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(506) 223-1327            Published Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 8             E-mail us    
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Bush speech fails to raise much interest among expats here
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At popular expat locations in San José Wednesday night, the attitude concerning George Bush's public address on his new Iraq military strategy seemed either cynical or disinterested.

Bush said that “past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons:  There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents.  And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.” As was expected, Bush also announced the commitment of more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq during the worldwide television address..

Not one of the watering holes that a reporter visited were airing the 8 p.m. speech. Soccer and U.S. football were the television mainstays.

But drinkers were quick to offer opinions:

Dave Bohnert from southern Indiana, who has been visiting Costa Rica for 22 years, said, “What are we doing there, does anybody really know?” “That war was totally uncalled for.” and “You never finish the job in the Middle East anyways.”

Larry Pap from San Fransisco, California, a
military veteran wounded in the Vietnam war, said, “Too little, too late.” and “This is something that should have happened a long time ago, with a lot more people than that.”  He added that the military is not trained to fight a war like the one in Iraq, and that after the initial invasion was done with, more needed to be done for the Iraqi people, like sufficient water and electricity.

Gianpaolo Sollazzo from southern Italy, a retired government employee, said that, “Maybe good  because with more troops there should be increased security for the Iraqi people, especially in remote areas, and it might help resolve the problems faster.”

Al Houston from Vancouver, Canada, a licensed steamfitter, said, “That war shouldn't of happened.” “They're sending young military brainwashed kids over there,” “I doubt it will do anything,” adding “But what do I know? All I ever hear is what the media tells me.”

Ain Dorchin from Kfar Hahoresh, Israel, who is traveling Central America, said, “From what I know, from the limited information I got, it all seems a bit pointless or dangerous, unwise.”

Others expressed no interest in the Middle East situation, and others were too occupied with their bottles of Imperial to comment.



Black widows making forays into Central Valley
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The black widow spider has been extending its range and now is regularly seen in the Central Valley and locations in the hills south of San José, such as Aserrí, Acosta and some parts of Desamparados.

Daniel Briceño, a biologist from the Escuela de Biología of the Universidad de Costa Rica confirmed this and said that in the past the spiders were mostly found from Tilarán into the country's Pacific northern zone.

Briceño said that it appears that air pollution is one of the factors causing the solitary spiders to find other locations.

He was responding to a reporter's question after a mature female black widow (Latrodectus mactans) turned up in a Desamparados home over the weekend.

The bite of the black widow is poisonous, painful but only infrequently fatal. In the hemisphere, species of black widows can be found from Brazil north through the United States. There also are many types around the world.

Although the black widow is well-known through legend and from the distinctive red hour glass on the abdomen, another Costa Rica Arachnida is equally poisonous, said Briceño. This is the tarantula, called a  pica caballo in Costa Rica.

Many species of Theraphosidae exist but several have been known to bite horses on the 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas 
At home with Latrodectus mactans
 
 
fleshy parts of the hooves, which is where the name originates.

The encounters happen because these types of tarantulas live in vertical holes into which horses can step. Cows are immune because their hooves do not have a fleshy part where the spiders can bite them.

Neither type of spider usually represents a real risk for humans, except that those with allergies might react to the chemistry of the poison.

Female black widows build webs in quiet corners of buildings and sheds. The bodies are shiny and black. The creatures can live for a year or more.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 8 

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A.M. Costa Rica/Manuel Ramírez Corrales
Fabian Alonso Solís Sanchez

Boy hit with double whammy
and faces expensive operation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fabian Alonso Solís Sanchez, a 3-year-old Costa Rican boy, has been diagnosed with a congenital disease and is in need of an operation that could help improve his situation, although not cure the disease.

The child has been diagnosed with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, characterized by multiple joint constrictions beginning at birth.  The child has also suffered many fractured bones. The first was his left foot at 3 months of age. Since then he has experienced approximately eight other fractures. 

This has led doctors to believe that he may also be suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle-bones disease, which is characterized by a lack of collagen protein in the bones causing them to break easily. More testing is needed to confirm this.

Dr. Oscar Matamoros Alvarez of the Clinica Médica San Agustín said that the child's case is quite rare, especially because of the possibility that he is suffering from both diseases.  Matamoros also said that the child should undergo an operation to have pins inserted into his leg as soon as possible.  This will help stop the repetitive fractures in the left leg which is causing it to develop incorrectly, said the physician. 

The child's mother, Maria de los Angeles Sánchez Chávez, 26, said that the situation is grave and that the child cannot walk and is becoming depressed.  She added that the only Christmas present he asked for was to be able to walk again. The Costa Rican public medical system will take five to seven years to deliver the operation, his mother said.

Mrs. Sánchez is currently unable to work because she is busy caring for her son, and her 28-year-old husband, Marcos Solís Picado, is currently working as a chauffeur but not making enough money to afford the operation, said Mrs. Sánchez.

The cost of the surgery is approximately 2 million colons or about $3,850 at the Clinica San Agustín clinic in Desamparados.  The family is accepting donations for help.



Shoe clerk skimmed data,
credit card probers say


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a shoe store clerk copied the data from customers' credit cards and then used the information to steal millions of colons.

The case led to the arrest of three persons Wednesday after an investigation in which Banco Uno and Credomatic, the credit card company, participated.

Agents said that at least 15 persons have been victimized and the amount might be as much as 15 million colons, some $29,000.

Arrested at her Escazú home in a police raid was a Colombian woman with the last name of Ampie. She is 38 years old, Judicial Investigating Organization agents said.

In an Alajuela store agents detained a 26-year-old cashier identified by the last names of Bermúdez Córdoba. They said the woman recently had been transferred to the Alajuela location after working at the Penny Lane store in Multiplaza in Escazú where the crimes are alleged to have taken place.

Agents said that a small electronic device known as a skimmer was used to quickly copy electronic data stored in magnetic tapes on credit cards. With such information thieves can run up bills by creating duplicate credit cards.

In Escazú agents also detained a man found in the Ampie household for investigation although they are not sure if he was involved.

Trade treaty proposed
with Costa Rica and Taiwan


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Taiwan suggested Wednesday that his country and Costa Rica enter into a free trade treaty.

The president is Chen Shui-Ban, and he made the proposal to Óscar Arias Sánchez while both he and the Costa Rican president were in Managua for the inauguration of a new president, according to Casa Presidencial. Taiwan and Nicaragua entered into such a treaty in November.

Arias said he was pleased by the invitation, said Casa Presidencial.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 8 







A.M. Costa Rica/Arnoldo Cob Mora
Workman dismember an elderly tree that damaged two vehicles including the one in the inset above
Strong winds from the north were just too much for a tired, old higuerón tree
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After enduring years of strong January winds, a higuerón or fig tree near Hospital Calderón Guardia just could not take it any more. The giant tree fell to the street and sidewalk and smashed up two vehicle.

Closer examination showed that most of the roots holding the tree to the soil had rotted away.

This was about 7 a.m. Wednesday, and the incident in which
no one was hurt, disrupted traffic for a time until workers with chainsaws turned the tree into firewood.
Meanwhile, the weather experts say the strong winds will be around for three more days. Gusts have been clocked at 65 kph or about 40 mph.

Pablo Salazar of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the current wind is caused by a cold front that now is north of Cuba. There also is a high pressure area in the Gulf of México. The winds are caused by air rushing from high pressure to low pressure.

Although the front will not actually enter Costa Rica, intense effects will continue mostly in the north Pacific and the Central Valley, Salazar said.


Acción Ciudadana again calls for renegotiation of free trade treaty with U.S.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana continued to insist Wednesday that the free trade treaty with the United States be renegotiated.

Elizabeth Fonseca, the head of the party's bloc in the Asamblea Legislativa, said that the treaty should be withdrawn from the lawmakers' agenda with an eye towards renegotiation.

She made the comments as she presented a lengthy minority report on the treaty. Members of Acción Ciudadana participated in extensive hearings on the treaty and voted against sending the measure to the full assembly. They were in the minority, however, and the assembly is expected to begin discussing the treaty this month. The goal of the ruling coalition is ratification.

The Acción Ciudadana report will be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper, and it is expected to represent
the basis for the party's arguments against the treaty in the assembly.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that there is no chance that the free trade treaty will be renegotiated and noted that the existing treaty passed the U.S. Congress by one vote.

Ottón Solís was the party's standard bearer in the February presidential election. He lost a close race to treaty proponent Óscar Arias Sánchez, but his party picked up 17 seats in the 57-member unicameral legislature. Solís and his party are identified with socialism and state ownership whereas the treaty would open up telecommunications and some other areas to private competition.

Ms.  Fonseca said that the minority report reflected her party's vision of the future of Costa Rica.

The legislative leadership has said that only a majority is required to ratify the treaty, but other legal authorities say that 38 votes, two thirds of the entire house, are necessary.


Police units converge to increase resident and visitor security at Fiestas Palmares
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police presence is being increased significantly for the Fiestas Palmares during the next 11 days, reported the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The ministry said that hundreds of officers will be present in strategic areas to try and stem criminal activity and increase visitor security. 

Fiesta Palmares is an annual event featuring bulls fights, concerts, soccer tournaments, carnivals, rodeos, a horse parade, and many other attractions for the thousands of people that are expected to attend.
The team of officers is a combination of more than six police forces, including the Fuerza Pública, airport police, a dog unit, police school representatives, a weapons and explosives unit, and others, said a governement report.

Rafael Ángel Gutiérrez, vice-minister of Seguridad, said that he would like to guarantee the safety of not only visitors but also residents of the area.  He added that the increase of police presence in Palmares will not take away from the security in the rest of the Alajuela province.

There are generally two to three shows per day and a full list of events is available on a Web site at http://fiestaspalmares.net/es/index


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 8 




Daniel Ortega takes office in Nicaragua with help from 'Brother' Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Daniel Ortega Saavedra took the reins of Nicaragua Wednesday amid big embraces with Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, and Evo Morales, the Bolivian leader.

Ortega referred to the left-wing Chávez as a brother. Among the guests was Arnoldo Alemán, the former president sentenced to 20 years house arrest for money laundering and corruption.

Members of the Frente Sandinista Liberación Nacional and other supporters turned out later in a massive crowd to hear Ortega speak at the Plaza de la Fe, Juan Pablo II. Ortega trashed neo-liberalism and promised a new road. Neo-liberalism is a term for capitalism.

Chávez delayed Ortega's inauguration by an hour because he was late. Some 2,000 persons attended the transfer of power, including 16 heads of state. Among them was Óscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica.
Earlier in a luncheon Arias said that prosperity in Nicaragua is vital to Costa Rica where some 600,000 Nicaraguans live.

Chávez, a close friend of Fidel Castro of Cuba just announced that he would nationalize major telecommunications and other industries in his country. He is promising a socialism for the 21st century. And he wants a constitutional change so he can rule by decree.

Patria, socialismo o muerte shouted Chávez from the platform where Ortega delivered his later speech, meaning "country, socialism or death."

Morales shouted that the imperialism of North America should die.

Although Ortega has seemed to be receptive to foreign investment and says he has changed his political thinking since he led Nicaragua during the 1980s Contra wars promoted by the United States, U.S. officials are still leery.
Chávez has promised significant financial aid to Nicaragua, including funds to build 200,000 houses.


Going around
in new ovals


Highway workers are creating an oval where the San Sebastián traffic circle used to be on the Circumvalación on south San José. The bigger route for the vehicles will allow space for construction of a $3 million tunnel that is expected to be finished by October and reduce traffic congestion.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas


World economic report predicts slower growth due to U.S. housing market
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The world economy is expected to slow this year after three consecutive years of historically high growth, according to a new United Nations report issued Wednesday. A weakening housing market in the United States — the world’s largest economy — is a major factor in the slowdown, the report says.

Despite this however, the "World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007" report highlights that growth in developing countries is “expected to remain robust . . . albeit with a mild moderation,” noting that last year East Asian economies continued to lead economic growth in the developing world and the likelihood is that growth will remain strong.

“Stepping back from the all-time high growth in world gross product of 4 percent reached in 2005 and the estimated 3.8 per cent growth for 2006, global growth is expected to slacken at a pace of 3.2 per cent in 2007,” the
report says, adding:

“A weakening housing market in the United States is a major factor into the global slowdown. The cooling of the housing boom is expected to depress consumer demand and slow the growth of the U.S. economy.”

While the report, which is produced annually, assumes a mild adjustment in the housing markets, and hence a moderate slowdown in the economy.

The report also offers a more pessimistic scenario in which U.S. economic growth would be less than 1 per cent, causing, in turn, a reduction in global growth by more than 1 percentage point.

“In addition, a collapse of house prices in major economies would provoke a crisis in the mortgage markets and set in motion a deflationary adjustment in the global imbalances, enhancing the risk of a major upheaval in financial markets,” it warns.



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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 8 


Top scorer Wanchope is off to play with Japanese team
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Paulo César Wanchope, the newest member of F.C. Tokyo, picked up his visa at the Embassy of Japan Wednesday.

Wanchope is expected to leave Friday for Japan.

Yoshihiko Sumi, the Japanese ambassador, greeted Wanchope and his wife,  Brenda Carballo. Wanchope, who is the highest scoring player of the Costa Rican national fútbol team, announced over the holidays that he had signed a two-year contract with the Japanese club. He had played with the Argentine club Rosario Central.

F.C. Tokyo is in the first division of professional play in Japan. It is one of 18 teams that will play in the 2007 season. The club, which only entered the league in 1999, finished 13th last year, but it has heavy investments from major corporations that are helping it rebuild. It is coached by  Brazilian Alexander Tadeu Gallo.

Wanchope, 30, has scored 45 goals in 68 international matches. and is the only Costa Rican to score two goals in World Cup Play.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Paulo César Wanchope is congratulated by Japanese Ambassador Yoshihiko Sumi.


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