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(506) 2223-1327          Published Friday, July 1, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 129           E-mail us
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Canadians here mark their country's birthday today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Canada Day, a major holiday for that much overlooked country to the north of the United States.

Even in Costa Rica Canadians seem to keep a lower profile, although they can be found in many businesses and activities.

Cameron MacKay, the Canadian ambassador here, is hosting what is called a traditional Canadian breakfast for diplomats and fellow Canadians this morning. He is expected to outline Canada's contribution to Costa Rica, which extends much further than the 100,000 or so tourists who visit each year.

One of the principal expat organizations, the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, has Canadian roots. Other Canadian firms make up significant segments of the economy.

In a Canada Day message, MacKay promised to work to make relations with Costa Rica closer and better.

In Canada, Britain's Prince William and his wife, Catherine, are in Ottawa, the capital, for their first overseas tour as a married couple, according to wire service reports.

The royal couple arrived in Ottawa Thursday and attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a war memorial. Their presence sparked screams of delight from thousands of onlookers. They are expected to attend Canada Day ceremonies.

In the United States Hillary Clinton, the secretary of State, had words similar to MacKay's:

"As Americans, we cherish our close relationship with Canada. In these days of challenge and opportunity, we will continue to work closely together to address our common challenges of the 21st century. From Cape Spear to the Queen Charlotte Islands to the farthest reaches of the
Oh, Canada

North, wherever you gather to sing "O Canada," I wish all Canadians a safe and happy Canada Day celebration."

Despite the closeness, survey after survey shows that U.S. citizens known little about Canada. Many expect pine trees and lumberjacks if not igloos and eskimos.

The Canadian Embassy did not release a menu for the private traditional breakfast today. The scope of Canadian cuisine is as broad as the multi-cultural population. But a good start would be maple syrup and bacon along with some thick Canadian bread fried in bacon fat. The calorie count is sure to be much higher than coffee and gallo pinto to the delight of the Costa Rican guests.

Then the diplomats can jog over to the U.S. Embassy's Independence Day celebration in the afternoon for another round of boca and spirits.

Meanwhile Canadians here will be preparing their own private celebrations, probably with barbeque. The Canadian community had a Canada Day picnic last weekend.

Canada Day marks the 1982 legislation that made the country independent.

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Our readers' opinions
Computer donation to school
ends up collecting dust

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest the article today about the Chinchilla Administrations Anti-Poverty Internet Program.

Late last year a neighborhood committee approached me about donating computers to the local school (El Carmen La Suiza).

I met with teachers at the school, and they specified the programs they wanted installed in the computers.   

In January I donated three computers (2 PC's and one Mac) to the school and had a local technician install the specified programs.

As of last week, they are still setting in a corner of an office, and have never been used.  The parents are very frustrated but their attempts to get a computer instruction program started at the El Carmen school have been met with indifference.

This will be my last donation to the school.

Dr. Thomas Douglas
Turrialba, La Suiza

One must distinguish
research vs. opinion

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hari Singh Khalasa has every right to be skeptical of a single study that touts the benefits of drinking coffee, as do we all, but he engages in precisely the same quality of unfounded assertion when he says, ". . .as a yoga instructor, and one who enjoys an occasional cup of coffee, I am more prone to believe, that a balanced healthy diet, and regular exercise, are a safer bet to optimum brain health, than to gulping down large quantities of java."

Unlike the researchers whose work is referred to in your article earlier in the week, Mr. Khalasa has engaged in no research whatsoever. He says so in his letter. So his assertion is based upon nothing more than his own conviction borne part of a lifetime devoted to yoga. While Mr. Khalasa has every right to his own opinion, it carries with it no scientific weight whatsoever and should be regarded as a statement of his own personal belief and nothing more.

David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

Proposition 13 destroyed
education in California

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It was mentioned that we have "lost a generation from the 1980's," reported in the La Nación.  Mr. McCormick thinks it is the fault of teachers unions.  Well there is another side to that fallacy, and a great example is what happened in California and after following their lead what happened throughout the United States.

Proposition 13, in 1978, drained the California school system of money. Since 1978 California's test scores have gone from near the top of all the states to near the bottom. One former schoolteacher complained that he was forced to leave the teaching profession because the schools had no money to pay him a living wage. Meanwhile, libraries around the state were shut down. 

Proposition 13 did usher in a second California gold rush in the 1980s.  California's economic surge in the years following Proposition 13 was to become the envy of the nation.   Yes, big business did quite well, but schools were shut down all over California never to reopen.   None of the money generated was used to reopen or bring back the school system to what it was before 1978.  My own kids went from having 15 children in their classes to over 30.  Six schools were closed down in the section of  northern Orange County where I lived.  The land was sold to build industrial parks instead.  I wouldn't blame the unions for the self-serving mindset mentioned.  I would aim that at the bottom line of the big corporations running everything, including how government spends it revenues.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

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

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 129

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Downtown traffic restrictions suspended for school vacation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officials are listing the license plate restrictions for San Jose's downtown for two weeks starting Monday.

The public school midyear vacation starts at the end of class today, and transport officials said that there will be less traffic downtown because students and teachers will not be traveling. In addition, many parents use the two weeks of school vacation as a time to get away with the entire family, they said.

The restrictions will resume at 6 a.m. Monday, July 18.

The prohibitions are based on the last digit of the license place. For example, vehicles with a last digit of 1 or 2 may not enter the downtown area on Mondays. Today the prohibited digits are 9 and 0.

The prohibited areas is large, ranging from the Circunvalación on the south and east to La Uruca n the west
and Calle Blanco on the north. The fine for getting caught
is 41,098 colons or about $82. The prohibited period is from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Traffic officials have another reason. They will be using many of the officers that enforce the law downtown elsewhere to handle vacation traffic.

The downtown traffic prohibition probably is the best enforced law in the land. Officers of the Policía de Tránsito have been stationed on every corner of the main downtown streets. The also make surprise sweeps of lesser-used roads to catch those trying to sneak into the city.

Because San Pedro is not under the restriction, neighbors who live in the east end of the restricted area sometimes try to sneak out to there.

Traffic police are aware of this temptation, and periodically arrive in force in the vicinity of Mall San Pedro to catch transgressors just  few hundred yards from the  limits.

This little lizard makes a great, talkative companion
Although I am a city dweller, I am not entirely deprived of Nature’s other creatures.  There is a gecko in my bedroom.  I have seen him only once – when I was closing my bedroom window against the impending rain.  My bedroom has a sliding window with a screen. There he was, scrambling between the window and the screen to escape the prison I was about to make.  I welcomed him in, and quick as a wink, he was behind my bookcase.

Each night when I turn off the light and settle for sleep he chirps three times to me from behind the bookcase and in response I say, “Good night, Cutie Pie.”  The silly name just came out the first night, something evidently from my long ago childhood.  But last night his chirps came from closer to the door.  I think he is leaving.

I also found a cockroach lying on his back in my bathroom.  Cockroaches are not cutie pies.  I really don’t like them, but after living in New York and knowing they are prehistoric, I have learned not to throw a fit when I see one.  They only show up in my bathroom, and I like to believe they are really palmetto bugs that have flown in through the only porthole window that a flying creature could blunder into. 

I briefly wondered if geckos tackle roaches, dismissed the thought and helped the roach to its final rest.

This season, for the first time that I recall, flies have found a stopping off place in my apartment when I leave the door to the balcony open.  Being on the fifth floor where it is often windy, this surprises me.  I wonder if geckos consider flies food.  I hope so. He is as close to a pet as I will have in the city, and even though I rarely see him, I like having him around. Watching the birds on my balcony peck at the bananas I have put out is a pleasure, too.  Some birds – especially the small blue finches – share or take turns companionably.   The larger birds quarrel about who goes first. Since I am the biggest bird of all, I chase them away when a blue finch is patiently waiting. I have learned to respect the intelligence of birds. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to brains.

I notice that the dog population has increased in this neighborhood, even though my building has a no-pets policy, I know there was a dog here for a while.  Across the street the horses that work at Sabana park occasionally graze in the vacant lot there.  They keep the grass from growing too high.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

cutie pie

That is the extent of the life in my apartment, except for the large reddish ants that think they are roaches since they come out in my kitchen and only at night.  No mosquitoes, scorpions, meandering snakes or large spiders that would totally freak me.  When I see a rare little spider, before I leave the room, I tell him that if he is not gone by the time I return, he is in danger of being a dead spider. They usually disappear. Have you ever noticed that ‘dumb’ animals probably understand more languages than we do?  

Recently I have been watching Turner Classic Movies -- the Westerns, war movies, film noir, gangster and cop movies.  Add to that the news of the many wars and uprisings, the torture and suffering that goes with them. And now there is a Web site on the social media that publishes any insult or criticism, true or not, about another person along with a picture the person may have posted on Facebook.  I am coming to realize that human beings are as brutal and nasty, violent and uncivil as we ever were. Talk about wildlife. No wonder so many people prefer to keep company with Mother Nature’s other creatures.

I hope Cutie Pie has not left.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 129

CR Home real estate

Two officers sweep a cluttered prison cell that bears every resemblance to home. One office is using a metal detector.
home sweet home
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

La Reforma prison sweep yields an amazing assortment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly 1,000 police officers descended on the La Reforma prison in Alajuela Thursday and made an incredible haul of contraband, weapons and cash.

La Reforma in San Rafael de Alajuela contains the maximum security wing that figured in a an abortive and fatal prison break in May. The prison complex contains many other independent unit, and these were what was swept Thursday.

Some 200 Fuerza Pública officers joined 430 members of the  Policía Penitenciaria to search the facility.

They were joined by traffic police, judicial agents and even Cruz Roja medical teams in case of emergencies.

Revelations about the insecurity of the prison units came after the prions break when investigators found that those who tried to flee the maximum security wing had keys to the cells and weapons. There appeared to be complicity by law officers within the prison system.

Such appeared to be the case Thursday when searchers turned up 68 liters of alcohol, 800 grams of crack cocaine and marijuana, 580 knives and swords, 10 cell phones, two cell phone chips, and 3.2 million colons in cash. None of these items are permitted.

The security at the prison in minimal because visitors mix with the inmates. There also are conjugal visits. Wives and girlfriends frequently are detained trying to smuggle contraband into the prisons.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
Weapons that appear to be small swords were found at the prison.

The prisons are run by Adaptación Social, a dependency of the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz.

Walter Navarro, vice minister of Seguridad, said efforts are being made to beef up control of those who visit the prisons. Some of the Fuerza Pública officers who worked at the prison Thursday are trained in discovering metal objects like mine. They used electronic devices to detect illegal objects.

2010 was one of the warmest years on record, report says

By the U.S. National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration

Worldwide, 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record according to the "2010 State of the Climate" report, which the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released this week. The peer-reviewed report, issued in coordination with the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 368 scientists from 45 countries. It provides a detailed, yearly update on global climate indicators, notable climate events and other climate information from every continent.

This year’s report tracks 41 climate indicators ― four more than last year ― including temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, precipitation, greenhouse gases, humidity, cloud cover, ocean temperature and salinity, sea ice, glaciers, and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets that allow scientists to identify overall trends.  

While several well-known cyclical weather patterns had a significant influence on weather and climate events throughout the year, the comprehensive analysis of indicators shows a continuation of the long-term trends scientists have seen over the last 50 years, consistent with global climate change.

“We’re continuing to closely track these indicators because it is quite clear that the climate of the past cannot be assumed to represent the climate of the future. These indicators are vital for understanding and making reliable projections of future climate,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of the agency's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina

Last year was marked by important climate oscillations like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation, which affected regional climates and contributed to many of the world’s significant weather events in 2010.

Highlights of some of the climate indicators include:

* Temperature: Three major independent datasets show 2010 as one of the two warmest years since official record-keeping began in the late 19th century. Annual average temperatures in the Arctic continued to rise at about twice the rate of the lower latitudes. The other record warm year was 1998.

* Sea Ice & Glaciers: Arctic sea ice shrank to the third smallest area on record, and the Greenland ice sheet melted at the highest rate since at least 1958. The Greenland ice sheet melt area was approximately 8 percent more than the previous record set in 2007. Alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th consecutive year. Meanwhile, average sea ice extent in the Antarctic grew to an all-time record maximum in 2010.

* Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Level: Even with a moderate-to-strong La Niña in place during the latter half of the year, which is associated with cooler equatorial waters in the tropical Pacific, the  2010 average global sea surface temperature was third warmest on record and sea level continued to rise.

* Ocean Salinity: Oceans were saltier than average in
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration graphic
Dip in jet stream brought snow to the U.S. East Coast

areas of high evaporation and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, suggesting that the water cycle is intensifying.

* Greenhouse Gases:  Major greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise. Carbon dioxide increased by 2.60 ppm, which is more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010.

Several major cyclical weather patterns played a key role in weather and climate in 2010:

* El Niño-Southern Oscillation:  A strong warm El Niño climate pattern at the beginning of 2010 transitioned to a cool La Niña by July, contributing to some unusual weather patterns around the world and impacting global regions in different ways. Tropical cyclone activity was below normal in nearly all basins around the globe, especially in much of the Pacific Ocean. The Atlantic basin was the exception, with near-record high North Atlantic basin hurricane activity. Heavy rains led to a record wet spring (September – November) in Australia, ending a decade-long drought.

* Arctic Oscillation:  In its negative phase for most of 2010, the Arctic Oscillation affected large parts of the Northern Hemisphere causing frigid arctic air to plunge southward and warm air to surge northward. Canada had its warmest year on record while Britain had its coldest winter at the beginning of the year and coldest December at the end of the year. The Arctic Oscillation reached its most negative value in February, the same month several cities along the U.S. East Coast had their snowiest months ever.

* Southern Annular Mode:  An atmospheric pattern related to the strength and persistence of the storm track circling the Southern Hemisphere and the Antarctic led to an all-time maximum in 2010 of average sea ice volume in the Antarctic.

The State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 1, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 129

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Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba
identified as trouble spots

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Experts testifying in front of a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel agree that Latin America is more democratic today than it has ever been in the past, and say that democratic institutions and the democratic transfer of power have taken hold in the region over the past 30 years.  But the experts say that Cuba is the one glaring exception, and cite Venezuela and Nicaragua as places of concern due to political pressure from the government on the opposition and on independent journalists.

The experts testifying to a Senate subcommittee all agreed that there is plenty of good news on the state of democracy in Latin America. 

"Latin America has never been as democratic as it is today.  With one notable exception, Cuba, every country enjoys formally democratic government," said Michael Reid of the Economist magazine.

Reid and other experts said that across Latin American more citizens are participating in government today, in part due to increasing economic prosperity, and that there is a broad acceptance of elections as the way to transfer power. 

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, agreed, singling out three countries for particular praise. He is the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee chairman,

"Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have made great strides in the quality of democracy over the past 30 years," Menendez said.

But the experts at the hearing said challenges remain, citing Cuba as an exception to the trend, with the Communist island country still undemocratic, and its people still not free.   Roberta Jacobson, singled out Venezuela and Nicaragua for concern. She is the  State Department's  deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere,

"We are particularly concerned about Venezuela as President Chávez continues to disrespect the legitimate role of democratic institutions, restrict freedom, including by closing press outlets and use the judiciary to persecute political opponents," Ms. Jacobson said.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has harsher words for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, calling him a clown who he said has visions of grandeur, but Rubio said his influence in Latin America has actually decreased in recent years.

"More importantly I feel sorry for the people of Venezuela because he is an embarrassment to that country, a people that are a proud people, a people with a  tremendous amount of potential, a country with a tremendous amount of wealth, really a nation that has an opportunity to be a leader in the world," Rubio said.

Ms. Jacobson said that the government of Nicaragua has manipulated the courts and congress to concentrate power in the executive branch.

The experts at the hearing also warned, that in other countries in Latin America where the governments are democratic, such as México, crime and drug cartels pose the greatest danger to safety and freedom.  Outside of war zones, Latin America is the most violent region on Earth.

Chávez appears with Castro
on Cuban television segment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan state television aired new footage Wednesday of President Hugo Chávez, whose prolonged stay in Cuba after surgery has triggered speculation about his health.

The footage showed the 56-year-old president walking and talking with his friend, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  The two are seen in a garden in Cuba, where Chávez underwent emergency surgery June 10.

President Chávez appeared lucid and talkative, as he and Castro discussed content in Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma.  The footage, which included audio from the conversation, was shot on Tuesday.  Portions of the footage, without audio, aired Tuesday on Cuban television.

Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua told state television the video is evidence Chávez is on the road to recovery.

Authorities have said President Chavez's June 10 operation was for an abscess in his pelvic area.  But his prolonged stay in Havana has sparked rumors he may have cancer.

Meanwhile, Venezuela says it has canceled a summit of Latin American leaders scheduled for next week in Caracas, due to Chavez's health status.

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IBM announcement wins
universal approval here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials and organization leaders outside of the central government have welcomed the announcement by IBM that it will invest $300 million in Costa Rica over 10 years and hire up to 1,000 persons.

The announcement came Thursday morning at a session in Casa Presidencial. The news was reported HERE early Thursday afternoon.

IBM already had operations here, and this would be a new technological center. The services the company will offer include security, troubleshooting, maintenance and monitoring of systems and software for its clients principally in the United States and Europe, said Casa Presidencial.

Among the organization praising the decision were, predictably, the Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación.

The company said it would begin recruiting now. But it did not say how it would allocate the money. With a work force of 1,000, a $300 million investment means $300,000 per head, so the company must be planning new construction.

IBM now has facilities in Costa Rica that process client relations, provide accounting and operate shared services with clients in the Americas. The company is headquartered here at Global Park Free Zone in La Aurora de Heredia.

The government is calling this the largest investment in the country in 13 years.

México is taking a beating
from Tropical Storm Arlene

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tropical Storm Arlene, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, has hit Mexico's eastern coast, pummeling a large part of the country with heavy rains.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the center of Arlene struck land Thursday near Cabo Rojo in Mexico's Veracruz state. The nearby states of Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi were also in the storm's path.

At last report, Arlene had winds of 100 kph, about 62 mph.

Forecasters say the storm is expected to dump 10 to 20 centimeters of rain over eastern Mexico. That could be as much as 8 inches. The hurricane center said some mountain areas could get up to 38 centimeters and that the rains could cause "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

The storm is not expected to grow into a hurricane and is forecast to dissipate on Friday.

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