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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 36                            Email us
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The resplendent quetzal of Costa Rica’s highlands (left) is one of the main victims of the rainbow-billed toucan’s move to higher elevations due to warming climate, according to the study. The rainbow-billed toucan (right) competes for food and nesting holes, and prey on quetzal eggs and nestlings. Glimpses of the shy quetzal are sought by bird watchers visiting Costa Rica

bird montage
Çağan Şekercioğlu, University of Utah

New study says climate change hits tropical birds hard
By the University of Utah news service

Climate change spells trouble for many tropical birds – especially those living in mountains, coastal forests and relatively small areas – and the damage will be compounded by other threats like habitat loss, disease and competition among species.

That is among the conclusions of a review of nearly 200 scientific studies relevant to the topic. The review was scheduled for online publication this week in the journal Biological Conservation by Çağan Şekercioğlu, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah.

Şekercioğlu’s research indicates about 100 to 2,500 land bird species may go extinct due to climate change, depending on the severity of global warming and habitat loss due to development, and on the ability of birds to find new homes as rising temperatures push them north or to higher elevations. The most likely number of land bird extinctions, without additional conservation efforts, is 600 to 900 by the year 2100, Şekercioğlu said.

“Birds are perfect canaries in the coal mine – it’s hard to avoid that metaphor – for showing the effects of global change on the world’s ecosystems and the people who depend on those ecosystems,” he adds.

Şekercioğlu reviewed the scientific literature relevant to climate change and tropical birds with Richard Primack, a biologist at Boston University, and Janice Wormworth, a freelance science writer and ecological consultant in Australia.

Wormworth and Şekercioğlu coauthored the 2011 book, “Winged Sentinels: Birds and Climate Change.” The new article is an updated condensation of that book and another 2011 book Şekercioğlu coauthored, “Conservation of Tropical Birds.”

Scientists expect climate change to bring not only continued warming, but larger and-or more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts, heat waves, fires, cold spells and “once-in-a-century” storms and hurricanes. Birds may withstand an increase in temperature, yet extreme weather may wreck habitats or make foraging impossible.

The researchers say studies indicate:

• Climate change already has caused some low-elevation birds to shift their ranges, either northward or to higher elevations, causing problems for other species. Global warming helped rainbow-billed toucans move from Costa Rican lowlands to higher-elevation cloud forests, where they now compete for tree-cavity nest space with the resplendent quetzal. The toucans also eat quetzal eggs and nestlings.

• Birds with slower metabolisms often live in cooler tropical environments with relatively little temperature variation. They can withstand a narrower range of temperature and are more vulnerable to climate change.

• Climate change may spread malaria-bearing mosquitoes to higher elevations in places like Hawaii, where the malaria parasite can threaten previously unexposed birds.
collared red start
University of Utah/Çağan Şekercioğlu
The collared redstart lives in cloud forests in the mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. Scientists have documented that it has shifted its limited habitat toward higher elevations.

• Longer and less regular dry seasons and droughts expected during global warming may reduce populations of tropical birds that often time their breeding with wet seasons when food is abundant.

Şekercioğlu acknowledges that “not all effects of climate change are negative, and changes in temperature and precipitation regimes will benefit some species. … Nevertheless, climate change will not benefit many species.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius (2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming of the Earth’s surface by the year 2100, which Şekercioğlu’s study converted into a best case of about 100 land bird extinctions and a worst case of 2,500.

The review found:

• Tropical mountain birds are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Warmer temperatures at lower elevations force them to higher elevations where there is less or no habitat, so some highland species may go extinct.

• Climate change and accompanying sea-level rise pose problems for birds in tropical coastal and island ecosystems, “which are disappearing at a rapid rate,” Şekercioğlu and colleagues write.

Many such ecosystems already have been invaded by non-native species and exploited by humans.

• Birds in extensive lowland forests with few mountains – areas such as the Amazon and Congo basins – may have trouble relocating far or high enough to survive.

• Tropical birds in open habitats such as savanna, grasslands, scrub and desert face shifting and shrinkage of their habitats.

• Rising sea levels will threaten aquatic birds such as waders, ducks and geese, yet they often are hemmed in by cities and farms with no place to go for new habitat.

• Tropical birds in arid zones are assumed to be resilient to hot, dry conditions, yet climate change may test their resilience by drying out oases on which they depend.

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Quakes in two locations
continued over weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two locations  — one south of San José in the mountains and the other off the Pacific coast near Dominical — are giving residents the shakes.

There have been repeated earthquakes in both areas. The one just before 5 a.m. a week ago in the Pacific woke up many residents with its 5.0 to 6.0 magnitude.

Out in the southern mountains near Tobosí on the San José-Cartago provincial line there have been many smaller quakes. There was one further south at 11:09 p.m. Friday estimated at 2.7 magnitude. It was about 19 kilometers east south east of Santa María de Dota. That's about 12 miles. Then there was one Saturday at 11:31 a.m. with a 2.1 magnitude and another Saturday at 11:09 p.m. with a magnitude of 2.3. Both were near Tobosí.

In the Pacific a quake at 11:33 a.m. Sunday was estimated at 4.8 by the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica. The Red Sismológica Nacional notes that this quake was in the same area as the Feb. 13 one. There have been up to 50 small quakes in the interval.

None of these quakes caused significant damage, but some residents are getting sick of the periodic shaking.

New reporting methods and more public access to quake information might give the impression that the geologically active country has become more active.  Residents now have more information about quakes, including the real time reporting of the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica on its Web page.

In the past residents had to rely on the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica and the U.S. Geological Survey. The Observatorio at Universidad Nacional in Heredia was inconsistent, and the Geological Survey reported only quakes 5.0 and above.

The Red Sismológica Nacional is redoing its Web site, so workers there set up a Facebook page that allows residents to report on the magnitude of various quakes in their locations and exchange information with scientists.

Our reader's opinion
Accident in Panamá cost
just $38.42 with great care

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Same song, second verse, gotta get better, but it's going to get worse!!!  

I love Costa Rica, lived there, had property there and the people are the best.  Beautiful and many places to go and enjoy, but Costa Rica is their own worst enemy.  I left, and the crime increased, cost of living went sky high and the government is on a destruction course. 

This latest fiasco of the health care or hospital charges is unbelievable!!!  I am referring to the accident in Jacó and the related stories of folks that had emergencies and the cost involved.  I related the costs to my wife, and she could not believe me.  When we lived there, the medical was the best and the costs were well below anywhere else. 

I found it very interesting that Panamá came up.  We have wanted to return to Central America, and every time I think of Costa Rica, something like this comes up.  We went to Panamá last summer for six weeks.  When we arrived, they offered us free medical expenses for our stay there.  I did not accept because I am healthy and smart enough to avoid accidents. 

Well, I forgot my wife does not have the dedication I have.  She had a dumb accident that bruised her head when she fell down on slippery stones.  She thought she was OK, but I knew better and drove to the emergency ward in David.  Within five minutes, she was in the treatment room with a doctor and his assistant.  She had 13 stitches and complete and wonderful care.  I proceeded to the cashier to pay my bill.  The total was $38.42!!!  We had another $5 for pain pills that surpass anything we have received in the States. 

It sounds like we would still be there paying the bill if this happened in Costa Rica!  Why the difference???  Obviously we are trying to move to Panama and forget Costa Rica.  In my weak moments, I want to return to Costa Rica if I had plenty of money. But with stories like this, there is no way I will return.  I am submitting this only to show the difference in emergency care, even though the intensity is considerably different.  Obviously Panamá has their act together and are on a growth pattern.    
Ralph Simonson
Leesburg, Florida, soon to be Panamá!!!

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
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About 80 percent of the northern highway is completed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The invasion by Nicaragua soldiers more than a year ago has had a beneficial effect on the northern zone of Costa Rica. What was once a backwater with little contact with the central government is now the scene of development.

A new 6 billion colons (about $12 million) road is 80 percent finished, according to highway officials. The 160-kilometer (about 99-mile) route is designed to provide quick access to the northern zone. In the past, the only route was the river, and Nicaragua owns the river, thanks to a 19th century treaty.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad rushed through the road project and said Friday that more roads in the area will be fixed up. The new route is designated Ruta 1856 and called the Juan Rafael Mora Porras highway. Highway officials said they expected the remainder of the road to be finished in three months. They said at least 22 communities along the boarder with Nicaragua would benefit because residents will not have to travel on the river.

President Laura Chinchilla visited the area Friday, and gave the presidential blessing to three new schools. She told residents in Delta, Fátima and San Antonio that with the new highway comes electricity, telephone service and piped water. She said the area could benefit from tourism. She directed the Ministerio de Planificación to draft development plans for the communities.

The new highway runs along the south bank of the Río San Juan. The construction is not without controversy. The government of Nicaragua has accused Costa Rica of environmental damage to the river, and a Costa Rican has carried a complaint to the Sala IV constitutional courts, saying that there was no environmental studies done before the road went in.

The name of the highway, of course, is that of the Costa Rican president who directed the war against the U.S. filibusterer William Walker in the year 1856. The war was

highway sign
Casa Presidencial photo
Sign designates the name fo the new highway

called the Campaña Nacional. Politics of the period beingwhat they were, Mora was overthrown and had to flee the country. When he returned in 1860, he was captured in Puntarenas and shot.

His brother-in-law, Gen. José María Cañas negotiated and put his name to the Cañas-Jerez Treaty that defined the border between the two countries. He was shot, too.

President will try to head off a general strike in session today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Union leaders say they see a meeting today with the president as a possibility for effective dialogue. That was the view expressed by the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados as officials there prepare for the meeting today.

President Laura Chinchilla is trying to stop an indefinite general strike that would be a serious economic blow to the country.

Public employees have been protesting her decree in which she established a 5,000-colons monthly pay raise for the first six months of 2012. Public employees are upset at the amount and also because the decree came outside of salary negotiations.

Union workers showed their muscle Wednesday when many teachers walked out to march, and dock workers closed the port of Limón for eight hours.

A general strike would involve many more public employees, including, perhaps, the police.
Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said in a Web page posting that he would take advantage of the meeting with the president to point out groups of employees he said were in precarious economic conditions.

Among these are the street patrolmen, members of the Policía Penitenciaria, guards at schools who work for the education ministry, and park rangers. He also cited what he said were low salaries for office workers, drivers, secretaries and others who work for the government in low-level jobs.

These are the people who are most likely to participate in a general strike.

The Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza said that Ms. Chinchilla called for the meeting today just a few minutes before the expiration of a deadline issued by union leaders. The meeting is at 2 p.m. The deadline is 3 p.m. So far Ms. Chinchilla has taken a strong stand and has said that any money for raises would have to be borrowed.

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Foreigners wait to display their license to obtain a Costa Rican one. An  agent said that she had processed people from France, Russia, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, and Mexico, as well as the United States.

llicense seekers
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

If an expat has a valid foreign license, getting one here is easy
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For extended tourists looking for an official form of identification besides their passports, a Costa Rican driver's license may be the painless solution.

Apart from driving purposes, a driver's license is accepted as proper identification in many other circumstances, such as credit card transactions in stores, for entering certain night spots and many government buildings and hospitals that require proper identification to enter.

Although national officials sometimes say tourists should always carry their passports rather than a copy, that is not always a good idea because replacing one if it is lost, damaged or stolen can be a major hassle. Having a local driver's license can save one the hassle of always leaving with the passport, especially if going out for the night or running small errands.

Also, by law, visitors can only use a foreign driver's license in Costa Rica for up to three months before they must obtain a national one. For citizens of Colombia and other Central American countries a foreign license can only be used for one month legally before a Costa Rican one must be substituted.

For about $50, including the vision and blood tests, expats with an up-to-date immigration status and a valid driver's license from their own country can obtain a Costa Rican one. The entire process takes about three hours and it can all be done near the Departamento de Acreditación de Conductores del Consejo de Seguridad Vial in La Uruca.
The one in Uruca is the only office in the country where a foreigner can obtain a driver's license, and the hours are from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. for foreigners. Although they process citizens all day, foreigners seeking their first Costa Rican license must come between those times or they will be turned away.

The required documents are a passport and driver's license, which must be a valid one from the applicant's country of origin and must not be expired. Provisional, international licenses and learning permits and do not suffice. Those without valid licenses have to take the required classes, a written test, and a driving test.

One should also bring three photocopies of the passport and the license as well as three photocopies proving a legal immigration status in the country. For a tourist, this means three photocopies of the latest entry stamp, and for a resident copies of the cédula. A driver's test is not necessary.

All the proper medical tests can be done at a clinic about 50 yards from the license office. The vision and very brief health exam cost $30 and no appointment is necessary. The blood test to determine blood type to place on the license costs $10. Other documentation of blood type can be used to save the $10. The clinic will also make the necessary photocopies of the passport and license for $3.

The actual license only costs $8 and is good for three years.

There are usually representatives of the clinic in front of the driver's license building to show people where the clinic is.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.N. health agency halts
reports on deadly flu virus

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A group of public health experts said Friday that they have agreed to delay the publication of new research on the H5N1 influenza virus after a meeting convened by the U. N. World Health Organization.

“Given the high death rate associated with this virus – 60 per cent of all humans who have been infected have died – all participants at the meeting emphasized the high level of concern with this flu virus in the scientific community and the need to understand it better with additional research,” said Keiji Fukuda, an assistant director general of the World Health Organization.

The agency convened the meeting to discuss differing opinions that have arisen in recent months after two research groups, one in the Netherlands and the other based in the United States, have created versions of the H5N1 influenza virus which are more transmissible in mammals than the H5N1 virus that occurs naturally.

“The results of this new research have made it clear that H5N1 viruses have the potential to transmit more easily between people underscoring the critical importance for continued surveillance and research with this virus,” Fukuda said.

During the talks, the group of experts came to a consensus that delaying publication of the entire manuscripts of research would have more public health benefit than urgently publishing it in part.

The experts also agreed that further research on the virus is necessary to protect public health and to review the biosafety and biosecurity implications of the laboratory-modified virus.

“There is a preference from a public health perspective for full disclosure of the information in these two studies. However, there are significant public concerns surrounding this research that should first be addressed,” Fukuda said.

In a news release, WHO said that it will continue the discussion with relevant experts to move the issue forward.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands engineered a more virulent strain of the H5N1 bird flu to try to understand how mutations could make it more infectious to both animal and human populations - a change that could lead to a global pandemic.

But a U.S. government panel on biosecurity, concerned that the mutated virus could fall into the hands of bioterrorists, asked two leading scientific magazines - Science and the British journal Nature - not to publish sensitive details of the work.

The magazines agreed and in January, the scientists voluntarily halted their research for 60 days.

Mexican prison riot ends
with 40 persons dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican officials say at least 40 people were killed when a prison riot erupted Sunday in the northern part of the country.

Officials said a fight broke out in the early morning hours between prisoners and guards in the Apodoca prison, just outside the city of Monterrey.  The official said authorities later regained control of the prison.

Family members of the inmates gathered outside the prison, waiting to learn details from the incident and the status of their loved ones.

Deadly fights occasionally break out in Mexican prisons, sometimes due to rivalries between powerful drug cartels.

Last month, 31 inmates died during a prison riot also in northern Mexico.

The country's northern border areas have been the worst hit by drug violence that has left tens of thousands of people dead since President Felipe Calderón launched a crackdown on the cartels, after taking office in 2006.

Market blaze destroys
hundreds of vendor stalls

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Honduran authorities say a massive fire has consumed a market in the capital.

Officials say hundreds of vendor stalls were destroyed in the blaze that started Saturday afternoon in Tegucigalpa.  No deaths have been reported.

One local business owner said the fire spread quickly.

"It was like a bomb, the fire was almost over all of us.  It was when we were opened to start selling, at about noon or so.  It ignited and it quickly spread, that's what happens here when it happens.  The flames sweep everything away."

Last week, a fire swept through a prison in the Honduran town of Comayagua, north of the capital.  More than 350 inmates were killed.
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Trade pact on organics
seen helping Third World

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two agreements that will help farmers in poor countries participate more fully in the organic food sector were signed at a conference on development and trade, the U.N. announced Friday.

The agreements, which were reached last week during the two-day forum in Nuremberg, Germany, will help some two million certified organic farmers worldwide – most of whom are located in Africa, Asia and Latin America – participate more effectively in a market that rings up worldwide sales of $60 billion annually.

Wednesday, the European Union  and the United States signed an agreement that will ease the flow of organic products from developing countries between the two entities. Under the agreement, the produce sent by organic farmers in developing countries to be processed in the European Union or the United States will now automatically qualify for acceptance as an organic product in the partner market.

Under the new arrangement, for example, coffee from Ethiopia certified as organic under European Union regulations could be sent to a trade partner in Europe and packaged for sale in both markets. The agreement however, covers only finished products exported from and certified in the European Union or United States.

In a news release, the U. N. Conference on Trade and Development stressed that while an agreement providing finished products from developing countries direct access to both markets would be preferable, the new accord will still boost developing-country organic sales as a large part of exports consist of ingredients and bulk goods, and it will facilitate their entry into the two largest markets for certified organic sales.

Car plunges into a home
and kills sleeping woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents in Puriscal arrested a man Saturday night after he crashed the car he was driving into a house and killed a pregnant woman. The accident happened at 10:30 p.m. when the 25-year-old driver, identified by the last name Mora, lost control of his Geo Tracker, according to judicial police. The car veered off the roadway and crashed into the residence downhill while the pregnant woman slept, agents said. The woman was staying at the house of relatives living in Mercedes Sur de Salitrales, they added.

An 11-year-old boy died Friday afternoon after being run over by an ambulance in Osa while crossing the street on his way home from school. Judicial police report the boy, identified by the last name Garcia, had just gotten off the school bus when he was struck by the vehicle. Police say the ambulance is privately owned. The boy was transported to Hospital Tomas Casas Casajus in Ciudad Cortés at about 3 p.m. but died shortly thereafter.

Grand Prize is a trip here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

DoubleTree by Hilton is offering as a raffle grand prize a trip for four to one of its destinations in Costa Rica. The raffle is a promotion in conjucntion with the release of the movie,  “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” March 2. To enter the raffle, individuals must stay at a DoubleTree hotel.

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