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New museum stamp features butterfly, ball, metate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The facade of the Bella Vista fortress, which is now the Museo Nacional, will dominate the design of a new commemorative stamp being issued today to mark the museum's 125th birthday.

Correos de Costa Rica gave an advance look at the stamp Thursday. Actually the package is two stamps, each valued at 395 colons or about 79 cents. The twin stamps share a morpho butterfly representing the natural history found in the museum. Also partly on the stamps is one of those famous prehistoric stone balls from southwestern Costa Rica and an elaborate metate that pre-Columbian peoples used to grind corn and other grains.

The museum recently received a renovation, and the western face is now the primary entrance with access even for the disabled. It faces the Plaza de la Democracia.

The postal service is issuing 30,000 stamps with 500 of them on first-day covers much prized by collectors.

This is the first stamp issue for 2012.

Postal officials will be at the museum this morning to hold an official presentation. The stamps and the first-day covers are for sale at the main postal headquarters and also online at the Correos Web site.

Students from the Colegio Internacional Canadiense will be at the ceremony along with the Banda de Conciertos de San José.
museum stamp
Correos de Costa Rica graphic
This is the commemorative display that is being presented this morning.

The postal service also put out a commemorative stamp in 1987 for the museum's 100th birthday.

The museum structure is the former Bella Vista headquarters of the Costa Rican army. After the 1948 revolution and the abolition of the country's military, the facility was turned into the site for the museum. The exterior walls still bear the pockmarks of bullets fired during the revolt that brought José María Figueres Ferrer to power.

The museum contains many of the famous stone balls, and officials are developing a museum specifically for the balls and related discoveries in Palmar Sur on the central Pacific coast. The museum is also offering an evening extravaganza tonight at the Plaza de la Democracia that was reported in A.M. Costa Rica Thursday.

Two police officers detained on robbery allegations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some expats joke that the central government is reducing the crime problems by putting criminals and would-be criminals in uniform. That is an exaggeration, but two events Thursday showed that there still are many problems within the Fuerza Publica.

At 9 a.m. judicial agents entered the San José Centro police station and detained two officers. They are charged with aggravated robbery in the abduction of a man last April 17.

Later in the day the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública reported that 246 police officers and 11 administrative staffers had been let go between May 2010 and last December. The reasons were not listed.

The two police robbery suspects have the last names of Fuentes and Camacho. According to the Poder Judicial they are accused of approaching and then abducting a man who was walking through Parque La Merced about 11 p.m.

Although the abduction happened April 17, agents said they were on the case since March.

The man was taken in a patrol car to Barrio Cuba where he was beaten and relieved of 100,000 colons, about $200 and his residency cédula. The 44-year-old man is Nicaraguan.

A prosecutor was seeking restrictions of the suspects in court late Thursday.

The security ministry said that to improve the quality of police officers, its personnel council had approved a new system of evaluation last month.

Cops arrrested
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
 Judicial agents take one of the police officers into

That was about the time when officials were firing a police officer who worked in San Pedro because he appears as a Nazi on a Facebook page.

The new personnel standards involve an assessment of efficiency, communication, management of subordinates and interpersonal relations, said the ministry.

The March recruit class at the Escuela Nacional de Policía already has been evaluated with these standards, said the ministry.

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Afternoon might be wet
in valley and along Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This morning residents are looking at cloudy skies and warm temperatures with the possibility of showers in the central and southern Pacific coast, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The northern zone and the Caribbean coast may avoid heavy downpours today. Some showers are predicted. But the humidity that is entering the country is expected to turn to afternoon showers and thundershowers along the Pacific coast and in the Central valley this afternoon. There might even be some early evening showers, the weather institute said. There is a broad area of unsettled weather in the Caribbean.

The Weather Underground, Inc., published by A.M. Costa Rica, calls for a 90 percent chance of rain today with a 40 percent change in the evening. The forecast for Saturday is for a 30 percent chance of afternoon rain with just cloudy skies for Sunday.

Golfers at the Stop Animal Suffering Yes! charity golf tournament today at Valle del Sol Golf Course probably will duck the rain. The shotgun start is at 7 a.m.

Quakes continue rattling
in western part of country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were three more earthquakes Thursday that were in the 2- to 3-magnitude range. And there was one earlier today.

At 4:01 a.m. Thursday a 3.4-magnitude quake was registered just offshore at the point where Costa Rica meets Nicaragua in the northwest.

At 8:36 a.m. Thursday there was a 3.0-magnitude quake reported near Islotes de Osa in the southern part of the country.

At 3:21 p.m. Thursday a 2.9-magnitude quake was reported southwest of Estero Garita in Aguirre, Puntarenas.

At 13 minutes after midnight today there was a 2.9-magnitude quake reported a kilometer southeast of Buenos Aires de Tilirán, Guanacaste.

All magnitudes and estimated epicenters are from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at  Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

ICE floats $250 million in bonds

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, says it has successfully marketed bonds worth $250 million in foreign markets.

The bonds join an issue of a similar amount in November. The money will be used to improve infrastructure of the electrical generating and telecom agency.

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!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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Country joins coalition to fight repression on the Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has joined a coalition for Internet freedom.  Eduardo Ulibarri, the country's United Nations representative, delivered a document to an official from the Netherlands, said the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

The minister of foreign affairs for the Netherlands, Uri Rosenthal, hosted a conference on Internet freedom last Dec. 9 and 10 at The Hague. The result of that session was a document outlining some goals to be promoted.

Principally among them is, in the words of the declaration, noting that governments are increasingly making use of a variety of measures to limit these freedoms in a manner contrary to their obligations, such as illicit monitoring, filtering and hacking, on- and offline repression of network technology users, including intimidation and arrests, and even completely shutting down the Internet and mobile networks.

The countries also agree to cooperate in appropriate international and regional organizations and through our diplomacy with individual countries to promote the freedoms
 of expression, association, and peaceful assembly with respect to the Internet and connection technologies,

The session at the United Nations took place on the International Day of Press Freedom. A key point of the declaration is that those who write on the Internet should enjoy the same freedoms as those who write for more traditional media.

Still unclear is what effect this decision may have on Costa Rica's friendliness with the People's Republic of China, which is a major rights violator in its control of the Internet.

The nations that have adopted the declaration agree to encourage Internet businesses to adopt practices, as well as policies or statements of principle, that address concerns related to the export and misappropriation of technologies for repressive ends, inappropriate requests for personal data for political purposes, and illegitimate blocking of content, and to take all other measures necessary to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms on the Internet . . . .

Ulibarri is a former top executive with Grupo Nación, the publishing company.

Investigation in Coronado involves issuance of building permits
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents entered, searched and confiscated documents Thursday at the Coronado municipal building. The Poder Judicial said the investigation related to nine building permits that are believed to have been issued irregularly.

Identified as suspects in the case is a man with the last name of Jiménez, who heads the department that handles maps, business licenses and permits. Also named was the mayor, Leonardo Herrera Sánchez. He is the same public official who was
detained in April when he used a municipal car to drive to a motel in San Francisco de Dos Ríos. In Costa Rica motels are places for sexual encounters.

Three prosecutors and a judge were among those who paid a call on the municipal building Thursday morning. They were there until 3:30 p.m., said the Poder Judicial.
The investigators removed written and digital documents to be studied during the next weeks, said the Poder Judicial. Agents said the investigation began a month ago.

War against the machines begins with the balky Internet
Off with her head!  The Red Queen has surfaced from Wonderland and cut all intelligent communication I may have had with the outside world.  My Internet went off Sunday, and Monday my land phone also went dead. I am headless. 

I realize that there are some things beyond our control, like earthquakes, tornadoes, sinkholes, belief systems, other galaxies, the working of computers, and the thought processes of men. Some are natural disasters, others are man-made.  This week I have reached the limit of my ability to remain sanguine in the presence of some man-made disasters.

After being assured by Amnet and friends that my modem to the world is working, and making sure all of my bill paying is up to date, and calling just about everybody I know who is knowledgeable about computers, I began to realize and resent the terrible fix this wonderful world of electronics puts one in when something goes wrong.  It is true, right now I don’t need someone with a liberal arts background who can remember just the right Shakespeare quote to fit the situation or know the history of democracy, I need someone who knows the right button to click on this mysterious box in front of me.

I will not number the friends who tried to help and spent hours in the purgatory of my computer office, but finally, of course, it was James, for whom I may buy a cape labeled “Mr. SuperDoer!!” that he can wear every time he comes flying to my rescue.  This time it was with Gerald, a soporte tecnico, and a gentle, studious man who confessed that PCs are his passion. (You don’t confess your loathing and fear to a PC aficionado any more than you scoff at Mac lovers . . . . They are worse than Trekies.)

So far, so good.  Everything was restored to normal after another two hours of the mysterious workings of man and computer.  However, my column was due the very next day and I had been unable to even think about a subject that wouldn’t get me into too much hot water, so I goofed off and went to bed.  

The next day I sat down in front of my two now-functioning and connected to the outside world PCs when I realized that I had not yet had breakfast and was getting dizzy.  So I put on some water to poach an egg. That is when male friend #1 showed up.  He shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.  He had noticed the mess of cables and cords under my desk.  For me, it is out of sight, out of mind.  For some men, I do believe, neatness and orderliness are, indeed next to godliness. It is more important than creativity, feminine logic, or columns that need to be written.  By the time he had finished putting the electrical strip on my desk with all the cables and cords neatly folded and taped, with my computers ready to be reconnected and my water boiled down to nothing for the third time, I was beginning to lose it, as they say.

Then male #2, the telephone man from ICE arrived and wanting to know things I knew nothing about, like where my
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

computer woes

phone connection was. Some 20 minutes later the answer to my phone problem came in the fact that it was not ICE’s problem. The cables in the storeroom of the apartment building were a mess, also known as a disastre of unlabeled cables.  Sure enough some workman had been there on Monday, someone who was not a neatness freak, and, voila, that is why I am without service.  Friend #1 had by now everything neat on my desk, only problem was, the Internet service didn’t work (again).

At this point I tried to explain to him in my most reasonable hysterical shout that I really had to finish my column and boil some water for breakfast, er, lunch.  He left quickly, and I sat down again in front of my crippled computer.

That is when the front door bell rang.  At the door was male friend #3 who, with the help of some unknown female was lugging a huge box.  He was wearing a big smile.  “I thought, with all of your problems you could use some distraction,” he said.  He was smiling broadly in expectation of my delight.

 “Are you out of your (descriptive word here) mind,” I asked, knowing I had a crazed look on my face.  His helper disappeared.

 “I’ll come back later,” he said just as I slammed the door.

I gave up.  I sat down on my sofa in front of the impossibly difficult picture puzzle I was working on, and picked up a piece, and this is what you get . . . . If my Internet is working later today and I have finished cleaning my burnt pot.

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Country registers record inflow of foreign direct investment
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country hit a record with $2.1 billion in foreign direct investment in 2011, a report issued Thursday said.

The report was by theEconomic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and covered the bulk of the nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The region also had a record $153 billion in direct investment last year. The amount is historic and could be exceeded this year, said the commission. But the organization warned about the increasing repatriation of profits by transnational companies to their countries of origin.

In 2010, the region received $120.9 billion, whereas in 2009, due to the international economic crisis, investments decreased to $81.6 billion, according to the commission. Until then, the highest record had been registered in 2008, when investments amounted to $137 billion.

In 2011, the main foreign direct investment recipients in the region were Brazil ($66.7 billion, representing 43.8 percent of the total of flows into the region), Mexico ($19.4 billion), Chile ($17.3 billion), Colombia ($13.2 billion), Peru ($7.7 billion), Argentina ($7.2 billion), Venezuela ($5.3 billion) and Uruguay ($2.5 billion), the commission reported, adding that of these countries, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay reached historic records.

In Central America, direct investment increased by 36 percent compared to 2010, where the amounts received by Panama ($2.8 billion) and Honduras ($1 billion) stand out, as well as the amount for Costa Rica.

In the Caribbean, flows soared by 20 percent compared to the previous year, with the Dominican Republic at the head with $2.4 billion.

"In spite of the prevailing uncertainty in global financial markets, Latin American and Caribbean economies attracted important amounts of foreign direct investment during 2011. These amounts should remain high in 2012," said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the commissions.

In 2011, 46 percent of the net income deriving from foreign direct investment was due to profit re-investments, while the remaining percentage was due to capital contributions and loans among companies, said the report. According to the Organization, this denotes the trust of transnational
direct investment
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Graph shows that Costa Rica has more than recovered from the hardtimes of 2009 and 2010.

companies in the region and important business opportunities within it.

 Nevertheless, the commission said it identified a current phenomenon that is increasingly relevant since 2004: the growing repatriation of profits by transnational corporations investing in the region, a fact that shows direct investment does not flow in a single direction.

"FDI revenue transferred back to the countries of origin has increased from $20 billion per year between 1998 and 2003 to $84 billion between 2008 and 2010 per year," noted Ms. Bárcena.

The report shows that the European Union, as a bloc, is the largest investor in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the last decade, the EU invested an average of $30 billion per year in the region, representing 40 percent of the total received. European investments, which have been mainly directed to South America, are widely diverse and strongly relevant to strategic sectors such as electricity and banking.

Among the main investors in 2011, the United States (18 percent), Spain (14 percent), the Latin American and Caribbean region itself (9 percent) and Japan (8 percent), among others, stand out, the commission said.

In contrast to the $2.1 billion indirect investment in Costa Rica in 2011, the annual average for the country from 2000 to 2005 was just $626 million a year.

Big quake's effect on beaches not all negative, new study shows
By the National Science Foundation news staff

The reappearance of long-forgotten habitats and the resurgence of species unseen for years may not be among the expected effects of a natural disaster. Yet that's exactly what researchers found in a study of the sandy beaches of south central Chile, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami in 2010.

Their study also revealed a preview of the problems wrought by sea level rise — a major symptom of climate change.

In a scientific first, researchers from Southern University of Chile and the University of California, Santa Barbara were able to document the before-and-after ecological impacts of such cataclysmic occurrences.

A paper appearing in the journal PLoS ONE details the surprising results of their study, pointing to the potential effects of natural disasters on sandy beaches worldwide. The study is said to be the first-ever quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems along a tectonically active coastal zone.

"So often you think of earthquakes as causing total devastation, and adding a tsunami on top of that is a major catastrophe for coastal ecosystems," said Jenny Dugan, a biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

"As expected, we saw high mortality of intertidal life on beaches and rocky shores, but the ecological recovery at some of our sandy beach sites was remarkable.

"Plants are coming back in places where there haven't been plants, as far as we know, for a very long time. The earthquake created sandy beach habitat where it had been lost. This is not the initial ecological response you might expect from a major earthquake and tsunami."

The researchers were knee-deep in a study of how sandy beaches in Santa Barbara and south central Chile respond, ecologically, to man-made armoring such as seawalls and rocky revetments. By late January, 2010, they had surveyed nine beaches in Chile. The earthquake hit in February.

Recognizing a unique opportunity, the scientists changed gears and within days were back on the beaches to reassess their study sites in the catastrophe's aftermath.

They've returned many times since, documenting the ecological recovery and long-term effects of the earthquake and tsunami on these coastlines, in both natural and human-altered settings.

"It was fortunate that these scientists had a research program in the right place and at the right time to allow them to
beach rocks
National Science Foundation/Mario Manzano
 Uplifted rocky shore shows mortality of marine life after
 the 2010 Chile quake.

survey team
National Science Foundation/Alejandro Sotomayor
 The sampling team at work conducting beach surveys after
 the quake.

determine the responses of coastal species to natural catastrophic events,"  said David Garrison, a program director for the National Science Foundation.

The magnitude and direction of land-level change resulting from the earthquake and exacerbated by the tsunami brought great effects, namely the drowning, widening and flattening of beaches. The drowned beach areas suffered mortality of intertidal life. The widened beaches quickly saw the return of life that had vanished due to the effects of coastal armoring.

"With the study in California and Chile, we knew that building coastal defense structures, such as seawalls, decreases beach area, and that a seawall results in the decline of intertidal diversity," said lead paper author Eduardo Jaramillo of the Universidad Austral de Chile.

"But after the earthquake, where significant continental uplift occurred, the beach area that had been lost due to coastal armoring has now been restored," said Jaramillo. "And the re-colonization of the mobile beach fauna was underway just weeks afterward."

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Only 15 percent of world
has free press, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Washington-based human rights organization says that, overall, press freedom around the world stopped declining in 2011.  But while there are positive changes in some countries, the overall picture is not too bright.  Last year, less than 15 percent of the world's population had access to a free press. 

The manager of Freedom House's freedom of expression campaign, Courtney Radsch, says press freedom gains in 2011 offset the declines. 

"For the first time in eight years, the negative trend that we've seen with the declines in freedom of expression around the world was staid, and we actually saw some slight uptick and improvement, in large part due to gains in the Middle East," said Radsch. "Libya, Tunisia, Egypt all went from 'not free' to 'partly free,' which was a pretty momentous change, and we also had countries like Burma that came out from under incredibly oppressive political rule." 

Radsch made the comments at a news conference in Washington Thursday, as Freedom House released its annual press freedom report.

Radsch said of the 197 countries and territories that were assessed in 2011 — including the newest country of South Sudan — 66 [or 33.5 percent] were rated 'free,' 72 [or 36.5 percent] were 'partly free' and 59 [or 30 percent] were rated 'not free.' 

That means roughly one-third of the world's countries fill each category, but Radsch says that is not the case for the world's inhabitants.

"But if you look at the population, it's a bit more dire," she said. "We found that only about 14.5 percent of the world's inhabitants live in a country with a free press, where they can express themselves, the press is economically independent and free from political interference, and this is, of course, incredibly disturbing."  

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle delivered remarks at the start of the panel.  He said it may seem that a free press is a reality in this era of the Internet and social networking Web sites, but that is not the case worldwide.

"We all know in Iran and elsewhere, censorship continues to oppress the free flow of information, to distort facts and to change the perception of reality," said Westerwelle. "Not only in Belarus, journalists still are behind bars, for the mere fact that they act according to Article 19.  As we speak, journalists have died, have been attacked and risk being killed while reporting about the bloodshed in Syria.  All that reminds us of how heavy the responsibilities of journalists are and how precious and dangerous their daily work can be."

He referenced an article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Freedom House report says the media environment in the Middle East and North Africa underwent major improvements in 2011, but remained the worst-performing part of the world.  Sub-Saharan Africa suffered a marginal decline in press freedom, with some backsliding in countries that had improved in 2010, while, Zambia, Niger and Sierra Leone showed some improvements.

According to the report, Western Europe has consistently boasted the highest level of press freedom worldwide, while press freedoms declined significantly in Central and Eastern Europe.  The Americas also experienced a worsening of press freedom in 2011.  The United States remained a strong performer, but it experienced a slight decline because of difficulties reporters faced covering the Occupy protests.  Mexico continued to be one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists.

The Freedom House report is based on nations' legal environments, political control over the media, economic pressures on content and harassment of journalists. 

French vote in runoff
to choose a president

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

French voters go to the polls on Sunday to elect a president, with incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy fighting an uphill battle against the Socialist Party challenger, Francois Hollande.

In many ways, political experts say Sunday’s run-off election is a classic right-wing/left-wing showdown in French politics.

But Dominique Moisi, senior adviser to the French Institute of International Affairs in Paris, says there is another element in this presidential campaign — a clash of personalities.

“If you want to caricature that a little bit, it’s between a man who is perceived as too much, Nicolas Sarkozy, and a man who may be perceived as not enough, Francois Hollande,” said Moisi.

It is a battle, he adds, between a man whose energy is remarkable, incredible, Sarkozy, but whose nervousness or political opportunism makes people uneasy.

“So there is a personal rejection of Nicolas Sarkozy that makes this election something unique,” Moisi concluded.

After five years in office, Sarkozy is also seen by many French citizens as not delivering on his promises, especially in the area of economics.

Latest public opinion surveys indicate that barring a miracle, Sarkozy will lose the presidency Sunday to the Socialist Party candidate.

Experts predict that Sarkozy will not even get solid support from the followers of the extreme right wing National Front Party led by Marine Le Pen.

Five years ago, Sarkozy won considerable support from the National Front, but experts say he has alienated many of its followers by not delivering on his promises, including one to curb immigration.
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cocaine arrest
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y Seguridad Pública photo
Anti-drug agent checks the packages while a suspect stands nearby in handcuffs.

Another vehicle stopped,
and suspected coke found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers have detected and confiscated 21 more kilograms of cocaine on the Interamericana highway in the Canton of Osa.

The incident took place Wednesday night when officers stopped a Central Valley-bound car south of Palmar Sur. They detained a 24-year-old driver, and called in the Policía de Control de Drogas for a close inspection of the vehicle. What is believed to be packages of drugs were found under the rear side and in one of the side walls of the car, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Police said the the drug packages appeared to be smeared with grease with the goal of tricking any anti-drug dogs that might inspect the vehicle.

Last April 21 some 27 kilos of cocaine were discovered under similar circumstances.

Motorcycle drivers planning
insurance protest Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorcycle operators are planning a protest against the obligatory insurance clause in the new traffic law Tuesday at the legislative complex.

The protest is being supported by the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, which objects to what the organization says transforms insurance from a social security into a commercial commodity.

The law permits the sale of insurance by private entities at a price that is not fixed, said the organizaiton.

The protest will be at 2 p.m.

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