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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 108             E-mail us
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U.S. high schooler shot dead by mistake in Fortuna
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 1:50 p.m.
A resort guard fatally shot a U.S. high school student visiting La Fortuna to study Spanish.

The incident in which the guard appears to have mistaken the student guest at the  La Cangreja Lodge lodge for a prowler happened about 4 a.m. today.
Relatives identified the student as 16-year-old  Justin Johnston from McClouth, Kansas. "We are absolutely shocked and heartbroken, he was the perfect young man that any person would be proud to have as a son," said a relative in Kansas via email.

The Judicial Investigating Organizaiton is handling the case.

More cell towers beginning to generate a backlash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A World Health unit's report classifying cell phone radiation as a possible cancer cause came at the wrong time for Costa Rica.

Two companies that have been authorized to offer mobile telephone service are putting up more base stations. These towers are in addition to the many in service by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said Tuesday that it had classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on the increased risk for a malignant type of brain cancer.

The research agency has yet to publish the monograph that contains its reasoning, and the agency did not do any of its own research.

Still some in Costa Rica are getting uneasy.

One is Arlette Kerr Kaplan, proprietor of Villa Sunni Daze in Tárcoles on the near Pacific coast. She sent out an email Wednesday seeking a halt to the construction of a cell tower near the soccer field in the community.

She said that she recently learned that Claro C.R. Telecomunicaciones S.A. received permission to build a cell tower about 10 meters north of her aparthotel even though there is a cell tower operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad about 200 meters to the southeast.

She worried that the two towers will produce a microwave effect and she and her guests will be food cooking in the microwave because the aparthotel will be sandwiched between the two cell towers.

In addition, she expressed unhappiness that she was never informed of the project and that a notification sign was placed well off the main road, she said. She also said construction would hurt the local scarlet macaws.

Claro appears to have a legal right to put up the tower. Municipal approval is required, but few people pay attention to such local decisions until they are final.

Ms. Kerr Kaplan also expressed concern about the effect on children.  So she and others with the same concerns are moving into an uncharted area along with persons who object to high tension electrical transmission lines.

Residents in Guanacaste battled the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad over a 32.8-kilometer high tension electrical transmission line from Miravalles-Liberia.

The case went to the Sala IV constitutional court in 2006. The court decision was just that the institute had to provide relevant scientific data on health risks to those along the path of the project.

The line passes through Barrio la Victoria in Liberia where the court said they are only a few meters from houses in which children and adults live, schools, churches and all the urban infrastructure.

Like electromagnetic radiation, the long-term effects of electric radiation and magnetism on human health are not fully known, but the court decision requires that the institute provide the information that is available.

The transmission line concerns are not confined to the Liberia area. The institute is involved with the Sistema de Interconexion Electrica para los Paises de America Central. This 1,830-kilometer
cell towers

 (1,135-mile), 230-kilovolt energy distribution
line runs between southern Mexico and Panamá. The line involved in the court case is part of this project.

A flurry of Sala IV appeals are likely as a result of the new cell towers in light of the International Agency for Research on Cancer. That is probably even though the agency did not say very much.

A working group of scientists from 14 countries met from May 24 though Tuesday in France to discuss possible hazards from exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields. The agency said it estimated the number of mobile phones at about 5 billion globally. The summary is HERE!

The report said that there is limited evidence that radio frequency radiation causes cancer "but chance, bias or confounding could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence."

"The available studies are of insufficient quality, consistency or statistical power to permit a conclusion regarding the presence or absence of a causal association between exposure and cancer, or no data on cancer in humans are available," said a summary of the coming report.

Since 1971, more than 900 agents have been evaluated by the agency, of which approximately 400 have been identified as carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic to humans, it said.  Agents include chemicals, complex mixtures, occupational exposures, physical and biological agents, and lifestyle factors, said the agency.

The main point the news media got from the agency report is that cell phone owners should limit the use to 30 minutes or less a day.

Radio frequency waves are different from stronger types of radiation such as x-rays, gamma rays and ultraviolet light, which can break the chemical bonds and damage human DNA, says the American Cancer Society on its Web site

At very high levels, radio frequency waves can heat up body tissues as in a microwave oven, but the levels of energy used by cell phones and towers are much lower, said the society on a Web page.

The society also says that public exposure to radio waves from cell phone tower antennas is slight for several reasons: The power levels are relatively low, the antennas are mounted at high above ground level, and the signals are transmitted intermittently, rather than constantly.

At ground level near typical cellular base stations, the society said, the amount of radio frequency energy is thousands of times less than the limits for safe exposure set by the U.S. Federal Communication Commission and other regulatory authorities. It is very unlikely that a person could be exposed to radio frequency levels in excess of these limits just by being near a cell phone tower, it added.

Of course the American Cancer Society also faces the same problem as the International Agency for Research on Cancer: The lack of conclusive scientific evidence.

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Month opens with earthquake
coming from dueling plates

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The month was a bit more than nine hours old when a sharp shock rattled much of the country.

The quake, estimated at a magnitude of 4.2, was inland and 11 kilometers north of Quepos, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. It was yet another result of the lighter Caribbean tectonic plate moving over the Coco plate, the observatory said.

The time was put at 9:07 a.m.

The observatory credited deformation of the Coco plate as the reason for two significant quakes in May. One was the May 13 event far below Puriscal that was felt all over the country.

The observatory put the magnitude at 5.9. Other observers said 6.0.

The second quake was at 2:37 a.m. May 21 about 8 kilometers southwest of San Vito de Coto Brus in southern Costa Rica. That was only 14 kilometers deep, far shallower than the 69 kilometer depth of the May 13 quake.

In none of the three quakes was any serious damage reported.

Fares for ferry to Naranjo
going up for vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prices for vehicles are going up for the Puntarenas-Naranjo ferry. But the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes has not authorized an increase for passengers. The new fares are effective today.

The ministry said the increase was necessary to reestablish the financial equilibrium of the operation.

The concession holder is Coonatramar R.L. One-way fares for passenger cars goes from 7,500 colons (about $15) to 9,000 (about $18). Heavy trucks can pay up to 39,000 colons or about $78.

Adult walk-on passengers pay 810 colons and minors pay 485, fares that remain unchanged.

The ferry business has been affected by the opening of the Puente de la Amistad that shortened the motor route to the middle of the Nicoya Peninsula.

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, Thursday, June 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 108
Latigo K-9

When the skies rumble,
no salesmanship is needed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They seem to pop up like mushrooms when the rain begins to fall. They are the umbrella vendors who seem to have as good a grip on the weather forecast as meteorologists.

No one in San José downtown should run the risk of getting wet if they have the 2,000 colons (about $4) that a disposable umbrella fetches.

The emphasis is on disposable because these street sale umbrellas are fragile. A little wind turns the 2,000-colon investment into an inside-out skeleton of wire spokes and frayed fabric.

The job of umbrella vendor will be pretty well full time from now until late November as the rainy season takes hold.

The job is particularly attractive to those who do not have their immigration papers in order. There seems to be a trend toward Haitian vendors.

The alternative to making a small investment is to wait out the storm under an overhang or a bus stop roof. That may be great for those quick showers, but the last six rain-soaked days were notable for the duration of the rain and sometimes hail.

Umbrellas of a much better grade are easily found in the upscale stores.  A good one might cost 15,000 colons or about $30. Of course that is the one usually left in the taxi or under the restaurant chair.
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Sandaled lad seeks a sale on a downtown corner.

Rising rivers and more rain keep emergency officials on edge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caribbean coast was getting the brunt of storms generated by a low pressure system Wednesday night, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. In a 7 p.m. bulletin, the weather service said that rivers were rising along the Caribbean coast, in the north Pacific coast and in the northern zone.

A forecast said that rain is likely to continue through today. The heaviest is likely to be in the northern Pacific, the northern part of the Caribbean coast and the northern zone, said the weather institute.

That was not good news for those still in public shelters. The national emergency commission said that five such shelters were in operation in the northern zone housing some 160 persons.

In Upala in the northern zone weather conditions worsened and some 125 persons had to be housed in shelters as a preventative measure, said the commission.
The commission continued a low-level alert for Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles and San Carlos. The commission also said that some problems were developing in the central Pacific in the Parrita area and also around Tarrazú in the southern part of the Central Valley.

San José had a light rain that began in the evening and continued through midnight.  There have been rainstorms every day since Friday.

Also Wednesday, officials met with 52 of the 55 families that are losing their homes on Calle Lajas in Escazú. This is the location where a landslide killed more than 20 persons last November when ground gave way under rain from Tropical Storm Tomas. the residents who remained have been ordered to leave because of the continuing danger.

The central government has allocated a billion colons, some $2 million, to help the families. A few residents are fighting the eviction order. Private groups in Escazú also have raised funds to help the surviving families.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 108

Police begin effort to end smash-and-grab road robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police just can't seem to prevent the smash-and-grab robberies that are plaguing motorists in the Hatillo area.

The four-lane Circunvalación passes through the area, and when a motorist, usually a lone woman, stops at a traffic light, some youth may smash the passenger side window and take whatever is in reach. If she is unlucky, the assailant may also have a firearm.

This has been a continuing problem not only in the Hatillos but in Escazú and other metro areas where congestion brings vehicles to a halt.

The Fuerza Pública said Wednesday that there have been
more complaints from victims and that the agency has mounted a sustainable effort.

Some residents of Hatillo 6 have asked the security ministry to keep the pressure on from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when the window breakers are most active.

At one point police officers were stationed at every traffic light in the Hatillos. But eventually this effort faded, and the crooks returned to their bad habits.

Police coupled the effort with warnings to motorists to keep a space between their vehicle and the one in front so there is maneuvering room and to keep valuables out of the reach of window breakers. Police also suggested not doing business with street vendors who may be covers for crooks.

Honduras voted back into Organization of American States

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Organization of American States has voted to readmit Honduras following an almost two-year suspension that followed the ouster of the country's then-president, Manuel Zelaya, in a June 2009 coup.

The Washington-based organization Wednesday lifted the suspension after a 32-1 vote in which only Ecuador opposed the move.  The vote follows an agreement last month that allowed Zelaya to return to Honduras.

Zelaya was overthrown and flown out of the country after he allegedly tried to change the Honduran constitution to stay in power.  Honduras was suspended from the Organization of American States following the coup.  After Zelaya's overthrow, the United States and the Organization of American States failed to persuade an interim government to restore him to power.  Five months
 later, Honduras held previously scheduled elections, and current President Porfirio Lobo was elected.  He took office in January of last year.

The United States and other countries restored ties with Honduras after the election in November 2009.  But Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela opposed Honduras's readmission to the Organization of American States unless Zelaya was allowed to return from exile in the Dominican Republic, without facing the threat of prison.

Costa Rica expressed its pleasure at the move. In a statement from the foreign ministry in San José, the government said that it accepted Zelaya here as part of its long tradition of providing asylum for the persecuted and the stateless. Zelaya ended up in Costa Rica when the military flew him from Honduras, and then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez, with the support of the United States, tried to get Zelaya reinstated. But the effort failed.

Tire company setting up regional financial center here

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations will create a shared financial services center in Costa Rica for its Latin American operations. The decision will mean up to 100 new jobs for the country.

The plan was outlined at Casa Presidencial Wednesday. The tire company has six plants in Latin America: two in
Brazil, one in Argentina, one in México and one in Venezuela, as well as the plant in Ribera de Belén, Heredia.
The company also confirmed that it would invest $70 million over the next five years to increase the capacity of the Belén plant and increase the variety of tires produced. The company also has invested $18 million in a Turrialba plant that employes 160 persons.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 108

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Mexican fund hopeful
promotes candidacy in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The head of Mexico's central bank says Latin American countries deserve greater representation at the International Monetary Fund.

Agustin Carstens made the comments Wednesday in Brazil, where he is seeking support for his bid to become the next managing director of the fund.

Carstens met with Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega in Brazil's capital, Brasilia, and is scheduled to meet with the country's central bank chief Alexandre Tombini in Sao Paulo today.

After the Wednesday meeting, Mantega told reporters it was a step forward to have a candidate from a developing nation in the running, after so many years of European leadership at the Fund.  He has said, however, that Brazil has not yet decided whom to support, and that the decision would be made based on merit, not nationality. 

Monday, the other top candidate for the monetary fund job, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, visited Brazil to seek its backing.  Lagarde said that if elected head of the fund, she will push reforms to give Brazil and other emerging countries more influence at the lending institution.

The 55-year-old Ms. Lagarde already has the backing of European Union nations.  Ms. Lagarde's visit to Brazil was the first on a global tour that is expected to take her to India, China and several African nations.

European nationals have held the post at the fund under an agreement reached with the United States after World War II, which stipulated that an American would head the World Bank.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has called both Ms. Lagarde and Carstens credible and talented candidates for the job.

Former fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France resigned last month following his arrest in New York on charges of sexual assault.

The fund is expected to announce the candidates for its top post by June 17 and the final selection will be made by June 30.

Brazil to go ahead with dam
in heart of rain forest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil has approved the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rain forest — a project that has sparked criticism from environmentalists, indigenous activists and celebrities.

Brazil's environmental agency Ibama issued the building license for the $11 billion Belo Monte dam project  Wednesday. The dam is designed to produce about 11,000 megawatts of electricity.

It will be the world's third-largest hydroelectric energy producer after China's Three Gorges Dam and the Itaipu Dam, which straddles the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

Environmentalists and indigenous groups have said the dam will devastate wildlife in the area. British rock star Sting and American film director James Cameron have also expressed opposition to the project.

The consortium building the dam, Norte Energia, says it is expected to begin operating in 2015.

The project was originally conceived three decades ago and has been repeatedly delayed in recent years amid legal cases brought by environmentalists and native Indians.

In April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged Brazil to halt work on the dam until the government deals with concerns of the region's residents.

The commission, part of the Organization of American States, called on Brazil to take protective measures for the native peoples who live in the area. The commission also called on the government to give the groups access to environmental impact reports.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry described the request as unjustified.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 2, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 108

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Satellite map helps estimate
carbon in tropical forests

By the California Institute of Technology news service

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration-led research team has used a variety of satellite data to create the most precise map ever produced depicting the amount and location of carbon stored in Earth's tropical forests. The data are expected to provide a baseline for ongoing carbon monitoring and research and serve as a useful resource for managing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

The new map, created from ground- and space-based data, shows, for the first time, the distribution of carbon stored in forests across more than 75 tropical countries. Most of that carbon is stored in the extensive forests of Latin America.

"This is a benchmark map that can be used as a basis for comparison in the future when the forest cover and its carbon stock change," said Sassan Saatchi of the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who led the research. "The map shows not only the amount of carbon stored in the forest, but also the accuracy of the estimate." The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Deforestation and forest degradation contribute 15 to 20 percent of global carbon emissions, and most of that contribution comes from tropical regions. Tropical forests store large amounts of carbon in the wood and roots of their trees. When the trees are cut and decompose or are burned, the carbon is released to the atmosphere.

Previous studies had estimated the carbon stored in forests on local and large scales within a single continent, but there existed no systematic way of looking at all tropical forests. To measure the size of the trees, scientists typically use a ground-based technique, which gives a good estimate of how much carbon they contain. But this technique is limited because the structure of the forest is extremely variable, and the number of ground sites is very limited.

To arrive at a carbon map that spans three continents, the team used data from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System. The researchers looked at information on the height of treetops from more than 3 million measurements. With the help of corresponding ground data, they calculated the amount of above-ground biomass and thus, the amount of carbon it contained.

The map reveals that in the early 2000s, forests in the 75 tropical countries studied contained 247 billion tons of carbon. For perspective, about 10 billion tons of carbon is released annually to the atmosphere from combined fossil fuel burning and land use changes.

The researchers found that forests in Latin America hold 49 percent of the carbon in the world's tropical forests. For example, Brazil's carbon stock alone, at 61 billion tons, almost equals all of the carbon stock in sub-Saharan Africa, at 62 billion tons.

"These patterns of carbon storage, which we really didn't know before, depend on climate, soil, topography and the history of human or natural disturbance of the forests," Saatchi said. "Areas often impacted by disturbance, human or natural, have lower carbon storage."

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