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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Friday, June 15, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 119                          Email us
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Today is a special day for nation's trees and forests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans have a deep love of trees. Trees are cut only when absolutely necessary. That's why there are some sprouting out of the asphalt of even city streets. The road agency just did not have the heart to cut them.

Today is a special day for trees, it is the Día del Árbol in Costa Rica, not to be confused with Arbor Day which is in April in the north.

The designation of the day goes way back to 1915 when a presidential decree created the day. At school, there might be programs today in honor of trees.

Each year the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad de Costa Rica in Santo Domingo de Heredia selects the best specimens of a designated tree species to honor. This is the ninth year, and the tree of distinction this year is the espavel (Anacardium excelsum) or espavé.

This is among the tallest trees in the country and a relative of the cashew. The espavel also has edible fruits.

The Titi Conservation Alliance says that the name comes from a Spanish phrase es pa' ver or “it's to see.” The theory is that the name came from the Spanish and Indians using the tall tree as a lookout.

And tall it is. One specimen is said to be 25 meters high (about 82 feet) and with a trunk of three meters (nearly 10 feet) in diameter. The Titi Conservation Alliance says that the fruit is important food for monkeys.

The  Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, known as InBio, holds its award program to point out the 
Tree called espavel
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Rolando Perez
 A typical specimen of the stately espavel

importances of trees and forest, it said. Costa Ricans were asked to nominate their favorite tree to be honored as the most exceptional. A lot of the decision will be based on the size of the tree.

InBio said that the tree can reach 50 meters (184 feet) and likes to grow along waterways.

The tree grows from Honduras south to Colombia, in northern Venezuela and in Ecuador, said InBio. In Costa Rica the tree is on both coasts but is most common on the Pacific side where it grows to about 1,000 meters of elevation, about 3,300 feet, said InBio.

The tree flowers in January to June and the sweet fruit matures from March to July, said InBio.

The tree has been used as ornamentation and also for its lumber, InBio said.

In honor of the day there are several announced tree planting projects, including one at Parque la Sabana.

Work continues to reopen key Caribbean road link
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The work continues to open Ruta 32 north of San José. With luck vehicles might be able to pass through the area some 10 kilometers north of the Zurquí tunnel later today or Saturday.

Work in clearing 100 meters (about 330 feet) of rock and dirt hit a snag Wednesday afternoon when heavy rains drenched the area. The estimated  6,400 cubic meters (8,370 cubic yards) of rock and dirt closed the highway early Wednesday. There were more slides later Wednesday and Thursday. Some of the rocks are the size of autos.

This is the main road, the Braulio Carrillo highway between San José and the Caribbean coast.

One project Thursday was to liberate the estimated 40 tractor-trailers that were trapped by the slide.
 Workers under the direction of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes worked with traffic police to open a temporary passage for the trucks. There were trailers headed in both directions on the two-lane road.

After the trailers went on their way, the highway was closed again for heavy equipment to remove the slide material.

The ministry said that work removing the slide would begin again today with the expectation that the road would be open again as soon as possible.

Motorists have two options until the road is opened again. They can take a highway through Turriabla  or they can take a route through Vara Blanca to San Miguel de Sarapiquí and La Virgen.

That is a hilly route not suitable for large trucks.

Country ducks another tropical storm in the Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The good news is that Tropical Storm Carlotta, which is building to hurricane strength in the Pacific, will have no effect on the country.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said at midday Thursday that the storm is too far north to have an impact here.

The Pacific coast of México, however, is under an alert. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said that Carlotta was packing 70 mph winds, about 110 kph. The storm center was moving west.

The weekend looks like more of the same with hot mornings with cloudy skies giving away to thunderstorms and showers. There was a string of
showers at midnight in many parts of the Central Valley.

The national emergency commission has lifted an alert it imposed after last weekend's rain. That came, in part, because a low pressure area that was causing stormy weather here had moved on.

The rain earlier in the week damaged bridges at the Río Blanco in Copey de Dota and another in San José de Upala, said the commission.

There also was the need to evacuate 14 persons from their homes in Palmar Norte. They were housed in a local school after their homes were flooded. The evacuees consisted of three families.

The hurricane center's graphic display of the Atlantic is clear with no storms in sight.

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quake distribution
Red Sismológica Nacional graphic 
Colored dots show the location of earthquakes during May.

Graphic charts quake depths
of those taking place in May

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Red Sismológica Nacional has created a map that shows the earthquakes that took place during May.

The earthquake agency color-coded the locations to reflect the depth. Yellow dots represent quakes that were from 0 to 30 kilometers deep. That is about 18.5 miles. Red dots represent quakes that had their epicenter much deeper, perhaps as much as 116 kilometers (72 miles) as in the case of one that took place 21 kilometers (13 miles) north of Puerto Viejo de Sararpiquí.

Quakes with less depth took place all over the country, noted the Red, which is affiliated with the Universidad de Costa Rica. However, there were clusters at the Gulf of Papagayo, in the Nicoya peninsula, southwest of San José, including the Pacific beach areas of Dominical and Quepos.

There were deeper quakes around the peninsula of Santa Elena in the northwest, between the Gulf of Nicoya and Lake Arenal and along the Pacific coast.

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
From the Costa Rican press
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Government promises to keep the Limón docks in operation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Shortly after midnight Thursday police officers moved on the docks at Limón and Moín. They met with no resistance, and secured the docks against any possible reactions from striking workers.

There were some scuffles Thursday, and police used tear gas to break up crowds at both the Moín docks and at a roadblock on Ruta 32 near Limón. There were arrests.

During the afternoon, the central government issued a pledge to keep the docks open and working. Employees of private companies are doing some of the work.

Casa Presidencial said that officials had been seeking negotiations with the dock workers for 36 hours. The was no secret that the workers were going out on strike.

They are members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de  Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica, a public agency. They number about 1,000, nearly all who live in the province of Limón.

Casa Presidencial said that eight private companies had workers on the job on the docks. A summary said that five cargo ships
were tied up and three were waiting in the bay.  Some of the boats had been delayed there for 36 hours, and the financial loss was significant, said Casa Presidencial. The principal products being loaded are pineapples and bananas.

The government's action was applauded by exporters, the  Cámara de Industrias de Costa Rica and the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado.

Meanwhile, a union of educators and the Frente Interno de Trabajadores of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad are planning job actions of their own, partly in support of the dock workers and partly because they have other grievances with the government.

For the dock workers, the threat comes from a $1 billion proposed modern docking facility that a Dutch firm will build as a concession. The Limón docks are notoriously inefficient and prone to all sorts of job actions.

The dock workers correctly believe that the new facility, when built, will put them out of a job.

The Caldera docks on the Pacific were put out on a concession after a deal was struck to give big payoffs to the dock workers there. Then some were hired by the new company.

Doing those government things builds up a lot of STRESS
I am about to embark upon two endeavors that require bureaucratic tramites.  If you think that word is related to traumatic, you are right, especially when you add government to them.  And I have to renew my American passport and get a new Costa Rican cédula.  Two governments!

With a deadline of July 2! 

I should have begun the process of renewing my passport weeks ago, but I only recently noticed that it is about to expire.  I have been in denial for the past couple of weeks regarding my stolen cédula.  However, I heard the mayor of Chicago say recently “Denial is not a long-term strategy.”

I started, with the help of a friend, my making an appointment with Immigration on July 2.  I have learned since that I need an affidavit from a lawyer who will verify that the cédula, my identity card, was stolen.  Of course, he wasn’t there, but he is a lawyer.  I remember years ago when Bill White told me that to complete a business transaction he needed a lawyer to verify that he was Bill White.  Then, I think he said, the lawyer needed another lawyer to verify his identity and so on and so on.  I don’t want to think about that right now. 

I did call the American Embassy and was told I needed to make my appointment via the Internet.  I have a poor record with the Internet and suggested that since I lived nearby could I just come in and make the appointment?  The operator was sorry, but I couldn’t.  After I asked (rather snippily) what people without Internet did, I decided to hang up as soon as possible or I would never get an appointment.  Then I tried the Web site address she had given me and got some surprising connections to sub Web sites.  I then called back and realized I had clicked .com instead of .gov

The Internet can be dangerous for hapless people like me.

Making an appointment was a frustrating experience.  There was no way to simply renew my passport. I had to click one of a choice of conditions, none of which applied to me.  I finally did, hoping I had not committed perjury.  Then a friend, Carol, told me she had faced the same dilemma when she recently renewed her passport and still managed to get it without being questioned about the fictional member of her
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

family.  As a matter of fact, she said that the Embassy people were cordial and helpful. 

It is so nice to talk to friends about problems because they may have valuable experience to share.  However, then Carol told me that it is going to take two weeks to get my new passport, which means that I won’t have it in time for my cédula appointment at immigration, and I am not sure if I need it.  (One memorable time when I made yet another visit to immigration I had a royal case of the hysterics.)

I was watching an interview with two Hollywood psychotherapists who have a seemingly unique approach to helping people with their psychic aches.  Everyone, including movie stars, gets depressed, is insecure or stressed.  In the psychotherapists’ opinions, positive thinking does not help one who is stressed out about something.  Instead (according to my understanding of what they were saying), it is gratitude that works. 

When you think your life can’t get any worse or you are facing something you dread more than finding a spider in your bed, it helps if you instead concentrate on all of the things you can be grateful for, the things outside of your immediate problem.  So I am trying that.  

I am able to go on my balcony and feel the sun on a beautiful morning that has followed the chill of the rainy days.  I am grateful for my friends, who seem happy to see me. And I am even grateful for the interesting dish of quinoa, a healthy grain I just discovered that I enjoyed preparing more than I did eating.  And mostly, I find that if I project myself to that mythical time when I have renewed my passport and have a new cédula, a feeling of pure gratitude does make me smile and takes away the stress I AM FEELING AT THE MOMENT!

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High-level post created to defend nation's oceans and waters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Chinchilla administration has elevated an environmental warrior of its own to the post of vice minister.

He is José Lino Chaves López, who headed the Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo. That is the agency that made life difficult for developers and builders.

Chaves has been named to the new position of vice minister in charge of Mares y Agua, oceans and water. The post is in the  Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

The appointment may be connected to the Paul Watson case. He is the environmental crusader who awaits extradition in Germany to face a charge here. Watson is a strong opponent of shark finning, and that practice got a mention in a statement about Chaves. His job is to prohibit and punish shark finning and to raise the public consciousness about rivers, mangroves and other environmental areas.

Officials noted that the country had waters 10 times the size of dry land.

The new policies of the vice minister will be to save species in danger of extinction and to elevate to 10 percent the protected area of the sea.

He also is to concern himself with the estimated 7,000 illegal
wells that exist in the country, officials said.

Chaves is no stranger to mangroves. He aggressively targeted those who invade mangroves in sweeps that he engineered mainly in coastal areas. The tribunal he headed has the power to halt projects and to assess fines.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública announced earlier this week that coast guard officers had detained three fishermen who were illegally shark finning. That is they caught the fish, cut off the fins and then threw the living animal back into the water to die. The fins become expensive soup in China.

By contrast, Puntarenas is a center of the shark finning trade, although now the fins are brought in from Nicaragua by truck.

The Watson case began when his “Ocean Warrior,” operated by his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, had an encounter with Costa Rican shark fishermen in Guatemalan waters. The “Ocean Warrior” crew sprayed the fishermen with water and the two vessels bumped.

Watson, an international environmental figure, has been critical of Costa Rica's shark-finning policies both then and now. The extradition request to face what editors consider to be a bogus charge, have directed world attention on Costa Rica. The encounter was filmed and became part of the award-winning documentary “Sharkwater.”

Unusually hot months 123 years apart credited to La Niña
By the University of Missouri news service

Two months in Midwest history, March 2012 and December 1889, stand out as the warmest winter months in more than a century of weather records.  A team of University of Missouri scientists investigated why these months, separated by 123 years, were so exceptional.

March 2012 was the second warmest since records have been kept in America. It was 15 degrees F above the normal average.  It is surpassed only by December 1889 when the average temperature was almost 18 degrees above average, the warmest winter month on record.

The 1889 December had highs in the 70s with evening lows in the 50s.  Only one day during that month did the thermometer get down to 38 degrees.

Tony Lupo, chairman of the Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Science at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, lead the team of atmospheric science students.

They examined the available world weather records and logs of ship captains to create global computer models.  Lupo and the students discovered that in both exceptionally warm months, the preceding months were unusually warm, too.  Both winters were unusually dry, also — not just for Midwest, but for much of America.  The previous summers were uncharacteristically dry to the point of being a mild drought.

Analyzing the data, Lupo and team discovered that 2012 and 1889 were both La Niña years.  During a period of La Niña, sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean are lower than normal by 3 to 5 degrees C. This typically directs the jet stream from the Pacific on a northeast path over Canada. Rain producing storms follow the jet stream, leaving the central and south-central states dry. This route of the jet stream also blocks arctic air from moving south into the American midsection, resulting in higher temperatures.

Both 2012 and 1889 also featured a strong Arctic Oscillation.
trade winds
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graphic
 La Niña influences Midwestern weather patterns by
 directing the jet stream northward.

 This oscillation is a pattern of low pressure that wraps itself around the North Pole. When the pressure is low, the oscillation captures cool air and keeps it near the Arctic.

Lastly, old records show evidence of strong ridging over central North America.  Here, a large and elongated area of high pressure developed over the western Midwest.  Generally, ridges bring record heat and stifling air quality to an area.  They can occur both at the Earth's surface and at higher altitudes.

Upper level ridges can have a major impact on the weather. Sunny, dry weather usually prevails to the east of a upper-level ridge axis while cloudy, wet weather can dominate the weather to its west. Air tends to sink to the east of the ridge axis, which inhibits clouds and precipitation.  Extremely warm weather during the winter is often associated with a strong, slow moving, upper-level ridge.

“The La Niña, the Arctic Oscillation and the presence of a significant ridge all created the perfect storm for the two periods of extreme warm weather,” Lupo said.  “This tells us that extreme weather like this can be a more than a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.  Extreme weather will occur when just the right components of the climate come together at the same time.”

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Bush appointees differ
over Law of Sea Treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Top officials of the former Bush administration have aired disagreements on whether the United States should join a global maritime treaty known as the Law of the Sea Convention. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former deputy secretary of State John Negroponte testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday.
More than 160 nations belong to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs how nations may use the world’s oceans and the resources they contain. All major industrialized nations have ratified the treaty except the United States.

According to Rumsfeld, that is how it should remain. The former defense secretary took issue with the treaty’s collectivist treatment of seabed mineral resources.

"I do not believe the United States should endorse a treaty that makes it a legal obligation for productive countries to pay royalties to less-productive countries based on rhetoric about common heritage of mankind. The wealth distribution idea incorporated in the Law of the Sea Treaty is especially objectionable, because the mechanism for redistribution is poorly designed. It uses a newly created multinational seabed authority. The authority would not be effectively accountable to the American people any more than any U.N. agency is accountable,” Rumsfeld said.

Contrasting Rumsfeld’s opposition to the treaty was a top diplomat of the former Bush administration, John Negroponte, who argued the Law of the Sea Convention would bolster the United States economically and militarily.

“The United States would gain legal protection for its sovereignty — sovereign rights and jurisdiction in off-shore zones, the freedom of maneuvering action for its military forces, and protection for economic and marine research interests at sea. U.S. firms would be able to obtain essential internationally-recognized and exclusive rights to explore and exploit deposits of strategic minerals on the ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction and secure recognized title to the recovered resources,” Negroponte said.

The former Bush administration backed ratification, as does the Obama administration today. But Senate action has been delayed for decades and remains on hold, at least for now. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, has said a vote will not be held before the November elections. Kerry nevertheless backs the treaty.

“Ratifying the treaty will lock in the favorable navigational rights that our military and shipping interests depend on every single day. It will strengthen our hand against China and others who stake out claims in the Pacific, the Arctic, or elsewhere. It will give our oil and gas companies the certainty that they need to make crucial investments to secure our energy future. And it will help secure access to rare earth minerals which we need for weapons systems, computers, cell phones, and the like,” Kerry said.

Lawmakers opposed to ratification argue the Law of the Seas Convention would erode U.S. sovereignty by subjecting it to a global authority on maritime matters.

N. Y. insider trading case
now in hands of the jury

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A jury in New York began deliberations Thursday in the insider trading case against Rajat Gupta, a former director of the Goldman Sachs investment banking firm and former head of McKinsey and Company, a global consulting firm.

Federal prosecutors say Gupta telephoned a friend and investment partner, Raj Rajaratnam, with information from a Goldman Sachs board meeting that investor Warren Buffett was going to invest $5 billion in the investment bank. That information had not yet reached the public. According to the prosecutors, Rajaratnam bought thousands of shares in Goldman Sachs, then sold them the next day when the news became public, earning a $1 million profit.

The jury of eight women and four men is considering six criminal charges against Gupta, including securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Gupta says he is innocent of all the charges.

Gupta’s attorney, in his closing argument to the jury, called the government’s evidence against his client guesswork and speculation. That evidence includes seven wire-tapped telephone conversations and 10 e-mails.

Judge Jed Rakoff, in his instructions to the jury, said the government must prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt and that the law presumes a defendant innocent until proven guilty. While Gupta did not testify during the three-week trial, the judge reminded the jury that a defendant is never required to prove that he or she is innocent.

Supporters of Gupta argue that the evidence against him is circumstantial rather than direct. Judge Rakoff, in his jury instructions, said the law makes no distinction between the two. Attorney Lawrence Goldman, past president of the National Association of Criminal defense Lawyers, says circumstantial evidence can be overwhelming.

Gupta, 63 years old and born in India, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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Colombian president here
to launch trade treaty

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, arrives in Costa Rica today for an official visit. He will be accompanied by ministers and business leaders.

Part of the reason for his visit is to initiate discussions about a free trade treaty between his country and Costa Rica.

He is scheduled to arrive at Juan Santamaría airport at 10 a.m. He will be greeted by President Laura Chinchilla and assembled ministers. Later the two presidents will sign the documents giving an outline to the contents of a treaty.

After a diplomatic lunch, Santos will return to Colombia.

School children will get
time off at start of July

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Beware, parents, the mid-year vacation is coming.

Costa Rican public schools will be in recess from July 2 to July 13 this year, and a number of organizations and agencies are planning workshops and other activities for the youngsters.

Among these is the Fundación Pro Zoológicos which is working in conjunction with the Parque Zoológico y Jardín Botánico Nacional Simón Bolívar in north San José. The workshops, which also will be held at the park's Centro de Conservación de Santa Ana are from July 1 to July 15 to take advantage of the weekends. More information is available on the Web site,

This also is a good time for tourism, as many families leave town. Operators of tourism facilities look upon the midyear vacation as one of the major money-making periods, although not as lucrative as the country's high season from December to March.

Zoning plan is readied
for laid-back Montezuma

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The laid-back and famous community of Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula is getting a plan regulador or zoning regulation.

Officials from the Cóbano municipal council were at the legislature Thursday to outline the project. Lawmakers were told that the plan would permit development in the community that respects the environment.

The plan has been in the works since 2006. As part of the project, the municipal council is adopting the job of administering the nation's maritime law in the area, officials said.

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