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(506) 2223-1327               San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 137        E-mail us
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The famous Teatro Nacional is a beautiful sight for passers-by trying to stay dry
End of one vacation just means another is coming
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A steady afternoon downpour Tuesday cleaned up San José and adjacent parts of the Central Valley. Evening rush hour was less crowded than normal because many public and private employees have been on vacation.

The mid-year break ends Monday for public employees, like workers in the Poder Judicial, and public school students are supposed to be back at their desks. The Policía de Tránsito is preparing to welcome the crush of returning vacationers. Traffic police work in a cycle counter to most Costa Ricans. When most take vacations or Christmas holidays or visit fiestas, the police have to be on the job. This year they have the advantage of a stiff new traffic law that can mean jail for drunks and reckless drivers.

Some youngsters who stayed in urban areas were able to take advantage of vacation workshops put on by the various museums and some private centers.

Although Tuesday was nothing like the Christmas holiday or Semana Santa when roads are empty, traffic was at about 60 percent of the normal flow.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicts afternoon showers again for today in most of the country. An exception is on the Caribbean coast
where unstable air off the coast will generate morning cloudiness and likely rain. Vacationers had a better-than-normal two weeks with less than average rain in most parts of the country.

As vacationers return to their workplaces Monday, yet another holiday looms. This is the pilgrimage to the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. The religious celebration is Monday, Aug. 2, and an incredible two million faithful will take to the highways on foot. Most will want to be in the plaza for the Aug. 2 Mass.  Others will try to duck the crowds by arriving and leaving a few days early.

Because pilgrims walk from as far as Guatemala, some will be starting on their journey just as mid-year vacation ends.

The blisters will have hardly healed from the pilgrimage, when the Día de la Madre arrives. This is a really big commercial event in Costa Rica. Among other promotions, the Correos de Costa Rica is offering 800-colon telegrams that can be sent to mothers. Deadline for sending is Aug. 10. Delivery will not be made on mother's day this year because the day is a Sunday. But telegrams are promised for Friday, Aug. 13, and Saturday, Aug. 14, the postal service said.

There will be a flood of restaurant and gift promotions.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 137

Costa Rica Expertise
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Opening Caldera route
attributed to expert report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry is trying to justify opening a section of the San José-Caldera when more rock and dirt fell Saturday.

Francisco Jiménez, the minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, said he and his staff relied on a report of an inspection done Friday in deciding to reopen the stretch.

The new highway has been plagued by falling rocks and sliding hillsides mainly between Atenas and Orotina. Rains, like those this weekend, magnify the problem.

Jiménez said that the bulk of the material that fell over the weekend was contained by wire mesh that the concession holder had installed.

The minister added that 15 more traffic policemen will be added to the route this weekend in anticipation of a flood of vacationers returning to the Central Valley.

The minister said that the areas of potential slides will be under 24-hour watch and that he is ready to close the highway at the first sign of danger.


Intel reports best quarter
in company's 42 years


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. reported Tuesday second-quarter revenue of $10.8 billion, up 34 percent year-over-year. The company reported operating income of $4 billion, net income of $2.9 billion and earnings per share of 51 cents.

"Strong demand from corporate customers for our most advanced microprocessors helped Intel achieve the best quarter in the company's 42-year history," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO. "Our process technology lead plus compelling architectural designs increasingly differentiate Intel-based products in the marketplace. The PC and server segments are healthy and the demand for leading-edge technology will continue to increase for the foreseeable future."

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. It has facilities west of San José.


Agents will investigate
shooting of youngster


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators want to take a good look at the case of a gunshot wound suffered by a 7 year old in Siquirres Monday afternoon.

The child, identified as Yesmer Marenco Mejía, is close to death in the Hospital Nacional de Niños. Doctors said that the bullet entered the forehead and passed through the brain.

The child was suffering internal bleeding in the skull and was not responsive. The initial report from police was that the child was playing with a .38-caliber pistol that is the property of his father.


Some movement on mine
seen by open pit opponents


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Opponents of the open pit gold mining project in Cutris de San Carlos say they think that the Presidencia is moving to their point of view.

Luis Diego Marín Schumacher of Preserve the Planet said in a release Tuesday night that an aide to President Laura Chinchilla said she is ready to review a controversial decree.

This is the decree issued by President Óscar Arias Sánchez that said the La Crucitas mine was in the national interest. That gave the project some legal advantage.

Marín said that Marco Vargas, minister of the Presidencia, said in public Tuesday that a letter delivered by other mine opponents Monday may have had an effect. Vargas said that the letter opens the possibility of an analysis of the decree signed by Aria, Marín said.

The letter presented Monday had over 100 signatures. It was delivered just as some of the opponents began a 170-km protest  hike to the mine site some five days away.

Ms. Chinchilla issued her own decree in early May just as she took office that established a moratorium on open pit mining.  The Crucitas project is being developed by a subsidiary of a Canadian company. It is not covered by the latest decree. Ms. Chinchilla also is pushing for a revision of the nation's mineral code by the legislature.


Half-off sale at post office

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica says it is running a half-off sale on postal boxes starting Thursday.

Urban residents can get their postal box for 6,000, and rural residents can pay just 4,500 colons. That's about $11.63 and $8.72, based on the most recent exchange rate with the dollar. Availability depends on location.

The postal deal is less generous than it appears. All postal boxes have to be renewed at the regular rate in January.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 137

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll


Caja is going paperless for its monthly salary reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is putting all of its 84,000 employers on the Web.

The paper documents on which employers report salaries paid are being eliminated as of August.

Each employer has been assigned a password to access the Caja's Web site and the individual files for each boss or company.

The Caja expects to save more than a million dollars in not having data input workers copy the information on the paper sheets.

The sheets are used to report monthly salaries on which the Caja assesses social charges that are payable the following
month. Employers also use the sheets to report new hires or employees who left the previous month.
The paperwork is important because employees receive health care, pensions and other benefits from the Caja. Employers pay about 35 percent of gross salaries to the Caja for their employees.

Under the new system employers will not have to file their electronic documentation until the 26th of the month. The deadline for paper filings was around the 15th.

Many employers also pay their Caja charges online.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the government former monopoly that handles riesgo de trabajo or workmen's compensation insurance, also permits electronic filings, but the institute also accepts paper filings. This document is very similar to the one provided the Caja because it lists employees and salaries.

Some expats have wondered why the same data has to be reported to two government agencies separately.


Police shootout follows bank robbery in Goicoechea
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A shootout between police and a fleeing suspect in a commercial center in Goicoechea followed the armed robbery of a public bank there Tuesday.

Eventually the Fuerza Pública detained three persons believed linked to the robbery. Among them are two brothers who have been detained 18 times for allegations of robberies and aggression against tourists.

The robbery took place at the Banco Crédito Agrícola in  Goicoechea, which is north of San José. Three persons stuck up the bank and fled with a bag of money.

A few minutes later Fuerza Pública officers spotted a man later identified by the last name of Castro and ordered him to halt. He did not and instead ran into a commercial center. The fleeing man and police exchanged gunshots, and Castro was wounded three times. A bag he was carrying contained about $7,000, police said. They added that they recovered a .38-caliber handgun.

Other Fuerza Públicas officers saw a man answering descriptions of witnesses about 150 meters north of the bank. He was detained and identified by the last name of Rosales.

Judicial investigators provided information to other officers who apprehended a second Castro brother driving a vehicle that matched the getaway car in the bank robbery.

Alexander Meneses Cerdas, chief of the Moravia police district, said that the Castro brothers had been detained 18 times. There was no immediate explanation why they were not in prison. The wounded brother went to Hospital Calderón Guardia.
robbery loot
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
Bag full of money and a revolver are on the sidewalk after a police shootout Tuesday.

Agents believe that more than three persons were involved in the robbery.

A short time later the bullet-ridden body of a man appeared in the passenger seat of a parked car several miles away.

Agents suspect that the man might have had something to do with the robbery, but he has yet to be identified.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 137


2005 storm may have killed half a billion Amazon trees

By the American Geophysical Union news service

A single, huge, violent storm that swept across the whole Amazon forest in 2005 killed half a billion trees, a new study shows.

While storms have long been recognized as a cause of Amazon tree loss, this study is the first to produce an actual body count.  The losses are much greater than previously suspected, the study's authors say. This suggests that storms may play a larger role in the dynamics of Amazon forests than previously recognized, they add.

Previous research had attributed a peak in tree mortality in 2005 solely to a severe drought that affected parts of the forest. The new study says that a long line of severe thunderstorms, the kind associated with lightening and heavy rainfall, had an important role in the tree demise.

Tropical thunderstorms have long been suspected to wreak havoc in the Amazon, but this is the first time researchers have calculated how many trees a single thunderstorm can kill, says Jeffrey Chambers, a forest ecologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, and one of the authors of the paper, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

In 2005, there was a spike in tree mortality in the Amazon. Previous studies by a coauthor of this new paper, Niro Higuchi of Brazil's National Institute for Amazon Research, showed the second largest upsurge recorded since 1989 for the Manaus region. Also in 2005, large parts of the Amazon forest experienced one of the harshest droughts in the last century. A study published in the journal Science in 2009 pointed at the drought as the single agent for a basin-wide increase in tree mortality. But a very large area with major tree loss, the region near Manaus, in the Central Amazon, was not affected by the drought.

“We can't attribute mortality to just drought in certain parts of the basin — we have solid evidence that there was a strong storm that killed a lot of trees over a large part of the Amazon,” Chambers says.

From Jan. 16 to Jan. 18, 2005, a squall line 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) long and 200 kilometers (124 miles) wide crossed the whole Amazon basin from southwest to northeast, causing several human deaths in the cities of Manaus, Manacaparu and Santarem. The storm's associated strong vertical winds with speeds of up to 145 kph (90 mph) uprooted or snapped in half trees that were in their path. In many cases, the stricken trees took down some of their neighbors when they fell.

The researchers used a combination of Landsat satellite images, field-measured tree mortality, and modeling to determine the number of trees killed by the storm. By linking satellite data to field observations, the researchers were able to take into account blowdowns of less than 10 trees that otherwise cannot be detected through satellite images.

Looking at satellite images for the area of Manaus from before and after the storm, the researchers detected changes in the reflectivity of the forest that they suspected are indicative of tree losses. Undisturbed forest patches appear as closed, green canopy in satellite images. When trees die and fall, a clearing opens, exposing wood, dead vegetation, and surface litter. This so-called “woody signal” only lasts for about a year in the Amazon; the time it takes for vegetation to re-grow and cover the exposed wood and soil. Thus, the signal is a good indicator of recent tree deaths.

After seeing disturbances in the satellite images, the researchers established five field sites in one of the blowdown areas, and counted the number of trees that had been killed by the storm. Researchers can usually tell what killed a tree from looking at it.

“If a tree dies from a drought, it generally dies standing. It looks very different from trees that die snapped by a storm,” Chambers says.

In the most affected plots, near the centers of contiguous patches of wind-toppled trees, up to 80 percent of the trees had been killed by the storm.
Tree loss
American Geophysical Union photo
Scientist Giuliano Guimaraes examines a fallen tree in an Amazon forest near Manaus, Brazil.


By comparing their field data and the satellite observations, the researchers determined that the satellite images were accurately pinpointing areas of tree death, and they calculated that the storm had killed between 300,000 and 500,000 trees in the area of Manaus. The number of trees killed by the 2005 storm is equivalent to 30 percent of the annual deforestation in that same year for the Manaus region, which experiences relatively low rates of deforestation.

The team then extrapolated the results to the whole Amazon basin.

“We know that the storm was intense and went across the basin,”Chambers says. “To quantify the potential basin-wide impact, we assumed that the whole area impacted by the storm had a similar level of tree mortality as the mortality observed in Manaus.”

The researchers estimate that between 441 and 663 million trees were destroyed across the whole basin. This represents a loss equivalent to 23 percent of the estimated mean annual carbon accumulation of the Amazon forest.

Squall lines that move from southwest to northeast of the forest, like the one in January 2005, are relatively rare and poorly studied, says Robinson Negrón Juárez, an atmospheric scientist at Tulane and lead author of the study. Storms that are similarly destructive but advance in the opposite direction (from the northeast coast of South America to the interior of the continent) occur up to four times per month. They can also generate large forest blowdowns, although it's infrequent that either of these two types of storms crosses the whole Amazon.

“We need to start measuring the forest perturbation caused by both types of squall lines, not only by the ones coming from the south,” Negrón Juárez says. “We need that data to estimate total biomass loss from these natural events, which has never been quantified.”

Chambers says that authors of previous studies on tree mortality in the Amazon have diligently collected dead-tree tolls, but information on exactly what killed the trees is often lacking, or not reported

“It's very important that when we collect data in the field we do forensics on tree mortality,” says Chambers, who has been studying forest ecology and carbon cycling in Amazon since 1993. “Under a changing climate, some forecasts say that storms will increase in intensity. If we start seeing increases in tree mortality, we need to be able to say what's killing the trees.”


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SSan José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 137

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Report cites discrimination
against Latin women

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Women in Latin America and the Caribbean are still discriminated against in the labor market and receive lower wages than men for the same work, according to a new United Nations report which also points to women in the region spending more time on unpaid domestic or care work.

“It will not be possible to achieve equality for women in the workplace until the burden of unpaid and care work which they have historically shouldered has been resolved,” sasid Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean as she presented the report in Brazil.

“This calls for the establishment of a new virtuous equation that encompasses the state, the market and the family,” she stated.

The report – entitled “What kind of State? What kind of equality?” – reviews achievements made as well as the challenges facing countries in the region.

According to a news release issued by the commission, studies of the total workload, including paid and unpaid, of men and women in different countries in the region shows two trends. In all cases, total work time is greater for women than for men, and women devote more of their time to unpaid work than men.

Women in Brazil, for example, devote 56.6 hours per week to total work, compared to 52 hours for men. In Mexico, women spend a total of 76.3 hours working, whereas men spend only 58.4 hours.

Figures from 2008 show that 31.6 per cent of women over the age of 15 had no income of their own, while only 10.4 per cent of men were in the same position. Also, more women than men were unemployed, at 8.3 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively. 

While the wage gap has narrowed – women’s average income rose from 69 per cent of that of men in 1990 to 79 per cent in 2008 – women continue to be overrepresented in lower-income occupations and underrepresented in senior positions. Women still receive lower wages than men for work of equal value.

The report emphasizes the need to raise awareness of the economic and social value of the unpaid and care work performed by women in the region. It also stresses the importance of empowering women to exercise their right to choice, so that they can participate under equal conditions in the labor market and in decision-making.

The report was presented at the 11th session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which began Tuesday in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 137


Latin American news
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Castro's talk on tv seen
as sob to revolutionaries


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro is again showing up in public after mostly remaining out of sight since falling ill four years ago and ceding power to his brother, Raúl. He appeared on Cuban television Monday, after showing up in photos reportedly taken last Wednesday.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro appeared relaxed and talkative as he answered questions on the Cuban television current affairs program Mesa Redonda or Round Table. 

He warned that the West's pressure on Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs could lead to a full-blown war with both nations.

"They keep going and going," said Castro. "That doesn't stop. I have said it will be a sea of fire, a sea of flames. That's not the problem now. The problem now, I think it's that it will be let loose there,"

Until the past week, the 83-year-old former leader has avoided the spotlight since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in 2006. So why is he showing up now?

Peter DeShazo of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington thinks he knows why.

"I think his motivation is first to show that he's around," said DeShazo. "That he is capable of making decisions or participating in debate on policy." 

DeShazo also believes the appearance was timed to coincide with Cuba's release of the first of 52 political prisoners it has promised to set free in the coming months. Seven of those prisoners and their families were flown to exile in Madrid Tuesday.

DeShazo says Fidel Castro's TV appearance could be a trade off, or compromise, with his brother, the current president, to appease different factions within the Cuban regime.  

"A sense that a step is made to release prisoners, and the government is trying to build some bridges in certain areas,  but at the same time, the revolutionary side is given its moment in which Fidel Castro is able to excoriate the United States and to continue to lay out the revolutionary credentials, or Cuba's role as a leader of the Third World," he said.

Philip Peters is with the Lexington Institute public policy research group outside of Washington. He said he believes Raúl Castro recognizes the political costs of keeping dissenters in jail.

"It seems that he is not interested in maintaining a population of political prisoners who are in for these 20 year sentences," said  Peters. "My hunch is he would like to get rid of this issue."


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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