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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 172                  E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Court puts a freeze on proposed electrical rate cut
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There will be no electric rate cut for at least a week. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the principal power generator, filed an appeal Thursday with the price regulating agency.

Friday the same agency filed for and received an order from the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo. The regulating agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, determined that the energy giant had saved substantial sums over the last year by not having to purchase petroleum for thermal generation. The electric company disagreed.

The news of the appeal and the freeze on the rate hike became known Monday with news releases by both entities. The rate cut was supposed to take effect today with publication of the order in the La Gaceta official newspaper.
The regulating agency ordered price cuts of from 6 to 7 percent for the various retail distributors of electricity, including the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The agency said that a typical residential consumer would save from 800 to 1,350 colons, thanks to the rate cut. That's about $1.37 to $2.31 a month.

The tribunal's order freezes the rate hike until Friday when the power generator will have its hearing before the Authoridad Reguladora.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said it went to court because the rate cut would cost it 13 billion colons and affect the financial stability of the company. That's about $22 million. The company said it would prove its point Friday.

If it fails to do so, and the regulating authority confirms the rate hike, additional court action is likely.

Article on Ticos and development generates letters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Readers divided sharply over a Monday article that said the short-sighted attitude of Costa Ricans is responsible for the lack of development in the country.

The article also said that the society produces and pampers underachievers.

A man who moved from Costa Rica to Panamá said: "He nails what ails the country in the clearest terms I have ever read." He was speaking about the articles author Garland Baker.

An Atenas man disagreed and said that First World exploitation was a significant factor in holding back Latin Americans. "Costa Rica has remained blissfully unexploitable, probably due to the very
traits you described: People who are not truly desperate can¹t be exploited, but Costa Rica is the exception. 

A Manuel Antonio reader got personal: ". . .  this rant against Tico and Latino culture along with a recent diatribe against Costa Rican women leads me to believe that ol' Garland is in a serious funk."

A Sabana Oeste reader said Baker was using stereotypes and generalizations. He said that publishing the piece was yellow journalism.

These comments and criticism are HERE, but some letter writers did not want to have their names published. One cited the well-known Costa Rica traits of refusing to accept blame or personal responsibility but he also said that Costa Ricans would seek revenge for the article.

Firm seems to have gone in competition with immigration agency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone appears to have gone in the business of creating identity cards, and the business has attracted official notice.

The Defensoría de los Habitantes said Monday that the immigration department should investigate whoever is handing out identity cards to foreigners. The Defensoría specifically cited a product called Global ID.

It said that foreigners were lined up at the company's office in San José to obtain one.

The Defensoría expressed concern that foreigners could believe mistakenly that the identity card
somehow takes the place of the cédula de identidad issued by the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

For its part, immigration issued a brief statement Monday afternoon saying that more than 100,000 foreigners in the country had approved, government-issued identity cards and that the card the agency issues is the only one acceptable by the government.

The Defensoría said that the Global ID firm was marketing is product via the Internet. The Defensoría said that the firm promises an identity document of the highest security. But the agency, the nation's ombudsman, said it was not certain what else customers were being told.

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Zelaya in Washington today
for a meeting with Insulza

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A senior U.S. State Department official says ousted Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya will meet in Washington today with members of the Organization of American States.

The official said Monday that Zelaya will meet with Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza and permanent representatives of the Organization of American States, and hold talks later in the week with U.S. officials, to discuss the political crisis stemming from his removal. 

Zelaya's trip to Washington follows recent contacts between the State Department and a visiting delegation representing the interim Honduran government. 

The State Department official said the delegation is waiting to find out whether the interim government will change its hardline stance against a Costa Rica-brokered plan that would allow Zelaya to return to Honduras and complete his term. 

The interim government of President Roberto Micheletti recently proposed handing power to a third party, Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera Aviles.

Last week, an Organization of American States delegation spent two days in Honduras but failed to persuade the caretaker government to accept the plan that would bring back Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 28 coup. Foreign ministers from seven nations traveled to Honduras, accompanied by Insulza.

Micheletti's interim government says Zelaya was deposed because he was trying to change the constitution illegally to extend his term in office. 

The State Department says the Obama administration still intends to make a formal determination that Zelaya's overthrow was a coup. Such action means that a suspension of most U.S. aid to the Central American country would become permanent. The determination was to have been made last week.

The official said talks with the two sides in the dispute is a factor in the delay. The official said this is an inter-agency decision "that everybody has to be comfortable with."

Woman convicted of murder

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman has been sentenced to 15 years in the murder of a man outside a Quepos discoteque on Christmas Eve 2004, said the Poder Judicial. The dead man was Carlos Rosales Vargas.

Prosecutors argued successfully that the woman with the last names of Retana Mora shot the man in the chest about 3 a.m. that day.

The 40-year-old man had been at the dance spot with his 15-year-old daughter when a fight broke out.

The case was heard in the Tribunal de Juicio de Aguirre y Parrita.

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

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.

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.

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.

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.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

You can reach us at 8832-5564.

But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica 

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Criminality enters the sacred world of Costa Rican fútbol
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a country where criminals seem to take advantage of lax laws, there is one overriding truth: Don't mess with soccer tickets.

Soccer fans and others are enraged because fake tickets for the Costa Rica-México game Saturday have been in the marketplace. The reaction has been swift. The Federación Costarricense de Fútbol went so far as to have fans turn in the tickets they purchased in exchange for new ones.

In that process officials uncovered nearly 500 twinned tickets, that is tickets with the same number as an authorized ticket.

The soccer federation obtains its tickets from a firm named
Special Ticket, and the Judicial Investigating Organization is looking into irregularities there. Those who purchased the fake tickets did so through the authorized sales process.

Most were for 5,000 colons, about $17.

The game is Saturday, and for Costa Rica the event is a big deal because it bears directly on the national team's standing to participate in the 2010 World Cup contest in South Africa.

The situation raises the possibility that tickets were cloned for other games but that the fact did not rise to official notice.

The fake tickets appear to have been manufactured at the same time as the authorized tickets. The amount involved may be as much as 20 million colons or about $34,000.

Sala IV court suspends construction to protect micro-flows
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has suspended construction at a site in Concepción de San Rafael de Heredia for fear that the work would affect what the court called micro-flows of ground water, said the Poder Judicial Monday.

The court ordered that the municipality conduct exhaustive evaluations of the hydrology and the environmental impact of the project. The court said the groundwater feeds the ríos
Ciruelas, Segundo, Bermudez and Tibás.

The issue was raised by a resident who filed an appeal. He was identified by the last names of Alfaro Carvajal.  The court said he represented the Asociación Ambiental del Norte de San Rafael de Heredia

The court said that the construction was being done on a finca at the Concepción location and that the project was on a bank of the Río Turales and that there has been movement of earth there.

Grupo Nación creates news agency to provide articles for its three papers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Grupo Nación newspapers are setting up a new agency that will provide material for all three of the group's newspapers.

The creation of the agency, GN Noticias, is seen as a cost-saving step for the newspapers that have reduced staffs.
The three newspapers are the flagship La Nación, Al Día
and La Teja. The new agency was announced today by Al Día. The coordinator of the agency, identified as Harold Brenes, said that the company was expanding its coverage with the news agency.

Until now, reporters from both La Nación and Al Día covered major news events with duplicate efforts. Al Día was created to compete with the popular El Diario Extra, which emphasizes police and accident news.

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fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 172

Our readers have a chance to express their opinions
Baker's article should be
expat required reading

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hats off to Garland Baker.

He nails what ails the country (Aug 31) in the clearest terms I have ever read.

My Tica wife read it and I expected her to be angry. Instead, she said, "this is exactly how it is."

Every person moving to Costa Rica should read it, if for no other reason than to lower their expectations so as not be disappointed when they face reality.

As for us, we had enough and moved to Panama where the businesslike work ethic from building and managing the canal has been absorbed into the national character, creating a culture of work and responsibility — and in keeping, where criminals pay for their crimes.

Panama is an adult country, whereas Costa Rica is and will remain under this system a responsibility-evading juvenile and adolescent one.
Carl Robbins
David, Panamá

Truth is uncomfortable,
but history is more complex

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

First, I would like to give you credit for discussing the uncomfortable truth about Tico behavior and culture.  I only have been here for four years, but in my view you are spot on in most areas. 

The bulk of the letters on this page
refer to an article that appeared

However, I can¹t completely agree with your concluding comments that the 3rd World (at least in Latin America) has basically prostituted itself to the First World.  On this point you are ignoring the history of Western involvement in deliberately crippling most of Latin America.  Costa Rica has remained blissfully unexploitable, probably due to the very traits you describe; people who are not truly desperate can¹t be exploited, but Costa Rica is the exception.  Again, the article was very good, and important, but I would suggest you do some additional research about the history of United Fruit, the corporate-military connection, and cruel foreign policy decisions by the West to ensure that the sight of the Third World doesn¹t grow too much farther than their noses. 
Michael Anthony
Atenas, Costa Rica

Baker has gilded pulpit
for issuing indictments

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just finished reading G. Baker's 8/31 article and must say that he conveyed (to me anyway) a forlorn sense of frustration bordering on indignation towards Ticos and then uses Arias' Ode to a Tico as primary support for his argument that Costa Ricans just never have and never will "get it right . . . ."

Maybe some of us have felt the same way as Baker, and it's inevitable that we would if coming from a type 'A' culture where the pursuit of the almighty dollar, yen or yuan can and has been paramount in the destruction of Mommies & Daddies everywhere! Pity the fool who does not follow the blueprint laid out for the modern & forward thinking

Many Ticos seem to be very hard working to me! Many working Ticos I have become acquainted with certainly work as hard as I have in the past but I am certain that these efforts pale in comparison to the achievements & contributions that Mr. Baker has made and continues to make to his world, obviously.

There are very real signs that the material world and all its culture & planning has failed. In spite of all the gifts that high math and science and architecture have given us, we still live on a ragged edge. So what if your neighbors have a lower 'drive' than yours, Mr. Baker. Their 'inadequacy' only helps you look sharper while handing down indictments from your gilded pulpit.
Dennie Sartuga

Could inbreeding cause
endemic mental myopia?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Is Garland Baker venting years of frustration or does he hope to shake up our sheltering populace?   If the latter, I doubt his opinions will have any impact. 

For the first five years I lived here, the country was moving backward relative to the rest of America. Then foreigners came to the rescue. Multiplaza boosted the real estate market. Price Smart offered modern wares. Intel and call centers brought "clean" employment.  Taiwan shored up the infrastructure.  Now, China promises bread and circuses. Life is good. What's the problem?

On the other hand, I agree that the national lassitude is maddening.  Could inbreeding within a limited gene pool be to blame for endemic mental myopia? As in race horses, a coarsening of the breed might be beneficial. 

In my experience, Ticos with Chinese blood are more alert than their pure-Latino contemporaries.  A marriage of Nica and Tico might raise the energy level but Ticos are notorious racists.  Most foreigners live here in social isolation. When was the last time a Tico invited you to his home for dinner?

I am a single man with prospects, yet none of my friends has ever introduced me to an unwed family member of the opposite sex.  My love life consists entirely of damas de la noche, not by choice. If American expatriates can't
become a part of society, how can we contribute in the most meaningful way? Cubans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and Dominicans might have a better chance of assimilating. I won't be around to see it, but here's to hoping that Costa Rica gets an infusion of new blood in the literal sense.

Jim Saxon
San José

Ticos might experience
frustration at no future

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Generalizations like Garland Baker's, whether directed at a racial, religious or gender group, a political party, a country or an entire culture, are (generally) non-constructive, lacking in compassion and humility, and are products of fear and frustration. (I have to admit that I've been there/done that myself.) In general, these oratories should be confined to bar stools.

I've enjoyed Garland's contributions to A. M. Costa Rica for many years, and found them to be both well informed and informative. But this rant against Tico and Latino culture along with a recent diatribe against Costa Rican women leads me to believe that ol' Garland is in a serious funk.

The goods and services foreigners encounter here are very often not up to the same standards we're used to. That's not breaking news. But all of the dozens of Ticos I've employed over the years have worked their butts off 8-10 hours a day for two bucks an hour or less. A couple of them were less than competent. A couple of others had "sticky fingers," but I never once met one who "ran home to mommy." Most of them were SUPPORTING mommy as best they could. The ones who've REALLY stuck it to me have all been FOREIGNERS, who seem to think that the ethical and moral standards of their home countries can be suspended indefinitely because the odds of them having to pay the consequences of their crimes here are low.

Most foreign residents have at some point been driven to cat kicking and moon howling by the ever present deficiencies, quirks and corruption here in Paradise, but to paint the entire culture with such a broad and condescending brush serves no legitimate purpose and can only make things worse for everyone. After all, isn't this just another aspect of a circular argument about an ever present, existential chicken-and-egg proposition? "Do people shape the culture or does the culture shape the people?"

People of ALL cultures are to some extent encouraged/conditioned to limit their world view to their front yards because it serves governments to have less-than-activist populations. You know, the kind that don't ASK QUESTIONS and DEMAND CHANGE.

It seems to me that most of my Tico neighbors are living in a state of survival mentality because they don't sense that they have anywhere to go professionally or economically. This is the kind of desperation that causes folks to look for the easy score or to cross the line into crime. Their focus is on doing whatever they can to insure that their often large, extended families will be okay manaña. That's truly a tragedy, but it doesn't necessarily fit all that well into the category of "character deficiency." It's more a learned response to failed governments and dysfunctional socio-political philosophies for which the wealthy and powerful are rarely held accountable. (Please understand that I am in no way an apologist for professional shisters and career criminals, who in my humble opinion should all be hung by their ankles and beaten senseless.)

Can you imagine the juicy generalizations that Ticos must have about foreigners? Like, maybe they think we're JUDGMENTAL AND SUPERIOR? Is A. M. C. R. going to give Ticos equal opportunity to respond to Garland's tweaky social hypothesis via the front page of an upcoming issue? If so, please let me know in advance so I can duck and cover,        
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio
Article was opinion piece
of sweeping generalizations

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Over the years of reading A.M. Costa Rica I have appreciated many of Garland Bakers research articles on topics such as investing in real estate in Costa Rica, Costa Rica law on marriages, domestic abuse, etc.  While I have thought that Mr. Baker's writing often made unsubstantiated leaps from individual cases and anecdote's into fairly sweeping generalizations, I appreciated the factual research that went into many of his articles.  However, I feel that Monday's article by Mr. Baker ("Underdevelopment and the origins of Pura Vida") should have been clearly labeled as an "opinion editorial" and differentiated from his research articles.
Mr. Baker makes numerous sweeping generalizations about Costa Rican history, culture, and values mostly without citing sources and without any factual basis.  I will cite a few examples from his article:
". . . the lack of identity or real political struggle for Costa Rica . . . "  (In my years of visiting and living in Costa Rica I have been very impressed by what I feel is a strong sense of national identity in Costa Rica and by active and intelligent participation by a large segment of Costa Ricans in the political process. My understanding of history is that there was certainly "real political struggle" taking place in the 1940's in Costa Rica. )
"According to history books . . . ." (What history books? No footnotes or citations.  It is hard for me to accept much of what follows in his historical analysis when a general reference to "history books" is his basis.  
"They thought that . . . the country could not build itself. . . ."  (Who exactly is the "they" and how would Mr. Baker know what "They thought" in a historical period long before he was born?)
"The country was first rescued by Europe, then the United States (who continues to do it) . . . ."  Again, Mr. Baker does not provide any basis for his generalizations.  I think this is a dubious generalization at best and a gross distortion of the history of Central America. I think the word "plundered" instead of "rescued" would be more appropriate.  However, I recognize that those who take natural resources, make millions in growing bananas, etc. in poorer countries generally rationalize their acts by using phrases such as "development and rescuing" in "their history books."
Mr. Baker's makes numerous generalizations about Tico society such as:
 • Ticos have no worries in their minds other than what is going on at the moment;
• Very few Ticos learn the value of labor;
• Ticos are never taught the value of schooling;
• People who cannot manage time, money or energy."
I am sometimes out at 5:30 / 6:30 / 7:30 in the morning and one can see thousands of Ticos walking, taking buses, etc. to work and being careful to be punctual to be at their work places at 6, 7 or 8 a.m.  And, after work in the evenings, one can also see thousands of Ticos going to universities and schools in the evenings until 9 p.m.  What is Mr. Baker's basis for saying "Ticos are never taught the value of schooling?"  We don't know his basis for this as Mr. Baker does not tell us.  Frankly, this is very sloppy journalistic writing.
These may be Mr. Baker's opinions or based on his personal experiences in Costa Rica and he certainly has a right to express his opinions.  Again, however, to pass this off as a "research" article is ludicrous.
Mr. Baker uses an interesting phrase in another generalization about Tico families - ". . . the vicious cycle of contentment."  This may say more about Mr. Baker's values and lifestyle than it does Tico families to refer to a "cycle of contentment" as being vicious?  Personally, I have always liked the idea of a "cycle of contentment."
I would make the case that there are numerous examples of careful thought and long-term planning abundant in Costa Rica society in 2009.  Examples are abolishing the military and establishing the foundations for the system of public / private health care some 60 years ago.  However, I recognize that these are my opinions and others may disagree. My point is that "cherry picking" examples of Costa Rica society to fit your pre-conceived opinions is poor journalism.
It appears to me that the purpose of Mr. Baker's article is for him simply to grind out an opinion piece mostly based on stereotypes of Costa Rican culture, the versions of history he chooses, ignore the history and examples that do not support his beliefs, add some of his own personal experiences (perhaps a mechanic overcharged him ". . . taking good parts from cars instead of fixing them?) and pass it off as research and receive a payment from A.M. Costa Rica for another submission.
I can only speculate what the reasons are for Mr. Brodell to accept this piece and place it in the context of the series of research articles.  Are Mr. Brodell's reasons a combination of loyalty to Mr. Baker and an attempt to be provocative in a "yellow journalism" fashion?
Possibly it might be better for Mr. Brodell to provide Mr. Baker with a column (such as Jo Stuart's) from time to time so that Baker can expound on his opinions on subjects and clearly delineate these opinion pieces from his research pieces.
I will still be a loyal and appreciative reader of A.M. Costa Rica.  However, my opinion of the journalistic standards of A.M. Costa Rica were diminished this morning.
William Edwards
Sabana Oeste

Judges have little room
thanks to Napoleonic Code

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Two letters published in Monday's edition decry the release of a group of apparently dangerous gang members after their recent arrests. The writers' indignation is understandable, but the object of their anger is not.

Costa Rica has a Napoleonic Code system of justice in which everything (everything) is codified to the n-th degree. The conditions under which an arrested person may be detained or must be set free are set out in the law, and judges have virtually no discretion in the matter. This is a very different system of justice than that of the United States, Canada or Great Britain. So while I share their frustration, the writers should direct their anger toward the legislature and not toward individual judges. Does the law need to be changed? Likely so. Is the current state of the law the fault of the judges in this matter? Certainly not.

David C. Murray
El Cajon de Grecia, Alajuela

Facts on Honduras crisis
are scant for outsiders

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In response to R. Martin’s assessment on Honduras:  I believe this person, (as an outsider), is making a judgment without facts . . . or facts that are slanted.   I don’t know the true situation regarding the removal of Zelaya and I doubt Martin does either, and therefore I think it is best to withhold judgment and keep your personal ideology out of the equation. 

I also don’t believe it is the responsibility of other countries to step in and tell Honduras what they should be doing — only the Honduran people should do that and the most we should involve ourselves in is to see that the Honduran people are free to do that through U.N. oversight.  In North America, bad leaders can be impeached.  What is the process in Latin American countries for removing "undesirable" leaders: let them live out their term in office, convert the country to what they view is the ideal according to their agenda, rape the coffers for their own personal gain, or process them judicially knowing the Napoleonic process is so painfully slow that they will never be punished adequately for their damage? 

Or, do they have an immediate “impeachment” option?   I don't know the answer to that last question;  does R. Martin?

I think it is best that we unknowledgeable people keep our minds open and our mouths shut to let the truth unfold, as it will in its own time.  It is sad that the general population has to suffer in the interim, but maybe they wouldn't need to if the Organization of American States and the United States did not impose sanctions until the facts are totally revealed. 

Let's allow the Honduran supreme justice system take care of the situation unless the R. Martin's declare them incapable, as well.  And as for Costa Rica not having a military; their armed force is their police.  Semantics.

Mary Jay
Alajuela, Costa Rica

School books put blame
of  foreigners, not Ticos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your article Monday should get quite a reaction from locals!  My daughters found in their required reading in high school that foreigners (especially Unitedstatesians) were responsible for whatever tragedy the book wrote about.  At that time there were fewer foreigners here and they resented the implied guilt they were supposed to shoulder. 

I would guess that it will be a surprise to Ticos that they are actually responsible for their own problems.  I think it might be reflected in the language, too.  In English we say, "I lost my keys."  In Spanish, "Se me perdio las llaves," which seems to place the blame elsewhere.  Anyway, may your article not create havoc in your life but thoughtfulness where it needs it.
Leslie Zelinsky

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 172

Casa Alfi Hotel

Climate meeting centers
on adapting to change

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

About 2,500 decision makers and scientists from 150 nations are attending the third World Climate Conference, which aims to help nations cope with the worst effects of climate change. The five-day meeting, organized by the World Meteorological Organization, will draft a plan to provide nations with the accurate and timely information they need to adapt to the extreme weather conditions that are expected to occur with global warming, organizers said. 

Scientists warn climate change will lead to rising sea levels, more devastating floods and hurricanes, longer lasting droughts and other extreme weather phenomena. They say every economic-social sector will be affected.

Until now, nations have focused almost solely on ways to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. This is the first global conference that aims to tackle the problems that result from climate change and devise strategies to help nations adapt to these changes. 

The Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Michel Jarraud, says the conference is working on a plan to strengthen global observation networks to improve climate predictions. But, predictions are not enough. 

He says the information must be tailored to the various sectors. For example, he says the health needs that will arise from climate change are not the same as the needs of farmers. 

"If you are in Africa, agriculture is mostly rain-fed," said Jarraud. "So, key questions are with respect to the next rainy season. What we are doing now is organize regional climate outlook for before the rainy season. This is done in an ad hoc fashion. It is not done in a systematic way. One concrete outcome of the conference will be to formalize, to institutionalize it so that users can rely on that information. They know it will come. They know that it will be of a certain level of quality." 

Delegates here say climate change is a global problem and can only be solved globally. Wealthy countries are dependent on poorer countries to provide accurate weather information. So, it is critical to strengthen observation systems in developing countries, delegates said.

The political climate at the Conference appears to have changed. The United States has sent a large delegation to participate.

Sherburne Abbot is associate director for environment, science and technology policy at the While House. She says climate change is a major priority in the Obama administration.

"President Obama has made it a clear commitment to revolutionize the way that we use energy, including mandatory cap and trade legislation, long-term submissions reductions goals and a commitment to renewable energy technologies," said Ms. Abbot. "And, the president's budget for 2009 in the recovery act had the largest increase for R&D that we have seen in recent years."

Mitigation will be the focus of the Copenhagen Conference at the end of the year. That is when governments will meet to hammer out an agreement on climate change to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on gas emissions.

Delegates here do not deny its importance. But, they note that mitigation and adaptation are linked and cannot be separated.
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U.N. seeks system to assert
control of world oceans

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Significant gaps exist in the understanding and management of the complex processes and trends at work in the world’s oceans and seas, which cover 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface, warned senior United Nations officials Monday as they urged governments to approve expert recommendations establishing a system that plugs the holes.

At the opening of a week-long governmental session responsible for considering proposals for the creation of a mechanism that monitors oceans and seas worldwide, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro called for “a continuous, comprehensive and integrated review of the problems facing the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.”

U.N. Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner said that declining fish stocks and land-based sources of pollution are some of the persistent challenges facing the marine environment, while the emergence of dead zones and the impacts of climate change — including acidification — are among the more rapidly emerging challenges.

“A systematic assessment process is long overdue,” said Steiner. “This meeting in New York represents a tremendous opportunity for governments to put the best marine science at their service in order to make the best management choices over the coming years and decades.”

If the General Assembly’s special working group, meeting through Friday, reaches agreement, the first globally integrated U.N.-backed assessment of the oceans could be delivered by 2014, according to a joint news release issued by the Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The two agencies noted that despite the central role oceans play in the economic, environmental and social affairs of the world’s 6.7 billion people, not enough is known about their processes from the global climate system, the water cycle and circulation of nutrients, to changes affecting marine habitats.

They said that the clearing of mangroves and coastal wetlands, the over-exploitation of fish stocks and rising tides of pollution are affecting the marine environment’s ability to sustain livelihoods and life itself, while climbing concentrations of greenhouse gases – equal to a third or more of annual carbon dioxide emissions – are being absorbed, as well as untold amounts of heavy metals, triggering mounting concern over the marine food chain.

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