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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 206       Email us
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This structure is on Ruta 126 between Santa Bárbara de Heredia and Vara Blanca. It has been undermined by the collapse of the hillside on which it stands. This is a typical situation in the country with homes in Desamparados and elsewhere facing the same problem.

house about to fall
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo

Rains slacken somewhat, but dangers still exist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rivers still are rising. More landslides are possible. And most Costa Ricans are sick of the rain. But the rains did slacken Monday and highway officials have made inroads in opening up blocked roads.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that there was from 40 to 70 millimeters of rain in sections of the country Monday. That is from 1.6 to 2.76 inches, far less than the 5.3 inches (136.1 millimeters) that fell Sunday in Santa Rosa or the 70 millimeters that fell in just three hours on a section of the Caribbean coast.

Still, the weather service said that the rain would continue through the first half of this week.

Among other problems, that will hamper efforts to open up the Interamericana Norte some six kilometers west of San Ramón de Alajuela and 100 meters east of the El Empalme. A reader who inspected the site said that no vehicles were being allowed through and that repairs probably would take one or two more days. The ground under the highway gave way.

With the Interamericana closed, the only truck route west is the Caldera highway which was hit with at least three landslides. Some still block lanes of the toll road, but traffic continues.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, continues to maintain a call center where motorists can find out road conditions. The numbers are 2202-5567 and 2202-5577.

The agency said it already spent about $4 million at 206 highway trouble spots. As of 7 p.m. there still were 141 locations that presented problems, according to the road agency. There were 14 routes that were closed due to collapse, landslides or damaged bridges, it said.

Some 200 persons were evacuated from Bebedero and Bagaces in Guanacaste Sunday night due to flooding. The Comisión Nacional de Prevención
road problems
A.M. Costa Rica. Dean Killian
Highway worker has his foot inserted into an ominous crack in the Interamericana Norte highway 6 kilometers west of San Ramón where officials have closed the route.

de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported that nationwide there were 600 persons in shelters.

Officials also are reporting that at least four persons have died in weather related mishaps, mainly drowning while trying to cross a flooding river.

Weather alerts continue, and geologists have identified 30 homes in the metro area that have been damaged by slides. Several homes in Desamparados appear ready to tumble into a river.

The problem is caused by a low pressure area that is now located between the Yucatan peninsula in México and the U.S. state of Florida.

Although far away, the system is pushing humidity into the country from the Pacific.

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President's minister denies
anti-press strategy exists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president's public relations chief denies that there is a strategy in the administration to obstruct or intimidate journalists.

The official is Roberto Gallardo Núñez, who is the minister de Comunicación y Enlace Institucional. The journalists' professional organization, the Colegio de Periodistas, raised the issue after several cases in which reporters or camera operators were jostled by presidential staffers.

In a related issue, the newspaper La Nación complained that President Laura Chinchilla has declined to answer questions about her sinking popularity as reflected in national polls.

Gallardo said that the government deplores the fact that there have been incidents between news people and presidential functionaries and necessary measures will be taken to prevent similar events in the future.

He also denied that there ever existed a directive to obstruct or intimidate news people in their daily labors. Although unfortunate, the incidents that had been reported are not part of a greater strategy and were products of individual situations, he said. Gallardo made his comments in a letter dated Thursday to Raúl Silesky Jiménez, president of the colegio.

Silesky had raised the issue in an earlier letter to the presidencia.

The president has seen her popularity wane due to lack of action to create a better security climate as she had promised in the election campaign and also because she is proposing some massive tax increases. She also has lost some favor with the public because she did not respond strongly to an invasion of Costa Rican land by Nicaragua.

However, popularity is not critical in Costa Rica where presidents cannot run for reelection at the end of their first term. Having strong public support can help a president enact planned legislation.

Dixon family returns
seeking missing Michael

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The family of missing British journalist Michael Dixon is back in Costa Rica still seeking answers two years after the man vanished.

Dixon is the tourist who walked out of his hotel room in Tamarindo to go to the beach and then vanished. That was Oct. 18, 2009. He has been the goal of extensive searches. He is one of several tourists and expats who have vanished under similar circumstances.

The family's chief spokesman has been David Dixon. He has been instrumental in keeping the search for his brother in the news. He sent out a release Monday noting the approach of the anniversary. He is in San José with his parents.

Michael Dixon was 35 when he vanished. He worked in Belgium, and David Dixon said the nature of his work was not likely to be a reason for his disappearance.

“Although Michael's case remains open, neither the Costa Rican nor the UK authorities have indicated any further interests in helping us pursue this case. At the moment we have no one to turn to and are forced to fend for ourselves” said David Dixon in his press statement.

Within the past 18 months, nine other European Union and U.S. citizens have either gone missing or been murdered in Costa Rica, he said. “All the families we have spoken to are facing a similar situation whereby little, if any, work is being done to determine what happened to their relatives” said David Dixon.

The family had hoped that British police experts might be called in, but Costa Rica has been reluctant to issue a formal invitation that is required for that to take place.

“Someone out there must know what happened to my brother,” said David Dixon. “My family and I will never give up until we have some answers.”

They continue to maintain a Web site, a Facebook page and a YouTube presence.

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, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 206

Readers sent many names
for the tourism spokesloth

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were 64 suggestions for naming Mr. Sloth, who appears in the Costa Rican promotional video on Facebook.

Suggestions came from as far away as Thailand and as close as down the street. There were very few duplications.

Now readers have a chance to select what they believe to be the best three names from the adjacent list. The names that get the most votes will be the finalists for a second round of voting.

The name is not binding on the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, but at least A.M. Costa Rica will use it when referring to the sloth.

All the creatures and even a human in the promotional video has a name except the central character. For that reason, A.M. Costa Rica created this contest. Some simply suggested a name, but others provided a reason. The adjacent list contains exactly what readers submitted. There are some duplicates because there were several suggestions of the same name.

Please address an email with your top three selections to

Instituto Costarricense de Turismo photo
This is the animated character the firm created.

Production of sloth video
described as complex job

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The one-minute and 12-second promotional video featuring a sloth was a complex venture, according to a press release from a company called Blind. This was the company that actually created the video for the Atlanta advertising agency  22squared. The ad campaign is the keystone of the promotional effort for the country by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Blind said that there were three videos produced with the sloth promoting rain forests, mountains and stunning local architecture. This is for the Million Dollar Gift of Happiness campaign in which the tourism institute will be giving away up to 200 trips for two to Costa Rica.

"We won the pitch on one of our initial animation tests, which used sound bites of a laid back Owen Wilson," noted Tom Koh, creative director, Blind, as quoted in the press release. "Our focus was to create an iconic figure embodying the character profile 22squared had developed, and our specially developed 2D and 3D approach brought us the style and production efficiency we were looking for."
Owen Wilson is the actor known for his roles in “The Wedding Crashers” and as the diminutive cowboy in “Night at the Museum.”

Blind said that the concept of the sloth was from 22squared. Blind's contribution was mainly technical to create the animated sloth. Said the press release: After 22squared drafted scripts for the three videos and created a profile of the sloth's character, Blind conducted an extensive character design of the sloth, focusing on maximizing the body and facial performance. Once the sloth's look was agreed upon, Blind went to work with Cinema4D, After Effects and Photoshop using stock footage and photography to bring to life a unique 2D and 3D animation style. They used lip-syncing freeware applications Papagayo and LipSync to convert audio into corresponding phoneme images in After Effects.

The press release credits 22 persons at 22squared as having major roles in the promotional video and 13 persons at the New York-based Blind.

The video is not universally accepted as a masterpiece. Some readers object to the end of the first video in which the sloth falls off the branch. Others object to superimposing the presumed mouth of the sloth on a human character. Some simply object to using a sloth as the country's mascot when other creatures are available.

However, many readers describe sloths as cute and lovable, and one reader recounted how his family adopted an abandoned sloth 15 years ago.

The trip giveaway represents a $2.9 million investment by the tourism institute. The promotion runs through February.

The initial sloth video is here:

Some U.S. and Canadian readers can use this link to register for the free-trip raffle.


A Spanish name
Careful Chepy



Since they both move incredibly SLOW

Manuel Antonio Antonio

A lot of visitors see their first sloth in the Manuel Antonio national park.
Slow Thief

And he should not fall off a branch.




On Saturday we all are moving slow
This means that he is slow and very laid back.
Savior or Sal
The sloth represents peace, tranquility, and a gentleness that Costa Rica and the citizens represent. With all of the economic crisis throughout the world the sloth is the "saviour" for the tourism industry.
Gift of God in Spanish, masculine.
Maksamillion deSloth
Since he is designed to increase business and revenue
Tio Torpe

Hermano Vaga
Lazy brother
Premio Brachito
Being drunk, a classic
Abuelo Perezoso
Grandfather Sloth
Senior Dormilón
Mr. Sleepy

Senior Zeledóm


The robbery victim sloth
Francisco or Paco

After Óscar Arias Sánchez
Syd the Sloth


Because nobody has that name
Tico the Sloth
So the rest of the world will start to know that word/name

Smiley the Sloth
Obvious since every sloth in the country is always smiling!  How can that not make you happy to visit here. Is there such a thing as a grumpy sloth?
Which in English is Lightning
I love the sloth as the spokesperson. He's so friendly and cute
Chispa or Chispazo
I am not sure which is more correct but Mr. Sloth is supposed to "spark' tourism in Costa Rica and of course we all know he is not Speedy Gonzales, so Chispa is catchy, easy to remember and, of course, ironic.
Slo Mo
Which means slow motion
An Hispanic name
Speedy González
Would be both Spanish and ironically define how things are done here.
"And I am the happiest sloth in Costa Rica"
After the legendary hair goddess from the 70's and Charlies Angel Cutie ~ Farrah Fawcett.
Sammi Lento
Sammi slow
Siesta Sammi
Sleepy Sammi
Juan Se Cayó
Falling John
Juan Carlos Se Cayó
Falling John Charlie
Zarpé Charlie
Last Call Charlie
Mañana Charlie
Tomorrow Charlie
Tico Feliz
Representing The Happy People of Costa Rica
Tico Tom

Tico Torpe

Tico Time Tommy


Don Carlos

Don Pepé

Dormilion Pepé

Certainly a sloth seems to "stretch" when slowly reaching for a branch and the term "stretch" symbolizes relaxation as in "being on vacation."
Buddy Nuevo
Come to Costa Rica and meet a world of new friends"
From a Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"

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You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 206

Scientists predict that sea level will rise for the next 500 years
By the University of Copenhagen news service

Rising sea levels in the coming centuries is perhaps one of the most catastrophic consequences of rising temperatures. Massive economic costs, social consequences and forced migrations could result from global warming. But how frightening of times are we facing? Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute are part of a team that has calculated the long-term outlook for rising sea levels in relation to the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution of the atmosphere using climate models. The results have been published in the scientific journal Global and Planetary Change.

"Based on the current situation we have projected changes in sea level 500 years into the future. We are not looking at what is happening with the climate, but are focusing exclusively on sea levels", explains Aslak Grinsted, a researcher at the Centre for Ice and Climate, the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

He has developed a model in collaboration with researchers from England and China that is based on what happens with the emission of greenhouse gases and aerosols and the pollution of the atmosphere. Their model has been adjusted backwards to the actual measurements and was then used to predict the outlook for rising sea levels.

The research group has made calculations for four scenarios:

A pessimistic one, where the emissions continue to increase. This will mean that sea levels will rise 1.1 meters by the year 2100 and will have risen 5.5 meters by the year 2500.

Even in the most optimistic scenario, which requires extremely dramatic climate change goals, major technological advances and strong international cooperation to stop emitting greenhouse gases and polluting the atmosphere, the sea would continue to rise. By the year 2100 it will have risen by 60 centimeters (23.6 inches) and by the year 2500 the rise in sea level will be 1.8 meters, nearly six feet.

For the two more realistic scenarios, calculated based on the emissions and pollution stabilizing, the results show that there will be a sea level rise of about 75 centimeters (29.5 inches) and that by the year 2500 the sea will have risen by 2 meters, some 79 inches

sea level rise
University of Copenhagen/Aslak Grinsted      
The graph shows estimates of how sea levels will change for four different scenarios of greenhouse gas pollution. The green, yellow and orange lines correspond to scenarios where it takes 10, 30, or 70 years before emissions are stabilized. The red line can be considered to represent business as usual where greenhouse gas emissions are increasing over time.

"In the 20th century sea has risen by an average of 2
milimeters per year, but it is accelerating and over the last decades the rise in sea level has gone approximately 70 percent faster. Even if we stabilize the concentrations in the atmosphere and stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we can see that the rise in sea level will continue to accelerate for several centuries because of the sea and ice caps long reaction time. So it would be 2-400 years before we returned to the 20th century level of a 2 millimeters rise per year", said Grinsted.

He points out that even though long-term calculations are subject to uncertainties, the sea will continue to rise in the coming centuries and it will most likely rise by 75 centimeters by the year 2100 and by the year 2500 the sea will have risen by 2 meters.

Last December the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton estimated that global sea level rose by more than 120 meters as the vast ice sheets of the last Ice Age melted back. That is about 394 feet.  This melt-back lasted from about 19,000 to about 6,000 years ago, meaning that the average rate of sea-level rise was roughly 1 meter (3.3 feet) per century. That report, too, was published in Global and Planetary Change.

Anti-whaling activists say they are ready to risk their lives
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Conservationists in Australia say they are willing to risk their lives to stop Japanese whale hunts in the Southern Ocean. Tokyo said earlier this month it would resume its annual hunt in the Antarctic despite international pressure. Australia says it will continue legal action to stop the hunt in the International Court of Justice, while the radical Sea Shepherd organization says it is preparing for violent confrontation in the icy southern waters.

The vegan warriors aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel the “Bob Barker” say they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect whales from Japanese harpoons in the Southern Ocean.

Crew member Benjamin Potts says his colleagues accept the dangers that lie ahead.

“You are placing your life at risk on these trips, and no one wants to die for the whales, but everyone is willing to risk their lives to go down and hopefully save, you know, these species from extinction or from being killed,” said Potts.

Sea Shepherd is based in the United States but launches its campaigns in the Antarctic from Australian ports. This year, the group plans to send three ships to harass the Japanese whaling fleet. In response, Tokyo is warning that its ships will have better security and will be escorted by patrol vessels. Previous clashes have resulted in the sinking of a Sea Shepherd boat and several near misses.

While Sea Shepherd activists have thrown acid stink bombs, it is alleged the whalers have retaliated using high-pressure water hoses and powerful noise weapons that fire high and low frequency sound waves at protestors.

Potts says that direct action is an effective way to take on the whalers.

“These tactics work," he said. "Going down there and, you know, waving banners or filming what they are doing, while it does get the message out to the rest of the world that this is still happening, it has no real impact. It does not save those whales’ lives. They are still killed.”

Dae Levine from Greenpeace Australia Pacific favors a more
diplomatic approach to whaling. And while her organization will not be sending boats to chase the hunters, she believes that its attempts to win the hearts of the Japanese people are slowly working.

“They now see how the government is involved with what is basically a corrupt industry, and it is not just about history, it is not about tradition, it is really about corruption and it is really about money," she said. "And the more that we are able to tell that story, the more that we are able to convince the Japanese people that this is not about the Japanese government upholding any kind of tradition, but it is about them protecting some people lining their pockets, then we are able to convince people and we have seen that change on the ground.”

But for the crew of the “Bob Barker,” which is due to leave its base in Sydney Harbor in December, further confrontation with the whaling fleet seems inevitable. Ominously, Sea Shepherd is calling this year's campaign Divine Wind, which translates into Japanese as kamikaze. 

Dr. Tim Stephens, a specialist in international law at the University of Sydney, believes the group’s methods are questionable.

“On one view it is piracy. It can be construed under some interpretations of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea as piracy," he said. "My view is that in fact is that it is unlawful interference with a vessel contrary to some of the counter-terrorism conventions that exist to protect vessels, and also fixed installations like oil platforms in the oceans. They are trying to go as close as they can to the edge of the law without overstepping the mark and finding themselves in court for piracy.”

The Australian government wants the International Court of Justice to stop Japan from hunting whales, but a final decision could be two or three years away. Unless a negotiated settlement can be worked out in the meantime, it is likely that clashes in the Southern Ocean will intensify.

Commercial whaling has been outlawed for 25 years, but Japan is allowed to catch about 1,000 whales each year in what Tokyo insists is a scientific research program. Critics say it is commercial whaling in all but name.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 206

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. considers some fencing
along border with Canada

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States and Canada share the longest unfortified border in the world. In the border town of Blaine, Washington, a shallow ditch and some warning signs are all that separate U.S. territory from Canada. But that could be about to change. 

A study on possible security enhancements for the Department of Homeland Security raises the idea of fencing short portions of the northern border. The environmental review, conducted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, also looks at other possible upgrades including putting in patrol roads, short-range radar, more cameras and aerial drones.

But it is the idea of a fence that's really catching the locals' attention.

"It is a disappointing development to think that, after all these many years of being good neighbors, one side or the other might think it necessary now to build a fence," says British Columbia legislator Barry Penner, who represents a district along the border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection planner Don Beckham says the agency has no intention of building a fence similar to the steel curtain erected along parts of the U.S. border with Mexico.

"We do discuss fencing, but it would be at very specific locations like fencing on either side of a small, remote port of entry to keep people literally from driving through a field to avoid the port of entry," Beckham says.

Beckham believes it would be unrealistic to try to deter illegal crossings by fencing the entire 6,500-kilometer-long U.S.- Canada border. His team favors a flexible approach which uses a broad array of possible security measures.

"We are looking forward five-to-seven years, understanding that the security threat is not static," he says. "It is constantly changing and Customs and Border Protection needs to change the responses to meet the threat."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is listening to public comments and won't make any decisions until next year, at the earliest, according to Beckham.

Bellingham, Washington, resident Caroline Correa came to a public meeting with concerns about aerial drone surveillance and how border fencing might block wildlife migration. 

"But it seemed to be minimal, if I am hearing correctly," she says. "That is a comfort level and we would have to make certain that they hold their word."

Vancouver Sun newspaper columnist Vaughn Palmer finds it ironic the discussion of fencing came up just as the Canadian government is deep in talks with the Obama Administration about a joint North American security pact. The idea there is to tighten controls around the perimeter of the two countries, allowing freer mobility across the shared border.

"Since 9/11, that cross-border relationship has changed in any number of ways," Palmer says. "We are going to be struggling to reconcile the security concerns in the United States with the trade and tourism interests between the two countries."

But that's a delicate dance which could take a while to achieve.

Cuba's Ladies in White march to honor dead leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's dissident Ladies in White staged their weekly protest march Sunday, despite the death of their leader Laura Pollan.

Men marched with the women Sunday in a show of support for the group and to honor Pollan, who died Friday at the age of 63.

The group's new leader, Berta Soler, said the weekly marches will continue, as they have for eight years.

The protesters are reported to have shouted "Laura Pollan lives" instead of their usual "Freedom" at the end of Sunday's march.

The Ladies in White are relatives of some of 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 government crackdown in Cuba.  The dissidents have all since been released.

Cuban writer Yoani Sanchez said in a Washington Post article, Ms. Pollan died after a five-day delay in diagnosing dengue fever in a country she says has been experiencing an intense outbreak of the disease for months.

Ms. Sanchez said while newspapers around the world reported Pollan's death, Cuba's Granma - the official paper of the Communist Party - and all other papers on the island remained silent.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 206

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Another drug vessel due
in port today after capture

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Coast Guard is expected to arrive today with another Costa Rican fishing boat in tow after a drug bust on the high seas.

The U.S. Embassy reported that the coast guard captured the boat “ Miss Jacky” some 300 miles southwest of Puntarenas, the boat's home port.

The embassy said that the crew of the coast guard vessel “Waesche” estimated that they had captured about 300 kilos of cocaine. The fishing boat crew dumped bundles into the water, so the coast guard crew is not sure all had been recovered.

The boat was captured Friday morning. There were four Costa Ricans aboard, the embassy said.

Under terms of an anti-drug treaty between the United States and Costa Rica, Costa Rican nationals caught on the high seas are turned over to officials here for criminal action.

Puntarenas and other Pacific ports are hotbeds of drug smuggling ever since the Colombian and Mexican cartels infiltrated the fishing fleet. Typically the drugs are landed in Costa Rica, frequently hidden in fishing gear, and then sent north over land.

U.N.'s Ban says richer nations
must finance development

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that the world's major economies must shoulder greater responsibility to restore global financial stability, urging them to follow the model of the 2008 London summit of the Group of 20 when leaders agreed to back the financial system for the benefit of all with more than a trillion dollars in credit.

"Today, the G20 must be no less ambitious," said Ban in an address to the 125th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Swiss city of Bern.

"It must be imaginative in considering innovative new means of financing development and renewable energy for all. The G20 must also follow through on the development agenda agreed to last year in Seoul, with a special emphasis on achieving the millennium development goals."

He pointed out that developing economies are a vital source of global dynamism, which can be unleashed for the benefit of future generations if they are supported to advance on a course of sustainable development.

The secretary general exhorted leaders of the larger economies to re-dedicate themselves to securing a comprehensive climate change agreement, noting that there can be no sustainable development or prosperity for anyone unless the realities of climate change are addressed.

"Around the world, I hear people say yes, economic adjustment will be necessary. But do not adjust our hopes. Do not adjust our children's dreams. The decisions we make today must lay the foundations for a healthy, inclusive economic prosperity for all of the world's people," said Ban.

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