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Amigo Realty
(506) 2223-1327                     Published Monday, March 4, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 44                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Strong winds predicted to continue for today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Strong winds spawned by a passing cold front have raked the country and caused some damage.

More of the same is predicted for today with the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional saying winds would be up to 100 kph on the Caribbean coast and elsewhere.  That's about 62 mph.

The weather institute said that there was some increase in the levels of Caribbean rivers. It said that the ríos Reventazón, Sarapiquí, and Pacuare were
showing the effects of up to 100 millimeters (nearly four inches) of rain in the eastern mountains.
The winds were accompanied by cold. The overnight temperature in Cartago hit 12.1 C. or 53.8 F.
In San José the overnight low was reported at 13.6 C. or 56.5 F. 

The biggest victims of the winds were the various power companies that suffered a series of outages from wires clashing.  There were some reports of damages to homes and some trees that fell. Such winds are typical of the season.

For today, the weather institute predicts cloudy skies and variable rain on the Caribbean coast and the northern zone. Strong winds will continue in the Central Valley and the north Pacific with some reduction as the day advances. Low temperatures will be the norm in the Central Valley, it said.

The weather institute continued its warnings against fires and the use of light planes and small boats.

Some violent Caribbean bandits believed still at large
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A violent crime wave has spread fear along the Caribbean coast. Even though Fuerza Pública officers detained two suspects in a fatal stickup, the bulk of a gang continues at large.

Gunmen late Friday stuck up five persons in a living quarter attached to a small store in Las Delicias, Panamá, just across the border from Costa Rica. The ensuing shootout fatally injured a 17-year-old girl, who died later at the clinic in Hone Creek, Costa Rica.

Fuerza Pública officers near the border captured two men a short time later.

Officials linked the Panamá stickup to one early Thursday at the well-known Hotel Samasití in Hone Creek on the Caribbean coast near Puerto Viejo and Cahuita. In the case of the Samasití the victims included 18 tourists, mostly U.S. and Canadians. They were ordered from their rooms and held hostage for an hour while crooks sacked the hotel rooms.

Investigators also disclosed the robbery of a Canadian family, tourists, at the Congo Bongo complex in Manzanillo Thursday evening about 10 p.m. The two Canadians and their son were confronted by at least five men wearing masks and carrying firearms. Taken were cameras and cash, investigators said.

The dead girl from Panamá was identified by the Judicial Investigating Organization here as Ayad Said Alsur. She was the daughter of the owners of the store and was with her mother and other family members when intruders barged in to rob them early Friday. Investigators said that a son grabbed a firearm to oppose the bandits, and a shootout ensued.

Others in the family suffered wounds, too, although not as serious. The wounded family members carried the girl across the nearby Río Sixaola by boat where a Costa Rican ambulance took them to the clinic.

Reports from the Caribbean coasts list a series of robberies and home burglaries that may also be linked to this gang. However, the reports are informal.

A property owner said via email from the United States that the entire Puerto Viejo area is under siege. For the last six months there has been an unprecedented wave of armed and violent  invasions. She said that the crimes were deliberate
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Key points in rampage by bandits

acts of organized gang terrorism and seem to be being swept under the rug by the system here. She said both her properties in Playa Chiquita were scenes of violent robberies in the last six months.

In one case, three gunmen invaded her lodge and knocked the caretaker senseless, she said, adding that then the bandits systematically looted the place.

The Caribbean beaches are one of Costa Rica's finest treasures and are just now coming in to their own as a top destination, she said, adding that the winter tourist numbers are down in the area as word of the violence spreads around the world.

The two suspects were detained in Bratsi, Talamanca, Limón after a police chase. Officers said they found plenty of evidence that linked the suspects to the fatal robbery. There was a handbag belonging to the dead girl and even a billfold with photos of the family of victims, they said.

In addition, officers said they found a .38 pistol that had the serial number obscured and several types of ammunition.

They identified the suspects by the last names of Astorga Saravia and Sarahi Astorga

Prosecutors in Bribri are in charge of the cross-border case.

Early reports from Panamá, relayed through law enforcement here, said that other members of the gang had been captured. That appears to be untrue, as police in Panamá are continuing to search mountainous areas. The bandits are believed to be Costa Ricans from the Talamanca area in southeast Costa Rica along the Caribbean coast. The border is porous there, and the crooks seem to be able to cross at will.

Residents fear they continue to be a threat.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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Oxcarts celebrated this week
in San Antonio de Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San Antonio de Escazú, the cultural home of the boyeros, is celebrating the Costa Rican tradition this week.

The celebration climaxes Sunday with the parade of the boyeros and oxcarts from Escazú Centro uphill to San Antonio.

The main location for most of the week is the central plaza of San Antonio where there are exhibitions and cultural activities through Friday.

Saturday will see a parade through the streets with cimarronas, the brass band, and mascarada, those towering papier-mâché figures. That is at 2 p.m. During the afternoon boyeros and their families from all over the country will be gathering. At 6 p.m. there is a Mass for boyeros who have died in the past year. Then there is music and dancing culminating with fireworks at 10:30 p.m.

Sunday begins with a 5 a.m. march of bands through the streets of San Antonio followed by a 10 a.m. Mass. The parade of the oxen and the carts begins at 10:30 a.m. There will be festivities all day in San Antonio and another Mass at 6 p.m.

The boyero and his oxcart are an intangible World Heritage endeavor. Oxen still are used as draught animals on many Costa Rican farms and ranches. The boyero or oxcart driver may be a farmer, but this also is a hobby for some, so the man directing the giant beasts may be a lawyer or the local school teacher.

A full schedule is available on the Municipalidad de Escazú Web site.

Our readers' opinion
They have very little sympathy
for complaints about burning

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have a complaint of all the expats complaining about the smoke from the burning of the sugar cane fields in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. I understand the smoke and debris is a nuisance and no one really cares to have to deal with it, but my question is what was there first, the nice luxury expat home/condominium or the sugar can fields?

For years, even centuries, sugar cane farmers have been practicing this method of burning the sugar cane fields before the harvest. What gets me frustrated is all of these expats should have toured around the area and realized that they might have to deal with the nuisance of smoke and ash from the burning and taken that into consideration before purchasing/building their luxury home. It just frustrates me how a group of people who we could call in this instance transplants try to throw their weight around just because they are inconvenienced.

This issue reminds me of a time growing up in Gilbert, Arizona. There is a subdivision known as Val Vista Lakes and there are quite a few $500K and higher homes within this area. The whole area consists of a 1-2 square mile radius. What is interesting is there was a dairy farm located just on the other side of a major road that was the boundary of this subdivision. This dairy farm had been there years before Val Vista Lakes was developed. After the affluent started to move into their $500K and higher homes, they realized they had the welcome of manure stench every morning and night. They complained every day about the foul smell and tried to mandate the government to do something so that they can enjoy their luxury homes. I was glad to see that this dairy farm lasted for almost 20 years after Val Vista Lakes was developed as a form of letting people know that they need to do a lot more research when they purchase a home instead of looking at the immediate area.

So with the issue of the smoke from the sugar cane fields being built, my opinion is they should just shut up. I do agree that if Costa Rica is promoting itself and an ecological conscious nation then maybe the government should try to do something about the burning of the sugar can field burning issue. But this is a hot topic with the Costa Rica government.

Where would Ticos purchase their sugar from? What would the cost be to the consumer? As most people know, Costa Rica has a high import tax and anything that comes into Costa Rica is taxed. This explains why when I travel to Costa Rica prices are the same on most items down there as they are here in the States. Contrast to what most people would think. So my question is, are all of these consumers going to subsidize the local nationals for increase sugar prices due to imports? Probably not.

Quite frankly, my opinion is if they don't like the smoke then get out of the kitchen. The first time I went to Costa Rica was in 1993, long before it became the developed, tourist attraction that it is today. Back then it was a diamond in the rough. Nobody knew about it and anytime I mention it to somebody they always confused it with Puerto Rico. Now is it a bad thing that over the years development has taken place? No it isn't because the standard of living for the average Tico has risen also.

My only thing is the development has brought in a lot of people who made a hasty decision and now because they realize that things are the way they thought they would be, they complain hoping that they get their way. If it's such a big problem for them, I'm sure there is some other country of the world that will bend over backwards to cater to their needs. I hope the sugar cane farmers win this battle and not be pressured to sell off their land like the poor diary farmer did in Gilbert, Arizona. Maybe this is a form of the little guy getting back at the rich, affluent, puffed up chest of the foreign invaders.

Dustin and Jilue Johnson
Colorado Springs, Colorado

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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on archived pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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Stone spheres take another step toward U.N. heritage list
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The stone spheres of Costa Rica are a step closer to becoming a world cultural heritage site.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  has put a collection of five Costa Rican archaeological sites on a tentative list in the agenda for action by the World Heritage Committee.

The collection of locations would be the first Costa Rican cultural listing. There already are three natural heritage sites: Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Parque Nacional de Isla del Coco and the Talamanca Range and the cross-border Parque Nacional La Amistad.

Also on the tentative list is Parque Nacional Corcovado and Isla del Caño biological reserve.

The U.N. effort began to save the Egyptian archaeological sites about to be flooded by the Aswan high dam. Now there are 745 cultural listings, 188 natural ones and 29 mixed sites, said the World Heritage Committee. Costa Rica also is represented on the intangible human heritage list with the distinctive oxcarts and the boyero tradition. The intangible list includes activities such as dances, songs and crafts.

Costa Rican officials hope that the greater visibility given to the spheres will increase tourism. The listing, which is almost assured, gives officials here access to some funds that the U.N. allocates each year for preservation and upkeep.

Sites inscribed on the World Heritage List also benefit from the elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive management plan that sets out adequate preservation measures and monitoring mechanisms, said the U.N. In support of these, experts offer technical training to the local site management team, it added.

The Museo Nacional is developing a museum devoted to the spheres and the culture that made them on Finca 6, near Palmar Sur. Although archaeologists are not sure why the spheres were made, the current thinking is that they represented symbols of rank and were placed near the entrances to the homes of chiefs.

"At Finca 6 Archaeological Site, two alignments of stone spheres remain in their original locations," said the U.N. organization on its Web site. "Additionally, two spheres are located in front of a ramp associated with an artificial mound. One of them was recovered several years ago and moved to a place nearby, since the property was not owned by the national museum at that time. It is being moved back to its original place. The other is in its original place."

The U.N. also said:

The Finca 6 site is located in the alluvial plain next to a creek subject to intertidal action. It was part of an extensive deposit of sedimented material that covers the Diquís Delta. The area has been used extensively for banana plantations since the 1940s. At this site, two stone spheres alignments, several artificial mounds, one of them with associated store spheres, burials, pavements and debris deposits have been recorded.

The other sites, according to the U.N., are:

El Silencio, which is an extensive site where the biggest stone sphere recorded yet is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in diameter is located. This sphere is placed at the slopes of the coastal range, near a pre-Columbian cobblestone pavement. The sphere was damaged by human made fires some decades ago and presents exfoliations.

Batambal, which is a site located on a hilltop along the Río 
Stone spheres
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
These spheres are on lawn at the Corte Suprema de Justicia.

Terraba. It covers approximately 2 hectares. Here four spheres have been located, associated to material deposits, artificial mounds and diverse structures built with cobblestones. This place has an excellent view of the delta's plain, the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding mountains.

Grijalba, which is a site located in an upper terrace of the Río Balsar, a tributary of the Río Terraba. In this settlement there is a sphere associated with material deposits, artificial mounds and pavements built with cobblestones that cover an area of approximately three hectares.

Cano Island, which is located about 17 miles northwest of Punta Llorona in the Osa Peninsula. The island has an extension of 3 kilometers long in east - west direction, and a width of 1.5 kilometers, for a total area of 200 hectares.

There is evidence of at least two different periods of occupation. 17 different archaeological localities have been recorded, as well as two small sized spheres.

The process for inclusion on the U.N. list is lengthy. In 2010 the U.N. sent a panel of experts to visit the area. Among those who visited was John Hoppes of the University of Kansas, one of the few real authorities on the stone spheres. The panel's report was a significant step in elevating the spheres to the list.

Scientists believe the stones were first created around 600 A.D., with most dating to after 1,000 A.D. but before the Spanish conquest. But no one really knows for sure.

The U.N. World Heritage Centre noted that the areas containing  the spheres are subjected to periodic flooding which sometimes leaves layers of sediment that preserve the archaeological material.

The spheres had been seen since the end of the 19th century but did not really come into the public view until the United Fruit Co. began clearing land for agricultural operations in the 1930s. Many have been moved to decorate homes and government offices in the Central Valley.

As A.M. Costa Rica has reported, speculation and pseudoscience have plagued general understanding of the stone spheres. For instance, publications have claimed that the balls are associated with the mystical continent of Atlantis or space aliens. Others have asserted that the balls are navigational aids or relics related to Stonehenge or the massive heads on Easter Island.

The material for the spheres originated in the mountains above the Diquis delta region, according to geologists.

Bus inspection yields what may be archaeological artifacts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers who searched a public bus Sunday in Limón turned up an unattended package containing four pre-Columbian-type pots.

Officers confiscated the ceramics when none of the passengers came forward to claim the package.

Transporting archaeological pieces is a crime in Costa Rica even though many homes of long-time residents have museum quality collections. And that does not include the stone spheres on the front lawn.

The Costa Rican law is designed to dissuade pot hunters who steal the objects from a pro-Columbian site and sell them. Such artifacts lose all their scientific value when they are severed from where they were found. The Museo Nacional has many confiscated objects that have no provenance or history.

The four pots confiscated Sunday might not even be old,
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Segruidad Pública photos
Two of the four pots confiscated from a bus.

although the tests to determine age on pottery are expensive and destructive.

Police said they were told later that the pots were on the way to a museum, but by that time the artifacts were in the hands of the judiciary.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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shark fins
Dalhousie University/Rikke Johannessen
Shark fins on cart

Shark annual mortality put
at around 100 million

By the Dalhousie University news service

The world’s shark populations are experiencing significant declines with perhaps 100 million or more sharks being lost every year, according to a study published this week in Marine Policy.

“Sharks have persisted for at least 400 million years and are one of the oldest vertebrate groups on the planet. However, these predators are experiencing population declines significant enough to cause global concern,” said lead author Boris Worm, professor of biology at Dalhousie University.

In the recently published paper, “Global Catches, Exploitation Rates and Rebuilding Options for Sharks,” Worm and three other researchers from Dalhousie teamed up with scientists from the University of Windsor in Canada, as well as Stony Brook University in New York, Florida International University in Miami and the University of Miami, to calculate total shark mortality and outline possible solutions to protect the world’s shark populations.

“This is a big concern because the loss of sharks can affect the wider ecosystem,” said Mike Heithaus, executive director of Florida International's School of Environment, Arts and Society and co-author of the paper. “In working with tiger sharks, we’ve seen that if we don’t have enough of these predators around, it causes cascading changes in the ecosystem that trickle all the way down to marine plants.” Such changes can harm other species, and may negatively affect commercial fisheries, Heithaus said.

Based on data collected for the latest study, shark deaths were estimated at 100 million in 2000 and 97 million in 2010. The total possible range of mortality is between 63 and 273 million annually.

The biggest culprit in the significant population decline is a combination of a global boom in shark fishing — usually for their valuable fins — and the relatively slow growth and reproductive rates of sharks. Because adequate data of shark catches is lacking for most of the world, the wide range of possible mortality is based on available data of shark deaths and calculated projections for unreported, discarded and illegal catches. But even with the uncertainty there is little question that sharks are being caught faster than they can reproduce.

“Sharks are similar to whales, and humans, in that they mature late in life and have few offspring' said Boris Worm. “As such, they cannot sustain much additional mortality. Our analysis shows that about one in 15 sharks gets killed by fisheries every year. With an increasing demand for their fins, sharks are more vulnerable today than ever before.”

While some sharks are receiving protection through national and international agreements, the team of researchers suggests legislation should be expanded to a greater number of species. Imposing a tax on the export and import of shark fins could also help curb demand and generate income for domestic shark fisheries management, according to the study.

“The findings are alarming, but there is hope. Existing regulations are a great start but we must ensure they are adequately enforced,” said Samuel Gruber of the University of Miami. “In addition, more nations must invest in sustainable shark fisheries management. This means introducing catch limits, trade regulation and other protective measures for the most vulnerable species and those that move across international boundaries.”

The information from this report comes at a critical time, as 177 governments from around the world will attend the meeting this week of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Bangkok.The organization is widely considered one of the best tools for protecting vulnerable species from extinction. Hammerheads, Oceanic whitetip, and porbeagle sharks are currently being considered for protection.

Investigation sought of fire
that destroyed storefronts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national insurance company said Friday that it was asking judicial investigators to look into a Feb. 21 fire in Tibás.

The blaze heavily damaged five storefronts just five days after one of the renters renewed a fire insurance policy, said the company, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

Investigators from the Cuerpo de Bomberos said the blaze was set, said the insurance company in a release.

The insurance company said that fire fighters reported that of 46 fires investigated this year, nine were set intentionally.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros said that four 2013 fires already are in the hands of judicial agents.

Twin quakes rattle area
south of Quepos and inland

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The area around Quepos and as far inland as San Isidro de El General received two shakings Sunday night.

The first was at 8:37 p.m., and the Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica at the Universidad de Costa Rica estimated the magnitude of the quake at 4.0. Some 22 minutes later at 8:59 p.m., the Laboratorio detected a 3.8-magnitude quake.

The epicenter for both quakes was estimated to be in the Pacific 27 to 31 kilometers south southwest of Pasito de Savegre de Aguirre. That's 17 or 18 miles.

Saturday, the Laboratorio registered a 4.1-magnitude quake at 6:49 p.m. about 13 kilometers southwest of Pavón de Golfito.

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Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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State Department issues report
on Canadian oil pipeline

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. State Department study says a new proposed route for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone oil pipeline would have no significant impact on the environment but did not recommend whether it should be built.

The 2,000-page report Friday on a new route for the pipeline said if TransCanada, the company that will build the pipeline, follows all regulations, there would be no major additional risks to the environment.

The State Department says it will hold off making a recommendation on whether the project should go forward until after a 45-day public comment period.

The Obama administration rejected an earlier proposed route for the pipeline because it would have gone through the environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska.

The proposed 2,700-kilometer-long pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels extracted from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists want to stop the project, saying the process of extracting the Canadian oil is much dirtier than regular crude.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the State Department report had numerous flaws. It says the report avoids the significant implications the project would have on the environment.

Death of Russian child
ruled to be accidental

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The sheriff and district attorney in Ector County, Texas, have ruled the death of 3-year-old Max Shatto an accident. The boy was born in Russia as Maxim Kuzmin before being adopted along with his younger brother by a Texas couple. The case has stirred an outcry in Russia, where adoptions by U.S. citizens were banned late last year and, the furor may not be over yet.

The autopsy report says that Shatto died from a laceration to an artery in the abdomen and that based on “all medical reasonable probability” the death was accidental. The doctors who examined the body determined that the bruises found on the lower abdomen were consistent with self injury.

It was those bruises that prompted the Ector County medical examiner to send the body to a facility in the city of Fort Worth, Texas, for an autopsy Jan. 22, the day after the boy died.

A toxicology test done as part of the autopsy found no medications or drugs in the boy's blood stream that could have contributed to his death.

Max Shatto and his 2-year-old brother Kristopher were adopted by Alan and Laura Shatto of Gardendale, Texas, several months ago. The couple have not spoken to reporters, but their attorney, Michael Brown, said in a telephone interview that there has never been any evidence that the mother, Laura, hurt the boy, as was alleged by some Russian officials.

“What she has consistently told the police and me and everyone she has talked to about this is that she had the children in the back yard. She came back inside; she had to go to the bathroom, an embarrassing difficulty that she was having, and when she came out of the bathroom, Max was lying on his back in the yard,” said Brown.

Since authorities are continuing the investigation, it is still possible that Laura Shatto could be charged with negligence. Brown confirmed that Texas Child Protective Services had initially restricted her access to Kristopher and her own home to two hours a day as a routine measure.

“Now they have just increased it to four hours a day where she is allowed to be with the child. The father, Alan, has been with the child consistently since then in addition to his full-time job. He is an engineer in the oil field and he has double duty until she is finally allowed to return,” said Brown.

Political figures in Russia have blamed the mother for the death and claimed that the case further justifies the ban they placed on U.S. adoptions late last year. They also have called for Kristopher to be removed from the home, but Texas officials say they have found no evidence that the child is in danger and they are monitoring the home with frequent visits. The state of Texas is also investigating the agency that handled the adoption last year, the Gladney Adoption Center in Fort Worth, to make sure all proper procedures were followed.

Quake in China levels
hundreds of homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chinese officials say a shallow, 5.5 magnitude earthquake has hit southwest China, causing hundreds of homes to collapse and injuring about 20 people.

China's official Xinhua news agency says the quake struck a rural area in the southwestern province of Yunnan Sunday afternoon, destroying 700 homes and damaging a further 2,500 houses. There were no reports of fatalities.

Xinhua said the quake struck just nine kilometers beneath the surface.

The provincial earthquake bureau has sent a team to the quake area.

Baby becomes the first
to be cured of HIV virus

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Doctors in the United States say a baby born with the AIDS virus appears to have been cured after receiving very early treatment with standard drug therapy.

The 2-year-old girl from the southern state of Mississippi was treated with three standard HIV-fighting drugs beginning when she was just 30 hours old.

Doctors say she is functionally cured, meaning the virus cannot be detected with standard tests and lifelong treatment is not necessary.

It is the first case of an infant achieving a functional cure.

Doctors say more testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The unidentified girl was born HIV-positive to a mother who received no prenatal care and was not diagnosed as HIV-positive herself until just before delivery.

Had the mother known her condition earlier, she could have received drugs that would have prevented transmission to the baby.

The baby remained on antiretroviral drugs for approximately 15 months. Her mother then stopped administering the drug for some reason.

After receiving no treatment for 10 months, the toddler was brought back to her doctor, who ordered standard blood tests to see how the child was faring before resuming antiviral therapy.

Two subsequent tests failed to find any detectible levels of HIV. And tests for HIV-specific antibodies - the standard clinical indicator of HIV infection - also remained negative.

The results were announced at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

Space X craft finally docks
at International Space Station

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The privately-owned unmanned Dragon cargo spaceship has docked at the International Space Station, after engineers fixed a problem that delayed the docking by one day.

Dragon was captured by the space station's robotic arm early Sunday. 

The spacecraft, owned and operated by SpaceX, ran into problems shortly after liftoff Friday.  Minutes after the launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk reported three of the craft's four sets of thrusters had not activated normally.  Engineers were later able to get all four working.

Dragon is scheduled to remain at the station for three weeks, as part of the second SpaceX resupply mission.  The capsule is carrying science equipment, food, and spare parts for the station's six-person crew, and will return to Earth with samples, specimens and other items.

​​NASA has contracted the California-based SpaceX to carry out at least 12 resupply missions to the space station in the next several years. 

The Falcon-9 rocket carried the Dragon capsule into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The SpaceX company's first successful docking was in May.  Since the termination of NASA's space-shuttle program, the Falcon-9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been the only U.S. vehicles capable of ferrying cargo to the space station.

Chávez reported undergoing
tougher cancer treatment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been undergoing tougher new treatment for cancer, including chemotherapy at the military hospital where he has been for the past two weeks, his vice president said.       

Speaking after a Catholic Mass to pray for Chavez's health, Nicolas Maduro described how the socialist president had personally given the order to leave Cuba in mid-February, two months after his latest cancer surgery there.

"He said, 'I've taken the decision to return to Venezuela, I'm going to enter a new phase of complementary treatments, tougher and more intense, I want to be in Caracas,'" Maduro  said in the comments late on Friday.

"Do you know what the complementary treatments are? They are the chemotherapies applied to patients after operations," he added outside a chapel in the Caracas military hospital.

Apart from one set of photos showing Chavez in a Havana hospital bed, he has not been seen or heard from in public since the Dec. 11 surgery in Cuba, his fourth operation since the disease was detected in mid-2011.

Chavez had previous rounds of chemo- and radiotherapy, which at times left him bald and bloated. He twice wrongly declared himself cured.

Furious at rumors swirling all week that Chávez may have died, Maduro said chemotherapy was only possible because his condition had actually improved in January after a delicate few weeks following the December operation.

Chavez's No. 2 urged Venezuelans to be on guard against rumor-mongers and destabilizers, saying right-wing politicians in the United States were in league with Venezuela's opposition to spread lies about his boss.

"Sadly, the opposition live in a world of hatred, wrongdoing, bad feelings and bad desires," Maduro said, adding that Chávez had become sick from overworking.

"He neglected his own body to give our people his work, his love, his life," Maduro said, confirming Chávez was still using a tracheal tube to breathe and was communicating with family and aides through written messages and other creative means.

Opposition leaders have accused Maduro of lying about Chavez's condition. Several dozen anti-government students have chained themselves up in public to demand proof that the president is alive and in Venezuela.

"We challenge Nicolas Maduro to say where Hugo Chávez is. They must show him," opposition leader Pablo Medina said during a visit on Saturday to the students in Caracas.

​​Chavez's family and supporters are smarting at the crescendo of rumors that surfaced this week in news media and on the Internet. They have ranged from a claim by a Panamanian diplomat that Chávez's family had switched his life support off, to a Spanish newspaper report he had gone to die on an island refuge.

"Let's see, let's see, gentlemen in the laboratory, what rumors have you prepared for us today?" said Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.

Chavez's daughter, Maria Gabriela, complained about the media scrutiny of her face during the Mass on Friday night. Her somber expression was interpreted by some on Twitter as a sign her father was near death.

"I can't be happy if my father is ill ... In the next Mass, I'll have to dance and laugh," she tweeted.

Should Chávez die or step down, a vote would be held within 30 days, probably pitting Maduro against opposition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles for leadership of a nation that holds the world's biggest oil reserves. Capriles lost to Chávez in last year's election.

The stakes are also high for the region. Chávez has been the most vocal Latin American critic of Washington and financed hefty aid programs for leftist governments from Cuba to Bolivia.

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Real estate for sale (paid category)

Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:

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Larger than it appears from outside. Call. (506) 8847-1822
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For Sale By Owner
1 lot (1.5 acres)  at SIBU (8 lots total) amongst 50 acres of protected jungle gardens with sunset ocean views of Playa Nosara. Underground electric and water.13 minutes from Playa Guiones. Gated. In house financing available. Home of SIBU Sanctuary.

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- 2-bedroom house in gated community, $92,500.
- Lots in gated community from $20k w/financing available.
- 3-bedroom house in gated community, furnished, walk to the beach, $125k
- 3-bedroom oceanview house on 5 acres subdividable, $270k
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Gorgeous house built 5 years ago to U.S. standards on 37,000 sq. ft TITLED property. This is a very special and rare property because of the INCREDIBLE OCEAN VIEW and excellent location. This one of a kind home and property is truly a must see. Ocean view Only $345 000.00 US More details:
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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Central American games
opened with great fanfare

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With a spectacle worthy of the Olympics, the Juegos Centroamericanos opened in San José Sunday night.

There were parades, including one with horses carrying the flags of the country's provinces. There were fireworks. And Olympian Sylvia Poll was there with the torch to light the games cauldron.

There are nearly 2,800 athletes participating from seven countries.

The event is also a showcase for Johnny Araya, the San José mayor who aspires to the presidency. He wants to demonstrate that he can complete complex jobs.

Thousands attended the opening at the Estadio Nacional, and the valley rail line crews worked overtime to carry the crowd to the event and back home again.

Local group backs Argentina
in claim over Falkland Islands

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of Costa Ricans has asked the legislature to refrain from sending observers for the referendum next Sunday and Monday by residents of the Falkland Island.

Despite decisively losing a war over the islands, Argentina had renewed its request for negotiations. Costa Rica has backed the request. The British government says there is nothing to negotiate.

The island is important because of possible oil reserves nearby.

It was 30 years ago when Argentine troops invaded the island, which is occupied mostly by descendants of British settlers.

Some residents here have created the Grupo Costarricense Solidario Malvinas Argentinas. It says there are historical and geographical reasons that Argentina should reclaim the islands, which are called Malvinas in the Latin world.

The Falklands are a self-governing overseas territory of the  United Kingdom. The referendum simply asks if residents are happy with the current status. If the majority of the voters say no, the British government said it will hold more referendums to narrow the choices. However, the voting is  expected to be heavily for continuation of the current status.

The Grupo Costarricense Solidario Malvinas Argentinas said it does not want Costa Rica to send observers because it considers the referendum illegitimate.

Berliners protest destruction
of remaining Communist wall

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Protesters in Berlin are trying to stop developers from dismantling one of the longest remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall.   But, they face an uphill battle.

The Berlin Wall was one of the starkest reminders of the Cold War.  It was put up by Communist East Germany in 1961, to stop its citizens from fleeing to West Berlin.  But today, the wall that once snaked around the whole German capital is almost entirely gone.

Except for at the East Side Gallery.  Today, the one-mile-long stretch of the wall contains murals by artists from around the world.

But on Friday, construction workers began removing a 22-meter chunk of the wall, the first step in a project that aims to build a luxury apartment tower on the site.

And that has caused a stir -- 200 people turned out to protest, and three were arrested.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 4, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 44
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Less warming blamed on volcanoes

By the University of Colorado news service

A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder looking for clues about why Earth did not warm as much as scientists expected between 2000 and 2010 now thinks the culprits are hiding in plain sight: dozens of volcanoes spewing sulfur dioxide.

The study results essentially exonerate Asia, including India and China, two countries that are estimated to have increased their industrial sulfur dioxide emissions by about 60 percent from 2000 to 2010 through coal burning, said lead study author Ryan Neely, who led the research as part of his doctoral thesis. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions from Earth’s surface eventually rise 12 to 20 miles into the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere, where chemical reactions create sulfuric acid and water particles that reflect sunlight back to space, cooling the planet.

Neely said previous observations suggest that increases in stratospheric aerosols since 2000 have counterbalanced as much as 25 percent of the warming scientists blame on human greenhouse gas emissions. “This new study indicates it is emissions from small to moderate volcanoes that have been slowing the warming of the planet,” he said.

A paper on the subject was published online in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

The new project was undertaken in part to resolve conflicting results of two recent studies on the origins of the sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere, including a 2009 study led by the late David Hoffman of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicating aerosol increases in the stratosphere may have come from rising emissions of sulfur dioxide from India and China. In contrast, a 2011 study led by Jean Paul Vernier from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia showed moderate volcanic eruptions play a role in increasing particulates in the stratosphere, Neely said.

The new study also builds on a 2011 study led by Susan Solomon, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showing stratospheric aerosols offset about a quarter of the greenhouse effect warming on earth during the past decade, said Neely.

The new study relies on long-term measurements of changes in the stratospheric aerosol layer’s optical depth, which is a measure of transparency, said Neely.  Since 2000, the optical depth in the stratospheric aerosol layer has increased by about 4 to 7 percent, meaning it is slightly more opaque now than in previous years.

“The biggest implication here is that scientists need to pay more attention to small and moderate volcanic eruptions when trying to understand changes in Earth’s climate,” said Brian Toon of the University of Colorado's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.  “But overall these eruptions are not going to counter the greenhouse effect. Emissions of volcanic gases go up and down, helping to cool or heat the planet, while greenhouse gas emissions from human activity just continue to go up.”

Neely said the team used the Janus supercomputer on campus to conduct seven computer runs, each simulating 10 years of atmospheric activity tied to both coal-burning activities in Asia and to emissions by volcanoes around the world. Each run took about a week of computer time using 192 processors, allowing the team to separate coal-burning pollution in Asia from aerosol contributions from moderate, global volcanic eruptions.

While small and moderate volcanoes mask some of the human-caused warming of the planet, larger volcanoes can have a much bigger effect, said Toon. When Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, it emitted millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere that cooled the Earth slightly for the next several years.

Hearing loss prevention urged

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization reports about half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented.  To mark International Ear Care Day, which was Sunday, the agency says there is hope of improvement for many of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss.
New global estimates indicate more than 360 million people, or more than 5 percent of the world's population have disabling hearing loss. The report says more people face losing their hearing as they age. It notes one in three people over the age of 65 years, a total of 165 million people worldwide, is hard of hearing.
But this disability is not restricted to the old.  Shelly Chadha of World Health’s Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, says around 32 million children under age 15 are affected by hearing loss.
“There are conditions which lead to this hard-of-hearing situation, including ear infections, which are very, very common in the low and middle-income countries, which often manifest as a discharging ear…. Also, very importantly - noise, which is something which was traditionally limited to the occupational arena where people occupationally exposed were at risk of developing hearing loss. But, today, with environmental noise, with increasing technology - well, noise is a part of all our lives.”
World Health reports disabling hearing loss is highest in South Asia, the Asia Pacific region and Sub-Saharan Africa. It can be caused by hereditary and non-hereditary genetic factors or certain complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
While infectious diseases, such as meningitis, measles and mumps also can cause the loss of hearing, most of these diseases can be prevented through vaccination.
About half of all cases of hearing impairment are easily preventable, World Health said. It says many can be treated through early diagnosis and interventions such as surgically implanted hearing devices.
Chadha says that unfortunately many people are discouraged from seeking help.

“The stigma attached to hearing loss and the use of hearing aids is one of the biggest challenges, one of the biggest barriers to providing services for hearing loss and improving access to hearing aids. Because even where we do try to improve access to hearing aids, very often people are resistant because they do not want to wear a hearing aid.”
People with hearing loss who are not able to communicate with others often feel isolated and lonely, World Health said. In developing countries, the organization says children with this disability rarely receive any schooling. It says adults who do not hear well have difficulty finding jobs which, in turn, negatively impacts the economy.
The U.N. agency urges countries to develop programs for preventing hearing loss within their primary health care systems. It says other measures that can prevent people from losing their hearing include vaccinating children against measles, meningitis, mumps and rubella, as well as screening for and treating syphilis in pregnant women.

GOP sticks to its guns on budget cuts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The start of automatic U.S. spending cuts has not altered a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on America’s fiscal future. 
Last week, the threat of about 5 percent in across-the-board federal cuts brought President Barack Obama and congressional leaders no closer to a bipartisan budget deal.  Now, not even the start of the so-called sequester appears to be having any impact on Washington’s chronic political gridlock.
House Speaker John Boehner is holding firm to the Republican Party’s no-tax approach to deficit reduction.
“You cannot tax our way out of this problem.  We have got to deal with the spending side, just like every American family has to," he said.
Boehner spoke on NBC’s "Meet the Press" program, in an interview that was taped after Friday’s White House meeting that yielded no hints of progress between the president and congressional leaders. 
The speaker says Republicans are not blind to the consequences of the sequester, but determined to press ahead with deficit reduction in the face of what they see as Democratic dithering and intransigence.
“I am concerned about its impact on our economy and its impact on our military.  Listen, we have known about this problem for 16 months.  We have known the sequester was coming.  Where was the president’s plan?  Why did they not pass something?  And here we are, beyond the 11th hour, looking at each other without having acted," he said.
Democrats insist there is a better path to deficit reduction, a balance of targeted spending cuts, government reforms, and higher revenues.  Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois appeared on CBS’ "Face the Nation" program.
“The notion of putting everything on the table: revenue, spending cuts, entitlement reform.  If we did that, we would avoid these manufactured crises like the one we are in right now," he said.
President Obama has warned that the sequester will inflict real pain and inconvenience on the American people. The administration appears to be betting an outcry from the public will cause Republicans to soften their no-tax stance so a deal can be struck.

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