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(506) 2223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 3, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 108        E-mail us
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Surprise storm ravages central, south Pacific coasts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just four days after the weather system that would become the deadly tropical storm Agatha moved north, a surprise storm with high winds struck much of the near Pacific coast from Golfito to Jacó.

One fisherman is missing, thousands were without power, and Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio is closed through the weekend because of fallen trees and damage to trails. Internet and phone lines were down, too.

The storm struck unexpectedly around 9 p.m. Tuesday with 70 kph winds. The reason is what the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional called tropical wave #8, one of those troughs of low pressure that move across the lower latitudes from east to west. The weather institute said that a companion tropical wave, #9, would continue to cause unstable conditions today. There was rain in many parts of the country during Wednesday as a result of this weather condition.

The national emergency commission admitted Wednesday that the intensity shown by the storm generated by the tropical wave took its experts and the weather institute by surprise. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad also monitors conditions. All three agencies knew the wave was coming but had no idea it would spawn such intense conditions.

The Costa Rica Fishing Report in Quepos said that 12 small boats sank or were missing and that many others suffered damage. The  Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas identified the missing fisherman as  Lencho Velásquez, 63. He was in the company of two other men on the "Regalo de Dios" that cast off Tuesday afternoon.

Early Wednesday the other two men came ashore and sought aid because the boat had sunk. The mishap took place at Punta Catedral at the mouth of the Río Naranjo en Quepos.

The Ministerio de Salud officially closed the Manuel Antonio park at 3 p.m. although the storm
had closed it effectively hours before. Some stranded tourists had to walk out, and park rangers
said that trails were damaged and there was no power or telephones. The ministry said that pedestrians could enter the park to visit the beach but they would be on their own.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that about 6,750 power customers were affected in Quepos, Parrita and Jacó. Power poles toppled, and transformers crashed to the pavement in some areas when the storm hit. Some residents said they were without power for 12 hours over Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Others still have no electricity.

The company known as ICE said that it was trying to reestablish fixed line telephone service to 2,500 customers and to hook up about 500 customers of the firm's wide band Internet service. That was the latest report at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The company said it was bringing in more emergency crews.

The emergency commission said that 60 homes were flooded. It declared an alert for the entire coast from Jacó south. The commission said that it was providing bedding and other needs for an estimated 1,000 persons whose homes had been damaged or destroyed by the sudden storm.

The commission reported damage in the Golfito communities of Bella Vista, Golfito Centro, Las Viquillas, Los Ángeles de Río Largarto and Bambel 2. In the canton of Aguirre the commission reported damage in Quepos Centro, Finca la Paquita, El Cocal, Damas, Barrio La Inmaculada, Barrio Paraíso, Lomas de Alvarado and Hotel Villa de la Selva, as well as Manuel Antonio. In Parrita, there was damage in La Julieta and Palo Seco.

The regional coordinator of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, Alexis Muñoz, said that falling trees caused damage at clinics and hospitals in the area. In Parrita the storm shredded a tent that had been put up for a vaccination program. The Hospital de Quepos continued to function because it has its own electrical generator.

There were downpours in the afternoon and evening in many locations in Costa Rica Wednesday. More are predicted for today.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 108

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U.S. boat captain detained
here in Lake Huron case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration police captured a U.S. boat captain who was convicted of sinking a boat in Lake Huron.

The man is Thomas Wayne Duffiney, 60, formerly of  Cheboygan, Michigan. He had been living in Miramar where he was detained.

The immigration police said that he entered the country on a tourist visa last December and that his visa had expired. He was convicted in April 2009 on several charges stemming from sinking the boat, according to news files. One count includes dumping chemical wastes.

Duffiney faces at least three years in prison and fines.

Duffiney currently is in the Immigration Detention Center in Hatillo.

New Trabajo minister pulls
visas for 100 Chinese workers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister of Trabajo has pulled the work visas of some 100 Chinese workers who were going to enter the country.

The minister, Sandra Piszk, said she acted in coordination with Mario Zamora, the former immigration director who is now viceminister of Gobernación. The visas had been authorized by the Departamento de Migraciones Laborales of the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social last January.

The workers were sought by Anhui Foreign Economic Construction, the firm building the new national stadium.

The decision is believed based on complaints from local contractors that Costa Rican workers should be used.

Presidential Web page
goes online in Zapote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly a month into the new administration, Casa Presidencial has come out with a new Web page.

The Web page contains a full list of the president's cabinet and links to a number of agencies and Costa Rica's 22 ministries.

The announcement noted that the Presidencia is operating in Facebook to give news releases and Twitter for short announcements. Casa Presidencial also is using Flickr to publish photos and USTREAM and Youtube for live transmissions and videos.

Man caught with gun
in Escazú pharmacy

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers at the Centro Comercial Paco in Escazú alerted police Tuesday to what they thought was a robbery in progress at the Fischel drug store there.

When Escazú municipal police arrived they found a man in the store who happened to be carrying a .38-caliber pistol on his person. Police said the man claimed the gun was non-functional and that he was taking it to be repaired. Police did not accept  that story, particularly when a man waiting for the suspect fled in his car when police arrived.

The man was turned over to prosecutors.

Same-sex vote criticized

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes has taken exception to a plan to hold a national referendum on the legality of civil unions between persons of the same sex.

The Defensoría suggested that holding a referendum on a human rights issue might face constitutional problems.

The referendum, if it is held, would be in December.

Obama wants Senate
to pass climate bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for the passage of a comprehensive energy and climate bill and for the country to "fully embrace a clean energy future."

In a speech he is to deliver in Pennsylvania today, Obama says there may not be enough votes in the Senate to pass the climate legislation now, but he intends to find the support in the coming months.  The House of Representatives has already passed an energy and climate bill.

Obama also criticizes opposition Republicans for what he calls their failed economic policies of the past, and for not helping in his efforts to improve the economy and implement health insurance reform. He says Republicans "sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers" as he sought to implement the reforms. 

For their part, Republicans have accused Obama and his fellow Democrats of extravagant spending policies that have driven up the debt.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 108

There's plenty to learn from those Latin soap operas
By Christopher Howard*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Spanish can be melodramatic.

A telenovela or novela is a Spanish language soap opera. Telenovelas seem to be the opiate of the masses in Latin America. The first telenovelas were produced in Brazil, Cuba and Mexico in the 1950s. The most popular ones last about an hour and appear Monday through Friday evenings (7 to 10 p.m.) on most Spanish TV networks.  In Spanish-speaking countries major television stations show at least four to six novelas per day. One series will typically run for seven to 14 months.

Spanish soap operas are even becoming popular in other countries where they are dubbed into different languages. The first global telenovela was "Los Ricos También Lloran" ("The Rich Cry Too", Mexico, 1979), which was exported to Russia, China, the United States and other countries.

The final show (desenlace) of a novela typically features a wedding between the two leads, some horrible death or fate for the villain and redemption for the bad guys who were less evil than the villain. The good people are always rewarded in novelas.

Telenovelas have a sociological component because they reflect many real life situations and issues in Latin America. Narconovelas are a new phenomenon that have come from Colombia. Recent productions like "El Capo," "Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso" and "El Cartel de los Sapos" are social commentaries about real life problems that presently plague Colombia.  Some have criticized the wave of Colombian soap operas for glamorizing the life of drug lords and for selling the drug culture as a risk-free entree into the high life.

The novela is also a valuable learning tool. In the April 10 La Nación there was an article about the benefits of watching soap operas for native Spanish speakers. According to Jorge Ignacio Covarrubias, the secretary of North American Academy of the Spanish Language, telenovelas enrich and spread the Spanish language. They help increase the viewer’s vocabulary, teach new ways of saying things and improve channels of communication. 

Novelas also benefit non-native Spanish speakers who learn dialog in a real life context and build their vocabulary, especially idiomatic expressions. This method is free, fun, and not boring. One thing is for sure. If a student is serious about learning the Spanish language, telenovelas are one of the better vehicles. Once someone has a basic Spanish vocabulary he or she should be able to get the gist of what the characters are talking about in any soap opera. By watching telenovelas students will be exposed to how the language is really spoken and not boring textbook Spanish. The ear for the language will also improve.

The more soap operas someone watches the better he or she will speak Spanish.  Novelas are very melodramatic and visual. The facial expressions are more exaggerated than other kinds of programming, giving visual clues about the content.  When the hero physically throws the bad guy out of the house and says, Lárgate! ("Get your butt out of here!"), viewers know he’s not asking him out for a beer! Dialog is surprisingly easy to understand when accompanied by action.

Telenovelas is one of several Spanish magazines where fans can read to keep up on all of the gossip about Spanish soap operas. In case they miss an episode of a favorite novela, there are Internet sites that summarize the daily plots.

Novela-related vocabulary:

Actor - actor

Actor de reparto – member of the supporting cast

Actriz –actress

Argumento or trama – the plot of a movie or soap opera

Culebrón – another name for a soap opera. Culebrones ("long snakes") got their name because of the convoluted plots.

Desenlace – ending

Episodio – episode

Estelarizando or estelarizada por – starring . . . .
Catalina takes her life
'Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso' photo
Catalina imposes her own punishment

The wages of novela sins . . .

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

  Payback is brutal for sinners in Latin Novelas.

  Carmen Villalobos is Catalina Santana, a country girl who 
  wanted to get breast implants so she can be a prostitute for
  high-rolling drug lords. The title "Sin Tetas No Hay
  Paraiso" had to be censored for U.S. audiences because tits
is one of those words federal regulators forbid.

  She finds out that her dream was not as great as she
  expected and puts a pistol to her head.

 Another great Latin novela was "Yo Soy Betty la Fea," a
  less-bloody tale about clothing-challenged Colombian
  executive assistant at a modeling agency who sheds her
 ugly duckling persona in the final shows. The show is now
  "Ugly Betty" in English with America Ferrera playing the
  lead as Betty Suarez.

Final feliz – happy ending or denenlace feliz

Final triste – sad ending or desenlace triste

Galán – leading man

Héroe – hero

Hora estelar –prime time

Novela – a Spanish soap opera

Novel por entregas – a serial

Novelero/a – a person who watches a lot of novelas

Personaje – character in a novela

Protagonista – person who has the leading role

Refrito – a remake of a previous novela

Televidentes – those who watch television

Villano/a or malo/a de la telenovela – bad guy or bad gal.

* Christopher Howard, who has a master's degree in linguistics and Spanish, is the author/publisher of the 16th edition of the perennial  bestselling  "The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica," "Guide to Real Estate in Costa Rica" and the one-of-a-kind "Official Guide to Costa Rican Spanish." He also is a relocation and retirement expert who conducts custom and group retirement/relocation tours every month.  For information: Articles similar to the above may be found at

Former foreign minister is first casualty of Chinchilla regime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The foreign minister in the Arias administration was forced to resign as the country's ambassador to the United Nations Tuesday.

The individual is Bruno Stagno, who helped orchestrate cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic of China and establishing ties with a number of Mideast nations.

Stagno was viewed as a potential presidential candidate and certainly someone who would be involved in politics here for years.

He sent a letter to President Laura Chinchilla that said he was leaving the post irrevocably. Casa Presidencial released a statement on the short letter.
Stagno has been accused of appointing himself to the U.N. post in the waning days of the Arias administration. That may not be exactly true, but as foreign minster he did shuffle another diplomat out of that post so he could be appointed.

The actual appointment was by the Consejo de Gobierno, the cabinet of Óscar Arias Sánchez, a few days before Ms. Chinchilla took over. She had designated Stagno for the job but had not yet become president.  There was no explanation why speed was necessary.

The disclosure of the unusual arrangement was by La Nación, which said Jorge Urbina, the U.N. ambassador, transferred to an existent post so Stagno could take the job.

Both Arias and Stagno had a lengthy list of priorities for service at the U.N.  Neither has commented on the controversy.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 108

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Scientist takes samples of the mud, rocks and sulphur expelled by the eruptions at Volcán Poás.
lake at Poas
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica photo

Bubbling lake at Volcán Poás packs an acidic punch

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The warning "Don't go near the water" probably never contained as much truth as when it is applied to the lake in the caldera of Volcán Poás.

Scientists at the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica say that the temperature of the lake is now 53 C. That's about 127 degrees F. But the lake also is sporting a pH of zero. That means it is super acidic, even more than the gastric acid in the human stomach.

The pH scale ranges from zero to 14 with seven being neutral. The scale is roughly the mathematical log of dissolved hydrogen ions. The lake is heavy with sulphur, which creates the superacidic condition.
The area under the lake sports temperatures in the 600 C range, perhaps 1112 F. That is a big reason why the water in the lake is evaporating, said the scientists. In two years the lake level has dropped 20 meters or about 66 feet.

Tourists can see more of the structure under the lake now due to the lower levels. But they want to make sure they are not splashed with the highly acidic water. The volcano  erupted six times in May. The last was Saturday.

The eruption was contained within the caldera but it was a good show for visitors.

The last eruption was the strongest, the scientists said. It threw rock and mud out of the lake onto the internal walls of the caldera.

Transport ministry begins to get tough with Caldera operator

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry wants to see a plan of action within two days from the Autopista del Sol concession holder.

After a week of apparent uncertainty, the ministry agreed with President Laura Chinchilla that the safety of citizens needs to be secured.

The Defensoría de los Habitantes also urged the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to act.  The Defensoría was the public agency that had the earliest criticism of the highway, the San José to Caldera toll road. It was urging action even before two motorcyclists crashed into a boulder more than a week ago with fatal results.

The public works minister, Francisco Jiménez, had a
meeting Wednesday with the president and appears to have received his marching orders then.

The public mood about the highway seems to have changed after two technical organizations said they found flaws in the design and execution of the highway. There is a 12-kilometer section between Ciudad Colón and Orotina where rocks are likely to fall on motorists. The organizations were the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos.

Jiménez said that among other things, the ministry will evaluate the possibility of taking more land so the steep cliffs that shed the rocks can be cut back.

The Defensoría urged the state to take a hard line and demand all the changes to make the highway safer.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 3, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 108

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Jamaican leader survives
no-confidence vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has survived a no-confidence vote in parliament after the opposition urged him to resign because of his alleged support of a suspected drug lord wanted by the United States.

Lawmakers narrowly rejected the motion by a vote of 30-28 late Tuesday to censure Golding for his handling of a U.S. extradition request for Christopher Coke.    

Coke is wanted in New York on charges that he smuggled cocaine, marijuana and weapons between Jamaica and the United States.

Soldiers and police in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, last week raided the Tivoli Gardens slum that Coke dominates in an effort to arrest him for extradition to the United States. Golding represents Tivoli Gardens in parliament.

At least 73 people were killed in clashes between the security forces and gunmen loyal to Coke. Five hundred people were taken into custody. Coke remains at large.

A state of emergency remains in effect for parts of the capital.

Coke is the alleged leader of the "Shower Posse," named for the practice of showering rivals with bullets during the cocaine wars of the 1980s.

Last August, U.S. authorities sent an extradition request for Coke to the Jamaican government. Golding at the time refused to allow it to be processed, arguing that the evidence in it was obtained illegally.

Protecting victims called
key to fighting trafficking

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Human trafficking, “one of the most appalling forms of human rights violations,” remains one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities in the world, an independent United Nations expert said Wednesday.

But she stressed that the role of regional organizations in fighting the scourge “cannot be underestimated.” She is Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the U.N. special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. She spoke at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, as she presented her annual report.

The key to tackling the problem is enhanced coordination among countries of origin, transit and destination, she said, calling for stepped up support for regional and sub-regional groups seeking to catalyze state action to combat trafficking.

With most of these organizations focusing nearly exclusively on the criminalization of traffickers, Ms. Ezeilo called on them to adopt a human rights and victim-centered perspective instead.

“In order to be effective, they should put the rights of the victim at the core of their strategies and actions,” she said. “By doing so, they will succeed both in protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers.”

The rapporteur, who assumed her position in 2008, underscored to the council today that “it is only by properly protecting and assisting victims that you can effectively prosecute traffickers.”

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Retirees exercise brains
while helping youngsters

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Retired Americans seeking useful ways to spend their time find that tutoring children not only helps the students, but may also reduce their own risk of developing dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.

The Experience Corps is a national program that pairs people over 55 with students from low-income families.

Research suggests helping students problem solve and read may actually improve areas of the brain, such as frontal lobes, in older Americans.

Experience Corps' 2000 volunteers tutor and mentor elementary students in 23 cities across the country.

"What I have seen is a lot of kids take off because they do have the one-on-one attention," says Kathleen Kaye, who has participated in the program for over three years. "And they are up to grade level if not beyond as a result of having been in the program."

Ms. Kaye said she feels that she gets back more than she gives. Irving Wilson echoes Kaye's feeling. He's been in the program for seven years.

Recent research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland indicates that the volunteers do benefit from their efforts.

"By volunteering through this particular program, Experience Corps, what it may be showing preliminary is that volunteering and exercising your brain to help problem solving and to help children read may actually be improving the areas of brain such as frontal lobes," says Michelle Carlson, associate director of the Center on Aging and Health at Johns Hopkins.

Driving tests times expanded

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The educational arm of the transport ministry has extended the daily time for driving tests by two hours at the Paso Ancho facility. Now the times are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Officials plan to maintain the additional hours until July 30 to take care of the built up demand for driving tests, they said. They estimate that they can handle 144 exams a day.

Those who need to take the test have to make an appointment and show up with a 5,000 colon receipt. That is about $9.30.

Expats with a valid foreign license do not have to take the written or driving exams here if they can present the license.

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