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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Dec. 10, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 244           E-mail us
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ARenal steaming
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica photo
Arenal continually erupts, and its emissions are high in carbon dioxide.
Volcanos here are anything but carbon neutral
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica repeated its promise Thursday that it will become the first carbon neutral country by 2021. Vice President Alfio Piva told this to the U.N. climate summit in Cancún, México.

The vice president spoke for six minutes to say that Costa Rica will achieve this goal in 2021 and that the country will invest 1 percent of its gross domestic product each year to reach this goal.

The goal has been set because from 9 to 25 percent of so-called greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide. Methane is another contributor, but by far the greatest percentage is from water vapor. The greenhouse gases are what keep Planet Earth habitable, but an estimated 40 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions since the 18th century are believed to contribute to an increase in the average temperature.

Costa Rica will seek to balance its carbon emissions in order not to contribute to the increase in carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.

But first it has to define what it means. The usual definition is that the country will try to offset its use of fossil fuels. Costa Rica has an advantage because much of its electricity is generated by hydro plants and not petroleum.

Certainly the country will include the emissions from automobiles in the equation. Each gallon of gasoline produces 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide, and a gallon diesel produces 22.2 pounds, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since the only importer of gasoline is the government's Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A., computing fuel use should be easy.

But should Costa Rica also include its volcanos? Or how about the carbon dioxide emissions from humans and animals. These are some questions that have to be considered as the country seeks to achieve that goal.

On the other side, plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Presumably this will be worked into the formula. This is why Costa Ricans are taught to be so respectful of trees.

Researchers at the Universidad de Costa Rica determined nine years ago that Volcán Poás, even in an inactive stage, produces 749 tons of carbon dioxide each day. The volcano also produces daily 20 kgs. of mercury, 48 kgs. of hydrogen and 655 kgs. of methane, they said.

The carbon dioxide figure is equivalent to more than 77,000 gallons of gasoline, based on the Environmental Protection Agency figures.

And there are a number of volcanos in the country.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de
Irazú erupting
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico
de Costa Rica file photo
Irazú erupted in 1963 and caused lots of problems in the Central Valley.

Poás spews gases
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico
de Costa Rica file photo
Volcán Poás puts out 749 tons daily of carbon dioxide, according to a 2001 report.

Costa Rica reported this week on volcano gas emissions and said it was planning to do a detailed inventory of the five volcanos that the Heredia- based agency monitors. They are Rincón de la Vieja, Arenal, Poás, Irazú and Turrialba.

Naturally an active volcano will produce more gases and more carbon dioxide. The observatory is interested now because Irazú, Turrialba and Poás are emitting more gases, and vegetation is being affected by the sulfur in the fumes. Arenal erupts continually.

The observatory gave no date for its carbon dioxide estimate, but did say it would compare the emissions by the mountains to vehicle emissions.

The observatory also warned that carbon dioxide is not as harmless as many think. It is heavier than normal air and can fill pockets in the landscape with fatal results.

First the observatory will have to determine the composition of each mountains emissions. Some volcanos elsewhere spew out gas that is nearly all water vapor. The composition is variable, depending on the volcano and the state of activity. The observatory said that Arenal is high in carbon dioxide emissions.

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Nicaraguan officials asked
to come to a meeting Dec. 20

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican foreign ministry said Thursday night that it has invited Nicaraguan diplomats to Liberia, Guanacaste, Dec. 20 to discuss the Isla Calero situation at the northeast border of the country.

The invitation went to Samuel Santos López, foreign minister of Nicaragua. It was from Carlos Alberto Roverssi Rojas, who is acting foreign minister in Costa Rica because René Castro is out of the country. The purpose of the session would be to define the zone where there will be no troops or civilian forces, said the letter.

The Organization of American States has called on both countries to vacate the region around the border. Nicaragua has put troops on land that belongs to Costa Rica, and Costa Rica responded by putting heavily armed police tactical squad members nearby. The note went to Harold Rivas, the Nicaraguan ambassador here at noon, said a summary from the ministry.

Costa Rica declined to meet with Nicaraguan officials last month for a regularly scheduled meeting on the Río San Juan. The country had demanded that the Nicaraguan troops leave the island. The troops and workers are digging a new mouth for the river to accommodate tourism in the area.

Costa Rica has expressed concern about the environmental damage as well as the invasion.  Vice President Alfio Piva  denounced the invasion at a session of the U.N. climate summit in Cancún, México, Thursday.

Our reader's opinion
Taxing during recession
does not make sense

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This administration needs to learn the lessons that the U.S. voters put forth in the midterm elections. That is simply that you do not add taxes during these recessional times. It does not work to try to redistribute wealth without the citizenry revolting with their votes. With that in mind, I offer the following comments in regards to these taxes:

1. Solidarity (Luxury) Tax; Realizing that Costa Rica is "process oriented" not "result oriented" they managed to come up with the most convoluted process to assess the luxury tax on a few property payers with little results. I have yet to hear of one case where they have enforced the threat that those who didn't pay would be tracked down and fined a 10 times penalty or any case where those that undervalued their property more than 10 percent would be fined five times the value. And now the time is approaching to pay up again if you are like me and paid the taxes, while my neighbors did not, knowing that Costa Rica never follows through on ANY enforcement.

How to get results: Repeal this stupid tax and replace it with a simple 5 percent surtax on ALL property owners. This would bring into the government coffers much more funds with much less confusion and much more adherence. TOO EASY? This should result in near 100 percent compliance.

2.  Corporation Tax Proposed to "enhance security": Another anti-business move, another added tax during a recession, another job-killer. At least the non-active corporations should be exempted as most homes fall into this class and no income is generated. Why should these corporations pay taxes on zero income. Something is wrong with this picture!

3.  Value Added Tax being proposed: This is an excellent way to drive more of the poorer class of people further into poverty. I thought this administration was promising to narrow the gap? This would be a tremendous added cost of living to the people who now have trouble making ends meet and feeding their families. This is no time to add more taxes and add inflationary pressures to the people who live and work in Costa Rica.
I hope someone with some common sense can lobby for these legislators to apply some common sense for a change. Speaking of change, if they don't do so, the electorate will do so at the next elections.
Richard Beck
El Rodeo, Ciudad Colon

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.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 244
Latigo K-9

Seasonal feathered visitors are showing up to be counted
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Now that neotropical migrant birds are settled in and established on their wintering grounds in México and Central America, the new season of Monitoreo de Supervivencia Invernal can get underway. This program seeks to determine if survival in the birds’ wintering habitats is a limiting factor for a number of species that have been identified as declining in North America.

Last year there were about 30 monitoring stations operated in Central America, according to coordinator Leticia Andino, who works for the conservation organization Salvanatura in El Salvador. Overall management for the program is at the
Institute for Bird Populations at Point Reyes Station, California.

Constant-effort mist netting is the method for population

Photo by Daniel Martinez
This summer tanager was probably born somewhere in the southeast United States and migrated to Costa Rica for the winter.
monitoring used traditionally for breeding bird studies but now applied to wintering populations. Many migrant birds set up territories in Costa Rica just as on their breeding grounds. Birds are captured in mist nets, which are vertical nets with fine nylon mesh that are nearly invisible in the shade.

When birds fly into the net they are tangled and can be extracted and marked with colored or numbered leg bands. Each bird receives its own unique designation, and information is recorded as to species, age, sex, physical condition, and other details.

When these birds are recaptured during the same or later seasons, statistical analysis seeks to determine survival rates over the time span in question.

These techniques were developed in Europe and North America to look at breeding success of mostly resident species, and they have not been much applied to tropical birds. Results of a study from Sarapiquí were recently published in Zeledonia, the journal of the Costa Rican Ornithological Society. 

Some banding stations in Costa Rica operate almost year-round, with focus on migrants in the northern winter months and residents during the rainy season, when most breed. Two established banding operations on the Caribbean coast are at Tortuguero and Kèköldi.

Long-term studies focused on the same areas and bird populations can reveal some astounding facts along with the dry data.

One male Swainson’s thrush appeared 10 consecutive years at a banding station in the Oregon Cascades. Given that population seems to winter mostly in southern Mexico, researchers calculated that this one-ounce bird flew about 35,000 miles in its lifetime.

Flycatcher has a surprise for those who catch and count it
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Bird-banders don’t forget their first royal flycatcher. In the hand, the bird waves its head around with the colorful crown fanned and gaping orange mouth in a mesmerizing “cobra” show.

This display has been so rarely observed in nature that its function is not known with certainty, though presumably it is a display of aggression or sexual attraction. Both sexes do it, with the color of the crown feathers slightly duller in the female.

Otherwise the bird is an inconspicuous element of the understory avifauna of lowland rain forests and riparian growth on both slopes of Costa Rica. It ranges widely in the American tropics, though recent taxonomic classification changes have divided it into several species, of which the Mexican and Central American populations are considered northern royal flycatcher Onychorhynchus mexicanus. 

The crest is usually closed and imparts a distinctive hammerhead appearance. Gray and buff spots on buffy-brown plumage make good camouflage in the dim light of the forest interior.

The appearance is very slender with a length of 17 cm but a weight of only 21 grams, about three-quarters of an ounce.

Diet is flying insects like butterflies, dragonflies, and wasps. These are beaten against a perch to remove wings and stingers.

The nest is also highly distinctive, a slender pendent at least a meter long, invariably over a stream in the forest, and made of woven plant fibers and rootlets. Despite the long tail, the nest pouch is part way down the pendent with a narrow slit for an entrance.
Photo by Daniel Martinez
Flycatcher puts on a display when caught

Who is that face in the mirror? Someone we are stuck with
All is not lost with the new television channels.  The other night I caught a Dave Rose interview of Nora Ephron on Bloomberg News.  This was right after Rose had interviewed the former prime minister of Australia discussing the real new world order.  In short, "Go West, young man. Don’t stop at the Pacific, keep going West."

Ms. Ephron, screenwriter and director of some popular movies like "Julie and Julia," "You’ve Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," is a woman who speaks her mind and is usually pretty funny. Her new book, "I Remember Nothing," has more essays about her life, including, what else, but aging. Even talented and famous people grow old.  Ephron is hard put to think of anything positive about aging, and there are some days when I agree with her – actually most days.  Aging is like "The Man Who Came to Dinner."  As annoying as it is, we’re stuck with it because we opened the door. (We didn’t die).

When some people think about getting old, they think that one of the worst aspects is that there will be so many things they no longer can do: Hop on a train with no particular destination in mind, trek through rainforests or visit a country about which they know nothing. In some ways the fates are kind. Usually what happens first is you no longer want to do those things. It reminds me of how surprised I was when I realized one day that I stopped wanting to play with dolls, and, conveniently, that Christmas I didn’t get any.

Playing with dolls aside, when we were doing new things and taking chances and experimenting with life, we had to face unpleasant developments and hardships, which later became “adventures.”  When we get older, it is nice to recall those adventures – some of them.  Recalling others can make us wince at the bumbling involved.

And, of course, lots of things change.  Like the face in the mirror.  Fortunately, looking at ourselves every morning, we become used to what we look like or what we looked like and tend to see what we expect to see.  This can last for some time.  The aches and pains, most of them quite new, become a part of our life, as do some new acquaintances about whom we are possessive: 

My cardiologist, my rheumatologist, my oncologist, my homeopathist.  

Some people manage to host aging with grace and humor and generally good health.  I wrote about three of them several years ago.  Mavis and Doss, after rich and active lives, have since left this planet and recently, at the age of 96, Norma, the third of this triumphant trio also passed away.  All of us who know her will remember her good company and appreciate how impeccably dressed she was wherever she went. A great model for all of us.

But everything about the autumn of life, the senior years, or whatever euphemism you want to use, is not grim and gloomy.  It is a chance to revisit the classics, whether it is literature or the movies. We can view them both with the experience of life and knowledge we didn’t have the first time. Or maybe we will forget that we read them once. If you are like me, the novels and essays will hold up better
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

than some of the movies.  Even we have adjusted to the faster pace of life.

My friend Doug has been keeping me up to date about his sister, who has been a widow for three years.  Recently she contacted her high school sweetheart, from whom she was separated when her family moved.  (How many of us have thought about doing that?) He is also alone after a long
marriage.  They picked up the threads of friendship and have woven them into a new kind of love, just as thrilling.  Now, both 86, they are planning to move in together.  Some of us have even adapted to the changing mores, losing the inhibitions that we grew up with.

Although forgetting becomes part of life, one thing we should not forget is a sense of humor about whatever life brings while we still have it to laugh about.  Although she says she “remembers nothing,” that is something Nora remembers well.

Norma Lenkowsky served
as Women's Club president

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Norma Lenkowsky died on Dec. 2 after a short illness.  She was 96 years old.  She and her husband, Joe, moved from New Jersey to Costa Rica in the mid 1970s.  They lived in
NOrma Lenkowsky
Norma Lenkowsky
Cariari and Ciudad Colón. 

After Joe passed away, Norma moved to Santa Ana.  She joined the Women's Club of Costa Rica in 1976 and was a strong believer in the charity work of the club, helping Costa Ricans in need. She held many positions on committees and on the board of directors.  She was president in 1984 and 1985. 

She never stopped contributing to the club.  In the last few years, she was the elegantly dressed, smiling lady welcoming
everyone to club meetings, lunches, and fundraising events.  She will be missed.

She is survived by a daughter, son-in-law and several grand and great-grandchildren.  There will be a memorial service in early 2011.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 244

Judicial police urge action against crooked traffic officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization came out with some guidelines Thursday on how motorists should handle crooked traffic cops.

The agency encouraged motorists to use the cameras on their cell telephone to get photos of bribe-seeking tránsito officers.

The investigative agency also said that motorists should have all their paperwork handy so they do not give traffic police an excuse to extort money.

The problem of traffic bribes has increased since the legislature passed a new traffic law that contains what many believe are excessive fines. The new law seems to enrich crooked cops who are quick to give motorists a cheaper alternative.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has a unit that
specializes in crooked traffic officers. It urged motorists confronted with a bribe request to call 911 or to use the judicial police contact number:  800-8000-645. The agency said that the motorist ought to remember the name displayed on the chest of the officer.

The agency said that it expected an increase in the frequency of bribes now that the Christmas vacation is coming.

Judicial police in the last month have cracked down on bribe-taking at the Dos Rios driver's license testing facility. A number of employees who administer the road test were detained. Typically some take 5,000 colons (about $10) as a gift whether or not a new driver passed the test.

The agency also cracked down on the license issuing facility of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad in La Uruca where officials there were accused of manufacturing fake foreign licenses so that foreign applicants could get a license without taking the required tests.

Lawmakers move closer to getting a new home in Zapote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature is taking another step to obtain new offices.

Banco de Costa Rica is supposed to sign an agreement with lawmakers today in which the bank will buy a $23 million facility in Zapote overlooking the Circunvalación highway. The legislature would then rent the property.

The money is coming from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The location is not far from Casa Presidencial, but it is not easily reached on foot. President Óscar Arias Sánchez proposed moving Casa Presidencial
from the eastern San José site to the downtown so it would be near the Castillo Azul that lawmakers use now.

Lawmakers still plan to construct an office tower near the current legislature, although there have been problems in obtaining adjacent properties.

The current facility has not been maintained properly, and some lawmakers are in substandard offices.

There are bugs, leaks, overloaded electrical circuits and other problems. The Ministerio de Salud has ordered lawmakers to vacate the structure

New opinion page will feature readers' letters from archive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the first year that A.M. Costa Rica was published, reader letters were printed on a special page. That gave less than adequate exposure to some interesting thoughts and ideas that readers have.

Since then, reader letters have been published on a news page, frequently Page 2. Although those pages were archived and the reader letters are available with a search, they are hard to locate.

So beginning Monday reader letters were archived in a news feed that appears on A.M. Costa Rica's new opinion page.
The page also is being constructed to provide room for the newspaper's opinion and outside opinion that is designed to promote discussion and thought.

Also on the page, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders launches a strong defense of Wikileaks, the Web site that is publishing the formerly confidential or secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Please find it HERE!

And those who wish to comment on the guest editorial or on any other aspect of Costa Rican life are invited to send their letters to:

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 244

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Senate action uncertain
on bill aiding young illegals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has postponed a vote on the DREAM Act in order to introduce a version that already passed the House of Representatives.

It is not clear whether Democrats have the votes necessary to overcome a Republican-led procedural motion blocking consideration of the bill. The legislation would give young immigrants brought to the country illegally the chance to become citizens.

In a statement, President Barack Obama praised the passage in the House as "the right thing to do" for America. He says the bill would correct a flaw in the immigration system that punishes young people who have grown up in the United States and have already made contributions to their communities.

The measure faces stiff opposition from Republicans, who say it would encourage and reward illegal immigration.

The House approved the bill – known as the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors – in a vote of 216 to 198.

The measure would grant illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. while under the age of 16 the opportunity to gain legal residency – and ultimately citizenship – by going to college or serving in the U.S. military for two years.

Opponents say it gives illegal immigrants a fast-track to citizenship through college or the military, while immigrants who came to the United States legally do not have the same opportunity.

Brazil's economy growing
but reported at a lesser pace

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's booming economy cooled slightly in the July-to-September period but still advanced 6.7 percent compared to a year ago.

Latin America's biggest economy grew by one-half of a percentage point in the third quarter compared to the April-to-June period. That was down from the 1.2 percent gain in the second quarter.

Analysts said that the slower growth rate stemmed from higher interest rates on borrowing and the expiration of tax cuts on consumer goods. The third quarter growth in Brazil — the world's tenth largest economy — was the slowest since it emerged from the world economic slowdown in the April-to-June period of 2009.

Major emerging economies throughout the world, such as those in Brazil, China and India, have been growing rapidly. By contrast, established economies in the United States and Europe have struggled to regain momentum in the aftermath of the world recession and have grown at a much slower pace, if at all.

Brazil's growth has been fueled by strong domestic consumer spending, up 5.9 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2009. One analyst described the overall Brazilian economic growth as very positive.

Hatiain electoral panel
agrees to recount votes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti's electoral council says it will review the outcome of last month's presidential election following violent protests against the results.

The council released a statement Thursday saying it will recount the votes for the three leading presidential candidates.

Earlier this week, the council said former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Celestin had advanced to a runoff vote. Michel Martelly trailed Celestin by less than 1 percent and, as the third-place candidate, would not be moving on to the second round.

Wednesday, thousands of people angered by the results took to the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, starting fires, throwing rocks and setting up barricades.  Many of them are supporters of Martelly, a popular entertainer.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 244

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Two carloads of suspects
rounded up near Tamarindo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detained eight men after U.S. tourists were robbed at gunpoint on Playa Potrero, said the security ministry.

The eight were captured at the La Huacas crossing and appeared to be on their way to Tamarindo. The tourists lost personal effects and cameras, said the ministry.

The men were traveling in two vehicles. Officers said they confiscated a .38-caliber pistol and a radio scanner that contained the police frequencies.

Officers said they believed that the men would be suspects in a string of robberies of tourists in the area.

Sunday is election day
in the Cantón de Pococí

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday is election day in the Cantón de Pococí because flooding in the Barra del Colorado area caused election officials to cancel the voting last week.

The canton has 75,016 voters in six districts. There are 49 polling places.

Prosecutors accompanied by a judge raided the municipal building this week in search of evidence of wrongdoing by municipal officials. Prosecutors said they wanted to delay the raid until after the elections but when elections were delayed a week they decided to act.

The major race Sunday is for mayor and various municipal posts.

Barra del Colorado was under water from the worst flooding residents said they had seen in 40 years. The water was generated by the cold front that caused heavy damage and killed one individual in the rest of the country.

Caja barred from collecting
long-overdue payment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social has been barred from collecting a 10-year-old debt owed by an employer.

The case involves a short payment by a corporation on the social security charges for its employees. The Caja sought more than 3 million colons.

The Sala II said that the Caja is prohibited from collecting money later than two years after it discovers a failure to pay. The Caja has a network of inspectors who compare employer filings with the agency and with other government organizations to make sure all the social security payments have been made.

The Caja administers health services, including the hospitals, pensions and disability.

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