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These stories were published Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 249
Jo Stuart
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Graduation photographers had an efficient way to match up youngsters with their photos Wednesday at the Escuela Metalica in downtown San José.  They hung the photos for the students and their parents.  The school year is coming to an end here.

Grandparents who hid child here facing trial
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A couple who hid with their grandson in Costa Rica for 11 years will face trial Jan. 24 on a charge of parental abduction. The couple maintains that they have not committed a crime and that they acted in the best interests of their grandson. 

Orpheus and Sonja Woodbury returned to the U.S. in October after working out a surrender deal with Costa Rican and U.S. Officials. They arrived in Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. and were immediately taken into custody by the FBI.

After posting bail bonds of $200,000 each, the Woodburys returned home to Virginia Beach, Va. where they now await trial. 

According to Mark Del Duca, the couple’s lawyer, the Woodbury’s gained custody of their grandson in 1993 after the boy’s parents divorced. The boy’s father, Clayton Saunders, did not apply for custody because his job kept him out of town for long periods of time. The Woodburys were given custody after the court decided that the boy did not have a stable family environment.

After several visitation battles with Saunders, the Woodbury’s moved to Costa Rica with their grandson to avoid further problems. Three months after the court’s initial ruling, however, Judge Woodrow Lewis granted custody to the 

boy’s father after the man remarried. The Woodburys remained in Costa Rica and defied the court’s order to return the boy to his father. 

Saunders spent the next 10 years searching for ways to retrieve his son, who is now an 18-year-old freshman at a private college in Virginia. He traveled to Costa Rica on several occasions to meet with his son, but he was consistently thwarted by the Woodburys efforts. Saunders even attracted the attention of ABC’s 20/20 in an attempt to reclaim his son.

While the return of the Woodburys has been a positive sign for Saunders, he does not appear to be any closer to gaining his son. Del Duca refused to offer the name of the son or of his mother, stating that the boy deserves his privacy. The son apparently does not have any plans to contact his father. 

The Woodburys returned to the United States partly out of necessity and partly out of desire, according to Del Duca. "They needed to return home to receive Mr. Woodbury’s pension from the Navy, but their grandson and their other 11 grandchildren also wanted them to come home," Del Duca said by telephone Wednesday.

The navy pension was embargoed when Woodbury became a fugitive.

The couple has been charged with four counts of parental abduction, penalties that can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence.

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Government offices all over Costa Rica have elaborate portals or nativity scenes on display. Here a visitor snaps a photo of the one at the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes in San José.

Annual bird count seen
as spark for funding

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the Christmas Bird Count approaches in January, several birding experts in Costa Rica are getting ready to make a push for a new birding foundation. Members of the Fila Costera counting group hope to use the popularity of the bird count to promote a new financial structure that would pay for additional bird counts during the year.

The 105th Christmas Bird Count will begin Jan. 3 in Costa Rica. The count has become a tourist attraction in Costa Rica, as birders from around the world travel to the forests to count the country’s wealth of native birds.

Noel Ureña is the organizer of the Fila Costera Christmas Bird Count in La Merced National Wildlife Refuge. "The bird count is very useful, but we need a group that can take more than one count a year," he said Wednesday. "We need a new foundation in order to support more counts and to support future conservation efforts.

The count is an important tool organized by the Audubon Society. The count's main purpose is to monitor the bird populations throughout the Western Hemisphere. By comparing the numbers from year to year, the society can better understand how bird populations are affected by different social and environmental factors. 

Some of the more dedicated birding experts will begin their counts as early as 3 or 4 a.m. Many of the other counters will begin their tabulations at around 7 a.m. 

The Fila Costera group will hold a dinner after the count and hopes to accumulate interest in developing the new foundation. "Many local birding professionals will be on hand and we need to speak with them about a new program," Ureña said.

Other national counts began on Tuesday throughout North and South America. All of the counts will be finished by Jan. 5.

New Christmas virus
speaks many languages

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Christmas season has generated a series of new virus messages that purport to send holiday greetings. And the virus is multilingual.

Radiogáfica Costarricense S.A., RACSA, the Internet provider, issued a warning Wednesday and said that Costa Rica is one of the countries most affected by this virus.

The virus is a worm that comes in on an e-mail message as an attachment. The e-mail message typically says "Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 2005."

Once the worm infects a computer, it mails itself to any e-mail address it find within. But Virus Portal, operated by Panda Software, an anti-virus marketer, says the virus can change languages depending on the suffix of the domain. For example, if the domain for the prospective e-mail ends in .es, the virus message will arrive in Spanish.

The virus is called Zafi.D.  A similar virus is called Safi, and RACSA calls it Erkez.

The virus may also travel as a phony e-card.

The virus randomly chooses return addresses, too, so the virus may arrive bearing the name of a friend or acquaintance of the computer user.

On a note of good news, RACSA reported that the Arcos I undersea cable is up and running again, although Colombia still faces problems due to a fault in the communications line. The line had been out of service due to a failure near Cancun, RACSA said.

Downtown arrests made 
after pedestrians robbed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigation Organization have arrested five persons in connection with robberies of pedestrians in the center of San Jose. 

Officials from the section of crimes against property carried out the operation in downtown San Jose. Three suspects, one of them under 16 years of age, were arrested in Cuesta de Mora at the scene of a robbery. The other suspects were arrested in Avenida Central when thugs tried to take a bag from a woman.

Robbers target man
at government office

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men tried to hold up a man in a transit ministry office Wednesday afternoon and managed to take a pistol from a private guard there.

However, one man fell into police hands after a chase. He was identified by the last names of Moreno Gonzáles. Officials said the scene was a Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes office in Barrio Cordoba in San José.

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Fuerza Pública honor guard provided a military air to proceedings.

Raúl Rivera Bonilla, head of tack squad, is honored.
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Etelvina Calderón Azofeifa, sister of officer slain in 2000, is embraced by María Helena Chacón, vice minister.
Security ministry honors fallen and injured officers
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry honored fallen and injured Fuerza Pública officers Wednesday and named the top officer of the year.

Three officers killed in the line of duty were remembered. One, Valerio Calderón Azofeifa, died Jan. 20, 2000, when he responded to a family dispute in Acosta and was stabbed.

The second, Vilmar Zuñiga Calvo, died Aug. 29, 2003, in the Sagrada Familia district of San José when someone stabbed him in the heart.

The third officer, Tomás Emel Fajardo Rosales, died just last month, Nov. 12, in Batán de Limón when he was chasing robbers. He suffered a gunshot wound to the eye.

All three men have been raised posthumously to the rank of captain. An additional 24 officers were 

honored for suffering wounds while on duty.

Raúl Rivera Bonilla, chief of the Unidad de Intervención Policial, the tactical squad, was named officer of the year. Rogelio Ramos Martínez, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, praised him for his leadership and versatility in handling a number of varied missions.

The squad, itself, was honored as the outstanding police unit. The tactical squad maintains order at events such as soccer games and also assists other units in risky situations.

Eric Karolicki, director general of armament for the ministry, received a valor medal for his actions Jan. 19 in San José when he drove his private automobile into a vehicle containing fleeing bank robbers. He was on his way to work at the time.

Leslie Marín Gómez, Warner Villalta Vargas and Luis Diego Guzmán also were honored for their administrative duties mostly in the computer field.

Shop owners hope to help residents in Nuevo Arenal
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jan Parrish and her family moved to Costa Rica from Colorado after buying a shop in Nuevo Arenal, Guanacaste. 

Ms. Parrish saw that the surrounding community needed help. In Nuevo Arenal, many mothers are unable to study due to the absence of day care centers.  Ms. Parrish saw that she could help by donating the money generated from her store to the community. 

The shop called Visions para su Pueblo has only been open for a few months. All proceeds from the store are used to pay college tuition for women in the community and the renovation of community buildings, a family spokesperson said. Owners hope that with the money that is generated from the shop they will eventually be able to subsidize a private day care facility.

Nelchina Sky, the daughter of Ms. Parish who helps with the shop, said that the shop needs donations from the public so that they can help the women in their 
community. "We have not had much help so far. We have rented out a place which we hope to fill with the donations. We mainly need consignment items such as clothing, furniture and electrical appliances. Any donations would be very much appreciated." 

The shop also offers classroom space where the owners have begun to give karate and yoga classes.  DVD rental is also available so that people can have access to music and films that they would otherwise never get the opportunity to see.  "We are also looking for someone who knows CPR and would be able to help us with the running of the classroom," said Ms. Sky. 

The Visions para su Pueblo shop is located 50 meters south of the Banco Nacional in Nuevo Arenal. The town is northwest of Lake Arenal in northern Costa Rica.

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U.N. says that 2004 was fourth warmest on records
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Meteorological Organization says 2004 has been the fourth-warmest year since 1861, when global temperatures were first recorded.  This year was characterized by a number of extreme or abnormal weather events.

The World Meteorological Organization says the past 10 years, with the exception of 1996, are among the warmest 10 years on record.  While 2004 comes in fourth in terms of record temperatures, the organization says the month of October hit record highs. 

Scientists say 2004 was marked by a number of extreme weather events, many of which caused great loss of life and property.  For example, it says heat waves with near-record temperatures affected southern Spain, Portugal, and Romania.  On the other hand, it says abnormally cold conditions reportedly killed 92 people in July in high-altitude areas of the Peruvian Andes.

World Climate Expert Gilles Sommeria attributes the increase of temperature to the emission of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"It is expected from models that the atmosphere temperature will go on rising," he said.  "The sea surface temperature will go on rising.  The sea ice will go on melting. 

"Also, we have the melting of glaciers on continents.  That is already very clear and relatively well accepted now.  The problem of extreme events is very delicate and there is a likely increase of extreme events foreseen for the coming decades."

Sommeria says there are natural occurring sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from volcanoes, but these are relatively rare.  He says most of these emissions are man-made.

The report catalogues a long list of extreme weather patterns.  It cites prolonged drought in parts of southern Africa, with a shorter rainy season than normal across parts of the Horn of Africa. 

The report speaks of abundant rainfall and flooding in many regions, including the United States, Bangladesh, Japan, and coastal Brazil.  The report describes, what it calls, an above-average number of hurricanes and deadly typhoons.

U.S. defends unusual decorations at Havana mission
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The United States says that despite complaints from the Fidel Castro government, it will not take down Christmas decorations here at its mission that draw attention to the plight of Cuban political prisoners. 

The United States has had diplomatic ties with the Communist government in Havana through its Interests Section since 1977. But the relationship has been uneasy, with tensions underscored again this week by the dispute over Christmas decorations at the U.S. mission. 

The building, which housed the U.S. Embassy in the pre-Castro era, has traditionally been decorated with Christmas lights for the holiday season. However this year, the decorations include a lighted number 75, which the Interests Section chief, James Cason, says honors the 75 Cuban leading dissidents arrested last year and given prison terms of up to 28 years. 

Briefing reporters in Washington, D.C., State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Cuban foreign minister has twice demanded that the display be taken down and threatened retaliation if it is not removed, but that the United States is standing firm. "

Boucher acknowledged that the numerical tribute to the prisoners was not a traditional Christmas decoration but rejected a suggestion it is a political provocation. He said U.S. missions around the world put up seasonal decorations with decisions on their nature decided by diplomats posted there. He described the display in Havana as, in his words, "a remembrance in a season of peace that there are people who don't have peace." The spokesman also said Cuban secret police last week tried to intimidate children of the 75 jailed dissidents who were invited to a holiday party at Cason's residence. 

The Cuban dissidents were convicted of sedition and other charges for allegedly conspiring with Mr. Cason against the Castro government. Several of the prisoners have been freed in recent weeks.

Bush says he'll cut deficit to strengthen U.S. dollar
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush says he will work with Congress to lower U.S. budget deficits as part of an effort to answer European concerns about the weak dollar. Bush spoke following talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. 

Bush said he will pursue his "strong  dollar" policy in the upcoming legislative session by working seriously with Congress to lower deficits, which he says should cause people to want to buy dollars.

"We believe that the markets should make the decision about the relationship between the dollar and the euro," the president said.

President Bush met with Prime Minister Berlusconi a day after Washington announced a monthly record trade deficit for October of $55.5 billion.

That has helped drive down the value of the dollar. That helps U.S. manufacturers because American goods are less expensive for foreign buyers. The dollar is of particular concern in Europe where much of its decline has come against the euro and the British pound.

President Bush says the decision to raise U.S. interest rates again is a signal to world markets that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is aware of the relative values of the euro and the dollar.

President Bush says the best way to strengthen the dollar is to address long-term U.S. government borrowing, which is caused by budget deficits. 

The president is especially concerned about the projected costs of the U.S. retirement plan known as Social Security. Bush wants to privatize part of that plan so younger workers can invest some of their retirement money in financial markets.

Jo Stuart
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