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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 239       E-mail us
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An analysis of the news
There's lots of work to get global warming facts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Climate change is one of those complex issues that average citizens have difficulty understanding. For most, the easiest course is to accept an ideology and not study the scientific facts.

So some viewers of Fox television accept the belief that global warming is a fake issue designed to steal billions from First World taxpayers. Radical environmentalists, on the other end of the scale, are convinced that any change in temperature is manmade.

Academics appear to go where the money is. Grants, promotions and other benefits come from going along and not being too creative, which has been the perpetual slogan at universities for years.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this month is expected to structure limits of carbon dioxide emissions from developed countries. Costa Rica's delegation will propose that developed nations reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2020 and by 95 percent by 2050, according to government officials here.

Still there is deep disagreement on how much human actions are responsible for global warming. Some 75 percent of the so-called greenhouse gasses is water vapor and not carbon dioxide.

Then there is Climategate. "The publication of damning e-mails about climate change could literally change the world," said the Daily Telegraph in London. A computer hacker entered the computers at University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and put out on the Internet e-mails that seem to suggest academic researchers cooked the books on global warming.

One of the most damning messages, this one from the head of the climate research unit, said "I've just completed Mike's trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 to hide the decline."

There have been calls in Europe, Australia and in the United States for a government investigation of this possible conspiracy. The e-mail author says his words were taken out of context.

Added to the problem is a continual flow of weak reporting in mainstream news outlets. Reporters love crisis, and the destruction of the earth is about as big a crisis that can be found.

Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, even won a Nobel Prize for his alarmist movie "An Inconvenient Truth." But he is a former newsman after all.

There probably is no doubt that the earth is warming and the polar ice caps are shrinking. The Hudson River used to run at the bottom of a canyon. Rome imported much of its wheat from North Africa, and giant cedar trees provided shelter for mastodons in what is now the U.S. Great Plains.

Costa Rica's Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has maintained for years a graphic on its Web site of the watery future of the Puntarenas peninsula with various levels of rising oceans. The questions are how much of the warming is the work of humans and can anything be done about it?

Those who are meeting in Copenhagen appear to have answered both of these questions in the affirmative, although elsewhere the issue is far from closed.

Anyone who seeks out information on climate change and global warming is soon to be flooded
global warming

by a mountain of data, claims and ideologies.  Much of the academic speculation is based on computer models that may or may not make use of the relevant variables. And there are serious questions about the accuracy of climate readings taken years ago with less than modern instruments.

Then there is Peter Ditlevsen at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, who found strong evidence reported in 2007 that the Greenland inland ice sheet shows 26 dramatic and abrupt climate shifts during the last ice age that lasted more than 100,000 years.

His mathematical analysis said the changes were chaotic and random.

Most of the climate studies rely on average temperature. According to the 2007 U.N. report on climate change, 11 of the previous 12 years were the warmest on record. However, a Canadian and two European researchers said in a published paper that physical, mathematical and observations show that there is no meaningful global temperature for the Earth in the context of the issue of global warming.

All sorts of environmental impacts are blamed on global warming, as if the climate of today were the most perfect. But dynamic earth is continually in movement. Seaside studies show that ocean levels have been higher in the past with geological evidence that the level may have been as much as 8 meters higher, about 226 feet. But at the height of the last ice age with much more water locked up in glaciers, scientists estimate that the sea level was some 120 meters or about 390 feet lower.

Statistics from Australia's National Tidal Center show sea levels have increased by 8.6 millimeters a year off Perth and by 8.1 off the tropical Kimberley region over the past two decades. The global average is a rise of just over three millimeters, about a tenth of an inch.

As far as greenhouse emissions are concerned, some scientists say that the direct effect of carbon dioxide on food production is highly positive because increased carbon dioxide levels enhance plant growth.

Another study said that the balance between the airborne and the absorbed fraction of carbon dioxide has stayed approximately constant since 1850, despite emissions of carbon dioxide having risen from about 2 billion tons a year in 1850 to 35 billion tons a year now. This suggests that terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans have a much greater capacity to absorb carbon dioxide than had been previously expected, said the British University of Bristol in explaining the work of its Wolfgang Knorr.

These conflicting and controversial issues are hard to resolve. And in the context of climate change citizen observers would be well advised to avoid easy answers and ideological solutions. And with the Internet, anyone in Costa Rica has as much access to scientific data and research as an expert at a major university.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 239

Costa Rica Expertise
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Our reader's opinion
Recycling center destroyed
and rural hopes dashed


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A few months ago I had a chance to return to Costa Rica on vacation.  While traveling through the country my mother, who lives in Los Santos area, near Santa Maria, took me over to visit a place that filled her with pride and joy: a recycling center located in rural Costa Rica. 

Not just any recycling center, but one run by a friend of hers who was part of a group of women who — with a beat up pickup truck — went around local rural areas, some of them with no garbage pickup service, and collected cardboard, glass, cans, paper and plastic, took it to their small “center” where they processed it and sold it for a profit and a way to make a living.

I was told that for many of these women, who are single mothers, that was their only means of income, which made them doubly proud of not only what they were doing for the environment but also for the fact that they could work for a living.  This center, because of its benefit to the community of Los Santos, was allowed to operate on a piece of abandoned land owned by the local Municipality.

Sadly, that all changed a couple of weeks back.  I was told that the Municipality of Tarrazú, led by the mayor Ivan Saures, has decided to allocate the piece of land (which is not very big by the way) to another undisclosed project. He arbitrarily decided to tear down the recycling center with little or no advance notice, which led to all the collected materials, including paper and cardboard, to be exposed to the rain that hit the area last month. Almost everything that the women had collected but could not store in their own homes was ruined, especially all the cardboard and paper.

Having lived in Costa Rica for over 20 years, although not there now, I can only speculate that there are political or economic interests at play in this decision.  Regardless, that decision has eliminated jobs for this group of hardworking women, has made tons of recyclable waste now be part of a huge community dumpster near a forest reserve.

What is worse, this decision brought down years of education and work that these women had accomplished when they put the time and effort to educate people in the area about recycling by visiting schools, hosting community events and going to mostly abandoned areas where people burn or dump their trash in the rivers and explain the importance of recycling.

The Costa Rican government every day talks about striving to move up as country through education and sustainable development, but this will never happen if the government, central and local, regardless of political affiliation, does not encourage movements like those started by these women instead of crushing them whenever a political favor must be repaid.  I know it might sound naïve that I talk about the local municipality and hope that there be no corruption and under the table deals, I know this happens all the time.  Maybe all one could have hoped in this case was at least for a bit a common sense and humanity and the municipality didn’t even give the people of Tarrazú that.
Herschel H. Flowers
Parkville, Missouri

Younger employees seek
more cross-cultural skills


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Responding to globalization of the workplace, employees worldwide are developing a new suite of cross-cultural and language skills that will equip them to prosper in a more multinational environment, according to recent findings from a global workplace survey.

The survey, by Kelly Services, finds that individuals across all generations believe the experience they gain in a globally oriented environment will be critical to their careers.

Gen X (aged 30-47) reports the most direct experience within a global business environment, while Gen Y (aged 18-29) is driving the trend toward globalization, making international experience central to their job selection and promotion, according to the survey. Although baby boomers (aged 48-65) receive less formal support and training than their younger
colleagues, they still feel they can succeed in a globalized workplace.

The findings are part of the Kelly Global Workforce Index, which obtained the views of approximately 90,000 people in 33 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Employees around the globe are recognizing how to thrive in a workplace with fewer international barriers, according to George Corona, Kelly Services executive vice president.

“Exposure to the international workplace is becoming the norm as more highly skilled people develop the capacity to export their talents wherever needed around the globe,” Corona said. “In this environment, the ability to work collaboratively with multinational teams is a critical requirement that we expect to become more commonplace.”

Although Gen X and baby boomers have more international experience, Gen Y more readily embraces that experience as a factor in determining future job choice and career progression. Gen Y also receives the bulk of employer-provided training.

“We are seeing a generation emerge that is very confident operating in a global environment," Corona said. "This will lead to many more transferrable skills, and a business dynamic where human capital can be deployed seamlessly to almost any location on short notice.

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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 weekday.

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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.

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SSan José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 239

candidates for election
       Guevara                               Fishman                           Ms. Chinchilla                         Solís
Citizen security begins to resonate as a campaign theme
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two presidential candidates have grasped the security issue and seem to be making headway in the polls.

They are Otto Guevara of the Movimiento Libertario and Luis Fishman Zonzinski of Partido Unidad Social Cristiana. Both seem to be cutting into the strong lead held by Laura Chinchilla Miranda, who quit as the nation's vice president to seek the top office. She represents Partido Liberación Nacional. Trailing seems to be Ottón Solís of Partido Acción Ciudadana, whose campaign is more conventional and addresses a number of issues but not citizen security.

A recent poll commissioned by the daily La Nación show that the campaign against crime is effective with the voters.

Both Ms. Chinchilla and Fishman are former security ministers. Fishman has always used the slogan Fishman me da seguridad, "Fishman gives me security," and he promises a strong hand against crime.

Guevara, however, is the more aggressive of the two. Early in the campaign he ripped into José Figueres Ferrer, the former president and national hero as a corrupt leader. Figueres was one of the founders of Liberación. The drumbeat against Liberación continues on his Web site, but the most effective campaign tool to date is a commercial put on by Libertario showing women and mothers being fearful in the streets and parks. Guevara promises to decree a national emergency when he takes office to fight crime.

And he promises that every criminal will be judged. That fact that many criminals slip through the system is a sore point with Costa Ricans. And Guevara promises to build more jails.

Fishman on his party's Web page promises to eject foreign criminals, an obvious reminder of Jamaican drug gangs, Mexican cartels and Nicaraguan robbers. He also promises to double the size of the Fuerza Pública. Now the force has 12,000 officers. Another promise is to arrest the 3,500
known criminals who are stalking on the country's streets.

Fishman obviously is haunted by the conspiracy conviction handed out to the party's earlier candidate, former president Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, and recently the party ran into some financial trouble.

Ms. Chinchilla, who still is a strong favorite, has not stressed security in her campaign. As vice president she chaired a committee that drew up a package of proposals to fight crime. But most agreed they lacked teeth. Ms. Chinchilla, like the current administration, believes that crime must be addressed at its roots by eliminating poverty and promoting education. She has said so repeatedly.

She backed a new law to fight organized crime, but the thrust of the bill was mostly procedural. Then she alienated the casino industry by suggesting that such locations were centers for prostitution. But she said nothing about the many brothels that can be found in San José and elsewhere.

Solís is his even-tempered, thoughtful self. He has run twice for the presidency, as has Guevara.

His Web page reflects a desire for national sovereignty with the capacity of guaranteeing citizen security without sacrificing human rights. Solís lost some ground when he failed to oppose the free trade treaty aggressively. He nearly beat Óscar Arias Sánchez in 2006, and he would have done so had his relatively new political party had the strength in Guanacaste and Limón that Liberation showed.

Solís won handily in the Central Valley.  But now he is a distant fourth.

All the candidates are making use of the social networks like High5, Facebook and Linkedin. However, Ms. Chinchilla's Web site was not functioning Wednesday night.

The elections are Feb. 7. Foreigners, even those with permanent residency, are forbidden from participating or in making political donations.


Judicial agents arrest 20 police officers in Limón centro
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and prosecutors detained 20 Fuerza Pública officers in Limón Wednesday and said that they were involved in crimes themselves. Two are being investigated for holding up a record store.

Some 16 of the suspects were arrested while inside the Limón police station. Four were detained nearby, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Most have been members of the police force for 10 years or more.

The judicial agents said that the crimes alleged include stickups, robberies, aggression and abuse of authority, among others.

The security ministry in a prepared release characterized these allegations as minor felonies and said that the officers were not being investigated for drug violations or for being involved in organized crime.

Janina del Vecchio, the minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguirdad Pública, said that the investigation was a joint one between her ministry that supervised the Fuerza Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization, an agency of the courts.

Judicial agents said they were working on 11 formal 
complaints but that they expected more victims to come forward because they no longer would fear repercussions.

The men were to be brought before a judge after being questioned, and most likely they will be released with instructions not to confront witnesses and to sign in with prosecutors every 15 days. The ministry said that the suspects would be relieved of duty and put on suspension with pay.

Most of the officers who were detained worked in the center of Limón, officials said.

This is the third major investigation of Fuerza Pública officers this year.

In September agents detained 11 officers on the Pacific coast for aiding in the smuggling of cocaine. Many were members of the tourism police, and they were suspected of escorting drug shipments.

Earlier 10 officers including local supervisors were detained in the central San José detachment. Some 50 more were reported to be under investigation for assisting in robberies and accepting bribes from criminals.

In June 2008 police officers in Heredia centro were detained on drug allegations.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 239


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Downtown vendors clash with police in rock-throwing riot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Street vendors and San José police fought it out again Wednesday on a downtown street.

The melee started with a municipal policeman confiscating the wares a man was selling on Calle 3 in mid-afternoon. The man objected, and other vendors joined in the dispute, which was punctuated by vendors throwing rocks at police and officers responding with tear gas.

Merchants pulled down their steel shutters and remained inside their places of business. Some rioters, perhaps not vendors, tried to break into the steel shutters, perhaps to
loot the stores. Many appeared to be unkempt young men and not vendors.

Police said that five persons were detained and some 14 persons were injured. Vendors said one of their number had lost an eye in the standoff. Police also were hurt.

The dispute stems from the municipalities desire to control sales on the street. Some areas have been designated for vendors, but many do not respect the rules. Frequently pirated merchandise is sold, like copied CDs.

This is the fifth time in recent weeks that police actions against vendors has escalated to a riot.



Election ballots being printed by government under guard

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ballots for the Feb. 7 elections are being printed under guard at the Imprenta Nacional. More than 9 million  ballots will be printed. There will be three million for president, the same number for legislative deputies and an additional three million for local offices.

Presidential ballots will be printed on white paper. Those for deputies will be cyan. Local ballots will be magenta. Each voter gets three separate ballots. The cost will be about 150 million colons or about $262,000. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones is paying for the work.

Government printers will be going on shifts totaling 22 hours a day to get the job done by the third week of the month.
The tribunal said that this year for the first time voters will use a special crayon to mark the ballots. Everything is done by hand, and there are no voting machines or computers.

About 2.8 million persons are on the election rolls. Some are blind, so the Tribunal is making about 5 percent of the ballots with braille markings.

Security is 24-hours a day until election day by the Fuerza Pública.

There are 495 local offices to be filled as well as the 57 deputy slots. There are 8,127 candidates from 52 political parties, but not all parties are national.  There are only nine in that category. On election day Feb. 7 some 6,617 polling places will be open.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 239

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New businesses in Britain
seeking out green solutions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In Britain many new environmentally friendly businesses are cropping up that are distinctly unusual in their exploration of green products for a sustainable world. Many British entrepreneurs are working hard to slice a chunk out of the estimated $6 trillion green economy.

Lizzie Lee is stitching a piece of old lace her mom found at a flea market.  Later she will use the lace to make a lamp made entirely of recycled products.

She started making objects using recycled products more than a decade ago, following a trip to India.

"I could see all the waste there.  You know when you are in this country you do not really, you are not aware of the waste, it is all hidden away and taken away to landfills as soon as you have finished using things.  And over there you would see big piles of it in the desert.  And I came back to university and I just really wanted to recycle plastic."

Now, in a spacious warehouse in Britain's coastal city Brighton, Ms. Lee has turned her love for recycling into a small business.

Using recycled plastic milk bottles and lace, she makes white lamps that sell for around $100.  Ms. Lee says her recycled lamps have become popular with customers that like to buy green products.

"I did not even used to always mention it before, because they would see the product as worth less because the materials were recycled.  Now it definitely makes people feel good about buying it and they can get green points for having a recycled product."

But not every small business is benefitting from concerns about the environment.  Analysts warn that energy-dependent sectors such as the transport, tourism, and construction industries may suffer.

Manzoor Haidar, who works in the transport industry, says new costs are emerging that could put companies like his out of business. He says that, for example, he has had to take some of his older trucks off the road, because of London's low emission zone, where vehicles that pollute are being charged a fee, is too costly.
 
"The penalties and fines are far, far too excessive and that has put lots of businesses out of, completely out."

He says he worries banks will not lend the money for small businesses to survive the new costs.

"We do need lot of support from the government in order to keep the businesses going if they really want the small to medium businesses to be successful."

Steven Howard is CEO of the environmental organization The Climate Group.  He says some small businesses may find the green transition challenging.

"The challenge for small and medium enterprises, when you get very rapid change — how do people keep up to speed?  And I think there is a role for big companies with supply chains to reach back down their supply chains and help them, there is a role for government's agencies to help give people good information."

But he says, overall, he thinks small business will benefit from concerns about climate change.  He says new green businesses are cropping up everywhere.

A 2009 report commissioned by the British Government found the global low-carbon economy was worth around $6 trillion in 2008.

According to the report, the United States is the leader in clean-technology investment, followed by China and Japan.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 239


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Homeland Security chief
worries about U.S. ports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A top U.S. security official says more work is needed to ensure terrorists do not smuggle nuclear devices into the country.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation panel Wednesday that securing maritime cargo is a top concern.

Ms. Napolitano said port security has improved since the U.S. terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but she warned critical vulnerabilities remain.

Ms. Napolitano noted a pilot program at five foreign ports has uncovered difficulties in scanning all U.S.-bound cargo.

She said current technology is unable to effectively and automatically detect suspicious cargo, saying it cannot see through dense freight.  She also noted that many ports do not have a single point through which all cargo passes, making the scanning process far too slow.

The Senate panel's chairman, Jay Rockefeller, expressed concern about the country's estimated 13 million small maritime vessels.

Secretary Napolitano said the United States is revising its small boat security strategy and expects the new plan will be completed in 2010.

Costa Rica has had to revise its security at its major ports and at its airports in order to meet international requirements. The changes include such inprovements as strong fencing and stricter enforcement of access.

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