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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 240       Email us
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Jo Stuart
American European Realty

Surgical backlog will take six months to clear up
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anesthesiologists and a physician's organization finally reached agreement with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social that will seek to reprogram nearly 3,000 surgeries over the next six months. These were the surgeries that were canceled because of the strike.

The Caja estimates that nearly 20,000 medical appointments also went by the boards during the strike that began in mid-November. Anesthesiologists went on strike first and they were joined last week by the Unión Médica Nacional.

The agreement suggests that the physicians got most of what they wanted.

The Caja agreed to rehire an anesthesiologist who had been fired. The Caja also agreed to phase in more vacation time for anesthesiologists and
 improve working conditions in the operating rooms. The Caja also agreed to explore the possibility of hiring more medical residents and anesthesiologists in training.

The strike served to shine a spotlight on the financially troubled Caja and saw complaints aired about the conduct of physicians. Among other claims was that many physicians arrived late to work and missed appointments. There also were revelations of high salaries.

The Caja said that subscribers should keep any medical appointment scheduled for today. The physicians agreed to begin work with the signing of the agreement Friday, and the Caja said its services would be back to normal today.

Expats who have various forms of residencies here are required to subscribe to the Caja, although many prefer private care.

Ms.Chinchilla to give speeches, seek investments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla will be picking up two honorary doctorates during her three-day visit to Japan. She left Sunday.

At United Nations University in Tokyo Ms. Chinchilla will deliver the 19th U Thant distinguished lecture. Her topic is “Peace and sustainable development: The Costa Rica experience,” according to the university.

Said the university:

“President Chinchilla has played a central role in the political life of Costa Rica, serving as a deputy in the National Assembly, Vice-Minister and Minister for public security, and Vice-President in the second administration of President Arias. As the first female President of her country, her election has been part of a new stage in the vibrant democratic development of both Costa Rica and the region. President Chinchilla’s administration has also maintained Costa Rica’s tradition of prudent
 government and sustainable practices, both in the environmental sphere (with the wise stewardship Costa Ricans have provided) and with the country’s long and proud democratic heritage.”

She will be honored Thursday at Kyoto University Tuesday. She is supposed to give a speech on leadership and woman in the 21st century.

During the visit, the president will make the rounds, including lunch with Emperor Akihito and other high-level members of the Japanese political scene. She will be meeting with Yoshihiko Noda and members of the Japanese diet or parliament.

Costa Rica has had 75 years of diplomatic relations with Japan.

Ms. Chinchilla also will meet with business leaders Tuesday in a session arranged by the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior. She also will meet with Japanese television executives to discuss Costa Rica's conversion to a digital signal.

Motorcycle operators honored with their own day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last week they were protesting and blocking traffic. But Sunday they were being honored when the transport ministry decreed a national day for motorcyclists.

The day was proclaimed during a morning gathering on Paseo Colón not far from where Unilever, the marketer of Salsa Lizano, was handing out free Christmas tamales.  The sauce is a traditional seasoning for tamales.
The motorcycle event was designed to promote highway safety. Motorcyclists staged successful blockades because obligatory insurance rates for the two-wheeled vehicles took a big jump. The Instituto Nacional de Seguros, the insurance agency, said one reason was because of the high rate of accidents by motorcyclists. Eventually the blockades resulted in lower rates.

The Dia Nacional de Motorciclista is designed to raise awareness of basic safety precautions such as wearing a helmet.

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Our readers' opinions
Traffic cop creativity
brings in the money

Dear A. M. Costa Rica:

I read with a chuckle, your article about the Nicaraguan gentleman who was extorted by a traffic cop and later returned with the judicial police who arrested the traffic cop. I am amazed this cop was stupid enough to agree to let the driver come back to pay more money. Most of the time the cops are unidentifiable because they never wear name tags or badge numbers.

We all know this sort of thing happens on a daily basis all over the Costa Rica. Many of my friends who have come to visit have been extorted and have paid the cop, and it has happened to me. I live here, so I know where all the speed traps are, and after I paid a $600 speeding ticket last year, I am now meticulous about adhering to speed limits.

But nevertheless, I was pulled over recently while doing 59 in a 60 KPH stretch. The officer asked for my license. I unlatched my seat belt to reach into my pants pocket for my wallet. The officer looked at my cédula and Costa Rica driver’s license, but would not answer my repeated questions asking why he pulled me over. Instead, he tugged on my now-loose seat belt and said, “You’re not wearing your seat belt. That is a $500 fine.”

When I sputtered that I was wearing it when I stopped the car and took it off to give him my license, he muttered, “Oh. I didn’t see. You can go.” Had I been a nervous tourist instead of a savvy permanent resident, I might have eagerly offered up a few dollars to avoid a $500 fine. Although this was going on in Costa Rica before we had new traffic laws imposing exorbitant fines, one of the unintended consequences of the new laws is that they have been a boon for traffic cops looking to supplement their low incomes by extorting nervous tourists and poor Ticos who can’t afford to pay huge traffic fines. Arresting one cop in Desamparados isn’t going to stop it.

Rob Rowntree

Some rhetorical questions
about children and prostitution

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am writing in response to the recent article run in A.M. Costa Rica regarding the U.S. Embassy’s donation to a rehabilitation program for former prostitutes and the follow up commentary titled “U.S. out of step with Costa Rican reality on human trafficking.”

The issues addressed in these articles are complex. The solutions not so clear.  I would like to address one issue which I believe is clear: Sexual exploitation of minors.  First some thought-provoking questions: 

Is a 12-year old in a position to make a decision about prostituting themselves?  Should a parent compel their child to sell themselves for economic reasons?  Does that parent really have a choice?  What would that child do if they were given a choice?  Are we naive in thinking that they should have a choice? 

Other questions: Who is responsible?  Is there blame here?  Should someone be punished?  Who and how?  Should we focus on the perpetrator or the victim, prevention or rehabilitation? 

How many child prostitutes are too many?  Does it matter if they are Colombian, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican or from the United States?  Are they victims?  Are they victims of their own decisions or decisions of others? 

These questions are not intended to be answered.  We know the answers.  They are more intended to state the obvious.  Is a 12-year old in a position to make a decision to sell their body: no.  How many child prostitutes are too many: one. 

To further clarify the issue following are some facts.

Flagged by INTERPOL, Costa Rica is fast rising as the hemispheric capital of sex tourism.

Rivaling Thailand and The Philippines as the world's leading sex tourism destination, Costa Rica is also noted to have the largest child prostitution problem in the Americas.

Commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Costa Rica is said to draw as many as 5,000 tourists a year.  

There are more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 engaged in the sex industry in Costa Rica.

The majority of prostitutes are involved in prostitution by the age of 12.

Many underage prostitutes were raped in their own homes.

One last question: Can and should we do something about this?   Think about it…do something about it…please!

Maria Fejervary
Mike Styles
Salvando Corazones
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ms. Fejervary is the founder of Salvando Corazones, a non-profit organization set up in 2009 to establish safe houses for child prostitutes. Styles serves on the board of directors.

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
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Women have jobs at the coop sewing shop where bags are made that are sold at Juan Santamaría airport.

Women working
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

In La Carpio the emphasis is on helping the parents work
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s reputation is one of a social democracy, a peaceful society with little inequality and first-rate ecological practices and policies. In western San Jose in la Carpio, the preconceptions are put to the test.

La Carpio is a large slum of almost 35,000 people comprised primarily of illegal Nicaraguan immigrants. Foreigners made up 90 percent of the local population when people began placing plastic and corrugated iron shacks on the land 20 years ago but the number is closer to 60 percent today.

The community spawned for a variety of reasons including the devastation of a civil war, the destruction by natural disasters and the desperation of poverty forcing people south for refuge.

Most of the immigrants do not have the proper identification papers that allow them to be legally employed. Often, they work in construction and housekeeping and receive approximately a third of what equally qualified, legal residents and Costa Ricans are paid.

To the north runs the Río Virilla and to the south the Río Torres. In La Carpio´s backyard is the EBI de Costa Rica S.A. Landfill, Costa Rica´s largest dump. The geography then blocks all routes but one in and out. La Carpio gains nothing from neighboring communities because it is so isolated.

The community does not benefit financially from being the country's dump driveway either. For what EBI earns for bringing 200 tons a day of trash through the area, la Carpio gets zero percent, according to Gail Nystrom, founder and executive director of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation.

Ms. Nystrom and the foundation have been working to improve La Carpio since 1997. The efforts there are among the 50 projects operated by the foundation in Costa Rica.

Ms. Nystrom has lived and worked on the foundation for the past 20 years. Born and raised in Virginia and New Jersey, she came to Costa Rica in 1978 as a member of the U.S. Peace Corps and worked to set up special education classrooms around the country. Remaining in Costa Rica after her Peace Corps assignment, she worked to support at-risk populations as they search for ways to improve the quality of their lives.
kid sleeping
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela
A child who benefits from the daycare project has no trouble grabbing a nap

The foundation provides a stipend of 3,000 colons a week to the 30 women who teach for it, and, La Carpio parents can leave children at the day care center while they go to work their way out of poverty.

The community centers give the kids three meals a day and serve as supplementary education, teaching the kids more than  reading, writing and math of the local elementary school.

The curriculum is akin to a Montessori school. The children have the independence of choice of activities, and the teacher acts as a guide.

A child with two parents can attend for around 12.000 colons a week, and prices vary from there depending on the child or children´s parental situation. Ms. Nystrom said the foundation works payment out with individuals from there.

Because most of the families come from homes with inadequate kitchen or bathroom, she said she can respect the amount they can offer.

The foundation also runs nine different cooperatives offering micro-finance opportunities to other women in the community, builds bunk beds and houses for families in need and has a clinic to address basic medical needs. One opportunity uses discarded coffee bags that the women sew into a marketable bag that is sold at the Juan Santamaría airport.

All of the foundation´s work is made possible from donations of goods, services, and financial resources by volunteers, friends, and sponsors. And Ms. Nystrom said she is committed to keeping administrative costs as low as possible to ensure that virtually all financial resources are applied directly to communities in need.

U.S. donates radios and body armor to law enforcement
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U. S. Embassy announced Friday that it was providing more than $1 million in equipment to the security ministry and the Judicial Investigating Organization for community security measures.

The equipment includes communication devices, such as radios, electronics and software as well as hundreds of bulletproof body-armor equipment to be used by law enforcement agents in the field.

Ambassador Anne S. Andrew, to justify the use of United Stated resources for police forces of a foreign country, said the safety of Costa Rican communities is linked to the safety of stateside communities as well. She cited Costa Rican efforts to counteract drug trafficking operations that may affect the United States.

 She also talked about the United States contribution toward building a more-than-$3 million security checkpoint at the 37 kilometer point along the Interamericana Sur north of the Panamanian border.

“The U.S. citizen has a general interest in addressing the organized crime and narcotrafficking, because those organized crime units operate throughout the hemisphere,” Ms. Andrew said.

She said the money was expended as part of the U.S. State Department's regional initiative to ultimately serve the best interest of United States citizens. Most often drugs produced in Columbia make their way north to the largest consumer country in the region, the United States.  Ms. Andrew said it is more effective to target the trafficking closer to the source.

At least one Costa Rican security official has said the problem of the country’s insecure communities is a national one. At a recent press conference the minister,
Ambassaodr and minsiter
Ambassador Anne S. Andrew confers with Mario Zamora Cordero, the security minister, while a properly garbed agent displays some of the body armor.

Mario Zamora Cordero, said he welcomed the help of the United States to support the building of the checkpoint and to help patrol the seas, but said the responsibility of the country’s security ultimately falls on the Costa Rican government.

At the press conference Dec. 2, regarding the gift of equipment from the United States, he said any help was welcomed, especially protective armor that has the potential to save the life of an officer in the line of duty.

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Woman discovers she just can't informally import foodstuffs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Border patrol agents monitor Costa Rica’s borders for drugs and illegal firearms entering the country, but a Nicaraguan woman found out the hard way that she should have left her beans and fish at home.

Friday border police said they had confiscated 80 mojarra  (a small fish), 44 kilograms of red beans, two liters of milk and platano in vinegar among other items. The 35-year-old woman, identified by her last names of Castillo Ortiz, was coming from Nicaragua presumably to her residence in La Carpio in La Uruca San José.

La Carpio is home to large numbers of Nicaraguan immigrants.

The police reported that the bags the woman had on the bus were suspicious, and the goods were not being properly transported in accordance with importation laws and guidelines for food products set by the Ministerio de Salud, possibly putting the health of consumers at risk.
fish and beans
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Segruidad Pública photo
Here are the products that were being imported in baggage on a bus.

Falling carbon dioxide levels blamed for Antarctic ice sheet
By the Purdue University news service

A drop in carbon dioxide appears to be the driving force that led to the Antarctic ice sheet's formation, according to a recent study led by scientists at Yale and Purdue universities of molecules from ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples.

The key role of the greenhouse gas in one of the biggest climate events in Earth's history supports carbon dioxide's importance in past climate change and implicates it as a significant force in present and future climate.

The team pinpointed a threshold for low levels of carbon dioxide below which an ice sheet forms in the South Pole, but how much the greenhouse gas must increase before the ice sheet melts, which is the relevant question for the future, remains a mystery.

Matthew Huber, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue, said roughly a 40 percent decrease in carbon dioxide occurred prior to and during the rapid formation of a mile-thick ice sheet over the Antarctic approximately 34 million years ago.

A paper detailing the results was published Thursday in the journal Science.

"The evidence falls in line with what we would expect if carbon dioxide is the main dial that governs global climate. If we crank it up or down there are dramatic changes," Huber said. "We went from a warm world without ice to a cooler world with an ice sheet overnight, in geologic terms, because of fluctuations in carbon dioxide levels."

For 100 million years prior to the cooling, which occurred at the end of the Eocene epoch, Earth was warm and wet. Mammals and even reptiles and amphibians inhabited the North and South poles, which then had subtropical climates. Then, over a span of about 100,000 years, temperatures fell dramatically, many species of animals became extinct, ice covered Antarctica and sea levels fell as the Oligocene epoch began.

Mark Pagani, the Yale geochemist who led the study, said polar ice sheets and sea ice exert a strong control on modern climate, influencing the global circulation of warm and cold air masses, precipitation patterns and wind strengths, and regulating global and regional temperature variability.
"The onset of Antarctic ice is the mother of all climate tipping points," he said. "Recognizing the primary role carbon dioxide change played in altering global climate is a fundamentally important observation."

There has been much scientific discussion about this sudden cooling, but until now there has not been much evidence and solid data to tell what happened, Huber said.

The team found the tipping point in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for cooling that initiates ice sheet formation is about 600 parts per million. Prior to the levels dropping this low, it was too warm for the ice sheet to form. At the Earth's current level of around 390 parts per million, the environment is such that an ice sheet remains, but carbon dioxide levels and temperatures are increasing. The world will likely reach levels between 550 and 1,000 parts per million by 2100. Melting an ice sheet is a different process than its initiation, and it is not known what level would cause the ice sheet to melt away completely, Huber said.

"The system is not linear and there may be a different threshold for melting the ice sheet, but if we continue on our current path of warming we will eventually reach that tipping point," he said. "Of course after we cross that threshold it will still take many thousands of years to melt an ice sheet."

What drove the rise and fall in carbon dioxide levels during the Eocene and Oligocene is not known. The team studied geochemical remnants of ancient algae from seabed cores collected by drilling in deep-ocean sediments and crusts as part of the National Science Foundation's Integrated Ocean Drilling program. The biochemical molecules present in algae vary depending on the temperature, nutrients and amount of dissolved carbon dioxide present in the ocean water.

These molecules are well preserved even after many millions of years and can be used to reconstruct the key environmental variables at the time, including carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Pagani said.

Samples from two sites in the tropical Atlantic Ocean were the main focus of this study because this area was stable at that point in Earth's history and had little upwelling, which brings carbon dioxide from the ocean floor to the surface and could skew measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, Huber said.

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2011 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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Chávez convenes group
to rival U.S.-backed bloc

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has opened a two-day summit of Latin American leaders to inaugurate a new regional bloc that excludes the United States and Canada.

The regional leaders gathered Friday in Caracas as the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, was launched. Unlike the Washington-based Organization of American States, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will have Cuba as a member. Cuban President Raúl Castro and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff are among the leaders attending the Caracas talks.

When asked about the U.S. exclusion from the grouping, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. will continue to work with Latin American nations through the Organization of American States.

The summit was to have taken place in July to coincide with Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence. The talks were delayed because Chávez recovered following surgery in Havana to remove a malignant tumor. The Venezuelan leader has not said what kind of cancer he was diagnosed with, but said he has beaten the disease.

Chávez has said previously he will be healthy enough to campaign and win re-election to another six-year term in 2012. Chávez, who is 57, has been in power since 1999.

In San José, Casa Presidencial said that Vice President  Alfio Piva was attending the Caracas meeting. The Costa Rican government acknowledged that Chile will preside over the organization for 2012, and Cuba will preside in 2013. However, Costa Rica has been tapped for the presidency in 2014, said Casa Presidencial.

U.S. cranks up its effort
to release Gross in Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States is renewing calls for Cuba to release imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who on Saturday will have served two years behind bars on state security charges.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called Friday for Havana to free the contractor immediately, saying it is past time for Gross to be allowed to return home to his family, where he belongs.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner also made similar comments in a statement on Gross. 

"I did want to note that tomorrow, Alan Gross will begin his third year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. He was arrested on December 3, 2009, and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating connectivity between Havana’s Jewish community and the rest of the world," said Toner.

Toner described Gross as a 62-year-old husband, father and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries.

Gross was arrested for bringing communications equipment into Cuba while working for a private firm contracted with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The company says he was working for the Cuba democracy program, bringing Internet access to Cuba's Jewish community. Gross has said his actions were not intended to be a threat against the Cuban government. The program is supervised by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Gross's wife, Judy, said in an interview that she recently visited her husband in prison and found him depressed and angry. Judy Gross says the U.S. government could be doing more to gain her husband's release and she wants the United States and Cuba to work something out.

Besides Judy Gross, Alan Gross has received visitors such as former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

The latest visitor was the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the general secretary of the U.S. National Council of Churches. He discussed his meeting at a press conference Friday in Havana.

"We met with Alan Gross for a considerable amount of time, 45 minutes or an hour.  We talked about his sense of certainly being unjustly accused," said Kinnamon.

Kinnamon also said he was not there to pass judgment on the validity of the case.

Several weeks ago, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson visited Cuba, but failed to secure Gross's release.

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said the Cubans, through their continued detention of Gross, have shown the world "the true nature of the regime," which he said is sustained through violence, tyranny and repression of even the most basic human and civil rights.

Menendez is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to demand Gross's release and repeal regulatory changes that Menendez says have "provided an economic lifeline to the regime" through a historic easing of travel and remittances to the island. Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee.

The case has further strained relations between the United States and Cuba, which do not have formal diplomatic ties.  A decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in effect, and Obama said it will stay in place until Havana takes steps toward democratic reforms.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 240
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Tom and Norman Home
Christmas benefit Sunday

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Little Theatre Group plans a Christmas benefit concert Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

The concert will raise funds for the Tom and Norman Home for Unwanted Adults in Guåpiles. The home has been a favorite charity of expats for years. The home provides a refuge for seniors without funds or family.

The show this year is under the direction of Annette Hallett, and there is just one performance.

Carolers will invite the audience to join them as they present favorite songs of the season.

The show is at the Teatro Laurence Olivier on Avenida 2 at Calle 28 adjacent to the Sala Garbo.  Reservations can be made on the Little Theatre Group's Web site.

Police face investigation
after gun was concealed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three Fuerza Pública officers and a member of Heredia's Policía Muncipal are facing allegations that they distorted a police report and concealed the confiscation of a firearm.

A prosecutor in Heredia was seeking preventative detention for the men.  The Poder Judicial said that they hid evidence and put false information in a police report.

The case began Nov. 11, the day after four men stuck up a bus company, stole money and took a firearm.

Police detained the next day a robbery suspect who was carrying two weapons, his and the one that is presumed to have been robbed. The man was remanded to prosecutors on the allegation of carrying an illegal weapon but not for robbery, and the confiscated weapon owned by the bus company was not mentioned in the report, said the Poder Judicial. Instead, the weapon was turned over to the bus company, said the Poder Judicial.

Man who shot thief
faces trial Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man goes on trial Tuesday in the Tribunal Penal de Limón because he delivered a fatal bullet to a man stealing sheets of zinc.

The shooting took place July 9, 2006, in Davao de Bataán, according to the Poder Judicial.  Dead is Renan Antonio Ortiz Cortés. On trial is a man with the last names of Araya Jiménez.

The Poder Judicial said that Araya spotted Ortiz and another man stealing the zinc from private property, ordered him to halt and fired when he did not.

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