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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 234
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Graphic courtesy of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional 
October saw much more rain than normal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The rainy season was exactly that last month, according to data from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. There was about 21.5 percent more rain than normal in October.

Although figures are not in yet, November also seems to be following the same pattern. But the rainy season is expected to taper off in the next week or two.

Raw figures from 22 weather stations all over the country show that October rainfall ranged from a low of 5.46 inches (13.65 cms.) at Sixaola in southeast Costa Rica to 30.88 inches (77.2 cms.) on the central Pacific coast.

The figures also show that Peñas Blancas on the Nicaraguan border with 22.29 inches (55.73 cms) and San Jorge in Guanacaste with 25.74 inches (64.34) each received nearly double their average October drenching. Peñas Blancas was 95.5 percent higher than normal and San Jorge was at 94.9 percent.

The raw data and some of the computations came from the weather institute. Additional calculations were made by A.M. Costa Rica.

The figures also show the intensely local nature of Costa Rican weather. Quepos may have gotten 30.88 inches of rain in October but the Damas station nearby to the north got just 23.4 inches. Although the figures show that Costa Rica receives an average of 96 inches of rain each year, the local annual data ranges from 51.4 inches in Loma Vista near Cartago  to nearly 160 inches in Río Claro in southwestern Costa Rica.

Rainfall from January to October is above average in most localities, too. Only Liberia and Limón show significant shortfalls from the average. (See graph).

Variations in October rainfall
Weather
Station
Location

Peñas Blancas
Liberia
La Guinea
Nicoya
Taboga
Puntarenas
Cascajal
Damas
Rio Claro
Grecia
Sarchi
Atenas
Alajuela
Linda Vista
Quepos
Coto 47
Limón
PuertoVargas
H. Cerere
Sixaolo
Zarcero
San Jorge
October 
rainfall
(Inches)

22.29
16.25
16.43
20.53
14.16
10.34
10.25
23.36
24.65
15.74
27.23
14.80
14.93
15.14
30.88
16.97
12.35
7.532
11.56
  5.46
18.99
25.74
Average
rainfall
(Inches)

  11.40
12.64
14.44
15.68
11.48
11.16
13.04
21.64
27.40
14.92
21.32
12.00
13.48
9.96
25.16
24.16
8.52
7.32
11.12
6.72
13.68
13.20
Percent
from
average

+95.5
+28.5
+13.8
+30.9
+23.3
-7.4
-21.4
+8.0
-10.0
+5.5
+27.7
+23.3
+10.7
+52.0
+22.7
-29.8
+44.9
+2.9
+4.0
-18.8
+38.8
+94.8

The alleged end of the rainy season still is a prediction. Downpours continue to drench the Central Valley and portions of the Pacific Coast.
The forecast for today is for more of the same. 

The weather institute said it expected important weather changes by the end of the week.

The dry season is a reality in northern Guanacaste, and the dissipation of the rain moved from north to south with the Osa being the last area to dry out.

The dry season is a result of winter in North America and the changes that the cold there brings to the weather patterns. The weather institute said look for strong winds in Guanacaste and in the Central Valley at least by the weekend.

 
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He's got their number,
but no one seems to care

By John Wood*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Amid the torrent of spam mail I  receive daily, I often find a friendly but frantic letter, usually but not always from Nigeria, that begs me in the name of whatever God I worship to help the sender — the suffering wife of an unjustly jailed prince, dead husband, or a  representative of a well-known international conglomerate that desperately needs my help — to move a massive sum of money that for some obscure reason is frozen and inaccessible to them. 

I am asked to assist in moving this fortune to an account in my country by wire transfer. To show his/her/their appreciation, this unfortunate soul will give me a 10 to 15 percent share of the booty. I am asked to treat this offer with absolute confidentiality.  I need only to agree and send my bank account number and in no time at all, I will be a millionaire!   Thank you, God! 


Today's scam/spam report


I customarily forward these scam letters to the FTC, FBI, USA Secret Service, INTERPOL, and/or anti-scam web sites, but to-date I have not received a reply. It seems that apprehending these vermin is no one's job. 

So, to see where this con game would go, I sent a positive, hysterically eager response to a representative of an alleged South African gold mining company that wanted to invest $9 million in Costa Rica. 

His joyfully effervescent response promised me 15  percent of the take! Again he implored me not to discuss this matter with anyone. He would soon visit CR to receive his company's share of the cash, but —  by the way — please send the sum of $3,500 to cover processing and the lawyer's fee, a miniscule sum compared to the riches I would soon enjoy. 

Foolishly, he included the phone number of his office in Amsterdam. I was a convincing victim.   I called and was told that to accelerate the transfer (time was running very short!) it would be best to visit their office, bringing the cash with me. I replied that I loved Amsterdam and would contact them about my travel plans. 

Instead, I sent an e-mail to the Amsterdam police including the phone number, which they could easily trace. They did not respond. It is Not Their Job. 

The Advance Fee Money Transfer scam is the number one rip-off scheme on the Internet, and it is very successful. As any gambler knows, people tend to put aside logic and common sense when offered a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity such as this. A number of naive people who have taken the bait and met with these confidence men have been beaten, robbed, kidnapped, and/or murdered. 

Most survivors  have written-off the loss and have not reported the scam because of their embarrassment in being hoodwinked. 

As described in the Nov. 21 edition of A.M. Costa Rica, the FTC is now taking interest. Should you receive one of these letters, please send a copy to:  UCE@FTC.Gov. Hopefully they will respond. Their web site is located HERE, but the complaint form is primarily intended for consumer complaints. 

The U.S. Secret  Service e-mail address for reporting advanced fee scams is 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov.

*Mr. Wood lives in Atenas.
 

Two workers die
in ditch collapse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men digging a ditch in Guararí, Heredia, died Tuesday when dirt fell on them.

They were identified as Abel Maybill Zelaya, 32, and Belisario Castro Gutiérrez, who had just started on the job Monday.

Two other men, including a brother of one of the victims, managed to get out. The bodies were buried up to 15 feet deep in the mid-afternoon mishap.

A person at the scene said that the ditch was for water pipes and that there were not supports despite the depth.

Ex-newspaper executive
imprisoned on tax count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Colorado man who used Costa Rican betting operations to stash some of his money has been sentenced to 21 months in a federal prison.

The man is Mark Breeze, 43, now of Dublin, Ohio. He was finance director and later chairman of the board of the Colorado Daily, an independent newspaper that covers activities in Boulder, Colo., and on the campus of the University of Colorado there.

An Internal Revenue Service investigation revealed that Breeze took some $250,000 of the newspaper’s money for his own use and sent at least $50,000 of it to accounts in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger sentenced him in Denver, Colo., after he reached a plea agreement in which he admitted making false statements on a tax return.

Demilitarization
is theme Dec. 1

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Personalities throughout the world will join via the Internet Dec. 1 to mark the 55th anniversary of the day when Costa Rica abolished its army. They will encourage demilitarization.

The event is being organized by the Museo Nacional, the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deporte and the Centro de Amigos para la Paz. It will be in the museum at 9:30 a.m.

The museum in the former Bella Vista fortress that was handed over to then-Secretary of Education Uladislao Gámez by José Figueres Ferrer and his minister of war, Edgar Cardona.

Figueres was the leader of the winning side in the 1948 civil war, and it was he who abolished the military forces, which had opposed him.

Budget passed on first reading

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Nacional passed on first reading Tuesday night the government’s 2.1 trillion-colon budget for 2004. The measure likely will be passed for the second and final time Thursday. Half the budget will be  financed by debt. The $5.3 billion measure was introduced Sept. 1.
 
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Mexico seen as model to eliminate Latin hunger
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — The executive director of the U.N. World Food Program says México's successful efforts in tackling hunger problems must be rapidly applied to the rest of Latin America. 

The hunger situation throughout most of Latin America is severe. The United Nations estimates 55 million people still go hungry. World Food Program Executive Director James Morris says Guatemala is a particularly harrowing example. He says children there are at critical risk of being severely stunted. In civil war-wracked Colombia, starvation results from the fact that a significant percentage of the population has become nomadic. 

"Any time you have a situation where more than 25 percent of children under 5 are chronically malnourished, that is very concerning," said Morris, adding:

"It is very concerning if any child is malnourished. But Guatemala's numbers are approaching 45 to 46 percent. The issue in Colombia is there may be as many as two million internally displaced people in the country, people who have been driven from their homes for either a weather reason or a conflict reason or a health reason. And, you have 

that many people moving about in a country, without roots, without access to traditional family and farm support. It is a very serious problem. Only Angola and the Sudan have more internally displaced people than Colombia." 

Mexico was the recipient of U.N. food aid until 1997. Since then, its economy has strengthened and its government has found ways to help as many as 25 percent of its neediest people. 

Morris, who is on an official visit to Mexico, says more than four million Mexican families now receive food aid and health and education benefits. He says one of the most successful programs gives thousands of school children a breakfast. 

He says México can teach a lot to its Latin American neighbors. "I think the rest of Latin America has a lot to learn from the National Institute of Health here and the strength of the nutrition program," stressed Morris. "Mexico has found ways to fortify a lot of the food they provide, to increase the micro-nutrients, the nutritional value of what children eat, and the use of fortification is a place where there is a huge amount of leverage for a very small additional investment in the food that is already going to be offered. The quality and value of that food can be substantially increased."


 
U.N. report on AIDS says rate continue to climb
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new report released by the U.N. AIDS program and the World Health Organization says HIV infection rates and AIDS deaths continued to climb around the world over the past 12 months.  The global AIDS epidemic shows no signs of abating. 

That is the conclusion of the latest report by the joint U.N. program on AIDS and the World Heath Organization. 

Timed for release a week ahead of World AIDS Day, the report paints a grim picture of the growing impact of AIDS, especially in the developing world. 

The U.N. estimates that some 40 million people are now HIV-infected worldwide. The hardest hit area is sub-Saharan Africa. 

The director of the U.N. AIDS program, Dr. Peter Piot, says the HIV/AIDS epidemic is worst in southern Africa. "One in five adults in southern Africa are now infected with HIV," said Piot, noting that 40 percent of adults in Swaziland and Botswana are HIV-positive. 

The impact on these countries, the U.N. says, is devastating, and it will be felt for decades.

The U.N. says all aspects of life in the highly infected countries are affected, including local economies, education and the social fabric.

The assistant director general of the World Health AIDS program, Dr. Jack Chow, says the devastating impact of AIDS cannot be overstated. 

"HIV has intensified its destructive fury in sub-Saharan Africa," said Dr. Chow. "It is threatening a whole new tier of regions and countries across Asia, across Eastern Europe. It is intersecting with the forces of poverty, illiteracy, gender inequity, other medical illnesses to produce this catastrophic implosion of countries. In many meeting we talk about what needs to be done about developing countries, but these developing countries are now becoming AIDS imploding countries." 

But the assessment is not all grim. Piot says combating AIDS is now on top of political agendas in many countries, and in some, like Uganda, HIV infection rates may decline, if the government program is properly implemented. 

Also on the upside, Piot says more money is pouring into the poorest countries, even from the emerging economies, to contain the AIDS pandemic. 


 
EU under fire for tough refugee proposals
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Ruud Lubbers, has criticized a new European Union asylum draft directive, saying if implemented it would violate international standards of refugee protection.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says that in writing its new immigration rules, the 15-nation European Union is adopting the most restrictive practices of each member country. 

Agency spokesman Rupert Colville said he finds the get-tough attitude strange, as it comes at a time when asylum requests in Europe have plummeted. He says only 150,000 asylum applications were made in the first half of this year, the lowest in recent history. Moreover, he says, most refugees end up in developing countries, not in western Europe.

"And, that is another concern of ours because I think the developing countries will simply see this as rich Europe trying to essentially push the burden back on to them and they feel that they already have a very big burden, as indeed they do," said Colville. "And, that risks, you know, further unraveling, if you like, the international refugee protection system." 

The U.N. Refugee Agency warns that under the draft EU text, asylum-seekers, including refugees, may be sent to countries where they might not be 

safe and to countries where they have never set foot. 

Colville says EU countries could deport asylum-seekers while their cases were being reviewed under appeal.

"It could equally affect refugees who are simply confused or traumatized or ill-informed about the asylum process and do not make their case in the best possible way the first time around," he said. "And, to support that fear, in several European countries, between 30 and 60 percent recognized refugees are only recognized on appeal not during the first process." 

EU Minister Counselor in Geneva Marianne Coninsx says the European Union understands that the new asylum system must be compatible with the basic international principles.

"It is clear that we are here in a process of building European law in a very, very sensitive area," said Ms. Coninsx. "The proposals that we are making may not be easy to be adopted because it concerns sensitive, politically sensitive issues for several of our member States. So the position of UNHCR and as it was expressed by High Commissioner Lubbers is for us the European Commission very important in this regard." 

Ms. Coninsx acknowledges that the European Union might not succeed in adopting the new directive  and will likely postpone a decision until next year. 


 
U.S. will have more secure documents for aliens
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services is announcing a new travel document redesigned to prevent counterfeits and enhance security. 

The documents will be issued to permanent residents, refugees and asylum-seekers allowing their re-entry into the United States after travel abroad. A press release Tuesday said the documents will help keep the United States safer by preventing illegal production of documents by people who might do the United States harm. 

New production methods will also allow faster processing of the documents and delivery to customers. Documents of this kind are used by more than 200,000 people each year. 

Eduardo Aguirre, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced the proposal.

"We're taking advantage of the latest state-of-the-art technology to produce new travel documents," he said. 

Produced at the agency’s Nebraska Service Center, the new travel documents utilize the same patented personalization process as the current U.S. passport. This includes a digitized integrated photo, which has proven difficult for counterfeiters to duplicate. The redesigned document also features a number of covert or hidden features that require sophisticated forensic equipment to view.

The new travel document is light green in color and resembles the size and shape of the U.S. passport. It replaces the existing refugee travel document and the re-entry permit for permanent residents. Refugee travel documents and re-entry permits currently in circulation will remain valid until the expiration dates printed on those documents. 


 
 
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