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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 17                Email us
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Environmentalists blame fishermen for turtle deaths
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The mystery of the turtle deaths in the Pacific deepens.

Credible sources say that many of the dead turtles had been pierced by fishing hooks. Equally credible sources say they did not see hooks.

Most persons in the area agree that there are many dead turtles. But the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas said Tuesday that its officer could only find 15 dead turtles and that the deaths appeared to be due to some form of bacterial infection.

Meanwhile, a press statement from Luis Diego Marín Schumacher of Preserve Planet and a Web posting by the Asociación Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas blamed fishing operations and hooks for the death.

There were photos of dead turtles with hooks in their mouth or legs.  One photo distributed to the press was attributed to Clyde Aspinall and was dated Saturday.

William Mahan Patterson said by email Wednesday that he is staying between Pavones and Punta Banco. He said he saw dozens of dead turtles on nearby beaches and that a person he met who had walked from Punta Burica said they had seen between 200 and 300 turtles dead on the beach.

"These people have lived here most of their lives and have never seen such a massive amount of dead turtles," said Patterson. "and they are not liars. I have talked to dozens of other people that confirm these reports." He said locals attribute the deaths to tuna fishing boats. He said the turtles could be caught in tuna nets and drowned. But he said he did not see any hooks.

Area residents Jason Borner and his wife Tanya
Pretoma/Clyde Aspinall
 This turtle appears to have been hooked and
 carried away some of the fishing line.

Harrison were quoted by Preserve Planet saying that they had photographed 13 dead turtles within 20 minutes.

In addition to the olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) collected by the coast guard, it appears that there are dead green turtles (Chelonia mydas), too.

Paterson, a tourist, said in his email that "this must be addressed immediately as it is doing major damage to an already very threatened species. The president has an opportunity to show the world that it walks its talk on conservation. It is within her power to do something about it and help make the world more aware of the seriousness of the crisis we are facing in this world."

Marín, regional coordinator of Preserve Planet, said that "Once again the magnitude of the massacres that the Costa Rican fishing fleet is provoking have come to the public light."

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas quoted a biologist with Asociación Widecast saying that autopsies on dead turtles failed to find an infection in the internal organs. He is Didhier Chacón, who also ruled out the possibility of toxins generated by red tides, said the organization.

An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Judiciary acts to protect crooks and other bad guys

The basic rule of democracy is what is called here transparency. The public has to know what is going on.

The Laura Chinchilla administration has been big on public relations in an effort to obscure the facts from the public. But that is nothing compared to the ill-advised law passed in 2011 with the goal of protecting personal privacy.

As readers learned Wednesday, the judiciary is now eliminating names from up to 40,000 court files in order to protect citizens. There is a litany of items that must be erased, ranging from names, cédula numbers to sexual orientation and telephone numbers.

The legislature is the home of unintended consequences, and we are sure that lawmakers did not intend to protect crooks, sex perverts, child molesters, deadbeats and bad tenants. The judiciary is following the law and actually started doing so some months ago.

Lot of occupations depend on the court records.
which have been accumulated by various credit reporting agencies. Landlords would like to make sure that a potential tenant has not been evicted multiple times. Employers would like to make sure that the new accountant did not face conviction for embezzlement.

Of course, judicial workers will continue to have access to these files. And perhaps for a small fee, someone with a burning desire to find out about someone will be able to do so. The general public will be excluded, however.

The approach is similar to the misguided juvenile justice program here and in many other locations where the names of young toughs are kept from the eyes of the public so it is a surprise when the bad egg guns down someone later. These efforts at protection are not for the criminals or the participants in court cases. The protection is for the public officials so that the public cannot evaluate the job they are doing.

They say sometimes that Costa Rica is behind the times. In this case, that is true. Welcome to "1984."

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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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Flurry of earthquakes located
in vicinity of Orotina

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A moderate earthquake in western Costa Rica flowed through the Central Valley in two quick waves early today. The strongest quake at 1:08 a.m. was preceded by a lesser one about 19 minutes earlier and followed by one 25 minutes later. The location was south of the community of Orotina in Alajuela province.

There was a 3.0 quake at 49 minutes after midnight that was estimated to have an epicenter two kilometers northwest of San Francisco de Turrubares. At 1:08, a quake, estimated at 5.2 by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico, took place in nearly the same spot, a kilometer southwest of the same community. Then at 1:33 a.m. there was a quake estimated at 3.2 about two kilometers south of Hacienda Vieja de Orotina.  All the estimated epicenters are close.

The Red Sismológica Nacional estimated the 1:08 a.m. quake at 4.9, and the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica said the magnitude was 5.0.

The  Red Sismológica Nacional attributed the quakes to the subduction of the Coco tectonic plate under that of the lighter Caribbean. This is a usual cause of quakes in western Costa Rica.  The quake was felt in a large part of Costa Rica, said the Red.

The quake was felt strongest in eastern San José and in San Pedro, according to measurement by the Laboratorio. The quake came in two waves several seconds apart. The strength was enough to awaken some who were asleep.

Vaccine against dengue said
to be safe and effective

By the National Institute of Health news service

A candidate dengue vaccine developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health has been found to be safe and to stimulate a strong immune response in most vaccine recipients, according to results from an early-stage clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the institute. The trial results were published online on Jan. 17 in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Dengue sickens thousands each year in Costa Rica, and sometimes there are deaths.

Dengue fever, prevalent in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world, is caused by any of four related viruses that are transmitted to humans by Aedes mosquitoes. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, 50 million to 100 million cases of dengue occur worldwide, resulting in 500,000 hospitalizations of patients with severe disease, many of them in children.

Infection with one dengue virus results in immunity to that specific virus but not to the other three. Research shows that the likelihood of severe disease increases when a person is subsequently infected with a different dengue virus. This observation suggests that the ideal dengue vaccine would protect against all four dengue viruses.

"The global burden of dengue is enormous—and it is growing," said Anthony S. Fauci, allergy institute director. "We are cautiously optimistic about these recent clinical trial results with this candidate tetravalent vaccine developed at NIAID; however, much more work still needs to be done."

The Phase I clinical trial, launched in July 2010 and led by principal investigator Anna Durbin, at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, tested a single dose of each of four versions of the investigational dengue vaccine TetraVax-DV. The vaccine was developed by scientists in the allergy institute's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases. It is a live, attenuated vaccine, which means that the viruses it contains are weakened enough such that they do not cause illness but still can induce an immune response. Each of the four vaccines tested included different mixtures of components designed to protect against all four dengue viruses.

The Phase I study was conducted in Baltimore; Burlington, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. The final study analysis included 112 healthy men and women ages 18 to 50 years who had not previously been exposed to dengue or related viruses such as West Nile virus and yellow fever virus.

Participants were randomized into four groups. In each group, 20 volunteers received a single 0.5-milliliter injection under the skin of one of the tetravalent candidate vaccine combinations, and eight others received a placebo. All were monitored for immediate adverse reactions for at least 30 minutes after vaccination, and subsequently took their body temperatures three times daily for 16 days to check for possible adverse reactions. Participants also received a physical exam every other day up to Study Day 16, and then again on study days 21, 28, 42 and 180, when blood tests were also performed.

The researchers found that all four candidate vaccine combinations induced antibody responses against each of the dengue viruses. However, one vaccine combination, TV003, appeared to induce the most balanced antibody response against the dengue viruses. A single dose of TV003 resulted in an antibody response to all four dengue viruses in 45 percent of participants and against three of the four viruses in an additional 45 percent. Overall, an immune response to at least three viruses was seen in 90 percent of vaccinees given TV003.

"What is promising about TV003 is that it elicited solid antibody responses after just one dose," explained Stephen Whitehead, of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, who led the development of the vaccine candidates. "Other vaccines in development require two or three injections at higher doses to achieve similar results."

TV003's inexpensive production cost — less than $1 per dose — is critical to its potential use in developing countries, noted  Whitehead.

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.
Click a story for the summary

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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 17
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Proposed law would regulate country's mail services
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica S.A., the national mail service, is seeking to create what amounts to a postal czar to oversee firms that deliver letters and small packages in the country.

The proposal has been languishing in the legislation since 2009, but the head of Correos and several government officials appeared Wednesday before the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Económicos to push the bill.

The measure would appear to levy another tax because private firms involved in the delivery business would have to pay a fee to what is being called postal regulator.  Among those who appeared Wednesday was a representative of the  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones in which agency the regulator would be located.

The regulating agency would have the duty of setting rules of access to the mail market, protecting the rights of users and setting the conditions for offering the service, according to the bill, No. 17.497.

The summary that explains the bill said that a systematic regulation is needed since private operators are not covered by the same rules that govern Correos de Costa Rica S.A. The proposed regulations would cover specifically individuals or firms, public or private and Costa Rican or foreign, that offer postal services directly or indirectly in the entire national territory.

To offer such services, the individual or firm must be
authorized by the proposed postal regulator, said the bill.  The regulator would maintain a list of services authorized for each entity. The amount each person or firm would pay each year for authorization is left open and would be established by regulations drawn up after the bill is passed by the Asamblea Legislativa.

The measure came to lawmakers with the support of the executive branch.

The authorization would be good for five years and could not be transferable, says the bill. The other mail services would have to offer universal coverage as does Correos, the bill says.

Firms would have six months after passage of the bill to obtain authorization.

The bill is necessary because Costa Rica promised the International Postal Union to do so in 1998, lawmakers were told Wednesday. Mail service is covered by international treaty.

A summary issued Wednesday by the Partido Liberación Nacional characterized the bill as one to protect consumers. There was no mention of an annual fee for doing business.

Correos has been hit hard by electronic messaging and appears to be trying to level the playing field by requiring private firms to provide the same services that it does. Some courier firms, for example, do not service the entire country and concentrate on areas of high population. Until now such firms did not pay a special tax, just ordinary business levies.

Peace Corps
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Peace Corps alumni Victor Corbin, Chuck Tadlock, Betty Gilmore, Ambassador Anne Andrew, Joy Stoviak de Flores, Ana Zentella, Lynette Chandler and John Helwig
First group of Peace Corps volunteers reflect on 50 years
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order to create an organization where men and women of the United States who qualified for service abroad were willing to serve under conditions of hardship to help persons in other countries.  He called it, Peace Corps.

Two years later, 26 Peace Corps volunteers, known as Grupo Uno, left for Costa Rica to give two years of their lives to help young Ticos learn about science and English.

“There was a lawyer from Harvard and a poet from Yale, which tells you the caliber of the group,” said Anita Herzeld, professor at the University of Kansas.  Ms. Herzfeld came to the country as an educator and a linguist and trained Grupo Uno for service.

“They were people that were really inspired by President Kennedy,” she continued.  “They weren’t just finding something to do because they didn’t know what to do.  They did it because of a commitment to bring friendship to the world.”

Now 50 years later, seven of the original members of the group returned to where they started in remembrance of the monumental anniversary.  Although it was five decades ago, each one vividly remembers their life changing work. Just being the first group here was an experience in itself, some said.

“It was really cool,” said Chuck Tadlock.  “Everyone was surprised to see an American here.”

He recounted one of his memorable moments when a farmer approached him and thanked him for all the United States had done for the country.

“He was thanking me personally like I had something to do with the government,” said Tadlock.  “It was just amazing.”

For Tadlock, his journey began as a child interested in the rest of the world.  Determined to get a job with the State Department, he enrolled in a Spanish class.

“That changed my life right there,” he said. Later, Tadlock decided the State Department wasn’t for him and learned about the Peace Corps.
“It was what I wanted,” he said “People to people, living in another country doing something immediate.”

Tadlock arrived on a Sunday afternoon with two trucks, one full of American literature from the Peace Corps, and a suitcase.  

For service, he taught science at Liceo Unesco in San Isidro de El General, the only high school there at the time.

The time in Costa Rica awakened Tadlock’s passion for teaching, and he left to become an educator, a career from which he has retired. Others told of different experiences.

For poet and culturist Betty Gilmore, joining the Peace Corps was a way to travel and see the world. 

She served her term as a teacher in Turrialba, living a life she described as very different from the tourist attraction it is now.

Looking back, she remembers the work she did and how much it affected her.

“I remember how much I liked Costa Rica,” she said.  “I also remember how much the persons I was teaching taught me.”

After her service, Ms. Gilmore recruited for the Peace Corps and started a rock band.  She now uses her arts to connect with immigrants in Italy, working to get them rights.

“It’s kind of a fight,” she explained.

Ms. Gilmore still writes poetry combining them with songs and has been working for the last year on a poem about Turrialba using memories such as eating rice and beans everyday at noon as the framework, she said.

Although each person of Grupo Uno found a different path to follow after their time was over, they all celebrated the organization at the U.S. ambassador’s residence Wednesday.

Ambassador Anne Andrew, Costa Rica’s vice president, Luis Liberman Ginsburg, and current volunteers joined them in the festivities with laughter and the sharing of experiences.

Ms. Andrew addressed this in her speech saying the Peace Corps embodies the open heart and spirit of service.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 17
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National museum will mark end of Christmas season Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although Christmas was almost a month ago, Costa Rica is still celebrating the last parts of the festivities. 

Families will be able to meet at Casa Colonial of the Museo Nacional to honor the newborn baby Jesus at the traditional Rezo del Niño Friday.

Rezo del Niño is a Costa Rican religious festivity that dates back to the 15th century, said the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.  Musical selections in the form of prayers are sung for Baby Jesus.  The prayers ask for a blessing of the activity.

At the national museum the group "In Excelsis" will provide the musical prayers around a 12-piece portal or nativity scene that includes the Magi as symbols of wealth. 

The nativity scene is a piece of history as well, as some pieces are more than 100 years old.   Many of the pieces once served as elements of the portal at Hospital San Juan de Dios, said the museum.
nativity scene
Museo Ncional photo
This is the historic nativity scene at the museum

The religious event marks the removal of the portal for another year. After the ceremony, participants will be given agua dulce and cake.

The Rezo del Niño will begin at 2 p.m. and is free to the public.

Price regulator proposes a small cut in the nation's bus fares
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency is considering cutting bus fares on more than 3,000 routes. The cuts are tiny, from five to 105 colons.

The reductions are a product of the new methodology that the agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, is using to provide a fair return to bus operators.

The methodology uses a number of costs to determine a fair return, including the 3.65 percent salary hike authorized for private employers in the first half of this year.

The Autoridad will present the proposal at a public hearing next month where the bus operators are sure to object.
The fare reduction involves 85 percent of the nation's 3,555 routes. But for 1,845 or about 52 percent of the routes, the reduction is just five colons, which is about a single U.S. penny. For 620 routes, the reduction was from 10 colons to 105 colons. In general the higher the fare for the long routes the higher the reduction.

For example, the fare for the San José to Limón route now is 3,150 colons. The Autoridad proposes 3,430 colons, about $6.90.

No changes are planned for the popular Sabana Cementerio route, which would remain at 190 colons, and the fare for the Heredia route would only be cut 5 colons to 400.

Overall the reduction is just 1.3 percent.

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Republicans extend debt
with a hook on salaries

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a Republican bill to suspend the legal limit on government borrowing until mid-May. If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the president, which appears likely, it will delay a major showdown between Democratic President Barack Obama and Congress over budget and spending issues and stave off the threat of the United States defaulting on its national debt.

In a surprise move just days after President Obama's second inauguration, House Republicans retreated from earlier demands for a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar they increase the legal limit on borrowing and introduced a bill that would extend the debt limit until May 19.  The bill passed by a vote of 288 to 185.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said it is time that the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate come up with a budget that addresses the soaring national debt.

"It is time for Congress to get serious about this, and this is the first step in an effort to bring real fiscal responsibility to Washington. It is real simple: no budget, no pay," Boehner said.

House Republicans added a requirement to the temporary debt limit extension, specifying that both chambers of Congress must adopt a budget by April 15, as required by law, or have their congressional pay withheld until the start of the new Congress in 2015.

A number of Democrats called this move a political gimmick, and some said it is unconstitutional. A number of Democrats complained that extending the debt ceiling by less than four months did little to provide much-needed certainty to the economy.

​​Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat, said this: "This Republican bill is not a change in policy, it’s a change in tactics. House Republicans continue to play with economic fire. They’re playing political games with the debt ceiling, and that undermines certainty."

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi called on Democrats to vote against it.

"Three months. Where is the certainty in three months? We should not even be having a debate. It should be no doubt that the full faith and credit of the United States will be honored, and that is what our Constitution says," Ms. Pelosi said.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he plans to introduce a budget in the Senate soon anyway, and said a short-term debt ceiling extension is better than another immediate showdown with Republicans.

"But to spare the middle class another knock-down, drag-out fight, we are going to proceed work on this legislation and get it out of here as fast as we can," Reid said.

Reid said he plans to take up the bill quickly, and the White House also made clear that President Obama would not oppose the House bill. Without congressional action on the debt ceiling, the United States would not have been able to pay its bills some time around mid-February, which could have had a significant impact on the global economy.

Panetta reported lifting
ban on women in combat

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A top Pentagon official says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting the ban that keeps American women from combat duty in the military.

The official says Panetta is giving military chiefs until May to draw up plans for implementing the new policy, which is expected to open thousands of front-line combat positions to women in all U.S. military services - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Panetta plans to formally announce the new policy as soon as Thursday.

Women may still be excluded from some combat jobs in the future. The Pentagon official said the chiefs of U.S. military services will have three years to study that issue.

Kerry faces hearing today
on his confirmation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, is set to face his peers today at a confirmation hearing for his nomination as secretary of state.

The former Democratic presidential candidate is expected to face questions about his military service in Vietnam, the crisis in Syria, and the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the southern U.S. state of Texas.

Kerry, one of the wealthiest U.S. senators, already has remedied one possible roadblock to his confirmation by promising to divest his expansive holdings in companies that could prove a conflict of interest to the nation's top diplomat. Those holdings include companies that do business with the U.S. government and others that could be affected by diplomatic decisions.

Kerry's fortune is estimated at $184 million.

He was seen as a possibility for secretary of state when President Barack Obama first took office, but he was passed over for Hillary Clinton, who has served four years and is expected to step down very soon. Kerry is expected to easily win confirmation.

U.S. union membership
reported on the decline

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Union membership in the United States continued its long-term decline last year, as only 11.3 percent of workers were represented by unions, according to newly released federal data.
Wednesday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the 11.3 percent figure is a half-percentage-point decline from the prior year, which works out to a loss of 400,000 members, leaving a total of 14.4 million union workers in the U.S. economy.
In the 1950s, about one-third of U.S. workers were unionized. By the 1980s, that amount had declined to roughly one-fifth of U.S. workers. Currently, a little more than one-tenth of U.S. workers are represented by unions, with membership being far higher among government workers.
Republicans in Wisconsin and other states have led efforts to curb the collective bargaining rights at the core of union power.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says political and ideological assaults, weak laws, and a struggling economy have taken a toll on union membership. The head of the largest union organization in the U.S. says the decline is a threat to economic security and middle-class jobs.

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Modified corn opponents
plan protest Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who oppose genetically modified corn plants will be taking to the streets next Wednesday at the peak traffic hour. The location will be the traffic circle at the Fuente de Hispanidad in front of Mall San Pedro at 4 p.m.

A number of organizations, including the Bloque Verde will participate. They oppose the approval given a Monsanto subsidiary to plant a small tract with genetically modified corn. The Comisión Técnica Nacional de Bioseguridad gave the firm the go ahead earlier in the week.

In a press release, the Bloque Verde also said that opponents of the corn were unhappy with the secrecy that surrounded the decision. The Ley del Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado keeps the information involved in the decision secret, the organization said. The group said that this information should be public.

Another demonstration is planned in front of the Alajuela municipal building at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Application by fire fighters
will keep citizens in contact

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cuerpo de Bomberos will launch BomberosCR today, an online application that will put citizens directly in contact with the fire department.

According to the fire department, this technology will provide better service to the community by giving people the opportunity to report incidents.  It will also give firefighters direct access to a social media platform to provide information and updates.

“This new tool will allow timely reports of emergencies throughout the country and will make available to the users an updated telephone directory of fire stations,” said a release.  “In addition, it will allow firefighters to summon volunteer staff personal for specific emergencies and maintain a constant flow of information to public media.”

The new technology will be unveiled today at 9:30 a.m. at the fire station in Tibás. 

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ice core
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Researchers study a section of the ice core at the University of Copenhagen.

Ice core data shows a much warmer past
By the Niels Bohr Institute news service

In the period between 130,000 and 115,000 years ago, Earth's climate was warmer than today. But how much warmer was it and what did the warming do to global sea levels?

With global warming in the future, the answer to these questions is becoming very important. New research from an ice core drilling project in Greenland shows that the period was warmer than previously thought. The international research project is led by researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute and the very important results are published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

In the last millions of years the Earth's climate has alternated between ice ages lasting about 100,000 years and interglacial periods of 10,000 to 15,000 years. The new results from the ice core drilling project in northwest Greenland, led by the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen show that the climate in Greenland was around 8 degrees C (about 14.4 F) warmer than today during the last interglacial period, the Eemian period, 130,000 to 115,000 thousand years ago.

"Even though the warm Eemian period was a period when the oceans were four to eight meters higher than today, the ice sheet in northwest Greenland was only a few hundred meters lower than the current level, which indicates that the contribution from the Greenland ice sheet was less than half the total sea-level rise during that period," says Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, professor at the Niels Bohr Institute and leader of the drilling project.

The North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project or NEEM is an international project with participants from 14 countries. After four years of deep drilling, the team has drilled ice cores through the more than 2.5 kilometer thick ice sheet. The ice is a stack of layer upon layer of annual snow fall which never melts away, and as the layers gradually sink, the snow is compressed into ice. This gives thousands of annual ice layers that, like tree rings, can tell about variations in past climate from year to year.

The ice cores are examined in laboratories with a series of analyses that reveal past climate. The content of the heavy oxygen isotope O18 in the ice cores gives the temperature in clouds when the snow fell, and thus of the climate of the past. The air bubbles in the ice also are examined. The air bubbles are samples of the ancient atmosphere encased in the ice and they provide knowledge about the air composition of the atmosphere during past climates.

The researchers have obtained the first complete ice core record from the entire previous interglacial period, the Eemian, and with the detailed studies have been able to recreate the annual temperatures – almost 130,000 years back in time.

"It is a great achievement for science to collect and combine so many measurements on the ice core and reconstruct past climate history. The new findings show higher temperatures in northern Greenland during the Eemian than current climate models have estimated," said Dahl-Jensen.

During the warm Eemian period, there was intense surface melting that can be seen in the ice core as layers of refrozen meltwater. Meltwater from the surface had penetrated down into the underlying snow, where it once again froze into ice. Such surface melting has occurred very rarely in the last 5,000 years, but the team members observed such a melting during the summer of 2012 when they were in Greenland.

"We were completely shocked by the warm surface temperatures at the NEEM camp in July 2012," said Dorthe Dahl-Jensen. "It was even raining and just like in the Eemian, the meltwater formed refrozen layers of ice under the surface. Although it was an extreme event the current warming over Greenland makes surface melting more likely and the warming that is predicted to occur over the next 50 to 100 years will potentially have Eemian-like climatic conditions," she believes.

During the warm Eemian period there was increased melting at the edge of the ice sheet and the dynamic flow of the entire ice mass caused the ice sheet to lose mass and it was reduced in height. The ice mass was shrinking at a very high rate of 6 cms per year. But despite the warm temperatures, the ice sheet did not disappear, and the research team estimates that the volume of the ice sheet was not reduced by more than 25 percent during the warmest 6,000 years of the Eemian.

"The good news from this study is that the Greenland ice sheet is not as sensitive to temperature increases and to ice melting and running out to sea in warm climate periods like the Eemian, as we thought" explained Dorthe Dahl-Jensen and adds that the bad news is that if Greenland's ice did not disappear during the Eemian then Antarctica must be responsible for a significant portion of the 4 to 8 meter rise in sea levels that occurred during the Eemian.

More humans will achieve 100 years

By the British Medical Journal news staff

How long can humans expect to live?

John Appleby, chief economist at the Kings Fund, published on the British Medical Journal Web site brings attention to the rising amount of those expected to live to 100 and asks where it will end.

According to the British Office of National Statistics there seems to be no end in sight as far as the number of UK citizens reaching 100 years old is concerned. Approximately 13 percent of girls born in 1951 are expected to reach this milestone, increasing to 40 percent for girls born this year and a predicted 60 percent of those born in 2060.

Appleby attributes similar worldwide trends to the fact that people are dying at older ages. Deaths in children under 5 have fallen by 60 percent since 1970, and surviving early childhood makes it easier to live a much longer life.

Variations between men and women, social groups and countries have, however, remained significant with one UK study finding a difference of 11.4 years (80 years compared with 68.6 years) between women in the poorest and most affluent social classes.

And although living longer is a good thing, research suggests that gains in life expectancy have more to do with reductions in deaths than reductions in years lived in disability. While life expectancy for women has risen 4.6 percent since 1990, healthy life expectancy has risen by only 3 percent.

As more and more people live longer, Appleby asks whether we may find ourselves scrabbling for resources but concludes that this is unlikely and there is no need to panic.
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