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(506) 2223-1327         Posted Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 246           E-mail us
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Cookies ready to be sent to friends and family
Warm the oven and ward off the chilly weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the overnight temperatures threatening to set a record low for the year, a couple of batches of cookies can quickly warm the inside environment.

Plus, cookies are a great way to say happy holidays because they come from the heart as well as the oven.

Ticas probably are hard at work producing homemade tamales for the holiday parties. No one would be caught dead with a Mas x Menos tamal, although emergency shipments from Aserrí probably are acceptable.

In other homes, the family traditions dictate the baking recipes. Each culture has its holiday food. Staples for baking are easy to get here, and many are price controlled.

The cold weather seems to amplify the desire for hearty foods. That includes flaky horseshoes filled with a walnut and sugar mix. Butter cookies are another tradition, and the creamy delight is not in
 short supply, thanks to the nation's dairy producers. One recipe requires a pound of butter for 60 to 80 small cookies.

Supermarket jam is perfect for tortes, and using Smuckers eliminates a lot of the prep work. Still, the ferias are filled with fruits that can be incorporated from scratch. And there is ample reason for experimentation.

Would pejibayes produce a memorable Christmas cookie? They make a great soup.

Overnight temperatures are expected to reach 12 C in the Central Valley and perhaps 10 C at higher elevations. That's from 50 to 53.6 on the Fahrenheit scale.  The temperature is not very challenging for expats from northern climes. After all the overnight low in Florida was predicted at 20 F. In Chicago it was -10.8 C (12.6 F) Monday night. But for Ticos who live in well-ventilated homes the time has come for the heavy blankets.

All the more reason to put several batches of holiday cookies in the oven.

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Big day today for cell firms
that seek to open up here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This morning the telecom agency will receive bids from private firms interested in setting up a cell phone system in Costa Rica.

This is the long-awaited bidding session that has been derailed multiple times by legal problems.

For international telecom firms, the ticket to participate costs $70 million. That is what the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones has set as a concession fee for the three companies that win the right to one of the three sets of telecommunication frequencies being auctions.

The actual opening of the proposals will be at the Hotel Intercontinental between 10 and 11 a.m. The specifics of the financial bids will not be known at that time. They will be submitted in sealed envelopes for later, said the Superintendencia.

George Miley, president of the Superintendencia, said that his agency has made a great effort to arrive at this point. A principal stumbling block was the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, which has been the monopoly telephone provider. The bid opening today is only possible because the company known as ICE under pressure withdrew its latest legal claim.

The private phone systems are a direct result of the Central American Free Trade Treaty which forced open access for private firms.

If all goes well, the country will have four cell phone operators, including ICE.

Each concession is for 15 years.

Not just any firm can participate. The Superintendencia said that a firm must already have 1.8 million mobil subscribers elsewhere and have been in operation for five years. The firms also must have experience in setting up a new cell system and have income of $450 million a year for at least three years.

A committee has been set up to study the technical qualifications of the firms. Once the committee qualifies the participating firms, another open session will be held to reveal the economic offers from the firms. Until then, the folders containing the economic information will be kept in a bank, the Superintendencia said.

The Superintendencia expects each of the new cell phone firms to invest a billion dollars in the first five years of operation. The agency estimates that for each dollar invested the country will receive $4 in indirect investment in development of infrastructure, transportation and other projects.

Incentives offered to drop
TDMA cell phone service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The 45,000 telephone customers that use the TDMA system are being offered incentives to dump their old phone and move up to the GSM or 3G service.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the phone company, has set up a raffle so that every customer who surrenders the TDMA phone and accepts a connection with a more advanced system can win concert tickets or tickets to soccer matches between Costa Rica and China or Costa Rica and Argentina at the inaugurals of the new stadium.

There also are 50 tickets for a concert with Shakira.

TDMA users have from Dec, 17 to Dec. 24 to take the company up on the offer.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has been trying to eliminate the TDMA service, even though some users say it is more reliable. They have announced that they would end the service only to be met with court action that prevented that from happening.

Of course those opting for the newer services will have to purchase a cell phone.

Two robbery suspects held
after wild chase in Golfito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A jewelry store stickup developed into a police chase punctuated by bullets in Río Claro de Golfito Monday.

The Fuerza Pública said that two men stuck up the El Nica jewelry store and fled in a stolen car about 2 p.m.

The owner of the car lost it a short time earlier when someone put a gun in his face.

The car containing the robbers fled onto the Interamericana Sur, and two policemen comandeered the vehicle of a passing motorist.

The fleeing robbers pegged what turned out to be .38-caliber bullets at the private car containing the police, but no one was injured, police said.

Eventually one of the robbers bailed out of the car. But a policeman also followed and managed to collar a suspect.

The robber in the car continued to flee. The pursuing policeman momentarily lost sight of the robber, but citizens nearby said a man had stopped and changed his clothes. The second suspect was found in some nearby wilderness. The man had bloody hands. Police said this was because he broke a display case at the jewelry story.

Officers said they found some of the loot in the car.

Suspects held in stickup
of meat delivery truck

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detained four suspects Monday afternoon in Matina and said they were involved in the robbery of a meat delivery truck and the taking of 15 million colons, about $30,000.

The suspects were detained when they rode in a car at the Chirripó bridge in Matina. The car was delayed by a traffic jam, on Ruta 32, the highway to San José, said police.

The truck holdup was in Las Romanas de Búfalo in Río Blanco de Limón, said police.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 246
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Nicaragua seems to be stoking the fires of nationalism
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Nicaraguan administration is playing the nationalistic card by suggesting that expats living in Costa Rica are being mistreated and that U.S. troops and warships are on the move.

Major Managua newspapers played up a La Nación news story Monday that said Nicaraguans complained of abuse and mistreatment in Costa Rica. The La Nación story was based on an information fair in San José Sunday in Parque la Merced.

The extent of the mistreatment chronicled in the news story was a Nicaraguan security guard who complained that he always had to work nights and a household employee who said she had been slapped by her employer during her 24 years here.

Both La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario played up the story.

However, it was a La Prensa story about U.S. forces that captured the attention of Costa Rican officials. The news story said that the Nicaraguan military was attentive and cautious at reports Costa Rica will let 46 ships of war with helicopters and 4,000 troops to conduct joint maneuvers.

The Costa Rican security minister, José María Tijerino Pacheco, quickly convened a press conference to say that no foreign troops were authorized and that the permission granted to U.S. ships had nothing to do with the controversial Isla Calero.

This is the same tale that has been promoted by Prensa Latina, the Cuban News service. The Cuban outlet came out with the same story last July when the Costa Rican legislature approved a routine request that allows U.S. ships to stop at Costa Rican ports, resupply and grant shore leave to crews.

The U.S. Embassy has said that the ship requests includes all possible vessels and that only about 20 percent of the ships on the list ever really visit Costa Rica.

The security ministry on behalf of the U.S. Embassy made the request of lawmakers in late November, and the matter is up for discussion now. The Costa Rican Constitution prohibits the arrival of warships without legislative approval.
La Prensa titles a television appearance by the Costa Rica security minister with the words "We are not thinking of invading you yet."

Principal opponents of the request in the legislature are the Partido Acción Ciudadana, the Partido Frente Amplio and the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana in the person of lawmaker Luis Fishman. The U.S. Embassy has pointed out the economic benefit of letting U.S. ships resupply here. Bar owners love sailers on shore leave.

The legislature here has to approve the arrival of U.S. ships every six months as it has done since 1999.

The military situation is sensitive to Nicaragua officials because the country's troops have invaded Costa Rican land on the Isla Calero and dug a ditch to divert the outlet of the Río San Juan to the Caribbean. The work is part of a project to provide better access to the river that forms the boundary between the two countries.

President Laura Chinchilla has declined to take any military action, and Costa Rica does not have war planes and heavy armament as does the Nicaraguan troops. Her administration has brought the invasion to the attention of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, which by treaty has authority over the national boundary. The country also has appealed to the Organization of American States and the United Nations Security Council. The results have been less than decisive, although there is a hearing in The Hague Jan. 11.

Lawmakers hope to see draft of revised traffic law this week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers studying the current traffic law have proposed 300 changes, including some in the 12 sections related to fines and penalties, according to a report from the Asamblea Legislative.

Lawmakers who took office May 1 inherited the controversial traffic law from the previous legislature, which tried in vain to make amendments to the law it had passed months earlier.

The committee studying the law hopes to have a draft ready this week and a substitute text of the law available before Christmas vacation.

The law has been accused of being too harsh with fines. A number of fines are 293,400 colons or about $587. Considering the violation, there could be multiple fines at a
single traffic stop or accident.

About 15 percent of the motorists have paid their fines. About 250,000 tickets have been issued since March when the full law went into effect.

Many motorists are expecting that the fines will be reduced, but they are coming to a point where they must pay the annual road tax, and to do so they must clear any traffic violations.

Enforcement has been spotty. Traffic police prefer roadblocks instead of stopping violators on the highway.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana said that it would agree to reduce some fines, but fines for reckless driving and drunk driving should remain high. Traffic police have confiscated so many vehicles from serious violators that there is no more room in impound yards.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 246

Bering core drilling shows warmer ocean during Pliocene

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and the University of California-Santa Cruz
news service

A new report said that the Bering Sea was warmer 3.5 to 4.5 million years ago and that the carbon dioxide level in the air was about the same as today.

Air temperatures were a few degrees higher, too, according to a new report.

That period pre-history is called the Pliocene Warm Period, a time when the earth was warmer than it is today.

The Bering Sea is between Alaska and Siberia north of the Aleutian chain.

Christina Ravelo, an ocean scientist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and Alan Mix of Oregon State University supervised deep core drilling of the Bering sea floor, the university reported. The results indicate that the region was ice-free all year and had high biological productivity during the last major warm period in Earth's climate history, according to the university.

The university gave this account in a news release:

The researchers drilled down 700 meters through rock and sludge to retrieve sediments deposited during the Pliocene Warm Period, 3.5 to 4.5 million years ago.

"Evidence from the Pliocene Warm Period is relevant to studies of current climate change because it was the last time in our Earth's history when global temperatures were higher than today," Ms. Ravelo said.

Carbon dioxide levels during the Pliocene Warm Period were also comparable to levels today, and average temperatures were a few degrees higher, she said. Climate scientists are interested in what this period may tell us about the effects of global warming, particularly in the polar regions. Current observations show more rapid warming in the Arctic compared to other places on Earth
and compared to what was expected based on global climate models.

Ms. Ravelo's team found evidence of similar amplified warming at the poles during the Pliocene Warm Period. Analysis of the sediment samples indicated that average sea surface temperatures in the Bering Sea were at least 5 degrees C warmer than today, while average global temperatures were only 3 degrees warmer than today.

Samples from the expedition showed evidence of consistently high biological productivity in the Bering Sea throughout the past five million years. The sediments contain fossils of plankton, such as diatoms, that suggest a robust ecology of organisms persisting from the start of the Pliocene Warm Period to the present. In addition, samples from the Pliocene Warm Period include deep-water organisms that require more oxygenated conditions than exist today, suggesting that the mixing of water layers in the Bering Sea was greater than it is now, Ms. Ravelo said.

"We usually think of the ocean as being more stratified during warm periods, with less vertical movement in the water column," she said. "If the ocean was actually overturning more during a period when it was warmer than today, then we may need to change our thinking about ocean circulation."

Today, the Bering Sea is ice-free only during the summer, but the sediment samples indicate it was ice-free year-round during the Pliocene Warm Period. According to Ms. Ravelo, the samples showed no evidence of the pebbles and other debris that ice floes carry from the land out to sea and deposit on the seafloor as they melt. In addition, the researchers didn't find any of the microorganisms typically associated with sea ice, she said.

"The information we found tells us quite a bit about what things were like during the last period of global warming.
"It should benefit the scientists today who are sorting out how ocean circulation and conditions at the poles change as the Earth warms," Ms. Ravelo said.

This bottle of rum packed
better than average punch

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police discovered two separate incidents of individuals trying to smuggle cocaine out of the country in containers.

In Liberia at Daniel Oduber airport, the container was a bottle of aged Flor de Caña Nicaraguan rum. The individual who is a suspect in that case is a Cuban woman who is now a Canadian citizen. Police identified her by the last name of De Paulo.

The woman was headed to Belgium when police weighed the bottle of rum. The weight differed from what a bottle of rum should weigh. A second bottle, labeled whisky, also was suspicious. Agents said they found cocaine mixed with the alcohol.

At Juan Santamaría airport the container was shampoo. Two men, also Cubans, on the way to Toronto are suspected of smuggling cocaine in these containers. They were identified by the last names of De la O Rodríguez and Angelo Cruz.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 246

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 Mrs. Clinton tells Haiti
it must end voting crisis

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Haitian government must do more to help resolve the crisis sparked by disputed presidential elections in the impoverished nation.

Mrs. Clinton said Monday that a key U.S. senator's call for the freezing of U.S. aid to Haiti should send a "very strong signal" that the United States expects more from the country. 

Mrs. Clinton spoke in Wakefield, Quebec, where she was meeting with her Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, called Friday for a freeze on U.S. aid to Haiti and a denial of travel visas to its top officials until the election problems are resolved.

In Haiti, thousands of people, many of them supporters of the third-place finisher, Michel Martelly, took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in protest, after the results were announced last week. They started fires, threw rocks and set up barricades.  Days of rioting left at least five people dead.

In a statement, Leahy alleged that those in power in Haiti are trying to subvert the will of the people in the earthquake-ravaged country.   He said the United States must come down squarely in support of the Haitian people's right to choose their leaders freely and fairly. 

Two of the three top candidates in the disputed election have rejected a planned recount of the vote.

Martelly, a popular musician who finished third by less than 1 percent in the November election, dismissed the electoral council's proposed recount as untrustworthy. 

The candidate with the highest vote tally, Mirlande Manigat, said she is rejecting the review because its procedures are unclear.

As things stand, Manigat will compete in a runoff election on Jan. 16 against ruling party candidate Jude Celestin.  As the third place candidate, Martelly would not move on to the second round.

The U. N. Security Council has called on all sides in Haiti to end the violence.  The council also called on all political forces to work through the electoral process to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the outcome.

Protesters have accused the ruling coalition of rigging the results of the Nov. 28 election.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.  It is struggling to recover from a January earthquake that left more than 200,000 people dead and 1 million others homeless.  The country is also dealing with a cholera outbreak that has killed about 2,000 people.

Bus collections alert
issued by state agency

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some of those seekers of donations in buses are not on the level.

One organization, the Dirección Nacional de Centros de Educación y Nutrición y de Centros Infantiles de Atención Integral, said Monday that persons seeking funds were using the organizational name but were not connected to it.

The organization, a state agency, never collects on a bus, said a news release.

Christmas brings out all kinds of solicitors. Some are legitimate and some are not. But the Dirección Nacional said that those who wish to make a donation can do so via a bank deposit and not on the street or in a bus.

Bus vendors and bus solititors are common. They make deals with drivers and hop on a bus to give a speech and sales pitch. They then try to collect money from what is basically a captive audience.
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Latin growth in 2010 put
at a 6 percent average

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Following a 1.9 percent decline in 2009, Latin America and the Caribbean will grow by 6 percent in 2010 thanks to the economic recovery posted by most countries in the region, according to an annual report launched by the Economic Commission for Latin America.

In the "Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean 2010," presented by Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of this U.N. regional agency, countercyclical measures adopted by several countries in the wake of the international financial crisis have been shown to have a positive impact on economic growth, which points to a 4.8 percent rise in per capita gross domestic product for this year.

The consolidation of the upturn also had a positive effect on regional employment, with the unemployment rate falling from 8.2 percent in 2009 to around 7.6 percent, while the quality of jobs created also improved.

Meanwhile, inflation edged up slightly from 4.7 percent in 2009 to an estimated 6.2 percent in 2010, mainly due to international prices for some commodities.

Although the growth of the region's countries has been uneven, most recorded positive figures for 2010. South America will grow by 6.6 percent, while gross domestic product is expected to rise by 4.9 percent in Mexico and Central America and by 0.5 percent in English-speaking and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries.

Paraguay will post the strongest growth (9.7 percent), followed by Uruguay (9 percent), Peru (8.6 percent) and Argentina (8.4 percent).  Brazil will grow by 7.7 percent, while Mexico and Chile will expand by 5.3 percent.

In contrast, Haiti and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are expected to see gross domestic product fall by 7 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

From the second half of 2010 onwards, many factors have generated a less optimistic scenario for the international economy, and this combines with weaker demand from public policies and the shrinking of idle productive capacity to give a lower growth forecast for the region of 4.2 percent in 2011 (approximately a 3 percent rise in per capita gross domestic product).

Externally, there remains major uncertainty about the robustness of the recovery in developed economies, especially those in Europe. In addition, emerging economies have gained in strength in relative terms, especially Latin American and Caribbean countries, thus increasing the flow of capital towards the region and causing currency appreciations there.

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