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Published Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 11
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Conditions are returning to normal after front leaves
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cold front that brought high winds and rain has moved on, and rivers in the northern zone are becoming lower.

Although moderate winds are predicted for today, clear or partly cloudy skies also are in the forecast.

The national emergency commission logged what it called 118 incidents and blamed most of the problem on winds.  But there were evacuations in the northern zone as rivers reached historic maximums.

There were low-level emergency alerts in the Caribbean, the northern zone, the north Pacific coast and in the central valley. These continue.

A total of five landslides were reported in the cantons of  Turrialba, Alfaro Ruíz and Tucurrique, and there were 29 cases of flooding.

The emergency commission also said that 48 homes were affected by high winds.

There were two shelters set up for flood evictees in Sarapiquí and Talamanca. These now have been closed.

The northern zone received three to five inches of rain daily during the last half of last week. The airport runway at Barra del Colorado was partly covered by water from

Comisión Nacional de Emergencias photo
A woman is evacuated in El Tigre de Sarapiquí

the nearby river, something residents called a first. The road to Puerto Lindo was closed because bridges were under water.

Reports Sunday said that the Río Colorado had dropped about five inches from its historic high.

Evacuations were along the Río Sarapiquí and tributaries that feed the Río San Juan. Some families were relocated from their homes in El Tigre de Sarapiquí.

Many of those affected by the latest cold front also suffered under Hurricane Otto Nov. 25.

Government plans more multi-million food markets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has expanded its plans for regional wholesale food markets to include one in the southwestern part of the country and another on the Caribbean coast.

Although these projects are being called wholesale markets, the government makes clear that they also will service the regional population, so a lot of the commercial activity would be retail. In effect, the government is going into competition with Walmart and its subsidiary supermarkets.

The project that is most advanced is the $52 million wholesale market in Sardinal, Guanacaste. The legislature approved financing for this project in September 2015, and the central government now says it is preparing plans for bidding. The market is expected to be completed in the first four months of next year.

The government says it sees these markets as a way to insure food security and give an economic boost to the areas.

The wholesale market for southwestern Costa Rica is now the object of study, and officials
signed an agreement to determine the feasibility in November. That report is due within 10 months.

The proposed project on the Caribbean coast has been the subject of public meetings in  Limón, Talamanca and Pococí to determine the need for agricultural marketing. The central government said that the views expressed would be summarized and reported during the first four months of this year.

Lawmakers approved a $48 million loan to build the wholesale market in Sardinal. The money would come from the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Centroamericana. The government would put up $4.5 million.

The market will be 50,855 square meters or 547,399 square feet. There would be room for 36 stores of 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) each to sell vegetables and 16 additional stores to sell meat.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Dental Services Costa Rica

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leaf rust
University of Michigan file photo
Rust shows up as spots and dead areas on a leaf. The disease inflicts major damage on Costa Rican growers.

Arabica coffee genome sequenced

By the  University of California-Davis news staff

The first public genome sequence for Coffea arabica, the species responsible for more than 70 percent of global coffee production, has been released by researchers.

Funding for the sequencing was provided by Suntory group, an international food and beverage company based in Tokyo.

Now available for immediate use by scientists and plant breeders around the world, the new genome sequence has been posted to, the public database for comparative plant genomics coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute.

Details of the sequence were to be presented Sunday at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego.

Sequencing of the C. arabica genome is particularly meaningful for California, where coffee plants are being grown commercially for the first time in the continental United States and a specialty-coffee industry is emerging.

“This new genome sequence for Coffea arabica contains information crucial for developing high-quality, disease-resistant coffee varieties that can adapt to the climate changes that are expected to threaten global coffee production in the next 30 years,” said Juan Medrano, a geneticist in the University of California-Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and co-researcher on the sequencing effort.

“We hope that the C. arabica sequence will eventually benefit everyone involved with coffee, from coffee farmers, whose livelihoods are threatened by devastating diseases like coffee leaf rust, to coffee processors and consumers around the world,” he said.

The sequencing was conducted through a collaboration between Medrano, plant scientists Allen Van Deynze and Dario Cantu, and postdoctoral research scholar Amanda Hulse-Kemp, all from the university.

A few years ago, Medrano, born and raised in coffee-producing Guatemala,  was urged by colleagues in Central America to consider introducing genomic technologies to improve C. arabica.

In 2014, researchers elsewhere sequenced the genome of Coffea canephora,  commonly known as robusta coffee and used for making coffee blends and instant coffee. There has been, however, no publicly accessible genome sequence for the higher-value and more genetically complex C. arabica.

Medrano was intrigued with the challenge to sequence C. arabica, but as an animal geneticist was experienced in the genomics of livestock not crops.

Undeterred, he quickly tapped the expertise of molecular breeder Van Deynze, director of research at the university’s Seed Biotechnology Center and associate director of its Plant Breeding Center, as well as Cantu, a plant geneticist in the Department of Viticulture and Enology.

Coincidentally, the research team was introduced to farmer Jay Ruskey, who with the help of University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor Mark Gaskell, was growing the first commercial coffee plants in the continental United States at his Good Land Organics farm north of Santa Barbara.

Coffee is a tropical crop, traditionally grown around the world in a geographic belt that extends no more than 25 degrees north or south of the equator. But at Ruskey’s Central Coast farm, coffee trees are producing high-quality coffee beans at a latitude about 19 degrees north of any other commercial coffee plantations.

Ruskey also has planted coffee trees on some 20 other farms stretching from San Luis Obispo south to San Diego, launching what he believes will become a new specialty-coffee industry for California.

Working with Ruskey, the researchers collected genetic material, DNA and RNA samples, from different tissues and developmental stages of 23 Geisha coffee trees growing at Good Land Organics. Geisha, known for its unique aromatic qualities, is a high-value C. arabica variety that originated in the mountains of western Ethiopia.

Plant material from one of the trees, UCG-17 Geisha, was used for developing the C. arabica genome sequence.

C. arabica is a hybrid cross derived from two other plant species: C. canephora (robusta coffee), and the closely related C. eugenioides. As a result of that hybrid crossing, C. arabica’s complex genome has four sets of chromosomes, unlike many other plants and humans, which have only two chromosome sets.

Using sequencing technology developed by Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, California, the researchers estimated that UCG-17 Geisha has a genome made up of 1.19 billion base pairs, about one-third that of the human genome.

The study used a combination of the latest technologies for genome sequencing and genome assembly from Dovetail Genomics of Santa Cruz, California, revealing an estimated 70,830 predicted genes.

Going forward, the researchers will focus on identifying genes and molecular pathways associated with coffee quality, in hopes that these will provide a better understanding of the flavor profiles of Geisha coffee.

They have sequenced samples from 22 other Geisha coffee trees to obtain a glimpse of the genetic variation within that variety and among 13 other C. arabica varieties, which will also be important for developing plants that can resist disease and cope with other environmental stresses.

Jose Kawashima, president and CEO of Mi Cafeto Co. Ltd. in Tokyo, a leading specialty coffee company in Japan, stressed the importance of the discovery for all levels of global coffee production.

“Having worked in the coffee industry for over 40 years and visited coffee farms around the world, I have never witnessed as many quality C. arabica coffee farms under duress due to deteriorating social issues and the impacts of climate change,” said Kawashima, who was not directly involved in the genome sequencing effort.

“Therefore, it is urgent that this scientific discovery be used to implement practical improvements at the farm level to sustain the future of the coffee industry,” Kawashima said. “If sustainability can be achieved at the coffee producer level, then coffee lovers in consuming countries can continue to enjoy quality coffee.”

Funding for the sequencing project was provided by the Suntory group, through its Suntory Global Innovation Center Ltd., located in Kyoto, Japan.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 11
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Graphic shows that the four-lane Río Virilla bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction starting Saturday. That is why public employees are being encouraged to work from home.
bridge graphic
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes/A.M. Costa Rica

Buses, railways and plenty of patience urged during bridge restrictions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Drivers using the bridge over the Río Virilla for the General Cañas autopista will have a complicated time over the next few weeks.

Wednesday night, the westbound lanes of the platína, as it is colloquially known, will be closed beginning at 10 p.m. Those leaving the capital will need to plan accordingly until the lanes reopen Thursday at 5 a.m. Crews will use this time to concentrate on assembling the steel beams necessary for expanding the road lanes, according to officials. Ruta 27 can be used as one of the alternate options for drivers. Other options include routes going through Heredia.

Saturday, the bridge is going to shut down excluding a few, specified and restricted time periods for certain lanes. Once construction restarts, officials from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that only authorized public transportation vehicles and emergency vehicles could pass through during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

The ministry defines these as any official vehicle that provides public transportation services or any emergency service. That means: public buses, school buses, tourist buses, ambulances, or police cars to name a few. The restricted hours will be from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to the ministry.

The project is to add another lane from Alajuela to San José as part of the reconstruction project for the platina. The result is that the two lanes will be closed to replace the concrete bridge deck. This reduces the bridge to two lanes available for all east and westbound traffic.

During the restricted hours, all private vehicles will not be allowed to travel on the bridge. Traffic will be stopped for

private vehicle at the EPA hardware store in Belén and at the Juan Pablo II bridge in La Uruca. Trucks with heavy loads cannot pass through from 6 a.m. until 8 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to officials.

Outside these hours, officials will only open two lanes so that all vehicles can pass through. The Consejo de Transporte Público authorized a bus service for direct travel between Alajuela and San José. The end points will be at the Plaza Ferias in Alajuela and the old Station Wagon terminal in the capital along Avenida Segunda.

The cost of using this service will be 1,200 colons for both trips and 1,500 colons for a daylong parking fee. Transportes Unidos Alajuelenses S.A., the company providing this service, said it wants to start Jan. 23 or the first week of February.

Transport officials are trying to create an express lane on the Heredia detour for buses.

The public works ministry is also creating two parking areas for cars for those using the train. Regular train services will be expanded with details on the routes, rates and time available on the train website.

The fine for trying to use the bridge in violation of  the ordinances established by the ministry would be 51,316 colons or around $93.

Public employees are being encouraged to work from home during the six weeks that the eastbound lanes are out of service.

The bridge is on national Ruta 1, the Interamericana known as the General Cañas autopista.

Once the new eastbound lanes are installed, there will be similar restrictions while a new westbound lane is added.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 11
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Areosols and not dust blamed for killing dinosaurs after meteor impact
By the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
news staff

About 66 million years ago, the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs started the ascent of the mammals, ultimately resulting in humankind’s reign on Earth.

Climate scientists now reconstructed how tiny droplets of sulfuric acid formed high up in the air after the well-known impact of a large asteroid and blocked the sunlight for several years. This had a profound influence on life on Earth. Plants died, and death spread through the food web.

Previous theories focused on the shorter-lived dust ejected by the impact.  New computer simulations show that the droplets resulted in long-lasting cooling, a likely contributor to the death of land-living dinosaurs. An additional killing mechanism might have been a vigorous mixing of the oceans, caused by the surface cooling, severely disturbing marine ecosystems.

“The big chill following the impact of the asteroid that formed the Chicxulub crater in Mexico is a turning point in Earth history,” says Julia Brugger from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, lead author of the study published in the Geophysical Research Letters.

“We can now contribute new insights for understanding the much debated ultimate cause for the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous era,” she said.

T Rex
Museum für Naturkunde/Carola Radke
This Tyrannosaurus Rex on display at the Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science, in Berlin may have been one of the victims or extreme cooling.
To investigate the phenomenon, the scientists for the first time used a specific kind of computer simulation normally applied in different contexts, a climate model coupling atmosphere, ocean and sea ice. They build on research showing that sulfur- bearing gases that evaporated from the violent asteroid impact on the planet’s surface were the main factor for blocking the sunlight and cooling down Earth.

“It became cold, I mean, really cold,” says Ms. Brugger. Global annual mean surface air temperature dropped by at least 26 degrees C. The dinosaurs were used to living in a lush climate. After the asteroid’s impact, the annual average temperature was below freezing point for about three years. Evidently, the ice caps expanded.

Even in the tropics, annual mean temperatures went from 27 degrees to a mere 5 degrees. “The long-term cooling caused by the sulfate aerosols was much more important for the mass extinction than the dust that was in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time. It was also more important than local events like the extreme heat close to the impact, wildfires or tsunamis,” says co-author Georg Feulner, who leads the research team. It took the climate about 30 years to recover, the scientists found.

In addition to this, ocean circulation became disturbed. Surface waters cooled down, thereby becoming denser and hence heavier. While these cooler water masses sank into the depths, warmer water from deeper ocean layers rose to the surface, carrying nutrients that likely led to massive blooms of algae, the scientists argue. It is conceivable that these algal blooms produced toxic substances, further affecting life at the coasts. Yet in any case, marine ecosystems were severely shaken up, and this likely contributed to the extinction of species in the oceans, like the ammonites.

The dinosaurs, until then the masters of the Earth, made space for the rise of the mammals, and eventually humankind. The study of Earth’s past also shows that efforts to predict future threats by asteroids have more than just academic interest.

“It is fascinating to see how evolution is partly driven by an accident like an asteroid’s impact. Mass extinctions show that life on Earth is vulnerable,” said Feulner. “It also illustrates how important the climate is for all lifeforms on our planet. Ironically today, the most immediate threat is not from natural cooling but from human-made global warming.”

Vacation, travel and hospitality

HIdden Garden graphic
Put Costa Rica on your walls
The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is the perfect place to find quality Costa Rican and international art for your home or office.  With over 60 artists and 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we have been your source for fine art since 2010.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever. Located just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport (towards the beaches).

Visit our Web site at:
Contact us by email:  
Find us on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Twitter,
Moon Travel Guides & Frommer's

Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tel.  8386-6872 / 2667-0592; U.S. telephone 702-953-7073
International shipping available.

Georgre Lundquist header

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

George Lundquist

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Contact us: 
Dial toll FREE from USA or Canada:  1.800.901.0114
CR local phone:  +506-2274-3231
Cells:  +506-8380-5919  and +506-8302-5877

Here's reasonable medical care
Costa Rica's world class medical specialists are at your command. Get the top care for much less than U.S. prices. It is really a great way to spend a vacation. See our list of recommended professionals HERE!amcr-prom

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Tropical Homes

Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for  your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.We are offering homes for every budget and every need. Please visit our Web page at or contact us at or call at (506) 2654-5442

Spectacular rentals are available for low weekly prices on at resorts such as Bahia Turquesa Residences and Villas Sol Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste. We have 
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Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 11
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Axiom new ad

Trump talking and tweeting
leaves many critics annoyed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Five days before his inauguration, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump remained fixated Sunday on how he pulled off last November's stunning upset to win a four-year term in the White House.

In a pair of comments on his Twitter account, the Republican Trump said his Democratic opponents are mostly angry that so many of the party's traditionally faithful, working class voters who supported President Barack Obama in his two successful presidential campaigns, turned against Democrat Hillary Clinton and voted for Trump.

"With all of the jobs I am bringing back to our nation, that number will only get higher," Trump declared. He added, "Car companies and others, if they want to do business in our country, have to start making things here again. Win!"

During his 10-week transition to the presidency, Trump has attacked car manufacturers, including Toyota and General Motors, two of the world's largest, for announcing plans to expand their operations in Mexico rather than in the United States. He praised Ford and Fiat-Chrysler for their U.S. expansion plans.

Post-election polls showed Trump won the election by successfully wooing many blue-collar workers in the country's industrial heartland. That gave him an edge in states that helped him win the election in the Electoral College.

In a later Twitter comment, he held out hope for a unified country as he assumes power.

"For many years our country has been divided, angry and untrusting," the president-elect said. "Many say it will never change, the hatred is too deep. IT WILL CHANGE!!!!"

Trump takes the oath of office as the 45th U.S. President Friday at noon in Washington, as Obama leaves after eight years as the American leader.

Sunday, military units staged a rehearsal for the quadrennial event. Hundreds of thousands of people, some of them protesters against Trump's victory, are expected to crowd the capital city's National Mall to witness his swearing-in, his inaugural address and his afternoon parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, his new home.

Mexico readies new diplomat
to take over Washington post

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Geronimo Gutiérrez Fernández, the head of the North American Development Bank, will be Mexico’s new ambassador in Washington.

Mexico’s foreign affairs ministry made the announcement Friday in a statement that also said Mexico’s current ambassador in the United States, Carlos Manuel Sada Solana, will become under-secretary for the ministry’s North America department.

Sada will still represent Mexico at the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump. Gutiérrez, whose appointment requires ratification by the Mexican senate, will face Trump’s promise to build a border wall and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Before his post at the North American Development Bank, Gutiérrez served as deputy foreign minister for North America and deputy foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean. He also served as a deputy interior minister.

Gutiérrez has been the managing director of the bank in San Antonio, Texas, since 2010. The bank offers low-interest financing to projects aimed at improving environmental and living conditions in communities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bank was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement and began operations in November 1994 with capitalization from both countries. Trump has said he wants to renegotiate the agreement known as NAFTA.

Some House members won’t
go to Trump's inauguration

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Days before the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Donald Trump attacked U.S. Rep. John Lewis after the civil rights legend said he didn't consider Trump a legitimate president because of what he believed were Russia's attempts to help Trump win the presidency.

In a couple of tweets Saturday morning, Trump said instead of criticizing him, the Georgia lawmaker should concentrate on serving his constituents.

In an interview with NBC's “Meet the Press,” Lewis said, "I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."

Lewis added, "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected."

Lewis spokeswoman Linda Jones declined to respond to Trump's attack but said, "We, as a nation, do need to know whether a foreign government influenced our election."

Trump's tweets have provoked sharp responses from numerous Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi of California. The House minority leader tweeted Saturday that previous attempts by critics to deter the lawmaker were unsuccessful.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded recently that Russia sought to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor. The president-elect himself accepted that the Russians were responsible for hacking into Democratic computer networks.

Lewis' 5th Congressional District in Georgia includes the Atlanta metropolitan area. The region has a large African-American population and is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. Crime and poverty rates are above national averages, but the area also has upscale communities and is home to one of the nation's most significant technology hubs, as well as Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines.

Lewis was one of the leading organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, at which civil rights leader King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream Speech" before more than 200,000 people.

Two years later, Lewis’ skull was fractured during Bloody Sunday, a peaceful civil rights protest in the southern city of Selma, Alabama, that turned violent when state police brutally assaulted the marchers.

Televised images of the assaults shocked millions of Americans and galvanized Congress to approve the Voting Rights Act, which helped African-Americans overcome legal barriers to the right to vote.

Lewis has joined a group of House Democrats who have decided not to attend Trump's inauguration next week.

California to start offering
bilingual classes in schools

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hilda Maldonado is an evangelist for bilingual education. As head of multilingual programming for the Los Angeles Unified School District, she welcomed California's vote last fall to repeal an almost two-decade mandate for English-only classes in public schools.

Her district's 640,000-plus students collectively speak 93 languages. Maldonado said, "Forty-nine percent of the students in this district come with a second language. We should see that as a wealth of our state and not as something we must eliminate."

California voters last November overwhelmingly approved Proposition 58. Now, Maldonado and other Californians are scrambling to prepare for the initiative, which takes effect in July.

As The Los Angeles Times explains, the measure gives communities and their schools more control over whether to offer bilingual education and, if they do, which language to choose besides English. Prop 58 still requires that all students develop proficiency in English.

While the California Board of Education develops guidelines and accountability measures, Maldonado said school districts are doing research, working on credentialing bilingual teachers and informing parents about how to proceed. Launching a bilingual program starts with a show of interest by parents of at least 20 students in one grade level or 30 students school-wide, the California Association for Bilingual Education says on its website.

These efforts most likely will be scrutinized. California serves as a laboratory on U.S. immigration, with more foreign-born residents, at almost 10.5 million, than any other state.

In 1998, California became the first U.S. state to prohibit bilingual education amid concern that newcomer students weren't adequately learning English. That worry persists among opponents of Proposition 58, but proponents say it cuts the bureaucratic red tape around multilingual education.

In the last academic year, among California's 6.2 million kindergarten-through-12th-grade students, nearly a quarter was classified as English-language learners. Most spoke only Spanish.

The concentration of English-language learners is even higher in the Los Angeles district, at almost half. Again, Spanish is most common. Other predominant languages include Korean, Armenian, Tagalog, Cantonese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Russian.

Due to the earlier restrictions, not even 5 percent of California’s public schools currently offer multilingual programs. Those schools had to get waivers.

Arizona and Massachusetts prohibit bilingual education, according to the National Association of State Legislatures.

In 2000, Arizonans voted to require English-only classes except for foreign language training, giving pupils classified as English learners up to a year for structured immersion. In 2002, Massachusetts approved a similar law.

Though both states offer waivers, the process may be difficult for parents to navigate, especially for those parents with limited English skills themselves," Matthew Weyer, the association’s education policy specialist, said.

Obstacles to bilingual education can include school financing, cultural resistance and finding qualified and experienced bilingual teachers.

California is one of at least 20 states in which local school districts can award a seal of biliteracy to high school graduates proficient in at least two languages.

SpaceX sows satellite trackers
to end airway black zones

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A million emotions were going through Matt Desch. He felt as if he were awaiting the arrival of a child. He was actually sending 10 of his company's communication satellites into orbit, part of an eventual replacement of 66 satellites.

"One of the most complicated technical feats in the aerospace industry," he said.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried the 10 Iridium satellites aloft Saturday. When the rocket was halfway around Earth and in the proper orbit, it sent the satellites off one by one, every 90 seconds, into space. They were to unfold their solar panels and reorient themselves with the stars and the horizon.

Desch said the 850-kilogram satellites, the size of a Mini Cooper, would start looking for antennas and begin communicating with Iridium's ground station in Norway, which will transmit the data to Virginia.

And eventually, the payload on board the satellites could revolutionize how airplanes fly.

"Today is a landmark moment in history for global air traffic surveillance, air traffic safety and the aviation industry as a whole,” said Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon, the company that developed the system inside the payload. "This successful first launch brings us one step closer to changing the way the world flies by enabling the ability to track aircraft anywhere on the planet."

Over the next three months, the engineers will position the new satellites and perform a delicate choreography in a slot swap with the old satellites.

The satellites travel at 27,000 kilometers per hour. Each replacement must be completed while the satellites are moving, without any noticeable disruption to service. Sometime in 2018, all 66 satellites will have been exchanged for new, technologically improved versions.

Currently, 70 percent of the world's airspace is without real-time surveillance because of rough terrain, deserts or vast oceans. The technology on the new satellites makes airplanes traceable over the entire Earth, including those black zones.

No one can currently pinpoint a plane in those areas, even on a flight over the Atlantic from the United States to Europe, except the pilot and the passengers.

The new technology is aimed at eliminating incidents like the aftermath of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The plane disappeared over the ocean nearly three years ago while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China. The body of the plane and the remains of the 239 people on board have not been found, despite an extensive underwater search of the Indian Ocean. Only a piece of debris was discovered off Reunion Island.

Prior to that in 2009, Air France 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The flight recorders were not recovered until two years later.

The more recent mystery surrounding MH370 prompted the industry to re-examine airplane tracking standards. National and international aviation agencies have implemented rules and recommendations to make real-time tracking possible.

Currently, U.S. pilots report their positions every 15 minutes. Internationally, pilots will be required to do that by the end of next year. A new rule, eased in by 2021 by the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization, makes it mandatory for planes under distress to transmit a location report every minute.

The Greatest Show on Earth
will be gone after 146 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus says it is shutting down in May, closing what it has promoted as The Greatest Show on Earth after 146 years.

Executives at Feld Entertainment, the owner of the traveling road show watched by millions of Americans through the decades, said the circus is closing for a variety of reasons from declining ticket sales after the circus ended its popular display of elephants, changing entertainment tastes, high operating costs and prolonged battles with animal rights groups over using animals in the show.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses and will perform 30 shows in major cities before ending its operations on May 21.

Through much of the 20th century, a visit to a Ringling Bros. show was a staple of wholesome family entertainment, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and high-flying acrobats enthralling large crowds as the circus made an annual stop in cities across the U.S.

But that changed in the past two decades, company chairman and chief executive Kenneth Feld said, as American youth became more interested in movies, television, internet games and cell phone texting with friends. The circus did not hold as much interest for many.

Ringling Bros. has been the target of extended protests for its use of animals in its show with animal rights groups contending that forcing them to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

The circus ended its use of elephants eight months ago, with chief operating officer Juliette Feld saying there was a dramatic drop in ticket sales after retiring the elephants to a conservation farm in Florida.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 11
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Hey, gardeners, name your poison

Remember “Lost in Space”, with the robot waving his arms: “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Danger!”

We have that in Costa Rica, and Metric Man reminded me that I usually
Victoria Torley
just talk about pretty flowers when there are some flowers to worry about . . . .

One of my readers had a rash. It was a nasty rash, and the doctor suggested contact with a plant or animal. Wanting to nail it down, he asked me if I had any ideas, and my first thought was caterpillars.
Cute and fuzzy, they can give you a bad reaction, and I leave them totally alone, but what about plants.

When it comes to plants, a contact rash is the most common complaint. The biggest clue for plants is white sap, thick white sap that oozes out when you break a leaf or pick a flower. I got lucky with a lovely white flower I picked and put in my hatband. It is called Hippobroma longiflora (local name “horse poison”), and I didn’t notice the sap when I picked it. Now I use gloves to pull it out of the ground and toss it away. Yes, it can poison your horses, but they seem to know that. I just worry about the sap.

We plant all kinds of things as ornamentals without regard for their toxicity. All parts of the oleander plant, for example, are poisonous if ingested. The lovely lantana, which grows wild in Costa Rica, causes an allergic rash in some people, and ingesting lantana causes triterpene poisoning. Trumpet vine, widely planted in the tropics, also causes contact dermatitis, and so does the strange looking pencil plant which can also cause blindness.

Then there are the seeds. Abrus precatorius, rosary pea or crab’s eyes, is lovely, used in jewelry and fatal if eaten. Castor beans, from the ornamental Ricinus communis, are also fatal if ingested. Some seeds, like the Mucuna pruritum, or cowhage, have hairs that will cause dermatitis, and I once had a run-in with a large seed – still unidentified – that I found at Playas del Coco. When I picked it up, I was impaled by hundreds of tiny needle-like hairs. And why are cashew nuts so expensive? My experiment with harvesting them left me with what looked like burns all over my arm.

It does seem like there are many things that we need to leave alone, and I, for one, am not going to try snacking on anything unless someone else goes first. That includes the manchineel tree, aka, death apple. Most of the manchineels are marked in some way so that they can be avoided as even sitting under on during a rainstorm can cause the sap enhanced rain to cause blistering. The apple of an unmarked tree got the best of a friend of ours, and she says it tasted very sweet . . . until the pain began.

So, what do I have in my garden? Lantana, angel trumpet, oleander and who knows what else. But I don’t intend to eat any of them.

Plant for the Week

Since you already know it’s toxic, I thought you might like a picture of horse poison, so here we go. Just don’t pick it!
horse poison
A.M. Costa Rica/Victoria Torley
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From Page 7:

About 20,000 to be without water today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 20,000 customers will be without water today in parts of Escazú, Alajuelita and Desamparados, the state water company said.

The company, the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, said it is installing 300 meters of a water line connection over the Río Bermúdez. The outage is supposed to be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The locations that will be affected in Escazú are Trejos Montealegre, San Rafael de Escazú, Bajo Los Anonos, Los Elíseos, Calle Los Alemanes, Altos de Bello Horizonte and Barrio Los Ángeles.

In Alajuelita Centro the locations are San Felipe, La Aurora, Tejarcillos,
San Josecito, Calle El Alto, Concepción and El Tejar.

In Desamparados, the locations are Novedades, Alpino, Méndez, Los Ángeles,
Santa Cecilia, Tolima, Maiquetía and San Juan de Dios.