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(506) 2223-1327                    Published Monday, Jan. 21, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 14                Email us
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Spring breakers begin arriving in less than a month
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Spring break or reading week as it is known in Canada begins in less than a month. For Costa Rica beach communities this may mean more visitors.

U.S. and Canadian youngsters more and more are headed to foreign lands, in part because of the availability of alcohol and other substances.

In Costa Rica, the beach community of Tamarindo is a big draw.

The real flood of Spring Break revelers begins March 2. The firm Inertia Tours keeps track of the dates during which colleges and universities are off. The firm also sells trips, and Costa Rica is one of the destinations. However, the firm also urges students to consider locations, like South Padre Island, Texas, to which they can travel by car.

Municipal regulations and a higher drinking age have made the traditional Florida communities like Fort Lauderdale more sedate. The city was featured in the 1960 movie "Where the Boys Are," and two decades of spring break parties followed.

S-Trip!, another tour company, even encourages U.S. high schools to travel for spring break or perhaps for a graduation trip.

The Mexican resorts continue to rank high among students, in part because of their proximity and also because of promotions.

Students on spring break will taper off this year after the end of March, although some schools have week-long vacations a week or two later.

The last week of March is Semana Santa, a traditional vacation time, so resort operators will have a good month.

So just how bad are the spring break crowds?

Popular culture says that students leave their morals and good sense on campus.  But a new study says that activities at most spring break destinations may not differ significantly from typical weekend behavior on campuses. The study was summaried by the Penn State University news staff:

"The more you are part of the party atmosphere in the university, the more likely you are to engage
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Many visiting students are well-behaved

those behaviors during spring break," said Benjamin Hickerson, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management, Penn State. "You probably won't completely deviate from your campus behaviors, and those behaviors are a very good predictor of how you'll behave on spring break."

While some studies show that substance abuse and promiscuity increase during spring break, other reports indicate that there is little change between behaviors on spring break and behavior on campus, the researchers said.

The researchers reviewed 29 academic studies on spring break and also considered media reports and other written sources.

Studies that focus on certain party spots may also over-emphasize the amount of self-indulgence, according to the researchers, said Nuno Ribeiro, who added that most research on the spring break phenomenon ignores alternative spring trips for college students, such as mission work, service trips and study abroad programs. He is at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, and his doctoral research centered in spring break.

The spring break experience also changes over time for students. Risky behaviors tend to peak in the first year as students experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex, and then decrease as students find their limits in subsequent years. The behaviors rise again in the last year of school for the students, which Ribeiro calls the last hurrah effect.

"The variety of spring break experiences is huge," said Ribeiro. "In certain spots and in certain cases, the stereotypes of spring break excesses are correct, but in other areas it's not as extreme as the media seem to present."

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Our reader's opinion
One answer to concerns
about speculative capital

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Speculative capital an economic weapon of mass destruction

Foreign currency exchange fluctuations are normal occurrences and should not be a surprise to the government. Here in Costa Rica, whether the dollar appreciates or depreciates over the colon is favorable to the local economy depends on which segment of the economy you are referring to.

As an example: If the dollar appreciates over the colon, it would benefit export simply because the Costa Rican goods are cheaper in the destination country. It would likewise benefit tourism because the dollar gets more bang for the buck. However it would mean imported goods more costly and increases inflation.

On the other hand, if the dollar depreciates against the colon, the opposite is true. So whether it is a positive or a negative depends on which segment of the economy one is referring to. Have you notice that around year end the colon rises against the dollar just about every year? Year end is also the time Costa Rica's loan payment is due and having a strong colon or a temporarily suppressed dollar is advantageous to the local government.

In terms of speculative dollars entering the economy, this is a totally different issue. "Speculative" money coming into the country may be a real estate bubble, for example where real estate is being "speculated." However it appears that the Costa Rican government is referring to money coming into the country and not being spent (the velocity of money) and just parked in the bank to collect (high) interest, and the bank reportedly made the comment that the interest paid benefits not the local economy. Another reader had already pointed out that the money the bank received as a deposit is, can be or should be loaned out to local businesses and therefore DO benefit the local economy. This is true in principle but, unfortunately, does not always translate into practice. Below is an example of what is actually happening:

A friend of mine needed a loan for his business but the interest his bank charges him was so high that he found it impossible to accept. When he approached me about it, I asked him what kind of loan he was seeking from his bank. It was a loan in colons. I told him to approach the bank for a dollar-denominated loan, and he got the loan in half the interest rate charged for the colon-denominated loan he had originally asked for. The locals often do not know about this big difference.

Going back to the bank comment that the interest they paid did not even benefit the locals, I would imagine the steps this "speculative" money would be that once deposited into a local bank that the dollar would be converted to colon and park there to collect double digit percentage interest. I would assume that the central bank has control of their interest rates, and maybe this is where the government needs to or can concentrate on. Why is the interest paid in a colon deposit so high? Would not lowering the interest paid to a colon deposit simultaneously lower the interest charged to a colon-denominated loan benefiting the locals, keeping the existing spread? This would also address the government's concern of too much "speculative" money coming into the country. The Federal Reserve in the United States has lowered and maintained the interest rate close to zero. Banco Central can do likewise.

The suggestion in your Friday's leading article "Business leaders favor tax on money leaving country" is a dangerous move and may well end up with the unintended consequence of severely reducing proper funding of the local economy from outside dollars. Is the proposal of adding a "surcharge" to incoming dollars the answer? What would it do the vast expat community living in the country on a fixed pension or income? Is this just another pretense for more taxes? Others had told me this is just another tax in disguise. Without debating the mind of the government, I rather like to offer a suggestion. It is a very simple step on paper but it is complicated and far reaching and requires foresight and political courage — that of pegging the colon to the dollar.

We all know about Hong Kong but not all know that the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the greenback. Presently the peg is US$1.00 = HK$7.80  Cayman Islands, British West Indies, pegs the Cayman dollar to US$1.20 and has been doing so for years. Tourism is big there, and when the cruise ships drop anchor and the passengers come onshore, the population doubles. And the standard of living in the Cayman Islands is really high. I know. I lived there. Yet tourism does not suffer. One big advantage of a pegged currency is stability. I needn't expound on how detrimental uncertainty is to the economy. Businesses hold off activities like expansion or employment because they do not know what new taxes, laws, etc is in the works: In this case the exchange rate between the greenback and the colon.

With stability resulting from pegging the colon to the greenback business has time to adjust and take into consideration of the exchange rate and this rate becomes the new (but constant) normal. Pegging the colon to the greenback is not a perfect answer in a multi-currency world but will solve the bulk of the problem facing the country as most of her trade and loans are in dollar.

Dennis Jay
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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica

Third News Page
It's time
to think about
Semana Santa

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 14
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Ojochal seeks to become a mecca for culinary expertise
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gastro-tourism is the act of touring the world with the palette in search of tasty food.  While most think of the flavors of
France, Florence, Morocco and Barcelona as some of the best, a group in Ojochal is working to make the community a contender among the top gastronomic locations.

“We want to put Ojochal on the
map as a culinary capital,” said Annie Drake of Ojochal.

Restaurant owners of Azul, Citrus and Ylang Ylang in Ojochal have worked to put together the culinary festival named “El Sabor de Ojochal” at the restaurant Boca Coronado at the mouth of the Río Térraba. The first event is Saturday.

Chefs from 14 different restaurants will close down their facilities, meet at the river location and serve their best dishes under one roof.  Mediterranean, Italian, French, Dutch and many other cuisines will be available

“Also, we have some local cuisines,” said Ms. Drake.  “ We have some great ceviches and arroz con pollo.”

Those who come to experience the festival will also have live jazz music to enjoy in the outside space with a special feature
from local band Blue Note.  Also, a boat will be available to take guests to the surrounding islands where they can take food and picnic, Ms. Drake said.

Artisans with various works and persons who make homemade canned sauces will have items available for sale.

“We are all just thrilled about working together,” said Ms. Drake.  “It has been a really big bonding effort.”

Organizers are expecting around 500 persons to attend the Saturday event.  It will be from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 and include three drink and food tickets.  Additional tickets can be purchased for $3 each.
Those who cannot attend El Sabor de Ojochal will have a chance to partake in three other events in 2013.  From April 16 to 26 there will be restaurant week where all restaurants will have a fixed menu at a fixed price.  There will also be culinary contests and events.

The community is about 30 minutes south of Dominical on the southern Pacific coast in the canton of Osa.

In July there will be a one-day festival.  Finally, starting Sept. 22 there will be another week-long festival. 

“It will be some of the best food you can get anywhere in the world and in Costa Rica,” said Ms. Drake.  “We are expecting great food, music and fun people.”

U.S. putting out red carpet for potential Costa Rican tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Uncle Sam wants You to be a tourist. That is if you are Costa Rican.

The United States will be among the exhibitors at the Centro de Convenciones at the Hotel Herradura Feb. 8 to 10 for the  Expoviajes 2013 tourism fair.

The consular section of the U.S. Embassy here has simplified the application and approval process for potential foreign tourists. No longer is there a mandatory telephone call to make an appointment and the wait is supposed to be two days.

Applications are being done online, including setting a quick appointment for a personal interview at the embassy.

The embassy Web site spells out the procedures.

Banks and other lenders will have a presence at the tourism fair, too, so that would-be travelers can learn of the financing options, said organizers.

Feb. 8 is by invitation to certain firms involved in tourism. The fair is open to the public Feb. 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Embassy officials said that 86 percent of the Costa Rican applicants are approved to travel to the United States and the waiting period for an appointment is just two days, said a release announcing the tourism fair.

There is no doubt that the U.S. Embassy has improved the way it is handling visa seekers. In the past, Costa Ricans had to stand outside in the rain and hot sun awaiting entry to the embassy. Now there is a covered waiting area inside the embassy along with electronic machines providing numbers for various procedures. The use of the Internet continues to reduce the waiting list.

Participating with the embassy at the tourism show will be U.S. hotels and airlines. The date is well in advance of 
Uncle Sam

Semana Santa, which is a top travel time and is the last week
of March this year. There still is plenty of snow in the Rockies at that time of year and spring is coming to much of the rest of the country.

Tourism to the United States has been affected by heavy-handed Immigration and Customs Enforcement inspectors and the world economic downturn. So the U.S. State Department has a mandate to encourage tourism to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that there were 860,000 tourists from Central America in 2011.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 14
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Scientists surprised at lingering effects of Amazon drought
By the Jet Propulsion Laboratory new staff

An area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of California continues to suffer from the effects of a megadrought that began in 2005, finds a new NASA-led study. These results, together with observed recurrences of droughts every few years and associated damage to the forests in southern and western Amazonia in the past decade, suggest these rainforests may be showing the first signs of potential large-scale degradation due to climate change.

An international research team led by Sassan Saatchi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., analyzed more than a decade of satellite microwave radar data collected between 2000 and 2009 over Amazonia. The observations included measurements of rainfall from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and measurements of the moisture content and structure of the forest canopy from the Seawinds scatterometer on NASA's QuikScat spacecraft.

The scientists found that during the summer of 2005, more than 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers, or 70 million hectares) of pristine, old-growth forest in southwestern Amazonia experienced an extensive, severe drought. This megadrought caused widespread changes to the forest canopy that were detectable by satellite. The changes suggest dieback of branches and tree falls, especially among the older, larger, more vulnerable canopy trees that blanket the forest.

While rainfall levels gradually recovered in subsequent years, the damage to the forest canopy persisted all the way to the next major drought, which began in 2010. About half the forest affected by the 2005 drought — an area the size of California — did not recover by the time QuikScat stopped gathering global data in November 2009 and before the start of a more extensive drought in 2010.

"The biggest surprise for us was that the effects appeared to persist for years after the 2005 drought," said study co-author Yadvinder Malhi of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. "We had expected the forest canopy to bounce back after a year with a new flush of leaf growth, but the damage appeared to persist right up to the subsequent drought in 2010."

Recent Amazonian droughts have drawn attention to the vulnerability of tropical forests to climate change. Satellite and ground data have shown an increase in wildfires during drought years and tree die-offs following severe droughts. Until now, there had been no satellite-based assessment of the multi-year impacts of these droughts across all of Amazonia.

Large-scale droughts can lead to sustained releases of carbon
amazon drought
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-California Institute of Technology
Areas that suffered the most from the 2005 megadrought are shown in red and yellow.

dioxide from decaying wood, affecting ecosystems and Earth's carbon cycle.

The researchers attribute the 2005 Amazonian drought to the long-term warming of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures. "In effect, the same climate phenomenon that helped form hurricanes Katrina and Rita along U.S. southern coasts in 2005 also likely caused the severe drought in southwest Amazonia," Saatchi said. "An extreme climate event caused the drought, which subsequently damaged the Amazonian trees."

Saatchi said such megadroughts can have long-lasting effects on rainforest ecosystems. "Our results suggest that if droughts continue at five- to 10-year intervals or increase in frequency due to climate change, large areas of the Amazon forest are likely to be exposed to persistent effects of droughts and corresponding slow forest recovery," he said. "This may alter the structure and function of Amazonian rainforest ecosystems."

The drought rate in Amazonia during the past decade is unprecedented over the past century. In addition to the two major droughts in 2005 and 2010, the area has experienced several localized mini-droughts in recent years. Observations from ground stations show that rainfall over the southern Amazon rainforest declined by almost 3.2 percent per year in the period from 1970 to 1998. Climate analyses for the period from 1995 to 2005 show a steady decline in water availability for plants in the region. Together, these data suggest a decade of moderate water stress led up to the 2005 drought, helping trigger the large-scale forest damage seen following the 2005 drought.

Guest injured in struggle with intruder who suffers fatal wound
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A family friend wrestled with a home invader late Saturday and suffered a bullet wound. But it appears that the crook also suffered a wound because he was found dead in the street where it appears he had been dumped.

Meanwhile, Fuerza Pública officers managed to detain three other suspects.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the crime happened about 7 p.m. Saturday in Coloradito de Corredores. That is in southern Costa Rica near the Panamá border.

A family consisting of a husband and wife and three children were hosting a person described as a family friend. Agents said the crooks gained entry because a door had been left open.
Four men entered and held the family at gunpoint, said agents. The intruders helped themselves to money, computers, jewels and other items of value, according to the report.

As they were leaving, the family friend, who was not identified further, tackled one of the intruders, probably the youngest, and began fighting for his gun. The gun discharged, and both men suffered injuries, agents said.

Shortly before midnight, police located suspects in a car in  Paso Canoas. The driver unsuccessfully tried to evade police, agents said. Recovered were ski masks and weapons, agents said.

The three suspects were 17, 19 and 20, said investigators. Agents said they think there is another suspect still at large because the loot was not located.

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Obama takes his oath
in advance of public event

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama has been formally sworn in for a second four-year term.  Vice President Joe Biden also took the oath of office Sunday before Monday's public inauguration ceremony to be witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall.

Obama took the oath just before noon in a ceremony lasting about half a minute in the oval-shaped White House Blue Room, with views of the executive mansion's South Lawn sweeping down to the Washington Monument.

With First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and a small group of reporters looking on, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath.

Obama shook Roberts hand, kissed his wife and children, and said to his family, "I did it."

This was the seventh time in U.S. history a president has taken the oath on Sunday, before a public ceremony the following day.  The U.S. Constitution requires a president's term to begin on January 20.

Obama used a Bible that belonged to his wife's grandmother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson.

​​​​In his public inauguration Monday at the U.S. Capitol, he will again lay his hand on the bible used by President Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration in 1861.

Obama will also use a second Bible, once owned by the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   The ceremony occurs on the national holiday established to honor King.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for equal rights for African-Americans, and the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation that initiated the process of freeing slaves in America.

Baseball great Stan Musial
dies of natural causes at 92

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Legendary American Major League Baseball star Stan Musial has died at the age of 92.

Known as "Stan the Man," Musial played his entire 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals beginning in 1941. He missed the 1945 season to serve in the U.S. Navy in the final year of World War II.

Musial, who was honored by President Barack Obama in 2011 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was adored by his many fans for his humility and kindness as well as his baseball prowess.

When he retired in 1963, Musial held 17 major league records, making him an easy first-ballot inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He won seven National League batting titles, was named Most Valuable Player three times, helped St. Louis win three World Series titles in the 1940s, and played in 24 All-Star games. Musial became baseball's first $100,000 player, his 1957 salary.

His wife of more than 70 years, Lillian, died last year. Musial died Saturday of natural causes.

A pitcher in the minor leagues, Musial became an outfielder when he entered the majors. He had an unusual batting stance, crouching with his knees together. That stance led to a lofty career .331 batting average, including a career high .376 in 1948. One year earlier, Musial openly supported Jackie Robinson when he broke the racial barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Musial is widely considered the greatest player in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Foes of gun restrictions
gather in many states

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of American activists, some carrying rifles and pistols, gathered peacefully Saturday at state capitals across the country for rallies promoting gun rights, as the U.S. government considers new restrictions on firearms.

Rallies stretched from New York and Connecticut to South Dakota, Texas, Alabama, Arizona and Oregon, in some places drawing dozens of people and others attracting several thousand demonstrators. Separately, authorities say five people were injured at gun shows in three separate states when firearms accidentally discharged.

Activists used social media to promote the "Guns Across America" rallies, which were fashioned as a response to new gun control proposals unveiled this week by President Barack Obama.

In Austin, Texas, some 600 demonstrators converged on the state capitol grounds to protest the Obama proposals and, in some cases, show their antipathy toward the president with signs and banners. An estimated 1,000 gun rights activists gathered in the capital of Tennessee and 2,000 more showed up in the New York state capital.

In Hartford, Connecticut, police said about 1,000 gun advocates rallied, with at least one man carrying an assault rifle nearly identical to the type used by a lone gunman in December to kill 20 children and six adults in nearby Newtown.

Earlier Saturday, President Obama used his weekly radio address to tell the public his administration is taking "a series of steps" to protect America's children from gun violence. He said those actions include strengthening the existing system of background checks for potential gun buyers, and pressing for new research on ways to reduce gun violence.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 14
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Ministry determines costs
of equipping young scholars

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An economic ministry survey said that parents have to pay from 80,495 to 101,463 colons to get a child ready for the opening of school Feb. 6. That is about $164 to about $206.50.

A big item is the obligatory uniform that the child will wear, according to the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio.

Ministry staffers surveyed 19 businesses including 13 that sell uniforms. They also checked prices on 14 items listed as necessary for youngsters by the various schools.

Depending on the quality and where the items were purchased, shoes for a schoolgirl cost from 5,990 to 25,995 colons or from about $12.20 to $53.

The survey also showed major differences in the same or similar items, depending on the store, the ministry said.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública publishes a list of obligatory items before the start of classes each year.  The list includes notebooks, pencils, erasers, glue, dictionaries and other items, depending on the grade. Parents are on the prowl now seeking these items, and stores are catering to the market.

Another flurry of quakes
along Nicoya peninsula

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A series of earthquakes in the 4.4 to 4.5 range is normal and part of the readjustment of the earth to the Sept. 5 magnitude 7.6 Sámara quake, said the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica Sunday. Similar flurries of quakes are to be expected, it said.

The Laboratorio, an agency of the Universidad de Costa Rica, registered quakes Sunday at 2:38 p.m., 3:05 p.m. and 4:01 p.m.. There also were lesser quakes at 1:10 p.m. and 2:16 p.m., said the Laboratorio. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica also registered the quakes although at a slightly greater magnitude. They were along the west coast of the Nicoya peninsula.

The Laboratorio noted that there was a 5.1 magnitude quake off the Pacific coast of El Salvador, too, and attributed it to the Aug. 27 quake in that area of 7.3 magnitude.

Dances classes set
for vacationing kids

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud is sponsoring many workshops around the area to keep youth engaged while out of school.

Some such activities are dance classes at the Taller Nacional de Danza.  This establishment will provide several workshops for children and adolescents to promote the art of body movement.  The workshops will be extended until Feb. 1.

Participants have several class options to choose from.  They include creative movement for ages 3 to 5 years, pre-ballet for 6 to 8 years and ballet for ages 9 to 13.  Those 12 years old and older also have the choice to go straight to ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, folk dances, belly dance, hip-hop, aerial acrobatics and Afro-Caribbean dance, said the cultural ministry.

Each workshop costs 10,000 colons, a bit more than $20.   Taller Nacional de Danza is located in Barrio Escalante, 75 metros west of the Rotonda El Farolito.  

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

Chili cookoff
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 14
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From the 'Zero Dark Thirty' trailer
Helicopters move in on compound occupied by Osama bin Laden

Film on bin Laden runs into criticism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite five Oscar nominations, including one for best picture, Kathryn Bigelow’s "Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has generated controversy due to its depiction of harsh interrogation methods.

"Zero Dark Thirty" tells the behind-the-scenes story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. It shows intelligence techniques used to find the Al Qaida leader, including the enhanced interrogations which many call torture.

Bigelow says those scenes are based on true accounts and were necessary to the narrative.

“What was important is to be accurate and to be authentic," she says. "Granted, it’s not an easy subject, but it’s also pretty irrefutable that that was part of this 10-year long hunt.”
The film has come under fire from some lawmakers who say it portrays harsh interrogations like waterboarding, which similates the sensation of drowning, as an effective means of gathering intelligence.

Several senators, including Republican John McCain, have called the film "grossly inaccurate and misleading."

“You believe when watching this movie that waterboarding and torture leads to information that leads then to elimination of Osama bin Laden," McCain said. "That’s not the case.”

Yet, two days after the killing of bin Laden in May 2011, U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican who chaired the House Committee on Homeland Security, said waterboarding played a major role leading to the attack on bin Laden.

“I have spoken to people who are very close to the situation who said initial information came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after he was waterboarded," King said.  

Later, King requested an investigation of CIA and the Department of Defense officials for allegedly leaking sensitive information to the filmmakers.

"Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal dismisses the criticism.

“A movie that takes you behind the scenes in a world that, quite frankly, is cloaked from public view and that's all pretty good things," Boal says.
"Zero Dark Thirty" is not the first film to show enhanced interrogation in detention centers outside the U.S..

Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary, "Taxi to the Dark Side," includes real footage of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Another director, Laura Poitras, shed light on enhanced interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in her 2010 documentary "The Oath." 

“I don’t think Americans have really grappled with the last nine years of our history," Poitras said. "That we’ve legalized torture, that we’ve created illegal prisons.”

Some critics disapprove of the interrogation scenes in "Zero Dark Thirty" because, they say, they condone torture as a means to an end. 

Kathryn Bigelow says her film reflects the truth.

Flu virus timing seen as vulnerability

By the Mount Sinai Medical Center news staff

Scientists have discovered that the flu virus can essentially tell time, thereby giving scientists the ability to reset the virus' clock and combat it in more effective ways. According to researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the flu knows how much time it has to multiply, infect other cells, and spread to another human being. If it leaves a cell too soon, the virus is too weak. If it leaves too late, the immune system has time to kill the virus.

The finding provides a novel design platform for the flu vaccine and could lead to new antiviral drugs that make this viral clock dysfunctional. The research, led by Benjamin tenOever, a professor at Mount Sinai, is published in the Thursday's issue of Cell Reports.

With only 10 major components, the virus needs to steal most of its resources from the human cell in order to multiply.  During this process, the virus often trips various alarms that equate to the immune system detecting and then killing the virus.  TenOever hypothesized that the virus must have a mechanism in place to keep track of how much time it has to steal these resources before the immune system springs into action. If the virus moves too fast, it will not have time to multiply. If it moves too slowly it will be stopped by the immune response. TenOever and his team wanted to find out how the virus knows exactly how much time it needs to multiply and move on.

"We knew that the virus has about eight hours in a cell to create enough copies of itself to continue spreading before the cell's antiviral alarm would be set off," said tenOever. "On a broader level, the virus needs two days of continuous activity to infect enough cells to permit spread to another human being. We wanted to tap into the flu's internal clock and find a way to dismantle it to prevent the spread of the virus."

TenOever and his team examined the processes that control the timing of infection. This research led to the discovery that, by relying on a quirk in human cell biology, the virus slowly accumulates one particular protein that it needs to exit the cell and subsequently spread to other cells, and eventually other humans — just in time before the immune system is activated.

Armed with this knowledge, tenOever and his team manipulated this timer by making the virus acquire this protein too fast, which caused flu to exit the cell too quickly and not have time to make more viruses. The next step was to manipulate the process to make flu acquire this protein too slowly, giving the immune system time to launch a response before the virus could escape, thereby killing the virus and preventing infection.

TenOever said he hopes this discovery will lead to new antiviral drugs that target the virus's internal clock and that it will provide a new design platform for the flu vaccine. Currently, individuals have the option to receive a shot, which delivers dead virus through a needle, or a nasal spray, which contains live but weakened flu virus. Although the nasal spray vaccine is believed to be more effective than the shot, it is only FDA approved for individuals between the ages of 2 to 49. With data from the Cell Reports study, scientists will be able to develop a new type of spray vaccine that is composed of a virus with a defective clock.  This new option for protecting against flu may prove safer for the very old and very young who are unable to receive the current spray vaccine.

Hot day, chilly nights are in forecast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The week is starting out with mostly clear skies and an unforgiving sun, according to a forecast from the national weather service.

The hot, dry weather follows a weekend where strong winds raked Liberia, Bagaces, Ciudad Colón and Pavas. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that winds were as strong as 84 kph in the canton of Mora where Ciudad Colón is located. That's about 52 mph.

In the first part of the week, rain will be scare, even on the Caribbean Coast and northern zone where the weather usually is wetter while the rest of the country experiences a dry season.

But with the clear skies, the heat of the day will dissipate quickly and the night will be chilly, the weather service said.

The weekend was perfect for sunburn, even in the Central Valley. Persons holding picnics or just strolling in the nation's parks were easy victims for the tropical sun. They will regret not covering up today.

Winds have a tendency to add to the sun's burning effect.

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