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(506) 2223-1327              Published Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 244            E-mail us
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New study says ocean will rise faster and higher
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Coastal residents of Costa Rica could face sea level increase of between 75 and 190 centimeters by 2100, according to a new study by European researchers.

Converted to the U.S. measurement system, the rise would be between 29.5 and 74.8 inches. That would inundate much of the existing beach properties, at least those held in concessions in maritimes zones and drastically alter the country's geography. The spit that holds Puntarenas centro would vanish under water. The higher levels also would make even more land vulnerable to storm surges of the type that some Pacific coast residents now face because their properties are too close to the sea.

The study warns that sea level could rise much faster than previously expected. If correct, the report has implications for any new developments along the coast because most construction is expected to have a useful life of more than 100 years.

Helsinki University of Technology and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reported the study jointly. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The authors, Martin Vermeer of Helsinki University of Technology in Finland and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, based their analysis on measurements of sea level and temperature taken over the past 130 years, said the report. In those data they identified a strong link between the rate of sea level rise and global temperature.

“Since 1990 sea level has been rising at 3.4 millimeters per year, (.13 of an inch) twice as fast as on average over the 20th Century,” said  Rahmstorf, according to the universities' report. "Even if that rate just remained steady, this would already lead to 34 centimeters (13.4 inches)  rise in the 21st century. “But the data show us clearly: the warmer it gets, the faster sea level rises."

Rahmstorf said that if the world inhabitants want to prevent a galloping sea level rise, we should
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stop global warming as soon as possible, the report said. However, the sea has been rising for the last 10,000 years, and humans probably cannot stop global warming.
 
The link between the rate of sea level rise and global temperature was originally proposed by Rahmstorf in an article in the journal Science in 2007. The new study refines this idea, said the universities. It adds a second term to the equation in order to capture the short-term response of sea level, leading to greater physical realism as well as a much greater precision.

Vermeer and Rahmstorf also added the latest data sets, including satellite measurements up to 2008 and a correction for water storage in man-made reservoirs, which overall lowers global sea level by 3 centimeters, about 1.2 inches.

Their results, reported by the universities, show that with just 2 degrees C. (3.6 F.) warming over the 21st century, sea level is likely to rise by more than one meter. Their highest scenario, with over 4 degrees Celsius warming over the 21st century, would lead to over 1.4 meters (55.1 inches) of sea level rise by 2100. When the full set of emissions scenarios and estimated uncertainties are considered, waters may rise by anything between 75 centimeters (29.5 inches)  and 1.9 meters (74.8) by the year 2100 – consistent with another recent estimate of an upper limit of 2 meters, based on consideration of ice sheet dynamics.

“More noteworthy even than the very high figures for sea level rise is the almost clockwork precision by which, on climatic time scales, temperature drives sea level rise,” says Vermeer. The results of the study also demonstrate the quality of the existing sea level and temperature time series used, “painstakingly constructed from measurements at stations around the globe for well over a century,” Vermeer noted, according to the universities.

The projected rise is about three times as much as estimated in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, which did not fully include the effects of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 244

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Old habits are dying hard
at Costanera bridges


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The highway agency said that even though all the bridges are in service now on the Costanera Sur, some motorists and pedestrians continue to use old bridges. They suggested they were perplexed at these actions.

The word came from the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. The agency said all the new bridges are now in service. This includes new bridges at Parrita, Paquita and Naranjo.

The new bridges were awaited by the population for 60 years, and now some are not using them, said Alejandro Molina, executive director of the agency. He said the agency soon would put up signs to warn against the practice. The new bridges have sidewalks and cycle lanes, he noted.

Four other bridges also are in service. They are at Savegre, Hatillo Viejo, Hatillo Nuevo and Portalón where there are no adjacent older bridges.

The Costanera has been long awaited. At the same time that this route appears to be nearly completed, so is the San José-Caldera highway. Operators of the Autopista del Sol said there are just five more kilometers awaiting asphalt. Traffic continues to use the road even though part of the route is gravel and dirt. This is the toll highway that will cut off about an hour's time for a trip between San José and the Pacific coast. Some motorists will chose to head south when they reach the Pacific and end up on the Costanera.

Pirate CD vendors held

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José municipal police have detained a Colombian and a Costa Rican, and confiscated thousands of pirated movies on CDs.

The men were detained on Avenida Central. They were among the many persons who try to sell articles, including illegal CDs there.  After the arrests, representatives of the film industry filed complaints based on the movies the man had in a briefcase and in his car.

Crayons lack exclusivity

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's not that election officials are afraid voters will do harm to themselves. They have decreed that the Feb. 7 nationwide ballots will be marked with crayon. This concept is new this year, and some lawmakers wondered what might happen if a voter marked a ballot with something other than the prescribed crayon.

One lawmaker make an official inquiry of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. The response was that every marked ballot counts even if the crayon is not used, as long as the will of the voter is clear.

Our reader' s opinion
Law of clarity in tax law
creates pitfalls for expats


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you, Mr. Klenz, for clarifying the mind boggling lack of clarity in the new Luxury Tax.

It's as if it were written in accordance with a wish list with no further thought other than immediate gratification. While nearly every foreigner I know who owns property here would willingly pay a reasonable tax to improve infrastructure and living conditions in Costa Rica, they are deeply hampered and frustrated by this law's lack of clarity, its unreasonable conditions and draconian fines. It appears that this law is a case of putting the cart before the horse due to its lack of thought.

It would also appear that lawyers and appraisers will be the ones to profit handsomely. They have descended upon foreigners like vultures at a roadkill, and from the numerous sales pitches I've read so far they don't hesitate to put their own spin on the law, all of them quoting wildly different facts and figures requiring the taxpayer's compliance.

Prices for their services also vary from the reasonable to outright gouging. We all know that Costa Rica needs tax revenue however the success of this law will be limited by its failure to furnish the taxpayer with a clear and user-friendly explanation of how to comply and by its preposterous fines. The 5 percent and 10 percent fines are off the charts and are enough to scare even the wealthiest investors off in light of the fact that the law makes it almost inevitable that honest mistakes will be made.

During a time of economic crisis everyone is striving to limit their financial risks and this law exposes taxpayers to unreasonable risk.
Pamela Ellsworth
Nicoya Peninsula

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

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.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 244


State funeral planned for former president Rodrigo Carazo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Former president Rodrigo Carazo Odio will receive a state funeral today with services at 3:30 p.m. at the Catedral Metropolitana.

The former president, who died shortly after noon Wednesday, will lie in state from noon until 2:30 in the legislative Salón de Sesiones Plenarias. That will follow a 10 a.m. Mass in his home community of San Rafael de Escazú.

The 82-year-old Carazo served from 1978 to 1982 in a term marked by economic strife, the creation of the Universidad de la Paz, the completion of Parque La Sabana and the construction of the Zurquí highway tunnel.

The former president received tributes from all quarters Wednesday, including from Alianza Patriótica, which characterized him as the president with dignity. Alianza and Carazo opposed the free trade treaty with the United States.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez said "No one can deny that Don Rodrigo Carazo loved Costa Rica and worked without rest for her."
 
The legislature observed silence in his memory during its afternoon session Wednesday and Rafael Elías Madrigal recalled Carazo as a man who represented the best to be a Costa Rican.

Eva Carazo Varga, a candidate for deputy of the Frente Amplio, said "As ex-president of Costa Rica, Don Rodrigo became part of our history and will always be remembered as a great man who contributed to the development of this nation.

Alianza Patriótica praised him for facing the Somoza government of Nicaragua while he was in office and later opposing the so-called Combo de ICE, which was an attempt to privatize the electrical and telecom state monopoly.

José Merino del Río also mentioned the Combo fight that brought thousands of workers and family members into the streets during the Miguel Ángel Rodríguez administration.
ex president Carazo
Rodrigo Carazo Odio: A recent photo

"We share with Don Rodrigo Carazo in the historic fights to defend the institutions of the country, especially to avoid the privatization of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad," the lawmaker said on the floor of the assembly.

The Sandinista revolution tore apart Nicaragua during the first years of his administration. He worked hard to keep the forces of dictator Anastasio Somoza out of Costa Rica, not always successfully. For a time he considered the creation of a defense force to control the northern border. He also let the U.S. military use some bases in northern Costa Rica to first aid Somoza and later the growing contra rebel force.

Ironically, he had been director of the Banco Central de Costa Rica but when he became president the world economic crisis, a sharp decline in coffee prices and other problems forced a major devaluation of the colon. Many Costa Ricans still remember the food lines that resulted from the crisis.

Carazo, who was born in Cartago, began his elected service as a legislative deputy in 1966 when he also was named president of the assembly.

Some of his additional accomplishments as president were to make official the words of the Himno Nacional in 1979, to begin the effort that would become the International Court of Human Rights, to inaugurate the hydro project at Lake Arenal and to promote tourism.

Carazo had been hospitalized for a heart bypass operation. He is survived by his wife, Estrella Zeledón de Carazo.


Judge gives four bank robbery suspects conditional release
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prosecutors are appealing the decision by a judge in Alajuela to free four bank robbery suspects into conditional release. The judge said that the suspects must maintain a fixed home and sign in with the prosecutor's office every 15 days.

Prosecutors had asked that the suspects be jailed for preventative detention.

The four were arrested Tuesday in simultaneous raids in Alajuela. The four are suspects in the Oct. 9 bank robbery in el Coyol de Alajuela. At the time of the arrests, agents characterized the men as violent. The robbery also was said to be violent.                
Oct. 9 at least six men in two cars surprised a guard at the Banco de Costa Rica office in the free zone of Constenla.

They beat the man in the head with gun butts and broke glass windows to gain access to money. One shot was fired.

Police said at the time the robbers took 60 million colons, some $105,000.

The robbers were dressed as police officers and private security guards, which is how they appear to have managed to gain entry into the free zone.

At the time of the arrest, agents said some of the individuals had criminal records and that two other persons had been arrested earlier.


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Participants at Copenhagen are drafting proposed pacts

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Talks under way at the historic United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, have entered the drafting phase towards reaching a final agreement.

The two-week summit in the Danish capital entered its fourth day Wednesday, and negotiators have only a few days to wrap up their work before the start of the high-level segments next week, which will draw government ministers and heads of state.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has noted an eagerness among the parties to the talks to sit down and complete as much work as possible before the arrival of high-level government officials next week.

Responding to reporters’ questions today, Yvo de Boer, the convention’s executive secretary, underscored that the issue of finance must be resolved, both in the short- and longer-term.

“I hope indeed that this conference can even decide what mechanism will be put in place, first of all, to mobilize those financial resources, and secondly to spend them once they’ve been mobilized in a way that countries see as being equitable,” he said.

More than 100 heads of state and government, such as U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, are set to take part in the event — the largest ever on climate change — in Copenhagen, where nations are expected to wrap up agreements on an ambitious new climate change deal.

Over 34,000 people — mostly from non-governmental organizations — have registered to attend the conference, but the Bella Centre in which it is taking place can only hold 15,000. This is a testimony to the great interest generated by the summit, said UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky.

A system has been set up to allow organization delegates into the building based on a quota system.

Additionally, 7,000 kilometers of cables, long enough to stretch from Copenhagen to Prague, have been laid at the Bella Centre.

Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that the outcome of Copenhagen gathering will have reverberations for the future of humanity and the planet.

“We’ve come a long way in just two years’ time, but what we do now over the next two weeks will determine how we fare,” he told reporters in New York.

The secretary general expressed optimism that an immediately effective, robust agreement, which will include specific recommendations on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, will be reached.

“Copenhagen can and must be a turning point in the world’s efforts to prevent runaway climate change,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a strategy for cutting U.S. carbon gas emissions that emphasizes cooperation between the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress. EPA chief Lisa Jackson outlined the plan Wednesday at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen.
Two views of climate conference

Climate change is real

QUESTION (at daily press briefing):

How does the issue of the hacked e-mail messages on climate change affect the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen? Are we concerned? Is this an attempt to undermine the conference?

ANSWER (by Ian Kelly, State Department spokesman):

"Nothing in those e-mails is cause to question the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real and demands action.

"In fact, more than 2,500 scientists from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world’s leading body for the assessment of climate change – have outlined the serious threat posed by climate change and the need for action.

"Beyond the science, there are plenty of other environmental and economic reasons for us to move aggressively toward a clean energy economy. We want to ensure that America can compete and win when it comes to the race for clean energy jobs.

"As the White House spokesman said today, the issue of the East Anglia e-mails should not slow the process on climate change because the science is clear.”

It’s time bluff was called

"The threat is real.  Unless we, gathered here together resolve to take action there will be real and dire consequences.  Never before in my lifetime has the danger been so real, so close, so palpable.  The threat, however, is not from man-made global warming, but from man-made hysteria.  Yesterday, some 10,000 delegates representing over 180 nations flew into this lovely city for the start of the United Nations conference on Climate Change.  They represent the greatest threat to the health, safety, and standard of living for all mankind since the fall of twentieth century totalitarianism. . . ."

"I cannot remember any issue where one side has so insistently and effectively monopolized a discussion while stifling and excluding diverse viewpoints.  This is not how science is designed to operate.  For the scientist, questions, examination, indeed skepticism are the building blocks of the quest for truth.

"For the layman, who relies on their common sense and experience of the world to sort it all out, here is a handy guide.  When someone avoids debate, refuses to share data, resorts to name calling and character assassination, when they insist on rigging the game, they are not confident in their facts, nor their conclusions.  Public opinion polls show that the global warming crowd has lost the support of the people.  They know that the player who refuses to show their cards is bluffing.  It’s time the bluff was called. "

— Craig Rucker, executive director
and co-founder of The Committee
for a Constructive Tomorrow.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 244

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Mrs. Clinton on Honduras:
More still needs to be done

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Obama administration Wednesday applauded conciliatory steps promised by Honduran president-elect Porfirio Lobo. But it said more work needs to be done on national reconciliation before the political crisis spawned by the ouster of president Manuel Zelaya June 28 can be considered over.

The tone was set by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in a statement volunteered to reporters at a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko, had warm praise for the conduct of the Honduran presidential election late last month.

In the Obama administration's most specific comment on the election to date, Mrs. Clinton said the United States salutes the Honduran people for turning out peacefully in large numbers to take part in the polling, and congratulates president-elect Lobo for his victory.

Mrs. Clinton said the United States is encouraged by initial moves by the incoming Honduran leader to heal the rifts caused by the coup that deposed Zelaya, but she made clear the expressed intentions of the president-elect must be followed by tangible action.

"These November 29th elections marked an important milestone in the process of moving forward but not its end. President-elect Lobo has launched a national dialogue and he has called for the formation of a national unity government, and a truth commission as set forth in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord. We stand with the Honduran people and we will continue to work closely with others in the region who seek to determine the democratic way forward for Hondurans," she said.

The creation of a national unity government and a truth commission to look into circumstances of the coup were spelled out in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord hammered out before the election in mediation led by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sánchez.

While the United States had initially called for the reinstatement of Zelaya, it later accepted the accord brokered by Arias that left the issue up to the Honduran congress, which voted last week against restoring him to power.

Mrs. Clinton said she had spoken with President Arias Tuesday, when he was in San José with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli meeting with president-elect Lobo and other officials on the follow-up to the Nov. 29 election.

Mrs. Clinton noted in her statement that the United States had condemned Zelaya's expulsion and taken significant steps, among them aid cuts, to signal its determination that democratic order in Honduras be restored.

The United States Tuesday lifted a travel alert discouraging Americans from traveling to Honduras. But State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said a few more steps need to be taken before the situation with Honduras can be normalized.

New vice minister of culture

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A culture ministry insider has been named to a vacant vice minister spot.

The individual is Maribel Salazar Valverde, who has worked in the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y deportes since 1994 and most recently was in charge of the redevelopment of the Plaza de la Democracia. She also has served on the administrative board of the Museo Nacional.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 244


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Franklin Chang gets seat
on Cummins, Inc., board

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Cummins, Inc., announced Wednesday that Franklin Chang Díaz, chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Co. and former U,.S. astronaut, has been elected to the company’s Board of Directors.

Chang, 59, becomes the 10th Cummins Board member, and will serve on the board’s Safety, Environment and Technology committee, as well as the Audit, Finance and Governance and Nominating committees, the company said. His term begins immediately and he will stand for re-election at the company’s annual meeting next May. All Cummins directors are elected annually. The firm's headquarters are in  Columbus, Indiana.

Chang, a native of Costa Rica who moved to the United States as a teen, brings an extensive technical background to Cummins, said the company. In 1980, three years after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with his doctorate in nuclear engineering, Chang Díaz was selected by the national Aeronautics and Space Administration to be an astronaut candidate and earned his astronaut wings the following year.

During his 25 years at NASA, Chang was an integral part of the space shuttle program. While at NASA, he flew seven shuttle missions, logging more than 1,600 hours in space, and continued his research in applied plasma physics.

Chang retired from NASA in 2005 and formed Ad Astra Rocket Co., which has a research facility in Liberia. The firm is designed to continue his pioneering work in the VASIMR rocket engine, which NASA plans to deploy on the International Space Station in 2013.

Chang currently is leading Costa Rica’s “Strategy for the XXI Century,” a countrywide initiative aimed at transforming Costa Rica into a fully developed nation over the next 40 years.

Chang and his wife, Peggy, alternate their home between suburban Houston and Liberia, Costa Rica. The couple has four daughters, ranging in age from 14 to 36. In addition to his work at Ad Astra Rocket, Chang is an adjunct professor of physics at Rice University and The University of Houston.

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