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(506) 2223-1327               Published Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 32      E-mail us
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This is the remains of a gill net that divers managed to strip off a young humpback whale. Whale net

Young whale saved in net intervention in Potrero
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A newborn whale calf entangled in more than 100 feet of an abandoned gill net is alive today because fishermen and dive company workers risked their lives to free the young creature.

The story comes from Playa Potrero in Guanacaste where Capt. Pat Franklin of Las Brisas Sports Fishing and his party of fishermen spotted the young creature wrapped up in the net. His colleague, Tom Haydu, said the members of the fishing party agreed to assist the calf even though two adult whales, probably the parents, were swimming nearby. Adult whale have been known to attack boats, Haydu said.

Franklin called for help and managed to keep circling the trapped animal for more than 90 minutes until two divers and the "Golden Huntress" dive boat arrived.

Haydu, the owner of Las Brisas Fishing Charters, gave the account of the Feb. 6 events in a summary circulating on the Internet.

The area was near Catalina Islands in the Pacific. The two divers are Roy Mora Cordova and Emelio López Bustos, according to the account.

The young whale knocked one diver off, but the second managed to cut the calf free.

Haydu said that the photos were taken by Jesse Fox and Terry Wright from Alberta, Canada, along with Helen and Richard Fox of
Whale saving divers
Roy Mora Cordova and Emelio López Bustos appear happy after risking their lives to free a juvenile whale.

Whitehorse, Yukon. They were on the fishing boat.

Haydu finished his account with an attack on the practice of using gill nets:

"The real sad news that comes from this story is how many sea creatures are caught in these death traps called gill nets. They are banned in many parts of the world, but still used extensively and illegally, causing useless killing and trashing the world’s sea life. If it swims, it will die in a gill net. Turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales, just to name a few.   This story ended happily, but how many we cannot imagine do not. The gill net has to be banned within our waters, and this law enforced with massive fines and jail terms.  Let’s hope just this one story can make a difference. Supporting the conservation efforts  around the world is a good start."

Trapped whale
Young whale, tethered to the boat by a gill net, struggles to get free.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 32

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Man gored by fiesta bull
reported out of hospital


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Willy Cubillo Rodríguez is alive and out of the hospital.

Cubillo was the bull rider who was gored Jan. 19 in a televised  incident from a fiesta in Santa Cruz. The horn of the bull pierced his stomach, diaphragm and one lung. He was seen being tossed in the air by the unhappy bull.

Cubillo also was reported to have died by A.M. Costa Rica and some other media outlets because he was transferred from the Hospital La Anexión de Nicoya to Hospital México in San José. He proved that was incorrect when he started giving television interviews.

Hospital México attendants reported that he was discharged last week to return to the Guanacaste area.


Free trade zone considered
for the San Carlos region

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San Carlos regional leaders and representatives from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica will be meeting this morning to evaluate the possibility of locating a free trade zone in the area.

The meeting will be at the university's campus there. Participants are expected to include representativess from the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior the Promotora del Comercio Exterior and firms that are located in free trade zones elsewhere now.

The university said that the evaluation would be done within the framework of the new free trade zone law that was just passed.

The university, which has its main campus in Cartago, will seek to support the proposal through its Centro de Transferencia Tecnológica y Educación Continua, it said.


Alajuela seeks to cut time
to obtain business permit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Municipality de Alajuela says it hopes to cut the time required to obtain a business license in the central canton from 39 days to 2 with the use of online filing.

The municipality will accept filings via the Internet, it said, for C patentes. These are licenses for operations like small groceries, hair salons, shoe repair shops and similar.

The municipality is working with the Programa Nacional de Competitividad y Mejora Regulatoria and using its Web site.

Applicants still will have to produce supporting documentation.

That includes a health permission for the premises from the Ministerio de Salud, proof that the firm is registered with the taxing authorities and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, evidence of an insurance policy protecting workers and proper zoning.
                 
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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 weekday.

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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.

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Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 32

    
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Breakthrough reported in search for a dengue vaccine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A San Diego, California, research institute has taken a major step toward the development of a dengue virus vaccine.

The institute, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, said it has validated the long-held and controversial hypothesis that antibodies, usually the good guys in the body's fight against viruses, instead contributes to severe dengue virus-induced disease.

The finding has major implications for the development of a first-ever vaccine against dengue virus, a growing public health threat which annually infects 50 to 100 million people worldwide, causing a half million cases of the severest form, the institute said.

The idea has persisted as common knowledge for decades. Those who get the severe dengue reaction, perhaps even the dreaded hemorrhagic fever, are those who have had the disease before.

Thousands of people contract the mosquito-born disease every year, mainly on the Central Pacific coast and in the Limón area. The Ministerio de Salud conducts extensive spraying campaigns to control the mosquitoes. The ministry and some private organizations conduct major cleanup campaigns in order to eliminate the places where mosquitos breed. The organization Tierra Nuestra works with Cervercería Costa Rica, the beer company, to plan weekend campaigns all over the country.

The creation of an effective dengue vaccine would be a major boost to the Costa Rican economy and to the health of those living along the coasts. However, some cases of dengue have been reported in the Central Valley, too.

Last year was a good one for those fighting dengue. At the end of September, the Ministerio de Salud said that only 3,329 cases were reported, more than a 40 percent reduction from the year before. The rainy season here is a stimulant to the breeding of mosquitos, and dengue outbreaks put a strain on the hospitals managed by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Anyone who has contracted the disease will confirm that the common name of the illness, the bone breaker disease, is well earned.

Speaking of the problem that antibodies in the blood from a previous dengue infection makes a second infection more severe, Sujan Shresta, the lead researcher at La Jolla, said:

"This is a situation where antibodies can be bad for you, which is counter to everything we know about the normal function of antibodies. It also presents a special challenge for researchers working to develop a dengue virus vaccine, since most vaccines work by prompting the body to produce antibodies."

Dengue infection is caused by any of four closely related viruses of the genus Flavivirus. Infection can cause
aedes eqpytus


diseases ranging from dengue fever, a flu-like illness, to the severest form, the dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome, which can cause the blood vessels to leak, leading to life-threatening shock, the institute noted. Dengue infection hits hardest in tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The institute gave this summary:

The dengue virus antibody phenomenon, termed antibody-dependent enhancement of infection, was first hypothesized in the 1970s by Scott Halstead, a physician and scientist and one of the world's experts on dengue virus infection. Halstead said he got his first inkling of the phenomenon while doing extensive clinical studies of dengue virus patients in Thailand in the 1960s. "We were able to detect that the severe patients all had a secondary antibody response, meaning that they had all been infected before," he said. "That was the first evidence we had that a person had to have a previous dengue infection to get the severe disease." Further epidemiological observations, including cases in which severe dengue virus occurred in infants born to previously infected mothers, along with lab cell studies, prompted Halstead to put forth his hypothesis.

Dr. Shresta's work, conducted in mouse models, provides the first in vivo proof of antibody-dependent enhancement's occurrence, the institute said.

Halstead said he is pleased to see his hypothesis proven in animal studies, but actually finds Dr. Shresta's development of a solid dengue virus mouse model even more exciting, said the institute. Dr. Shresta is credited with developing the world's first mouse model showing key aspects of human infection.

"A model like this is really a breakthrough in tools," said Halstead, who is research director for the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative at the International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, Korea, and a consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation in New York. "We've been looking for 40 years for a model to be able to test this phenomenon. It will allow us to study the virus and the antibody enhancement in ways never before possible," the institute quoted him as saying.

Dr. Shresta's findings were published online Monday in "Cell Host & Microbe" in her paper entitled, "Enhanced Infection of Liver Sinusoidal Endothelial Cells in a Mouse Model of Antibody-Induced Severe Dengue Disease."


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 32


Ms. Chinchilla likely to support traditional Catholic policies

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

President-elect Laura Chinchilla is a practicing Catholic and responded favorably to issues important to the church during her campaign. The Catholic Church avoids endorsing a specific candidate.

Campaign literature distributed at churches emphasized her pro-life beliefs; “defense of the family” with no specific mention of homosexual marriage; defense of state-subsidized Catholic high schools; opposition to a secular state and to elimination of references to God in the oath of office; and a general defense of “Catholic values” such as solidarity in public health, education, and programs for vulnerable women and children. She also promised to defend “the ties between the state’s social structure and the pastoral society of the Catholic church with a view to sustaining the social programs of the government.”

In a special election issue of the church publication Eco Católico, all nine presidential candidates were asked for their platforms on subjects of concern. Homosexual marriage was specifically a topic.

Ms. Chinchilla defended the human rights of homosexuals and expressed support for some sort of civil union.
“However, in our society marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman,” she wrote.

Libertarian candidate Otto Guevara maintained homosexual marriage is not a theme worth debate either way. Second-place finisher Ottón Solís stated opposition but said a country with “such biodiversity should also recognize human diversity.”

All were opposed to abortion except Eugenio Trejos, who in the church newspaper couched his explanation in such dense language that his position was nearly incomprehensible. The most outspokenly religious candidate was former Tibás mayor Mayra González, but she is an evangelical and divorced. One of her campaign slogans was “the other woman.” She got about 1 percent of the vote.

Waiting until after the election to discuss it with the media, priests reported that Guevara’s girlfriend Deborah Formal broke a communion wafer and put part of it in his jacket pocket at a pre-election Mass. He cannot confess or take communion as he is divorced. Sacrilege was avoided when a priest took the errant fragment and ate it, said Hugo Barrantes, the archbishop.

The event was televised fully and replayed several times.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 32

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Toyota woes are blamed
on rigidity and arrogance


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Japanese automaker Toyota has announced yet another recall. This time it is Tacoma pickup trucks sold in the United Sates. The announcement is the latest in a string of recalls that have hurt the company's image, and prompted concern among many in Japan.

The Toyota brand is an icon in Japan. Its global success is a source of national pride. So when the automaker announced plans to stop selling millions of its cars in the United States and Europe last month because of gas pedal defects, the Japanese were concerned. When the company expanded its recalls to Japan, the public reacted with disbelief.

Toyota was founded in the early 1930s but the its real success came after World War II when it developed something called "The Toyota Production System." The system focused on "kaizen" or continuous improvements. It called for flexibility on assembly lines, and mandated that problems be fixed as soon as they were discovered so mistakes would not be repeated.

Quality and reliability became Toyota's selling point. But with defective brakes, sticky gas pedals, and loose floor mats prompting recalls of Toyota cars worldwide, that reputation is falling fast.

Jeff Kingston teaches modern Japanese history at the Temple University branch in Tokyo. He says the company has lost its way.

 "I think they've grown complacent, resting on their laurels," he noted.  "I think their management system is antiquated. We've seen how slow decision making can be."

Kingston says the company waited too long to respond to the problems. It took weeks for Toyota President Akio Toyoda to speak publicly about the recalls. When he did hold a news conference, he apologized for "inconveniencing the customers." He also has vowed to "redouble the company's commitment to quality."

Kingston says that apology was not enough.

"Toyota has failed to measure up to international standards. It's also failed to measure up to Japanese expectations," he added.

Toyota's problems come amid a growing number of complaints, accidents, recalls and financial problems for several leading Japanese companies. The spike in complaints is partly the result of a new law that requires Japanese companies to report serious product-related accidents.

Government reports also say the number of domestic car recalls doubled between 2004 and 2008, compared with the previous five years. Last week, Honda recalled more than 400,000 cars worldwide because of defective air bags.

Waseda University Finance Professor Yukio Noguchi says Toyota's problems are a sign of arrogance, after years of global success. But he says it is unfair to compare its problems with those of other Japanese companies.

"This problem is a very special problem and you cannot draw general conclusions from this about Japanese manufacturers as a whole," he explained.

Toyota is trying to restore its image with a massive public relations campaign. The company has placed full-page ads in newspapers and is airing TV commercials in the U.S., vowing to put quality and customers first.

But Kingston says Toyota must go further than that. He says the company must become more transparent and accountable, and reconnect with customers.

"Look at Korean companies," added Kingston.  "Look at how they're charging ahead. Look at how they've got that competitive edge. Japan needs to regain that."

With increasing competition from South Korea, Kingston says Toyota and other Japanese companies must change fast.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 32


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Protective order failed
to keep woman alive

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another woman died Monday despite an order of protection issued by judicial authorities.

The dead woman, who had the last name of Herrera, was attacked by a man believed to be her former companion when she got off a bus to go to work. She was beaten in the public street, and when others tried to intervene she received two knife wounds to the neck and one to the stomach,

The former companion was detained, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The woman was 32, and the encounter took place at the Cruce de Atirro de la Suiza de Turrialba where the woman worked in a banana handling facility, said agents.

The woman lived in Tucurrique nearby.

The woman had obtained an order against her former companion on the grounds of domestic violence, agents said.

Children who lost all
to fire get donations


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When fire tore through a low-income residential area Feb. 5 some 43 youngsters were displaced, and most lost the supplies they had accumulated for school.

Monday President Óscar Arias Sánchez presided over a session in which each of the families involved got from 400,000 to 500,000 colons and each child got a school packet with uniforms, shoes and other academic necessities. The money is about $735 to about $920 at the current exchange rate.

The fire was in Nueva Esperanza de Pavas and the ceremony Monday was in Rincón Grande.

Casa Presidencial said that Arias donated his salary to the fund to buy school supplies for the children. However the exact amount was not given. Arias said when he was elected that the bulk of his salary would go to social programs.







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