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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Nov. 29, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 235           E-mail us
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2010 hurricane season was one of the most active
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is drawing to a close, and two U.S. weather experts appear to have been correct when they said the season would be above average.

In a June estimate, they predicted 18 named storms. The season is closing with 19 named storms and no activity in the Atlantic. The official closing date is Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hedged the bet a bit by predicting from 14 to 23 named storms.

The two experts at Colorado State University, Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, predicted six to eight hurricanes and then upgraded their estimate June 2 to 10 hurricanes. The season saw 12 hurricanes. The pair said there would be three to five major hurricanes, and there were five.

In a report this month the pair said that the 2010 hurricane activity was high due to an unusually warm Atlantic basin surface sea temperature and a rapidly developing La Niña event in the Pacific. The 19 named storms were 198 percent greater than the 1950-2000 average, they said. They ranged from Alex June 26 to July 1 to Tomas, the tropical storm and later a hurricane that delivered so much damage to Costa Rica in the first days of November.

Hurricane Alex, the first storm, brushed past Central America in late June and then made landfall in northern México where it did $2 billion in damage and killed 32 persons.
Hurricanes Igor, the ninth storm, and Julia, the tenth, did not make landfall and ended up dissipating in the north Atlantic.

However, Karl, the 11th storm, formed Sept. 14 and passed over Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It caused 15 deaths and about $4 billion in damages.

Tropical storm Matthew made landfall in northern Nicaragua Sept. 24 after causing seven deaths in Venezuela.

Hurricane Richard, storm No. 17, formed in the western Caribbean Oct. 21 and eventually made landfall near Belize City. Damage was reported about $18 million.

Tomas, hurricane and tropical storm No. 19, formed Oct. 29 and never touched Central America. but its effects destroyed hundreds of miles of roads in Costa Rica and caused major landslides, including one that killed 21 persons in San Antonio de Escazú.

Damage estimates in Costa Rica alone are around $500 million, including $330 million in public infrastructure.

The only storm to make landfall in the United States was Bonnie, No. 2, which touched south Florida in late July.  Other weather systems reached the United States but they had been downgraded to a depression or less when they did.

The Colorado Springs researchers said that only twice since 1944 were there 19 or more storms. In 1995 there were 19, and in 2005 there were 28, they said.

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Arias, employers question
court ruling in gold mine

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Both Óscar Arias Sánchez, the former president, and the chamber of employers criticized the decision by a lower court to order a concession for Industrias Infinito S.A. to be canceled.

Arias made his comments in a speech. The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado issued a statement Friday.

Arias said that the development depends on the amount of investment, both public and private. He used Chile as an example. "Costa Rica for many years has been following the steps of Chile in creating clear rules that attract such investments," he said.

The employer's group cited what it said was judicial insecurity in which the elimination of the concession from a legally constituted company is a bad sign for investors, both foreign and national.

Today more than ever the county is being tested by the confusion of the roles of the various powers of the state, the chamber said.

The major concern of some business people is that the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo interjected itself into a legal case that already had been decided by the Sala IV constitutional court.

Among other stipulations, the court said that Arias, himself, should be investigated because he issued a decree advancing the work of Infinito in clearing protected trees from the open pit mine site, which is estimated to contain some $1.2 billion in gold. The site is near Curtris de San Carlos, not far from the Río San Juan.

The case has become a rallying point for university students and environmental activists who generally ignore the fact that Infinito's parent firm, Infinito Gold Ltd, of Calgary, Canada, is likely to win a gigantic international arbitration settlement if it is prevented from developing the project. Casa Presidencial estimates that the country may be on the hook for as much as $700 million.

Interamericana finally open,
but some problems remain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials opened the Interamericana Sur Friday but warned that there were eight to 10 sections where the road was reduced to one lane due to machinery or debris.

The vital highway to southern Costa Rica suffered heavy landslides during rains prompted by Tropical Storm Tomas in the first days of the month. The section between Palmar Norte and Paso Real had been closed since.

Transport officials at the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad urged motorists to stay off the road at night or in rainy conditions. They said cleanup work was to begin again today.

They also said that sections of the highway might be closed to allow machinery to work at any time. The alternate route, the Costanera Sur, still is open.

Readership again sets
A.M. Costa Rica record

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is no secret that crime, tragedy and war are good for the newspaper business. That was confirmed again this month when A.M. Costa Rica broke readership records.

The month is not over yet, but an independent statistical program shows that Friday, Nov. 5, saw 20,740 visitors to the newspaper Web site and that 50,131 pages were delivered. That was the most in the 10-year-old online daily's history.

That was the day Costa Rica was being ravaged by heavy storms and rescue workers were searching for bodies in a major landslide that killed 21 persons in San Antonio de Escazú. There also was continuing unpleasantness along the Río San Juan, the location where Nicaragua troops invaded Costa Rica.

Even Thanksgiving, a day when many are not at work and the major concern is carving a turkey, saw better than average readership. The newspaper served up 27,511 pages that day to 10,418 visitors.

By midday Sunday the newspaper had accommodated  311,619 visitors for the month. Most read at least several pages.

The readership was so high that the California-based server stopped delivering pages twice last week for about an hour while technicians reconfigured the unexpected download demand. The latest interruption was midday Friday.

Flamenco for fairy tale

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Hans Christian Andersen story is getting a makeover to be interpreted by flamenco dancers.

The story is "The Little Match Girl," which is rendered in Spanish as "La Vendedora de Fósforos,"

The production is by the Acadamia Al Andalus, which specializes in Spanish dance. An admission is charged.

The show will be given twice Sunday, Dec. 12 — at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. in the Teatro Eugene O'Neill of the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

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
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When police failed to act, man takes to YouTube for help
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian man has returned to Costa Rica to help out a 62-year-old British woman who has been a victim of multiple intrusions into her central Pacific apartment. In one encounter, an intruder poured lighter fluid on her lower body and pubic area and ignited the woman, said the man.

He is Steve Bryant, who was a San José sportsbook operator for seven years. He said he became involved because the women is a friend of his mother. Bryant and the women he does not want to identify yet are going to be making a report at the Judicial Investigating Organization today.

He said he is not hopeful. The women called police at least six times when crooks continued to break into her apartment. Although she was able to talk to an English-speaking judicial agent in Jacó, nothing came of her complaints, said Bryant. The woman does not speak Spanish, but Bryant does.

Bryant decided to seek publicity by posting a video on YouTube in which he recounts the story. His theory is that the woman was antagonized by intruders because they were seeking to force her from the apartment. She had paid a year's rent in advance, some $12,000, Bryant said. But the intruders repeatedly took valuables. The judicial police have the responsibility to determine if the theory is correct.

Bryant also posted two photo of the women's burns.

Bryant is from Sudbury, Ontario, and his mother lives there now. He said he is helping the woman hide because she fears for her safety. He described her as frail and walking with a cane.

The burning took place some weeks ago. The intruder took nothing. After another break-in the woman has left her apartment.

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Photo shows where woman was burned by intruder

Bryant said the purpose of the video was to seek help
from President Laura Chinchilla. "Please help me find Laura Chinchilla," he said on the YouTube Web page. He said he also distributed links to the video to other news outlets here and in Canada.

Nicaragua and Costa Rica produce books to present case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaragua has beaten Costa Rica to the punch again by issuing a propaganda pamphlet that it is circulating in diplomatic circles. The pamphlet purports to reveal secrets that Costa Rica has hidden about the border invasion by Nicaragua.

Costa Rica produced its own book Sunday. It is titled "The Truth about the Incursion, Occupation, Use and Damage of the Costa Rican Territory by Nicaragua." It contains photos taken in a flyover Friday. The book is available as a .pdf download from the Web site of the Ministerio Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.

The Costa Rican book at 149 pages is about twice as long as the Nicaraguan one. It, too, is being circulated in diplomatic circles, including at the United Nations.

The Nicaraguan pamphlet says that Nicaragua has never invaded Costa Rican land and blames Costa Rica for not erecting boundary markers.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua did not meet Saturday for a session on the Río San Juan that was scheduled long before the Nicaraguan invasion. Each blamed the other country.

However, Costa Rica has said that there is little reason to meet until Nicaragua withdraws its armed troops from the national territory.
Advisers from the Organization of American States were in Costa Rica over the weekend, as were persons connected to the secretariat of the international convention on wetlands. Costa Rica continues to push the aspect of environmental damage done by Nicaragua in the northeastern section known as Isla Calero.

The worst is yet to come. Photos Friday showed that nearly all the trees have been cut in what is likely to become a new channel for the river.  This is the point of the invasion, although dredging was used as a cover. Troops continue to dig a ditch that river experts say will be opened wide by a flooding San Juan.

Costa Rica has appealed to the International Court at The Hague, which has jurisdiction over the international treaty setting the boundary between the two countries. Costa Rica wants the court to order that the work cease, although even some who favor Costa Rica's point of view wonder if the court really has that power.

That meeting in The Netherlands is Jan. 11, and there is a chance that the river mouth will be a fact by then.

The Organization of American States plans to meet Dec. 7 on the same topic, but Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan president, already has shown his contempt for the hemispheric body. An additional appeal will go to the United Nations Security Council, but it is not likely to get a high priority when compared to other world developments.

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Debate whaling or kill yourselves, Sea Shepherd tells Japan

Special to A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is challenging the government of Japan to justify its so-called research that requires hunting and killing whales. If the Japanese do not debate, they should ritually kill themselves, the society said. The Sea Shepherd organization is led by Paul Watson, the feisty environmentalist who has tangled with fishermen seeking shark fins off the Pacific coast.

This time the organization seeks an open debate with the Japanese Tuesday when there is a meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan.  A total of 27 countries and regions in support of whaling, including Iceland and Norway, will attend the two-day meeting to discuss future negotiation policies on commercial whaling, said the society.

With only weeks away from the start of Japan’s illegal whaling season in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, this is Japan’s last chance to defend their so-called research whaling before the Sea Shepherd fleet sets sail for Antarctic waters to uphold international conservation laws, said the society.

Japan claims that their whaling is for scientific research only, although it benefits from a government subsidy of over one billion yen a year, it noted. 

Since this whaling is done in the name of science, and if it is not fraudulent pseudoscience, Japan's Institute for
Cetacean Research should welcome the opportunity to present its research arguments and findings to the many millions of anti-whaling supporters who find Japan's research completely lacking in credibility and conscience, said the society.

Capt. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, commented on their proposal, “We are so confident that we will win this debate, that we are willing to come into the lion’s den and send in our least experienced staff member.  Someone would need to be very extremely ignorant to fail to beat even the most experienced pro-whaling debater at the conference, given how pointless, cruel, and unethical whaling is. If Japan doesn’t allow us the chance to debate, then they leave us no choice but to set sail and defend the lives of whales.”

If Japan will not accept Sea Shepherd's offer to debate, we will declare that the Institute for Cetacean Research and Japanese government leaders have completely destroyed their reputation in the name of tradition: Just as illegal whaling is claimed to be justified by tradition, not debating us is the modern equivalent of ritual suicide (seppuku), the society said. Ritual suicide is misnamed by many in the west as hara-kiri, but Sea Shepherd has too much respect for the cleansing power of this particular tradition to name it incorrectly, it said, adding:

The world awaits Japan's acceptance of Sea Shepherd’s proposal to debate, or the names and date of seppuku.

Whale sharks seem to earn an 'A' in mathematics

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

They are the largest fish species in the ocean, but the majestic gliding motion of the whale shark is, scientists argue, an astonishing feat of mathematics and energy conservation. In new research published in the British Ecological Society's journal Functional Ecology marine scientists reveal how these massive sharks use geometry to enhance their natural negative buoyancy and stay afloat.

Whale sharks are frequent visitors to Costa Rica's Pacific waters.

For most animals movement is crucial for survival, both for finding food and for evading predators.

However, movement costs substantial amounts of energy and while this is true of land based animals it is even more complex for birds and marine animals which travel in three dimensions. Unsurprisingly this has a profound impact on their movement patterns.

“The key factor for animal movement is travel speed, which governs how much energy an animal uses, the distance it will travel and how often resources are encountered,” said lead author Adrian Gleiss from Swansea University. “However, oceanic animals not only have to consider their travel speed, but also how vertical movement will affect their energy expenditure, which changes the whole perspective.”
For the past four years, Adrian Gleiss and Rory Wilson, from Swansea University, worked with Brad Norman from ECOcean Inc. to lead an international team to investigate the movements of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. They attached animal-borne motion sensors, accelerometers, to the free-swimming whale sharks to measure their swimming activity and vertical movement, which allowed them to quantify the energetic cost of vertical movement.

The team’s data revealed that whale sharks are able to glide without investing energy into movement when descending, but they had to beat their tails when they ascended. This occurs because sharks, unlike many fish, have negative buoyancy.

Also, the steeper the sharks ascended, the harder they had to beat their tail and the more energy they had to invest. The whale sharks displayed two broad movement modes, one consisting of shallow ascent angles, which minimize the energetic cost of moving in the horizontal while a second characteristic of steeper ascent angles, optimized the energetic cost of vertical movement.

“These results demonstrate how geometry plays a crucial role in movement strategies for animals moving in three-dimensions,” concluded Gleiss. “This use of negative buoyancy may play a large part in oceanic sharks being able to locate and travel between scarce and unpredictable food sources efficiently.”

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WikiLeaks newest batch
at least highly embarrassing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

More than a quarter of a million classified cables sent from U.S. embassies around the world to Washington have been leaked on the Internet.  Despite warnings from the U.S. government that the leaks could put lives at risk, the Web site WikiLeaks published the files in conjunction with several major international newspapers. 

According to The New York Times and several European newspapers, the leaked messages are described as varying between embarrassing and highly damaging, with the potential to adversely affect U.S. relations with several countries.

Among the most striking, according to the papers, are leaked cables suggesting that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have been pressing the U.S. government to launch a military attack on Iran to prevent the country from developing a nuclear weapon.  An apparent message from April 2008 suggests that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for the United States to "Cut the head off the snake."

Other documents reportedly suggest that the United States believes that Saudi Arabian donors are the chief financiers of terror groups like al-Qaida.  Qatar, a U.S. ally, is accused of not doing enough to thwart terrorist groups.

It is also alleged that Iran has received sophisticated missiles from North Korea that are capable of hitting Western Europe and that it is using them to construct even bigger weapons.

According to newspaper reports, more than 4,000 files are marked "No Foreigner."  These include cables alleging that the U.S. military has been conducting air strikes against al-Qaida targets in Yemen.  The Yemeni government has said that its military alone has been conducting the raids.

Chinese government operatives reportedly are accused of launching cyber attacks on the United States.

The messages are also said to show that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged American diplomats to spy on other countries at the United Nations —  blurring the traditional boundaries between diplomacy and espionage.

Among the more embarrassing leaks, say the newspapers, are personal analyses of world leaders.  Former Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly was called an "alpha-dog" and Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to have been described as "driven by paranoia."  The reports also say the cables noted that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is permanently accompanied by a "voluptuous Ukrainian nurse."  One message apparently accused an unnamed member of the British royal family of "inappropriate behavior."

The Pentagon has declined to comment on the contents of the leaked documents.  But it has condemned the leaks as reckless, warning that their publication would place at risk "the lives of countless innocent individuals," "ongoing military operations" and "cooperation between countries."

Speaking on the "Fox News Sunday" television program, Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill called for WikiLeaks to be prosecuted. "The people who are leaking these documents need to do a gut check about their patriotism.  And I think they're enjoying the attention that they're getting.  But frankly, it's coming at a very high price.  I hope we can figure out where this is coming from and go after them with the force of law," she said.

Rep. Peter King, who is a Republican member of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, has called for WikiLeaks to be classified as a terrorist organization.

No one has been charged with disclosing information to WikiLeaks, but news reports say a key suspect is U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, who is in custody for an earlier leak of classified documents.

The Pentagon says it is in the process of increasing security measures for its data and communications.
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Haitian candidates seek
to void presidential vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Twelve candidates in Haiti's presidential election called for Sunday's vote to be canceled amid allegations of fraud. Crowds took to the streets to demand an end to the flawed vote.

The announcement by top candidates for Haiti's presidency came several hours into the voting process, which many Haitians said was deeply flawed.

The 12 candidates gathered at a Port-au-Prince hotel, where they accused President Rene Preval and election officials of being ill-prepared for the election.

Anne Marie Josette Bijou read a statement from the group. Ms. Bijou said the candidates had proof that President Preval had no intentions of holding a democratic vote. And they accused him of using the presidency to hand the election to his party's candidate, Jude Celestin.

Candidate Michel Martelly said the 12 men and women from opposing parties were united in how to respond to concerns about the voting process early Sunday. Martelly said all of the candidates agreed with the conclusion that the voting process was plagued by fraud.

Shortly after the announcement, Martelly led supporters in a march through the streets of Port-au-Prince. Similar protest marches were reported elsewhere in the capital, as well as in other cities. Angry voters also invaded some polling stations and destroyed voting materials.

Early Sunday, voters complained of problems at many polling stations. Some said they could not find out what polling station they were supposed to use, and others said the government had failed to issue them new identification cards to replace ones lost in a January earthquake.

More than a million people remain in tent camps after losing their homes.

Some critics said the vote should be delayed because of problems related to the quake and a cholera epidemic that started in mid-October. Haitian officials and leaders of the United Nations mission in Haiti have insisted the vote should take place.

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