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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 242        E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Coro Alfa y Omega performs under Guadalupe González at Museo Nacionial as portal installed.
Religion has been and is a part of everyday life here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats and tourists frequently are mystified by the way religion is mixed with civil society here.

A classic example is a life-size nativity scene that for years was installed on the lawn of the Corte Suprema de Justicia building. No separation of church and state here.

In fact, Christianity is assumed. State offices have contests at Christmas creating the most attractive nativity scene. The Teatro Nacional inaugurated its elaborate nativity scene Friday night.

The Museo de los Niños welcomed Christmas Monday night. The Museo Nacional inaugurated its nativity scene or portal Tuesday.

The government will closed down more than two weeks for a Christmas holiday. The employees take a week off at Easter.

Easter is tougher on the tourists and expats because the law forbids selling alcohol Holy Thursday and Good Friday, two major Christian holidays.

Although many families spend the Christmas and  Easter holidays at the beach, this still is a religious country. The Roman Catholic Church benefits from the national budget, religion is taught in public schools, and many individuals profess their faith publicly.

Says the Costa Rican Constitution:

ARTICLE 75. The Roman Catholic and Apostolic Religion is the religion of the State, which contributes to its maintenance, without preventing
the free exercise in the Republic of other forms of worship that are not opposed to universal morality or good customs.

The Constitution notwithstanding, evangelical Christianity seems to have gained many followers in the past 20 years. Missionary activity is not restricted. But evangelicals are not likely to object to Christmas activities that usually are broad enough to include most faiths. A 2004 survey by the Universidad de Costa Rica said that 13 percent of the population identified themselves as evangelical Christians.

Still those who identified themselves as practicing (40 percent) and non-practicing (25 percent) Roman Catholics are the majority (65 percent), and the tradition runs deeps.

Private shrines are plentiful on homes and gardens. A satirical art display at the Museos del Banco Central ranked the Cartago-based Virgen de los Ángeles as one of the top three national icons. The others were guaro, the sugar cane liquor, and soccer fútbol.

The soccer stadiums are filled on the weekends, as are the bars, but each Aug. 2 perhaps as many as two million faithful walk from their homes to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles to pay tribute and seek special favors. Their homes may be in El Salvador, Panamá or anywhere in the Costa Rica.

Any country that can put nearly half its population as pilgrims on the highways to honor the Virgin Mary is probably not a fertile field for concern about a nativity scene. And most expats here recognize that.

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 242  

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Santa Ana man is victim
of violent robbers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Violent bandits broke into an expat's home in Santa Ana Monday night, pistol whipped him and took $33,000 in cash, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents identified the victim as Edward Scott Ringle, 53. They said he lives in Alto de las Palomas just south of Valle del Sol.

Four men were involved in the robbery, agents said. They broke into the home and threatened the occupant and then hit him in the face with the butt of a pistol, they said.

For good measure, the bandits took the man's vehicle, they said.

Museo Nacional planning
workshops for vacation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional has organized a number of workshops for parents and children during the 2007 school holiday. 

The events are organized for various age ranges, but those for children are also created for parent participation and accompaniment.  Classes run on separate days between Jan. 15 to Jan. 29, and participation is free. 

The only exception is that of the matrioshkas workshop, for which people are to provide a small amount of money for materials.  The museum has organized the workshops to fall within the days that children will be on their break from school.

Jan. 15, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 
Creating decorative items out of old odds and ends.
Meant for children age 7 to 10, and it is asked that parents bring old shoeboxes if possible.  Ilse Barahon will be running the workshop.

Jan. 15 and Jan. 16, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Learning to collect currency and old bills.
Meant for children over the age of 12, the workshop will be hosted by Marvin Fort of the Feria Numismática.

Jan. 16, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Josefina Butterfly and friends.
Meant for children between 5 and 6 years old.

Jan. 17, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Josefina Butterfly and friends.
Meant for children between 7 and 8 years old.

Jan. 17, Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Tai Chi workshop.
This event is for people age 15 and over, and those attending are asked to bring comfortable clothing.  The workshop will be led by professionals of the Centro de Artes Marciales.

Jan. 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Giants of the past.
Meant for children age 9 and older, this workshop's theme is prehistoric animals of Costa Rica.  Participants should bring clothing that can be dirtied. 

Jan. 18, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Creating a pre-Colombian vessel.
Meant for all adults and children.  Those attending are asked to bring plastic bags and clothing that can be dirtied.

Jan. 19, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Creating a jade object in pre-Colombian fashion.
Meant for children aged 9 and older.

Jan. 20, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
An Indian spirituality seminar
This event is meant for adults.

Jan. 22, from 8:30 to 12 p.m.
Designing wagons on fabric.
Meant for people 15 and older.  Those attending should bring white fabric and paintbrushes, if possible.

Jan. 22, Jan. 23, and Jan. 24 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Capoeira, the dance of war workshop.
Meant for people 15 and older.  The workshop will be presented by professionals from Centro de Artes Marciales.  Those attending are asked to bring comfortable clothes.

Jan. 23, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Orgami workshop.
Meant for those children 9 and older.

Jan. 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The Matrioshkas workshop, painting Russian style dolls.
Meant for those age 15 and older.  Those attending are asked to bring some money for materials and fine paint brushes, if possible.

Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Majesty game workshop.
Open to everyone, creators of the game, Majesty, will demonstrate how to play, and later involve all of those attending in a game of their own.

Jan. 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Little archaeologists' workshop
Meant for those 9 and older.  Participants are asked to bring comfortable clothing.

Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Children's theatre workshop.
Meant for those 15 and older. The workshop will be lead by Kattia Maple.

Jan. 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Drawing comics and cartoons.
Meant for those age 12 and older.  Designer Jonathan Mariño will lead the workshop.
More information is available by contacting the Museo Nacional either by phone, 256-8643, or online at educación@museocostarica.go.cr.

Escazú heritage houses
are now part of book

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The architectural heritage of Escazú Centro has been captured in a book, and cultural officials will present it today.

The book features 10 homes, some of them of adobe, an important building material in Escazú. The book is the work of the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio Cultural and was printed with funds from the municipality.

In addition to the dwellings, the book contains chapters on the history and detailed treatment of the use of adobe.

Carlos Zamora, historian for the Centro Patrimonio said all of Escazú Centro has been inventoried and the 10 houses selected and photographed inside and out.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 242  

Lawmakers seeking special debtor's court to cut paperwork
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who has tried to collect a debt through the courts knows that the paperwork is gigantic, the wait is a long one and the outcome is uncertain.

There is even a thriving business of kidnapping debtors in Costa Rica for the benefit of their creditors. The victim is held until arrangements for payment are made.

Government officials do not condone the kidnappings, but they agree that some steps must be taken to speed up the process of collecting a legitimate debt.

The issue was raised Tuesday in the legislative Comisión de Asuntos Jurídicos. A proposed law under consideration would make debt-collecting quick and easy, lawmakers promise.
The proposal would create a special branch of the judiciary to handle such cases. Lawmakers said that now some 80 percent of the lower court work is devoted to debt cases. In fact, debt cases saturate the judicial agenda at the expense of other cases, lawmakers said.

The proposal is that the special debt court would be financed by a piece of the debt collected.

Under the proposal, debtors would have less reason to contest the debt, said one proponent of the measure, Jorge Méndez of the Partido Liberación Nacional. Debtors could only show that the debt document was false, the debt is illegal or that the debt already has been paid.

Failing any of these defenses, the court would be empowered to seize goods or properties to auction to pay the debt, the lawmaker said.

Arias promotes his agenda of debt forgiveness in D.C.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez had a big day in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

He delivered a speech before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States.

He met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutiérrez to discuss the free trade treaty between the United States and Central America.

He spoke and sought foreign investments at a lunch meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

And he met with Democratic and Repubican senators where he gave a pitch that the United States should forgive some $103.7 milllion in debt in exchange for greater investments in education and the environment in Costa Rica.

The big meeting is today at the White House. Arias will try to sell President George Bush on the idea of forgiving debt. Arias also has some other items on his agenda.

He is expected to admonish Bush for a proposal passed by the U.S. Congress to build a security wall at the border with México. Arias also is continuing to promote his idea that more aid should be given to countries that forsake arms buildups in exchange for investments in social programs and education. And Arias also is promoting his idea that is being studied at the United Nations to require via treaty that arms manufacturing nations not ship weapons to places where there is a probability that they will be used to abridge the human rights of persons.

Bush is not believed to be warm to any of the proposals.

Casa Presidencial reported that Arias met with  U.S. Sen.

Organization of American States photo
José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, shares a humorous moment with Óscar Arias at the organization's Washington headquarters.

Harry Reid of Nevada who will be the future leader of the Democratic Party in his house and also with Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Tom Harkin of Iowa.

In an early evening speech to the Council of the Americas, Arias again pushed for debt forgiveness and promoted globalization. Said Arias:

"We must decide whether we will pay attention to those who urge us to turn our backs on globalization, close our borders and dust off the economic policies of forty years ago, or whether we welcome the arguments of those who believe that globalization does not offer certainties, but opportunities—opportunities that can only be enjoyed by those who choose the path of global integration."

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 242  

New research says Southern Ocean will slow global warming
By the University of Arizona News Service

The Southern Ocean may slow the rate of global warming by absorbing significantly more heat and carbon dioxide than previously thought, according to new research.

The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have moved southward in the last 30 years. A new climate model predicts that as the winds shift south, they can do a better job of transferring heat and carbon dioxide from the surface waters surrounding Antarctica into the deeper, colder waters.

The new finding surprised the scientists, said lead researcher Joellen L. Russell. "We think it will slow global warming. It won't reverse or stop it, but it will slow the rate of increase."

The new model Ms. Russell and her colleagues developed provides a realistic simulation of the Southern Hemisphere westerlies and Southern Ocean circulation.

Previous climate models did not have the winds properly located. In simulations of present-day climate, those models distorted the ocean's response to future increases in greenhouse gases.

"Because these winds have moved poleward, the Southern Ocean around Antarctica is likely to take up 20 percent more carbon dioxide than in a model where the winds are poorly located," said Ms. Russell, an assistant professor of geosciences at The University of Arizona in Tucson.

“More heat stored in the ocean means less heat stored in the atmosphere. That's also true for carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas."

"But there are consequences," Ms. Russell said. "This isn't an unqualified good, even if more carbon dioxide and heat goes into the ocean."
As the atmosphere warms, storing more heat in the ocean will cause sea levels to rise even faster as the warmed water expands, she said. Adding more CO2 to the oceans will change the chemistry, making the water more acidic and less habitable for some marine organisms.

Ms. Russell and her colleagues conducted the study while she was a researcher at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.

The article on the research, "The Southern Hemisphere Westerlies in a Warming World: Propping open the Door to the Deep Ocean,” will be published in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Climate. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration paid for the research.

The researchers characterize the Southern Ocean as "the crossroads of the global ocean's water masses, connecting the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as connecting the deep ocean to the surface."

The current set of computer models that scientists use to predict future climate differ in the degree to which heat is sequestered by the Southern Ocean. The models vary in how they represent the behavior of the Southern Hemisphere Westerlies and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the largest current on the planet.

"It's like a huge blender," Ms. Russell said as she held up a globe and demonstrated how the winds whirl around the southernmost continent. Those winds, she said, propel the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The current drives the upwelling of cold water from more than two miles deep. The heavy, cold water comes to the surface and then sinks back down, carrying the carbon dioxide and heat with it.

The new model forecasts this shift in the winds will continue into the future as greenhouse gases increase.

U.S. says it's seeking constructive Venezuelan relationship
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States said it will seek to have a constructive relationship with Venezuela after the re-election of populist President Hugo Chávez. But it turned a cold shoulder to an overture for dialogue from acting Cuban leader Raul Castro.

The Bush administration has had a rocky relationship with Venezuelan President Chávez, underscored by the populist leader's harsh personal attack on President George Bush September at the United Nations.

Nonetheless, the State Department says in the wake of the Chávez re-election victory, it remains hopeful for a positive and constructive dialogue with the Venezuelan government, noting that cooperation has continued in some areas during the eight-year tenure of Chávez.

The Venezuelan president sounded anything but conciliatory toward Washington in post-election comments. Echoing his controversial U.N. General Assembly speech, he framed his landslide victory as a setback for the United States — in his words a defeat for the devil and those who try to dominate the world.

Asked about the election outcome, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the Chávez rhetoric makes things a little more difficult, yet does not preclude the two governments being able to work together in areas of mutual concern, citing ongoing cooperation, for example, on combating drug trafficking.

"We are certainly able to look beyond those kinds of comments, if there's a true will or spirit of working together. I'm not sure that sort of rhetoric serves the Venezuelan government well in the long-run in terms of its international standing. But again, the Venezuelan people have spoken in terms of who they're going to elect as their president. And we will work where we can with the Venezuelan government on a positive agenda," he said.

The verbal attack in September is widely seen as having caused a diplomatic backlash that last month cost Venezuela an election for the Latin American seat on the U.N. Security Council, a seat eventually won by Panamá.

The president's fiery rhetoric aside, Bush administration
 officials have been most concerned about what they see as efforts by Chávez to intimidate or silence domestic opponents and to try to export his brand of left-wing populism.

John Negroponte, U.S. director of national intelligence, in a Harvard University speech last week, said the Venezuelan leader's meddling in the domestic affairs of other countries in the region, including giving safe-haven and material support to Colombian insurgents, has made him a divisive force.

Spokesman McCormack said U.S. officials would await reports from international monitors before commenting on the fairness of Sunday's voting. But he said the Venezuelan people should be commended for the way they conducted themselves on a day in which there were no reported incidents of serious violence.

Despite the conciliatory comments on Venezuela, McCormack made clear the United States is not interested in an overture for dialogue from Cuban Defense Minister Castro, the brother of President Fidel Castro. Raul Castro has assumed power in Havana on an acting basis because of the president's illness.

Raul Castro said in an address to Communist party and military officers last week Cuba was ready for negotiations with the United States on the basis of equality, reciprocity, non-interference and mutual respect.

Spokesman McCormack said the Raul Castro overture was misplaced and that he should be reaching out to the Cuban people on terms for a democratic transition. "I think the dialogue that needs to be had is with the Cuban people. You shouldn't get into a position, the Cuban people shouldn't be in a position, of having to substitute one dictator for another. So the dialogue that should be taking place is not between Raul Castro and any group outside, any country outside of Cuba. It's the regime, with the Cuban people, talking about a transition to a democratic form of governance in that country," he said.

McCormack said he did not see how the cause of democracy in Cuba could be furthered by having U.S. officials talk to what he termed a dictator in waiting, who wants to continue a form of government that he said has kept the people of Cuba down for nearly five decades.

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