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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Monday, Feb. 18, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 34                Email us
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Jo Stuart

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Quepos expat back in U.S. to face child sex charge
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A suspected child molester who has lived in Quepos since 2006 is finally in custody in the United States. The case has religious dimensions because the man, Michael J. Norris, 67, was an elder of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation where the long-running molestation is alleged to have taken place.

A warrant for Norris was issued in Santa Barbara, California, in December. The Sheriff's Office there posted his photo and a request for information. But persons associated with the Carpinteria, California, congregation knew exactly where the man was. They notified sheriff's detectives and employees at the U.S. Embassy here.

There are conflicting reports on where Norris was detained. One version is that he was arrested when he got off a plane at Los Angeles International Airport. A second version is that he was detained here at a Costa Rican airport and escorted to Los Angeles by law officers where the official arrest took place.

In any event, he is in the Santa Barbara county jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.  The allegations include multiple counts of molesting a minor under the age of 14. There also is an allegation of distributing pornography to a minor. The investigation has been going on for a year or more.

Although living in Costa Rica, Norris returned to the Santa Barbara area several times, including once in July 2011, said a person close to the case. A girl at that time accused Norris of attempting to molest her, the person said. Some months later, the girl made allegations of a long-running series of molestations dating back to 2002. That is when law officers became involved.

Santa Barbara Sheriff's Detective Ted Toedte praised the help from the U.S. government. "The State Department reached out to me regarding this case and from day one they were extremely helpful and remained in constant contact with me," he said.  "I was just in the process of writing their office to extend our gratitude to them for all their efforts." He is with the fugitive unit.

At the embassy here, a spokesman said that the delay between the time officials knew the location of Norris and his detention was due to negotiations.

"I would disagree with your characterization that it took so long," said the embassy spokesman. "Our regional security office is working on a significant caseload of fugitive files at any given time. Considering that he was working through his attorney to return to the United States, it is clear
Michael Norris
Michael Norris

that this was a case brought to a timely and successful conclusion. I believe the detective in Santa Barbara would agree."

Norris lived on a farm about 10 minutes outside of Quepos on the central Pacific coast. He was reported to have constructed a home there.

There also were conflicting statements as to whether Norris had a lawyer negotiate his surrender. That was the original reason officials here did not mount an effort to arrest him. A second version is that negotiations failed and that U.S. law officers encountered Norris at the airport and caused him to return to California.

The Norris case is unusual because he was the topic of many postings on the Internet. Some of the postings included his location. In addition, there was criticism of church leaders. There also were suggestions that there was more than one young victim. Norris was believed to have been associated with the Carpinteria congregation for decades before he moved to Costa Rica.

A woman closely associated with the case said by email that "We, too, are fed up with molesters being protected by religious groups. We are proceeding with civil litigation against Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses) and family members that harbored . . . " Norris.

The woman said that although may persons associate with the religious congregation knew of the molestation allegations in July 2011, none made a police report

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Weekend highway mishaps
claim 11, four on motorcycles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic mishaps claimed the lives of 11 persons over the weekend. Four were riding on motorcycles and three were pedestrians, said investigators.

In Mansión de Nicoya a 51-year-old man on a motorcycle died Saturday when his vehicle was in a collision with another. There are little details because the driver of the other vehicle fled. The victim, who had the last name of Castillo, lived on the Matambú  native reserve, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was headed to work.

In Cartago another motorist fled after his vehicle struck a 30-year-old man near an industrial park in Tejar de Cartago. Agents identified the victim of the 2:30 a.m. Saturday mishap by the last name of Vega. The victim was in the company of another man when both tried to cross the road.

Two women died in similar circumstances Saturday night. The two women, sisters, had the last name of Gómez. They were 58 and 60, said agents. The 7:30 p.m. mishap took place in a section of Heredia called Valencia. The 24-year-old driver of the vehicle was detained for investigation.

Sunday morning the driver of a motorcycle died when his vehicle was stuck by a vehicle that fled the scene. He was identified by the last name of Picado. Another motorist saw his body shortly after midnight and called police. That was in San Ramón de Tres Ríos.

In Aserrí south of San José about 6 a.m. Sunday a 30-year-old man driving a motorcycle collided head-on with a bus. He was identified by the last name of Corrales. The accident was near the sports plaza in the community. Agents said that the motorcyclist appeared to enter the lane where the bus was going in the opposite direction.

In Parrita, four men died when two cars collided head-on and one burst into flames. That was a 2 a.m. Sunday accident in the section known as Bejuco.  A man named Anchia traveling alone, died in his vehicle. The other vehicle crashed into a ditch and caught on fire. Dead were two men with the last name of Arias, both 37, and a man with the last name of Murillo, who was 32, said agents.

In Liberia a 57-year-old woman riding on a motorcycle fell in front of a truck when the motorcycle operator lost control after passing the larger vehicle. She was identified by the last name of Morales. A 10-year-old, also on the motorcycle survives, as does the driver. The accident was in Pijije de Bagaces.

Supreme court president
dies in Hospital México

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Luis Paulino Mora, died Sunday night in Hospital México. News of his death came from Casa Presidencial as President Laura Chinchilla expressed her sympathies to the family of the jurist.

The court president was a great friend, and a fighter profoundly committed with justice, said the president.

She added that the man would receive all the honors of the state. That usually means a funeral out of the Catedral Metropolitana with honor guards. Typically the Costa Rican flag will be flown at half staff.

The court president had been hospitalized with a respiratory infection. His illness became known last week when visiting British members of Parliament met with Zarella Villanueva Monge, who was serving as acting court president.

Our readers' opinions
Quadracycle firms need
insurance for tourists

Dear AM Costa Rica:

Re your article "German Embassy says tourist lost arm unnecessarily" HERE!

The recount by the German Embassy of the aftermath handling of the quadracycle accident brings sadness as well as outrage. This is not the first nor will it be the last tragedy where the mishandling of the accident greatly compounded the tragedy. Why are quadracycle tour companies not mandated to provide accident insurance? How many more similar incidences are needed to prompt action. Clearly the negative publicity should spur the government and the tourist industry into action not to mention the cost to the victims' quality of life.

Dennis Jay

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 34
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Ms. Chinchilla addresses crossing border without passport
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla proposed Sunday to eliminate the use of passports for Costa Ricans and Panamanians who travel back and forth across the southern border.

Ms. Chinchilla was speaking at a school in Paso Canoas at a ceremony receiving the torch from Panama for the next Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos, the Central American olympics, in San José.

Ms. Chinchilla said the the elimination of passports would be in two stages. The first would be the creation or use of some sort of identification card for persons living along the border. The second would be extending this policy to all Costa Ricans.
She said that the easing of border requirements would be a benefit to business and to tourism. She said she would like residents of Panama to visit Costa Rica, purchase Costa Rican products and enjoy Costa Rican tourism.

Panamá has a booming economy.

The change does not extend to expats who still will need passports to cross the border either way. She said she would seek an analysis of the border situation in order to put the idea into practice.

The concept has been mentioned previously in general terms, most recently during a meeting of Costa Rican and Panamanian officials. But this is the first time specifics were discussed.

Proposal to bar youngsters from shooting ranges advances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bill that would keep youngsters under 18 out of shooting ranges is advancing in the legislature.

The measure is before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico. The committee is considering an extensive revision to the current weapons law.

Elibeth Venegas Villalobos, a legislator from the Partido Libreración Nacional, is promoting the prohibition against youngsters because she says children have a right to a safe environment.

She also said that firearms play a roll in family violence, as an
 instrument to threaten and as a mechanism for suicide.

The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia raised the issue of youngsters practicing with firearms and has said it does not want those under 18 to be at a shooting range. The legislator noted that in 2011 172 minors died from firearms.

"Permitting youngsters to enter shooting ranges is against their welfare because a young person is not prepared to operate a gun . . . , she said, noting that children as young as 10 years have been taken by their parents to shooting ranges

The committee decided to hear others on the subject as it considers an alternative text that has been drafted under the same number, No. 18.050.

Staffer confirms emergency care in Puntarenas is still limited
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Physicians might have been able to save the arm of a young German tourist if the Sept. 5 earthquake had not done serious damage to the hospital in Puntarenas.

The woman, Evelyn Jürgensen, 23, was taken on an odyssey by ambulance from Santa Teresa on the west shore of the Nicoya peninsula to, eventually, San José. By the time she got to Hospital México, doctors there said they could not save the badly fractured limb.

She had been taken to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria, a public facility in Puntarenas. But she was turned away and directed to San José. The delay in extensive emergency care probably was
the reason surgeons could not save the arm, An emergency worker, Luz Marina Garcia, at the Puntarenas hospital said Friday that the earthquake caused so much damage that the medical staff is unable to treat emergencies. The woman said emergency workers there just stabilize a patient and have them transported elsewhere.

Inspections after the 7.6 magnitude quake showed that about 25 percent of the hospital suffered heavy damage. However hospital staffers said two weeks after the quake that services, including emergencies, had been restored.

The German government has called for an investigation by Costa Rica officials of the case. The woman was injured in a quadracycle accident Dec. 14.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 34
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Government printing facility
reaches accord on employment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's public employee union says it has reached an accord with the central government to strengthen the Imprenta Nacional, the 177-year-old government printing facility.

The agreement comes amid rumors that the operation would be closed or privatized.

The principal product of the printing operation, the La Gaceta official newspaper, is going fully digital, so employees are worrying about their jobs. In addition, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones just announced that the ballots for next year's general elections will be contracted out to a private firm.

The union, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, said that rather than downsizing, the printing facility would look for new challenges. It said the accord would cause labor stability.

The Gaceta traditionally has been printed on paper and has run to a hundred pages or more and 4,500 daily copies. In addition to law and regulations, the Gaceta publishes private legal notices like trademark requests and even when a U.S. expat gets a new passport. The number has to be published if the expat owns a company or is involved in other legal situations.

However, with digital publication, a few clerks can do the job of a hundred printers. In addition, the digital edition can be searched electronically.

Climate change protesters
seek rejection of oil pipeline

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the White House, to urge President Barack Obama to aggressively combat climate change.
Demonstrators formed a human pipeline Sunday, stretching from the National Mall to the White House, to protest an oil pipeline that would stretch across the United States, linking Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

They want Obama to reject the nearly 3,000-kilometer Keystone XL Pipeline, saying its development would harm the environment and ultimately lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions. They also want the president to order U.S. authorities to set carbon standards for power plants.

"The people are upset at what's going on and he needs to actually pay attention to what the people want and not what the corporations want," said a protester named Leslie.

Local and national environmental groups organized what they hoped would be the largest climate rally in U.S. history.

"You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever," said protest organizer Bill McKibben.

The State Department is scheduled to release a new environmental impact statement on the pipeline project after authorities changed the planned construction path to bypass ecologically sensitive areas. But the project's future remains uncertain, following the president's renewed focus on climate change.

And after a four-and-a-half-year-long hold on building it, critics accuse the Obama administration of unnecessarily impeding America's energy independence and preventing the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.

"I believe that the president has been overly political in catering to so-called green energy private investors, as well as others, when our carbon dioxide emissions are lower now than they have been in 20 years," said Rep. Ed Whitefield.

Just like the protesters, proponents of the pipeline plan on holding their own grassroots events across the country in support of the project's approval.

Preparation called key to help
weather climate change

By the Stanford University news service

The news sounds grim: mounting scientific evidence indicates climate change will lead to more frequent and intense extreme weather that affects larger areas and lasts longer.

However, humans can reduce the risk of weather-related disasters with a variety of measures, according to Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Chris Field.

Field discussed how to prepare for and adapt to a new climate at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Boston.

While climate change's role in tornadoes and hurricanes remains unknown, Field says, the pattern is increasingly clear when it comes to heat waves, heavy rains and droughts. Field explains that the risk of climate-related disaster is tied to the overlap of weather, exposure and vulnerability of exposed people, ecosystems and investments.

While this means that moderate extremes can lead to major disasters, especially in communities subjected to other stresses or in cases when extremes are repeated, it also means that prepared, resilient communities can manage even severe extremes, said Filed, adding:

During the past 30 years, economic losses from weather-related disasters have increased. The available evidence points to increasing exposure as the dominant cause of this trend. Economic losses, however, present a very incomplete picture of the true impacts of disasters, which include human and environmental components. While the majority of the economic losses from weather-related disasters are in the developed world, the overwhelming majority of deaths are in developing countries.

Withstanding these increasingly frequent events will depend on a variety of disaster preparations, early warning systems and well-built infrastructure, Field says. The most effective options tend to produce both immediate benefits in sustainable development and long-term benefits in reduced vulnerability.
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Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 34
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Impressions of Chávez photo
depends on personal politics

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Hugo Chavez's supporters joyfully brandished first photographs of him since cancer surgery two months ago while opposition activists said the images were worrying evidence of Venezuela's political vacuum.

In a first proof of life since his six-hour operation in Cuba Dec. 11, authorities published four photos on Friday showing Chávez lying in a hospital bed smiling next to his daughters.

Underlining the gravity of his situation, however, an accompanying statement said the 58-year-old socialist leader was breathing through a tracheal tube and struggling to speak.

Within hours, the photos were on sale in Caracas streets, where some of Chavez's passionate supporters clutched them to their hearts as if they were a religious icon.

"It doesn't matter that he can't talk. We understood his message,'' said Aniluz Serrano, 57, selling prints in colonial Bolivar Square, named for Venezuela's independence hero and Chavez's idol, Simón Bolívar. "When I saw this photo, I thought how beautiful, here he is calling on the people to keep fighting. When I see this smile, I can see Christ, I can see Simón Bolívar.''

The photos and new medical details confirmed what most Venezuelans already assumed — that Chávez is seriously ill and may not be able to return to the presidency.

He has ruled the South American nation since 1999, maintaining huge popularity among the poor, thanks to oil-financed welfare policies and his common touch, while alienating private business with nationalizations and taking an authoritarian line on opponents.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other allies say Chávez remains the head of state, signing decrees and giving instructions — sometimes in writing — from Havana.

"President Chávez in full recovery,'' was the headline of various state media. "He's alive ... he will be back,'' said Idan Sotto, 24, buying one of the photos in downtown Caracas.

Opposition politicians believe such optimism is misplaced, given Chavez's obvious frailty, and are renewing demands for more detailed information on his condition and ability to rule.

Should he be formally declared unable to govern, an election would be called within 30 days, probably pitting Maduro against opposition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles.

Capriles lost an October presidential election, and the opposition coalition is struggling to remain united, with some pushing for a more militant approach to Chavez's absence.

 "Venezuelan sovereignty is being given away to the Cuban government,'' one of the most strident opposition leaders, Maria Corina Machado, said in reaction to the photos.

"It is obvious the photos were to make the world believe Hugo Chávez is in charge of government but what they've done is precisely the opposite ... I'd like to ask a question to any democratic citizen in the world: could you imagine a situation in which you have 69 days with no word from your president?''

As well as predictable political bickering, the photos spawned a plethora of online scrutiny and theories.

Some hunted for evidence of image editing. Others simply mocked the photos as the typical recourse of an autocratic and secretive government trying to spin a dire situation.

"It's hard to see why reading the dreadfully boring Granma would generate smiles,'' said columnist Andres Canizalez, in an opposition newspaper, referring to the Cuban Communist Party's daily newspaper that Chávez is clutching in the photos.

About 20 students protested for a third day in front of the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, standing in chains and holding copies of the constitution as police stood on guard.

"What certainty do we have with these photos? We need an independent medical board to go to Havana. It's our right as Venezuelans to know what's happening,'' said one protester Alexa Hauber, 25.

Six held in brutal rapes
in México's Acapulco

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire  services

Authorities in Mexico say they have arrested six men who have confessed to raping six Spanish women visiting the popular tourist resort of Acapulco.

A group of hooded gunmen broke into the rented beach house the women were sharing with their boyfriends, earlier this month, and roughed up the men, before assaulting the women.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam says investigators have learned a seventh man was involved in the rapes. That person remains at large.

News of the arrests sparked protests among residents who accused police of arresting innocent men for the crime. Guerrero State Gov. Ángel Aguirre dismisses the allegations.

The rapes drew further attention to the drug-related violent crimes that have plagued Mexico in recent years. The once-lavish resort, Acapulco, has become the murder capital of Mexico, with last year's toll of more than 1,000 murders in a city of 800,000 people.

Famed Cuban blogger off
for a world victory tour

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sánchez, said she plans to make good use of "my victory" on an 80-day-tour of more than a dozen countries.

Ms. Sánchez, under Cuba's sweeping migration reform that went into effect this year, was granted a passport two weeks ago, after being denied permission to travel more than 20 times over the past five years.

Ms. Sánchez, considered Cuba's pioneer in social networking said Thursday that she would visit the headquarters of Google, Twitter and Facebook, and travel to Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Spain, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries.

"This is a victory after fighting five years for my right to travel, using patience, energy, legal and journalistic tools, and most of all the solidarity of many people,'' she said, as she left her home to pick up a visa at a local embassy.

"I feel like a runner who has run the 110-meter hurdle. Tired, exhausted but happy to have met the challenge,'' she added.

Ms. Sånchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has incurred the wrath of Cuba's government for constantly criticizing its Communist system in her "Generation Y" blog, and using Twitter to denounce repression.

​​​​Ms. Såanchez, one of the world's best known bloggers, has tens of thousands of followers abroad, but few in Cuba where the government severely restricts the Internet.

Her blog is named after the penchant of Cuban parents during the Cold War era of Soviet backing for the island to choose names for their children starting with "Y" because of the many popular Russian names starting with that letter.

Cuba's leaders consider dissidents traitorous mercenaries in the employ of the United States and other enemies. Official bloggers regularly charge that Sánchez's international renown has been stage-managed by western intelligence services.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 34
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Police break up kidnapping
with gunplay and chase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers chased a taxi from Hatillo to Sabana Sur Thursday night in an effort that was punctuated by pistol shots.

Police managed to stop the taxi in Sabana where they found the driver bound and beaten in the truck.  The four occupants of the taxi turned out to be three minors, including a girl, and an adult.

Police appear to have frustrated what was a robbery and kidnapping. Officers said they received a tip about the robbery of a taxi driver, and there were patrols nearby. One officer in a patrol car spotted the cab and gave chase.

Police eventually confiscated an air pistol and a .38-caliber firearm, they said.

Trio of bandits shoot, kill
owner of small store

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men invaded a small store, a pulpería, in Estrada de Matina about 8 p.m. Saturday and shot dead the owner.

The crooks got away with 8,000 colons, about $16.

The man, identified by the last name of Mora, was alone in the store when the bandits arrived.  The trio would have gotten more money, but the Judicial Investigating Organization said they could not open the cash register.

Mora, 57, was a fixture in the area and lived in a small apartment behind his store, said agents.

Top industrial nations vow
to avoid currency wars

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Finance leaders from the world's 20 top industrial and developing countries have pledged not to target their exchange rates for competitive purposes.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde echoed Saturday the joint communique made by G20 members meeting in Moscow to "refrain from competitive devaluation" and keep markets open.

"We have not seen any such thing as currency war. We have heard currency worries, not currency war. We have not seen confrontation, but dialogue, deliberations, discussions, and clearly this G20 Moscow meeting has been extremely helpful and productive in that respect,'' she said.

Investors and politicians have shown concern that some countries could derail the fragile global recovery if they try to weaken their currencies for economic gain.       

Japan is facing charges of lowering the value of the yen to stimulate its economy and get the edge over other countries.
Earlier, Britain, France and Germany launched a new drive to force big business to pay its fair share of tax and stop efforts of top companies to keep payments to a minimum.

The plan, follows a study from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development showing that many big firms country-hop to pay less tax.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 34
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forcep fly
Renato Jose Pires Machado photo
This is the newly-discovered forcepfly Austromerope braziliensis.

New species of forcepfly in Brazil
By the Pensoft Publishers news service

A spectacular forcepfly species has been discovered for the first time in South America.

Forcepflies are usually known as earwigflies, because the males have a large genital forceps that resembles the pair rear apendages of earwigs. The new species of forcepfly, Meropeidae (Mecoptera), from Brazil represents only the third existing species in this family and the first record of the family from the neotropical region. In a published article, researchers discuss distribution and biogeography of the family, and it is even proposed that Meropeidae originated before the continental drift and then divided into two branches, northern and southern, with the breakup of the old supercontinent Pangea. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.       

Despite all previous collecting efforts in this area, the species had never before been recorded. The specimen was collected in a private ranch near a forest fragment surrounded by farms in the Atlantic forest, one of the most threatened in Brazil. It can be found in a variety of habitats. What makes forcepflies special is the fact that little is known about their biology and the immature stages remain a mystery to scientists. The adults, who are nocturnal and seem to live on the ground, are also capable of producing sound by rubbing certain body parts.

"The discovery of this new relict species is an important signal to reinforce the conservation of Brazilian Atlantic forest biome. Certainly there are many more mecopterans species yet to be discovered in these forests," said the lead author Renato Machado from the Texas A & M University.

Monsanto seed case goes to high court

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The giant American agrichemical and biotech seed company, Monsanto, will be the subject of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday. It's a case that asks: Who owns the offspring of a product that copies itself? The answer could affect the future of genetically modified organisms, as well as emerging software, medicine, and other new technologies. 

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans are among the most popular crop seeds purchased by American farmers because they make weed control easy. Spray a field with the company’s popular Roundup weed killer, and just about the only plants left standing are the soybeans, which have been genetically modified to resist the herbicide. More than 90 percent of the U.S. crop includes either this or a competing technology.

But they’re expensive. Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman thought he would save some money by buying soybeans from his local grain elevator that were destined for animal feed or food processing. That’s according to his attorney, Mark Walters.

"And he figured Monsanto can’t claim to own this grain that’s in the grain elevator because it’s just a mixture of everyone else’s seed. And it’s not really a good source of seed in the first place," said Walters.

Bowman planted the seeds. They grew. And when he sprayed the plants with Roundup, most of them survived and produced a new crop of soybeans. He saved some of that crop and planted it the next year.

That’s not allowed, says Monsanto. Roundup Ready technology is protected by a patent. Though farmers have saved seed for generations, Monsanto requires them to sign an agreement saying they will not save its patented seeds from year to year. Monsanto says Bowman is making unauthorized copies of its seeds.

But Walters says what Bowman did is perfectly legal under longstanding patent law.

"It’s called patent exhaustion. When somebody claims that they have a patent on something, and you bought it in a sale that was authorized, then the patent rights go away," he said.

For example, when you buy a new phone, you can use it or sell it, however you want. The phone maker has no rights to it anymore.

Bowman argues the same applies to the soybeans in the grain elevator. Monsanto owned the original seed, but once the soybeans were harvested and sold to the elevator, they were fair game.

But others say it is not the same because phones do not make copies of themselves the way seeds do. That’s why patent protection needs to cover the next generation of seeds, too, said Monsanto spokesman Lee Quarles.

"These biotechnologies require hundreds of millions of dollars to develop but can be readily replicated millions of times because they consist of genetic or other easily copied material,” he said.

Other biotech companies outside agriculture are siding with Monsanto, said Cathy Enright with the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

“If you don’t maintain the rights, then there’s no return on the investment for the companies that are developing these products," she said. "And if there’s no return on the investment, why on Earth would they invest?”

If Monsanto loses the case, Enright said, not only would crop development suffer at a time when the world’s demand for food is growing, but so would innovation in vaccines, stem cell therapies and biofuel-producing algae, to name a few.

Any new technology that makes copies of itself could be affected, which is why software makers and other high-tech businesses also are backing Monsanto.

But George Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety said patents on seeds have helped just a few companies, like Monsanto, concentrate control over the food supply.

“To have the privatization and the concentration of seeds the way we do now is only a few decades old. So this case is the current vehicle that could offer a way to renegotiate that social contract," said Kimbrell.

Kimbrell and others say loosening patent protection would push the balance of power away from the big corporations, and return to farmers a measure of control over one of their primary inputs – their seeds.

The Supreme Court will have the final say in a ruling expected later this year.

EU has nagging suspicion about meat

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A horse meat scandal that started in Britain and Ireland is now unnerving consumers around Europe. DNA tests have revealed that beef tainted with horse meat has made it into supermarkets in 13 European Union nations. Stores, schools, and hospitals are scrambling to remove some meat. And there are calls for tighter regulation of Europe's complex food supply chain.

The scandal started in Ireland and the United Kingdom in January, but has since spread all around the EU. DNA checks on beef have found that some products, including hamburgers, contained as much as 30 percent horse meat. The list of tainted products has since widened to include frozen lasagna, tortellini, and bolognese sauce.

Europol, the EU's police agency, is leading a Europe-wide fraud investigation. So far, three men are under arrest in England and Wales. They are accused of disguising cheap horse meat as frozen beef. The arrests come as French authorities said meat wholesaler Spanghero re-labeled and sold horse meat from Romanian suppliers. The company denies wrongdoing. By Friday, supermarkets in Germany, Denmark, Hungary, and elsewhere had begun recalling suspect products.

In the German capital, Berlin, consumer safety experts say they are now checking all kinds of meat products.
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