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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 223                          Email us
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Bandits stuff expat into car trunk and ignite vehicle
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firefighters rescued a middle-aged U.S. citizen from the trunk of a burning vehicle before dawn Wednesday morning near Coyol, Alajuela.

The man who has not been identified yet had survived at least three stab wounds to the chest, a judicial report said. A spokesperson for the Cuerpo de Bomberos de Costa Rica said that the man had burns on 48 percent of his body.

An employee at the Hospital San Juan de Dios confirmed that the man was brought there early on  Wednesday and has been unconscious ever since. She said that he is alive, but in very bad shape.

“He is very delicate condition,” she said. “It's very, very bad.”

Neither the hospital, the fire department nor the Judicial Investigating Organization could confirm the man's identity. Judicial Investigating Organization workers could only confirm that he is between 40 and 45 years of age and that he is a U.S. citizen.

According to the judicial bulletin, the man was walking to his car in a casino parking lot in Río
Segundo, Alajuela, near Juan Santamaría airport. The report says that several people approached him in the parking lot, forced him into his own car, an unspecified model made by Mazda, and forced him to drive to El Coyol, Alajuela, just west of the airport.

The man was then attacked, stabbed at least three times and thrown in the trunk of his own car. The car was set on fire, and the attackers fled before authorities arrived, according to investigators.

A fire department spokesperson said that the fire was reported at 1:52 Wednesday morning and a single truck arrived at 2:07 a.m. He said they found the car engulfed in flames a kilometer south of the El Coyol vehicle inspection station, but they were able to put out the fire in less than 15 minutes.

He also confirmed that the man was wounded in the chest and 48 percent of his body was burned. He explained that the man was taken to Hospital San Juan de Dios in downtown San José because that hospital is best suited for caring for severe burns.

An employee in the emergency room of San Juan de Dios confirmed that the man arrived, but she said that he was unconscious and unable to identify himself. She could only confirm that he was being treated there and that he was in critical condition.

A grader working under the span kept the bridge from falling far enough to allow the large crane to roll off. The concrete arch of the new spillway is to the right.

bridge collapse

Firm that owns crane gets blame for wrecking bridge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials are putting the blame squarely on the company that owns a massive crane for the collapse of a bailey bridge west of San José.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Wednesday that it had no record that the owner of the crane sought permission to move the vehicle on the nation's roads. Such permission is required for vehicles over 51 tons, said the ministry through its  Dirección de Puentes.

The crane weighs 84 tons, although one report said 92 tons.

The self-propelled crane still is stuck on the partly collapsed bailey bridge over a construction site on the Autopista General Cañas.

Transport officials said they hoped to have the eastbound stretch open by Tuesday.

Traffic was a mess late Tuesday and Wednesday as motorists flooded alternate routes through Heredia and Escazú. The jams were similar to those that developed when the westbound lanes of the autopista were blocked by a washout.

The collapse came at a good time. Workmen had finished installing a spillway created with concrete arches under the highway. The crane caused the
 bridge to slump, but a grader working under the span kept the bridge from falling far enough to allow the large crane to roll off.

The crane is owned by the Cartago firm of Gruas Quiros S.R.L. Transport officials had a similar crane at the scene Wednesday and had obtained the use of a much larger crane from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The larger device was delivered in pieces. It had been at work on a dam project.

Transport officials hope to use the twin cranes to lift the Quiros device from its precarious perch. They were working at the site round the clock. Once the Quiros crane is gone and the bridge disassembled, the site will be backfilled up to the highway surface and asphalt put down, officials said.

Responding to suggestions that traffic police should have stopped the crane before it damaged the bridge, the ministry issued a detailed explanation Wednesday. It said the responsibility rests with Quiros and listed other firms that had sought and received permissions. The ministry said that once permission to move a large crane is received, highway experts study the proposed route to prevent damage to roadways and bridges. The ministry noted that even the firms that delivered the concrete arches for the spillway had to obtain permission because the weight was more than 70 tons.

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San Ramón highway project
would be a concession

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials are setting the stage for issuing a concession for the San José-San Ramón highway.

The 57.8-kilometer (36-mile) stretch was estimated to cost $197 million eight years ago and will now cost $400 million due to inflation and the rising cost of materials, said the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones in a press release.

The Consejo estimated that the toll for the entire route would be about 2,000 colons or about $4.

The San José-Caldera highway was built by a firm that has a concession.

The San Ramón job is being designed to solve many of the government's headaches. For example, the concession holder would be obligated to build a four-lane bridge over the Río Virilla adjacent to the troubled bridge that is causing so many problems with deteriorating concrete and an expansion joint that cannot be fixed. That highway would be alongside the Autopista General Cañas.

The concession holder also will be obligated to build a third lane on each side of the Juan Pablo Segundo bridge in La Uruca.

The first stretch, between La Sabana and Juan Santamaría airport is estimated to cost $200 million, said the Consejo. However, the agency also said that Costa Ricans would save $30 million a year in reduced fuel costs, vehicle costs and a reduction in air pollution. The trip is estimated to take 45 minutes.

There are three stages. The La Sabana-airport link is the first. The second is from the airport to San Ramón, and the third is to link Río Segundo de Alajuela with San Rafael de Alajuela.

The Consejo was motivated to issue the release because of negative publicity in the Spanish-language press. One story said there would be eight toll stations. The Consejo said two. The news story also estimated that the toll would be about 3,000 colons or about $6.

Biculturalism touted as key
to creativity and good jobs

By the Tel Aviv University news service

Travel broadens the mind goes the old adage, and potential employers often agree, valuing the open-mindedness and creativity fostered by such worldliness. But according to new Tel Aviv University research, not all international experiences are created equal.

"Although living abroad does help to hone creative abilities, not all individuals who have lived abroad derive an equal benefit from such experiences," explains Carmit Tadmor of Tel Aviv’s Recanati School of Business, who conducted the study with Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and William Maddux of the international graduate business school and research institution INSEAD.

The researchers discovered that the simple act of living abroad was not enough to bolster creative and professional success. The potential benefits of extended international travel depend on the ability to simultaneously identify with both home and host cultures, which the researchers call biculturalism. Identifying with two cultures simultaneously fosters a more complex thinking style that views things from multiple perspectives and forges conceptual links among them.

“Unlike patterns of cultural identification in which individuals endorse only one of the two cultures, bicultural identification requires individuals to take into account and combine the perspectives of both old and new cultures," explained Tadmor. "Over time, this information processing capability, or integrative complexity, becomes a tool for making sense of the world and will help individuals perform better in both creative and professional domains."

This study was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers conducted three experiments to determine the impact of biculturalism when living abroad. In the first, 78 business students comprising 26 different nationalities at a European business school were asked to complete a series of tasks, including a standard creativity task that asked for as many uses for a brick as possible within a two-minute time limit. In the second experiment, a group of 54 similar students comprising 18 nationalities at an American business school were asked to describe the new businesses, products, and processes they had invented during their careers. All of the study participants had lived abroad for a period of time.

The studies found that those who identified with both their host culture and their home culture consistently demonstrated more fluency, flexibility, novelty and innovation.

Finally, the third experiment extended the idea, exploring whether the biculturals’ advantages also gave them an advantage in the workplace. In this study, 100 Israelis living and working mainly in California's Silicon Valley were interviewed. The researchers found that Israelis who identified with both their home and host cultures enjoyed higher promotion rates and more positive reputations among their colleagues. Across all three studies, the researchers found that bicultural individuals ranked higher on integrative complexity tests than the other participants, and this drove their success.

The road to biculturalism is fraught with internal conflicts, noted Tadmor, in which two cultural identities struggle to coexist.

Ultimately, “it is clear that becoming a true bicultural is not easy, but it holds the key to translating foreign experiences abroad into a tangible toolbox that bolsters one’s creative ability and professional skill to the highest level," say the researchers.

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
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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More than 100 persons face driver's license scheme allegations
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police detained more than 100 persons Wednesday morning on suspicion that they either gave or received bribes in exchange for a driver's license.

A bulletin from the Judicial Investigating Organization said that some persons paid 250,000 colons or about $500 for licenses.

A spokesperson for the organization said that no expats have been arrested in connection with this case. She said only Costa Ricans have been detained so far.

A Poder Judicial bulletin said that 103 persons were picked up by agents and brought to San José for preliminary investigations.

Investigators have been looking into this case for seven months the report says. Transit investigators noticed irregularities in the number of driver's licenses being given to people who claimed to have passed driving tests abroad and obtained a foreign license.

Investigators said persons were approached after they left the  offices of the Consejo de Seguridad Vial where they failed tests to receive a Costa Rican driver's license. Investigators suspect that one or two men approached such person and offered to provide a license anyway for 250,000 colons.
The report also says that these men used contacts within the agency to obtain documents saying that the clients had earned licenses in other countries.

Police arrested eight persons that they suspect orchestrated the scheme. Two of them are accused of being point men who made the offer or galvilanes.

Two of the suspects in custody are public employees who were involved with computer systems.

The Consejo Vial issued a press release clarifying that these two suspects are not employees of the council but rather employees of the Dirección General de Educación Vial, which is another part of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Four suspects are guards from a private contractor that provides security for the driver's license offices.

Investigators specifically looked at the months of August and September. In many of these cases, they said they did not find any documents supporting the claims that those who were given these licenses had taken tests outside of the country or even left the country.

Police conducted numerous raids Wednesday morning in suburbs around San José and as far away as Cartago and Limón.  The bulletin said that only 71 suspects have been arrested so far.

Fire fighters issue warnings for the coming Christmas season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Structural fires have increased 26 percent between 2011 and 2012 with the most fires during the summer season between months December and April, according to a report by the Cuerpo de Bomberos.

According to the fire department, the number of fires jumped from 736 last year to 925 this year.  The main cause of the fires were electrical problems.

As the holiday season approaches and persons prepare to decorate their homes for Christmas, shoot fireworks and roast tamales, the fire fighters have posted a few recommendations to keep persons safe.

The first thing firefighters want residents to do is make sure the electrical system of the house has a protection system.  When placing Christmas lights around the house, persons should inspect each set and discard those which are damaged.  If using extension cords, they should not be placed under or on top of materials such as carpets, rugs or curtains or behind or under furniture.  This can cause shortages, said the department.

To avoid a fire from shorted lights in the night, lights should be turned off before going to bed.  Also, they should be turned off if no one is home, they said.

The tradition of Christmas would not be complete without a Christmas tree.  However, it also must be placed with caution in a location that is at least 1.5 meters away from heat sources, said firemen, adding:

Gifts under the tree need to be kept away from candles and electrical connections.  On Christmas day, after gifts are opened, the wrappings should go in the trash.  They should not be burned, cautioned firefighters.

Live trees should be placed in a container with at least 30 centimeters of water.  After the holidays, the tree should be cut up and prepared for regular garbage collection.
Cuerpo de Bombros file photo
Fire fighters would prefer not to have too many of these.

Finally, ornaments with small pieces, electrical cords and fireworks should all be kept out of the reach of children, said firemen.

If an emergency should arise, persons are instructed to evacuate and call 911.  Families should prepare and practice an evacuation plan in advance, they said.

“Prevention is the best way to avoid forest fires,” said spokespersons.

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Sharks need a better press agent, Michigan study suggests
By the Michigan State University news service

Historically, the media have been particularly harsh to sharks, and it’s affecting their survival.

The results of a Michigan State University study, appearing in the current issue of the journal Conservation Biology, reviewed worldwide media coverage of sharks, and the majority isn’t good.

Australian and U.S. news articles were more likely to focus on negative reports featuring sharks and shark attacks rather than conservation efforts. Allowing such articles to dominate the overall news coverage diverts attention from key issues, such as shark populations are declining worldwide and many species are facing extinction, said Meredith Gore, assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and the School of Criminal Justice at the university.

“The most important aspect of this research is that risks from — rather than to — sharks continue to dominate news coverage in large international media markets,” said Ms. Gore, part of the research team. “To the extent that media reflect social opinion, this is problematic for shark conservation.”

According to the study, more than 52 percent of global coverage focused on shark attacks on people, and sharks were portrayed negatively in nearly 60 percent of the coverage. That’s compared to a mere 10 percent featuring shark conservation issues and just 7 percent focusing on shark biology or ecology.

Another interesting fact from the study is who is quoted in the stories. Conservation groups were typically quoted or cited highlighting negative effects on sharks. They weren’t, however, part of stories about shark conservation.
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
 Large groups of sharks like this do not show that species
 have been seriously reduced.

“This suggests that conservation groups are either not being sought out by the media in regards to shark conservation issues or they are not engaging enough to make headlines,” Ms. Gore said.

The issues affecting sharks’ survival are many. They include the threat of overfishing, overharvesting sharks for their fins, pollution, habitat loss and climate change. Sharks are especially vulnerable to these threats due to sharks’ slow-growth rates, late age of maturity, long gestation periods and low reproductive output, said the researchers.

One way to improve sharks’ image would be to balance the coverage, said Ms. Gore. Examples of positive articles include highlighting the rarity of attacks, discussing preventive measures water users can take to reduce vulnerability to attacks, and discuss conservation issues related to local and threatened species of sharks, she added.

Surprise afternoon shower drenches downtown and ill-prepared
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rainy season is not giving up without a fight.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Wednesday that a cold front is approaching the country and is generating more winds and refreshing temperatures.

But the prediction is for continued rain in the afternoon in much of the Pacific coast and the Central Valley.

Pedestrians in downtown San José and in other parts of the Central Valley were surprised by a fast-approaching storm that drenched the ill-prepared at mid-afternoon.
There also is a chance today of evening showers in the central and south Pacific. Meanwhile, the dry season is reported to have already arrived in the north Pacific where the danger today is from strong winds, said the weather institute.

Weather experts reported last week that the dry season was approaching more rapidly this year than normal.

Mid-November was the estimated date for dry weather in the Central Valley, but the south Pacific had to wait  until Christmas, institute workers said.

But, of course, dry does not always mean dry, and the Costa Rican weather can throw an occasional curve.

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Women, minorities, youth
gave President second term

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama won re-election Tuesday, thanks in large part to the same political coalition that helped him first get elected four years ago, women, minorities and young voters. 

The winning Obama coalition is a reflection of the evolving nature of the U.S. population; less white, more diverse and constantly shifting.

American University historian Allan Lichtman long ago predicted the president would win a second term because of the voting coalition he first put together in 2008 and expanded on this year.

“Women and minorities put Barack Obama over the top and there should be a big, huge red-letter warning sign for Republicans that they cannot win just with their white-Protestant base.  We are increasingly becoming a non-white nation.  Women are the majority of the electorate today," said Lichtman.

The Obama campaign won most of the key battleground states where the election was fought because it did an effective job of identifying supporters and making sure they got out to vote.

Exit polls of voters leaving the voting booths found whites made up 72 percent of the electorate this year, a drop from four years ago.  African-American voters remained at 13 percent, while the Hispanic vote grew from 9 percent in 2008 to 10 percent this year.
With their growing power within the Democratic coalition, Hispanic activists are likely to demand action on comprehensive immigration reform in a second Obama term, something that fell by the wayside in the first term.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell is among those who believes his party must do a better job of reaching out to Hispanic voters to keep his party viable in the future.

“I think the Republican Party would be very wise to take part in that conversation about immigration reform, because I see a real opportunity here for the Republican Party to make inroads with Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans," said O’Connell.

The Democratic coalition may have carried President Obama into a second term, but Washington remains politically divided.  Democrats did keep their hold on the Senate, but Republicans held their majority in the House of Representatives, and in some ways the political battle lines appear little changed from what they were before the election.

Democratic strategist Christy Setzer says it is likely some form of political gridlock will continue.

“I am not sure that really affects what the Republicans are going to do in Congress.  I believe that they have seen a strategy of obstructionism that they think is effective in ginning up their base.  So at least in the short term I do not see too much changing in terms of polarization," said  Setzer.

But now that the election is over, some analysts believe there is at least a chance both sides will be more willing to give bipartisan cooperation a try.

Historian Lichtman says he saw a message in the election results for both parties.

“If there is any one mandate that has come out loud and clear from this election it is that people are sick and tired of gridlock, and the country is facing big problems, and it is not going to be solved by the Republican House and the Democratic president bickering and quarreling with one another," he said.

Romney got just 6 percent
of the black U.S. vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The growing influence of racial and ethnic minorities in U.S. politics played a significant role in President Barack Obama's reelection to another four-year term in the White House.

As he did in his 2008 victory, America's first black president on Tuesday captured a huge percentage of the vote from African-Americans, 93 percent compared to just 6 percent for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

But surveys of voters leaving polls showed Obama won increased shares of the Hispanic and Asian vote compared to his first-term victory.

Hispanics voted 69 to 29 percent for the president, with the 40-point margin four points higher than the Democrat recorded in 2008.

Obama has been unable to win congressional passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Hispanics, however, applauded the president's move back in June to stop deporting most young immigrants, chiefly Hispanics, brought to the country illegally by their parents. By contrast, Romney at one point in his long campaign, suggested that immigrants in the United States illegally should self-deport to their home countries.

The president won support from Asian voters by a 74-to-25 percent margin, up sharply from the 27-point advantage four years ago.

The support from minority voters was especially important for Obama because exit polls showed Romney won a 58 to 40 percent margin among white voters, a declining, but still dominant part of the American electorate.

Political scientist John Gilmour at the College of William and Mary in Virginia said President Obama's minority support, especially from Hispanics, played an important role in his winning key battleground states that helped decide the outcome of the election.

"The Hispanic population in the United States is growing and the Hispanic share of the electorate is growing," said Gilmour.

The academic said minority voters overall have not only gravitated to Obama's Democratic Party, but also voted more frequently, to the detriment of the opposition Republicans, with its base among white voters. 

"This makes the Republicans more reliant on a shrinking part of the electorate to win elections," added Gilmour. "That's not a strategy that's going to win in the long run."

U.S. Census data suggests that the country's demographic makeup is shifting, and that minorities, over the coming years, could play an even bigger role in U.S. politics.

Minorities now comprise 36 percent of the country's more than 311 million people.  Last year, for the first time, more than half of the babies born in the U.S. were racial and ethnic minorities.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 223
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Cocos and Caribbean plates
caused Guatemalan quake, too

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 7.4 magnitude quake that took place Wednesday off the coast of Guatemala was the result of slippage of the Cocos and Caribbean tectonic plates, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These are the same plates that cause earthquakes in Costa Rica.

The quake was south of Champerico, Guatemala, near the border with México, and the Survey said that at the latitude of this earthquake, the Cocos plate moves north northeast with respect to the Caribbean and North America plates at a velocity of approximately 70-80 millimeters per year and subducts beneath Central America at the Middle America Trench.

There have been more than 50 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater within 250 kilometers of the estimated epicenter of Wednesday's quake, said the survey. That's about 155 miles. A December 1983 quake took place at nearly the same spot as the one Wednesday, the Survey said.

Reports from the scene say that at least 30 people died and damage was heavy in Quetzaltenango and San Marcos, said the Survey.

Costa Rica quickly expressed its solidarity with the Guatemalan people.

A Sept. 5 quake off the Costa Rican Pacific coast was estimated at 7.6 magnitude, but damage was considerably lighter and only one death was linked directly to the event.

Expat author has new book

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expat lawyer-turned-novelist George Harris released the second novel of his four-part series “Four Fathers,” Tuesday.

The series follows four young friends on a journey as they seek to find themselves in the upheaval of the 1960s.

The new book is called “Huckleberry Friends.” It continues the story of these young men that was set up in “For Whom the Book Tolls,” which was released just last month.  Both books are only available in digital form, and they can be purchased through

Maker of Muḥammad  video
going to prison for a year

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A California man behind the anti-Muslim video that sparked widespread protests in the Muslim world has been sentenced to one year in prison for breaching the terms of his probation on a previous offense.

A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles sentenced Mark Basseley Youssef Wednesday after he admitted to four allegations, including the use of false identities and violating the terms of probation for a bank fraud conviction. None of the violations was linked to the content of the movie "Innocence of Muslims" that parodies Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Youssef is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian. He was arrested in late September after going into hiding when the movie he financed enraged Muslims worldwide and led to deadly violence in Libya. He will serve the new sentence in federal prison.

The film depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a thuggish deviant offended many Muslims and sparked a wave of anti-American protests that saw mobs burn U.S. missions, schools and businesses.

During one such protest outside the U.S. consulate in Libya's city of Benghazi, members of a radical Islamist group broke into the U.S. compound.  Four Americans, including then-U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the September 11 violence.

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2012 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details