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These stories wre published Thursday, July 22, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 144
Jo Stuart
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The Norwegian tanker Wilstar took a hit in 1974 from a rogue wave that ripped off part of the bow. Such giant waves are much more common than thought and represent a major danger to mariners.

See story BELOW!

DLR photo

Diversion of tax package windfall is suggested
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposed fiscal reform is supposed to raise some $500 million a year in more taxes. One of the principal uses of this new money is supposed to be in paying off Costa Rica’s staggering governmental debt.

The new tax plan is caught up in a Sala IV appeal that may delay its adoption for some months. The executive branch strongly supports the measure.

Analysis on the news

But now someone says what a lot of legislators are thinking: Why use this new money to pay off debts when the cash can be used for more public services and social investments. This is exactly the thinking that got Costa Rica in its current financial bind.

Not paying off the nation’s debts was the thrust of a column Wednesday in the popular Spanish-language daily Diario Extra. The writer was Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. This is the powerful employees union that frequently takes to the streets to emphasize its political positions.

Vargas is something more than a shrinking violet. "Fiscal plan to pay debts? Never." he writes. Vargas, like many legislators, favors the plan to tax income of residents here regardless of the country in which the money is earned. This is the so-called global taxation.

Vargas also wants the government to exempt more items in general use from the tax plan so, he said, workers can live with dignity.

Vargas may be a bit radical, but when and if the proposed fiscal plan is passed, pressure will grow to approve every pet project. And 

Costa Rica runs the risk of plunging itself even more into debt.
The Asamblea Nacional wants to build an office building for new offices. Farmers of various crops want more subsidies. Salaries always are too low. The Correo Nacional needs a big investment.
More than half of the country’s budget is allocated for debt, but in the current Pacheco budget there was not a lot of cost cutting. Social expenses increased 16.7 percent. Ministries were allocated 15 percent more money.
The central government has done a lot of window dressing to press for the fiscal plan. Road improvements have not been done to show that the country really is desperate for cash. What has been left unsaid is that the central government diverted much of the gasoline tax that is supposed to pay for road maintenance. So much for responsible fiscal management.
The government has tried to rally public support for the measure, and the effort verges on class warfare. The thrust of the message is that the poor will not pay the tax but the rich will. And the Movimiento Libertario has been vilified for opposing the fiscal package. 
A procession of officials from international agencies, such as the InterAmerican Development Bank, have visited to promote the package. These agencies hold some of Costa Rica’s I.O.U.s, so naturally they want more taxes and to have their loans paid off.
The government promotion campaign is slick but not exactly correct. Taking $500 million from any economy will affect everyone, rich and poor alike. And the poor will suffer the most because of job loss, higher prices and less insulation from economic winds.
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U.S. team plays here
in indoor soccer tourney

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States takes on Panamá Saturday at 6 p.m. in the first round preliminary for the Futsal World Championship.

Supporters of the U.S. team are trying to round up a cheering section for the game, which will be played at the Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia.

Futsal is indoor soccer in which each team has five players. The competition here is under the jurisdiction of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

The tournament will have six doubleheaders and run until next Wednesday. The top four teams then play until finalists emerge for a July 31 game. The U.S. team finished first in 1996 and third in 2000.

The United States team is in Group B with Cuba, Guyana and Panamá.

Group A includes defending champion Costa Rica, México, Surinam and Trinidad & Tobago.

The finalists here go on to the Futsal world championships in Taipei, Taiwan, starting Nov. 21.

Environmental compact
advances in assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two proposals to include environmental guarantees in the Costa Rica Constitution have been sent to a commission that will be set up to study them.

Legislators have two proposals. One had been advanced by President Abel Pacheco who sent his ideas to the Asamblea Nacional nearly two years ago. The second proposal comes from José Miguel Corrales of the Partido Liberación Nacional.

The committee will study both measures and eventually submit recommendations to the full assembly.

Better smoke 'em
while you still can

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature’s Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Sociales has approved and passed to the full Asamblea Nacional a revision of the law that would crack down hard on smokers.

Under the proposal smoking would be forbidden in churches, hospitals, clinics, closed sports arenas, stores and places of recreation for minors. Smoking also would be off limits in schools and restaurants, workshops, plants and other roofed areas.

Places completely for adults, such as restaurants, must have a no-smoking area with adequate ventilation.

The no-smoking rule applies to operators of such establishments as well as customers. 

The proposal also specifies that packages of cigarettes must include notices, such as "Smoking produces death."

Smoking also is forbidden on public transportation, such as buses, according to the proposal.

Stiff fines are proposed and some violations can result in the suspension of an establishment’s sanitary certificate which will lead to the closing of the business.

Neighbors run down
suspect in robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents in a section of Moravia ran down a robbery suspect Wednesday morning.

The capture followed the robbery of the market El Rodeo by a man with a knife about 9:30 a.m.. A report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the residents had training in crime prevention.

A police officer quickly showed up and took the man into custody. The suspect was identified by the last names of Arichavala Canales. The ministry report said he was an illegal Nicaraguan immigrant.

Internet cafe cleaned out

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bandits raided an Internet cafe near the municipal building in Desamparados about 10 p.m. Tuesday. They tied up the customers and employees there and made off with computers and other equipment valued at $15,000, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

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More accountability sought for development banks
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States is pushing international development banks to further strengthen their frameworks for measuring the results of projects they pay for so that outcomes can be monitored and assessed, says the Treasury Department's top official for international affairs.

Testifying Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Undersecretary John Taylor said establishing strong results-based development funding programs will "sharply reduce the likelihood that monies will be diverted for corrupt or fraudulent purposes."

"What gets measured gets done," he said.

Taylor said the United States is working to fight corruption in the use of development bank funds at the institutional, project and country levels. The five banks the United States is working to reform are the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Taylor said in recent years the banks have all begun to adopt mechanisms to measure and report 

the results of their projects. In addition, Treasury officials review all loans, grants and proposals to ensure they include safeguards and measurable results, he said.

An example of the banks' structural changes, Taylor said, is the World Bank's creation of a Department of Institutional Integrity. The department's investigations have so far led to administrative sanctions on approximately 180 companies and individuals whose names are posted on the bank's Web site, he said.

Taylor said a central part of the Treasury Department’s efforts to fight corruption is the implementation of a provision of a January law that aims to increase transparency and accountability.

Since the law was signed, each bank has proposed or adopted additional transparency policies, the secretary said. Similarly, the Treasury Department now posts a record of its votes on development projects on its Web site, he said.

To build on those achievements, the development banks need to improve staff education, incentives and processes for anti-corruption work, including strengthening whistleblower protections, Taylor said.

Bolivia' president wants to speed up rules for exporting gas
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — The president says he plans to speed work on possible changes to the natural gas industry following Sunday's referendum.

The president, Carlos Mesa, said Tuesday he will send a bill to Congress as soon as possible. Mesa promised to work with lawmakers and industry leaders to reach consensus on ways to tighten 

government control over private gas companies in the South American nation. He also said he hopes to push forward talks on exporting gas to Argentina and Mexico.

Sunday, President Mesa declared victory in the referendum, which asked voters whether to repeal an earlier law on the gas and oil industry. The vote also calls for the government to take back control of underground natural gas from foreign companies. 

Chilean president pledges engineers and police to rebuild Haiti
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — As part of a new U.N. mission to rebuild Haiti and prepare it for democratic elections, the government of Chile is planning to send engineers and police officers to help stabilize the country. 

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar says his country will send 80 engineers to rebuild Haiti's infrastructure and 36 police officers to help train Haitian security forces. 

The Chilean leader met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan here Tuesday to discuss ways to assist the interim Haitian government. President Lagos said he hopes the U.N. mission will lead to rapid improvement in the troubled country. 

"We believe the role of the United Nations is central," he said. "And it is on the basis of this that Chile decided to take an active role in Haiti."

Observers say the move marks another step by Chile, which has been run by a democratic government since the end of military dictator Augusto Pinochet's rule in 1990, to help foster democracy in the region. 

Last week, former Chilean Foreign Minister Juan Gabriel Valdes became the head of the new U.N. mission in Haiti. The U.N. peacekeeping operation, which is expected to number more than 7,000 troops and security officers, replaces a smaller, U.S.-led mission that arrived after a rebellion caused Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide to flee in February. 

Argentine president denies bomb probe audio tapes located
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina —  President Nestor Kirchner has denied telling Jewish community leaders that police have discovered audio tapes lost in the investigation of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. 

Kirchner says he told leaders of the center on Monday that authorities had only found receipts from those who took the tapes 10 years ago.  The 

president says there was a "misunderstanding" by the Jewish center's president, Abraham Kaul. 

The confusion comes only days after the 10th anniversary of the bombing that killed 85 people.  Authorities say the missing tapes contained telephone conversations with a man suspected of providing the van used in the attack. 

The tapes were reported lost by Buenos Aires police, who have been sharply criticized.

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NOAA Photo Library
Giant waves
like big walls

Merchant ship laboring in heavy seas as huge wave looms astern. Huge waves are common near the 100-fathom curve on the Bay of Biscay. This photo was published in the Fall 1993 issue of Mariner's Weather Log. 

New study seeks to analyze them
Giant waves are real and are unpredictable dangers
By the European Space Agency

Once dismissed as a nautical myth, freakish ocean waves that rise as tall as a 10-floor apartment block have been accepted as a leading cause of large ship sinkings. Results from the European Space Agency’s ERS satellites helped establish the widespread existence of these rogue waves and are now being used to study their origins. 

Severe weather has sunk more than 200 supertankers and container ships exceeding 200 meters (650 feet) in length during the last two decades. Rogue waves are believed to be the major cause in many such cases. 

Mariners who survived similar encounters have had remarkable stories to tell. In February 1995 the cruiser liner Queen Elizabeth II met a 29-meter (94-foot) high rogue wave during a hurricane in the North Atlantic that Captain Ronald Warwick described as "a great wall of water. It looked as if we were going into the White Cliffs of Dover." 

And within the week between February and March 2001 two hardened tourist cruisers — the Bremen and the Caledonian Star — had their bridge windows smashed by 30-meter (98-foot) rogue waves in the South Atlantic. The Bremen was left drifting without navigation or propulsion for two hours. 

"The incidents occurred less than a 1,000 kilometers apart from each other," said Wolfgang Rosenthal, senior scientist with the GKSS Forschungszentrum GmbH research centre, located in Geesthacht in Germany.  He has studied rogue waves for years. "All the electronics were switched off on the Bremen as they drifted parallel to the waves, and until they were turned on again the crew were thinking it could have been their last day alive. 

"The same phenomenon could have sunk many less lucky vessels: Two large ships sink every week on average, but the cause is never studied to the same detail as an air crash. It simply gets put down to 'bad weather'." 

Offshore platforms have also been struck: on Jan. 1, 1995 the Draupner oil rig in the North Sea was hit by a wave whose height was measured by an onboard laser device at 26 meters (85 feet). The highest waves around it reached just 12 meters (39 feet). Radar data from the North Sea's Goma oilfield recorded 466 rogue wave encounters in 12 years.

Objective radar evidence from this and other platforms helped convert previously sceptical scientists, whose statistics showed such large deviations from the surrounding sea should occur only once every 10,000 years. 

The fact that rogue waves actually take place relatively frequently had major safety and economic implications, since current ships and offshore platforms are built to withstand maximum wave heights of only 15 meters (49 feet). 

In December 2000 the European Union initiated a scientific project called MaxWave to confirm the widespread occurrence of rogue waves, model how they occur and consider their implications for ship and offshore structure design criteria. 

As part of MaxWave, data from the space agency’s ERS radar satellites were first used to carry out a global rogue wave census. "Without aerial coverage from radar sensors we had no chance of finding anything," added Rosenthal, who headed the three-year MaxWave project. "All we had to go on was radar data collected from oil platforms. So we were interested in using ERS from the start." 

ESA's twin spacecraft ERS-1 and 2, launched in July 1991 and April 1995 respectively, both have a synthetic aperture radar as their main instrument. 

This type of radar works in several different modes. While over the ocean it works in wave mode, acquiring 10 by 5 km. images of the sea surface every 200 kms. These small images are then mathematically transformed into averaged-out breakdowns of wave energy and direction, called ocean-wave spectra. ESA makes these spectra 

Photo by Philippe Lijour

This rare photo of a rogue wave was taken by first mate Philippe Lijour aboard the supertanker Esso Languedoc, during a storm off Durban in South Africa in 1980. The mast seen starboard in the photo stands 25 meters (81 feet) above mean sea level. The wave approached the ship from behind before breaking over the deck, but in this case caused only minor damage. The mean wave height at the time was between 5 to10 meters (16 to 32 feet). 

publicly available. They are useful for weather centers to improve the accuracy of their sea forecast models. 

Despite the relatively brief length of time the data covered, just three weeks, the MaxWave team identified more than 10 individual giant waves around the globe above 25 meters (94 feet) in height. 

"Having proved they existed, in higher numbers than anyone expected, the next step is to analyse if they can be forecasted," Rosenthal added. 

A new research project called WaveAtlas will use two years worth of ERS images to create a worldwide atlas of rogue wave events and carry out statistical analyses. The principal investigator is Susanne Lehner, associate professor in the Division of Applied Marine Physics at the University of Miami, who also worked on MaxWave with Rosenthal, a co-investigator on the project. 

"Only radar satellites can provide the truly global data sampling needed for statistical analysis of the oceans, because they can see through clouds and darkness, unlike their optical counterparts," said Professor Lehner. "In stormy weather, radar images are thus the only relevant information available." 

So far some patterns have already been found. Rogue waves are often associated with sites where ordinary waves encounter ocean currents and eddies. The strength of the current concentrates the wave energy, forming larger waves. Lehner compares it to an optical lens, concentrating energy in a small area. 

This is especially true in the case of the notoriously dangerous Agulhas current off the east coast of South Africa, but rogue wave associations are also found with other currents such as the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, interacting with waves coming down from the Labrador Sea. 

However the data show rogue waves also occur well away from currents, often occurring in the vicinity of weather fronts and lows. Sustained winds from long-lived storms exceeding 12 hours may enlarge waves moving at an optimum speed in sync with the wind.

"We know some of the reasons for the rogue waves, but we do not know them all," Rosenthal concluded. The WaveAtlas project is scheduled to continue until the first quarter of 2005. 

Jo Stuart
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