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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 178          Email us
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Public ceremony Sunday to commemorate 9/11
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The official anniversary ceremony of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States will be Sunday in Sabana Norte.

The U.S. Embassy has confirmed via a spokesman that the remembrance is open to anyone.

The location is in the same park where a memorial was erected in 2004. The former  Parque Urbanización General Cañas became the  Parque 11 de Setiembre. There were ceremonies there for four years after the multiple tragedies, but then U.S. officials made the commemorations private affairs and held them inside the embassy grounds.

That is not the case this year, which marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and presumably the White House or U.S. Capitol Building.

The last commandeered jet crashed in Pennsylvania when its passengers battled hijackers so its target remains unknown.

Government sources report that 15 of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, as was the mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

Costa Rica has downplayed the anniversaries because it is seeking investments from the Arab world.

In the first three years after the attacks, Costa Rican firemen and police demonstrated their respect at the observances.

Police and firemen were quick to assemble in front of the U.S. Embassy in the days following
Pentagon
Eric Gundersen and the National Security
News Service/A.M. Costa Rica archives
Firemen hose down the section of the Pentagon that was hit with an airliner in this A.M. Costa Rica file photo.

the attacks. Many of those who died in New York were firemen.

The U.S. Embassy said that the 8:15 a.m. ceremony Sunday would commemorate the victims of the attack and also others who have been victims around the world.  The ceremony also will recognize the importance of the Fuerza Pública, the Cuerpo de Bomberos and the Cruz Roja who are called upon during disasters in Costa Rica, the embassy said.

The monument is by Florida sculptor Roland Hockett, who said he used copper instead of steel so that the work would endure longer. It was finally inaugurated Sept. 11, 2004.  It stands on a hill overlooking the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Sabana Norte.
 
Expected guests include Mario Zamora Codero, the security minister, and Johnny Araya, mayor of San José. Also there will be U.S. Ambassador Anne S. Andrew, the embassy said.



La Niña could be forming in the central Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Climate scientists in the United States report that La Niña is making a comeback in the Pacific.

This would mean heavier rains in Guanacaste in November and December.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that evidence suggests that La Niña will return during the North American winter.

The Costa Rican Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has not weighed in on the topic, but various U.S. predictive models, noting that colder-than-average waters are once again upwelling in the tropical Pacific Ocean, say that La Niña appears to be re-forming.

La Niña and the opposite El Niño conditions
alternate in the central Pacific, but sometimes, as is the case now, conditions are called neutral.

El Niño is marked by warmer than average water temperature in the Central Pacific. Generally this means drier conditions in Guanacaste and much of Costa Rica. But not the Caribbean coast.

Typically the Caribbean is wetter during El Niño conditions and drier during La Niña.

That also is true of the U.S. Southwest, which has been suffering under a prolonged drought. The advent of La Niña is bad news for the Southwestern states where El Niño usually means wet weather.

La Niña can mean up to 70 percent more rain mainly in Guanacaste. That would not be unwelcome by the farmers and ranchers there as long as heavy rains did not cause damage.

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Costa Rica Expertise



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Our reader's opinion
Finally some good news:
Reader finds an honest man


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Recently I made a trip to San José on the bus from my home in San Ramón. After conducting my business which took several hours, I tried to telephone my wife, who had promised to meet me at the bus station. My phone was no longer in my pocket. Of course, I suspected the worst, and spent the ride home worrying about the time and money I would have to spend in the morning to cancel the phone: A lawyer’s fee to prove ownership to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, and the purchase of a new phone, many hours and many colons.

My wife and her girlfriend who had been out shopping were waiting at the bus station and having called the phone and figured out that the phone was in the hands of a Tico, were trying to establish a conversation with the man to no avail. Case closed, the phone was a goner.

Several hours later the girlfriend, who is fluent in Spanish, and her husband arrived on our doorstep, they had established communications, and the man wanted to talk to the owner of the phone. I speak very little Spanish but managed to convey that I was the owner. Conversation then went on as the man said he worked for the Tránsito in San José, had found the phone in the street, that he was an honorable man, and just wanted to return the phone, but he lived a long way away and returned to work at 4 in the morning.

Cautiously, he did not want to say where he lived, so finally we blurted out that we lived in San Ramón. After he got over the shock, it was established that he lived only about two miles from us!

We all piled into the car and went to the man’s house, where he showed me his Tránsito badge, I showed him my cédula and proved the ownership of the phone by turning it off, putting in the PIN and turning it back on.  He gave me the phone, and with profuse thanks I tried to reward him for his generosity. He refused. The next day we took over a box of cookies and brownies, and learned his name: Eduardo B. of San Ramón and the Transito.  An honorable man.

In comparison, when cell phones were a new additional thing to hold in your hands, I lived in Portland, Oregon, and had the misfortune to put my phone on the roof of the car, rid myself of the rest of the stuff in my hands, and then drive away. The homeowner whose house I was appraising at the time called me and said he had the phone and wanted a reward of  “only $20” for me to drive the 120 miles round trip to retrieve my phone.

With so much focus on crime in Costa Rica and the sometimes hassles of getting along in a foreign country (both of which can be true!), we sometimes need a reminder that Costa Rica is also blessed with many wonderful people, good of heart and as honorable as they come.

While my wife and I have many great relationships with Ticos established during the four years we have lived here, this particular encounter where we were expecting the worst and instead experienced the best, certainly served as that reminder.

Chris Roe
San Ramón

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 178

Prisma dental

U.S. comes up with new Navy boat that needs OK to dock
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
 
The U.S. Navy appears to be using another boat to bring Costa Rican drug smuggling suspects ashore.

The Asamblea Legislativa eventually gave approval for the USS Boone to dock in Puntarenas. But now the U.S. Embassy said that the USS Rentz will bring the five suspects ashore along with a sixth suspect who is Nicaraguan. The men were on a Costa Rican-flagged fishing boat that was captured on the high seas as it appeared to be making a drug run from the Galapagos Islands.

Navy crewmen found 1,300 kilos of cocaine aboard the boat, the “María Canela.” That was Aug. 28.

The embassy said that the suspects would be put ashore when the legislature gives permission for the Rentz to dock. Such approval for foreign warships is required by the Costa Rican Constitution.
 
The embassy said that the Rentz is on a list of ships that the United States would like to see given blanket approval to dock whenever necessary. The legislature has resisted doing
that, although approvals in the past were routine.

The embassy is seeking approval for 12 navy vessels over a period of six months.

The embassy has been using the five Costa Ricans as a public relations technique to win approval from the legislature. To some extent this has backfired because several lawmakers have spoken out during legislative sessions about what they said they saw as manipulation of the news media.

Several said that because the ship was carrying a Costa Rican flag, all the suspects should be brought ashore here along with all the cocaine. The United States will provide a sample of the cocaine, about 10 kilos, sufficient for presentation in a court. There also were Colombians on the boat.

How the Rentz enters into the situation is not clear. The Boone was expected to arrive last weekend. Presumably the six suspects were transferred to the Rentz also with a sample of the cocaine. They could easily have been transferred to a Costa Rican Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas boat.


Traffic cameras to catch speeders go live today in valley
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Tránsito are beginning a program against speeders that is almost certainly headed for the Sala IV constitutional court. The program starts today.

The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes have erected cameras with radar at five locations on major highways. These are supposed to detect and take photos of the license plates of vehicles that are speeding.

The fines are enormous. They range from more than 300,000 colons, nearly $600, to prison time, depending on the speed. Violators lose points, too.

A number of fines in the new traffic law are involved in appeals to the Sala IV constitutional court. One appeal was lodged at the end of last month by a motorist claiming that fines for parking incorrectly on a roadway and points deducted are disproportional.

Cameras are on the General Cañas highway between San José and Alajuela, the Circunvalación west of Zapote and
the Autopista Florencio de Castillo between San José and Cartago.

Motorists will be able to exceed the posted limit by 20 kilometers, some 12 miles, without getting an automatic ticket.

Officials also discovered that there is no law prohibiting plastic coverings on license plates that are designed to defeat the cameras. They are planning to introduce such a law, and chances are that motorists doing that will have trouble with their vehicle inspection.

Officials also admit that they will have trouble notifying violators, and said they might rely on publishing the license plate numbers in the La Gaceta official newspaper and another newspaper, probably La Nación. That provides fodder for another court appeal.

Basically, a machine will be bearing witness against a motorist who may not be visible who will be cited because of the license plate number who may not be notified but who will still have to pay a disproportional fine.









This is the Pirris dam that was built in 14 months using new methods. The dam crest contained a road linking San Carlos de Tarrazú and Llano Bonito de León Cortés.

dam construction
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad/A.M. Costa Rica file photo

New Los Santos hydro project will be inaugurated Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and President Laura Chinchilla will be inaugurating the new $600 million Planta Hidroeléctrica Pirrís in the Los Santos region Monday.

Officials predicted in January that the plant would go on line in September, and they made that deadline with two weeks to spare.

The project will generate 136 megawatts. Enough to power 160,000 families, the institute said.

A major feature of the project is the dam. The dam itself is 113 meters high, some 371 feet, and 266 meters long, some
 873 feet. The dam is on the division line between León Cortés and Dota. Workmen used 728,000 cubic meters of concrete to build the retaining structure. That's nearly a million cubic yards.

Another feature is the tunnel to provide the power for the hydro plant. The tunnel carries water 6.5 miles to a generating station in Aserrí.

In May 2008, the hydro project suffered a major setback when Tropical Storm Alma lashed the site.

The Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad and its contractor had to evacuate about 1,100 workers from the project because of the storm, which then inflicted costly damage to the construction.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 178

French evening to provide glimpse of diplomatic high life
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the secrets of international living is to pick the right party.

Anyone, particularly a reporter, who lives overseas more than briefly knows that the French and the Italians throw the best parties. And reporters will move heaven and earth to snag an invitation.

Back in the Cold War days these embassy parties were about the only place that spies mingled. Both the C.I.A. agents and the Russians were attracted to swank embassy parties like moths to the flame. It was not unusual to see Capt. America, the resident U.S. “cultural affairs officer,” arm wrestling with Ivan of the “State Export Company” over the last dregs of some really good French wine.

Of course, such amateurs paled before the likes of overseas reporters. Newspeople, perhaps because of their low pay or acute sensitivity to high living, can smell a free party miles distant. They also usually have contact with embassy public relations types, and a little begging goes a long way when the power of the press is behind the beggar.

There ought to be a class in journalism school teaching why it is rude to fill jacket pockets with French pastries.

Anyway, thanks to Alliance Française, the public has the chance now to experience the diplomatic high life — perhaps
in a more genteel way than that of the average reporter.

The Embassy of France and Alliance Française have organized an acapella gourmet evening called “À la carte” Sept. 29. The idea is to unit French tradition with music and, of course, French cooking.

The Enjuague Vocal will provide the music.

The evening event is at the residence of French Ambassador Fabrice Delloye in Guayabos de Curridabat starting at 7:30 p.m. Anyone can go for 25,000 colons or $50 per person. The French wrote the book on incredible sauces, super rich desserts and fine wines. 

The menu is under the supervision of Pedro Rojas, the French Embassy chef who enhanced his trade in Paris.

Attendance is limited to 150 persons, said the French cultural organization in an announcement.

The group Enjuague Vocal is a sextet of Costa Ricans who have a broad repertoire. Alliance Française noted that acapella means singing without musical accompaniment in a tradition that has its roots in the Middle Ages and the Gregorian chants of the time.

Tickets are available at the French Embassy, the three locations of Alliance Française or the Cámara Franco-centroamericana de Comercio e Industria


World tourism reaches record level in first half of 2011
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International tourism grew by almost 5 percent in the first half of 2011 reaching a new record of 440 million arrivals. Results confirm that, in spite of multiple challenges, international tourism continues to consolidate the return to growth initiated in 2010.

International tourist arrivals are estimated to have grown by 4.5 percent in the first half of 2011, consolidating the 6.6 percent increase registered in 2010. Between January and June of this year, the total number of arrivals reached 440 million, 19 million more than in the same period of 2010.

Growth in advanced economies (+4.3 percent) has maintained strength and is closing the gap with emerging economies (+4.8 percent), which have been driving international tourism growth in recent years. This trend reflects the decreases registered in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as a slight slowdown in the growth of some Asian destinations following a very strong 2010.

“The sustained growth registered in tourism demand in such challenging times clearly makes the case for the sector and reinforces our call to consider tourism as a priority in national policies. Tourism can play a key role in terms of economic growth and development, particularly at a moment when many economies, for the most part in Europe and North America, struggle for recovery and job creation,” said Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the U.N. World Tourism Organization.

All world subregions showed positive trends with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa. Results were better than expected in Europe (+6 percent ), boosted by the recovery of Northern Europe (+7 percent) and Central and Eastern Europe (+9 percent), and the temporary redistribution of travel to destinations in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7 percent) due to developments in North Africa (-13 percent) and the Middle East (-11 percent). Sub-Saharan Africa (+9 percent) continued to perform soundly.

The Americas (+6 percent) was slightly above the world
average, with remarkably strong results for South America (+15 percent). Asia and the Pacific grew at a comparatively slower pace of 5 percent, but this more than consolidates its 13 percent bumper growth of 2010.

Results from recent months show that destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia or Japan are seeing declines in demand clearly reverting. “We are very encouraged to see demand picking up in such important tourism destinations and call for continued support to these countries which are today fully ready to receive travelers from all over the world,” added Rifai.

So far, the growth of international tourism arrivals is very much in line with the initial forecast issued by the World Tourism Organization at the beginning of 2011, 4 percent to 5 percent, for the full year 2011, a rate slightly above the 4 percent long-term average.

As international tourism receipts were more affected by the 2008-2009 crisis and recovered somewhat slower than arrivals in 2010, this year should also see their further improvement.

Following an encouraging first half of 2011, growth in the remainder of the year is expected to soften somewhat as recent months have brought increased uncertainty, hampering business and consumer confidence.

“We must remain cautious as the global economy is showing signs of increased volatility,” said Mr. Rifai. “Many advanced economies still face risks posed by weak growth, fiscal problems and persistently high unemployment. Simultaneously, signs of overheating have become apparent in some emerging economies. Restoring sustained and balanced economic growth remains a major task”.

Following the decline registered in 2009, one of the most challenging years for international tourism in decades, the sector rebounded strongly in 2010.

International tourist arrivals were up 6.6 percent to 940 million and international tourism receipts grew by 4.7 percent in real terms to reach $919 billion.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 178

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Rotavirus shots provide
extended benefits, study says


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Protection of the rotavirus vaccine seems to extend beyond the children who receive it.

Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea that kills more than a half-million people each year, mostly very young children. A recently-introduced vaccine has proved to be very effective and has shown some unexpected benefits, extending protection beyond the children who received the vaccinations.

Rotavirus fatalities are rare in the United States, but the disease does send tens of thousands of children to the hospital each year. The virus also is epidemic among school children in Costa Rica.

Nationwide vaccinations began in the U.S. in 2006, and now researchers are evaluating the results.

They already know that the vaccine is effective, with diarrhea-related hospitalizations down 50 percent just two years after the immunization program started. But researcher Ben A. Lopman, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the protection went far beyond the children who actually got vaccinated.

"The vaccine program also was providing indirect protection against hospitalizations in older children, and adults and in the elderly. There were fewer hospitalizations in 2008 — over 10,000 fewer hospitalizations in these older age groups — than in previous years."

This indirect protection — sometimes called herd immunity — occurs when there are fewer people to pass around an infection, as Lopman explains.

"The idea here is that by vaccinating young children, you stop them from transmitting infection to their older siblings, their parents, their grandparents, etc., because those children themselves are not becoming infected because they've been vaccinated."

There's another surprise here: That older children and adults were getting rotavirus infections in significant numbers. While the vaccine is only recommended for young children, Lopman says his study suggests that doctors should be aware that patients with rotavirus symptoms may be infected, regardless of age.   

Although this study was done in the United States, rotavirus is a much more serious problem in low- and middle-income countries, and the vaccine hasn’t been as effective in those areas. So Lopman says he can't say if his findings would apply there.

"The kinetics of rotavirus transmission are very different in low-income settings, where there seems to be just much more rotavirus around. So it's not clear at this stage whether these indirect benefits would be afforded in low-income settings or not."

In a commentary published with the research paper, a senior official of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Roger I. Glass, director of the NIH Fogarty International Center, says more research is needed to measure the effectiveness of a rotavirus vaccination program conducted where the disease is a much more serious threat. But the official writes that Lopman's study suggests the indirect protection benefit should be considered in assessing the value of a vaccination program.


U.S. man in Mazatlan faces
grenade parts allegation


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's attorney general says police have arrested a U.S. man for allegedly smuggling grenade parts to a powerful and dangerous drug gang.

Authorities identify the suspect as Jean Baptiste Kingery. Police arrested him last week.

Kingery is suspected of smuggling grenade parts across the U.S.-Mexican border to the Sinaloa drug gang. He allegedly bought the material over the internet and in stores.

Mexican drug gangs frequently use hand grenades in their battle with police and soldiers, who are struggling to destroy the drug trade.

Turf wars between drug gangs and their fights with police have made northern Mexico an extremely dangerous place to live or visit.

Kingery was detained in Mazatlan in Sinaloa state. Police found pins and other components, including what are called grenade casings. None is illegal, but police also found guns in his possession, they reported.

U.S. officials are trying to tie gun and weapon sales in the United States to the Mexican cartels, but substantial material is imported from elsewhere. Arrests have been made in Nicaragua of military officers selling live grenades to the cartels.


Prison guards in Haiti
trained in techniques


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti’s understaffed prison services will benefit from nearly 300 new recruits, thanks to a United Nations-backed training program covering all elements needed for the job, from psychological understanding to respect for prisoners’ rights to knowing when to use force.

“The urgency was there,” Renald Jean René, a corrections official in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, said of the five-week course, during which the 297 police graduates also learning how to handle stress and hostage situations, and escort prisoners safely within jails and outside on their way to court.

On prisoners’ rights, the graduates were taught that “every jailed person keeps the rights and privileges of all members of society except for civil and political rights and the freedom to move freely outside.”

The new recruits, who will be deployed to the country’s 17 prisons, join 240 others who were trained in 2008. All told, there are some 1,000 prison guards for more than 6,000 prisoners throughout the country.

The prison training program is just one of the many functions performed by the U.N. mission, ranging from ensuring security and helping to respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, to improving roads and general infrastructure in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The 12,000-strong peacekeeping mission has been in the country since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 178

Costa Rica Reprot promo


Latin America news
U.S. scammer convicted
in murder-for-hire plots


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen who graduated from being a multi-million-dollar scammer to the intellectual author of two murders got a 50-year sentence in a criminal court Wednesday.

He is Jeffery Allan Pearson, who made up to $13 million scamming mostly retired U.S. residents with fake business opportunities.

Also convicted were two former policemen who were the trigger men. The killings were attributed to business differences.

Agents said the trio were linked to a murder Nov. 1, 2006, of a Colombian man at the Las Garantías Sociales traffic circle and the killing of a pirate taxi driver Sept. 9, 2007, in Los Anonos de Escazú.

The murder Nov. 1, 2006, took place in Zapote and claimed the life of Diego López Enao, a Colombian and caused injury to a Limón resident in the same car identified as Roy Ricardo Lindo Calvo, then 34. In all, killers pumped 17 bullets into the vehicle. Police suspect the weapon was an Uzi machine pistol.

A female taxi passenger survived the Sept. 9, 2007, attack when killers failed to see her in the back seat of the vehicle which had polarized windows. The confrontation took place near the Los Anonos bridge in Escazú and took the life of the driver, Luis Guillermo Rojas Meza, also formerly of Colombia.

The scam was operated at times under the name of Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc. Phone salesmen tried to convince individuals to send money for coffee machines or sometimes other types of vending machines. The U.S. Justice department characterized the operation as a voice-over-Internet scam. Victims thought the callers were in the United States. Actually they were in Escazú or La Sabana.

Had Pearson not been charged with the killings, he faced extradition to the United States. Many of his associates have received long sentences there. They included Stephen Schultz and Sirtaj Mathauda, who used the name of Mark Boland.

The convictions likely will be appealed.


Principal Financial head
gets a 10-year jail term


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elwyn R. Jacobs has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 10 years in prison, court sources said. There was no official announcement of the verdict.

Jacobs is the former president of Principal Services S.A. The operation was one of the many high-interest firms that ran without much regulation at the turn of the century. The trial began in mid-August.

The verdict most certainly will be appealed and moved up to the Sale III high criminal court. But Jacobs remains in prison.

Jacobs is one of two men who had been sought on fraud allegations related to the firm. Jacobs is in his 80s, but one investor denies he had a passive role in the company. Jacobs signed the introductory letter back in 2000, and he signed the promissory notes to repay the investments, said one Canadian investor who was in town to testify.

Not on trial is Gerard Latulippe, who also had been arrested in the United States. He is reported to be ill.

Principal closed its doors in March 2003. Investors had been promised a 4 percent monthly return on investments. They were told that their money would be used for venture capital projects. Some investors had put more than $1 million in the business.

A salesman, Michael James Forrest, was acquitted in an earlier trial in which a judicial panel placed the bulk of the blame on the company and its officers.





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