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(506) 2223-1327        Published Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 35          E-mail us
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There should not be any doubt as to the origin of this wine.

U.S. producers were at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú Thursday night promoting their wines, meats, cheeses and other foods.

The wine was from California, and producers are the beneficiaries of the Central American Free Trade Treaty. Wine in bottles was one of the first products to be exempted from import duties by the pact.

There did not seem to be any effect on the retail price, however.

ICE hopes to drive stake through TDMA March 3
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telecom agency has ordered the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to embark on an advertising campaign to inform TDMA users that their cell phone service will be discontinued March 3.

This is the latest chapter in the travails of the company trying to shut down the service.

The estimated 8,000 telephone users were going to lose their lines Tuesday, but the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones intervened and said it wanted a more orderly system of disconnections.

The telecom company, known as ICE, has to advertise at least five times in two national newspapers and also put ads on television. In
 addition it must send text messages to each telephone user.

The new requirements appear to be a bit of overkill since everyone knows that the service is being shut down. The telecom company was even giving away free GSM system phones. It will continue to do so until March 3. After that former TDMA users will not have any compensation, according to the latest ruling.

The Superintendencia agreed that the system is obsolete. It started here in 1994.

But stay tuned. Costa Ricans love the Sala IV constitutional court, and there is a chance some lawyer will put an appeal before the court to stop the discontinuance of the system. A lot of  problems rise to the level of constitutional concern.

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Our readers opinions
Here is a vote for change,
radical, internal change

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I see a continuing problem with the Latin way of governing.  Our new president is falling into the same old trap as all the other presidents have.  They want to talk and talk and talk.  They have this fear of making a conclusion.  What CR needs is some new ground breaking changes in the Constitution.

All these people have to do is look around them and see what other countries have done to curtail their problems.  Learn from others who have had the balls to do something empowering and innovative rather than talk to study groups.  There is little to study.  We have corruption and laziness everywhere.  We have lawyers who should be in jail, lots of them.  Cops who lie and steal.  Murderers who are set free within hours and told to report back in 90 days.  Money missing on every level of government, so let's just beat up the people who have corporations and who drive cars.  The mess goes on and on.

The Catholic Church has failed Central and South America.  Costa Rica has a need to protect women to the point that it is absurd and sets up a situation where there is fraud and bogus claims of personal injury.  New laws pertaining to having sex with women under the age of 17 but only enforced when a Gringo is accused of doing so.  Come to our part of the world and see all the little girls who are pregnant.  The sperm donors are not Gringos but rather the locals in our area.  Have yet to see a investigation into any of these situations. Guess it wouldn't make good news on Channel 4 at 6 p.m.

Costa Rica encourages sexual deviation by legalizing prostitution and gambling but cannot see it due to the greed that Costa Rica legislators live for.  We have the docks in Limón which are a sham and outdated to the point of being behind 50 years in the industry.  I guess its more important that a bunch of cry babies extort the business versus updating a already failing dock into a modern distribution point for the commerce of Costa Rica in the years to come.

This political flirtatious love affair with those who cry foul is costing us all a fortune in money and time.  ICE laughs at you when you want power to your house and a new phone line.  There is no urgency in their training manuals.  Not even a reasonable amount of time to do such work but rather a opportunity to take a bribe from me and others in hopes of expediting such work. You can get a phone line installed in Panamá in just a few days, its up and running with DSL too.  I saw this when I lived in Jamaica and worked in Surname.  The government shut the doors on everything, wouldn't let you take dollars out, trying desperately to keep things the same ol same ol.  It didn't work.

Without money and the ability to buy much needed pumps and parts for trucks and such that were made in America and Europe both countries slowly ground to a halt with vehicles trucks and airplanes laying everywhere all broken down.  Of course the president was eating good in the palace and to this day those countries are a real mess.  They too have yet to change their constitutions and endorse radical changes that are needed to make their country safe and profitable.

Bruce Simpson
Miami. Florida

Freedoms include religion
and not being coerced

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If Mr. Edwards wants to live his life according to the dictates of his particular religion, that's fine — but he seems to overlook the fact that many people do not subscribe to his faith.  It is therefore presumptuous of him to think he has all the answers; that the world would be idyllic if only everyone followed his beliefs, many of which I personally consider irrational and harmful to society.
Just one example, same sex marriage.   Based on fairness, individual liberty, research, and evidence, I believe that allowing same-sex civil marriage is a freedom deserved by consenting adults, as well as contributing to the betterment of society.   

I am very, very glad that in most countries,  we have the liberties not only of freedom of belief and freedom of expression, but also the freedoms from belief and religious-based coercion. 

"No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people." 
— William Howard Taft  (1857-1930)

Glen Love
Philadelphia, Pensylvania
Dominical, Costa Rica

Roads perpetually bad
despite official promises

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The sad shape of the roadways in Costa Rica is a national black eye to the country. The picture in the Feb 16th edition, submitted by Roy Whaley, shows the dangerous condition of the road between Tilarán and Fortuna, which by the way is only one example of the condition of this road, which just happens to be a major route for tourist going to Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano.

Having lived in Arenal for almost seven years and being very involved with the hotel and tourism sector, I know from experience that all you get from MOPT and others in the government is lip service. Every director of MOPT from the Pacheco, Arias, and current administrations have been there to observe these conditions and yet nothing happens. Wake up people, they do not give a hoot as long as the horse shows and soccer games do not get interfered with. The roads will never get fixed. Cut your losses and get out now.
Ed Parker

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 HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 35
Latigo K-9

Two more cases Thursday of crooks wearing police garb
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If police officers come to your door, you ought to call the cops. That is the advice from Fuerza Pública officials as more and more crooks are dressing in blue uniforms.

There were two such incidents Thursday, and real police captured one man who was wearing a uniform. That was in Tibás where a man identified by the last names of Ramírez Sibaja was inside a repair shop in the act of robbery, said officers. Dagoberto Villalobos, head of the Fuerza Pública in that community said that the man had 51 prior arrests.

A companion fled, police said. Police recovered a firearm during the arrest.

In Rohrmoser men dressed as police robbed pedestrians Thursday, the Fuerza Pública said.

The man arrested in Tibás is definitely not a policeman, but the question remains open if other robbers are off-duty officers. In the last year, Fuerza Pública officers have been detained on burglary, extortion and robbery charges, and officials said nearly 500 were under investigation for one reason or another.

There has been a wave of such crimes where crooks dressed as police. The Joyería Calderón jewelry store in Mall San Pedro was the scene Feb. 2 of one robbery where one of the criminals wore a police uniform. He stayed outside the store as two companions took merchandise.

Another San José establishment was robbed about the same time when several persons dressed as police appeared at the door.

There are several other cases where assailants have been described as wearing Fuerza Pública uniforms or those of the Judicial Investigating Organization.
The most outrageous example was on the Caribbean coast where two officers in the Cahuita station used their authority to detain three men and then turned them over to a rival drug gang. Two of the three were executed, but the policemen have been arrested and sentenced. That was in June 2008.

The natural inclination is to allow police to enter locked premises. Some business places have secure doors and portones, those metal bars.

Police uniforms are readily available in second-hand clothing shops because the force has turnover.

Expats have been facing extortion by police, mainly in downtown San José. For a time police on foot or on motorcycles routinely stopped expats and others in the late evening. During such stops money had a tendency to vanish from wallets and pockets as police conducted a search for drugs and other illegal items.

But most encounters stopped short of robbery.

The extortive stops have lessened lately after a number of officers were detained to face allegations. The suspects included high officials of the downtown force. Some of the officers who were detained faced allegations that they did rob pedestrians.

Using police uniforms is an old trick. Drug gang members did that when they gunned down two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents this week in México. One of the U.S. lawmen rolled the window down of their armored vehicle to show credentials and then the killers opened up.

Police officers here are aware of the concern among citizens, and real police officers at the door probably would not object to a 911 call. Police officials, in fact, are urging citizens to do that if officers show up at the door.

Woman fighting trash fire becomes first victim of season
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The season of trash, field and brush fires has taken its first casualty.

A woman in San Rafael de Alajuela suffered burns over 10 percent of her arms and body Thursday afternoon when she tried to put out a trash fire, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos.

The 38-year-old woman was not identified, but firemen have been warning about this possibility or worse for the last month. Firemen from Belén arrived to help the woman and extinguish the blaze.

Expats in some of the Pacific beach towns are acutely aware that they do not have adequate fire protection. The problem there, fire officials have said, is that the agency does not have the money to expand services.
New fire stations depend on a measure that has been languishing in the legislature because it was not included on President Laura Chinchilla's agenda for this session.

Pacific expats may have gotten a break Thursday when Casa Presidencial said that individual lawmakers were being invited to put their favorite bills on the agenda. During times when the legislature is not required to meet, the president has control over the bills that are discussed.

But with President Laura Chinchilla opening the door to other proposals, expats now have the chance to contact their local lawmakers to put the bill forward.

The bill calls for a small tax to pay for the fire agency, which has been severed from the control of the Instituto Nacional de Seguros by the laws that opened up the national insurance market to private competition.

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Vines cause structural change to tropical forests, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the American tropics, thick woody vines called lianas are outpacing trees. They're sucking up soil, nutrients and water, leaving less resources for the trees around them.

University of Wisconsin plant ecologist Stefan Schnitzer studies these aggressive, fast growing vines known as lianas.

"They are structural parasites," he says. "They use the architecture of the tree. They climb up the tree, and they put their leaves on top of the tree’s leaves."

Lianas help animals traverse the forest, escape predators and get food.  

In the American tropics, the vines are increasing in numbers relative to trees, a trend documented by Schnitzer and colleagues in the journal Ecology Letters.

"Trees may be increasing or decreasing, but in any given forest lianas are increasing much more. This pattern has finally snapped into focus. We should all believe it now, because this is one of the first large scale structural changes occurring in tropical forests."

The researchers base their findings on eight studies of lowland tropical and subtropical forests in Central and South America. Schnitzer says a variety of factors could be at play.

"We think tropical forests in the Americas are drying out a little bit, which would favor liana proliferation. We think that elevated CO2 may also favor liana proliferation, especially under a slightly drier scenario, a drier climate."

Lianas also recover more quickly from changing land use like logging, and from the seasonal droughts that are becoming more common with global climate change. Schnitzer says more lianas could slow tree growth, accelerate tree death and lessen the amount of carbon a forest absorbs, since vines can’t store as much carbon as the trees they replace.

"What happens then is tropical forests will stop holding as much carbon in the form of bio-mass or tree trunks because there will be less growth, less carbon fixation
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Vines take advantage of a trees' architecture

and less carbon pulled out of the air, and that carbon will go back into the atmosphere. When that happens, we get additional climate change from elevated CO2 in the atmosphere."

The data also show that as the parasitic woody vines suck up soil nutrients and water to support their rapid growth, they are leaving less of those resources for their host trees to use. Schnitzer notes that the pattern he and his colleagues are seeing has not been documented outside of the American tropics.

The scientists are working with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on large-scale vine removal experiments to better understand the lianas' impact.

Warmer climate is here to stay, atmospheric research says

By the University of Washington news service

While governments debate about potential policies that might curb the emission of greenhouse gases, new University of Washington research shows that the world is already committed to a warmer climate because of emissions that have occurred up to now.

There would continue to be warming even if the most stringent policy proposals were adopted, because there still would be some emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. But the new research shows that even if all emissions were stopped now, temperatures would remain higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels because the greenhouse gases already emitted are likely to persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

In fact, it is possible temperatures would continue to escalate even if all cars, heating and cooling systems and other sources of greenhouse gases were suddenly eliminated, said Kyle Armour, a University of Wisconsin doctoral student in physics. That’s because tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols, which tend to counteract the effect of greenhouse warming by reflecting sunlight back into space, would last only a matter of weeks once emissions stopped, while the greenhouse gases would continue on.

“The aerosols would wash out quickly and then we would see an abrupt rise in temperatures over several decades,” he said.

Armour is the lead author of a paper documenting the
research, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The global temperature is already about 1.5 degrees F higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution, which began around the start of the 19th century, sceintists say. The calculations took into account the observed warming, as well as the known levels of greenhouse gases and aerosols already emitted to see what might happen if all emissions associated with industrialization suddenly stopped.

In the best-case scenario, the global temperature would actually decline, but it would remain about a half-degree F higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels and probably would not drop to those levels again, Armour said.

There also is a possibility temperatures would rise to 3.5 degrees F higher than before the Industrial Revolution, a threshold at which climate scientists say significant climate-related damage begins to occur.

Of course it is not realistic to expect all emissions to cease suddenly, and Armour notes that the overall effect of aerosols – particles of sea salt or soot from burning fossil fuels, for example – is perhaps the largest uncertainty in climate research.

But uncertainties do not lessen the importance of the findings, he said. The scientists are confident, from the results of equations they used, that some warming would have to occur even if all emissions stopped now. But there are more uncertainties, and thus a lower confidence level, associated with larger temperature increases.

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Ms. Figueres urges Latins
to capitalize on climate pact

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations climate change chief today called on Latin American nations to fully capitalize on opportunities to take climate change action to the next level, building on the achievements reached at last year’s conference in Cancún, Mexico.

“The Cancún Agreements are a small step for the planet, but they are nonetheless a beginning that can spark more action,” said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ms. Figueres, a Costa Rican, was speaking to the Conference of the Secretariat General Iberoamericana in Madrid, Spain.

The agreements reached at the Cancún conference, which concluded on Dec. 11, include formalizing mitigation pledges and ensuring increased accountability for them, as well as taking concrete action to tackle deforestation, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of global carbon emissions.

Ms. Figueres noted that forests are one area in which Latin America can take climate change implementation to the next level through the Cancún Agreements.

“The sustainable use of forests has multiple benefits not only directly for forest-dependent peoples, but also for a range of critical issues including biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation,” she said.

Important agreement was reached in Cancún on REDD Plus, backed by the financial resources to implement it. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, called REDD, is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD-Plus goes beyond deforestation – which some estimates show has contributed up to one-fifth of global carbon emissions, more than the world’s entire transportation sector – and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

“This has opened an important door for Latin America,” Ms. Figueres noted, adding that REDD-Plus is already being tested in some large-scale demonstration projects. For example, Norway’s commitment of $1 billion to help protect the Amazon rain forest contributed to Brazil’s pledge to reduce deforestation by 80 per cent by 2020.

“This is an encouraging example that merits duplication,” she said. “Latin American countries need to seize this opportunity and craft forest-related policies on the national level that go hand-in-hand with the Cancún Agreements so that the greatest benefits can be achieved.”

Scientific accident holds
promise for bald humans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Researchers have stumbled across what may turn out to be a miracle treatment for hair loss in humans. The scientists were investigating how stress affects the digestive system when they made the discovery.

The team at the University of California-Los Angeles and U.S. Veterans Administration were working with mice which were genetically engineered to overproduce a stress hormone called corticotrophin-releasing factor or CRF.

As they aged, these chronically-stressed rodents lost the hair down their backs, much the same way that extreme stress can cause baldness in humans.

Investigators studying irritable bowel syndrome injected the mice for five consecutive days with a chemical compound, or antagonist, called astressin-B, which blocks the effects of CRF, the stress hormone.

Lead researcher Million Mulugeta says they wanted to see if the treatment eased the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder that causes severe pain and cramping.

“And we left these mice back to their home cage and came back three months, and all these mice that received this antagonist had their hair grown back fully,” says Mulugeta.

Four months later, the rodents’ fur showed no signs of thinning. Mulugeta isn't sure if astressin only reverses stress-related hair loss, or whether it would correct hair loss due to aging or chemotherapy.

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Featured Guanacaste artist
interprets bulls and masks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another Guanacaste artist is being featured Saturday at the  Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Liberia.

He is Joseph Jackson Guadamuz Guadamuz, a Universidad de Costa Rica graduate.  He has exhibited his visual art, scenic and mural in San José, Guanacaste, Limón and San Ramón de Alajuela.

The exhibition is called "Happiness of the Sun" and is inspired by the life of the local people, the gallery said, adding:

"Jackson interprets the parties and celebrations typical of the region.  His canvases have motions of magical kaleidoscopes turning on a prismatic world of masks and bulls."

Alice Lamounier, an anthropologist at the San Pedro-based university gave this summary:

"The artist interprets the masquerades and bullfighting scenes of Guanacaste, playing with intensive elements of bright colors, another thread throughout all his works. Through the creation of pictorial narratives his works are the result of a reflexive process that emerges from the dynamics of a world seen through a bright-colored stained glass."

The gallery is located just 5 kilometers west of Liberia Airport, between Payless Car Rental and the German Bakery. The hours Saturday are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the featured artist is scheduled to appear at 11 a.m.

Agricultural firm plans
to make power with biogas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the Grupo Pelón are inaugurating a biogas plant to generate electricity today. The site is at the Finca el Pelón de la Bajura some 10 kilometers east of Liberia.

At the same time representatives of the Universidad EARTH will be awarding the company a carbon neutral certificate.

Grupo Pelón is best known for its retail label Tio Pelón on rice and beans.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is involved because it provided the technical expertise for the generating plant. An announcement said the President Laura Chinchilla will attend. She is spending the weekend in Guanacaste this week.

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