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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, April 22, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 78        E-mail us
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Some Earth Day marchers get an early start
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Exactly 40 years ago when a reporter wrote about the first Earth Day, he became carried away by the moment.

Of efforts by volunteers to pull shopping carts out of the Rockaway River that fed Jersey City's water supply, he said:

"And the question remains what kind of slobs would throw shopping carts in the river in the first place."

Some 40 years later, that still is the question, even though that comment never made the paper. Today is Earth Day in most of the nations on the planet. But the protection of the environment still rests with individuals. In Costa Rica that includes persons who dump strange substances in the sink or simply put their garbage into the street.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970 giant bureaucracies have been created. Some have done good work, like cleaning up the Hudson River that runs along the west side of New York City. There is the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. Still there is a lot of wheel spinning.
 
This will be the case today when hundreds, perhaps thousands of Costa Ricans march against the open pit mine that is being constructed in the northern part of the country. The Sala IV constitutional court already has give a green light to the project. Yet environmental organizations seek to display their strength by marshaling their supporters.

A less political type of demonstration took place Wednesday in San José.

Between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. mostly foreign young people walked from the Coca Cola bus station to the Plaza de la Cultura. They wore shirts that carried messages in support of the environment.

The estimated 50 young people, mostly from the United States, Europe and South America, stopped at the sound of a whistle and stood silently showing their messages to passersby.

Rob Ching, in charge of the activities and dressed as a clown, said that the object of the march was to raise the consciousness of Costa Ricans and of expats and encourage them to protect natural resources. The group plans to repeat its demonstration Friday.
Earth Day marchers
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce
Some downtown marchers wore clown noses

This was not the kind of demonstration that U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson had in mind when he proposed Earth Day in 1969.

He saw the activity more like the teach-ins that were popular in developing an informed common front against the war in Vietnam. Nelson's idea gave way to more public demonstrations that encouraged volunteer actions.

The protest today has more to do with politics than the environment. There also is a hint of anti-foreign sentiment because the local mining company is owned by a Canadian firm.

Industrias Infinito S.A., developer of the gold mine, has had the concession since 2002 but has faced an array of bureaucratic problems, including Sala IV constitutional court appeals. The march today is as much against the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration as the mining company. Arias has backed the mining effort and even issued a decree facilitating its efforts.

Many of those marching also opposed drilling for oil off the Caribbean coast and the free trade treaty with the United States.

In fact, one of the sponsors is the organization OilWatch, which won its battle against offshore drilling.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 78

Costa Rica Expertise
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Anti-drug patrols shifting
into the Caribbean sea


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The campaign against illegal drug traffickers is shifting to the Caribbean.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas has put into service a restored 65-foot patrol boat with the help of the U.S. Southern Command. The boat soon will leave Puntarenas for the Caribbean via the Panamá Canal.

The Caribbean has had much less obvious anti-drug activity than the Pacific, in part because the smuggling routes are much further to the east than Costa Rican national waters. But that is changing.

Intelligence reports say that the major Colombian cartels are entrenching themselves into the relatively unprotected east coast of Nicaragua immediately north of Costa Rica.

In the past, the Costa Rican Caribbean coast has been a landing area for smugglers, who would then put their illegal cargo into trucks for the rest of the trip north.

Last week U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told leaders from the eastern Caribbean that the United States is prepared to do more to help them fight the drug trade and tackle other regional security challenges.

Gates stopped in Bridgetown, Barbados, Friday for a meeting of the seven-nation Regional Security System, an organization that tries to coordinate the security efforts of the region's small island-states, particularly in fighting illegal drug trafficking.

Gates acknowledged that the region is under more pressure from traffickers, in part due to Mexico's counter-narcotics effort, being made with U.S. assistance.

One effort to train for drug interdiction is going on now. Tradewinds is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored annual exercise conducted in the region designed to improve responses to regional security threats. This year’s joint, combined interagency exercise is being held in Belize and Jamaica through Monday, and the exercise includes more than 400 military and security personnel from 15 Caribbean Basin nations, the United Kingdom and the United States, said the Southern Command.

The Costa Rican coast guard presence in the Caribbean is several times greater than the single boat that Nicaragua has patrolling the Mosquito Coast. The restored patrol boat, the "Punta Burica," will be the largest vessel the coast guard has in the Caribbean.

The boat was designed in 1978 in Mississippi and was allowed to fall into disrepair. The boat was headed to become one of those artificial reefs where old sea craft are laid to rest. But after six months of work and a $460,000 investment, the boat is ready for action.

It has two Cummings 800-horsepower engines and can reach 37 kph, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. A new boat of the same type would cost $5 million, the ministry said.

In the area the boat will patrol smugglers use a variety of craft. Not all the drugs are carried on the go-fast open boats with four outboard motors as in the Pacific. Stealth and disguise also is used in the Caribbean.

But there also are the air routes. Honduras to the north is a frequent destination for drug flights. One or two abandoned aircraft are found there each month. And the entire coast from Costa Rica north into Honduras is not patrolled intensively.

The extent of the drug smugglers operations in eastern Nicaragua is not known. Locals are not very communicative with the national authorities, and police presence is scant. This is the same area that the force of southern Contras dominated during the Nicaraguan civil war.

There are some reports of new construction in the hills overlooking the Caribbean as well as docks for unloading boats. Typically smugglers will accumulate drugs in a storage area for future shipment. That has been the case in the southern and central pacific of Costa Rica.

However, Costa Rican and U.S. Navy and Coast Guard activity is intense in the Pacific, and there are radar bases to detect low-flying planes. These are the reasons the Caribbean is becoming more attractive for smugglers.


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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
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News of Venezuela
News of Colombia
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 78

Democrats Abroad book sale

Tourist arrivals reported to have increased 11.6 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism institute said that 45,766 more North Americans came to the country in the first three months of 2010 than in the same period in 2009. Total arrivals from the north were 319,043, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The institute bases its figures on the data it gets from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Over all, the institute said that the country received 636,434 tourists in the first three months of 2010. That was 65,800 tourists more than in the same period in 2009, the institute said. The overall increase was put at 11.6 percent and at 16.8 for North Americans.

The tourism institute said that the increase in visitors was a sign that the economic recession was beginning to lessen.

Still, those in the tourism industry say that although there may be many tourists here, the per capita expenditure is a lot less than in previous years. The institute had no figures on that.

The number of tourists during the first three months of this year still was lower than the number who came in 2008.
That was 648,046, according to the institute. The tourist
arrivals are skewed because many persons who are not traditional tourists enter with a tourist visa. That includes thousands of visitors from adjacent Nicaragua.

The institute said that the 352,962 tourists who arrived in the first three months of the year at Juan Santamaría airport were 9.8 percent more than the 321,532 who arrived during the same period in 2009.

Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia saw 79,482 tourists in the first three months of the year, a 27.4 percent increase over 2009, said the institute.

The institute has embarked on a promotional campaign in Costa Rica with McCann Erickson, the advertising agency. The institute has budgeted 300 million colons for the campaign that has as its slogan "Aqui se cura todo." The campaign runs from March until July, the institute said.  That is about $593,000. The campaign emphasizes La Fortuna de San Carlos, Monteverde and the northern Caribbean, the institute said.

The new immigration law has created many more categories for arrivals. So in the future the reports on the number of tourists will be more accurate. For example members of sports teams will be listed separately.

space exhibit
A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Avendaño Arce
Astronaut Franklin Chang, or at least his robot, is always on duty at the Museo de los Niños in its new space exhibit.

Youngsters can blast off in new musuem exhibit
By Manuel Avendaño Arce
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de los Niños has opened a new exhibit about space and space travel. It includes a robot of Franklin Chang Diaz, the U.S.-Costa Rican astronaut. The exhibit, which opened Monday, includes some of the suits used by astronauts.

The exhibit opened just as the museum begins to celebrate its 16th birthday. That will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday with some events that will feature space and space travel.  The museum is in the former national prison in north San José.
The space exhibit includes nine computers with broadband access that allow visitors to access the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Web sites and Google Earth to see some of the planet in 3-D. There also are some space suits that Chang used in his record space walks.

There also is a small version of a NASA spaceship for children and a simulator that provides a virtual trip into the universe in three dimension. Youngsters can travel through the solar system and see the various planets.

The project has the support of the Ministerio de Educación Pública, the Instituto Costarricense de Ciencia y Cultura and NASA. Construction began last May.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 78

Escazú Christian Fellowship
xx
Guoadalupe Missionary Baptist Church


Treasury Department graphic of new banknote shows the orange bell in the inkwell and the purple security band to the right of Ben Franklin

new money
U.S. Department of the Treasury graphic


New U.S. $100 note contains advanced security features

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
 
The U.S. Department of the Treasury unveiled the new design for the $100 note. Wednesday complete with advanced technology to combat counterfeiting, the new design for the $100 note retains the traditional look of U.S. currency.

“As with previous U.S. currency redesigns, this note incorporates the best technology available to ensure we’re staying ahead of counterfeiters,” said Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner.

“When the new design $100 note is issued Feb. 10, 2011, the approximately 6.5 billion older design $100s already in circulation will remain legal tender,” said Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. “U.S. currency users should know they will not have to trade in their older design $100 notes when the new ones begin circulating.”

There are a number of security features in the redesigned $100 note, including two new features, the 3-D security ribbon and the bell in the inkwell. These security features are easy for consumers and merchants to use to authenticate their currency, the Treasury Department said.

The blue 3-D security ribbon on the front of the new $100 note contains images of bells and 100s that move and change from one to the other as a user tilts the note. The bell in the inkwell on the front of the note is another new security feature. The bell changes color from copper to green when the note is tilted, an effect that makes it seem to appear and disappear within the copper inkwell.

“The new security features announced today come after more than a decade of research and development to protect our currency from counterfeiting. To ensure a seamless introduction of the new $100 note into the financial system, we will conduct a global public education program to ensure that users of U.S. currency are aware of the new security features,” said Rosie Rios, treasurer of the United States.
"For 145 years, the men and women of the United States Secret Service have worked diligently to protect the integrity of U.S. currency from counterfeiters," said Mark Sullivan, Secret Service director. "During that time, our agency has evolved to keep pace with the advanced methodologies employed by the criminals we pursue. What has remained constant in combating counterfeiting, however, is the effectiveness of consumer education initiatives that urge merchants and customers to examine the security features on the notes they receive."

Although less than 1/100th of 1 percent of the value of all U.S. currency in circulation is reported counterfeit, the $100 note is the most widely circulated and most often counterfeited denomination outside the U.S.

“The $100 is the highest value denomination that we issue, and it circulates broadly around the world,” said Michael Lambert, assistant director for cash at the Federal Reserve Board. “Therefore, we took the necessary time to develop advanced security features that are easy for the public to use in everyday transactions, but difficult for counterfeiters to replicate.”

The new design for the $100 note retains three effective security features from the previous design: the portrait watermark of Benjamin Franklin, the security thread, and the color-shifting numeral 100.

The new $100 note also displays American symbols of freedom, including phrases from the Declaration of Independence and the quill the Founding Fathers used to sign this historic document.  Both are located to the right of the portrait on the front of the note.

The back of the note has a new vignette of Independence Hall featuring the rear, rather than the front, of the building. Both the vignette on the back of the note and the portrait on the front have been enlarged, and the oval that previously appeared around both images has been removed.
A more detailed description of the redesigned $100 note and its features is at www.newmoney.gov.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 78

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

World economies recovering
at faster rate, IMF says


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Monetary Fund says the global economy will grow at a faster-than-expected rate this year as it continues to rebound from a crippling financial crisis.  The Washington-based international lending agency says the emerging markets of Brazil, China and India will help lead the global rebound. 

In its latest World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund forecasts global economic growth of 4.2 percent for this year.  Its forecast for growth in 2011 remained at 4.3 percent, unchanged from its last forecast in January.

The fund's chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, says the world economy is at an important stage of its efforts to rebound from the global financial crisis.

"A global depression has been averted," said Blanchard. "The world economy is recovering, and recovering better than we had previously thought likely.  This is certainly welcome news."

Blanchard notes that emerging economies are leading the way in helping boost world economic growth.  Asia is forecast to see the strongest growth this year at 8.7 percent.

The International Monetary Fund says many economies have resumed a high rate of growth, but challenges remain.  Among advanced economies, the United States is expected to outperform Europe and Japan, but it will lag behind China and other developing nations.

"In the U.S., consumers, who were the drivers of the economy before the crisis are being more prudent," Blanchard said. "In Europe, where banks play a central role in financial intermediation, the weak banking sector limits credit supply.  In Japan, deflation has re-appeared, leading to higher interest rates and putting in danger an already weak recovery."

China is expected to grow by 10 percent this year, and India by 8.8 percent.  The U.S. economy is forecast to grow by 3.1 percent.

The International Monetary Fund says growth for the 16 European countries that share the euro currency will be one percent in 2010.

Blanchard says despite the good news, achieving strong sustained and balanced growth for the global economy will not be easy.

"It will require more work, namely fiscal consolidation in advanced countries, exchange rate adjustments, rebalancing of demand across the world, these are the tasks facing policymakers over the next few years," said Blanchard. Fiscal consolidation refers to the use of policy to reduce government deficits and debt.

The fund report warned the failure of nations to contain soaring public debt could have severe consequences on the global economy.

Blanchard says the solution to the challenges facing emerging and advanced economies lies in the adjustment of their exchange rates.  He says that as advanced economies work to deal with debt and deficit, which would have a negative impact on growth, they may need to let their currencies depreciate to help increase exports and hence growth.

He says emerging countries need to do the opposite, let their currencies appreciate and reduce exports.  Blanchard says that it is in their interest to do so because global growth will help support the growth of their economies.

"In China, for example, a shift away from exports, towards domestic consumption, a shift that requires both structural measures to decrease savings, and an appreciation of the currency, appears highly desirable," he said.

China has been under increasing pressure from the United States and other countries to let its currency, the yuan, strengthen so global products can be more competitive against Chinese exports.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 22, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 78


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U.S. border with México
sees increasing violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Lawmakers in Washington say U.S. and Mexican authorities need much more help to battle violent drug traffickers. At a hearing this week, several members of a Senate committee blasted plans for a so-called virtual fence as a waste of taxpayer dollars. And two lawmakers are calling for the deployment of national guard troops along one of the most troubled sections of the U.S. southern border. 

The recent killing of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in Juárez, Mexico, and the shooting death of a popular rancher on his property in Arizona, are increasing the anger over drug-related violence on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. The Mexican government says more than 22,000 people have been killed in Mexico since a U.S.-backed crackdown on cartels began three years ago.

Larry Dever is the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, and is leading the investigation into the killing of rancher Rob Krentz.  He says authorities suspect people working for drug cartels.

"The bad guys keep coming," said Dever. "And no matter whether the apprehension rates rise or fall, the numbers of criminal aliens rise.  That sir, gentlemen, is the threat to homeland security in our country."

The increased violence is spilling over into many U.S. border towns, including Nogales, Arizona.

A source of anger for many lawmakers at the hearing was a U.S. government contract for a so-called "virtual fence" monitoring system along the nearly 3,200-kilometer U.S.-Mexico border. The program, called SBInet has cost more than $700 million so far, but has only been tested over a 37-kilometer section.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has halted worked on the project.  Sen. Joe Lieberman is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee:

"By any measure, SBInet has been a failure," said Joe Lieberman. "A classic example of a program that was grossly oversold and has been badly under-delivered."

Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona announced a plan to step up border security, including a request for 3,000 national guard troops along the Arizona-Mexico border. 


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