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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Monday, Feb. 4, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 24                Email us
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Jo Stuart

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Costa Rica welcomed its first stamp 150 years ago
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica marks the 150th anniversary this year of its first postage stamps.

Before the adhesive postage stamp was invented, the
first stamp
Country's first stamp
recipient of a letter was expected to pay the tab.

A common consequence of this system was that the person on the receiving end would read the letter or open the package, then return it
to the mail carrier with the explanation that they were unable to pay the cost of delivery.  This allowed many to commit mail fraud, and the postal services inevitably lost money.

To avoid this dilemma, Rowland Hill of Great Britain developed a more practical idea of a seal that one purchased before delivery.  In 1840 the first stamp was printed bearing the effigy of Queen Victoria.  It is today known as the "penny black" and is much valued by collectors.

In 1843, Zurich Switzerland adopted the stamp system and in 1847 the United States followed suit.

Sixteen years later, in 1863, Costa Rica put its own seal into circulation making this year in April the 150th anniversary of the country producing its own stamps.

The first stamps, the azaleas de medio real and the rojos de dos reales, and more are available for view in the Correos de Costa Rica museum located on the second floor of the downtown building. The peso, the country's currency until 1896, was divided into eight reales at the time.
 Costa Rica issued this commemorative stamp to
 mark the 150th anniversary of the British penny

The post office building was built in 1917 and is praised by many tourists for its historic significance and grand presence on the surrounding pedestrian walkway. The building just underwent a major makeover.

The upstairs museum is a little known area, that houses a full collection of stamps from both Costa Rica and around the world.

It includes the complete set of the first four stamps printed.  After the red and blue stamp came out, it was determined that they weren't sufficient enough to satisfy the needs of the postage service.  Two new values, the cuatro reales and the peso were printed at the end of 1863.

The museum also has models of morse code machines to depict the complete history and evolution of mail.

Darwin's birthday to be marked in Puriscal with science and reason
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pura Vida sometimes means pura mundane, at least among expats whose daily searches for the necessities in a strange land eclipse deep thought.

A couple from Pursical are trying to do something about that by organizing an afternoon of food, thought, conversations and edification, they said.

The gathering is at the finca of Catherine and Roland Klein. They live about 8 kilometers (about five miles) outside of Puriscal Centro.
The plan is to celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin Saturday. In keeping with the theme, the Kleins said there will be speakers on evolutionary thought, Darwin's home, a favorite Darwin topic of insect coloration and even discussions about Darwin's ship "The Beagle." The couple offers some food and drink but also asks guests to bring a dish to share.

They said the event is a celebration of science, reason and fun.

The couple can be reached at 2416-0893 or 2416-2154 and at

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Milanes investors invited
to see committee details

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Creditors of Luis Milanes, the casino owner, are getting restless and they are directing some of their unhappiness at a committee that is supposed to dole out money.

Milanes, of course, was the operator of Savings Unlimited, one of those high-interest schemes that collapsed in 2002. He fled but returned to meet his creditors in court. In exchange for dropping the criminal allegations, Milanes agreed to surrender property and make hefty payments to a fund that is being supervised by a five-person committee and held by a firm called Global Trust.

The property is being sold and the money is supposed to benefit the creditors. But some claim they have only seen a small amount of what they are owed.

Sunday, in response to a question from a reporter, Leonardo Gómez, one of the three lawyers on the five-person committee representing investors, said he would open the books for creditors who may be unhappy.

Speaking of investors who wrote a critical email, Gómez said in an email reply that the man  "is not only entitled to information, he is welcome to it.  If he is in fact in the list of victims, he can come to my office, show proper ID, and he will get ALL the information at once.  You have my word on that."

Gómez also noted that he is restricted in the information that he can provide others because of the rules of the court.

He also said that anyone involved can speak to the judge who is handling the case. "As far as going to the judge, any person who is part of the process can go," he said.  "They are not only welcome to it, they are encouraged to do so."

Of course, not everyone who lost money in the Saving Unlimited collapse has joined the court action, and the invitation from Gómez only extends to those who have.

Creditors are hoping for a sale of the downtown Hotel Europa that Milanes signed over to Global Trust so that more cash will be available for distribution.

Taco-eating contest includes
a $1,000 prize for winner

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A hot sauce manufacturer plans a taco-eating contest, a qualifier and a final.

Not coincidentally the two events are being held in local drinking spots where the hot sauce can be neutralized by a grain and hops product.

The sponsor is Ricante, which distributes its four types of sauces to local restaurants and plans to begin shipments to the United States.

Royce Mitchell of Ricante announced the contest. The qualifier will be at Time Out Tavern in Escazú Feb. 16. The final with the three qualifiers will be at Henry's Beach Cafe, also Escazú, March 9.

The idea is to wolf down as many tacos as possible over 10 minutes. The winner gets $1,000, but the sauce company also plans other money-raising activities for charities.

Among those who will be at the event is Peter Czerwinski, a self-described competitive eater, and an announcement that described him as an internationally known food contest winner.  A handout said that Czerwinski, known as Furious Pete, has been successful in a number of contests since September 2011. The events include eating burger, pizza, chicken wings, meatballs, hot dogs and pie.

Killer incinerated bodies
on beach in Matina

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone killed two persons and then incinerated their bodies on a beach at 12 Millas de Matina.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that agents went there Sunday at midday after the crime was reported.

What the agents found were the remains of two incinerated bodies, including skulls that showed bullet wounds, the agency said.

The burned bodies were near each other and there were burned clothing and plastic bags, too, suggesting that the bodies may have been brought from elsewhere.

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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Sala IV will take a look at genetically modified corn arguments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Environmentalists report that the Sala IV constitutional court has admitted for consideration a challenge to the way the country's Comisión Técnica Nacional de Bioseguridad and the rules governing how it operates.

The action is in opposition to the commission's approval to let a Monsanto subsidiary here plant a patch of genetically modified corn.

Admission of the brief is the first step in a court decision, although the action does not imply agreement with the appeal.

The action asks that the decision of the commission be suspended and that Monsanto's company here not be issued  a certificate to plant the corn. The action seeks that the Sala IV consider all aspects of the issue. The appeal was lodged Dec. 12, but word that it had been accepted for study came last week.

The proposal by DPL Semillas, the Monsanto subsidiary, appears to have generated opposition throughout the agricultural community. Even the nation's beekeeping organization came out against the idea last week.
The Cámara Nacional de Fomento de la Apicultura said that it feared the honey produced by bees here would become contaminated from the pollen of the genetically modified corn if it were planted as proposed in Chomes. This could cause the honey to be rejected by European union markets where genetically modified crops are prohibited, it said.

A number of cantons have passed resolutions declaring the political divisions free of genetically modified crops.

The country also has some plantings of genetically modified cotton and pineapple as experiments.

The seeds from the Monsanto corn are to be exported. The modification to the plant is to increase resistance against some diseases and to make it resistant to herbicides so that corn fields can be sprayed to kill weeds without damaging the crop.

Genetic modifications are seen in some quarters as a way to make the next big advance in feeding the world. But the concept also has generated fears and opposition. Environmentalists here say that the genetically modified corn might pollute the gnome of Costa Rica's corn. They also oppose the idea that farmers should purchase hybrid seeds each year instead of planting seeds from the prior year's crops.

Rare Russian terrier in Escazú
picked as dog of the year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The average dog has little chance to be a star.

Sure there are dog shows, but the bulk of the participants are upper class dogs with pedigrees who, like Miss America contestants, have been raised from puppyhood to strut their stuff.

But out at the Doggi Divino Grooming Salon, owner Laurie Sklar runs a contest for family pets who come by for hair cuts and other beauty treatments. The year's favorite dog is selected by a vote of patrons. Some 400 votes were cast this year, said Ms. Sklar.

This year the winner is Zoey, a black Russian terrier. Ms. Sklar said that this is considered a rare breed that was developed by combining up to 17 various breeds during the 1940s in the former Soviet Union to be guard and police dogs. Today, the black Russian terrier is a highly intelligent, brave and observant pet who thrives on human contact and has a strong and balanced temperament and love to please their master, she said.

Zoey takes her job of protecting the Faa family of Escazú very seriously, Ms. Sklar said. However, when with her family, she is a gentle giant who enjoys lots of cuddles and making herself part of all family activities, especially wrestling with the kids, she added.
dog winner
The ears may get in the way of the crown.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb, 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 24
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Amazon rivers and wetlands are also in trouble study reports
By the Woods Hole Research Center news staff

Freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. River, lake and wetland ecosystems — encompassing approximately one-fifth of the Amazon basin area — are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species.

That was the gist of a study published Conservation Letters.

The study was led by Leandro Castello, a research associate at the Woods Hole Research Center in collaboration with scientists from various institutions in the United States and Brazil.

Damage to Amazon freshwater ecosystems greatly impacts Amazonians, who historically have been so dependent on freshwater ecosystem goods and services that they have been called water peoples. Current per capita fish consumption in the Brazilian Amazon averages 94 kilos a year in riverine populations, which is almost six times the world average. Increasing fishing pressure has shrunk the size of harvested species, partly due to the progressive depletion of high-value, large-bodied species. A century ago, the mean maximum body length of the main species harvested in the basin was about 206 cm; today it is about 79 cm.

Science and policy in the Amazon have focused largely on forests and their associated biodiversity and carbon stocks. Three decades of effort have generated an understanding of some key biophysical transitions in the basin and enabled the establishment of a network of protected areas, largely designed to preserve forests and their biodiversity. Little attention has been paid to freshwater ecosystems, which through the hydrological cycle are interconnected to other ecosystems at local and distant locations, being highly sensitive to a broad array of human impacts.

“Despite some terrestrial protections that are high by global standards, this paper shows key gaps in protection for the Amazon’s freshwater systems and species,” said Robin Abell, the senior freshwater conservation biologist at World Wildlife Fund. The Madeira River basin, for example, is threatened by oil exploration, deforestation and dams in its headwaters, even though protected areas cover 26 percent  of the catchment area. “The pressures that the authors detail need to be addressed now, before conservation opportunities are lost,” said Abell. “Restoration can be far costlier than proactive protection.”
Amazon fish
Woods Hole Research Center photo
 A fishermen proud of the almost two-feet long Colossoma
 macropomum he caught using a harpoon thrown by hand.
 This high-value fish is today thought to be overfished and
 increasingly scarce.

The principal threat to most Amazon freshwater ecosystems is large-scale alteration of the basin’s natural hydrology. “There is a total of 154 hydroelectric dams in operation, 21 in construction, and plans to construct 277 additional dams in the future. There are also thousands of small dams located in small streams to provide water for cattle,” noted coauthor Marcia Macedo of the Woods Hole Research Center. “These infrastructure projects, together with deforestation-induced changes to regional rainfall, could fundamentally change the hydrology of Amazon freshwater systems,” she added. The study suggests that, if uncontrolled, such hydrological alterations could disrupt fish migrations and associated fishery yields, threatening riverine livelihoods and food security.

Adequate protection of Amazon freshwater ecosystems requires broadening the forest-centric focus of prevailing environmental management and conservation strategies to encompass aquatic ecosystems, the study said. By building upon existing protected areas, it is possible to develop a river catchment-based conservation framework that protects both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, effectively protecting the Amazon river-forest system. The Amazon watershed spans six countries, with Brazil, Bolivia, and Perú accounting for most of the area. Thus “in addition to national conservation and management efforts, a pan-Amazonian, catchment-based approach is critical,” said coauthor Laura Hess of Earth Research Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara.

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Twitter is latest victim
of cyber attackers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Social media giant Twitter says it was hacked last week, in a sophisticated cyber attack that exposed the passwords and other information of about 250,000 users.

The company said in a blog post Friday that it had detected unauthorized attempts to gain access to its user data. The site's information security director, Bob Lord, said Twitter employees discovered one live attack and shut it down in progress moments later.

Twitter said it reset passwords and that it was notifying affected users.

Unlike The New York Times and Wall Street Journal newspapers, which said they were attacked by Chinese hackers this week, Twitter did not provide any information on where the hacking had originated. But Lord said in the posting that the attack was not the work of amateurs, and that Twitter does not believe it was an isolated incident. He called the attackers extremely sophisticated.

The company said it is working with government and federal law enforcement in their effort to track down the attackers to make the Internet safer for all users.

Spielberg and Lee share
top spot for Oscars

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two iconic filmmakers, Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee, are competing for the most coveted Oscars this year: Best director and best picture.  Spielberg’s drama "Lincoln" has received 12 Oscar nominations, and Ang Lee’s "Life of Pi" is trailing with 11. It’s unclear who, among the five nominees for best director, will win, but both Spielberg and Lee have left their mark on contemporary American cinema.

The awards will be handed out Feb. 24.

With "Lincoln," Spielberg created not only an Oscar-worthy film but a new classic.

Spielberg has been a force in Hollywood for nearly four decades.

His first big success was "Jaws," about the hunt for a killer shark off the coast of New York's Long Island.  It won three academy awards and established Spielberg as a master of suspense, a title he reclaimed with his science fiction film, "Close encounters of the Third Kind."

A few years later, Spielberg returned with "E.T. the Extraterrestrial," the poignant story of a boy who befriends an alien stranded on earth. It became the top grossing film of all time.

Other blockbusters, like the Indiana Jones trilogy, followed. From the adventures, Spielberg turned to historical dramas.

His crowning achievement was the 1993 Holocaust epic, "Schindler’s List," based on the story of Oskar Schindler, who risked his life to save more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers.

The film earned Spielberg his first Academy Awards.

In "Saving Private Ryan," Spielberg again focused on World War II and won another academy award for best director.

Now, 15 years later, with "Lincoln," Spielberg is a continuing force in cinema, crafting history for millions of moviegoers.

Ang Lee’s Oscar-nominated film "Life of Pi," about an Indian boy adrift with a Bengal tiger, is a visual masterpiece. Lee’s cinematography and special effects make the sea and the kinetic tiger supporting characters.

For Ang Lee, success came late in life.  He won acclaim for his 1995 British period-piece, "Sense and Sensibility." 

From then on, he became famous for his nuanced treatment of culturally diverse stories.

In 1997, he directed "The Ice Storm" about dysfunctional families in the affluent New York suburbs.

In 1999, his "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," about Chinese martial arts, won an Oscar for best foreign language film.

But Lee’s climactic moment came in 2005 with "Brokeback Mountain," about the forbidden love between two gay cowboys in the American West. Lee’s tender and poignant story put gay romance into the American mainstream. The film was nominated for best picture but lost to another, many say because of its subject matter. Yet, Ang Lee received the Oscar for best director.

This year, with "Life of Pi," Lee focuses on an Indian family and the universality of faith as a source of strength and courage.

Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg go toe-to-toe as master filmmakers of their generation.

Ravens take the Superbowl
despite 49er strong finish

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Baltimore Ravens held on late Sunday to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in Super Bowl 47, the championship game of the U.S. National Football League.

The Ravens appeared to be the way to an easy victory when Jacoby Jones tied a Super Bowl record with a 108-yard kickoff return, raising the Ravens' lead to 28-6.

But a short time later, play came to a halt as half the lights abruptly went dark in the Superdome, a huge indoor arena in New Orleans. Play finally resumed after a 35-minute interruption. There was no immediate explanation for the partial blackout in the stadium.

Following the delay, the 49ers came roaring back from that 22-point deficit with two quick touchdowns and a field goal to close the gap to 28-23 after three quarters. San Francisco cut the lead to just two points in the fourth quarter, but could come no closer. The 49ers tried for the go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes, only to see the pass fall incomplete.

More than 100 million people in the United States and around the world watched the game on Sunday.

The contest was a family affair. For the first time in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues brothers are opposing each other as head coaches in a championship game.

Baltimore's John Harbaugh and his younger brother, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, are two of the best in the business.

Pop superstar Beyonce headlined the half-time entertainment, filled with music, dancing, fireworks and spectacular special effects.

Animal Planet, a cable television station, offered alternate programming and a different type of sports competition for Americans who don't follow football. "The Puppy Bowl," now an annual fixture opposite the Super Bowl, offered terrier touchdowns and puppy penalties, hedgehog cheerleaders on the sidelines and kittens headlining the halftime show. To the uninitiated, the canine style of play closely resembled a large group of puppies running aimlessly around on a football-field-style layout.
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Indictments in California
say sushi contained whale

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
A federal grand jury has returned a nine-count indictment that charges a now-shuttered Santa Monica sushi restaurant and two men who worked there as chefs with selling meat from sei whales, which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The indictment charges: Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., which is the parent company of the now-closed The Hump Restaurant, which was located at the Santa Monica Airport;

Also charged are Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, of Culver City; and Susumu Ueda, 39, of Lawndale.

The indictment accuses the three defendants of conspiring to import and sell whale meat, specifically meat from sei whales, which are listed as an endangered species.

Yamamoto and Ueda ordered the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, a Japanese national who previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally selling a marine mammal product, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. Once Ohira received the whale meat in the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the whale meat to The Hump, according to the indictment that describes a conspiracy that lasted from 2007 into 2010.

According to the indictment and documents previously filed in this matter, The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three specific occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010, said the U.S. Attorney' Office.

The meat sold as whale on two of the occasions was examined by scientists, who tested the DNA of the meat and determined it was sei whale, and receipts given to the informants who went to The Hump indicated that they had purchased “whale,” according to an affidavit previously filed, the office said.

It is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the United States. Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and they are listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, The Hump is charged with smuggling and Yamamoto is charged with two counts of smuggling, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

Chili cookoff
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb, 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 24
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Smart devices to get a whole lot smarter

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Imagine shopping for clothes online and being able to run your hand across the screen on your computer or smartphone to feel the fabrics. That kind of simulation technology could be available within the next five years.

“We’re talking about reinventing the way computers operate and you interact with them as humans,” says IBM Vice President Bernie Meyerson.

Extending our sense of touch is one of five innovatons IBM believes will change the world in the next five years, according to the company's annual "Five in Five" list. 

Smart machines will also soon be able to listen to the environment and highlight the sounds users care about most. For instance, an advanced speech recognition system will tell new parents why their baby is crying.
“Your child is hungry, versus ill, versus lonely," Meyerson says. "This kind of thing is not possible today, but with a sophisticated enough system, it’s actually possible.”

In the near future, personal computers will be able to do more than recognize images and visual data. Their built-in cameras will be able to analyze features such as colors, and understand the meaning of visual media, such as knowing how to sort family photos.

Smart machines will also be able to smell. If you sneeze on your computer or cell phone, tiny sensors embedded in the machine will be able to analyze thousands of molecules in your breath.

“It can give you an alarm and say; ‘Hey, you may not feel sick yet, but you have an infection, you must go see your doctor immediately,’” Meyerson says.

IBM scientists are also developing a system which can experience flavors to be used by chefs to create recipes. It breaks down ingredients to their molecular level and blends them to create the most popular flavors and smells, even as it helps us mind our waistlines. 

“It can recommend to you the food you love to taste, but it can also keep track of the caloric limits, whether you have limits on the fat or cholesterol you can eat," Meyerson says. "So it strikes that ideal balance between the best possible taste and the best possible nutritional outcome.”

One of the most impressive things about the IBM list, says Georgetown University computer science professor Mark Maloof, is how powerful these tiny,  smart devices are becoming:

"I think one of the surprises in that list is how a lot of very sophisticated computational methods for doing say for example, hearing and vision, have been implemented on these tiny small mobile devices."

Maloof hopes the advances will encourage more students to study science, technology, engineering and math, preparing them to play a role in future innovations.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what young people do with the increased availability of mobile platforms and networking and computing power,” he says.
He believes there’s little doubt advances in computer technology over the next five years will make what now seems like science fiction a part of our everyday lives.

British study says
New techniques can cut exercise time

By the Wiley Publishers news staff

With many persons struggling to get enough exercise, sport and exercise scientists at Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Birmingham have been working on a time-saving solution.

Instead of long stints in the gym and miles of running in the cold, the same results could be achieved in less than a third of the time, according to new research published Friday in The Journal of Physiology.

The current recommendation of the World Health Organization and United Kingdom Department of Health is that people of all ages should do three to five hours of endurance training per week to increase health and fitness and prevent chronic diseases and premature mortality. However, most people find it difficult to set aside this much time in their busy lives.

This study has taken existing research to a new level to prove that replacing endurance training with two types of interval training, high intensity interval training and sprint interval training, can make a massive difference to health and aerobic fitness.  In two articles in the Journal of Physiology, the researchers describe their recent discoveries that three sessions of sprint training, taking just 90 minutes per week, are as effective as five sessions of traditional endurance exercise, taking five hours per week, in increasing whole body insulin sensitivity via two independent mechanisms.

Matthew Cocks of John Moores University explains: "One mechanism involves improved delivery of insulin and glucose to the skeletal muscle and the other involves improved burning of the fat stored in skeletal muscle fibers.  Additionally, we found a reduced stiffness of large arteries which is important in reducing the risk of vascular disease."

On the basis of these novel and earlier findings from other laboratories, Anton  Wagenmakers, the lead researcher said he expects that these techniques will turn out to be unique alternative exercise modes suitable to prevent blood vessel disease, hypertension, diabetes and most of the other aging and obesity related chronic diseases.

Researcher Sam Shepherd of John Moores University said that sprint interval training involves four to six repeated 30 second all out sprints on special laboratory bikes interspersed with 4.5 minutes of very low intensity cycling. Due to the very high workload of the sprints, this method is more suitable for young and healthy individuals. However, anyone of any age or level of fitness can follow one of the alternative programs which involve 15-60 second bursts of high intensity cycling interspersed with 2-4 minute intervals of low intensity cycling, he said.  High intensity interval training can be delivered on simple spinning bikes that are present in commercial gyms and are affordable for use at home or in the workplace.' 

Lack of time is the number one reason that the majority of the adult population do not meet the current physical activity recommendations.

"A pilot study currently ongoing in the Sports Centre at the University of Birmingham has also shown that previously sedentary individuals in the age-range of 25 to 60 also find HIT on spinning bikes much more enjoyable and attractive than endurance training and it has a more positive effect on mood and feelings of well-being," said Shepherd. "This could imply that HIT is more suitable to achieve sustainable changes in exercise behavior."

High intensity interval training seems to provide the ideal alternative to outdoor running, cycling trips and long endurance cycling sessions in health and fitness gyms. That is why the researchers believe that there will be a great future for high intensity interval training for obese and elderly individuals and potentially also for patients with hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Obama urges cooperation on budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama has called on lawmakers to work together on a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and promote economic growth.

The president said in his weekly address Saturday it is critical to cut spending. He said, however, "we can't just cut our way to prosperity."

Obama urged Congress to make investments in education, infrastructure, and in research and development — things he said that would help America "compete for the best jobs and new industries."

Obama said everyone in Washington needs to "focus not on politics, but on what's right for the country."

In the Republican address, Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana said Democrats must get serious about the nation's spending problems. She called on Senate Democrats to pass a budget.

Dow Jones reaches key level

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. stocks made strong gains Friday as the Dow stock market index closed above 14,000 for the first time since before the financial crisis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is the best-known U.S. stock market index, and it hit a five-year high as investors saw good news in reports on auto sales and hiring.

Investors apparently looked past a slight increase in the nation's unemployment rate and focused instead on the net gain in the number of jobs over the past year in the United States.

Friday's report from the Labor Department said the jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percent to hit 7.9 percent.

Other studies showed a gain of 157,000 jobs in January. Experts also raised estimates of job gains in prior months, in a customary revision as more complete information becomes available.

Other U.S. stock market indexes also were higher in Friday trading.
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