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These stories were published Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 254
Jo Stuart
About us
The staff and management 
of A.M. Costa Rica wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
If you are here in Costa Rica, we hope you soak up the sun before your Christmas celebration.
If you are not in Costa Rica, 
we would welcome you!

Jay Brodell 
Sharon Brodell 
Saray Ramírez Vindas
Jo Stuart

An upbeat story about a dog for Christmas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a Christmas story about Betsy, a large black dog who lived in a nearby garage from the end of November 2002 until this month.

Reader Margaret Sohn found her in front of her home in a pouring rain and after 15 minutes got her to enter the garage where the dog lived from then on for more than a year.  She was obviously house-broken because she always asked to go out or come back in her new living quarters..

It turns out that her owner is Dutch and from Corisal. He returned to Europe in November 2002 to celebrate his birthday and was gone two months.  He said when he returned the guard who was living at his home said "Puka" had gone out.  He lives on the west side of Escazú near the Red Cross and said he looked all over Escazú for her after he got back and decided she must have been hit by a car and was dead.

Two weeks ago Betsy started running after the car when Ms. Sohn left. On Dec. 11 the dog spotted Ms. Sohn going near her car. The dog went running after her and ended up on the old road to Escazú. Ms. Sohn drove off in the opposite direction.

Betsy evidently was on the old road when her owner happened to pass and saw her.  He found out where Ms. Sohn lived and left his phone number after contacting an employee there. 

Ms. Sohn called him, and he immediately came over and asked if she would give back the dog, which, of course, she did.

Betsy is 10 years old. The man has been her owner since she was three months old.  She recognized him, and now she has the run of his house. Under Ms. Sohn’s care the dog could only enter a small room because she and another dog did not get along.

So dog and human are reunited after more than a year.

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Christmas view
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Vlasta Zara, sends this photo of the downtown of her city, Zagreb, Croatia, along with seasons greetings for A.M. Costa Rica readers. This online newspaper is read in at least 89 countries, including, of course, Croatia!

Merry Christmas, Ms. Zara, and thanks.

Photo by Vlasta Zara
Go to Page 3 HERE!    Go to Page 4 HERE!   Go home HERE!
Former reporter is victim
of new drive-by killing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another drive-by shooting in Curridabat, this one Tuesday night, took the life of a magazine executive who was a former newspaper reporter.

The victim is Ivania Mora Rodríguez, 33, according to La Nación newspaper. The woman worked for El Financiero, a sister newspaper to La Nación, and La República. She was working at the time of her death for Credomatic where she was to restructure the company’s magazine for credit cardholders, said La Nación.

The woman was driving her car when two men on a motorcycle came near and shot her. A companion in the vehicle was unhurt.

Monday night two men in a car killed another motorist, also in Curridabat. That victim was Lineth Barrera Narváez, who died about 11 p.m. Sunday in the Autopista Florencio del Castillo.

Police get suspects
in Sabana stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five men in a car tried to stick up a woman pedestrian just a block west of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad building in Sabana Norte about 3:19 p.m. Tuesday.

Fuerza Pública officers intervened and chased the vehicle several hundred yards to the vicinity of the Banco Banex in Rhormoser where the occupants of the vehicle were apprehended. Police confiscated a firearm and two ski masks.

Meanwhile, in Alajuelita, officers stopped a car they thought was being handled suspiciously and found a man who is facing 25 years in prison for aggravated robbery.  They identified him by his last names, Miranda Avendaño, and his age, 50. Two other persons were taken into custody and two pistols, gloves and ski masks were confiscated.



Fugitive from Germany
arrested near Golfito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested a 38-year-old German national as a fugitive from justice in his home country.

The man was identified as Mario Angelo Manai, and he was detained in Puerto Jiménez, which is near Golfito in the southwest coast.

A report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that Manai had been on the run from the courts of Wiesbaden. He faces a drug offense there.

Manai, who worked with a rock music group in Puerto Jiménez, came into Costa Rica in 1995, said agents.

The arrest was made by the local delegation of the Fuerza Pública in Puerto Jiménez, the International Police Agency (INTERPOL) and agents from the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad.

Defensor gives warning
on use of official cars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the official Christmas vacation, government-owned vehicles should not be on the highways being used for personal reasons, the Defensor de los Habitantes said Tuesday.

The defensor, José Manuel Echandi Meza, asked the Dirección General de Tránsito to instruct traffic policemen to be extra vigilant and to detain drivers and vehicles of government-owned vehicles if they doubt they are being used on official business.

The defensor suggested that the vehicles might be used for personal reasons, including family vacations, shopping or trips to amusement parks. He said such activity has been detected in previous years.

Echandi also called on the managers of state institutions to control the use of their employee vehicles. Most state departments are on vacation until at least Jan. 5.

Mad cow carrier
detected in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. agriculture officials say a case of mad cow disease has been detected on a farm in the western state of Washington, the first known case in the United States. 

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Tuesday that despite the finding, agriculture officials remain confident in the safety of the nation's food supply. She said the risk to human health is minimal. 

She said it is too early to tell if this is an isolated case. 

Ms. Veneman said the incident is not related to terrorism and is in no way linked to the nation's heightened Code Orange terror alert status. 

She also said it is too early to tell if the incident is related to the single case of mad cow disease detected in Canada last May. The United States later imposed restrictions on Canadian beef imports. Some of the restrictions were lifted in August. 

Mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is spread when cows eat ground-up cattle feed that includes products from cows already infected with the illness. Humans who eat meat from infected cows can acquire a brain disease that leads to paralysis and death. 

The disease has killed more than 120 people since it was discovered in Britain in 1986. 

No paper tomorrow

A.M. Costa Rica will not publish Christmas Day. However, we will be working Christmas Day to bring you any news that develops in the Friday paper. The news never stops, and you are counting on us to tell you what is happening.

Quake hits near border
early Christmas Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
posted 12/25/03 at 11 a.m.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck just south of the Costa Rican-Panamá border early Thursday, today.

The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center computed the epicenter to be about 25 miles (45 kms.) west of David, Panama, in the Pacific Ocean. The depth was computed to be 33 kms. or about 20 miles beneath the surface.

The quake took place at 1:11 a.m. Costa Rican time while many persons still were celebrating the arrival of Christmas.

The rolling quake was felt in all of Costa Rica. Some damage was reported near Golfito.  There were believed to be injuries in Panamá in the Province of Chiriquí. One report said that a baby had been killed by a falling wall there.
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Soot, a new variable, blamed in global warming
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Black soot, generated by combustion of carbon-based materials and emitted into the atmosphere, is making a significant contribution to global warming, according to newly released research. Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration say soot reduces the reflectivity of snow and ice, creating a warming effect.

According to a press release Monday, soot on the snow and icefields of the planet's higher latitudes means those regions absorb more of the sun's energy than they otherwise would. The researchers at the administration’s  Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Earth Institute found that this effect had been overlooked in previous studies of global warming, concluding that the soot effect may account for as much as 25 percent of observed global warming over the past century.

While soot on snow may be previously unrecognized in climate change science, the researchers agree with the predominant view that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the chief causes of global warming.

Dr. James Hansen and Larissa Nazarenko, both of the Goddard Institute, did the research.

"Black carbon reduces the amount of energy reflected by snow back into space, thus heating the snow surface more than if there were no black carbon," Hansen said.

Soot's increased absorption of solar energy is especially effective in warming the world's climate. "This forcing is unusually effective, causing twice as much global warming as a carbon-dioxide forcing of the same magnitude," Hansen noted.

Hansen cautioned, although the role of soot in altering global climate is substantial, it does not alter the fact greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate warming during the past century. Such gases are expected to be the largest climate forcing for the rest of this century.

The researchers found that observed warming in the Northern Hemisphere was large in the winter and spring at middle and high latitudes. These observations were consistent with the researchers' climate model simulations, which showed some of the largest warming effects occurred when there was heavy snow cover and sufficient sunlight.

U.S. Internet use tops out at about 63 percent
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Some 63 percent of American adults use the Internet, according to a new study, and e-mail use the most frequent online activity

The U.S. online population totaled about 126 million in August 2003, about 63 percent of the population over 18, while pronounced distinctions remain between those who are active on the Internet and those who are not, according to the The Pew Internet and American Life project, which has been collecting data on how people use the Internet for three years. 

A new report, "America's Online Pursuits: The Changing Picture of Who's Online and What They Do,"  demonstrates the shifting patterns of Internet usage over that period.

Minorities are less connected than are whites. Internet users generally are younger, richer and better educated than the non-wired. Different demographic groups have different interests on the Internet. Women are likely to seek information on health or religious topics. Men are more drawn to news, financial information and sports news.

E-mail use is the most popular Internet activity, but conducting business and financial transactions is increasingly popular.

A broad analysis of over three years' worth of Pew Internet Project data illustrates shifting trends in Internet use by Americans.

Among findings about change in the Internet world over time:

Online activity has consistently grown over the course of the research. Internet users discover more things to do online as they gain experience and as new applications become available. This momentum often fuels increasing reliance on the Internet in everyday life and higher expectations about the way the Internet can be used in matters both mundane and mighty.

Despite this activity, the growth of the online population itself has slowed. There was almost no growth over the course of 2002 and there has been only a small uptick in recent months to leave the size of the online U.S. adult population at 63 percent of all those 18 and over. More than three-quarters of those between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet.

Different people use the Internet in different ways. Within the online population, specific demographic groups have comparatively high incidence levels for certain online activities. 

For example, high proportions of female Internet users have done activities such as seeking health or religious information on the Internet, while a large percentage of male users have sought news, financial information, sports news, and political news.

Among minority Internet users, a large portion of African-Americans have done research for school and sought religious and spiritual information.

English-speaking Hispanic users report high levels of instant messaging and downloading music compared to African-Americans and whites.

Those from high-income households and who have college degrees are more likely than those with more modest incomes and education to do a host of things online, including looking for government information, doing online banking, and participating in online auctions.

The young like instant messaging and downloading music. Older Internet users are more likely than younger users to get health information and seek material at government Web sites.

Experience and the quality of online connections matter. Those with more experience online and those who have high-speed connections at home generally do more online more often than those with lower levels of experience and those with dial-up connections. The growth of the cohort of veteran users, those with at least three years of online experience, has been striking. Nearly three-quarters of Internet users have at least three years of experience.

Online Americans' experience with the commercial side of the Internet has expanded dramatically in spite of the economic slump. Financial and transaction activities such as online banking and online auctions have grown more than any other genre of activity.

E-mail continues to be the killer application of the Internet. More people use e-mail than any other activity online. Many report their e-mail use increases their communication with key family and friends and enhances their connection to them.

The number of American adults going online grew by 47 percent between the March 2000 and August 2003 surveys. However, growth in Internet penetration was relatively flat over the course of 2002.

Overall, 63 percent of adult Americans use the Internet. The online population expanded from roughly 86 million Americans in March 2000, to 126 million in August 2003.

Fox loses his battle to reform taxes in México
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — For the third year Mexican President Vicente Fox has suffered a defeat in his attempt to push a comprehensive tax reform proposal through Mexico's Congress. Fox remains determined to fight on for what he describes as essential reforms.

In a late-night session Monday the lower house of the Mexican Congress passed a patchwork of new tax measures and set aside the major reform package President Fox had promoted. This effectively ends any possibility of achieving even part of the reform this year and bodes ill for Fox in the coming year as well.

In a speech delivered prior to the expected vote, Fox expressed outrage and anger.

He said he would follow the will of the congressional deputies but that, as president, he has the right and responsibility to continue fighting for reform. He said he will continue the struggle until his term ends in three years.

Fox blamed opposition politicians for the defeat of his fiscal reform package, saying they had played political games and covered their actions by claiming to defend the interests of the people.

The president's remarks drew a quick response from the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as PRI, which ruled Mexico 

uninterrupted until Fox won election in the year 
2000. In a written statement, Roberto Madrazo accused Fox of throwing a tantrum because his proposal was rejected. Madrazo also denied having orchestrated the move against the proposal.

The congressional leader of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, Pablo Gomez, accused the president of trying to provoke a fight.

He said Fox needs to understand that this is not a clash between ordinary citizens, but a clash of political powers. He said the president needs to engage in dialogue with lawmakers to seek reform.

The defeat of the reform package is seen by many economists and business leaders as a blow to Mexico's attempt to compete for jobs and foreign investment on the world stage. Mexico has already lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs to China and other low labor cost nations. 

Some of the companies that have left Mexico have complained about the unwieldy tax system as well as the high cost of energy and security.

Mexico collects less than 12 percent of its Gross National Product in taxes. The government depends on oil revenue for about a third of its annual budget, but the state-owned industry badly needs investment in new technology in order to maintain production. Opposition parties have blocked attempts by President Fox to open the energy sector to private investment. 

Jo Stuart
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