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(506) 223-1327               Published Friday, July 13, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 138         E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Referendum kicked off
with ballot spots defined

By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones Thursday formally set the wheels in motion for a public vote on the free trade treaty with the United States.

At nearly the same time the Asamblea Legislativa approved by a two-thirds vote a mechanism to ratify the treaty if not enough voters show up at the polls Oct. 7.

The president of the tribunal, Luis Antonio Sobrado González, used a bingo wheel to determine on what side of the ballot would be the box for the yes vote and on what side would be the space for a no vote. The yes box will be on the left, the lottery determined.

The ceremony formally kicking off the referendum was held behind closed doors with only officials and newspeople present. Officials have been concerned about demonstrations by opponents of the treaty.

According to the tribunal, the vote will not be valid unless 40 percent of the electorate participates. That was known but what is new is the exact number because the election registry was reopened until the end of June.

At Casa Presidencial Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, brother to the president and minister of the Presidencia, said he was optimistic that a sufficient number of Costa Rica would vote.

But he said there had been enough of the threats of boycott, violence in the streets, insults and offenses to the powers of the state. He said the matter was in the hands of the citizens now.

José Miguel Corrales, a former deputy who opposes the measure, said he was happy with the referendum but unhappy that public officials could participate in the campaign. He also said he was concerned because the wealthy could use their money to support the publicity campaign but the poor could not.
referendum ballot
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Luis Antonio Sobrado displays the outcome of the raffle for ballot position.

Campaign donations by individuals or corporations are limited to about 4.2 million colons or about $8,000. Foreigners cannot participate in the campaign or donate.

If sufficient numbers do not show up at the polling stations Oct. 7, the two-thirds majority of the legislature stands ready to approve the treaty. Some 1,061,200 persons must vote, including blanks and voided ballots, said Sobrado.

The assembly approved a change in its internal rules Thursday that puts international treaties on a fast track and limits debate. The measure had been challenged but the Sala IV constitutional court found that it did not infringe on the rights of lawmakers.

If sufficient numbers do vote and the treaty is approved, a simple decree will convert the pact into law. If the treaty is not approved, it is a dead issue.

The free trade treaty was signed by representatives of the participating Central American states and the United States May 28, 2004. The pact has been in dispute here since, and Costa Rica is the only signatory that has not ratified the measure.

By contrast, Panamá signed a free trade pact with the United States June 28, and that country's legislature ratified it Wednesday. Story is HERE.

Hernandez photo
Hernandezx photo two
New photo exhibit uses confiscated weapons as subjects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a new photographic exhibit that uses as its subjects weapons that have been confiscated by the Judicial Investigation Organization, including many that have been used in violent crimes.

The photographer, José Alberto Hernández, is really providing multiple descriptions of death. The exhibition opened Thursday at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo in the former Estación al Altantico.
The exhibit is unusual for Costa Rica because the citizens generally reject violence and weaponry. Although literature for the show does not say so, the topic certainly has a relationship with the rising amount of crime in the country.

Among the photos are the head on view of a revolver and .22-caliber bullets photographed up close.

Hernández has been exhibiting professionally in local shows since 1998.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 138

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Our readers' opinions
Government fails to tell
truth about climate change

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
I have been thinking about William Gray’s book and would like to read it. It is great to hear from a scientist that at least is trained, learned and can add some real knowledge to the subject.
Maybe it is true that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is keeping him left out but, is it because they do or do not want him to know what they do?? We already know this idiotic government leaves everything behind the white walls. Look at all the efforts CNN news has tried to get an answer from our elected reps about the extra spending they are doing in the name of their great states.

Does anyone think they will tell us it is true the sea level is rising and by how much and when you will be getting your feet wet walking downtown Miami? Of course not. What a stampede that would start. Our great reps need some time to decide if Cape Cod is going under also so they can buy up the next boom in property at the higher levels out of reach of ocean waves and in reach of bountiful profits for them!
Then we get a real message from the far left out of Las Vegas, Nevada, from Mr. Hanz Franz. I will agree it seems we are getting overpopulated. It does seem that China is becoming richer and they will be driving more cars. Does that mean we are going to polute more. I wonder about that as I sit here typing on my 90 gig laptop computer and think about all the paper I wasted in school 50 years ago as computers were like the dream of a prince charming running through the heads of my beautiful classmates.
I just came from Las Vegas two weeks ago on a summer trip and now in L.A. California. What I saw there was the biggest waste in electric power with thousands of lights burning to attract more people inside where THOUSANDS of slot machines where consuming power for the rich to make themselves richer.

One thing for sure I may read Mr. Gray’s book but, I will never go back to (sin city) Las Vegas and put a penny or dollar into that wasteful economy. Where did Mr. Franz come up with the figure “we have been studying global warming for 10 to 15 years now”. Now that is a statement about 33 percent correct or incorrect. My brother always says just one big discharge from the rear of a whale puts out more polution than a 100 cows.
Rich Vienneau
Kennewick, Washington
Rosario De Nicoya

There is no consensus
on climate change cause

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First, I wish to congratulate A.M.Costa Rica for being fair and balanced in printing the letters about global warming, an effort not shared by the giants in the global news media.
Statements made as “facts” are indicative of the hysteria surrounding this issue. How did the author come to these conclusions? The debate is over? The computer models all agree and are accurate? There is a worldwide scientific consensus?
A typical liberal debate is to demean the opposition while presenting no evidence to support their own conclusions. “Do not confuse the debate with facts.” Allow me to do just that.
“Thousands of scientists from many countries now fully understand that Kyoto and other efforts to control human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are ineffective and entirely unfounded scientifically.”  Quoted from S. Fred Singer, atmospheric physicist, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service
“In fact, the explicit and implicit rejection of the ‘consensus’ is not restricted to individual scientists. It also includes distinguished scientific organizations such as the Russian Academy of Science and the U.S. Association of State Climatologists, both of which are highly skeptical of the whole idea.” Dr. Benny Peiser of England’s John Moore’s University.
Doesn’t sound like the debate is over or that there is any consensus to me.
Jim Robinson
Sabana Norte

Gray's theory of change
not consistent with facts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With reference to your article about Dr. William Gray’s dismissal of global warming caused by increases in greenhouse gas concentrations (Lone voice counters idea of global warming disaster, July 11, 2007), you should be aware that Dr. Gray’s theory that climate change is driven by fluctuations in the Thermohaline Circulation (THC), an overturning circulation associated with deep water formation in the North Atlantic, has been refuted by climate scientists at, an organization that publishes commentary on scientific topics while consciously avoiding their political or economic implications.

For example, Dr. Gray had argued for many years that increases in Atlantic hurricanes were caused by ocean warming arising from a speed-up of the THC.  Scientific publications previously unavailable subsequently demonstrated that during those years the THC was behaving in exactly the opposite manner.

Dr. Gray’s revised contention that the THC primarily upwells in the tropics, thereby cooling the North Atlantic and warming the tropics, was then shown to be incorrect because tropical upwelling is wind-driven and unconnected to the THC.

Although Dr. Gray states unequivocally that computer models cannot simulate the THC property, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has generated models that afford a wide variety of different possible THC behaviors, not one of which generates a warming of the kind that Gray claims.

Gray also implicates evaporation modulated by changes in the THC as responsible for global warming.  Unfortunately, he ignores that fact that evaporation is an energy transfer mechanism that neither adds nor subtracts heat from the climate system.  On the other hand, he dismisses the importance of changes in CO2 concentrations that are known to affect directly the upper atmosphere and change the rate at which the entire climate system loses energy.

A more comprehensive rebuttal of Dr. Grays theories is available here.
Steven A. Roman
doctor of organic chemistry
San Antonio de Belén, Heredia

Look to  Blaise Pascal
and his theory of values

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I follow with interest the “debate” about global warming. Those who write it off as a hoax and a liberal conspiracy make the occasional valid point. Those who warn us about the apparent dangers may sometimes overstate the case.

A number of years ago, Smart Money magazine published an editorial about the life of Blaise Pascal. Pascal was one of those 18th century European philosophers who devoted himself to proving the existence of God. He was a contemporary of Kant and Descartes who followed their own approaches. Pascal (after whom the programming language is named) took a mathematical approach and in the process gave the world the branch of mathematics known as probability theory.

By the time Pascal was 35, he had proven within a 99.97% degree of confidence that there is no God. He could take the calculations no farther and, having essentially completed his life’s work, he entered a monastery where he spent the remainder of his life in prayer and contemplation. Late in Pascal’s life, a biographer asked him why, having virtually proved the non-existence of God, and therefore having disproved the likelihood of any afterlife where he might be held accountable, he had not spent the rest of his time on earth pursuing all the earthly delights available to a French nobleman of that era.

Pascal’s response was simple. He said it had to do with the consequences of being wrong.

Likewise, the doubters on the global warming issue may be entirely in the right, but what if they’re not?

David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

Heredia electrical rates
going up 5.17 percent

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Heredia electrical provider got a rate increase averaging 5.17 percent Thursday but the increase for residential customers will be 8.5 percent according to the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

The provider, the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia, wanted 11.89 percent. The utility has 60,966 customers.

No cheap mysticism here

Don't expect us to capitalize on today being Friday the 13th while there still is real news around. But you can see our horoscope HERE.

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Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 138

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Pura Vida
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finca Verde
Finca Futuro Verde main house

A visit to two Central Valley assisted-living facilities
This past week I visited two projects in progress devoted to making life easier and more attractive for seniors who are thinking of retiring in Costa Rica. 

Since I didn’t know where Pura Vida Life Care was, Marilyn Henderson picked me up at the Residencia.  It was about a 45-minute drive up and up past Heredia, through the traffic of little towns to get to Los Angeles, San Rafael de Heredia, and Marilyn maneuvered her SUV with all of the skill of a race car driver and the nerve of a Tico.  I figured she must be at least my age, but I would never attempt to do what she was doing.

I later learned that Marilyn is a tireless 85 and Pura Vida, a “continuing care retirement community,” is her brain child.  Her son, Danny, is working with her to complete what will eventually be a 60-villa community that will include a restaurant, recovery center, and recreational facilities. 

The two-bedroom villas are quite luxurious and have well-appointed kitchens, as well as a pila with washer and dryer. Also included are local phone service, direct TV and cable and verandas with great views.  The assisted-living help includes weekly house cleaning, flat laundry service, and one meal a day, served in the restaurant or delivered to the villa.  Marilyn assured me that the menu will be nutritious and tasty.  She and Danny are primarily vegetarians, so there will be no lack of the good vegetables that grow here.
This community caters to the financially well off seniors.  The entrance fee is $250,000 per household, and the monthly fee is $1,650 for one and $500 for the second occupant.  The entrance fee does not buy your villa, but according to the contract is partially refundable depending upon the circumstance.   

I expected to feel chilly at the altitude of 5,000 feet, where there are pine trees instead of palm trees, but it was quite comfortable, even though it was overcast.  The setting is tranquil and surrounded by forests and mountains, but like everywhere else in Costa Rica, there is a lot of building go on not too far away.  The Hendersons have a folder of brochures that gives a complete rundown of what they have.  You can get more information at their Web site.

Finca Futuro Verde (Green Future Farm), just outside of Grecia (actually, it is in a community called Rincon de Salas de Grecia), is another residence in progress for senior citizens.  Els and Josefa have transformed a lovely house on a coffee plantation into a very attractive home for six people in need of assisted-living care.  There are
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

three large, double-occupancy bedrooms in the main house, each with huge well-appointed bathrooms that will accommodate wheelchairs. There is a living and entertainment area. The dining room is on an enclosed terrace with large windows facing a lovely view of the countryside.
The cost covers three meals a day, two snacks and a before-bedtime hot drink, a 24-hour nurse, occupational and physical therapy and monthly visits from a gerontologist.  I saw the weekly menu, and I wish we ate as well where I am staying.

Els and Josef are from Belgium where Josef practiced  medicine for 25 years.  Although he is not allowed to practice here, he has not lost his expertise, and his knowledge will be helpful to the visiting doctor.  Els has a degree in human sciences.  Between them they speak English, Spanish, French, German, and Dutch.

In the planning are six one-bedroom, duplex apartments a short distance from the house, for more independent living.  The price for the spaces in the main house is $65-$75 a day and the apartments will rent for $750 a month, which covers all the expenses of an apartment, plus weekly visits to town and the recreational facilities of the house. For more information you can visit the Web site.

The climate in Grecia is different from Los Angeles de Heredia –— it is warmer and palm trees and pineapples grow instead of pine trees, but Els insists that when evening comes she dons a sweater. 

Costa Rica is not only a land of great variety in its landscapes; you also have a great variety in climates, within short distances.  This is just another reason that Costa Rica will probably become a very popular place to retire for Gringos.

Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A Good Life in Costa Rica,” is available at the 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional.  Or contact

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 138

Nearly $10 million in public property damaged in flooding
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government formally issued an emergency decree Thursday for areas hit by flooding last week.

The decree is mostly a technicality that allows government agencies to transfer money to the nation's emergency commission.

The toll is grim. The emergency commission estimated that 109 stretches of road and highway were damaged, some 137 bridges suffered damage or were destroyed, 236 drainage systems were damaged, as were six rural water systems.  At least 10 houses were destroyed. They were in 23 Millas de Matina, Maravilla, Las Vegas, La Floresta and El Prado de Pococí.

The total estimate of damage to public property is 5 billion colons or about $9.6 million.

The emergency decree, signed by Rodrigo Arias Sánchez,
minister of the Presidencia, covers Pococí, Siquirres, Matina, Guácimo, Limón centro, San Carlos, Upala, Guatuzo, los Chiles, Turrialba and Sarapiquí.

The flooding affected 290 communities, 1,500 homes and about 2,000 kms. of road, said the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias.

Some 20 heavily damaged bridges left a number of communities out of contact, the commission said.

Some of the money generated by the emergency decree will be used to try to prevent damage later in the year, said Daniel  Gallardo, president of the emergency commission. He said that crews already were at work.

The commission estimated that since 2002 the country has suffered about $300 million in storm damage.

During the height of this emergency last Wednesday and Thursday more than 250 persons were housed in 14 shelters in the northern zone and Caribbean.

Puntarenas will honor its patrona of the fishermen this weekend with fiesta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is the weekend in Puntarenas when residents celebrate the Virgen del Mar with a mixture of religion and fiesta.

The highlight for tourists is the parade of decorated boats carrying the image of the Virgen del Carmen, a
manifestation of the Virgin Mary, who is credited with saving a crew of a pearl fishing boat in the early 20th century. That will be at noon Sunday.

There is a strong police presence with a command post already in place. Officials said they expect an increase in tourists.

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Panamá approves trade pact
in less than three weeks

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Panama's legislature has ratified a free trade agreement with the United States.

The country's national assembly voted Wednesday in favor of the pact, 58-3, with one abstention. Both governments signed the agreement June 28.

The signing came just two days before the expiration of President Bush's authority for fast track trade promotion. That authority allows the White House to negotiate trade deals that the U.S. Congress must approve or reject without making changes. It is not clear when Congress will vote on the deal.

The deal includes provisions that require the U.S. and Panama to abide by international labor standards.

Caracas television station
plans to return on cable

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An opposition Venezuelan television station that President Hugo Chávez forced off the air in May says it will restart transmissions Monday through cable and satellite channels.

Wednesday Marcel Granier of Radio Caracas Television or RCTV told a news conference that RCTV's return is a victory for Venezuelan people who want its programming.

He said RCTV would continue trying to recover its equipment and free broadcast signal. As a cable station, RCTV will reach about a quarter of Venezuelan households.

Chávez refused to renew RCTV's license to broadcast on a public frequency for allegedly backing a failed coup against him in 2002. Other national private networks also opposed Chavez, but their criticism of the government is now softer and they have retained their licenses.

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