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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 7                Email us
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Scientists use a shortcut to get clues from deep ocean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Out of sight of land in the Pacific another group of scientists is trying to make sense of the undersea activities in that part of the world.

This is the scientific complement of the "JOIDES Resolution" research vessel, and they are taking a shortcut.

The "JOIDES Resolution" is a frequent visitor to Costa Rica's Pacific ports, and has participated in a series of scientific exploration off the coast.

The main area of study is the activity beneath the sea floor that can cause horizontal movements of up to 8 centimeters (a bit less than 3.5 inches) a year as the earth pushes up magma.

That research relates to the forces that forced up Costa Rica's mountains, energizes its volcanoes and continues to rattle the country periodically. Unlike a lot of scientific expeditions, this one is transparent with an educational dimension, so daily activity becomes discussion topics.

This expedition, No. 345, is headed by Jonathan Snow of the University of Houston, Texas, and Kathy Gillis of the University of Victoria, Canada.

The drilling ship "JOIDES Resolution" is now on station above what is known as Hess Deep Rift about 2 degrees above the equator. Previous expeditions sought to sample the rock deep under the sea floor by drilling to it. But the presence of the rift, sort of an undersea canyon, provides a shortcut, the expedition explained in a recent summary. The deep cut in the ocean floor allows the crew to avoid a lot of drilling.

The rock surface at the bottom of the rift is estimated to be just about a million years old, a real youngster in geological terms. And this is what the scientific crew calls a tectonic window.
The rift is not far from the intersection of the Pacific, Nazca and Cocos tectonic plates.

The Cocos is the one that keeps pushing under and against the lighter Caribbean plate to bring earthquakes to Costa Rica.
Expedition, No. 345 photo
Scientist examine rock core from Hess Deep

The summary of Expedition No. 345 describes its goal this way:

"The objective of this project is to sample for the first time, primitive magmatic rocks of the lower crust in the oceanic Pacific. These samples will help scientists seek to understand the manufacturing process of the oceanic crust at a fast-spreading rift, but also to document the effect of cooling the young crust by seawater, and thus the importance of chemical exchanges between the crust and the ocean. They control the chemical evolution of the oceanic crust before recycling into the mantle via subduction zones, and play a fundamental role in geochemical cycles across the globe."

As magma is pushed to the surface, it cools into basalt and an igneous rock called gabbro, said the summary.

A previous expedition obtained samples of gabbro from a deep drilling also off the isthmus in the Pacific.

A member of the expedition, Jean-Luc Berenguer, reported via the "JOIDES Resolution" Web site this week that the drilling team had brought up core samples of rock from the Hess Deep, which is about 5,000 meters (about 16,400 feet) down.

In fact, the scientists have been demonstrating the force of the water by lowering polystyrene objects which are compressed into a much smaller size in the deep ocean. This is mostly as demonstrations to school children who are viewing the work electronically.

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Our reader's opinion
Re-election of Barack Obama
was hardly a mandate

Dear A.M Costa Rica:

It has been a while since I took pen to hand and opined on A.M. Costa Rica. But, after reading Mr. Barbour’s attempt to spike the ball with his in your face political comments, I have to retort.

This was a very close election, Obama won by about 3 percentage points, I would hardly call that electoral humiliation. The Republicans offered up another weak, moderate, candidate and many conservatives stayed home and did not vote.  Hardly a mandate, and let us not forget that they retained control of the House and will keep Obama from enacting his socialist, redistribute the wealth agenda.

Yes, Mr. Obama was successful in demonizing the Republican Party with the most hateful, divisive, shameful, presidential campaign in history.  Obama and his Chicago friends were very successful in exploiting class warfare.
Sadly, as Mr. Barbour states, the election was lost because Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were focused on fixing the economy.  Obama focused on marriage equality, gay rights, free birth control, unfettered welfare, food stamps, collage loan interest rates, the dream act, and the supreme high sacrament of the Democrats, the continued slaughter of unborn children, now referred to as reproductive rights.

Some of these are important subjects, that can be debated in the years to come, but right now with a $16.4 trillion debt that will soon be $20 trillion and growing, we needed to focus our national attention like a laser on the national debt. Unfortunately, the electorate was masterfully distracted.

Obama was a master at changing the national discourse from his failed presidency and economic policies and distracted the dumbed down American electorate with his offer of free stuff to each and every one of his contingency groups.  As long as the free stuff was promised, the votes were cast. 

His voters were more concerned about these individual social issues that benefited them, then the economic health of their country.  A very telling selfish turn of events from the Jack Kennedy "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" Democratic Party that I remember.

Yes, Mr. Barbour, have fun, spike the ball, make fun of the Republicans, call them "angry old, heavily armed, southern white guys," if that makes you feel superior.  All it does is reveal your ignorance, anger, and hate.

Here is a little history lesson for you my friend.  Fellow progressive/socialist presidents Wilson and Roosevelt thought they had humiliated the Republican Party after their elections.   History has a funny way of repeating.
Leo Plumley, Libertarian,
Jaco Beach

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
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Villalobos is still a hot topic among some expats and readers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although he vanished 10 years ago, Luis Enrique Villalobos still has a following. Internet records show that his name is the subject of dozens of searches in the archives of A.M. Costa Rica each week.

For those who are doing the searching, this quote from a group of Villalobos supporters summarizes the situation: "We have not heard from LEV for a very long time, and do not know if anyone has, including the family that has likewise been uncommunicative."

The quote is from the Web page of the United Concerned Citizens & Residents. This is the group that was insistent that Villalobos (LEV) would return in 10 years and pay off his high-interest creditors.

This also is the group that urged creditors not to press criminal charges against Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho, a man a court found had a major role in what judges determined was the Villalobos financial fraud.

Many of those creditors who persisted managed to recover some of their money.

But there are other plans in the works.

The United Concerned Citizens & Residents noted in a statement late last year that another group has sprouted that seeks to start another lawsuit against the Villalobos family.
Said the  United Concerned Citizens & Residents:

"From the beginning we have refused to be enlisted in such schemes as we believe that LEV would want to return whatever funds are available on his own, without being forced to do so.  We are disappointed by the lack of communications but we must assume that there are serious reasons that prevent any contact, and can only hope and pray for his safety and well being."

New arrivals may not be aware of the Villalobos operation, called The Brothers, that fueled a luxury lifestyle for many expats in the late 1990s until July 4, 2002. That was the day when investigators raided the high-interest borrowing operations and the money exchange businesses operated by Oswaldo.

Despite promises to reestablish his operation on a more businesslike footing, Enrique Villalobos continued to cite technical problems in repaying his creditors.

When he vanished later that year, there was as much as $1 billion of unpaid debt on his books.

He had been paying about 3 percent a month in cash without any kind of tax records. Judges agreed with prosecutors that the operation was a ponzi scheme, but there did not seem to be real proof of this.

United Concerned Citizens & Residents tried to launch a lawsuit of its own but against the Costa Rican government for shutting down the operation. But that case never got a full court hearing, and the group blamed its lawyer at the time.

U.S. expat held after agents find a hydroponic marijuana setup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators arrested a man Tuesday afternoon with the suspicion that he had been cultivating marijuana hydroponically in a Rivera de Bélen home.

According to a report by the Judicial Investigating Organization, agents received information that a residential complex in Rivera de Bélen was left with both the outside gates and main door open, yet seemed to be unoccupied.

When investigators went to observe the scene Monday, they  said they found that not only was the house completely open,
 but that marijuana plants were growing inside with a hydroponic system, spokespersons said.

The house was placed into judicial custody and the next day Bryan Bloodworth Eldrel, 37, was arrested when he drove to the house, agents said.

A raid of the house revealed a marijuana laboratory complete with heat lamps, air conditioning systems, gas and fertilizer.  Also, investigators found 300 marijuana plants, $10,000 and around 20 million colons in cash.

Bloodworth is from the United States, the agency said.

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Plans launched to modernize the nation's four border crossings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will modernize its four border crossings with an $80 million loan from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, trade officials said Wednesday.

The four crossings are Peñas Blanca and Las Tablillas at the Nicaraguan border and Paso Canoas and Sixaola at the border with Panamá.
Anabel González, minister of  Comercio Exterior, outlined the projects Wednesday and said a commission would be set up to oversee the work. The effort is seen as a boon to trucking firms.

The work at Peñas Blancas will build on work already done there. The United States bankrolled a truck inspection station
as part of an anti-drug effort. There also is a new immigration area there.

Sixaola always has been a disaster. Sometimes the officials there do not even check persons crossing from Panamá.  A new bailey bridge, a joint project with Panamá, has put the old rail span there over the Río Sixaola out of vehicular service, but it still is used for pedestrians.

The Las  Tablillas crossing at Los Chiles is new. A 2010 law established it. But there is little infrastructure.

Ms. González said that the modernization of the border crossings had been delayed for 20 years and she linked the work to the competitivity of the country. Officials said they expected to present the proposal for the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to the legislature by mid-year.

Traffic flow looks good in this photo taken Wednesday. But motorists faced weeks of having the traffic restricted on the key bridge.

Incurable bridge
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo

Months of work finally cure a key bridge in north San José
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They call it the incurable bridge, the Puente Incurables, and for many motorists it was at least a major headache.

The bridge links north San José with Guadalupe, and repairs there have been going on for months. But the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said Wednesday that the last bit of asphalt had been put down and all that is lacking are demarcation lines.

The bridge, like many other sites in Costa Rica bears a name that relates to what was there years ago. In the case of the
incurables, the bridge went up near where a hospital had been located. Now an old folks home is nearby. The bridge or bridges span the Río Torres.

The road agency said the asphalt job was 15 million colons or about $30,000. The major delay was in chopping up the old road surface, and that restricted the number of lanes.

The big job began after two of the lanes collapsed. That was an 865 million-colon job, some $1.7 million. The entire structure had to be rebuilt. About 10,000 vehicles a day use the bridge, the road agency said.

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Venezuelan supreme court
backs Chávez on inaugural

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's supreme court says President Hugo Chávez can legally delay his upcoming inauguration.
Wednesday's decision comes a day after Venezuelan officials announced that President Chávez will miss Thursday's inauguration for his fourth term because he is still in Cuba following cancer surgery.
National assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello read a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, saying doctors recommend that Chávez not return home.  Cabello said the president will be sworn in by the supreme court at a later date.
The opposition was outraged by the delay and had argued that the president's inability to take the oath of office Jan. 10, as laid out in the constitution, requires him to step down. 
But supporters of the 58-year-old leader and some legal experts insist the constitution allows the supreme court to swear in the president without mentioning a specific date.
The government has called on Chávez' backers to take to the streets today as part of a massive show of support.
Chávez has not been seen in public for a month.  His exact condition and what kind of cancer he has is unclear.  The president has undergone four cancer surgeries in Cuba.
Venezuela's information minister said Monday that Chávez has a lung infection connected to his cancer treatment and that his condition is stable.

Biden says Obama may
decree controls on guns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Vice President Joe Biden began three days of meetings with various groups Wednesday to discuss gun violence. The vice president will advise President Barack Obama on ways to tackle the problem.
Vice President Biden sat down with victims’ groups and gun safety organizations to hear their stories of gun violence.
He said the problem requires immediate action. “The president and I are determined to take action.  This is not an exercise in photo opportunities or just getting to ask you all, well, what your opinions are.  We are vitally interested in what you have to say," he said.
The push for increased gun control came after 20 children and six adults were shot and killed last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Days later, President Obama directed Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of January.
The president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Dan Gross, said he told officials at the meeting that even many members of the National Rifle Association agree that some anti-violence measures are needed.
“No NRA member or hunter wants to see 20 children murdered in a school in Connecticut, or a young man taken away from us on a bus in Chicago.  Nobody wants that," he said.
The vice president said that meetings he and cabinet secretaries are having with various interested groups will help the president form his policy.
“The president is going to act.  There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken.  We have not decided what that is yet.  But we are compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members, as well as legislative action we believe is required," he said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney says in addition to executive action, the president is asking Congress for tighter restrictions on guns and ammunition.
“Pass the assault weapons ban, pass legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines, pass a bill that would close loopholes in our background check system," he said.
Obama hopes to announce new initiatives on gun violence shortly after he begins his second term Jan. 20.
The top Senate Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, warned this week that congressional action on gun legislation may have to wait until lawmakers address spending and debt concerns.
Despite the public outrage over the shooting in Connecticut, many Americans are wary of any government actions that might infringe on their constitutional right to own guns.
The powerful National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun owners’ group, has rejected tougher gun laws and proposed instead that the government put armed guards in every U.S. school.
Vice President Biden will meet with the NRA and other gun owners’ groups today.  The nation’s largest gun seller, Walmart stores, has also agreed to take part.
Gun advocates have said new policies on violence should include reforms to mental health policies and an examination of the effects of violent movies and video games.
Administration officials plan to meet this week with representatives of the video game and entertainment industries, as well as mental health advocates.
Meetings are also scheduled with parent and teacher groups, community organizations, business owners and religious leaders.

Dutch firm plants outpost
on the red planet, Mars

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the early years of manned space flight, having the right stuff meant being brave enough to fly the first rocket-propelled planes. Today, it means spending perhaps the rest of your life on the planet Mars.

Dutch-based Mars One, which plans to set up the first human colony on Mars in 2023, has announced a global search for pioneers willing to settle there.

Mars One says candidates do not need a science degree, flying experience, or military training. They just need to be at least 18 years old, in good mental and physical health, and willing to undergo eight years of training.

Mars One says it will choose four candidates through what it says will be an international television reality series simulating the entire mission from launch to landing and living on Mars.
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Berrocal ends his campaign
and joins with Johnny Araya

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected the former security minister, Fernando Berrocal, Wednesday bowed out of the race for a nomination to run for president.

His departure assured the nomination of the Partido Liberación Nacional would go to Johnny Araya, the San José mayor.

The party meets in April to pick a candidate for the 2014 elections, and there is no other contender.

Berrocal shared a press conference with Araya Wednesday afternoon.  Berrocal admitted that Araya has a way with people.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez dropped out of the race last week. Among other problems was a high fee that party leaders instituted for those who would seek the nomination.

Although the election is more than a year away, Araya appears to be the strongest candidate and potential opponents from other parties are evaluating their position.

Araya has sought the job in the past, but the party selected Laura Chinchilla in 2009. Her administration has proved to be a difficult one, and Liberation leaders are looking for a strong standard bearer without the name calling and expense a battle for the nomination generates.

William Shakespeare's work
is basis of Spanish production

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Terruño Espressivo will present its first play of 2013, a take on 10 of William Shakespeare's sonnets.

Shakespeare has a total collection of 154 sonnets that were published in the 17th century.  Through these short poems, the poet expresses his views on love, beauty, time and mortality.

The show, entitled "Pasiones," will premiere Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. It uses sonnets 27, 143, 61, 23, 90, 14, 29, 147, 42 and 33, which have been translated into Spanish by José Basileo Acuña.

Although the play is in Spanish, the English version of the sonnets will be projected above the stage, said a spokesperson.

At 6 p.m., before the play begins, the company will present a complete 2013 calendar of theater productions, concerts and festivals.  The reception will include drinks and snacks, said a release.

Everything will be held in the Teatro Espressivo Pinares located on the second floor of the Centro Comercial Momentum Pinares off of Ruta 251, the old road to Tres Ríos in Curridabat.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

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New report says
U.S. health worse than other nations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

On average, Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease and injury than people in other high-income countries, says a new report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.  The report finds that this health disadvantage exists at all ages from birth to age 75 and that even advantaged Americans -- those who have health insurance, college educations, higher incomes, and healthy behaviors -- appear to be sicker than their peers in other rich nations.

"We were struck by the gravity of these findings," said Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chairman of the panel that wrote the report.  "Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health.  What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind."

The report is the first comprehensive look at multiple diseases, injuries, and behaviors across the entire life span, comparing the United States with 16 peer nations -- affluent democracies that include Australia, Canada, Japan, and many western European countries.  Among these countries, the U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability.

Many of these health conditions disproportionately affect children and adolescents, the report says.  For decades, the U.S. has had the highest infant mortality rate of any high-income country, and it also ranks poorly on premature birth and the proportion of children who live to age 5.  U.S. adolescents have higher rates of death from traffic accidents and homicide, the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, and are more likely to acquire sexually transmitted infections.  Nearly two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy between males in the U.S. and these other countries can be attributed to deaths before age 50.

These findings build on a 2011 Research Council report that documented a growing mortality gap among Americans over age 50.  "It's a tragedy. Our report found that an equally large, if not larger, disadvantage exists among younger Americans," Woolf said.  "I don't think most parents know that, on average, infants, children, and adolescents in the U.S. die younger and have greater rates of illness and injury than youth in other countries."

The panel did find that the U.S. outperforms its peers in some areas of health and health-related behavior.  People in the U.S. over age 75 live longer, and Americans have lower death rates from stroke and cancer, better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and lower rates of smoking.

This health disadvantage exists even though the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other nation.  Although documented flaws in the health care system may contribute to poorer health, the panel concluded that many factors are responsible for the nation's health disadvantage.

The report examines the role of underlying social values and public policies in understanding why the U.S. is outranked by other nations on both health outcomes and the conditions that affect health.  For example, Americans are more likely to engage in certain unhealthy behaviors, from heavy caloric intake to behaviors that increase the risk of fatal injuries, the report says.  The U.S. has relatively high rates of poverty and income inequality and is lagging behind other countries in the education of young people.

However, the panel's research suggests that the U.S. health disadvantage is not solely a reflection of the serious health disadvantages that are concentrated in the U.S. among poor or uninsured people or ethnic and racial minorities.  Americans still fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese.

The report recommends an intensified effort to pursue established national health objectives.  It calls for a comprehensive outreach campaign to alert the American public about the U.S. health disadvantage and to stimulate a national discussion about its implications.  In parallel, it recommends data collection and research to better understand the factors responsible for the U.S. disadvantage and potential solutions, including lessons that can be learned from other countries.

"Research is important, but we should not wait for more data before taking action, because we already know what to do.  If we fail to act, the disadvantage will continue to worsen and our children will face shorter lives and greater rates of illness than their peers in other rich nations," Woolf said.

The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

North Korea cloned Big Bird, Minnie

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. non-profit group that produces the children's television show "Sesame Street"  says a major North Korean toy maker is producing unlicensed replicas of popular characters from the internationally syndicated educational program.
North Korea's Kyonghung Trading Corp. has been advertising the toys for sale to the international market, using an advertisement published in a North Korean government foreign trade magazine. Three of the stuffed animals pictured in the ad resemble Sesame Street's  Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo.
In a statement Wednesday, Sesame Workshop said "we believe the toys pictured are unauthorized." The multi-media company sells its own plush toys featuring the characters and uses licensees such as New Jersey-based toy maker GUND to produce them in China, Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Kyonghung says its Pyongyang toy factory was established in 2005 and has an annual output of hundreds of thousands of items, including more than 60 types of toys. It says it employs a "large number of toy experts and skilled workers with elaborate craftsmanship."
Sesame said it has not faced a major copyright infringement case outside the United States in the last few years. The non-profit group said it takes appropriate legal actions in response to infringements when it believes they can be effective.
Sesame may find it difficult to sue Kyonghung because the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations and have remained in a technical state of war since the end of the Korean war in 1953.
In a separate statement, GUND spokeswoman Doris Bernar said the Kyonghung products "appear to be confusingly similar to copyrighted products of Sesame or GUND, but it is unclear from the advertisement." She said GUND has "successfully protected rights internationally on numerous occasions."
U.S. media giant Walt Disney Co. made a similar complaint about North Korea last July, when North Korean state television broadcast images of an unprecedented concert with performers dressed as Disney characters such as Minnie Mouse and Tigger.
The concert by a North Korean band was held in honor of the nation's young new leader, Kim Jong Un, who appears to have eased restrictions on Western culture in the reclusive state. The Walt Disney Co. said it had not licensed or authorized the performance, but did not disclose whether any action would be taken.
Sesame also said its licensees in China and other countries have not outsourced the manufacturing of any products to North Korea.
In an article published Tuesday, North Korean news blog NK News said it has become increasingly common for Chinese manufacturers to outsource production to North Korea, where labor costs tend to be lower.
U.S. sanctions forbid imports to the United States of North Korean goods and services, including those that are used as components of products finished in a third country.
Sesame said it periodically visits the Asian factories of its licensees to ensure that they comply with stringent manufacturing obligations. GUND, one of those licensees, said it has long-term relationships with its factories and requires them to sign written agreements that prohibit outsourcing or subcontracting without its consent.
The U.S. Treasury Department said violators of the North Korean import ban face fines of up to $1 million and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. When asked about the Kyonghung toy case, a Treasury official said the department does not comment on specific potential violations of the sanctions program.
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