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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 257           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Happy New year
From the staff of A.M. Costa Rica

Neighbors to raise funds Sunday for slide victims
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Riders and residents in San Antonio de Escazú will be out again Sunday seeking donations for the surviving victims of the giant landslide that killed 21 persons Nov. 4.

The aptly named Comité Fuerzas Vivas San Antonio de Escazú announced the campaign early Thursday.

Dec. 12 more than 50 riders and members of the public participated in an event to raise money.  Sunday will be a replay of that event along with other money-raising opportunities.

The location is Paso Hondo, el Carmen de San Antonio, and the starting time will be noon.
The individuals who died and the families that lost their homes lived on Calle Lajas in San Antonio. Part of Pico Blanco gave way and buried the neighborhood.  It was by far the worse single natural disaster of the year, although many others elsewhere suffered from the flooding that came with Tropical Storm Tomas.

San Antonio is south of and up the mountain from Escazú Centro.

Many residents still are living in irregular circumstances. The committee said the money would be used to construct homes. Some of the surviving victims are elderly. The committeee has Facebook and Twitter resources with additional information.

This is last regular edition of newspaper for 2010
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica will not be published Friday, New Year's Eve.  The newspaper publishes 257 issues a year. When Christmas or New Year's falls on a Saturday or Sunday, as they do this year, no paper
 is published on the eve.  Calls and breaking news continue to be monitored at the newspapers office, 2223-1327, and at staffers' e-mail accounts.

This is the last edition of 2010, and A.M. Costa Rica begins Volume 11 with the Monday edition.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 257

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earthquake epicenter
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico map
Flag shows location of quake
(Click HERE for bigger version)

Caribbean escapes harm
from 5.1 magnitude quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Caribbean coast was the scene of a moderate earthquake Wednesday at 11:13 a.m.

The quake had a magnitude of 5.1, but there were no reports of damage.

The quake magnitude was estimated by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia. It said the epicenter was about 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) south of Limón Centro.

The location was along the coast, and the observatory said the cause was a local fault.

Our readers' opinions
With so many problems
country is no paradise

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How can anyone refer to Costa Rica as being Paradise?  If you call living under barbed wire, steel bars on all windows and doors and expensive alarms systems Paradise you have a misconception of Paradise.  Plus the steel gates, zero lot lines, horrible traffic, rude drivers and corrupt transit policía Paradise?  Rude neighbors in some neighborhoods, car alarms going off at all hours of the night coupled with alarm systems for homes going off because the people set off their own alarms and don’t remember how to re-set them (loud music etc). 

The noise pollution is also horrendous.  The truck traffic in your quiet neighborhoods, the jake brakes without the baffles.  They have laws but are selectively enforced.  They have policía without the ability to arrest people in the act of committing crimes.  The country has the policía municipal, turistica policía, transito policía, OIJ policía, fuerza publica and droga policía of which none have the ability to act as a general police force. 

During one trip to Jacó Beach I personally observed drug sales in plain view of the policía, and they did nothing, absolutely nothing.  Now if I can see this as a person walking down the street, why or how can the policía that are supposed to be protecting the public from this not see or understand what they are seeing? 

I have been robbed numerous times and the OIJ comes hours later for the investigation and tells me it happens all the time. Then two weeks later they call to tell us they have no leads and the case is now officially closed.  They have so much crime that they have to let the criminals out of jail after being arrested probably due to overcrowding.  Then they expect these same criminals to appear in court when the time comes, except the time never comes.

The impuesto or tax is a whole other topic of which amount to legalized robbery of the citizens.  You buy a car here, any type of car, and you pay a price that is inflated and overvalued due to this impuesto.  Now you are stuck with a car that is difficult to sell when you decide that you have had enough of living in Paradise.    

The country filed a brief (friend of the court) in Arizona to protest their checking for illegal people in the country.  Yes, a document check.  This country employs that very same tactic that they have protested.  I have been stopped numerous time driving to Guápiles, San Carlos and Guanacaste, been subjected to drug inspection with the dog inside and outside my car sniffing for drugs, plus once they see my passport they look harder for drugs. 

Oh yeah they have automatic weapons in hand with their fingers on the trigger just waiting for the command to fire.  I have never been subjected to this type of traffic stop anywhere in the U.S.A. with a police officer with an automatic weapon pointed in my direction.  Another example of contradiction at its finest.

The crime is another example of Paradise?  Your home, car or anything of value is a target for the numerous criminals that roam each and every city in the Central Valley.  Did I forget to mention the carjacking and the bus jacking where the driver has to pay protection to the criminals? 

I have traveled to every Central American country for 15 years (business and pleasure) before settling in Costa Rica, although I was well aware of some of the differences between here and the U.S.A.  But once you are a full-time resident do you really see the true Costa Rican lifestyle.  I guess you can call it Paradise if you are deaf, dumb and blind. 

Basically the country needs an enema so they can install a policía force that can equally enforce their laws.  Re-evaluate their tax structure so it fair and balanced.  We have had to pay off the aduana to get things into the country because it’s the course of doing business here.  Then purge the government of the corruption at all levels, then and maybe then might you have Paradise. 

I guess it’s another reason why we have the right to keep and bear arms to protect our self and family from the criminal elements but not in Costa Rica. You have to jump through hoops to have a permit for a weapon.
Tom Colborn

Chocolate genome sequencing
opens door to modified food

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

From your Dec. 29 edition "Big step for better chocolate:"

"The production of high quality chocolate, and the farmers who grow it, will benefit from the recent sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome, according to an international team from 20 institutions."
Genetically modified foods are proving to be far inferior, severely allergenic and sometimes even lethal to the consumer. Now they are going to ruin chocolate! one of the most coveted and beneficial fruits "of the Gods" designed perfectly for our consumption.

Hopefully Costa Rica will preserve this treasure of a heritage food, from Nature in its original form!
Alana Shaffer
Sardinal, Guanacaste

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

Costa Rica news summaries are disabled
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Top story feeds are disabled on archived pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 257
Latigo K-9

pot fire
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos
Police burn marijuana during sweep in Osa and Buenos Aires, and more bottles turn up at airport
Police get their share of drugs that are flooding country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officials generally agree that agents and police intercept only a percentage of the drugs flowing through Costa Rica.

If that is the case, the country is awash in cocaine.

Meanwhile, marijuana is a cash crop in southern Costa Rica. Periodically, the Fuerza Pública and the Policía de Control de Drogas make sweeps to eliminate the plants. They reported Wednesday that they just uprooted and burned 70,000 marijuana plants in Osa and Buenos Aires on the country's Pacific coast. That brought to 2 million the number of plants destroyed this year, the security ministry said.

Officers said they found 17 plantations where the marijuana was cultivated. That included at Cajón in the canton of Buenos Aires and at Sinaí, Puerta del Sol, San Rafael, San Francisco and Paraíso de Tinoco in the canton of Osa. Officers also confiscated 267 kilos of marijuana ready for market.

Also in the southern zone, the Fuerza Pública and judicial agents intercepted a vehicle entering the country from Panamá about 6:20 a.m. Wednesday. It contained 12 packages, each containing about a kilo of cocaine, officers said.

The confiscation took place in Rio Claro at Kilometer 37 on the Interamericana Sur. That is a location for frequent drug arrests. Judicial police appear to have had a tip, so they
asked police to stop the car driven by a 28-year-old man identified by the last names of Carrillo More of La Cuesta, Corredores, on the Panamá border, they said.

At Juan Santamaría airport, anti-drug police detained two more air passengers who had what is believed to be cocaine in their luggage. One was a 32-year-old Frenchman with the last name of Albert. He carried five liquor bottles in his luggage, said officers. The bottles contained more than seven kilos of cocaine dissolved in the alcohol, they added.

Booked on the same flight going to Madrid, Spain, Tuesday was a 26-year-old Costa Rican woman. Anti-drug police said they found 4.2 kilos of cocaine in her luggage. She was identified by the last names of Sánchez Castro. Police detained some 40 air passengers this year as suspected cocaine smugglers.  Four have been detained in the last two weeks.

Despite their efforts, police do not stop all the drugs. Police in Nicaragua this week found 335 kilos of cocaine hidden in a truck that was carrying toys from Costa Rica to poor children in Nicaragua. The cocaine was packed in boxes that were on the floor of the tractor trailer.

The toys came from Asociación Obras del Espíritu Santo, a well-known charity that works with poor children here, too. The shipment also contained candy.

Police speculate that the truck driver loaded the drugs after volunteers loaded the toys. He escaped in Nicaragua after police asked to check out the cargo.

vechicle haul
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos
          Package from southern zone vehicle stop
More than four kilos confiscated at airport.

The plane truth about those annoying television personalities
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been under the weather so I’ve been staying indoors and watching a lot of TV or reading.  “Under the weather” is a curious phrase, and like many such phrases, seems to be nautically inspired – in this case, said of a crew member who was unwell and sent below to avoid the bad weather or he was just adversely affected by the weather.  Many people in many places could say that these past weeks.

My sympathy goes to people stranded in airports. Airports are my least favorite place to be in the world. You might say I fear them. Once I had an intensive fear of flying, so I was interested in a news story about a woman overcoming her fear.  Like me, she used to down a couple of shots of something alcoholic before a flight. For me, that lessened the fear but increased the nausea. She was told to concentrate on her chair, to watch a glass of water that showed the plane was not shaking.  I tried something else.

This was back in the days when there were insurance machines in airports.  I always bought some because I knew the plane was going to crash.  I decided one day to make the beneficiary someone who was just an acquaintance, not a friend or family member. The minute the plane took off, I began imagining this lucky acquaintance hearing about the plane crash then opening her mail and discovering she was the beneficiary of an insurance policy taken out by one Jo Stuart, whom she hardly knew but was sorry she had died in…Whee! Fifty thousand dollars! 

From then I imagined all of the things she was doing with this windfall (or in this case, plane fall).  Each time the plane landed I mentally sent out a little apology to the not so lucky beneficiary. When I decided to pick a name out of the phone book, I was no longer afraid of flying.

Now, I have some New Year’s resolution suggestions for various people on TV who have annoyed me.  Most of my complaints are reserved for CNN anchors and hosts because I don’t get Fox or MSNBC and I have little to quibble with what Diane Sawyer or the reporters on News Hour do.

Parker/Spitzer is a new offering that I mostly enjoy because they have interesting guests. But, please, Elliot, you are smart, no doubt about it, but you don’t have to show it off every night.  Resolve next year to talk less and not interrupt your co-host, Kathleen Parker, who is 
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

charming and long-suffering, I am sure. You particularly irritate me because I see myself in you.  I, too, am a know it all and won’t shut up. Governor Spitzer, as well as some CNN anchors or news people can resolve to take advice from Larry King – “If a question is more than one sentence, it’s too long.” Too often you say what your guest would say and then add, “Isn’t that right?”  Please don’t do that.

For both Brook and Fredericka, weekend baby sitters for all of us crazy enough to watch them in the afternoons, please decide to get speech lessons so that you can lose your Valley Girl voices.

I was appalled and surprised to hear the Jessica Yellin interview of lawyer Glenn Greenwald and Fran Townsend, a Homeland Security advisor for President Bush, on Julian Assange publishing a book.  Ms. Yellin made biased, unfounded assumptions and had already found him guilty of being a criminal, if not a terrorist, no matter how often that Greenwald pointed out that Assange has not yet been accused or convicted of any crime.  Assange is the man behind Wikileaks. Are we reliving the days when the media was gung ho behind the administration’s argument for attacking Iraq, ignoring any voices to the contrary?  Jessica, treat yourself to a refresher course in investigative reporting.

And everybody, please remember subjective pronouns may sound more elegant, but objective pronouns should follow prepositions.

Well, now I have that off my chest (wherever that idiom came from) and feel better, but I still have a fear and loathing of airports.

None of the experiences I have heard about and seen on TV have changed that. Perhaps that will be my resolution for the New Year.  I’d really prefer to be able to resolve that everyone has a better next year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 257

Lizard study says that species diversification is finite

By the University of Rochester news staff

It's long been accepted by biologists that environmental factors cause the number of species to increase before eventually leveling off. Some recent work, however, has suggested that species diversity continues instead of entering into a state of equilibrium.

New research on lizards in the Caribbean not only supports the original theory that finite space, limited food supplies, and competition for resources all work together to achieve equilibrium, it builds on the theory by extending it over a much longer timespan.

The research was done by Daniel Rabosky of the University of California, Berkeley and Richard Glor of the University of Rochester who studied patterns of species accumulation of lizards over millions of years on the four Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Cuba. Their paper is in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Glor and Rabosky focused on species diversity, the number of distinct species of lizards, not the number of individual lizards.

"Geographic size correlates to diversity," said Glor. "In general, the larger the area, the greater the number of species that can be supported. For example, there are 60 species of anolis lizards on Cuba, but far fewer species on the much smaller islands of Jamaica and Puerto Rico." There are only six species on Jamaica and 10 on Puerto Rico.

Ecologists Robert MacArthur of Princeton University and E.O. Wilson of Harvard University established the theory of island biogeography in the 1960s to explain the diversity and richness of species in restricted habitats, as well as the limits on the growth in number of species. Glor said the MacArthur-Wilson theory was developed for ecological time-scales, which encompass thousands of years, while his work with Rabosky extends the concepts over a million years. "MacArthur and Wilson recognized the macroevolutionary implications of their work," explained Glor, "but focused on ecological time-scales for simplicity."

Historically, biologists needed fossil records to study patterns of species diversification of lizards on the Caribbean islands. But advances in molecular methodology allowed Glor and Rabosky to use DNA sequences to reconstruct evolutionary trees that show the relationships between species.
University of Rochester photo
The lizard type on which the study was based

The two scientists found that species diversification of lizards on the four islands reached a plateau millions of years ago and has essentially come to an end.

Glor said the extent and quality of the data used in the research allowed him and Rabosky to show that species diversification of lizards on the islands was not continuing and had indeed entered a state of equilibrium.

"When we look at other islands and continents that vary in species richness," said Glor, "we can't just consider rates of accumulation. We need to look at the plateau points."

Glor emphasizes that a state of equilibrium does not mean that the evolution of a species comes to an end. Lizards will continue to adapt to changes in their environment, but they are not expected to develop in a way that increases the number of species within a habitat.

Glor believes his work with Rabosky represents the "final word" on the importance of limits on species diversity over the rate of speciation when explaining the species-area relationship in anole lizards.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 257

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Chávez dares U.S. to cut
diplomatic ties with Caracas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has dared the United States to cut diplomatic relations amid a dispute over the White House's choice of a new ambassador in Caracas.

Chávez said Tuesday that the U.S. can do whatever it wants, but diplomat Larry Palmer will not be coming to Venezuela.

Palmer was nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Venezuela four months ago.  The U.S. State Department has said Venezuela's rejection of his appointment will have consequences for the countries' already strained relations.

Chávez said Tuesday that an ambassador coming to Caracas must respect the country.

His government has complained about comments Palmer made in Washington in September, saying morale is low in the Venezuelan military and that the government has ties with Colombian rebels.

State Department officials in Washington say the United States has full confidence in Palmer.

Two wives settle dispute
over ex-Venezuelan leader

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The mistress of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Pérez has agreed to allow his estranged wife to bury him in Venezuela after a feud erupted over the former president's final resting place.

In a statement Wednesday, Perez's former secretary and longtime partner Cecilia Matos and their two daughters said they would not contest the removal of Perez's body to be buried elsewhere.

Perez's first wife, Blanca Pérez, wants him buried in Venezuela, where one of his daughters with her, Thais, died 15 years ago.

The former president died Saturday, Christmas Day, in a Miami hospital of a heart attack.  He was 88 years old.

His relatives in southern Florida planned to lay him to rest there Wednesday, but a Miami judge ordered a delay until the matter was settled.

Ms. Matos, who has frequently been identified as Perez's wife, had said she and her daughters would not return Perez's remains to Venezuela until current President Hugo Chávez leaves office.  Pérez survived a 1992 coup attempt led by Chávez, who at the time was an army lieutenant colonel.

In later years, Pérez became a strong critic of Chávez.

Pérez was elected president of Venezuela in 1974 after a long career in politics.  Among his first major acts was nationalizing the nation's oil industry at a time when global prices were soaring.

Pérez lost re-election in 1978, but returned to the presidency in 1989.

Although he survived two coup attempts, including the one led by Chávez, Perez was later brought down when the Venezuelan congress impeached him on corruption charges.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 257

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Five held in terror scheme
to kill people at newspaper

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Denmark and Sweden have arrested five people suspected of plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed five years ago.

Swedish and Danish authorities say four men were arrested in two raids in Copenhagen suburbs. Another man was arrested in Stockholm. They said three of those arrested have Swedish nationality. Several appear to have North African or Middle Eastern backgrounds.

Authorities described them as militant Islamists, some with ties to international terrorist networks.

"It is our assessment at PET that the people we have arrested today, the three people who travelled to Denmark from Sweden were preparing a terror attack against a newspaper, it was our understanding that it was Jyllands Posten in Copenhagen," said Jakob Scharf, head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Services, or PET. 

Danish TV showed police cars surrounding a drab building, with police staking out the site.

Danish authorities say the men had been planning to enter the Copenhagen offices of the Danish newspaper and to shoot as many people as possible. The newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published a dozen cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed five years ago that sparked anger and riots across the Muslim world.

There have since been several foiled plots to attack the newspaper and cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew one of the most controversial of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons. 

Westergard now lives with police protection. But in several interviews over the past few years, including one broadcast on Canadian television, he has been unapologetic about his work.

"I think, simply, I have done my job," he said. "It is my job to be a cartoonist and perhaps now and then to make controversial things."

Westergaard told a Danish newspaper he expected more attacks in the future.

U.N. team is in Colombia
to support flood efforts

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A three-member U. N. disaster assessment team has arrived in Colombia to support the ongoing response to the floods, which are affecting more than 2 million people.

Heavy rainfall associated with the La Niña weather phenomenon has affected Colombia since the middle of this year, causing floods in the Andes region and the Caribbean coastal area, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.

UN agencies and partner non-governmental organizations have already been assisting those affected in some of the worst-hit areas. Among the most immediate needs are food assistance, water and sanitation, shelters, emergency education and health services.

Earlier this month $6 million was allocated for the post-flood effort from the local U.N. emergency response fund.

The team that arrived in the country Wednesday is expected to stay in the country for three weeks, but this period could be extended.

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