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These stories were published Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 204
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Children of the Boruca Community ham it up at the old Estación al Atlantico
Boruca youngsters get a field trip to San José
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 28 Boruca children from the Doris Stone School visited San José as part of a program to strengthen access to culture in the country’s rural areas.

The youngsters from Buenos Aires de Puntarenas visited the Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos in the old Estación del Ferrocaril al Atlántico in Barrio California Wednesday.

For most of these children the trip was the first time they visited San José. The invitation was from the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes to children in fourth, fifth and sixth years of high school, according to Yeudy Leiva Gonzáles, the teacher who accompanied them.

The group had been in San José playing tourist since Monday visiting different cultural institutions as the Banco Central’s Museo de Oro, the Museo Nacional, and the Museo del Niños.

The children showed a lot of interest and curiosity at the museum of forms, spaces and sounds at the Atlantic train station. But the old steam engine there and rail cars proved to be a big temptation, too.

The Boruca culture is known to tourists mostly from the carved wooden masks. The Boruca lands are in southwestern Costa Rica in an area centered on the village of Rey Curé where the government plans to construct a big hydroelectric project. 

This will cause the Río Térraba to flood much of the tribal lands and cause dislocation.

Pothunters make major archaeological find in Sarapiquí
By Clair-Marie  Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators are awaiting experts from Museo Nacional at a site in Sarapiquí where a trove of archeological artifacts has been unearthed. 

The experts were contacted by agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization which enlisted their help to date and identify the artifacts that were discovered on a farm Monday morning. 

The archeological experts are expected to arrive within the next week. "We still do not know from what period in history these items come from, but we have found a lot, its one of the biggest finds in a very long time" said a Judicial Investigating Organization agent.

Francisco Corrales, head of the Museo Nacional in San José, said that he is very positive about the find and happy that the authorities in Sarapiquí have collaborated with his institution in something which he feels is of "immense cultural importance." 

Investigators were alerted by security guards on the farm when three youngsters were spotted digging and acting suspiciously at approximately 11:30 a.m. Monday. When the 

youngsters realized guards were nearby, they began to throw rocks, agents said.

At least one security guard then fired a shotgun containing small bird shot as the youngsters ran away. Agents were called to the site to find three pits that had been recently dug. Upon further investigation, several more pits were found that had been backfilled, agents said.

On the same day a 23-year-old Nicaraguan male appeared at a nearby clinic in Rio Frio suffering from scattergun wounds to his back, legs and head. Agents were alerted and arrested him. They searched his home and said they found more archeological artifacts that they believe came from the same site. 

Items that have been unearthed include a stone vessel, five small precious stones, possibly jade. Other stone artifacts include chisels, stirrups and arrow heads. Clay items discovered range from animal figurines to small pots. 

Agents are continuing to interview the Nicaraguan about how he found the site. Another spokesperson from the Museo Nacional said "It is a shame that this site has been disturbed. There is a possibility that a lot of the artifacts have already been sold, and we may never see them again." 

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La Costanera, Quepos, Parrita, Manuel Antonio

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Little Adrian Espinoza Palma, 4, gets a dental check from Silvya Rodríguez, an odontology student at the University of Costa Rica. The occasion was an exhibition in the Plaza de la Cultura on the avoidance of risks, physical or natural.

Immigration law goes
to floor of assembly

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new immigration law got the approval of a legislative committee Wednesday and now will go to the full Asamblea Nacional for discussion and a likely vote.

This is the measure that concerns expats here because an original draft sought to eliminate the category of rentista.  Lawmakers have said that this immigration category has been placed back in the measure, but some 28 motions were passed Wednesday before the measure won full approval, plus the bill may be changed significantly on the floor of the assembly.

The approval was in the Comisión Permanente de Gobierno y Administración, which has been studying the measure for months.

For Costa Rica, the big changes would be to criminalize the employment of an illegal alien, create a stronger immigration police force and make smuggling illegal immigrants a crime.

Expats were more concerned by possible changes in the amount of money pensionados and rentistas had to prove they had in order to obtain residency here. Although legislative sources said that no changes are planned in the annual amounts of money expats must change into colons, nothing is certain until the measure finally passes.

Humberto Arce of the Bloque Patriótico Parlamentario, a member of the committee, said the proposed law is an advance for Costa Rica. He said he was satisfied with the draft the committee approved. Arce said that immigration in Costa Rica now is chaos and the new law will inject order into the situation.

Arce predicted that the measure would not face much hostility in the full assembly because he said lawmakers have reached a consensus that something has to be done with immigration.

The measure is listed as Expediente 14.269, Ley de Migración y Extranjería, but the changes wrought in the committee in recent days will not be inserted into the official draft for a few days.

Under current law, rentistas of any age have to show that they have at least $60,000 on deposit at a banking institution and are prepared to change $12,000 a year into colons. Pensionados must have a recognized pension from a third-party source and must change $7,200 a year.

Some lawmakers called for jacking up these amounts by a factor of two or three. In addition, some organizations that deal with expats seeking residency here were concerned by another aspect. One draft of the bill would have left the amounts immigrants must exchange up to an administrative committee that could make changes as it saw fit. Expat organizations preferred that the actual numbers be in the law to avoid confusion and blindsiding.

Brother fires on brothers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A dispute between brothers flared into gunplay in Siquirres Wednesday morning.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that a 13-year-old boy was arguing with his brother, 16. The older boy grabbed a shotgun and fired on the younger brother, wounding him in the leg. Also shot was a 7-year-old, believed to be a brother. The younger child was shot in the stomach.

The older brother fled, agents said.

Repairman dies in accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A workman repairing a cement mixer in Esparza Wednesday accidentally turned on the device while he was inside, said the Judicial Investigating organization. He was killed.

Professional Directory
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Colombian levels doubled for military and contractors
U.S. says new troop limits do not mean big influx 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Additional U.S. personnel are needed in Colombia to help in that country's progress against narco-terrorists and expansion of development programs to boost economic opportunities, says the U.S. State Department.

In a statement, the State Department said the U.S. Congress's new authorization to raise limits on the number of military personnel and U.S. contractors allowed in Colombia will help the country sustain the current "high tempo of operations and overall progress" being made in the Andean nation.

The State Department cautioned, however, that press reports about the authorization have mistakenly implied that because the cap on U.S. military personnel has been raised, the additional personnel will "automatically" start moving into the country. Increased personnel flows into Colombia, the State Department said, will depend on a number of other factors, including funding and operational planning.

The Congress approved legislation Oct. 9 authorizing the doubling of U.S. military personnel permitted in Colombia to 800 and increasing the number of American citizens working for private contractors in Colombia from 400 to 600. The State Department said the authorization, which awaits a presidential signature, will be used to continue U.S. support for Plan Colombia, an initiative launched by the Colombian government to fight Colombia's illegal drug trade, protect human rights, and expand economic development.

The State Department said that in the past, the United States has had to delay or cancel certain logistical, administrative, training, and technical support in Colombia due to the current caps on the number of U.S. personnel in the country, which were put in place in the year 2000. The raised caps on personnel will allow for "greater flexibility and more efficient planning" of U.S. support to Colombia, according to the State Department.

The State Department noted that activities of U.S. personnel in Colombia include training and equipping counter-narcotics and counterterrorism military and police forces. Other programs include planning assistance and intelligence support, upgrading Colombian aircraft, infrastructure development, and radar programs.

The State Department also emphasized that U.S. military personnel in Colombia do not engage in combat. Such activity is prohibited and the Bush administration did not seek to change that prohibition, the State Department said.

U.S. civilian contractors in Colombia work for the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, and Justice, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The State Department said the contractors carry out programs to provide assistance to the Colombian government and civil society in the areas of counter-narcotics and counterterrorism, alternative development, law enforcement, institutional strengthening, judicial reform, human rights, humanitarian assistance for displaced persons, local governance, anti-corruption, conflict management and peace promotion, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers.

The State Department said the U.S. government employs civilian contractors because the "flexibility they allow and the skills they provide" are often not available elsewhere.

Crowds protest policies
of Colombia’s Uribe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets as part of a general strike to protest President Alvaro Uribe's economic policies.

Colombia's labor unions organized Tuesday's work stoppage, which took place here, in Barranquilla, Cali, Medellin and other cities. 

The protesters demanded an end to negotiations aimed at reaching a free trade agreement with the United States. They also voiced their opposition to having taxes raised.

Additionally, the demonstrators were protesting potential changes to the constitution that would allow President Uribe to seek re-election. The president is currently barred from running for a second term.

Tuesday's mass demonstration came just days after a new opinion poll showed that the president's approval rating had fallen to 72 percent from 78 percent a few months earlier. 

Readers have their say on real estate and Jo Stuart
Damage done by U.S. 
will never be undone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In your well-written "Hire the Iraqis to rebuild their own country", you conclude that, "given the damage that has been done so far, this is not going to be easy, but we can start by giving them back their country and their jobs."

I am terribly afraid that even your generosity of spirit grievously underestimates the damage done.

The damage will never be undone. The memories will never fade.

Yes, you can try to give them back their country. Tell me, how are you planning to give them back their sisters, their children, and their mothers?

I am afraid, Jo, that in my country of Canada there are now so many of us who will always see Americans as the most vicious, greedy, and cowardly people who ever walked the surface of the planet.

And my own uncle was an American. And I had an American girlfriend. And I have many friends who are Americans. But Canadians look at you in horror. We grew up thinking you were our friends.

But Americans have chosen to be friends of no one. You are not even friends of yourselves.

I am very sorry, but you will never be able to undo the damage done. You will not be able to undo it Iraq. You will not be able to undo it in Afghanistan. You will not be able to undo it in Grenada. You will not be able to undo it in Colombia.

And you will not be able to undo it in Canada.

With great respect 

Carson Wade
This reader defends
Jo and her Iraqi views

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The broken-down, burned-out, right-wingnut gringos strike again.  This time, the target of their fanaticism is AM Costa Rica columnist Jo Stuart (Oct. 13, 2004 issue). 

One such writer, Bobby Ruffian of Guadalupe, accuses Ms. Stuart of being uninformed and underqualified, evidently oblivious to his own stumbling prose which sometimes borders on incomprehensible:  "Also Ms. Stuart, I have never been wrong on something that has not happened, but have all the answers for things that have (sic)."  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.   That lexically-challenged statement brings to mind an old proverb:  Better to keep your mouth shut and look like an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt. 

The other person's ramblings amount to little more than transparent misdirection, rewriting history in a pusillanimous attempt to defend the current U.S. regime's massive foreign-policy failures and alienation of much of the world. 

" matters not a whit that Saddam was a 'secularist' dictator that kept the peace between Iraqi factions...," the writer blathers.  Says who?  That misinformed statement betrays the writer's tenuous grasp on geopolitics, if not reality itself. Iraq is in chaos, with most of its people now far worse off than before the U.S. regime's unprovoked military blitzkrieg. 

Saddam Hussein's chambers of horrors, including but not limited to Abu Ghraib, have simply changed hands.  In many cases, the torture has continued, perhaps with the full knowledge and encouragement of U.S. military command at the highest levels. And the writer is proud of that? 

Let's discuss his claim that a million people died in the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent invasion of Kuwait.  That's certainly an appalling statistic. One would think the writer would show some remorse, considering that the Reagan regime sold Iraq massive quantities of lethal arms during the 1980s in order to smite its foes in Teheran.  Some of those weapons included chemical agents, which were used on Hussein's own people as well as the Iranians. 

Let's not forget Col. Oliver North, the sacrificial lamb who took it on the chin to protect the Reagan-Bush administration's sale of weapons to Iran — and its illicit and illegal funding of Central American guerrillas.  Is it any wonder that the administration of former President Oscar Arias refused to allow the stationing of U.S. military forces on Costa Rican soil? 

Finally, how does the writer arrive at the conclusion that Hussein was "...a state sponsor of terrorism" (sic)?  I'll take two of whatever the writer is drinking!  The 9-11 Commission and the U.S. intelligence community have publicly stated that Iraq had no connection to Al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, who by the way received his training from the Reagan-Bush regime during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. 

Unfortunately, Occupied Iraq is now teeming with terrorists all bent on destroying the U.S. and the handful of minor foreign players of the so-called Coalition.   It sounds like the writer is saying, "Our terrorists are okay, but the other guys' terrorists aren't."  Perhaps he should follow his own advice and clean his own closet before heaping unwarranted criticism upon Ms. Stuart. 

L. Torbellino 
Somebody please sell
this guy some property

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Real Estate Agent Wanted 

Over a year I have been searching for just the right piece of property to build a bed & breakfast in Costa Rica. My search has been simple. I want a fine piece of property. I have given my list to many "agents," and most won't even return my e-mail. What's up with that? I don't know if its just because they are too busy or maybe its because in my message I inform them that I don't have "SUCKER" written on my forehead. 

Now we have all heard of the dumb Americans that come to Costa Rica to retire. Hell, there are even some well known individuals and organizations who make their living showing retired people how to retire here and live comfortably. One even tells you right from the start that unlike his competitors he doesn't have a hidden agenda. Fact is this same guy has a rental homes and property in his own subdivision for sale. OOPS! 

One well known organization claims to assist and help expatriates settle in this country. They assist with legal advice, residency, referrals and guess what? It just so happens they have a property service department too. Lets take a minute and look at what they offer, 3 homes for under $100,000.00 out of 45. Can't wait to get one of them! Sure hope they aren't sold by the time I get there.

I understand that in Costa Rica you do not need a license to sell real estate. However there must be laws against fraud or at the very least misrepresentation. My search has been quite interesting. Most people know the saying that there are two prices for property, the "Tico" price and the "Gringo" price.. 

Do you figure that it was the Tico's that perpetuated this? In my experience with both Tico and Gringo sales people it is always the "Gringo" that tells me this. He is the same one who months before is responsible for telling the owner of the property that he can sell the property for two or three times what it is really worth.

"Bait & Switch," illegal in the U.S., but going strong in Costa Rica. A company advertisement in this publication for a piece of property for a decent price, go to the Web site and guess what it is sold. Fact is it has been sold for weeks maybe more. Conveniently however, they do have other listings available.

In the year I have been shopping for property, I have heard many stories, sickness in the family forces immediate sale, moving back to the States, clean air, contamination free, fresh property, won't last long, beach property only 10 kms. from beach, only 20 minutes to beaches, only 2 hours from San José, Tico prices, only $10.00 per sq. meter, will consider all reasonable offers.

So for all of us who are still looking for that "perfect" plot, remember what a rather wise friend told me when I first started looking for property. It is not the Ticos that will be cheating you, but rather the expatriates. 

John Dame 
Albuquerque, N.M.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our experience is that there are good and bad in both nationalities. But we also accept the blame if we accidentally let a real estate ad run too long. We will try to do better.

Plastic surgeon report:

Don’t blame gravity
for facial changes

By the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. —  To the surprise of many people, the loss of fat and sun exposure play a bigger role than gravity in aging the face,
according to a study presented this week at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2004 conference in Philadelphia. 

"People make assumptions about how the face ages because when they pull up on their facial skin, they look better," said Val Lambros, a society member and author of the study. 

"Actually the pull of gravity on facial tissues is not a significant component of facial aging," he said. "Instead, other factors, like the loss of facial fat and sun damage are more contributory in the complex process of aging."

In addition, the nature of facial skin changes over time becoming thinner, most notably around the eyelids. These changes are often accelerated by sun exposure, which damages the skin, the study said.

"Plastic surgeons rejuvenate the aging face by pulling up and tightening the tissue, but treatment also requires a balance between tightening tissue and replacing loss facial fat with wrinkle fillers," said Lambros.  "The key is knowing how much of each to do," he said.


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A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica. However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system. 

Canadian physicists take on the curling stone's curl
By the news service of the Canadian Natural Sciences And Engineering Research Council.

One of sport's greatest scientific mysteries has been solved, sort of. Two University of Northern British Columbia physicists have explained the centuries-old question of why a curling stone curls, or moves laterally, in a counter-intuitive direction. 

The solution — published in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Physics — isn't an elegant equation of the kind mathematicians adore, say the scientists, but rather one that involved a lot of experimental sweeping. The explanation, nonetheless, could spark controversy at rinks and even result in a new super-curl shot.

"If you turn a glass over, spin it and slide it down a table it curls in the opposite way compared to a curling stone," says Dr. Mark Shegelski, a theoretical physicist describing his post-game barroom demonstration of the problem. "The curlers think you're doing some kind of magic, until they do it themselves and see that the glass goes the 'wrong way.'"

Curling is the indoor winter sport popularized by the Scots, and now an official winter Olympic event, in which two opposing teams slide and rotate smooth 20-kilogram (44-pound) ovals of granite (the stone) down a 28-meter-long sheet of ice. The goal is to get your team's stones closer to the centre of a bull's eye-style target than the other team’s.

Baseball curveballs and the trajectory of golf balls have long been the stuff of introductory university physics textbooks. But the reason for a stone's curl, the very thing from which the game gets its name, has remained elusive.

"The physics of friction on ice is considerably more complicated," explains Dr. Erik Jensen, the paper’s other co-author. Indeed, curlers know that different ice surfaces can have an enormous impact on the stone's movement; a skilled curler is able to "read ice" and anticipate the degree of curl.

After a decade of theoretical exploration, Shegelski recently decided it was time to gather the experimental information needed to finally resolve the physics of the curl. 

Jensen and Shegelski developed an experiment, and with the help of the staff of the Prince George Golf and Curling Club they were able to create an ice surface underlain with a detailed grid pattern. Using a suspended video camera they then recorded four hours of the widest possible range of shots, from slowly sliding rapid "spinners" to slow-rotation, high-velocity shots all thrown by three local curlers. The results are the first detailed quantitative measurements of curling stones' behaviour. 

So why does the curling stone curl the way it does? Wet friction, say the scientists.

"Our work makes a very convincing case that melting is inextricably involved," says Shegelski. "It doesn't prove that there's melting, but to explain our experimental results without invoking the existence of a thin-liquid film, well, I would be shocked if somebody came up with a successful theory that involved no melting."

This quasi-liquid layer — a microscopic slurry of ice and water "as thin as a bubble's skin" — reverses the dominant frictional force on the stone. The glass on a table experiences dry friction, in which the largest frictional force is on the leading edge. So if it's rotating clockwise, it will curl left. However, for

the curling stone, the liquid layer reduces the friction at the front so that it is less than the friction at the back. Thus a clockwise-turning stone curls to the right. 

Moreover, the only way to explain the extent of some of the extreme curls they observed, up to one-and-a-half metres of lateral movement, is that "the frictional force acting on each segment of the rock is directed opposite to the motion relative to this thin liquid film, and not relative to the underlying fixed ice surface," write the authors. 

It's an explanation that the physicists say has evoked cries of foul from some long-time curlers who insist they don't see any water under their stones. The water layer is so thin it freezes too quickly to be observed when a stone is lifted.

However, the definitive theoretical explanation of the stone's curl remains tantalizingly out-of-reach. Even though the observed curls and mathematical models fit closely, there's still a gap.

"At the end we punted and said we really can't explain everything from first principles," said Jensen, now content to head back to his usual surface physics experiments with lasers.

But in pursuing his quest for curling's ultimate prize Shegelski has inspired physics teachers across North America, and as far away as Germany, to take to the rink with their students. 

And, far from being purely theoretical, the latest experiments have paved the way for a new curling shot. Curlers are familiar with a shot called a "spinner," used as a knock-out shot, in which the stone is slid hard and rotated quickly so that it travels straight down the ice. 

"What we found is that if you really slow down the speed but maintain the high rotation rate of 70-to-80 full rotations, the stone's curl is double that for a similar shot with five rotations," said Shegelski. "So that's a cool thing that I didn't expect to happen."

There could even be a new theory-inspired stone. Aug. 31 Shegelski obtained the Canadian patent for an idea entitled "Curling stone providing increased curl." But, after a decade of tangling with the curious curl, he's remaining silent on this.

Their paper "The motion of curling rocks: Experimental investigation and semi-phenomenological description" is published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Physics and can be accessed for free HERE!. 

The time has come for more stories of spooks and banshees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the local political and financial news are not scary enough for you, we invite you again this year to submit your efforts to our annual Halloween short story contest.

Once again the prize will be $25 and worldwide recognition though the pages of A.M. Costa Rica. After all, we are read in 89 countries each day.

The stories must have a theme that is consistent with Halloween: Spooks, witches, goblins, ghosts. 

By submitting a story to you are certifying that the story was written by you, that it is original and unpublished and that we may publish it. We will. Graphics are welcomed but will not be part of the evaluation. Deadline is Oct. 25 at midnight, of course.

Judging will be by the strange figure that inhabits the A.M. Costa Rica offices after hours. We’ll just leave the computer on for its decision.

Try to keep the stories around, 1,000 words or less and make sure that there is a connection with Costa Rica.

Jo Stuart
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