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(506) 223-1327               Published  Wednesday, July 11, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 136         E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Lone voice counters idea of global warming disaster
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

As Costa Rica embarks on an ambitious plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2021, a lone but respected voice suggests that the project and others like it are unimportant.

The concept of carbon neutrality seeks to balance the nation's output of carbon dioxide with vegetation that will asbsorb the gas. This is designed to counter global warming.

This past weekend concerts took place around the world to focus attention on the presumed problem of global warming, which former U.S. vice president Al Gore says is the greatest single threat facing humankind today. 

Most of the world's scientists agree that it is a problem and that it is largely caused by human use of fossil fuels, which produce so-called greenhouse gases that trap the Earth's heat. 

Gore and scientists who wrote the United Nations 
William Gray
William Gray
report on climate change say the debate is over and the time has come to act. But some prominent climate scientists object, claiming that the debate has yet to even begin.

In Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," the dangers presented by global warming are shown in graphic fashion, with photos, maps and charts. In his view, there is no time to lose in
addressing global warming.

GORE: "That is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth."

The poster and cover art for the movie show a huge hurricane coming out of a smoke stack. But that image and much of what Gore presents in the film is rejected by one of the most respected men in the field of climate studies.

He is William Gray, 77, the principal force behind the annual hurricane forecasts done by Colorado State University's School of Atmospheric Science. He has little good to say about Gore and his movie.

"He is making statements that I could never make. He is making assumptions that are just not true. I think there are many factual errors in his movie," Gray said of Gore.

Gray rejects Gore's assertion that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of global warming. A number of other scientists, even some who support Gore's position in general, have also questioned some of the claims made in the movie.

But not William Gray. He does not dispute that the world is warming, but he does not see it as a crisis and he does not think emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases have much to do with it.

"Yes, we have seen some global warming. I think it is primarily natural due to the global ocean circulation features," he added.

Gray says the current warming trend is part of a natural cycle and that the world may soon enter a cooling phase.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported that climate change is accelerating even faster than had previously been predicted,
Inconveninet Truth poster
Poster for Al Gore's movie

adding to the urgent need to take action. But Gray  and other critics say these predictions are based on unreliable computer models. He says the panel has a political agenda and that skeptics are kept out of the discussion.

"The IPCC and all these reports, I have been over 55 years working in the field and they never have come to me one time," he said.  "I have just been isolated, and I know other colleagues of mine, who I respect for their knowledge. They never consulted them either. If they know how you think, they just leave you alone and go on."

Panel scientists reject such characterization of their consensus view and defend computer modeling as a way of understanding how greenhouse gases are affecting climate.

Gray said he believes the cutbacks in fossil fuel use advocated by the consensus scientists would hurt the economies of the United States and other industrialized nations and, in the end, do little or nothing to stop global warming. He says all the attention focused on global warming is distracting people from the world's real problems.

"We have so many other important problems around the world that are much more critical," he explained.  "For instance, poverty, AIDS, terrorism, all these problems we have in the world. To me this global warming is sort of a red herring. They have been saying it is the greatest problem facing mankind now. That is a gross exaggeration."

Gray plans to write a book to rebut the arguments of Gore and other global warming activists. He says he and other skeptics have been shunted aside and dismissed as "global warming deniers." Critics also claim the skeptics are financed by large oil companies, but Gray says he has never taken any money from the energy industry.

While he may not have convinced some of the scientists who believe in human-induced global warming, he may yet have a chance to make his case. Some scientists from the global warming camp are now saying that debate should be allowed. As Gray and other skeptics have argued, science is advanced through constant questioning and testing of hypotheses, not by consensus.

The Costa Rican initiative is part of the peace with nature project by President Óscar Arias Sanchez.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 136

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Barra de Colorado
Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y
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Air photo of Barra de Colorado shows the entire community underwater.

Return to normal weather
predicted for soaked nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's meteorology institute is predicting typical weather for today: cloudy morning and rain and downpours in the afternoon. But it appears that the low pressure systems that have plagued the nation since Wednesday have moved on.

Officials still are trying to estimate the damage. In northeast Costa Rica emergency commission officials estimated that some 700 millimeters or about 27.5 inches of rain fell within 10 days. That amount is about twice the average rain for the month.  In Barra de Tortuguero an estimated 50 families were flooded out. In Barra de Colorado, a well-known fishing base, 60 families were flooded out.

The emergency commission said they provided foam mattresses and food rations for the people there. There were thousands flooded out elsewhere and the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said it had distributed 17 tons of food and supplies.

Other trouble spots were Upala, Pococí, Guatuso and Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos) as well as areas on the Caribbean coast, such as Matina.

Estimates of damage for the northern zone and the Caribbean were running at about $10 million, including bridges, highways, pipes, homes and crops.

Bridge prototype designed
for multiple applications

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The highway ministry is at work on the prototype of a bridge that probably can be used to replace at least 20 spans damaged in heavy rains last week.

The bridges are from 10 to 20 meters, from 33 to 66 feet.

Karla González, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, said the bridge design would allow the national emergency commission to reopen affected routes in less time.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad has estimated that in the Caribbean zone alone some 20 bridges are down and some 150 kms. of road, some 93 miles, are damaged.  Pococí and Guápiles are the hardest hit, the agency said, with damage also in Guácimo and Sarapiquí.

Because much of the area still is flooded, engineers cannot estimate exactly the damage and the repair needs, the ministry said.

Two highway projects tied
by large doses of red tape

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two key highway projects important to expats continue to be tied up in red tape.

The first is the San José-Caldera highway that was supposed to be started in April. Officials use the term paralyzed when talking of this project.

The other is a plan to surface the dirt and gravel road that leads from the main Nicoya-Sámara highway to the beach town of Nicoya. Despite the completion of one bid process, this job still is in limbo and probably will not be started for at least a year if at all.

Nosara residents have mixed feelings about the road because they believe that putting an asphalt surface on the challenging route will make the area too accessible.

The San José-Caldera route is supposed to be a shorter route to the Pacific. The technical term for the project is "cursed." The bridges have been constructed since the Miguel Ángel Rodríguez administration. President Abel Pacheco could not make any progress with getting the roadbed graded and surfaced.

The Óscar Arias administration let out the project in the form of a concession to Autopista del Sol. Executives from the firm are supposed to come from Spain to renegotiate the project.

As the concessionaire the company would construct the route and then earn the cost of the work and a profit by erecting toll booths.

The Nosara case has a different twist. The construction firm  CASICA won a bid in May, in part because it was the only company in the process that had a certified laboratory to keep track of road work. However, a new bid process was called for to include companies that did not maintain a certified lab, said Pedro Castro, vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The best guess is that a new bid process will be initiated in December and the design stage will begin within two months, just in time for the 2008 rainy season when road work is minimal. The stretch is about 30 kms. or about 19 miles.

Fares rising on 52 bus routes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fare on the San José-Alajuela bus route is going up 25 colons from 310 to 335, according to a summary provided Tuesday by the price regulating agency.

The fare of the San José-San Carlos route is going up 90 colons from 1,055 to 1,145, said the agency. That increase is about 17 U.S. cents.

These were among some 52 increases approved by the Authoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos. Prices are expected to change next Tuesday.

Organic agriculture act signed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez signed into law Tuesday an act to promote and develop organic agriculture.

Arias noted that many of the organic producers are small scale. Arias also said that consumers in other countries will pay higher prices if the products they purchase are really organic.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 136

Emotions will rule when Costa Ricans go to the polls Oct. 7
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a rule in writing public opinion surveys that says individuals should not be asked about complex issues of which they have no real knowledge.

An example would be: "On a scale of one to five with five meaning very satisfied, how satisfied are you with the United States response to U.N. efforts in Darfur?"

A public opinion poll containing such questions is useless because few people really know anything about Darfur and even some are uncertain about what is the U.N.

A better tactic for someone seeking a valid sampling of opinion would be to confine the survey to experts, politicians and workers for non-governmental agencies in Darfur.

The Oct. 7 referendum on the free trade treaty with the United States is like the Darfur question for the general public. The average voter is unlikely to be able to provide an intelligent response.

The Costa Rican Constitution clearly delegates the approval of international treaties to the Asamblea Legislativa. But thanks to efforts by opponents, the issue was dumped in the lap of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, which unwisely agreed that the matter should be a subject for public debate and voting.

On this one issue Costa Rica has moved from a representative democracy with all its faults to a direct democracy with all its faults.

At least in the Asamblea Legislativa lawmakers are expected to spend days discussing the merits of the free trade treaty along with the help of experts. The document is highly complex and draws on definitions and regulations found elsewhere.

In the direct democracy of Oct. 7, citizens will avail themselves of free bus rides to vote their emotions or whatever subjective opinion they may have formed.

The outcome will have little to do with the value of the free trade treaty and more to do with the success of the winning advertising campaign.

Certain segments of society have predictable opinions. The union worker for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is likely to vote against the trade treaty because private companies would be able to compete in the wireless communications field.

The worker for an exporter of mini vegetables is likely to vote in favor because the treaty will enhance sales and protect his job.

The large population of those without vested interested in the outcome is the target of the growing campaigns.

Hernán Medford, the coach of the national soccer squad,
voting salesman

has taped one commercial. The yes site is trying to link
the treaty with something the average Costa Rican loves: fútbol. So Medford is now a visible expert on the free trade treaty.

The no faction wisely has chosen the theme of patriotism for their campaign. In fact, this sector has been quicker to adopt emotions issues in the face of the treaty.

The most recent is the pronouncement that bones, human tissue and internal organs will be able to pass in and out of the United States and Costa Rica without the payment of customs duties. For the no crowd, this is an invitation for North Americans to harvest Costa Rican kidneys, and it is treated as such in a newspaper reprint on the Web page of the opposition Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados.

The no faction already has suggested that approval of the treaty would mean the manufacture of firearms and even nuclear weapons in Costa Rica. And they have portrayed President Óscar Arias as someone who will benefit personally by approval of the free trade treaty.

One can expect the emotions to be tweaked harder the closer the nation moves to Oct. 7. Although the question on the treaty involves some major issues including the choice between socialism and capitalism, playing on emotions is the way to win votes.

The principles of propaganda have been studied in depth since World War I: The big lie. The bandwagon appeal. Fear appeal and similar.

In English the word propaganda carries too much negative baggage, so the techniques today are better known as public relations, advertising, political marketing and fund-raising.

Expect to see all of these tools in use between now and the vote Oct. 7.

Lawmaker worried immigration bill does not earmark use of funds collected
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although a proposed law would assess a tax on resident foreigners of $25 apiece, at least one lawmaker is worried that the money will not go where it should.

The proposal is to use the money to offset the cost of schooling for immigrant children and immigrant medical case.

Alberto Salom of the Partido Acción Ciudadana raised the issue Tuesday during a meeting of the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos de Gobierno y Administración. He noted that the money would go to the general treasury and would not be earmarked for the specific social services noted in the proposed law.

The proposal seeks to take some money from immigrants who are swelling the ranks of school children and putting a burden on the mostly free health services. Officials have said that some 600,000 foreigners are in the country and 300,000 of those are Nicaraguans.

Fernando Berrocal, who was appearing before the committee on behalf of the proposed law, said that there is
no legal way to earmark the funds. He is the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública and the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is in his ministry. But he did suggest makings it more clear in the text of the bill that the money is to be used for infrastructure, education and health.

The bill in question is the Arias administration rewrite of what the previous legislature passed. The current law has been called draconian by some who note that strict penalties are imposed on those who house or hire illegal immigrants.

The $25 fee is seen as a way the administration can begin to integrate foreigners here into the Costa Rican culture. In previous appearances before the same committee administration officials expressed concern that foreigners do not have the same concept of democracy and a nation of laws as do Costa Ricans.

The $25 head tax would be collected during the residency process. Some see it as a way to provide a form of amnesty to persons who are in the country illegally, although the proposed law does not address this issue specifically. However, it gives the director of immigration broad authority to issue residency to individuals and groups.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 136

Ox cart rest stop reborn as art gallery and land sales office
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new art gallery, Iguana Tranquila, along with a land sales office promoting carbon neutrality, is now housed in the historic Casa Cambronero, “Costa Rica’s Original Rest Stop” site near San Ramón. 

The art gallery honors the history of the Cambronero family, and the Iguanaland Co. sales office encourages people who want to move to Costa Rica to take advantage of their partnership with Tropical Sierra Foundation, which provides trees for reforestation to make Costa Rica a carbon dioxide-neutral place to live.

In keeping with the original, late 1800s strategy of the Cambronero family, the new owners, Mike and Jacki Styles, take advantage of this strategic location where tourists welcome a needed break and a little refreshment and a place of interest before they continue on their way. 

The Styles say they don’t provide the run-of-the-mill souvenirs, but unique art and gift items. 

The prior owners, the descendants of the Cambronero family, passed their history on to the new owners, and a simplified version of the story goes like this:

The late 1800s in Costa Rica was a time of pioneers, untamed frontier and trading outposts, much like the United States Wild West.  Important to the time, was the building of roads leading from central Costa Rica to the ocean ports.  One family, the Cambroneros, set down roots at the right place at the right time, and even moved
Iguana Tranquilla
Art galley and sales office near San Ramón

their location when the old road was replaced with a more modern highway. 

Through the years, the family became important providers of various needs of those passing through, as well as those permanently moving to the area.  They were able to acquire considerable wealth doing things like selling and delivering groceries, shoeing horses, trading cattle, cutting hair and providing room and board, both for people and for livestock. 

In time, their location became important as a rest stop on the way to the Pacific Ocean ports for those involved in coffee exportation.  It was during this time the colorful oxcarts also became a famous Costa Rica icon. 

The Cambronero family kept the business flourishing by simply moving from the old road to the new highway, the Interamericana and became an icon.

Brazil to revive its nuclear program by finishing power plant and building sub
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva has announced plans to revive the country's long-stalled nuclear program.

President da Silva told reporters in Sao Paulo state Tuesday that funds will be allocated for completion of another nuclear power plant and construction of a nuclear-powered submarine.
Da Silva also said Brazil could become one of the few countries in the world to control the entire uranium enrichment cycle.

In June, the Brazilian energy council approved plans to complete the country's third nuclear power plant, the Angra Three. Construction has been stalled since the 1980s.

Brazil has one of the world's largest uranium reserves and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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