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These stories were published Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 186
Jo Stuart
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How many ways do we love thee, rain?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The homestretch to the temporada alta or dry season always hosts the most rain. And the downpours seem to increase as December

edges closer.

The rainy season has not been a killer this year, although a couple of weather systems threw a lot of water at Costa Rica Monday. More is expected for today.
So it is time to list the reasons we love rain:

1. A good downpour or aguacero washes away the garbage left by the trash crews.
2. The hypnotic, hard pounding on the metal roof provides a good excuse to nap.

3. Flowers love rain, and we love flowers.

4.  That sweet, fresh smell follows the rain.

5. It's not snow.

6. You get to hug your partner closer under a single umbrella.

7. You didn't need to make that meeting.

8. Those dynamite sunsets with technicolor clouds and rainbows.

9. Pure clear water can become beer.

Pacific coast braces for annual highest tides
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast, mainly between Puntarenas south to Quepos, is bracing for the highest waves of the year.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that the high waves would begin today and last until Friday. Omar Lizano of the Centro de Investigaciones Marítimas of the Universidad de Costa Rica confirmed that the tides this week would be the highest this year.

The emergency commission said that those living in the area should keep watch particularly at night and in the early morning when high tides take place.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional predicted a 10.37-foot tide at Puntarenas at 4:05 a.m. today and some 9.55 feet at 4:29 p.m. Similar heights are predicted for the rest of the week with the time of the high tide moving forward about 42 minutes each day.
These tides are about 30 to 40 percent above normal.

Tide heights in the 10.6-foot level are predicted for the Quepos area. High tide there this morning is at 3:51 a.m. and 4:16 p.m.

In June 2002 a similar flurry of high tides caused damage to the seawall in Puntarenas and sunk some boats at Nosara on the far Pacific coast.

The center also directed its warning at tourists who would practice aquatic sports.
Meanwhile on the Caribbean coast and in the Central Valley, as well as the Pacific, moderate to strong rain is predicted, a spinoff of a tropical depression that was moving north from Panamá. The weather institute said that Hurricane Phillip and Tropical Storm Rita also were having an effect on the local weather. 

The tropical depression is expected to pass by Costa Rica today causing a generalized rain.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 186

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Launch fares topic
of regulatory hearing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's fare regulatory agency will hold a hearing Sept. 30 in Paquera where the public may comment on a proposal to increase the price of a trip on the renewed launch service from Puntarenas.

The agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Público, is holding the hearing. It will be in Clínica de Paquera, at 4 p.m.

The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera proposes to increase the fare for an adult from 320 colons to 865 colons and that for a child from 195 colons to 525 colons. The increase is 270 percent, the regulating authority said.

The launch service goes from the los Plátanos dock in Puntarenas to the Paquera terminal.

Those who want to speak at the hearing must contact the authority in Sabana Sur by 4 p.m. Sept. 23. A FAX is acceptable at 290-2010.

Chamber likes treaty
with Caribbean nations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones de la Empresa Privada has praised Costa Rica's approval of a free trade treaty with the Caribbean countries as another step in the right direction towards the commercial opening of the country that began more than a decade ago.

President Abel Pacheco signed the enabling legislation Monday. The treaty was approved by the Asamblea Legislative last month. It was negotiated in 2003.

The association of chambers and private firms said that the treaty represents an excellent instrument for the hundreds of companies that now export who will be able to expand their business in the 12 nations of the Caribbean community.  The organization predicted that smaller firms also would be able to take advantage of the treaty, noting that the annual per capita income in the Caribbean is $3,500, a bit higher than in Central America.

Counting possible sales may be a bit premature. Only two of the Caribbean nations have approved the agreement entirely.

Surveys and the media
is round table focus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jerry Hagstrom, a leading U.S. agricultural newsman, will be one of the three participants today in a round table about the reliability of public opinion surveys and the

Jerry Hagstrom
role of the communications media. The event will be at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the Facultad de Educación at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Also participating will be Eduardo Ulibarri of La Nación and Victor Ramírez, the political commentator.

Hagstrom, a North Dakota native, writes for the weekly National Journal in Washington, D.C. He also
is carried by Agweek and has won a number of awards for his coverage of the frequently complex politics surrounding farm policy.

Hagstrom has given seminars in 25 countries under the sponsorship of the U.S. Information Agency and the Office of Public Diplomacy, as it is called now. He has written about the industry of survey taking and also analyzes the state of politics in the United States.

Our readers opinions

He says Chávez has
his eyes on Colombia

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hugo Chávez said Friday that he has documentation of a U.S. military plan called "Balboa."
I say bull, and Hugo Chávez is full of it!!!  He is making this up to make like America and the world has not noticed his $200 billion military buildup in his oil/drug rich country, and that everyone will be looking hard at  that nasty George Bush for even thinking about  poor little oil/drug  rich Venezuela, and poor little Hugo, who is trying so hard just to be "decent folk" when in  all reality he is getting ready to attack Columbia.

Gosh Hugo, why would your country have 10,000 Cuban doctors? Might I suspect some of these are not really doctors??
Marvin Powell
Bocas del Toro
Republic of Panamá
Tax plan again survives
effort to shelve it

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government's plan for $500 million in new taxes survived yet another attack Monday when legislators voted down a motion to send the measure to a committee for an indefinite period.

The motion was launched by deputies from the Movimiento Libertario, which opposes the so-called fiscal plan. The motion failed 15 to 27, a much greater margin than the single vote that saved the measure last week.

This is the proposal that would allow officials to levy a value-added tax instead of the current sales tax and also allow global taxation of whatever money a resident earned elsewhere.

Deputies had been cautioned that to defeat the measure would handicap Banco Central and Ministerio de Hacienda officials who are going to the United States next week to meet with debt rating agencies.

Students plan to march

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students from the Universidad Nacional and the Universidad of Costa Rica are planning to march today to oppose the free trade treaty with the United States.

The march takes place at about the same time that President Abel Pacheco will release a report from his team of five advisers on the trade treaty. Pacheco will do so at Casa Presidencial. The exact route of the student march was not available late Monday.
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An analysis of the news
The silly season for polls and surveys is here

By Jay Brodell
editor of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The debate over the free trade treaty with the United States has moved up the season for public opinion polls.

A steady stream of polls, mostly paid for by the news media, seeks to predict the unpredictable: what will happen in February when the nation votes or how Costa Ricans feel about the free trade treaty.

A recent poll predicted that Óscar Arias Sánchez would win the presidency. And this took place before the official start of the campaign, which is Saturday. Arias, a former president, is one of the few persons in the race who has a well-known name and face. Plus his campaign has been running full page newspaper ads for weeks.

You can bet that the contenders will chip away at whatever lead Arias has. He is very vulnerable to negative campaigning because of the way the Sala IV constitutional court suddenly found that he could run, despite what the Constitution says about a second term.

The free trade treaty is a different case. It doesn't matter what the people think. The University of Costa Rica came forth with the results of a survey Monday that said 70 percent of the respondents wanted a referendum.

The only opinions that matter with the free trade treaty are those of President Abel Pacheco, who may or may not send the document to the Asamblea Legislativa, and the opinions of the lawmakers who may get a chance to vote on the treaty.

The law does not provide for a referendum, although such a proposal is in the works.

The university researchers also dropped a red herring in the survey. They asked respondents if the treaty should be renegotiated. Many people said it should be, even though there is no chance that the

United States is going to cut a special deal for recalcitrant Costa Rica.

Negotiation is in the Costa Rican nature, and to include such an unlikely possibility in the survey diminishes its value. The survey should have given the public the same hard choice Pacheco and the lawmakers have: yes or no without a middle ground.

The big sin of a public opinion survey is to ask questions that the public has very little chance of answering knowledgeably. The free trade treaty is a very complex issue. Even Pacheco farmed out the document to five advisers, headed by U.S. astronaut Franklin Chang Díaz. And it appears that their report, although still secret until later today, did not take a strong opinion for or against.

The five advisers spent a month studying the document. So it is inappropriate to ask the public for snap judgments and incorporate them into a supposed scientific study. But with the political season arriving,  the public mind will only get more confused.

Guide dogs ride free, constitutional court orders
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has come to the rescue of a blind man who sought to bring his guide dog on a bus.

The man, identified as Roy Rojas Castro said in his court action that he took his dog aboard a  Transportes Unidos Alajuelenses S.A (TUASA) bus last May 22 and that the bus driver charged him a fare and also a fare for his guide dog.
The court said that this action constituted discrimination against a blind person because the dog is an organic extension of the handicapped person and an additional fare should not be collected for the animal.

The court ordered the bus company to stop collecting such fares and ordered it to pay the costs and damages caused to Rojas.  A summary of the decision did not say how much. However, the actual Sala IV vote was Wednesday.

Did you ever hear of undocumented horses? Police in Upala did
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The border with Nicaragua in the Upala area is notoriously porous, but Fuerza Pública officers are cracking down and encountering unexpected contraband: cows, and horses.

Police said they are making an effort to patrol the secondary roads. The effort paid off this week with the confiscation of 33 horses that had been smuggled in from Nicaragua.
Officers found 11 animals at a farm in Victoria de San José de Upala. Some 22 animals were found in a truck at La Victoria de San José de Upala. Three persons were detained.

Police also are on the lookout for undocumented immigrants who frequent the Upala border crossings.

Officers said they have formed a special unit to maintain the patrols in the area.

Hole in ozone layer approaches record, U.N. says
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The hole in the Antarctic ozone layer is approaching the all-time record of 2003 and it is unclear whether the world will ever attain full recovery of the naturally occurring trace gas that shields it from cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation, according to the United Nations meteorological agency.

“Full recovery of the ozone layer is not expected until the middle of this century, when atmospheric chlorine and bromine are expected to drop below the threshold for the formation of an Antarctic ozone-hole,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization. 

“However, it is in fact uncertain whether we may ever reach full ozone recovery,” he added of the layer that filters out ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and other diseases, noting that the latest findings showed the hole close to the 2003 record of 28 million square kilometres.

Given the uncertainties he called for more extensive integration of ground-based observations, satellite observations and numerical modelling.

“The campaign to protect the ozone layer represents an extraordinary success story, but until emissions of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances are reduced to zero, saving the ozone layer will remain unfinished business,” said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, whose Ozone Secretariat supports the Montreal Protocol and Vienna Convention on phasing out ozone-destroying chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons.

Recovery of the ozone layer is divided into three phases, the first being when depletion is less rapid than before. It is here that the Antarctic hole has yet
to show signs of improvement. Published results 
indicate less rapid ozone loss in some areas of the world, but year-to-year variations in meteorological conditions in the stratosphere cause variations in the extent of ozone destruction.

This interannual “noise” makes it difficult to determine whether the minimum has been reached and the start of phase two has begun, the World Meteorological Organization said. At least 5-10 more years of observations will be necessary. The second phase is when minimum levels have been reached and the ozone starts to increase again. The third, known as full recovery, is when total ozone has returned to pre-1980 levels, that is before the ozone hole started.

In recent years, scientists have become increasingly aware of possible links between ozone depletion and climate change. Increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will lead to a warmer climate at the Earth’s surface. At altitudes where we find the ozone layer, the same increase in greenhouse gas is likely to lead to a cooling of the atmosphere, enhancing the chemical reactions that destroy ozone, said the  World Meteorological Organization.

At the same time, the amount of water vapour in the stratosphere has been increasing at the rate of about 1 per cent per year. A wetter and colder stratosphere means more polar stratospheric clouds, which is likely to lead to more severe ozone loss in both polar regions.

These observed changes could delay the expected recovery of the ozone layer. It is therefore vital that all nations with stratospheric measurement programs continue to enhance these measurements and that funding agencies continue to support research on stratospheric ozone and harmful UV radiation, the  World Meteorological Organization said.

RACSA speed for cable customers finally at 512 kbps
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The speed has filtered down. A cable connection with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. is now running  in excess of the promised 512 kbps. Tests over the last 24 hours showed that the Internet provider maintained a connection last measured at 522.64 kbps. The speed had been 128 kbps.

However, upload, as measured by an independent Web service, was a bit slower at 116.96. The company had promised 128 kbps. Download speed is the velocity of information coming into the computer, such as the description of a Web page. Uploads are
when a computer operator posts a file from the local computer to a computer or server somewhere else.

The company, known as RACSA,  announced Sept. 9 that it had jacked up the speed of its cable customers and that it would introduce a new rate structure that was slightly lower Oct. 1.

The test Monday was done with an Amnet connection to the RACSA server. Other cable companies also provide a service to connect a cable television customer to the Internet server.

Cable customers can go HERE to check their speed.

Jo Stuart
About us
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