocaine at beach
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists have to be careful about the types of souvenirs they take home from Costa Rica. Rare birds and plants are out.

And a Canadian visitor discovered Monday that cocaine, although readily available here, does not travel well.  Policía de Control de Drogas detained him and put him in the hospital because they believed he was carrying small packets of cocaine in his stomach.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía has set up roadside control points to thwart vacationers who head back home with rare plants or wildlife. At least two environmental groups are assisting.

The University Nacional estimated that nearly 500,000 forest animals are being kept in Costa Rican homes, said the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre. Among these, parrots are prized.
Luis Diego Marín, president of the Preservacionista group, said the number of kidnapped wild animals has declined in recent years, thanks in part to the work of the ministry and the environmental groups.

The Canadian, identified as a 24-year-old man with the last name of Burrel, is still in the hospital as police await him to expel more packets of presumed cocaine that he had ingested. He had been at Playa Hermosa.

Burrel was brought to the attention of drug police by workers at the hotel where he stayed. They found 60 small packets of cocaine totaling 558 grams after he had checked out. A female companion was held briefly until police established that she was not carrying cocaine, they said.

Both had been detained at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia where they were to have been passengers on a chartered flight to Canada.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 73

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Churchgoers will touch
thorns and nails in Escazú

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A unique “tactile Communion” service Friday evening will kick off a weekend of services and programs for Easter at San José’s Escazú Christian Fellowship.

The special Communion involves the contemplation of nails, a crown of thorns and a wooden cross that are passed among the participants as they mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

“It’s quite different than a regular Communion service involving bread and wine or grape juice that is used to remember Jesus’ sacrifice,” said Rev. Kenneth D. MacHarg, the pastor of the church. “The tactile Communion service helps people to experience the reality of what the cross meant to Jesus.”

The service will begin at 6 p.m. and will be sponsored in cooperation with International Baptist Church. The service will be held at the Baptist church facility, just north of the Guachipelín exit on the Santa Ana highway, one exit west of the Multiplaza Shopping Center.

Both churches are English-language congregations serving expatriates and English-speaking Costa Ricans.

The Escazú Christian Fellowship is an interdenominational church and meets every Sunday evening at 5 p.m. In the Baptist church building. Sunday School classes for children and youth are offered during the evening service.

The International Baptist Church meets on Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

This Sunday morning, the two churches will again cooperate to offer a Community Easter Sunrise Service at 7 a.m. At the Baptist church facility.

Both Rev. MacHarg and Pastor Paul Dreessen of International Baptist will each preach a mini-sermon as part of the service.

The Sunrise service will be followed by an Easter brunch at around 8:30 a.m. Those planning on eating should bring a coffee cake, fruit platter, bread, bagels and cream cheese or cold cuts and cheese to feed 15 people, said an announcement.

Escazú Christian Fellowship will then hold its regular Sunday evening service at 5 p.m., again at the Baptist church facility.

For more information on these events or other programs of the church, including home Bible studies and other fellowship activities, those interested can call 395-9653.

Tax filing deadline relief
possible for U.S. citizens

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. citizens who are sweating the April 17 deadline for filing their 2005 income tax return can get a six-month automatic filing extension.

That's the word from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which noted that an extension grants extra time for filing the tax return only, not for paying any taxes due. Taxpayers will owe interest on any past due tax and may be subject to a late payment penalty if payment is not made by the original due date of the return, said the agency.

U.S. citizens who are overseas residents already get a break in the filing deadline.

The six-month extension is automatic as long as it is timely filed and includes a proper estimate of tax due, said the I.R.S. Taxpayers do not need to sign the extension request or provide an explanation for requesting an extension, the agency said. The deadline for filing would then be Oct. 16.

Appropriate forms are available on the agency Web site.

Vehicle kills farmer
standing at his house

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A farmer became the fifth traffic fatality of the holiday season Monday in Cartago Norte de Upala. when a car swerved off the road and struck him while he stood in front of his home.

The dead man was identified as Evenor López Carmona, 37. The driver of the car that hit the man fled.

Four other persons have died since Saturday when the official count began. Three died in collisions and one in a rollover.

Truckload of cattle
intercepted by police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police at La Fortuna have returned 17 head of cattle that were being moved out of the area by truckers over the weekend. Fuerza Pública officers decided that the truckers presented them with false papers in an effort to get permits for the animals.

The cattle came from a ranch at Tierras Morenas, Tilarán, Guanacaste, on the opposite end of Lake Arenal.

Once they spotted inconsistencies in the documents carried by the truckers, police ended up calling the owner of the cattle. He expressed surprise that the cattle were on the move, police said.

No newspaper Friday

A.M. Costa Rica will publish tomorrow but not Good Friday. Consequently, the newspaper offices will be closed Thursday and Friday.

The newspaper will be published Monday and Tuesday, but the newspaper offices will not be open Monday.

Of course, newspaper staffers are available nearly all the time via e-mail.
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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 73


The best defense against crooks is a bad reputation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One group of Central Valley residents is not vacationing at the beach.  These are the burglars who work overtime during vacations when some imprudently leave their household guard down.

Investigators agree that the best protection against thieves continues to be two aggressive dogs and a household staff that always insures that someone remains at home. Alarms are great if someone responds.

This year, the Monday Juan Santamaría holiday gives the criminal element an extra working day. Actually it is early morning when the average criminals ply their trade, usually between 3 and 5:30 a.m.

There are exceptions, such as the bold burglars who show up in an exclusive subdivision at midday, talk their way past the guards and clean out their target home as if they were a moving company. Frequently these criminal gangs have inside help, a guard, a maid, a jealous neighbor, who supplies them with valuable information.

Each neighborhood seems to have its local thieves, perhaps drug users who grab anything that is not secured. They sometimes can be heard fleeing over the nearby roofs after being discovered in a criminal act. These sorts occupy the lowest rung on the ladder of thievery.

A bit more clever and with more tools are the break-in artists who carry auto jacks and hacksaws to cut their way through razorwire, chains, bars and steel gates.

A good example of the durability of bars around homes can be seen on television every time police units make a raid. Officers usually just back a truck up to a gated entrance, hook up some sturdy chain and drive off with the gate. Criminals can do this, too, but usually with less noise.

Costa Rican home construction seems ideally suited for break-ins. Many crooks come through the roof by removing plastic sheets. Others hack through the concrete block wall. The more subtle use portable electric drills to defeat deadbolts.

Someone at home is a great defense

Criminals here seem to prefer the confrontational approach, perhaps because they are lacking in skills. The last successful safe cracking was four years ago but armed robberies and cell phone snatches are an everyday risk.

Burglars also seem to end up with hard to move kitchen appliances instead of cash.

The wise expat keeps little of high value in the home. Expensive jewelry can't really be worn in public, so there is little use in having it. Plastic is less tempting than cash, and passports and important papers can easily be hidden.

A bare home will give an expat a bad reputation among thieves, which is the best kind to have.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 12, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 73

Pacific Ocean temperatures show 5 million year dip
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Brown University geologists have created the longest continuous record of ocean surface temperatures, dating back 5 million years. The record shows slow, steady cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific, a finding that challenges the notion that the Ice Ages alone sparked a global cooling trend.

Using chemical clues mined from ocean mud, researchers at the Providence, Rhode Island, Ivy League university have generated the longest continuous record of ocean temperatures on Earth.

The 5-million-year record is a history of temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, located off the coast of South America. The area is an anomaly — a huge swath of cool water in the tropics — that plays an important role in global climate. In this area, trade winds pull nutrient-rich cold water to the surface, which makes for fertile fisheries off the coasts of Peru, Chile and Ecuador. The interplay of wind and water can also fuel El Niño events, a large-scale warming in the equatorial Pacific that slows the upwelling of cold water and forces changes in weather, such as droughts or floods, far from the tropics.

In the equatorial Pacific, the Brown geology team found that surface temperatures were 27° C (80.6 F) 5 million years ago. Surface temperatures are 23° C (73.4 F) today. In between, they found a pattern of steady cooling — roughly one degree Celsius (1.8 F) every million years.

This finding, published in Science, contradicts the long-standing notion that rapid glacier growth in the high northern latitudes about 3 million years ago alone set off dramatic cooling of the global climate. The finding shows instead that glaciation was part of a long-term cooling trend.

The climate record suggests that ocean regions near
Antarctica were the main driver of equatorial Pacific cooling by continuously pumping cold water into the area. This finding was bolstered by additional evidence that glacial cycles affected the tropical Pacific long before the advent of large ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The Southern Hemisphere, not the Northern Hemisphere, more likely had a stronger effect on temperature and productivity in the eastern Pacific,” said Kira Lawrence, a graduate student in the Department of Geological Sciences and the lead author of the Science paper. “We may need to refocus where we look to understand the evolution of climate over the past 5 million years.”

Brown investigators used sediment cores pulled from hundreds of meters below the surface of the Pacific by a ship operated by the Ocean Drilling Program, an international research organization. Moving down the cores, collecting small samples of gray mud, scientists can go back in time. The end result: Thousands of glass vials filled with climate history.

To date the sediments, the geologists analyzed fossils and traces of oxygen trapped in the shells of microscopic ocean organisms. To get temperatures, the Brown team looked to algae, infinitesimal surface-dwellers that produce fatty compounds called alkenones. Algae crank out two kinds of alkenones depending on the surrounding water temperature. When water is cooler, algae make more of one kind. When water is warmer, they produce more of another. By carefully measuring the amount of these alkenones in each sample, researchers were able to calculate past surface temperatures.

The resulting 5-million-year timeline might have a practical use. Scientists trying to predict future climate change may use the data in computer simulations that model natural climate variability as well as predict the impact of accelerated warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Venezuela will go ahead with military purchases of planes and boats
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela says it will purchase 10 military transport planes and eight patrol boats from Spain despite U.S. attempts to block the deal.

A Venezuelan navy commander, Angel Lopez, says a team will head to Spain to supervise construction of the aircraft and vessels by the companies EADS-Casa and Navantia.

He told a state-run news agency that the firms have fulfilled all the requirements in order to start the
work and that Venezuela expects to take delivery of the first vessel in 2008.

Earlier this year, the United States denied Spain the licenses to sell Venezuela 12 transport and maritime surveillance planes which contained U.S. equipment or technology. Spain vowed to replace the U.S. technology and honor its contract with Venezuela.

The U.S. says it blocked the planned sale because of concerns the move would destabilize Latin America. President Hugo Chavez condemned the move as an act of imperialism.

Venezuela and Cuba are planning to open up old Soviet oil refinery
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba and Venezuela's state-owned oil companies have joined forces to re-open a petroleum refinery in Cuba.

Cuban president Fidel Castro and Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramírez witnessed the signing of the agreement Monday in Havana. The deal will re-start operations at a Soviet-era refinery in the city of
Cienfuegos, on Cuba's southwestern coast.

Cuban state media report that the deal gives Cuba 51 percent and Venezuela 49 percent of the refinery's assets.

Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba, Adan Chavez, told reporters that the two countries will invest up to $1 billion to re-open the refinery. Venezuela sells Cuba some 90,000 barrels of oil a day.

Jo Stuart
About us

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