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(506) 2223-1327                     Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 40                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Costa Rica will not escape spending cut backlash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mandatory U.S. spending cuts are bound to have an effect in Costa Rica. Secretary of State John Kerry is on record saying the automatic cuts would impair the ability of the State Department to fulfill its mission.

There are no real details, but the White House and Democratic lawmakers are predicting extensive job losses, the closing of airport control towers and cuts in the money the federal government provides for education and Head Start programs.

Kerry said that the State Department budget would be cut $2.6 billion. The most current information on the State Department Web site says the 2013 budget request was $51.6 billion, so the cut is about 5 percent. That includes USAID. Some $770 million for the Middle East and North Africa initiative fund to support governments that seek meaningful reform are included in the budget. There also is $1 billion for a Feed the Future program to provide assistance in time of famine and drought in other countries.

"Climate change remains one of the most serious long-term threats to global stability," said the department's executive summary of the budget signed by former secretary Hillary Clinton. "Our Global Climate Change Initiative request of $470 million supports programs to develop clean energy economies; combat deforestation; and help vulnerable countries build resilience to withstand extreme weather and rising sea levels. It allows America to build on our diplomatic progress at Durban, where nations committed to negotiate a new agreement by 2015 that will be applicable to all countries, developed and developing alike."

Also included are funds that have helped reduce the wait time for U.S. visas for Chinese citizens from 60 days to 72 hours, Mrs. Clinton said.

In a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, head of the Senate Appropriates Committee, Kerry, who just took over the top job at State, said that U.S. foreign assistance would be reduced by $1.7 billion and operations by $850 million.

Reports from Washington say that the State Department budget cuts would reduce embassy security, too.

Other federal departments also are expressing their concern.  The Department of Homeland Security said that the cuts there would increase the waiting time for air travelers at major airports.

Costa Rica as a country and foundations and organization in Costa Rica are beneficiaries of grants from Washington. As A.M. Costa Rica reported in January, Costa Rica was among 14 countries where organizations could apply for grants of up to $750,000 each for programs to counter human trafficking.

The United States is helping Costa Rica build a modern facility at a checkpoint on the Interamericana highway in the southern part of the country, and in 2012 the U.S. Embassy announced a regional clean energy program with up to $850,000 in grants.

The United States also has made extensive grants to the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas. One was for $3.2 million for the construction of  a new coast guard station in Puerto de Caldera, but the money came from the U.S. Southern Command as part of the U.S. war on drugs.  The Defense Department will absorb about half the proposed budget cut for this year.

Other U.S. federal agencies with projects in Costa Rica also are facing the same squeeze.
budget squeeze

The $85 billion in cuts, the first stage of a potential $1.2 trillion in reductions over 10 years required by a past deficit agreement, will take effect Friday unless Congress can pass alternative legislation.  The U.S. deficit is about $16.5 trillion, according to U.S. Debt

Sunday, The White House released details of what it called devastating"effects on all U.S. states and the District of Columbia, ranging from flight delays and cancellations, to border security and national security impacts, according to the A.M. Costa Rica wire services.

President Barack Obama proposes instead what he calls a balanced approach that includes budget cuts but also significant tax increased on the wealthy, who pay most of the taxes anyway. Sen. Mikulski supports closing what she said are loopholes in the U.S. tax code.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, appeared at the White House news briefing to speak about wide-ranging severe effects of the sequester, wire services said, adding:.

"Put simply, the automatic budget reduction mandated by sequestration would be disruptive and destructive to our nation's security and economy," said Ms. Napolitano.

Ms. Napolitano said impacts would include furloughs of Customs and Border Patrol officers, delays at airports and border crossing points, increased costs to trade, and reduced capabilities to respond to natural disasters.

Asked about increased vulnerability to terrorism, Ms. Napolitano said her agency will undertake the same security checks at border points, but procedures will take longer, and overall security may be weakened.

Conservatives in Congress appear to approve of the mandatory cuts because they do not think the United States government will reduce the budget any other way.

Other commentators have pointed out that another fiscal cliff looms later in March when Congress will again be asked to raise the U.S. borrowing limit.

Congress passed a temporary measure Jan. 1 to avoid the country running out of money. But the measure only delayed the resolution of the problem until March 27.

If there is no accord, instead of furloughs of employees entire U.S. government departments might shut down.

For expats in Costa Rica, again, the impact is unclear, but certainly there might be delays in Social Security and federal pension payments. And there is the prospect of the federal budget squeeze affecting the already struggling tourism industry.

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Professional Directory
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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Our reader's opinion
Lawyer gives some solid tips
on protecting real estate here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A few words on property fraud to help foreigners understand why it happens and how to prevent it:

Our legal system is based on the civil law (a/k/a as Roman law) which includes the public registries as the way to record and prove ownership over property. Whenever you buy a piece of land you have to get a notary public to write what we generically call escritura de compra venta ("property deed") which states who sells, who buys, the nature and legal status of the property being sold-purchased and the price.

The notary is forced by law to do a full research on the property to make sure that the seller is the legal owner and that the property does not present any legal conditions that would prevent it to be transferred to the buyer. If, by the moment he does his inquiry on the public registry’s Web page, the property is free and clear and, no problem, the deed is written, signed by both parties in the protocol and sent for official registration.  

But wait. There are some things that a diligent notary should also do although not mandatory:  

a.) If the seller is a recently constituted S.A, that’s a red flag. It’s easy to know if an S.A. is new or not, just by it’s ID number of cédula juridica. For example, right now we are by the 700’s, that is if an S.A.’s ID is 3-101-701530 you can bet it is fairly new.  

Why is this important? Well, why would an S.A. like this sell a piece a property that by necessity it, in turn, purchased little ago?

b.) The notary public should always check on the history of the property being sold/purchased: A piece of land that for the past 10 years or so belonged to a foreigner and during which time it has not presented any movements, and that little while ago appears to have been sold to an S.A. of recent constitution which in turn very recently also mortgaged it by a significant sum and is now reselling it for a fraction of the actual price to someone who thinks to be getting a bargain, you can bet it was stolen from its original owner.

c.) If the previous buy/sell transactions have been done by proxy, that is, not by the actual legal representatives of the involved S.A.’s, that’s another flag. This is the typical scheme that is found in most of the cases for property fraud in the criminal courts now.  There will normally be two victims: the original foreigner owner and whoever granted the loan on the mortgage. The former loses his property and the latter his money.  This type of fraud is normally accomplished by criminal organizations usually made by land surveyors, real estate brokers and notary publics, all of them crooked and working for some big boss.

The case files tend to be thick and move slowly in court since these organizations work in waves, that is, during some time they start hunting for “abandoned” property and hire different notaries, surveyors, and other accomplices, get loans from different lenders and resell the properties to different buyers, resulting in many different lawsuits mainly against the notaries who registered the false sale transaction and the S.A. that got the unpaid loan.  

How to prevent this? Easy. If you own a piece of property but seldom come to the country, just get the almost free property monitor service from the Registro Público called “Registry Alert” which will alert you if your property had any activity in the last 24 hours, and, of course, have some trusted buddy check on your property regularly.

In this very moment I am representing several clients in court who got their property stolen under the above scheme, and the common factor in all these cases is their being absent for 10+ years without regularly checking on their investments. Costa Rica is a safe place to invest, but you have to do your part regarding watching your investment.

Mario Valverde Brenes
abogado, notario, CPA
Guachipelín, Escazú

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 40
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A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Disabled protesters turned out in force to urge lawmakers to consult them on important issues.
Disabled demonstrate to have their voices heard on key issues
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

“Respect me and listen to my voice,” sounded throughout Avenida Segunda as deaf, lame, blind and other disabled individuals demonstrated for equality from Parque Central to the Assemblea Legislativa Monday.

The voice on the microphone was Giselle Cesped from Morpho, a center for independent living in the Región Buruca.  She led marchers in chants about the governments indifference to the community and the need for democracy.

The group was advocating for opportunities equal to the rest of
the population such as access to education, work and health services under Ley 7600.  Other requests were for the recognition and promotion of sign language.

Although the law advocates for these rights, according to members, the law was created without the consultation with members of the group.

“The assembly didn't consult us about a law that affects our population,” said Mainor Ramírez, Morpho director. 

The protesters brought a petition to the crowd that was signed by lawmakers as a sign to cooperate with the community and work to fulfill their requests. 

The confiscated cargo was not exactly top shelf alcohol
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police caught a man on the Caribbean coast smuggling 12,024 cans of Milwaukee's Best beer. Honest.

There was no explanation why the man would choose to smuggle this blue collar beer. But he also had bottles of guaro on board.

Now some Milwaukee fans might argue, but this is not the beer than made the city famous, even if it is now made by the Miller Brewing Co.

The Unidad de Intervención Policial of the security ministry made the stop on the suspicion that the truck was carrying items that had not been taxed. That appeared to be the case, and the beer and guaro appear to have originated in Panamá.

Police officials said they were tipped off.

Although the beer appears to be legitimate and packaged in the cartons with the red shield, contraband alcohol sometimes
Unidad de Intervención Policial photo
That's a lot of blue collar beer.

is home brewed. And that can be dangerous. Police had raided several stills in the metro area in the last year. Similar contraband alcohol has caused deaths in other countries.

Del Rey Hotel

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 40
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corn god
The Field Museum/Instituto Nacional
de Antropología e Historia/Michel Zabé

Chicomecoatl was the goddess of maize in the Aztec culture in the valley of México where corn is believed to have originated as a weed.

Research at Peruvian site shows
corn was staple 5,000 years ago

By the Field Museum news staff

For decades, archaeologists have struggled with understanding the emergence of a distinct South American civilization during the Late Archaic period (3000-1800 B.C.) in Peru. One of the persistent questions has been the role of agriculture and particularly corn or maize in the evolution of complex, centralized societies. Up until now, the prevailing theory was that marine resources, not agriculture and corn, provided the economic engine behind the development of civilization in the Andean region of Peru.

Now, breakthrough research led by Field Museum curator Jonathan Haas is providing new resolution to the issue by looking at microscopic evidence found in soil, on stone tools, and in coprolites from ancient sites and dated with over 200 Carbon-14 dates.

After years of study, Haas and his colleagues have concluded that during the Late Archaic, maize (Zea mays) was indeed a primary component in the diet of people living in the Norte Chico region of Peru, an area of remarkable cultural florescence in 3rd millennium B.C. Their research is the subject of a paper that appears in the online Early Edition issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  this week.

"This new body of evidence demonstrates quite clearly that the very earliest emergence of civilization in South America was indeed based on agriculture as in the other great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China," said Haas.

[Since corn is believed to have originated in the Valley of México, the findings have implications for Costa Rica, too.]

Haas and his team focused on sites in the desert valleys of Pativilca and Fortaleza north of Lima where broad botanical evidence pointed to the extensive production, processing and consumption of maize between 3000 and 1800 B.C. They studied a total of 13 sites. The two most extensively studied sites were Caballete, about six miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and consisting of six large platform mounds arranged in a U shape, and the site of Huaricanga, about 14 miles inland and consisting of one very large mound and several much smaller mounds on either side.

The scientists targeted several areas at the sites including residences, trash pits, ceremonial rooms, and campsites. A total of 212 radiocarbon dates were obtained in the course of all the excavations.

Macroscopic remains of maize including kernels, leaves, stalks, and cob, were rare.

However, the team looked deeper and found an abundance of microscopic evidence of maize in various forms in the excavations. One of the clearest markers was the abundance of maize pollen in the prehistoric soil samples. While maize is grown in the area today, they were able to rule out modern day contamination because modern maize pollen grains are larger and turn dark red when stain is applied. Also, modern soil samples consistently contain pollen from the Australian Pine (Casuarinaceae Casuarina), a plant which is an invasive species from Australia never found in prehistoric samples.

A majority of the soil samples analyzed came from trash pits associated with residential architecture. Other samples were taken from places such as room floors and construction debris. Of the 126 soil samples (not counting stone tools and coprolites) analyzed, 61 contained Z. mays pollen. In fact, Z. mays was the second most common pollen found in the total of all samples, behind only pollen from cattails which have wind-pollinated flowers. This is consistent with the percentage of maize pollen found in pollen analyses from sites in other parts of the world where maize is a major crop and constitutes the primary source of calories in the diet.

Haas and his colleagues also analyzed residues on stone tools used for cutting, scraping, pounding, and grinding. The tools were examined for evidence of plant residues, particularly starch grains and phytoliths (plant silica bodies). Of the 14 stone tools analyzed, 11 had maize starch grains on the working surfaces and two had maize phytoliths.

Coprolites (preserved fecal material) provide the best direct evidence of prehistoric diet. Among 62 coprolites analyzed of all types – 34 human, 16 domesticated dog, and others from various animals – 43 (or 69 percent) contained maize starch grains, phytoliths, or other remains. Of the 34 human coprolites, 23 (or 68 percent) contained evidence of maize. The second most common grain in humans came from sweet potatoes. Coprolites also showed that fish, mostly anchovies, did provide the primary protein in the diet, but not the calories.

The researchers concluded that the prevalence of maize in multiple contexts and in multiple sites indicates this domesticated food crop was grown widely in the area and constituted a major portion of the local diet, and it was not used just on ceremonial occasions. The research ultimately confirms the importance of agriculture in providing a strong economic base for the rise of complex, centralized societies in the emergence of the world's civilizations.

Coincidentally, The field Museum has on display 300 artifacts from museums in México dating from 1325 to 1521. The exhibit is called " The Aztec World."
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Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 40
Real Estate
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bookstore promoe

Benedict leaving amid chaos
from policy on sex abuse

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Scandal threatens to overshadow Benedict's final days as pope, as well as the preparations to choose his successor.

In one of his last acts as pontiff, Benedict Monday changed the Vatican's constitution, eliminating the 15-day waiting period before cardinals can meet to elect a new pope.

The change comes on the same day the pontiff accepted the resignation of Britain's most senior Roman Catholic cleric. 

Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned following allegations from four current and former priests that O'Brien approached them inappropriately in the 1980s.

Cardinal O'Brien was due to retire next month, when he turns 75. He said Monday he will contest the allegations, but won't take part in the upcoming conclave to choose a new pope.
Other cardinals are also under heavy criticism. Saturday, Catholic activists petitioned Cardinal Roger Mahony of the United States to recuse himself from the papal election so as not to insult survivors of sexual abuse committed by priests while he was archbishop of Los Angeles.

Pope biographer and Vatican analyst Marco Politi doesn't expect the furor to subside in the near future.

"Pope Ratzinger has began a revolution, asking absolute cleanness about sex abuse," Politi says. "Although with many contradictions, this movement is going on and now it is knocking at the door of the conclave."

However, the cardinals who meet to elect Benedict's successor won't have access to the contents of a special investigation began after leaks of Vatican documents in 2012.

​​A Vatican statement said the report will only be shared with the next pope.

Benedict was elected in 2005 to replace the late John Paul II. He will become the first pontiff to step down in nearly 600 years when he leaves office Thursday.

Even with the change in Vatican laws, it's not clear exactly how soon the Roman Catholic Church will begin selecting Benedict's replacement.

Many cardinals have begun informal consultations by phone. 

Some church officials hope a new pope is selected by the middle of March, in time to preside over Holy Week services leading to Easter.

Doddles are the human side
of Google Internet experience

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

From a marketing standpoint Google, the enormously profitable Internet search engine, separated itself from the competition early on with its homepage, the iconic Google logo on a blank white screen. The stark design emphasizes the company’s view that it's a search engine, not a news or entertainment site. The homepage never changes, except for those doodles, the artistic, sometimes funny, sometimes baffling renderings with the logo hidden within that occasionally appear and have become famous.

Anyone who uses Google will occasionally notice a doodle, a specially designed logo to commemorate holidays, like Chinese New Year, or obscure anniversaries, like the date the London subway system opened 150 years ago, or a quirky tribute like a zamboni animation, depicting the machine used to resurface ice skating rinks.

These artistic renderings of the Google logo may bring more users to its homepage. But Ryan Germic, the chief doodler, said their value to the company isn't found in a traditional business plan.

“Ahh, the existential question of 'why'? We are here to surprise and delight our users and to humanize Google,” he said.

Unlike the business side of Google that constantly analyses data and usage, the doodles, he said, are evaluated on subjective criteria.

“We look at social networks. We look at press. You know, do we make each other laugh or smile with the thing we are doing? And try to have a more of an emotional connection rather than like this is converting more clicks than the last one,” said Germic.

Doodler Jennifer Hom said the team creates more than 300 doodles each year in many different languages, but stays away from topics that are political or controversial. 

“We basically think of anything that is innovative, artistic and nerdy, something that is appropriate for Google,” said Ms. Hom.

She said doodle ideas can come from just about anywhere. Many, like the suggestion for an interactive rendering of a buckyball - a form of carbon composed of 60 atoms that looks like a molecule - come from inside the company. 
“I never heard of what this was, but there were like 10 to 12 people in Google who are obsessed with buckyballs," said Ms. Hom.

Google's culture of innovation, the relaxed environment, the mix of work and play helps the creative process.

Doodle engineer Khris Hom, no relation to Jennifer, animates artists' drawings. He said he first got involved with the team as part of a program to nurture innovation and growth.

“My involvement started out as a 20 percent project, which is a phenomenon at Google, where engineers get to spend one day a week or 20 percent of their time working on whatever they want. So I was building some little animation, and someone from the doodle team saw them and said can you do that on the home page, and I’ve been having a blast here since,” he said.

These Google doodlers say the irreverent humor of the artwork reflects that culture of innovation and the idea that Google should be a fun place to work or visit online.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
 The Dragon spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar at
 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX rocket ready to lift off
to resupply space station

By the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
news service

The second International Space Station Commercial Resupply Services flight by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set for liftoff at 10:10 a.m. eastern time Friday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Carried by a Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon spacecraft will ferry 1,268 pounds of supplies for the space station crew and for experiments being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The Falcon 9 and Dragon were manufactured at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., and arrived at the Florida launch site by truck. The rocket, topped with the spacecraft, stands 157-feet tall.

The two-stage rocket uses nine engines to power the first stage, generating 855,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, rising to nearly 1,000,000 pounds of thrust as Falcon 9 climbs out of Earth’s atmosphere. One engine powers the second stage to complete the climb to space. The 14.4-foot-tall Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying more than 7,000 pounds of cargo split between pressurized and unpressurized sections.

On March 2, Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are scheduled use the station's robot arm to grapple Dragon following its rendezvous with the orbiting outpost. Ground commands will be sent to attach the spacecraft to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony module where it will remain for a few weeks while astronauts unload cargo. The crew then will load more than 2,600 pounds of experiment samples and equipment for return to Earth.

Dragon is scheduled for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California on March 25.

This SpaceX flight is the second of at least 12 missions to the space station that the company will fly for NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Swedish meatballs are pulled
after horse DNA shows up

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sweden's Ikea is pulling its frozen meatballs from its shelves in stores across Europe, becoming the latest retailer to be drawn into the growing scandal over horse meat.

The furniture retailer, whose stores also feature restaurants that serve typical Swedish food, said it would also stop selling or serving meatballs at its stores in Sweden.

The announcement comes after Czech investigators say they found traces of horse meat at an Ikea store in the Czech Republic.

Ikea said meatballs from the same contaminated batch were also sent to stores in Slovakia, Hungary, France, Britain, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands. It said all meatballs from that batch had been pulled from shelves.

Separately, Czech investigators say they also found traces of horse meat in frozen burgers imported from Poland.

The horse meat scandal began earlier this year in Britain when horse meat was discovered in frozen lasagna meals sold by Swedish-based frozen food giant Findus. The meals were produced by French food company Cogel with meat supplied mostly by French meat processing firm Spanghero.

Earlier this month, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for sanctions for those who were selling horse meat as beef.

No one has reported health risks from the horse meat, but the fraud has unsettled consumers across Europe.

New life science prize goes
to 11 established scientists

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A group of Internet entrepreneurs has established the world's richest prize for work in medicine and biology. The $3 million award is more than twice the amount of the Nobel Prize. This week, 11 scientists were named the first winners of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Many of them are researching the genetics of cell growth, and how it can go wrong to cause cancer.

The annual award was created by Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner and other high-tech philanthropists, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Milner began recognizing physicists last year, with the Fundamental Physics Prizes. The next round of those $3 million awards will be announced March 20 in Geneva. His goal with both prizes, he says, is to raise public awareness of scientists who have spent their lives advancing human knowledge.

The Breakthrough Prize has already been criticized for focusing on established researchers, rather than the many scientists who collaborate to foster advancement. But future recipients will be selected by previous winners, who may be more aware of the rising stars and unsung heroes in their fields.
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Home sites for sale
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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 40
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State secret law revised
to create decreed secret

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new draft of a censorship law leaves deciding the public interest up to judges.

Casa Presidencial said Monday that it had received the agreement of media executives for a change in the so-called law of information crimes. This was the law that was passed with a clause that prohibited the publication of state secrets. Now a revision defines state secrets to be those facts that are decreed to be secrets.

A crime only takes place when there exists damage to the intimacy or privacy of a person when there is no public interest, said a statement by Casa Presidencial.  Such a definition will have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis in court.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the minister of the Presidencia, said that there had not been a conviction of an informational crime under the previous law for 50 years.

The law was one of those where no one was paying attention to the text when it was passed. Once the content became known, news organizations raised a fuss, and the executive branch quickly promised to make changes.

News people pointed out that a number of recent corruption cases could have been kept from the public with the state secret clause.

Now the change is up to the legislature, which received the revisions Monday.

Women's Club to begin year
with luncheon March 13

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Women's Club of Costa Rica will begin its 2013 programs with a Mediterranean luncheon at The Aurola Holiday Inn’s Salon Augusto El Grande March 13 at 11 a.m.

“WCCR is one of the oldest, continuously operating service organizations in Costa Rica,” said in-coming president Michele Cote in a release. “2013 marks our 73rd anniversary and we would especially like to invite new members and guests to this, our annual year-opening event.”

A feature of the event will be the sale of a variety of used handbags.  Also, participants can enter to win one of two handbags by the designer Tous. These bags were donated by sponsors.

"Select from a great collection of ‘almost new’ handbags and purses – for the beach, the office, evening wear, travel and more," said a release.  "Lots of bargains, with proceeds supporting WCCR’s scholarship program and supplying public school textbooks to students in need." 

The Aurola Holiday Inn is located in San José at Calle 5 and Avenida 5 just north of the Parque Morazán.  Luncheon tickets are 12,000 colons, which includes a voucher for parking.  Tickets can be purchased by calling 2249-9071.

The Women’s Club of Costa Rica’s membership numbers over 300 women of all ages from Costa Rica and many countries of the world, drawn together by the motto of Friendship Through Service, the organization said.

Pier construction begins

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new, $34 million pier got its start Monday with a ceremony in Caldera on the Pacific coast. Construction will be about two years and generate about 200 jobs.

The 180-meter (590-foot) pier is expected to increase productivity by 135 percent, said a release from Casa Presidencial. The builder is the Sociedad Portuaria de Caldera.

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Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 40
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Tree tomato
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid/Juan Martínez Laborde
A tree tomato in a plant, in the Real Jardín Botánico of Madrid.

Tree tomato seen as successful cash crop

By the  Universidad Politécnica de Madrid  news service

A researcher at the Spanish university is collaborating in the characterization of genetic resource of the tree tomato to enhance its cultivation and commercialization in Andean and Mediterranean countries.

Tree tomato is originally from South Africa and has a high potential for Andean cultivation, but it is currently not properly exploited. To preserve and enhance this cultivation, a researcher at the School of Agronomist of the Universidad Politécnica Madrid in collaboration with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja in Ecuador, have carried out research whose aims are to have depth knowledge of morphology and genetic diversity of tree tomatoes. The results obtained can open possibilities of new varieties demanded by the market.

Tree tomatoes (Solanum betaceum or Cyphomandra betacea) can reach up to three meters in height and belong to the Solonaceae family, which is the same family of potato, tomato and aubergine. It is originally from South Africa and widely grown from the north of Chile and Argentina to south Mexico, and especially in Ecuador. Its fruits are fleshy, oval or elliptic shaped and yellow, orange or purple colored with a pulp of a pleasant taste, slightly acidic, aromatic, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Their fruit is recommended to consume as fresh or as juices and canned. They are becoming popular in other places: the tamarillo (the name as it is known internationally) is grown and consumed in some European and Asian countries but mainly in New Zealand, which is leading in production and exportation.

However, in Ecuador and in the Andean region, the cultivation and commercialization of tree tomatoes is mainly local. Although it is an excellent alternative to other crops, its production continues to suffer from lack of basic knowledge over its production and because there is not any program of preservation or improvement. The varieties are not clearly differentiated and are frequently improperly cultivated. The inadequate commercialization of the product hinders them from its commercialization with recent falls of over 70 percent of exported volume in Ecuador.

Besides, Mediterranean countries as Spain could constitute a promising cultivation. This situation woke the interest of the agronomist engineer Pablo Acosta Quezada, who focused his doctoral thesis on the study of morphology and genetic diversity of tree tomato. The experimental crops in soil at the Universidad Técnica particular de Loja provided him with the samples that later were used to carry out a detailed work of characterization. He analyzed the morphological character of the stem, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds and he also studied the genetic diversity expressed in the DNA by the molecular markers called amplified fragment length polymorphism in collaboration with researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Politécnica de Valencia.

As a result of this work and apart from publishing papers about morphological and genetic diversity of this fruit, he elaborated a list of over 80 descriptors (morphology characters) to describe and to identify varieties and to identify plants and their features of interest to agronomists. This list has been recently published in Biodiversity International, the organization of research support, preservation and use of agricultural biodiversity which works in close collaboration with the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.

The morphological characters of the fruit are of special interest for the variability and heritability, which can open possibilities of plant breeders to obtain proper varieties to market needs. Besides, the 78 polymorphic DNA fragments found reveal that the presence of a wide genetic diversity can provide a great action field to enhance and to obtain new varieties.

This research is a pioneering contribution of high relevance to know the diversity of a tree tomato, which can be the base to preserve and enhance the marginalized crop of high potential for Andean countries, especially for Ecuador.

Studies question Fibromyalgia drugs

By the Health Behavior News Service*

Among fibromyalgia patients taking either of two commonly prescribed drugs to reduce pain, 22 percent report substantial improvement while 21 percent had to quit the regimen due to unpleasant side effects, according to a new review in The Cochrane Library.

People with fibromyalgia suffer from chronic widespread pain, sleep problems and fatigue. The illness affects more than 5 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and currently there is no cure. Using a Quality of Life scale for fibromyalgia, the studies reviewed reported ratings lower than 15 on a scale of 0 to 100 even among patients on medications. The two medications often prescribed to treat fibromalgia are duloxetine, known by the brand name Cymbalta, or milnacipran, commonly known as Savella.

“A frank discussion between the physician and patient about the potential benefits and harms of both drugs should occur,” noted the reviewers, led by Winfried Häuser of Technische Universität München.

The authors reviewed 10 high-quality studies comprising more than 6,000 adults who received either duloxetine, milnacipran, or a placebo for up to six months. A substantial majority of study participants were middle-aged, white women.

“This is a very important study,” says Fred Wolfe of the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases. “There’s an enormous amount of advertising suggesting that these drugs really help, whereas the research data show that the improvement is really minimal.”

Treatment with drugs alone should be discouraged, the reviewers added. Instead, the review authors recommend a multi-faceted treatment approach including medications for those who find them helpful, exercises to improve mobility and psychological counseling to improve coping skills.

“The medical field does poorly with the treatment of fibromyalgia in general,” says Brian Walitt, a co-author of the review and an expert in pain syndromes at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. “Chasing with medicine doesn’t seem to work. The people who seem to me to do best sort of figure it out on their own by thinking about things, getting to know themselves, and making changes in their lives to accommodate who they’ve become,” concludes Walitt.

The only other medication approved for fibromyalgia treatment in the U.S. is the anti-convulsant pregabalin, known by the brand name Lyrica. The Cochrane Library plans to publish a review of its effectiveness later this year.

Intensive neuroscientific research is needed to reveal the underlying causes of fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes, say the researchers. In the meantime, combinations of various medications as well as combinations of drug and non-drug treatments may offer better symptom control for sufferers.

*The Health Behavior News Service is part of the Center for Advancing Health

Mediterranean diet endorsed for heart

By the A.M. Costa Rica news services

A new five-year study of the so-called Mediterranean diet shows that olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, white meat, fruits, vegetables and a glass of wine each day are the ingredients for a healthy heart.
The large and rigorously managed experiment found this diet could prevent about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease.
Researchers from the University of Barcelona in Spain worked with nearly 7,500 adults who did not have heart disease but were smokers, were overweight or had diabetes or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They were randomly assigned to either a low-fat diet or the Mediterranean style diet.
Those in the first group had difficulty staying on their plan. So the study wound up comparing the common modern diet, with regular consumption of red meat, sugary drinks and commercial baked goods, with a diet that avoided those foods.
Researchers say they ended the study early because the results, detailed on The New England Journal of Medicine Web site, were so dramatic.
Some experts have criticized their conclusions, pointing out that subjects on the Mediterranean diet still had heart attacks and strokes, and noting that olive oil and nuts are so high in fat and calories that consuming too much of them could lead to other health problems. But heart disease experts praised the study, saying it confirms how important diet is in reducing heart disease risk.
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