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(506) 2223-1327          Published Monday, May 16, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 95             E-mail us
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Expat dead in Jacó is considered robbery victim
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators believe initially that two men found dead near Jacó early Saturday were the victims of a robbery. However, they are checking into the background of both men for other motives.

Dead is Jacques Cloutier, 59, identified as a Canadian and a cattleman. Found with him was Luis Antonio Angulo Díaz, 70, a long-time employee from La Cruz in Guanacaste.

Cloutier has spent many years in Costa Rica and had a cattle operation in Osa. He and Angulo were reported to be in Jacó to purchase land and brand cattle. Angulo had come from La Cruz to help.

This is why investigators suspect a robbery. They believe Cloutier was carrying a sum of money that attracted a robber.
The bodies were found in the front seats of a vehicle off the main highway in Quebrada Amarilla in Jacó.

Reporters could not establish positively over the weekend that Cloutier was the Jacques Cloutier who for years headed J & J Homes, Inc. in Florida.

A man by that name is involved in an effort in the Sala I of the Corte Suprema de Justicia. The case is an action to collect on a U.S. Federal Court verdict in favor of the Edwards Family Partnership LP for more than $18 million.

The owner of J & J accumulated many debts in the Sarasota, Florida, area because of the real estate decline, and associates there told the Sarasota Herald Tribune that the man spent a lot of time in Costa Rica. The Cloutier from Florida has Costa Rican residency and a cédula.

Depth of quake prevented damage, experts report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans have a lot to be thankful for after the 6.0 quake left almost no damage in the country.

The national emergency commission said that the depth of the quake, estimated at 70 kilometers (some 43 miles) was a major factor in protecting the country. The quake was just north of Puriscal, and even the damaged Puriscal Catholic church that appears ready to collapse did not sustain damage.

The emergency commission flew over the area Saturday and could locate no damage.

The Puriscal quake that took place Dec. 22, 1990, was recorded at a magnitude of 5.7, but two persons died. Damage was estimated at nearly $20 million, incuding the church that residents hope to rebuild.

The emergency commission declared a low state of emergency Friday after the quake mainly with the expectation that landslides were possible.
Officials said that they flew over small slides at  Hortiga, Lajas, Tablazo, Cascabel and el Burío but that they were not major.  In addition to Puriscal, the flight included inspection of Mora, Aserrí, Acosta, Desamparados, Alajuelita and the entire course of the Río Virilla.

Some Costa Ricans reported that objects fell from shelves and in a few places cracks appeared in the pavement. The Cruz Roja said that reports from 124 of its centers confirmed that damage was light.

Emergency commission experts also responded to reports from residents in the vicinity of the Turrialba volcano who said they noticed an increase in activity as a result of the earthquake. The volcano experts dismissed this theory and said that the greater amount of steam rising from the crater was because of the rain that was falling.

The quake was blamed on movement within the Coco tectonic plate. A.M. Costa Rica reported on the quake in an update Friday afternoon. That story is HERE!

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Ad rates are going up

Consultantes Río Colorado S.A., the parent company of A.M. Costa Rica, announces that it will be increasing advertising rates as of June 1. The increases, between 0 and 9 percent, will affect display as well as some classified rates.

Sales executives will provide existing clients full details. They also will point out that the company will stand behind advertising agreements made between now and June 1 at the current rates for a period of up to one year.

The company last raised rates in 2007 and held the line for the benefit of clients during the recent recession.

Day for farmers brings
recognition from politicos

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday was the Día Nacional del Agricultor, and rice farmers voiced their support for small producers. The government, meanwhile, said that new trade agreements with China and Singapore would boost demand of farm products.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have invited some 30 producers from all over the country to set up stands at the legislature Tuesday to sell their goods.  Jorge Gamboa Corrales of the Partido Acción Ciudadana said that the invited farmers would not only exhibit their products but also sell them.

He said that women from the countryside were invited from Puriscal, Cartago, Sarchí, Zarcero, Santa Ana and Escazú. He noted that the Upala region is famous for its beans and that Santa Ana is known as a producer of fine onions.

The Asociación Nacional de Productores Arroceros said Friday that its rice farmers needed better financing and quicker payment.

In Costa Rica 60 producers control 36,000 hectares (88,958 acres) of rice, and some 180 producers control 30,000 hectares (74,132 acres) more, said the rice producer organization. The producers who need government help are the 1,200 who work a total of 15,000 hectares (37,066 acres), the organization said.

The goal would be for the government to establish policies that are directed at these small producers, the organization said.

Meanwhile, Luis Liberman, vice president, visited San Carlos to repeat the Chinchilla administration's promise to strengthen agriculture.

He said the government would push educational programs in business, technology and innovation for the nation's farmers. He also said that the government would overhaul several institutions that are designed to help farmers. Included would be the Consejo Nacional de Producción, he said.

He also promised a review of prices that are set by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio and he said he hoped the Asamblea Legislativa would quickly approve trade treaties with the People's Republic of China and Singapore to expand the marketplace for farmers.

Former agent faces claim
he threatened Acosta school

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A former Judicial Investigating Organization agent has been detained on allegations that he made threats and encouraged violence at the Colegio Técnico de Acosta.

The Poder Judicial identified him by the last names of Durán Chinchilla. Investigators said he was responsible for a telephoned bomb threat last Tuesday at the school and that he also put up a Facebook page that called the students of the school to a violence demonstration against certain new rules.

The Poder Judicial said that agents searched the man's home in  Vuelta Jorco, Aserrí, and found explosive materials. They also found similar material in the school, the Poder Judicial said.

Price regulator pay hikes
draw business criticism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An organization of employers says it objects to salary hikes decreed by the regulador general of the Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos. Workers there will get up to a 10 percent salary hike despite the Chinchilla administration austerity proposal for a bit more than 2 percent. The authority says it is not covered by that rule.

The organization is the Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. It said the salary hikes were disproportionate at a time when the central government seeks to raise taxes.

The organization said that figures from the Banco Central show that prices regulated by the agency have increased 30 percent in the last year.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 16, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 95
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Agents find potential crash pad for would-be escapees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents investigating the attempted breakout at the La Reforma maximum security unit have encountered an apartment that the Poder Judicial said was to be a resting place for the fugitives once they fled the prison.

The apartment in in San Rafael de Alajuela, the same community in which the La Reforma facilities are located.

The living quarters are in Apartamentos Lidia on a dead end street there.

Investigators found the apartment after following leads from a vehicle, a presumed getaway van, that was parked not far from the prison Wednesday. Agents found money, heavy weapons and explosives in the vehicle.

It appeared that the fugitives were going to try to baffle authorities by leaving the maximum security unit with hostages in a bus and then quickly transferring to the van and then traveling to the apartment.

Seven convicts participated in the armed escape attempt, and an ambush by three tactical squads killed two of them. A prison guard also died in the shootout.

Officials have tightened up security at all the prison locations. At La Reforma there are five separate and independent prisons. There is just one maximum security facility.
Sunday was a heavy visiting day at all the prisons. The prison guard staff was supplemented by Fuerza Pública officers, and visitors had to endure long lines and close inspection.

The maximum security attempt took advantage of woman who were participating in conjugal visits with other inmates. They became hostages, as did members of the prison staff. Although initial theories speculated that visitors brought weapons and fragmentation grenades into the prison for the use of the escapees, more recent investigation has centered on the prison staff.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said he had detained one person linked to the San Rafael apartment. That took place in Limón Sunday.

Agents also are trying to find out who financed the preparations for the attempted escape.

The seven prisoners involved in the escape attempt include Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez, a successful escapee in 2006. Araya and Johnny Rodríguez Moya killed a guard when they broke out of prison Oct. 9, 2006, and shot it out with agents when they were caught 15 days later. Araya was wounded six times then. At that time it appeared that someone was waiting for the fugitives in a vehicle nearby. Rodríguez died from bullet wounds Wednesday as did Erlyn Hurtado Martínez, the long surviving bandit from a deadly raid and standoff at the Santa Elena bank near Monteverde in March 2005.

Advance-fee lottery scam earned $40 million, judiciary says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Telephone scammers here took $40 million from the vulnerable and the aged in the United States through an advanced fee lottery scam.

That was disclosed Friday as the Poder Judicial confirmed the formal questioning of seven persons, five men and two women, who were detained in law enforcement action Thursday. The seven are suspected of being the leaders of a boiler room operation here that solicited fees from U.S. citizens for non-existent lottery winnings.

The Poder Judicial said that prosecutors were opening cases of fraud against the seven.

Costa Rica has been a hotbed of Internet and telephone fraud for years. The high profile arrests were of U.S. citizens working here and indicted by the U.S. government.

The eight raids Thursday were evidence that Costa Rican authorities are cracking down, too. At one time an
estimated 200 bilingual Costa Ricans and U.S. citizens worked in operations executing various scams. One group specialized in selling business opportunities, such as coffee vending machines. Those who fell for the telephone pitch sometimes were victims of individuals making fake recommendations and reporting false information about potential earnings.

Another group sold cut-rate computers but never delivered a single machine.

The advance-fee lottery scam that agents here acted against Thursday has been going on for years. Victims thought they were being called from inside the United States, thanks to voice-over-Internet protocol. The individuals in the phone rooms got names from solicitors who offered shoppers the chance to enter a lottery at various points in the United States.  So the victims could easily believe they had won something.

Much of the money in these frauds came through Western Union.

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New study supports Chomsky's theory of language

By the Johns Hopkins University news staff

How human children acquire language, which is so complex and has so many variations, remains largely a mystery. Fifty years ago, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky proposed an answer: Humans are able to learn language so quickly because some knowledge of grammar is hardwired into the brains. In other words, humans know some of the most fundamental things about human language unconsciously at birth, without ever being taught.

Now, in a groundbreaking study, cognitive scientists at The Johns Hopkins University have confirmed a striking prediction of the controversial hypothesis that human beings are born with knowledge of certain syntactical rules that make learning human languages easier.

“This research shows clearly that learners are not blank slates. Rather, their inherent biases or preferences influence what they will learn. Understanding how language is acquired is really the holy grail in linguistics,” said lead author Jennifer Culbertson, who worked as a doctoral student in Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences under the guidance of Geraldine Legendre, a professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, and Paul Smolensky, a Krieger-Eisenhower professor in the same department. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester.

The study not only provides evidence remarkably consistent with Chomsky’s hypothesis but also introduces an interesting new approach to generating and testing other hypotheses aimed at answering some of the biggest questions concerning the language.

In the study, a small, green, cartoonish “alien informant” named Glermi taught participants, all of whom were English-speaking adults, an artificial nanolanguage named Verblog via a video game interface. In one experiment, for instance, Glermi displayed an unusual-looking blue alien object called a slergena on the screen and instructed the participants to say geej slergena, which in Verblog means blue slergena. Then participants saw three of those objects on the screen and were instructed to say slergena glawb, which means slergenas three.

Although the participants may not have consciously known
this, many of the world’s languages use both of those word orders. That is, in many languages adjectives precede nouns. and in many nouns are followed by numerals. However, very rarely are both of these rules used together in the same human language, as they are in Verblog.

As a control, other groups were taught different made-up languages that matched Verblog in every way but used word order combinations that are commonly found in human languages.

Culbertson reasoned that if knowledge of certain properties of human grammars — such as where adjectives, nouns and numerals should occur — is hardwired into the human brain from birth, the participants tasked with learning alien Verblog would have a particularly difficult time, which is exactly what happened.

The adult learners who had had little to no exposure to languages with word orders different from those in English quite easily learned the artificial languages that had word orders commonly found in the world’s languages but failed to learn Verblog. It was clear that the learners’ brains knew in some sense that the Verblog word order was extremely unlikely, just as predicted by Chomsky a half-century ago.

The results are important for several reasons, according to Ms. Culbertson.

“Language is something that sets us apart from other species, and if we understand how children are able to quickly and efficiently learn language, despite its daunting complexity, then we will have gained fundamental knowledge about this unique faculty,” she said. “What this study suggests is that the problem of acquisition is made simpler by the fact that learners already know some important things about human languages — in this case, that certain word orders are likely to occur and others are not.”

This study was done with the support of a $3.2 million National Science Foundation grant.

Ms. Culbertson used tools from experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics and mathematics in designing and carrying out her study.

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Martelly takes the reins
of a devastated Haiti

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti's new president is promising change for the impoverished Caribbean nation still struggling to recover from last year's devastating earthquake.

Thousands of supporters cheered as former pop star Michel Martelly delivered his inaugural address Saturday on the grounds of the collapsed presidential palace in the capital, Port-Au-Prince.

The 50-year-old performer known to Haitians as Sweet Micky pledged to build a better and stronger Haiti, to end injustice and restore order.  And seeking to reassure foreign donors and potential investors, Martelly promised guarantees for investments and private property.

The new president was sworn in earlier Saturday. He takes over from Rene Preval, who took off the blue and red presidential sash at the swearing-in ceremony and put it on Martelly.  This is the first democratic transfer of power from one party to another in Haiti's turbulent history.

But in a sign of the infrastructure challenges Martelly has inherited, a power cut plunged the ceremony into darkness just moments before the oath of office.

Haiti was crippled by the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and made one million others homeless.  Hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent camps, and millions continue to rely on non-governmental organizations to meet their basic needs.  Martelly also faces the political challenge of working with a legislature controlled by the opposition party of  Preval.

International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid to help Haiti rebuild, waiting for the new government to take office before releasing it.  But Martelly faces more challenges than just repairing the quake damage.  Even before the quake struck, Haiti was the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, and was plagued by political violence and lawlessness, corruption and natural disasters.

Two former Haitian leaders, ousted ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and one-time dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, both live in the island nation, but did not attend the ceremony.

Chileans protest plans
to construct five dams

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean police used water cannons late Friday to break up activists protesting dam projects for generating electricity.
Media reports say the confrontations occurred in Patagonia,Valparaiso and the city of Coihaique.

The government says the five dams being proposed are necessary to match the demands for electricity linked to the country's future economic growth. Environmentalists say the dams will destroy habitats of endangered species.

Endeavour poised to take
its last flight into space

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. space agency NASA is preparing the space shuttle Endeavour for a launch today, its final voyage before retiring and the next-to-last launch for the 30-year space shuttle program.

The Endeavour mission was originally supposed to begin in late April, but electrical problems forced repeated delays.

The flight to the International Space Station is commanded by astronaut Mark Kelley, who is the husband of  U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded during a shooting rampage in the state of Arizona in January.

Ms. Giffords is expected to attend Monday's launch at the Kennedy Space Center with an expected 500,000 other spectators. Weather forecasters say there is a 70 percent chance of good weather for the launch. Liftoff is at 6:56 a.m. San José time.

NASA finishes its shuttle program for good with the scheduled launch of Atlantis in July. A third shuttle, the Discovery, returned from its final flight in March.
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Visits by tourists rise
in most parts of the world

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International tourism continues to recover from the global financial crisis and downturn of 2008-09, rising in every region of the world except the Middle East and North Africa during the first two months of this year, according to new United Nations figures.

The latest update of UN World Tourism Organization barometer, released last week, show that international tourist arrivals grew by almost 5 per cent to more than 124 million in January and February this year compared to the same period in 2010.

South America and South Asia were the best performers, with international visitor numbers leaping by 15 per cent in both regions, while sub-Saharan Africa (13 per cent) and Central and Eastern Europe (12 per cent) also posted strong gains.

Europe overall performed better than expected, partly because of travel redirected to Southern and Mediterranean Europe following the unrest in many nations in North Africa and the Middle East, where visitor numbers slumped by 9 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the World Tourism Organization, said the latest data indicates that the tourism sector is consolidating the recovery begun last year.

“News is especially positive for emerging economies and developing countries, particularly for Africa, where tourism is increasingly recognized as a driver of development, exports and jobs,” he said.

Rifai said the fall in visitor demand in Tunisia and Egypt after the recent unrest there, and a similar slump in Japan following the March earthquake and tsunami, is now “expected to have bottomed out and the recovery of these important destinations will surely be consolidated during the year.”

The secretary general took part earlier this week in a special event in Istanbul, Turkey, linking tourism with sustainable development and poverty reduction. This was held on the sidelines of the UN conference on the world’s least developed countries.

Receipts from international tourism are estimated to have topped $919 billion last year, up from $851 billion a year earlier.

Pair held as robbers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers nabbed two robbery suspects Friday after youngsters were held up at knifepoint near the San Antonio de Desamparados high school.

One suspect is a Colombian minor, identified by the last name of Urriaga, and the other is a man with the last name of Montoya.

The robbers took cell phones, money and other items from the youngsters and then fled in a car. The suspects were stopped riding in a vehicle that matched the description.

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