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(506) 223-1327               Published Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 175            E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Election tribunal hires firm to keep watch on media
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a reporter writes a news story on the Oct. 7 referendum or when a television producer edits a tape on the same topic, the government is watching over their shoulders.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones said Monday that it has hired a firm to monitor the written press, television news and radio programs. The tribunal, which is in charge of the referendum on the free trade treaty with the United States, said it has contracted with a firm called Controles Videotecnicos de Costa Rica S.A. to do the job.

The monitoring started July 22, and the initial results are posted on the tribunal Web page.

The results show that most of the news stories, television segments and radio reports are considered to be neutral. The tribunal said that these Costa Rican news outlets are being monitored:

Television: Channel 7 Telenoticias, Channel 6 Noticias Repretel, Channel 11 Noticias, Channel 42 Extranoticias and Channel 13 RTN Noticias;

Radio: Noticias Radio Columbia, Noticias Radio Monumental, Noticias Reloj, Eco News, Radio Nacional and Radio América.

Daily newspapers: La Nación, La República, La Prensa Libre, Diario Extra, Al Día and La Teja.

Weekly newspapers: El Financiero, Eco Católico and Semanario Universidad.

The monitoring considers news stories and opinion pieces separately.

The job is massive. In the first five weeks alone, the company read and evaluated 550 articles in the three leading Spanish-language newspapers.

There also were hundreds of radio reports and television segments, according to the tribunal.

There was no report of how much the tribunal is paying for this service or the qualifications of the company that was hired.

The analysis of media content is a detail-oriented methodology with a strong chance of the introduction of bias by the individual coders.

The tribunal gives a summary of the methodology that is being used and the objective, which is to quantify the balance of news and opinion in favor, against and neutral to the treaty. Although entire books have been written on this subject, the
tribunal graphic
Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones graphic
Typical graphic evaluates articles in La Nación

tribunal reduced the key elements to three fat paragraphs:

A news article is deemed to be favorable to the free trade treaty if the final balance of the material expressed within and the treatment of the information show it to be in favor of the free trade treaty. Additional evidence would be that there is no reference to a contrary position or sources contrary to the position expressed have not been contacted or if the article author expresses his or her position in favor of the free trade treaty.

Rules for coding negative and neutral articles are similarly circular. There also is no mention of a key element of content analysis, which is maintaining a high percentage of reliability among those who are coding the articles.

The tribunal also said that it would keep track of the names of editors and others.

Private organizations frequently keep track of how high-profile news organizations handle election news The New York Times frequently reports the amount of column inches it has expended on the various candidates in presidential elections.

But for a government agency to set itself up as editor and spend public money to monitor news stories is unusual anywhere.

Content analysis also is fraught with problems. When President Óscar Arias Sánchez gives a speech in favor of the free trade treaty, which he usually does, should a reporter seek out opponents to contradict him? Or should the voter be considered intelligent enough to weigh a stream of diverse information?

The tribunal also will be publishing graphics showing how its content analysis company rated the various media outlets.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 175

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Our readers' opinions
Crime in Quepos is on rise,
this 10-year resident reports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been living in the Quepos-Manuel Antonio area for the past 10 years and moved here to enjoy the quality of life and the numerous activities that one can do on a daily basis. 

Over the past eight years I have seen the area change for the better with new and modern development and promises for future projects that will only better the lifestyle that we are accustomed to here in this quaint little town.

On the other hand, I have seen this town change over the past year that will only be detrimental for the future of this town if nothing is done to solve the problem. 

What I am referring to is the plague of crime that has infested the town. This includes everything from crackheads stealing your clothes that are drying in the sun, luggage getting stolen from your parked car, burglars breaking in your home while you are sleeping, recent muggings in downtown Quepos after dark, and to the most recent string of violent and harsh armed robberies.

Yes people are being held at gunpoint while they are being threatened with their lives. I personally know of five separate incidents where this has taken place in the past two months.

For those of you living in other countries who hear of this beautiful and peaceful place and pura vida lifestyle you need to think again.  Because there is nothing that is pura vida about Quepos anymore, and the golden years of Manuel Antonio that so recently existed are gone, and will no longer exist if nothing is done to prevent this problem from further happening.

I think everybody can deal with a little petty crime. It has been happening for years all over the world, but armed robberies in Manuel Antonio?  I did not move here to always be scared at night and until recently I was not.  And the police are so underfunded and undermanned that they are doing NOTHING. 

Everything from pirate taxis with no license plates driving around in the broad daylight to unsolved murders. The police (OIJ) and traffic cops seem to be doing nothing, or if they are doing something we sure do not see any progress. If you are going to vacation here please be aware of what has been happening in the area. 

Also stay at hotels and NOT private villas because this is where these armed robberies are taking place.  If we do not resolve this problem I can promise the people of this town that tourism will leave here just as fast as it came only 10 to 15 years ago.        
Harrison Hitt 
Quepos - Manuel Antonio

Cops need living wage
to protect us, he says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

When we ask a policeman to step in front of us and to protect us from crime, we need to believe that he will do so without hesitation. 

However, crime — even minor crime — that goes unchecked happens when the police are paid but $300 per month and are expected to live in an environment where that amount is but a pittance. 

The Arias government proposes to add about 4,000 police in the future, but unless those recruits have the promise of a livable wage, can we really expect them to step up to the task? 

Police salaries need to be doubled or tripled, right now!  Meager salaries are an invitation to corruption and an invitation to allow crime to happen so as to avoid confrontation and not endanger the cop on the beat. 

Police must be adequately rewarded for their having volunteered to place themselves in danger for the good of the public they serve, for the good of the policeman and the good of his family.
Ronald E. Stronach
Santa Barbara, California

Paniamor celebrates 20 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Paniamor is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The organization is best known for its posters against sexual exploitation of minors. The foundation also maintains a program against physical punishment of children and another against intrafamily and community violence toward children.

The organization celebrated its 20 years with a dinner Monday in the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

Florida trade mission coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A trade mission from the U.S. State of Florida will visit Costa Rica Sept. 19 and 20. Among the visitors are representatives from the Port of Palm Beach and truck equipment manufactures. The commercial mission is in search of local distributors and agents for the products of the companies.

Job fair this weekend in Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism providers in Guanacaste are seeking to fill 1,158 vacant positions and plan to hold a job fair Friday and Saturday. The fair is free for job-seekers.

The event is at the Mall Centro Plaza Liberia from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some 40 companies will be there, said the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

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Nation braces for a close brush today with Hurricane Felix
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hurricane Felix will send moderate to heavy rains to the Pacific coast and the Central Valley, according to local forecasts, and the entire country had been placed on alert by the national emergency commission.

Some evacuations, including that of a few families in Golfito, already have begun. Some 200 shelters are on standby along the Pacific coast.

Residents along the Caribbean coast, although not likely to get major amounts of rain, are being warned that the tides there might be from two to three meters higher than normal. High tides caused by Hurricane Dean last month sent waves flowing into the center of the city of Limón.

The storm is expected to make landfall at the Nicaraguan-Honduran border sometime this morning. The eye of the hurricane is expected to pass within 280 miles of Costa Rica. Because of the storm's rotation, much of the water and effect will reach the Pacific coast from the west.

A report from the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said most of the country is saturated from heavy rains during the last week, so officials are expecting flooding and landslides.
The commission had some 18 machines at work Monday taking rock and dirt from the Río Corredores and repairing 18 breaches in the dike that protects Ciudad Neily in southern Costa Rica.

The U.S. Natioinal Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Feix was now a category four storm but that it might increase in force just before hitting land.

Officials in Nicaragua and Honduras have issued tropical storm alerts and are preparing for a major, life-threatening event. The storm continued on a westerly path and did not make the usual jog to the north. So instead of brushing the Honduran coast, the storm will hit the countries head-on. There are sustained winds of 135 mph (215 kph) with higher gusts, said the hurricane center.

Felix is expected to dump from 5 to 10 inches of rain on Honduras and northern Nicaragua. Some local rainfall up to 20 inches may take place, said the center.

The indirect effect of the storm dumped 71 mms. of rain (2.8 inches) on San José Monday. Juan Santamaría airport got 58 mms. (about 2.3 inches). Limón received no measureable rain, according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. Despite the daytime rain, the evening in San José was clear.

sala iv protest
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Women and children of Oreamuno and the solitary protester at the Sala IV building Monday
Sala IV high court is drawing its share of protesters these days
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court building in San José has become a site for protests.

Monday a group of mothers were there from Oreamuno, Cartago, and a solitary protester maintained his own vigil with a sign critical of President Óscar Arias Sánchez.

The families were there seeking a decision from the court, the nation's highest legal body.  According to Fabiola Castillo Suarez, the spokesperson for The Grupo Frente Oreamuno, which represents about 200 families, protesters were awarded government housing bonds eight years ago.

That was during the Abel Pacheco administration. The bonds were to provide payment for dwellings in a housing
 project called Vista Hermosa in San Rafael of Oreamuno. About 50 percent of the bond recipients got their homes, said Ms. Castillo, but for some reason the remainder had to continue paying rents elsewhere while their homes stood empty.

Ms. Castillo blamed the local mayor, Marco Vinicio Redondo, and said that vandals have damaged all the homes that are not occupied.

They have carried their case to the court and now await a decision.

At the protest Monday were many children.

The solitary protester was Otto Castro Sánchez, but neither he nor his sign said exactly why he was there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 175

New 'click' sound reported for feeding humpback whales
 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

For the first time, researchers have recorded “megapclicks” — a series of clicks and buzzes from humpback whales apparently associated with nighttime feeding behaviors.

As detailed in the most recent issue of the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, this study offers the first documentation that baleen whales produce this type of sound, normally associated with toothed whales and echolocation.

“We’ve known that humpback whales exhibit a variety of foraging behaviors and vocalizations, but these animals as well as other baleen whales were not known to produce broadband clicks in association with feeding,” said David Wiley, leader of the research team. “However, recent work with special acoustic tags has made us reexamine our previous assumptions, with this expansion of the acoustic repertoire of humpback whales.”

The research team from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of New Hampshire, and the U.S. National Marine Sanctuary Program used multi-sensor acoustic tags attached with suction cups to study whale behavior. The data provided a record of the whales’ underwater movements, including heading, pitch, roll, and sounds made and heard.

During the tagging studies, broadband clicks were recorded exclusively during nighttime hours. Sharp body rolls also occurred at the end of click bouts containing buzzes, suggesting feeding episodes.
Alison Stimpert of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, the lead author on the paper, labeled the sounds “megapclicks” based on their form and the scientific name for humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae).

This acoustically active species has been known to produce complex songs on their breeding grounds, but knowledge of sound production on northern feeding grounds has been limited.

The researchers report that the similarity of the megapclicks to sounds made by toothed whales suggests echolocation-assisted feeding behaviors, especially where buzzes at the end of a series of clicks appear to be associated with attempts to capture prey.

The sounds may also be used to detect the sea floor or other large targets. Another possibility for the megapclicks could be to attract prey, such as herding schools of fish or chasing animals out of the sediments.

But the research team notes that a lack of knowledge about baleen whale hearing and sound production prevents any definitive answers at this time about the function of the megapclicks.

Additional humpback whale tagging studies completed earlier this summer in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary may provide further insights into sound production in northern feeding grounds.

The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts.

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