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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 18        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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New Orleans festivities come to the Central Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mardi Gras is coming to Esterillos Oeste. The central Pacific Krewe of Sirena is planning a parade
Mardi Gras
Saturday, Feb. 21, starting at the local plaza at 2 p.m.

The organization promises decorated floats, cards, trucks, bicycles and horses.

As is traditional during a Mardi Gras parade, those on the floats will have beads, candy, doubloons and more items to throw to the crowd, said a release.

The event is a fundraiser for chairs and supplies for the local school, the release
said. The parade culminates in a party and dance after the parade, as is traditional among the newer krewes or secret social clubs of New Orleans.

The krewe asked that those who wish to be in
the parade preregister Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at El Vago in Esterillos Oeste. Additional information is available at  2778-7371.

The event could be the first carnival parade organized by English speakers. Carnival is not big in Costa Rica, although resident Brazilians and former New Orleans residents have had and will continue to have private parties.

In fact, the Krewe of Sirena is a new addition to local organizations.

Mardi Gras, of course, is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Ash Wednesday is Feb. 25 this year but for more than 200 years merrymakers have pushed the calendar to hold carnivals and Mardi Gras parades days and weeks before. One of the most important New Orleans krewes has a parade on the same day as the one in Esterillos Oeste.

Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) is the day before the start of the somber religious period of Lent, which is supposed to be a time of penance and reflection in Christian tradition.

Arias planning to announce his own stimulus plan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will outline a stimulus plan for Costa Rica in a national speech Thursday.

The president's action comes at a time when tourist operators are calling 2009 the year without a high season. Reports from around the country say that European tourists outnumber North Americans.

There was no indication exactly what the president would propose, but it certainly will be consistent with his stated goals of keeping Costa Ricans employed and maintaining the strong social safety net. The full title of his address is Plan de protección y estímulo social y económico para los costarricenses or "plan of protection and social and economic stimulus for Costa Ricans."

The announcement also comes at a time when the colon is showing weakness against the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank rate to buy dollars was 550.34 colons Monday and shot up to 553.98 for today. The rate to sell dollars was 560.16 Monday and was set at 563.78 for today.

The bank also announced last week a plan to allow its intervention target to creep up 20 centimos a day.

Arias will give his 6 p.m. talk at the auditorium of the Fundación Omar Dengo in Barrio Francisco Peralta on Calle 25 between Avenidas 10 and 12. Arias has advocated a government tradition of protecting the poor, and any stimulus plan is likely to be consistent with that policy.
The current condition of the tourism season still is a mystery. Only anecdotal information is available. Neither the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería nor the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo have any statistics available for 2008 or the first weeks of this year.  January is usually the middle of high season, but a visitor to a major hotel in Tamarindo Monday reported that the occupancy appeared to be very low. The institute has claimed that 2 million tourists arrived in 2008 and held a little ceremony honoring a New Jersey family. But the accuracy of the report is suspect absent hard numbers. The institute also counts all tourists, including more than 400,000 each year from Nicaragua.

The nation has been hurt by the international financial crisis, but news reports of polluted beaches, earthquakes and flooding also have had an impact. In addition, lawmakers at the request of the tourism institute just created a new $15 arrival tax for every tourist.

One real estate broker also noted that although fuel prices have declined, air fares have not. A roundtrip fare from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Liberia for a one-week stay ranged for $697 to $1,453 on Monday night. Continental had the lowest price via Houston.

Visits to the tourism institute Web Site,, have declined by 5 percent over the last three months, according to, the affiliate that tracks readership. The tourism Web page has a traffic rank of 277,821, according to Alexa. That is well outside the premium list of the top 100,000 sites.

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Sneak thieves are targeting
supplies for quake victims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The emergency commission is beefing up security around the food and clothing that have been donated to earthquake victims.

At the same time individuals and families are infiltrating the shelters where the quake refugees live to take advantage of the free items being distributed.

Some of these impostors are attempting to claim they were earthquake victims, perhaps in the hope that the commission will award them new homes.

The commission said that it was requiring volunteers working with food and clothing to wear wristbands as a means of identification. And the security ministry has been asked to provide more police officers to keep watch over the shelters and the supply storage areas, said the commission.

The problem is diminishing. The commission reported Monday that some 700 persons have returned to their homes after having been in shelters since the Jan. 8 earthquake north of San José and Heredia. The 19 active shelters now have 1,483 persons living there, the commission said.

Meanwhile experts in construction and engineers and geologists are studying the homes of those who have been displaced to determine if there is structural damage. Such evaluations are taking place in Sarapiquí, Los Cartagos and several cantons of the province of Alajuela, said the commission.

Those who returned to their homes this weekend received supplies and clothes from the commission to help them start their life anew.

New clinics are in the works

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General de la República has approved a trust that will use $180 million to construct some 42 neighborhood clinics for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The trust will be managed by the Banco Nacional. The bank and the Caja officials are expected to announce the details today.

The clinics are Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Salud or Ebais for short.

Our reader's opinion
Language protectionism
is not opening to the world

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A language that cannot submit to change might as well be dead.  English — the second most spoken language in the world (Mandarin being the most spoken) — has more words than any other language, even though English speakers generally use only about 1 percent of their language. 

English survives, in part, because it is a language of the people, and every year, hundreds of new words are added to official English dictionaries.  It keeps the language fresh and interesting.  Many new words have foreign origins . . . ain’t that grand! 

You don’t see the English all shaky and worried about their language surviving.  My thought is that if a language is alive and healthy, it doesn’t need government attempts to protect it.  You can probably guess that I am anti-protectionist, and not just in language.  As our world becomes smaller and we allow for new ideas, integration and global cooperation is the only answer for the good of the people and their economy.  Isolation should never be the answer. 

The news story Monday refers to Quebec as an example, and what a poor example, that is.  As a Canadian, I believe that the efforts of the late prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, have done more to isolate Quebec from English Canada because he rammed French down the throat of the English.  The Costa Rican lawmaker obviously is not aware of the negative sentiment (mostly suppressed because of political correctness) that a great many Canadian English-speaking people have toward the French in Canada.  Had everyone been allowed to embrace the French language on their own terms, it would have happened eventually, without a bitter outcome.

In most of Canada, many minorities retain their languages and cultures in their homes and in their communities . . . and I think that’s wonderful and I applaud them.  What would upset me is if they took the same position as the French and demanded their German, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Chinese etc. etc. all be declared official languages in Canada.  And if the stores in their community want to add little sticky pieces of paper to their packaging to make it easier to understand the directions, I would hope they wouldn’t deface the English or French by obscuring their language preference.

Is it Costa Rica spewing negative foreign sentiment?  Is it trying to separate rather than cooperate?  I hope not because I don’t believe you can ever raise yourself up by putting someone else down and forcing your will on others through legislation.  Think opening your world, not shutting it out.

Spanish will never be a universal language . . . get over it.  Nor will French.  Time for me to start learning Mandarin and move forward, not backward.

I can’t wait to read the backlash.  Before you write, here’s a little joke to consider: 

Q: “Why do little boys whine so much?” 
A:  “To prepare them for when they become men.” 

So whine away anyone of another language who has a phobia for change or likes to propagate cultural hysteria.

Mary Jay
Alajuela, Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 18

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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The difference between the unique and ordinary is not only a flash of thought but the courage to turn ideas into action.

Artists in Costa Rica have a lot of freedom in their treatment of public buildings and the walls in public spaces. And most of the work is highly creative.

Consider the simplicity of design in the unsigned yellow hand that appears to be holding up a railroad bridge on the Heredia line.

Who would have thought . . . .

Cuban airport inhabitant awarded status as a refugee
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister again awarded refugee status after the applicant had been turned down by immigration officials and the courts.

The minister, Janina del Vecchio, decided Monday that José Angel Roque Pérez, could stay in the country. The man received notoriety by refusing to return to his native Cuba and peppering the legal establishment with appeals.

Ms. del Vecchio's decision was announced by the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Roque arrived at Juan Santamaría airport Dec. 4 en route to Ecuador from Cuba.
According to the ministry, Ms. del Vecchio awarded refugee status because the man had a well-founded fear of returning to Cuba. The ministry noted that such a fear is subjective.

The ministry said that Ms. del Vecchio looked into the case before making her decision. That was not the case with Chere Lyn Tomayko, the U.S. fugitive mom from Heredia who received refugee status in July shielding her from a U.S. indictment of parental child abduction.

Ms. del Vecchio awarded the woman refugee status without even checking with officials in the woman's home state of Texas.

Several other cases or runaway U.S. moms are likely to reach the minister's desk in the next few months.

Atmospheric discovery among those accomplishments cited for awards
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two science and technology prizes were among a litany of cultural awards announced Monday at the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes.

Jorge A. Amador Astúa, a Universidad de Costa Rica professor, received the honors in science for his discovery of a hitherto unknown atmospheric current over the Caribbean.

A man only identified as Primo Luis Chaverría Córdoba received the technology award for the development of a herbicide dispenser.

Well-known pianist Jacques Sagot received two awards.
One was for bringing culture to the public. The second was as the best interpreter of music.

Two persons, including a 6-year-old boy received awards of civil merit. The boy, José Arias Madrigal, was instrumental in bringing help to his family after their vehicle ran off a road in Puriscal in June.

The second person is Cristián Sanabria Jiménez, a Cruz Roja rescue worker in Cartago. His accomplishments were not described.

In the Spanish literature field, Carlos Morales Castro received an award for his novel La rebelión de las avispas.

There were a number of theater and dance awards.

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Scientists decipher the love duet produced by dengue carriers
By the Cornell University news services

That pesky buzz of a nearby mosquito is the sound of love, scientists have known for some time. But a new Cornell study reports that males and females flap their wings and change their tune to create a harmonic duet just before mating.

Cornell entomologists have discovered that male and female mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti), which can spread such diseases as yellow and dengue fevers, "interact acoustically with each other when the two are within earshot -- a few centimeters of each other," said Ron Hoy, professor of neurobiology and behavior.

The study is available online and will be published in a February issue of Science, said Laura Harrington . She is a Cornell associate professor of entomology and mosquito expert.

"The frequency at which males and females converge is a harmonic or multiple of their wing-beat frequencies, which is approximately 400 hertz [vibrations per second] for the female and 600 hertz for the male," said Hoy.

The mating duet, generated just before the couple mates on the fly, settles at around 1,200 hertz —roughly an octave and a half above concert A (the pitch to which instruments are tuned — the A that has a frequency of 440 hertz and is above middle C). "That is significantly higher than what was previously thought to be mosquitoes' upper hearing limit," he added.

Interestingly, the mosquitoes adjust the harmonic resonance of their thoracic box to produce a harmonic frequency that converges at a frequency that is the female's third harmonic (three times her fundamental frequency) and the male's second harmonic (two times his fundamental frequency). 
The study also is the first to definitively show that contrary to previous thought, female mosquitoes are not deaf.

To study mosquito mating calls, the researchers tethered mosquitoes and flew them past each other while recording the flight tones with a special microphone. Benjamin Arthur, a postdoctoral researcher in Hoy's laboratory,
placed electrodes in the mosquitoes' auditory organ in their antennae during playback to measure physiological responses of the mosquitoes to the sounds of potential mates.

The researchers hope that their work will provide new ways to better control of mosquito populations in places where yellow and dengue fevers are significant problems.

"By studying these flight tone signals, we may be able to determine what kind of information males and females consider important when choosing a mate," said Lauren Cator, a Cornell graduate student who works with Harrington. "This will allow us to release sexy transgenic or sterilized males that will be able to successfully compete with wild populations."

Dengue fever affects 50 million people annually, and two-thirds of the world's population is at risk. In recent years, it has reached epidemic levels in Asia, South and Central America and Mexico, where the number of dengue cases has increased by more than 300 percent from year to year. No dengue vaccine is available, and no treatment exists beyond supportive care. More than 10,000 persons contract the disease in Costa Rica each year.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by a $19.7 million Foundation for the National Institutes of Health grant awarded to Harrington and a global team of scientists to cure dengue fever and control the mosquitoes that transmit the viruses that cause it.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Costa Rica says it won't use
cluster bombs or toxic gases

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature approved six treaties on first reading Monday that, among other things, causes the country to promise not to use cluster bombs.

The package of six treaties also covers toxic gases, explosives and war crimes.

Being a nation without a military, Costa Rica is unlikely to run afoul of any of these pacts, but lawmakers said that it was incorrect to think that the nation should not support the measures.

The treaties establish certain norms that make wars less violent, said Lesvia Villalobos of the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

The legislature also approved an agreement strengthening the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission which has the job of tuna conservation and management in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

All the measures require one more vote before going to President Óscar Arias Sánchez, whose administration put forth the measures in the first place.

Invasion suspects given
three months in jail

By the A. M. Costa Rica staff

The four suspects detained near San Ramón Saturday were two Costa Ricans and two Dominicans. They have been remanded to jail for investigation for three months, according to the Poder Judicial.

The suspects were further identified by their last names of Gómez Brenes and Sojo Carmona of Costa Rica and  Hernández Guzmán and Pérez of the Dominican Republic.

The Poder Judicial identified the victim by the last names of Peña Sánchez and his wife, identified as Castillo Duarte, who live in the Karen Olsen subdivision in Esparza.

The Poder Judicial said that robbers Saturday took advantage of an open portón and an open wooden door to enter the home Saturday. There they found money that was to be used to pay the man's 45 employees, the Poder Judicial said.

The amount was about 3.6 million colons or about $6,600, said the Poder Judicial.

That amount was recovered from the vehicle in which the suspects were riding. The vehicle overturned during a police chase and the occupants took to the hills where the suspects were encountered by land and air searchers.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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