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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, July 12, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 135        E-mail us
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Tico geologist in Italy says quakes can be predicted
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican who is a geologist in Italy has developed a way he says predicts earthquakes. He will present his concept by video in Costa Rica Tuesday.

The geologist is Roberto Delgado Estrada, who graduated from the University of Naples and spent the last 40 years working in Italy. He has close relatives living here.

Predicting earthquakes has been the Holy Grail of geologists. Delgado presented his concept last week in Rome, and there was a flurry of press reports, mostly in Italian.

He uses sensors to measure the elasticity of rock in the vicinity of earthquake faults. The deformation of the substrata is an indication of a coming earthquake, he said, according to press reports.

Delgado calls his instrument the Geoscope. He will outline its workings by video conferencing to faculty members of Universidad Veritas, at the school in San José at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The event will be in hall 414.

Delgado's device does not predict the day and the hour of an earthquake, but it does show that one is imminent due to the buildup of stress in the rock.

Other scientists have approached predictions in other ways, but there still is not a recognized method for successful predictions.

An Italian, Giampaolo Giuliani, said he predicted a
major earthquake in central Italy in 2009 based on emissions of radon gas in the area. His claim is controversial.

There have been a series of incorrect predictions, including the one in southern Missouri in December 1990. That was predicted a year before by a controversial scientist who had been studying the New Madrid fault that runs into southern Illinois. No quake took place.

Many prediction attempts involve sensing minor tremors in advance of a major quake or relating historical readings with tidal and astronomical data on eclipses. There also are theories that say quakes produce electrical activity.

For thousands of years animals have been said to exhibit abnormal behaviors in advance of a quake. That has been attributed to high-frequency sounds.

Delgado attended the Universidad de Costa Rica in mechanical engineering for three years before moving to Italy to complete his education as a geologist.

Costa Rica, of course, is very active due to the intersection of tectonic plates beneath the country.

Earthquakes are routine, and Pacific coast residents fully expect a major quake sometime soon along a fault that runs north and south through the Gulf of Nicoya.

New reports said that Delgado believes his instrumentation would also be helpful in monitoring volcanoes.

Escazú luxury condo given deadline on sewage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents and businesses at the luxury Condominio El Cortijo in Los Laureles, Escazú, have been told to fix the wastewater problem in 19 days or get out.

The multimillion-dollar project has 136 residential units and seven commercial storefronts. The complex battle over the discharge of waste water has been going on for several years.

However, the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo del Segundo Circuito Judicial de San José has issued an order to prevent the escape of waste water that has not been treated.

According to residents in the area, the sewage
 enters a water course that flows behind the residency of the U.S. ambassador. The smell is sometimes unbearable, they say.

The report of the latest order came from the Municipalidad de Escazú. Municipal officials have been under investigation for awarding permits to the condo project. A judge, Alexander Castillo, told residents and the project owners that work had to be completed by Aug. 8 or evictions would take place. 

Municipal inspectors and those from the Ministerio de Salud are expected to verify that the work has been done. If the treatment plant is not operating satisfactory or if other required work has not been done, evictions will begin Aug. 9, the municipality said.

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Our readers' opinions
Real estate possession law
creates anarchy in courts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We are approaching the anniversary of an event that exemplifies the anarchy, caused by an archaic, unfair, Costa Rican law, that primarily benefits thieves, not the poor it was deigned to aid.

Last year a mob of more than 100 weapon-wielding squatters invaded a guarded, gated, five-hectare parcel recently awarded to the rightful owner after a 20-year legal nightmare and forcefully re-occupied his land. In the process, the squatters, hacked at the owner with a machete and almost killed him. The local police eventually intervened and rescued the man, saving his life. To date only one arrest has been made, even with camera surveillance.

The justification used by the invaders was that since they bought the “possession rights” they were legally entitled to it. In Costa Rica, buying, mapping and registering one’s possession rights, is not illegal, nor immoral (See July 3, 2009, A.M. Costa Rica article "Citi says involvement by board member in Herradura land dispute not unethical"), it is “Big Business.” Additionally, one does not even need to “occupy” land to squat. The law recognizes a guard shack with a caretaker (co-conspirator) as a possession.

In the case of Herradura, the local authorities have allowed over 400 structures without permits and constructed in public land (river bank) and graded roads at taxpayer expense on occupied land. The new occupants pose a burden on all local infrastructure without paying property tax or respecting construction rules. The influx of poor who buy “possession rights,“ also causes overcrowding in the public schools.

The five- to seven-year legal process gives the well-organized criminals/original invader, time to re-sell the property with no legal ramifications. In essence, this is government collusion to aid in the theft of land.

The law giving legal rights, most significantly, the right to re-sell, to occupants, invites corruption, violence and  unnecessarily jams the court system with property suits. Over 45 percent of the supreme court of Costa Rica’s cases involved some sort of possession dispute.

This costs the taxpayers millions of dollars, and it slows all legal processes to the point that there is no justice. The winner is not the poor family that bought the possession rights because they needed a place to live or the landowner who spent 10 years in court paying tens of thousands on lawyers, but the thief who stole the land and resold the possession rights before the court could respond.

For the good of the people of Costa Rica , the resale of stolen property should be illegal!
Timmis Moore
Sailors here will distort
price of good Tico coffee

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The true talent, creativity and professionalism of those involved with the writing of  "The Truth is in the Eye of the Internet or Politician," is greatly appreciated. However, you failed to mention the deleterious results of those 7,000 proponents of peace buying and consuming the finest coffee in the world right here in Costa Rica. Such a demand will instigate a horrific rise in the price of Costa Rican coffee which will perpetrate additional dollars for those in the coffee profession which will trigger more jobs in Pura Vidaville resulting in additional taxes to facilitate the payment of absurd salaries to this country's lawmakers. Amen and thank you A.M. Costa Rica. You're A+.

Skeeter Coleman
Grifo Alto de Puriscal

Change sought in policy
over war on drugs

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

These are indeed strange days. The old adage "Laugh otherwise you'll cry"seems apropos. Latin America is now in a quandary. The wait-and-see attitude to the different "new" U.S. president is wearing thin.

Obama campaigned on a platform of change. The executive branch may set the agenda, but the special-interest-driven Congress controls the content of the law. The buffoons in Congress, as shills for the special interests who wish to keep the status quo, control the purse strings on programs and directives that have global reach.

As for "wars" it is clear that Obama kowtows to the Pentagon. So, in essence, the change he promised has been window dressing at best.

The "war" most directly affecting us here in Latin America is the 40+ year failed war on drugs. With untold billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on enforcing a prohibition, not unlike the failed prohibition on alcohol that gave rise to organized crime in the 1920s, logic would seem to dictate change, but no change whatsoever seems in the making.

México is on the verge of failed statehood, as the drug cartels have acquired power, wealth, and influence sufficient to at least match anything the federales can muster.

With malaise from the failure to change what is not working, naturally there is going to be anti-U.S. sentiment throughout the region.

With the black market pipeline through the region flush with illicit drugs and money, many politicians have either been financed directly by cartel money, or at the least hold sympathies in that direction, as crime has spiraled through the roof at least in part due to this U.S.-driven failed war on drugs, references to William Walker, and Shirley MacLane, notwithstanding.
Hari Singh Khalsa

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 135

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La Nación says it cut material on murder suspect from story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Spanish-language daily La Nación said Sunday that it had to reprint its PROA supplement over concerns about publicizing information about a juvenile murder suspect.

This is the case of the Heredia school director shot by a student July 1. The woman, Nancy María Chaverri Jiménez, 49, died early Sunday morning making the case a murder investigation.

La Nación said that the parents of the suspect collaborated all week with reporters to provide background information and photos of their son.  The father of the suspect, Carlos Guation, went public shortly after the shooting at the  Taller Pedagógico Montebello in Merecedes Sur de Heredia to ask forgiveness from the victim's family.

"The goal of the publication was to show how a boy, apparently without risk factors, could commit actions with a high level of violence. The idea was to alert other parents about the need to always maintain supervision over the conduct of their children," said the newspaper in an explanation published online.

Printers began to produce the supplement about 10:30 a.m. Friday.

A defense lawyer for the 17-year-old suspect presented objections saying that the young suspect did not authorize the release of his personal information, said the newspaper.

Also Friday a juvenile judge in Heredia, Ana Gabriela Gómez Montoya, ordered the parents not to give any
information about the case, and the parents formally asked the newspaper Saturday morning via a notarized document in which they requested the newspaper to suspend publication.

La Nación said it agreed to do so even though this required reprinting the PROA supplement. From the published newspaper statement it appears that editors took the decision themselves and were not ordered to do so by any judge. Criminal suspects generally do not have the right to control what is printed about them.

The dead school teacher was the cousin of Francisco Jiménez, the current Minster of Obras Públicas y Transportes. She leaves her husband and two sons.

The woman suffered a bullet wound to the lower part of the brain and was in very critical condition at Hospital México since the incident.

The final PROA article, three pages written by Angela Avalos, was the cover story of the edition. The cover featured a photo of police responding to a student demonstration in San Pedro. The headline said that the shooting of the school director was an extreme case but that there is continual violence in the school system.

The shooting prompted the education ministry to reinstate searches of student backpacks and generated a call for more gun control in the Asamblea Legislativa.

President Laura Chinchilla responded to the death of the school director with a short message of condolence on her Twitter social media site.

Mining and casino bills are on the president's priority list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has given priority to a proposed law regulating casinos and a law that would reform the nation's mining code.

These were two of 10 bills that are being sent to the Asamblea Legislativa after a meeting Saturday of President Laura Chinchilla, her minsters and legislative leaders of the ruling Partido Liberación Nacional.

Also on the priority list is an energy bill that will be sent to lawmakers in a few days, Casa Presidencial said. There also are a few technical bills, such as one that changes the responsibilities of the Ministerio de Ciencias y Technologia and a bill to formally create a Ministerio de Deportes, even though such a ministry now exists in fact.

There also is a bill to strengthen the penal code in areas of  computer theft. Also being sent is the trade treaty
 negotiated between Costa Rica and the People's Republic of China.

The texts of the bills were not available over the weekend. President Chinchilla has talked at length about the need to license and tax online casinos. She also is under pressure to eliminate future open-pit mining projects from the law.

The current dispute surrounds the Las Crucitas project in northern Costa Rica where project managers have complied with all the rules and regulations. Opponents want Ms. Chinchilla to halt the project, but that is a risky undertaking because the Canadian firm that owns the Costa Rican subsidiary running the project most certainly will seek compensation.

The energy bill that would allow private companies to produce power has been in the legislature some time. The new text is believe to represent the Chinchilla administration updating of the existing bill.

Sewage infilitration blamed for illnesses in San Carlos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The infiltration of sewage into the drinking water is being blamed for a wave of illness that sickened some 600 persons in the San Carlos area. Those affected were mainly in the San Martín, San Pablo, San Roque and Los Ángeles barrios.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said that about 90 percent of those affected did not have to be hospitalized.
Instead, Caja officials suggested medical treatment in the home and plenty of fluids. The Caja had to reinforce the staff at the Hospital de San Carlos when patients began showing up Thursday.

The physicians ordered lab tests to find out the cause. Over the weekend the Ministerio de Salud said that bacteria turned up that is typical of human wastes. Local water officials said they were putting more purifying additives into the system.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Republicans abroad
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 135

plastic skipper
Photos by The Plastiki Project
David Thompson is the so-skipper of the 'Plastiki'

Plastic soda bottles reborn as recycling demonstration

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British adventurer is spreading his own message in a bottle by crossing the Pacific Ocean aboard an 18-meter catamaran made of thousands of plastic soda bottles.

David de Rothschild's unusual boat is his way of drawing attention to the plastic polluting the world's oceans while also showcasing a solution. The 31 year old hopes to inspire followers with the boat he calls the "Plastiki."

"We're on a mission to beat waste," says de Rothschild. "The Plastiki project is really trying to showcase that waste is inefficient design and that we can reuse everyday materials and rather than them ending up in landfill, or in our oceans, or being incinerated and ending up in our atmosphere, we can repurpose and build items that can be reused so we can close the loop."

After reading a United Nations report about the huge swirls of plastic trash in the oceans, the British banking heir thought up the expedition to draw attention to the problem. 

The name Plastiki echoes the Kon-Tiki, the raft that Norwegian anthropologist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl built to cross the Pacific in 1947.

His grandson, Olaf Heyerdahl, was one of six crew members on the first leg of the Plastiki voyage, from San Francisco to Christmas Island.

It took three years to design and build the unique vessel. De Rothschild says they learned a lot during the process.

"One of the breakthroughs of the project, we actually had to reenergize every bottle with a little bit of CO2," he says. "So imagine if you had a soda bottle and you were to shake it up before you opened it up. It becomes very, very hard. That's the carbon dioxide inside fizzy drinks that allows a bottle to stay so rigid. So we just put the powder inside and that basically allows each bottle to act as an individual buoyancy chamber."

De Rothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology — a London-based environmental education group — brought ecology-minded features to all aspects of the expedition, starting with the Plastiki's design and construction.

"That meant inventing an unlikely but effective glue made of sugar and the husks of cashew nuts to hold the plastic parts together. It also meant installing sophisticated solar cells and a human-powered bicycle on board to power communications equipment as well as provisioning the crew of six with fresh vegetables from a hydroponic garden."

The provisions were designed to last 110 days, and in mid-June with one month left before reaching Sydney, the crew was still eating fresh, organic food from San Francisco. But when water ran low, the crew chose to drink it rather than water the garden, which wilted.

"It provided us quite a lot on the first leg with an amazing fresh supply of chard and rainbow kales and dark leafy greens which are great nutrients and great for the mind," says de Rothschild.

The Plastiki had to prove its seaworthiness on the planet's biggest body of water.
plastic hulls
Hulls are made of plastic soft drink bottles

It hasn't always been smooth sailing. During the vessel's first 8,000 kilometers, the catamaran moved somewhat sideways, a little bit like a land crab, because it was built without a keel. That made it difficult to steer. When the Plastiki reached its second port of call, Samoa, de Rothschild made needed repairs and adaptations to the boat, including adding a rudimentary retractable keel.

The voyage, combined with intense tropical heat, caused some material to shift and soften. Workers changed all of the rigging from stainless steel wire to lightweight rope and reinforced the two hulls, putting a layer of aluminum over the original recycled plastic material. It was a reluctant bow to the realities of an experimental vessel that needs to be ready in time to face the Australian winter ahead.

The boat also traveled more slowly than de Rothschild had hoped, leading to discomforts beyond the relentless exposure to sun and salt and lack of bathing facilities.

"There are days when the boat is barely moving, like right now, when we've been sailing almost on the same spot for the last 24 hours," he says by satellite phone in the South Pacific, en route from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia.

"That becomes a little bit of a challenge mentally. When you start to think about the enormity of how far we've got to go — another 2,800 miles at least to Australia — that does become slightly wearing and tearing."

The crew lives on a six-by-18 meter covered platform suspended between the two hulls. When not sailing the vessel, the crew members blog on the Plastiki Web site, post photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube, and take questions from followers on the boat's Facebook page. All the while, they send a message about plastic pollution in the ocean.

The feedback comes in almost instantaneously. Like from a conversation via Skype with 150 children at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in Texas. They had just walked through a tunnel built from 8,000 plastic bottles called, "Sea 'n' Recycle: In Honor of Plastiki."

The feedback has made a difference in de Rothschild's plans for the Plastiki itself after the journey is finished in July.

He originally planned to recycle the boat in Australia. But an international outpouring of interest in its use for educational purposes convinced him to keep it afloat, at least for a few more years. Its first stop will be the Australian Maritime Museum at Darling Harbor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 135

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Most Ticos are pleased
with victory by Spain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Most Costa Ricans feel an affinity to Spain, the mother country, so there was no surprise that many Ticos were rooting for the Spanish team in the World Cup finals.

The major exception was the Dutch citizens and friends in Costa Rica. They were to be disappointed when Spain won its first world football title Sunday, 1-0, in double overtime.

In a foul-plagued World Cup final, Andres Iniesta was the big hero for Spain.  The Barcelona midfielder collected a sliding pass from substitute Cesc Fabregas and shot the ball past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg in the 116th minute of extra time.

The Dutch tried to slow Spain's passing game with rough, physical play.  English referee Howard Webb, a former policeman, showed eight yellow cards to Dutch players, and Dutch defender John Heitenga was sent off the field during extra time.  But Spain received its share of yellow cards, five, making this what's being described as the dirtiest World Cup final in history.

Spain is only the third team, after Germany and France, to be world and European champion at the same time.  With the World Cup victory, Spain snapped the Netherlands' 25-match unbeaten streak. 

Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk was gracious in defeat.

"They deserved to win. They were better," he said.  "And in my opinion, Spain is the best team in the world for the last few years.  I like the way they play, and it's a big challenge to play against Spain and beat them."

A crowd of more than 84,000 people attended the World Cup final at Soccer City Stadium.  Overall, more than three million fans attended matches during the month-long tournament, making this the third most well-attended World Cup in history, behind Germany 2006 and the record-setting USA tournament in 1994.

Before the World Cup final kick off, a colorful 30-minute closing ceremony was held that featured fireworks, lasers, elephants and some of Africa's top singers and dancers.  South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela, who will celebrate his 92nd birthday later this month, made a brief appearance after the ceremony, waving to the crowd from a motorized cart.

More prison space OK'd
with fast-track approval

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The  Contraloría General de la República, the budget watchdog, has authorized the Ministerio de Justicia to expand prison facilities to handle 700 more inmates, the ministry announced.

Expansions will be at prison sites in Limón, San Carlos, Liberia, San Rafael de Ojo de Agua, Puntarenas and Pérez Zeledón. The authorization allows the ministry to award direct contracts without the lengthy bidding process.

Prison officials expect an 18 percent increase in inmates this year. They said the reasons include the new tribunales de flagrancia and the abbreviate process that render quick justice. Also they said the maximum prison time is now 50 years and not 25.
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A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 135

Latin American news
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Unstable air spawns storms
that included some hail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another tropical wave brought instability to the air over Costa Rica Sunday and provoked heavy downpours in some sections of the country.

In San Pablo de Heredia heavy winds downed some trees and hail fell.

About the same is predicted for this afternoon, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

This is tropical wave No. 24 for the year. These are troughs of low pressure that sweep across the globe. They are believed to originate in the mountains of Africa.

Sunday there also was a low pressure system off the Pacific coast that brought heavy rains to that area.

Rain was registered Sunday afternoon in the northern zone, on the Caribbean coast and the Central Valley, too.

The weather institute warned of possible landslides and overflowing streams and rivers. It also said that fog banks might develop over night and issued a small boat warning.

Fidel Castro is reported
to make public appearance

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is reported to have made his first known public appearance since becoming ill four years ago by visiting a Havana scientific facility.

Photographs taken with a cell phone camera and posted on a pro-government blog showed the 83-year-old Castro smiling and talking with people at the national center of scientific investigations on Wednesday.  He was wearing sports clothing.

The blogger, Rosa C. Baez, wrote that Castro was spotted blowing kisses to the group that waited for an opportunity to see him.  She wrote that he was thin but looked good and that, according to someone present, he was very good mentally.  The information appears on the website "Bloggers and Correspondents of the Revolution."

There was no official confirmation from the Cuban government, and the photographs were not published on the Web sites of state-run media like the Communist party newspaper, Granma.

Castro has been seen only in occasional photographs and videos since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in 2006 and ceding power, first temporarily, then permanently, to his now 79-year-old brother, Raúl.  Details of Fidel Castro's health are considered a state secret.

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Real estate
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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details