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(506) 223-1327          Published Friday, Nov. 17, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 229        E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Not everyone faces the great conditions found here
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the approaching dry season in Costa Rica, the upcoming national surfing circuit falls right in line with some of the best coastal weather in Central America.  Not all of the world's surfers are so lucky.

Also waxing up their boards this time of year are fellow surfing Canadians to the north.  Even with the season changing into winter, and an inevitable onslaught of snow and hail on the way, surfing remains a 365-day-a-year dedication. 

This is because some of the best waves can found in the coldest months of the year, especially on the eastern coast of Canada around the province of Nova Scotia.

This area of the country has a rugged coastline resulting in plenty of bays and natural beaches.  Surfers are forced to prepare for frigid water temperatures as low 0° C (32° F), air temperatures lower than -10° C (16° F) which can acutally feel a lot more like -30° C (-22° F). 

The Nova Scotia 2004 Red Bull Ice Break competition faced similar conditions as it came to an end Feb. 8 of that year, one of the coldest months.

To prepare for the normally unbearable weather, surfers attire themselves in either a rubber wet suit or dry suit, covering their entire body, head, hands and feet.  Carrying up to 30 pounds of weight they plunge into the ice-cold water face first, the only part of their body not protected by their suit. 

One of the cold weather surfers to look out for on the estearn seaboard is Nico Manos.  When not on the water, he might be found warming up in a Halifax pub with a pint of McAuslan brewery's St. Ambroise ale in hand.   

So while the surfers at Boca Barranca, Puntarenas, walk along warm beaches on their way to the local surfing competition this weekend, some 4,300 kilometers (2,600 miles) to the north their Canadian counterparts will be preparing to do so across a pathway of ice and snow.

Birds are ready and waiting to be counted for Christmas census
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Costa Rican bird count next month looks to add to a list of 493 species already reported here.

Christmas bird counts are a traditional year-end activity begun by the National Audubon Society in the United States more than 100 years ago. The   Audubon's mission is to conserve biodiversity and restore natural ecosystems, focusing of course on birds, but also other wildlife and habitats.

The bird count is a competition between teams. A circle 15 miles in diameter is marked and the area divided among teams of birders. All individual birds seen and heard are counted over the course of a 24-hour day 

In Costa Rica, the longest running bird count is centered around Finca La Selva, the Organization for Tropical Studies' field station reserve near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.
This will be its 22nd year. Last year alone 325 species and 6,372 individual birds were counted by 67 persons in 17 separate parties. The richest region for bird diversity has been around the reserve itself and also on the slopes of Volcan Barva.

Event organizers welcome both experienced and unexperienced birders to participate. The locations, dates and organizers for the bird counts are:

-Aerial Tram: Dec. 14. Daniel Torres, 711-0018, danieltorrescr@yahoo.com
-Cartago: Dec. 17. Julio Sánchez juliosanchez@yahoo.com
-Grecia: To be announced.  Rafa Campos ticornis@yahoo.com
-Monteverde: To be announced. 
-La Selva: Dec. 30.  Rodolfo Alvarado ralva@sloth.ots.ac.cr  766-6565 ext 139
-Fila Costera (Pérez Zeledón): Jan. 3.  Noel Ureña
filacostera@costaricabirdingtours.com 771-9686 or 354-9074

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 229

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Vice minister is suspended
in nepotism investigation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A vice minister of Educación Pública has been suspended from his job while investigations take place over appointments given to his family members.

The vice minister is José Lino Rodríguez. He was called to Casa Presidencial Thursday for a session with Rodrigo Arias, minister of the Presidencia and brother to President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who is out of the country.

A statement after the meeting from the Presidencia said that the vice minister was suspended without pay and that the government's ethics commission would be looking into the case.

Rodrigo Arias said that the suspension would be for as long as is necessary. He speculated that perhaps a month would pass without a report, but he noted that the ethics commission, the  Comisión de Ética, is an independent body that sets its own deadlines. Rodrigo Arias also said that an internal investigation would be conducted by the education ministry.

The vice minister's wife, Monserrat Vindas González, a clerical employee of the ministry, was the subject of a series of appointments one day in August that had the effect of propelling her from the office job into a teaching position in Heredia with a significant increase in salary. Other officials suggested that other family members might also be involved in the investigation.

Intel hikes dividend
for its shareholders

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp., the world's largest chip maker with facilities in the Central Valley, announced Thursday that its board of directors has approved a 12.5 percent increase in the quarterly cash dividend to 11.25 cents per share.  This increase is to take effect beginning with the dividend that will be declared in the first quarter of 2007. 

Paul Otellini, president and CEO declared,  "With one of the highest dividend yields in the technology industry, today's announcement is yet another sign of our confidence in the future of our business."

Intel began paying a cash dividend in 1992 and has paid out approximately $8.0 billion to its stockholders over the past 56 quarters. 2006 has also been an important year for Intel because Apple Computers have now begun using the firm's microprocessors.  Cash dividends for the year are expected to reach approximately $2.3 billion.

Rural tourism fair next week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The V Feria de Turismo Rural Comunitario will be Nov. 25 and 26 in the Museo de Arte Costarricense at the east end of Parque La Sabana.

This is where some 80 firms and organizations will promote the concept of rural tourism as a vacation alternative. Vacationers get to see and live an authentic Costa Rican lifestyle while the communities benefit from the tourism income.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and three other newspages. Sometimes there will be four additional newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 229

Election opinion surveys could be subjected to scrutiny
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state in the persona of the election tribunal may be picked as the public opinion watchdog, according to a measure given approval in a legislative committee Thursday.

Members of the Comisión de Electorales voted to approve a new section of the election law that would require companies doing public opinion polling for public consumption, such as via television or newspapers, to file two copies of their data with the Secretaría del Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

Lawmakers said this would prevent companies or the media from distorting the results of a public opinion poll.
The data must be delivered to the tribunal within 48 hours of its airing or publication, according to the change, which has not yet been approved by the full Asamblea Legislativa.
Polling firms are registered with the tribunal, and those who fail to comply will be fined, according to the proposal.

Unclear is exactly what the tribunal will do with the data.  The election watchdog will have to run the data to see if a newspaper or television station distorts the meaning or results, although the proposal considered Thursday did not say what will happen. Also unclear is if the measure will apply to private firms that do polling for political parties who then use the results in their advertising.
During the past election there did not seem to be cases of deliberate distortion.

Being anti-war should not be considered a criticism
Sitting home nursing my broken wrist, I have had time to watch the election campaign in the U.S.  One accusation bandied about was that “liberals are anti-war.”  From time to time, the objects of this accusation have protested that they are not.  It got me to thinking, “What is wrong with being anti-war?”

Being anti-war means being against killing.  It means the physical and mental maiming of soldiers on both sides.  Sometimes, these veterans return home so damaged that their only option is to live on the streets. Already there are more than 600 homeless veterans from the Iraq war.  Being anti-war means being against the killing of innocent women and children, not wanting children orphaned, or young wives turned into widows.  In every modern-day war more civilians than soldiers are killed.  Being anti-war means not wanting cities reduced to rubble or the world contaminated with the residue of weapons and mines.
When one is pro-war, aggression is the first response to any provocation, real or imagined.  Being pro-war encompasses the attitude that you need not listen or speak to those who do not agree with you, that confrontation is the best, the only, solution.  It means accepting as a ‘sad fact of war’ that civilians will be killed.

Being anti-war means knowing that war is never a “final solution.”  The legacy of war is millions of refugees and more war.

Being anti-war means that war is truly only the last resort, after all other rational means to peace have been exhausted.  Being anti-war means opting for diplomacy, striving to make friends of other nations, listening to      
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

their points of view, not challenging them to either line up behind you or be declared an enemy.

Right now in Iraq, the brain drain is making the situation there untenable.  Those who were able to, have fled the country because they daily feared for their lives.  The only people who will be left are those so physically and mentally traumatized by war that they won’t be able to pick up their lives after the war is over.  What will remain is a ravaged country with radicalized people, alienated even from one another.

Being anti-war means preferring to spend the people’s money on education, health, and improving the infrastructure and the environment, rather than on the means to destroy all of these things.

As I sit here nursing my broken wrist, I don’t ever want to see any war that leaves anybody with anything worse than a broken wrist.  Anything beyond this is just too costly and too painful to imagine.

Fortunately, in Costa Rica, where war is not an option, people do not have to contend with the multiple horrors of its aftermath.  What’s wrong with that?

Regional leaders promise to support transparency and to fight corruption
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leaders of Central American nations say they will work to make their region transparent and free of corruption.

Six presidents, plus representatives of Belize and the Dominican Republic, signed the pledge Wednesday during the 12th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Guatemala.

They declared that their primary goal is to build a fair,
equal and transparent society in Central America.

Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said the declaration is an important document in the fight against corruption.  He said corruption is the main obstacle to regional development.  The presidents of Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador and  Costa Rica also signed.

The anti-corruption conference in Antigua, Guatemala, has attracted about 1,200 officials and scholars from around the world.  The meeting ends Saturday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 229

Gambling pros doubt that new U.S. law will change trend
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Gaming industry leaders say Internet gambling, like that headquartered in Costa Rica, will thrive despite a recent law effectively barring online betting in the United States.

In October, President George Bush signed legislation making it illegal for U.S. banks and credit card companies to process payments to gambling Web sites. But some traditional U.S. casino operators view the rules as temporary and say a shift away from online gaming is unlikely.

Industry leaders, like Frank Fahrenkopf from the American Gaming Association, doubt the new law will be enough to stop U.S. gamblers. "I think what's going to happen is, No. 1, they will continue to bet. They'll find other means to get their money to these offshore sites."

In Las Vegas, the home of American gambling, there's a different view of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act from the one in Washington.

While lawmakers aim to curb online gaming, Vegas is skeptical. Casino operators believe demand will force Congress to permit online gambling — under strict government supervision.

Rob Stillwell, from Boyd Gaming, predicts American companies will eventually be allowed to enter the market. "I think what it comes down to is a matter of licensing and a matter of regulation. So to the extent that we can create the mechanism by which to fairly regulate this business then I could see the more traditional, commercial gaming companies getting involved."
As U.S. officials work toward a June 2007 deadline to find ways to enforce the new rules, other countries are easing restrictions. The United Kindom is looking to regulate rather than restrict online gaming, bolstering the hopes of Internet gambling businesses. Britain has warned that the U.S. legislation could drive the industry underground.

Fahrenkopf added, "Money always has a way of finding its way to where it wants to go, so that's why I'm hopeful that the legislators, even those legislators who are opposed to all forms of gambling, will realize, No. 1, they're not going to stop it. Prohibition has never worked in this country. It's better to regulate it. It's better to control it, it's better to tax it".

The casino industry, fearing competition, has not always supported online gambling but now it sees the Internet as a way to attract new gamblers

Stillwell said he hopes lawmakers reverse course and permit U.S. companies to get a slice of the action. "I think what the government may come to realize is that people are gambling on the Internet anyway. And just because there's this legislation that maybe prevents U.S.-born companies from profiting from that type of activity, it's already happening".

For now the U.S. government is pressing ahead — first it must find out how to distinguish Internet gambling payments from other transactions in order to block them. But the American Gaming Association estimates $5 billion is still being bet online by U.S. residents — a number it believes is unlikely to go down, whatever action Congress decides to take next.

U.S. and México pledge to increase cooperation in face of possible flu epidemic
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Six Mexican states and four U.S. states that share the international boundary will increase cooperation on pandemic flu preparedness under an agreement signed this week.

Meeting in Hermosillo, Mexico, Craig Vanderwagen of U.S. Health and Human Services and Pablo Kuri, director-general of epidemiology of the Mexican Federal Secretariat of Health, signed a joint declaration to strengthen the nations’ commitment to coordinate preparedness efforts, domestic and international disease surveillance activities and response planning in the event of an outbreak of pandemic influenza.

“An influenza pandemic knows no political or geographic
boundaries,” Vanderwagen said, “and responding to a potential outbreak will demand the cooperation of all nations, especially those that share common borders like Mexico and the United States."

The agreement was made final during the 14th meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission, established in 2000 to provide international leadership to enhance health and the quality of life among residents along the United States-Mexico border.

The commission's purpose is to raise awareness about public health issues in the region and the health and medical challenges that border populations face, to create venues and partnerships to mobilize the actions needed to improve the health of border-area residents and to serve as a reliable information portal about border-health issues.

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