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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, May 14, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 95                           Email us
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Photo shows collision between the 'Varadero 1' and 'Ocean Warrior' in April 2002.

Shark boat collisions
A.M. Costa Rica archives via Sharwater Productions

Tico warrant snags Sea Shepherd's Watson in Germany
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

German officials have detained seagoing environmentalist Paul Watson on a 10-year-old warrant filed by Costa Rica, said the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that Watson heads.

The arrest comes on an apparently bogus charge lodged
Paul Watson
Capt. Paul Watson
by fishermen after Watson's “Ocean Warrior” harassed them in Guatemalan waters because they appear to be fishing for shark illegally.

The incident on which the charge is based was filmed and ended up in the major motion picture “Sharkwater.” The film contradicts the Costa Rican Poder Judicial claims that said Watson's crewmen used streams of water to cause the Costa Rican crew
to lose control and collide with “Ocean Warrior.” The allegation also said incorrectly that the collision caused grave damages to the boat and physical damages to the crew members.

The film shows contact between the much larger steel “Ocean Warrior” and the smaller wooden  “Varadero 1,” but it also shows the smaller boat pulling away without apparent damage.

The “Sharkwater” Web site shows two photos of the encounter. HERE! And HERE!

The Poder Judicial also claims incorrectly that the confrontation took place near the Isla de Coco, which is Costa Rican waters. Presumably the judicial allegations are a result of the claims of the shark fishermen.

Watson and “Sharkwater” filmmaker Rob Stewart showed the footage to judges and prosecutors when the Ocean Warrior docked in Puntarenas in April 2002. Watson said he posted $800 in bail and left to avoid preventative detention.

The issue surfaced again in June 2006 when the Poder Judicial announced a trial on the allegations and then said a judge had issued a warrant for Watson because he did not appear. Watson told a reporter then that he had no knowledge of the trial and that he would contact a lawyer in Costa Rica to resolve the issue.

The case appears to be advanced by companies engaged in shark finning and others who hold grudges against Watson and his organization. Sea Shepherd also is active in pursuing and harassing Japanese whaling vessels to the extent that fishermen in that country cut short their excursions in the Southern Ocean this year.

Sea Shepherd said in an email that “conservationists around the world maintain hope that the Costa Ricans will drop the charges against Captain Watson.  There
is also a chance that the charges have already been dropped, but Sea Shepherd has been unable to confirm that with the Costa Rican officials. With Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity, it would be a travesty for them not to stand up for sharks, which sit at the highest levels of the food chain assuring balance among ecological communities in the ocean.”

While in jail, Watson is being assisted by the European Parliament Vice President Daniel Cohn Bendit and the European deputy Jose Bove, the organization said.

Watson, 61,  a Canadian with U.S. residency, founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1997. He is not shy about expressing his opinions and taking strong action against those he considers environmental criminals. He has written for A.M. Costa Rica HERE!

Ten years ago Watson and the “Ocean Warrior” encountered the Costa Rican boat fishing in Guatemalan waters and said it received a request from that country's officials to escort the  “Varadero 1” to port so its captain and crew could face charges. During the trip, the  “Varadero 1” captain made the allegation by radio that Watson and the crew of “Ocean Warrior” were trying to kill him and his crew. At that point Watson said “Ocean Warrior” abandoned the effort and sailed for Isla del Coco where more illegal shark finners were sought out.

Costa Rica is a haven for shark finners. The country now prohibits the unloading of shark fins and carcasses at its docks. But other environmentalists note that the fins are unloaded in Nicaragua and imported by truck to Costa Rica. Photos have shown drying fins that represented thousands of sharks on a rooftop in Puntarenas.

The fins bring a high price in Asia.

As the plight of the shark becomes more desperate, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has begun to outline a new shark campaign for 2012, it said Sunday.  Julie Andersen, founder of Shark Savers and Shark Angels, has joined Sea Shepherd to lead a global campaign to save sharks from extinction, the organization added. Sea Shepherd will use its expertise and experience, as well as media savvy, to empower people around the world to take back their sharks – an animal critical to their, as well as the global, environment and economy, it said.

Sea Shepherd said it is offering its assistance to countries around the world to enforce international and local laws, end ruthless poaching, patrol marine sanctuaries under attack, implement high tech defenses, and empower locals through training and the provision of resources to take on the battle.

At the time the news of the original confrontation became public, a national Costa Rican television station reported the confrontation and included a representation of what producers thought had happened. They showed a so-called re-enactment of three men in a rowboat being bombarded by streams of water until the small craft capsized.

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President seeking close look
on public employee finances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla said Friday that she is preparing a decree that will tighten oversight of public officials who supervise public works and concessions.

Details were not given, but Casa Presidencial said that the measure would seek to keep track of changes in the economic status of government workers. The announcement comes in the wake of a scandal over the highway Ruta 1856 along the Río San Juan in northern Costa Rica. In that case investigators became suspicious because one of the inspectors purchased a new home.

Many public employees already have to report their financial status to the Contraloría General de la República during May each year. But the president was quoted as saying this is not sufficient for those involved in major projects.

The decree is being written by the Ministerio de Planificación  Nacional y Política Económica, said Casa Presidencial.

Woman hurt in shootout
provoked by robbery try

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 20-year-old woman suffered a bullet wound in the stomach Saturday night when robbers tried to stickup her and the man with whom she was walking. Her companion had a firearm and exchanged shots with the robbers.

The scene was in Jardines de Cascajal, Paso Ancho. The couple were on foot about 8 p.m. when a car pulled up and two men got out, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. A shoot out ensued.

The woman, who has the last name of Rojas, went to Hospital Calderón Guardia where she was reported to be in stable condition.

Fuerza Pública officers managed to detain a suspect nearby and confiscate a firearm.

River clean up draws 1,500

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 1,500 persons showed up Sunday to get trash out of the Río Liberia in Guanacaste.

The effort was sponsored in part by the Fuerza Pública and the muncipality there. Among the volunteers were students from the  Liceo Nocturno de Liberia. The event was called “Salvemos al Río Liberia.”  A report said that 50 large bags of trash were collected.

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.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 95
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An A.M. Costa Rica guest editorial
Officials need to take action to prevent cases of squatter fraud

By Trevor Chilton*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Regarding the Hazeltine criminal fraud case.

I have followed this case for quite sometime and I think there is some fundamental issues that really need to be addressed here other than the fact that the events read more like a Laurel and Hardy skit.  This case is an offensive joke to anything remotely resembling a functioning justice system.  Any Tico should be embarrassed that such cases exist.
First off this Draconian squatters law needs to be repealed immediately, and Costa Rica Politicians and Ticos in general need to come to grips with modern reality.  Of the number of cases I have witnessed, none of these claims is legitimate as these squatters for the most part are not legitimate.  In fact, most of them are nothing but blatant criminals taking advantage of a law that is so out of touch with real justice.  Aside from the democratic offensiveness of this is the commercial reality.  No one gains from this bad law other than criminals!  It most certainly does nothing for Costa Rica on the whole other than give it a bad reputation.  We are supposed to be a country high on human rights, so my question to all is how exactly is it a human right to steal property from rightful owners.
Worse yet is that these fraudulent actions are being paid for by very wealthy people who appear from this case to be operating with impunity.  In fact, as this latest development would indicate, the system has been sabotaging all efforts at justice and not really dealing with technicalities.  Lets look at the fundamentals of what is going on here.  The court records prove there has been large sums of money paid to squatters, hence how in heavens name could they even remotely qualify as such with any semblance of sanity?
This fraud is right up there with Caja and Alcatel. The one difference is that the national media is deadly silent when links to this case lead right to their boardroom.  So much for editorial independence.  The other players are all highly influential people, yet it was not sufficient for the past presidents to get immunity, why is it for them?  Is the message: It is alright to steal from foreigners but not from Costa Rican institutions?
Let's assume this case was involving any of the high tech industry that was having its rightful property stolen from it.  Can you imagine criminals stealing Intel technology and the Costa Rica justice system sitting on it hands?  I would think not.  Do you think it would take 12 years to deal with it?

Yet the real estate industry here is hardly small potatoes, so why is the political system and justice system not addressing this fraud and cleaning up the act to not only stop this but to send a message to all that this must stop.
In the end the damage to the country and Ticos on the whole is potentially massive yet only to reward a few very wealthy and influential persons.  Let's all get real and no matter how you do the legal tap dance around this if you pay someone to be a squatter, you are committing a criminal fraud, plain and simple. 

Hence diputados and the fiscal general need to get real and remedy the current cases on the books on a fast track and stop future ones from ever starting in the first place.  That and only that would be justice and honesty in action.
Just like the past presidents, one case in the press and in front of a court sends a loud and clear message as to what will be tolerated and what will not.
*Trevor Chilton lives in Escazú.

Government experts have been chewing on tax reform for years
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Official concern about the country's financial situation is not new. And some of the aspects of the failed Chinchilla administration tax package are not new. They have been discussed for years.

Among these is the new tax on corporations. The proposal was advanced in April 2002 as part of the report by a special presidential panel that was supposed to come up with a plan to end deficit spending by 2006. The panel suggested a $200 a year tax. The tax that was instituted is about $316 and will increase each year.

The panel was headed by Aberto Dent, who was finance minister then. The report came just as Abel Pacheco was elected president.

The panel recognized that the level of tax collection was not sufficient to maintain the way the government did business.

Many of the ideas presented have never been incorporated into a legislative bill. Among these is the idea of putting a sunset provision  that automatically eliminates a new government agency at a certain date unless it is specifically reauthorized.

The Dent panel also urged eliminating laws that force the government to spend a certain amount of money for certain causes, thereby providing more flexibility. Under current legislation a certain percentage has to go to education and to other specific uses.

Costa Rica also specifies where certain tax money goes. For example, the new corporation tax income will go mostly to the security ministry for the use of the Fuerza Pública. A new surcharge on water bills goes to the Cuerpo de Bomberos to fix up fire hydrants. Even money and goods confiscated from drug dealers does not go to the general treasury. The law says it goes to the nation's anti-drug institute. That includes the $2 million-plus in U.S. currency confiscated in the last 10 days at the Peñas Blancas border crossing.

Here are some other of the 10-year-old suggestions from the Dent panel:

• tighten controls on spending, eliminate excessive spending and provide more openness to the public;
• make the national budget a legitimate document that clearly reflects expected costs;

• create a system to keep the legislature from increasing expenses to favor special interests;

• create a commission to coordinate all the agencies of government and to make sure they are continuing to do what they were supposed to do when created;

• transfer more power to the municipalities where the work will be done more efficiently;

• reform civil service so public employees could be fired easier;

• create incentives for public employees so they get raises based on performance rather than automatically;

• create one basic system of national pensions;

• Double the property tax on vehicles and boats;

• set up a system to begin imposing tax on companies now located in the tax-free zones so that they will be paying a full tax by 2008.

• eliminate the geographical distortions in the tax law by voiding such free zones as that in Golfito.

• create a super tax-collecting agency that would oversee all the collecting activities of other government agencies. This would be "Agencia Nacional de Recaudación Tributaria."

The panel also noted that the current income tax setup gives favorable treatment to income coming from some sources and not from others. It suggests levying the same tax no matter what the source. It proposed a "global and unitary tax."

This global tax would make no difference in the origins or destinations of the tax nor for the type of taxpayer.

Costa Rica does not now impose taxes on money earned outside the national territory, but the Chinchilla administration tax plan would have done this.

The Dent panel urged the country to make more tax treaties with other countries so that there would not be double taxation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 95
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Truck bed can hold
six persons across

This pickup can accommodate six illegal immigrants prone in the truck bed. At least until the Fuerza Pública halts the vehicle in La Cruz. Although the driver, identified by the last name of Corrales, tried to flee, police managed to detain him and the occupants of the truck bed. The immigrants said they each paid 25,000 colons or about $50 each for a ride to Cañas from the border.
Immigrant truck
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Stanford poll shows decline in support of climate measures
By the Stanford University news service

Americans' support for government action on global warming remains high but has dropped during the past two years, according to a new survey by Stanford researchers in collaboration with Ipsos Public Affairs. Political rhetoric and cooler-than-average weather appear to have influenced the shift, but economics doesn't appear to have played a role.

The survey directed by Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, shows that support for a range of policies intended to reduce future climate change dropped by an average of 5 percentage points per year between 2010 and 2012.

In a 2010 Stanford survey, more than three-quarters of respondents expressed support for mandating more efficient and less polluting cars, appliances, homes, offices and power plants. Nearly 90 percent of respondents favored federal tax breaks to spur companies to produce more electricity from water, wind and solar energy. On average, 72 percent of respondents supported government action on climate change in 2010. By 2012, that support had dropped to 62 percent.

The drop was concentrated among Americans who distrust

climate scientists, even more so among such people who identify themselves as Republicans. Americans who do not trust climate science were especially aware of and influenced by recent shifts in world temperature, and 2011 was tied for the coolest of the last 11 years.

Krosnick pointed out that during the recent campaign, all but one Republican presidential candidate expressed doubt about global warming, and some urged no government action to address the issue. Rick Santorum described belief in climate change as a pseudo-religion, while Ron Paul called it a hoax. Mitt Romney, the apparent Republican nominee, has said, "I can tell you the right course for America with regard to energy policy is to focus on job creation and not global warming."

The Stanford-Ipsos study found no evidence that the decline in public support for government action was concentrated among respondents who lived in states struggling the most economically.

The study found that, overall, the majority of Americans continue to support many specific government actions to mitigate global warming's effect. However, most Americans remain opposed to consumer taxes intended to decrease public use of electricity and gasoline.

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Colorful Mayan chamber
was domain of scribes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Archeologists working among the ruins of a 9th century Mayan town in Guatemala have discovered a room filled with extraordinarily well-preserved artwork. The colorful wall paintings provide new insights into how Mayan astronomers charted the cosmos. 

Xultun was the largest city in the ancient Mayan empire in Central America, where, at its height, an estimated 90,000 people lived and worked among pyramids, inscribed monuments, water reservoirs and sport fields. But by the 14th century, the Mayan civilization had collapsed, and this great city fell with it.

In 1920, Xultun was rediscovered, overgrown with vegetation. Work to map the 31 square-kilometer site and decode the myriad inscriptions on its monuments continues to this day.

In 2008, Boston University archeologist William Saturno was exploring tunnels in the Xultun ruins that had been opened by looters in the 1970s.  One day his student assistant, Max Chamberlain, discovered the entranceway close to the surface but hidden by vegetation to a room-like structure.

“Max thought he saw the remnants of paint on the walls of this fairly small Maya structure,” Saturno said.

Once inside the room - part of a larger residential complex at the Xultun site - Saturno knew he was in a special place. On the opposite wall, he came face-to-face with the painting of a Mayan king, its regal colors remarkably preserved.

“[He’s wearing] this gorgeous sort of blue-green head dress, he’s holding this white scepter in his hand," Saturno said. "He’s sitting on top of this throne. He is just incredible to look at."  

Another figure painted in brilliant orange wears a white medallion and holds a small stylus in his hand, possibly the artist scribe who lived in the house, Saturno speculated.  On the other walls are more male figures in black with white loin cloths and identical head dresses with a single red feather.  And running all around, between and sometimes on top of these figures is tiny Mayan hieroglyphic script.

“There are these large numerical arrays, just columns of numbers of one after another, after another," Saturno said. "This seems to be a place where Maya scribes are at work.  They are painting and repainting texts on the walls. They are in different hands and different scales and different sizes in order to have the calculations present.”

Four long numbers on the north wall of the ruined house relate to the Maya calendar and computations about the moon, sun and possibly Venus and Mars. The dates stretch some 7,000 years into the future.

According to Saturno, the painted numbers are a version of the Mayan calendar system, one that he notes predates the Mayan astronomical tables written on bark paper books in the 14th century. The parallels were obvious once he began to do the math.

“The Maya had a 260-day ceremonial calendar and a 365 solar calendar," Saturno said. "The Maya combined those two calendars to make a longer cycle of time that repeated every 52 years. But they also kept track of the motions of Venus and the motions of Mars and perhaps the motions of Mercury. And the numbers that are recorded on this wall are multiples of all of those cycles combined.”

The painted room also pays tribute to the way the Maya used those calendars to synchronize human activities with the larger cycles of the moon and planets they routinely observed in the heavens. Saturno said while modern humans keep looking for endings, the Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change.

Saturno is making images of the Xultun paintings that students and scholars can access using desk-top scanners and other tools. When that work is done, Saturno plans to rebury the site, leaving it to rest where the ancient Mayan people created it.  His study of the Xultun site is featured in the journal Science and in the June issue of the National Geographic magazine.

Chávez returns home
after Cuban treatment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez returned home from Cuba late Friday following 11 days of cancer treatment, calling his latest radiation therapy a success. 

After arriving in Caracas, the socialist leader, 57, said he must rigorously follow medical advice in coming days in order to continue recuperating.

Chávez began treatments in March following operations in February and last June to remove tumors from his pelvic area.

President Chávez has yet to disclose details about his type of cancer. He has previously said his condition will not keep him from campaigning for re-election ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential election. Chávez has been in power since 1999.

More bodies stuffed in bags
turn up in northern México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican authorities have found 49 mutilated bodies stuffed in bags near the northern city of Monterrey in what officials believe is the latest act of violence in the country's brutal drug war.

Police say they found the bodies in the early hours Sunday on a stretch of highway leading just south of the U.S. border.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the violence, but it echoes several other recent cases in which drug gangs have left bodies in public places to serve as warnings to their rivals.

Days earlier, authorities discovered 18 dismembered bodies in western Mexico. Separately in the north, officials found 23 bodies dumped or hanging in the city of Nuevo Laredo.

Hawaiian surfer confirmed
as rider of tallest wave

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

International surfing officials and the Guinness Book of World records have officially confirmed a giant wave caught by a U.S. surfer off the coast of Portugal last November was the biggest wave ever ridden.

The officials have awarded Hawaiian surfer Garret McNamara the Billabong Global Big Wave Awards prize after reviewing the feat — riding a wave that measured 23.7 meters (77.76 feet) high.

The height of McNamara's wave was decided by a panel of big wave surfing and photography experts who analyzed and measured the photographs and video images of his ride.

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Latin America news
Amazon tropical forest fires
predicted to be fewer in 2012

By the Goddard Space Flight Center news staff

Forests in the Amazon Basin are expected to be less vulnerable to wildfires this year, according to the first forecast from a new fire severity model developed by university and National Aeronautics and Space Administration researchers.

Fire season across most of the Amazon rain forest typically begins in May, peaks in September and ends in January. The new model, which forecasts the fire season’s severity from three to nine months in advance, calls for an average or below-average fire season this year within 10 regions spanning three countries: Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

“Tests of the model suggested that predictions should be possible before fire activity begins in earnest,” said Doug Morton, a co-investigator on the project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This is the first year to stand behind the model and make an experimental forecast, taking a step from the scientific arena to share this information with forest managers, policy makers, and the public alike.”

The model was first described last year in the journal Science. Comparing nine years of fire data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on the Terra satellite, with a record of sea surface temperatures from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists established a connection between sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and fire activity in South America.

“There will be fires in the Amazon Basin, but our model predictions suggest that they won’t be as likely in 2012 as in some previous years,” said Jim Randerson of the University of California, Irvine, and principal investigator on the research project.

Specifically, sea surface temperatures in the Central Pacific and North Atlantic are currently cooler than normal. Cool sea surface temperatures change patterns of atmospheric circulation and increase rainfall across the southern Amazon in the months leading up to the fire season.

“We believe the precipitation pattern during the end of the wet season is very important because this is when soils are replenished with water,” said Yang Chen of the University of California at Irvine. “If sea surface temperatures are higher, there is reduced precipitation across most of the region, leaving soils with less water to start the dry season.”

Without sufficient water to be transported from the soil to the atmosphere by trees, humidity decreases and vegetation is more likely to burn. Such was the case in 2010, when above-average sea surface temperatures and drought led to a severe fire season. In 2011, conditions shifted and cooler sea surface temperatures and sufficient rainfall resulted in fewer fires, similar to the forecast for 2012.

Building on previous research, the researchers said there is potential to adapt and apply the model to other locations where large-scale climate conditions are a good indicator of the impending fire season.

Amazon forests, however, are particularly relevant because of their high biodiversity and vulnerability to fires. Amazon forests also store large amounts of carbon, and deforestation and wildfires release that carbon back to the atmosphere. Predictions of fire season severity may aid initiatives – such as the United Nation’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program – to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from fires in tropical forests.

“The hope is that our experimental fire forecasting information will be useful to a broad range of communities to better understand the science, how these forests burn, and what predisposes forests to burning in some years and not others,” Morton said. “We now have the capability to make predictions, and the interest to share this information with groups who can factor it into their preparation for high fire seasons and management of the associated risks to forests and human health.”

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