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(506) 2223-1327        Published Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 52          E-mail us
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Street justice suspected in killing and in shooting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Street justice resulted in the death of one man and may have been the reason why eight young people were shot as they stood at a Zapote bus stop. Both crimes happened Sunday.

The death was in southern Costa Rica in a location called Cuatro Bocas de Corredores. There the body of a man with the last name of Acuña turned up on a street. The 26-year-old man had been beaten to death. On his person investigators found what appeared to be loot from a burglary. Among these items was a cell telephone.

Sometime later, two men were apprehended driving near the scene. Agents said they had more items that may have been stolen in their vehicle. They said they believed the pair were implicated in the same burglary.

After questioning the men, agents detained the owner of a nearby home and alleged that he had participated in the fatal beating of Acuña. An autopsy is planned.

In Zapote the group of young people, ranging in
 age from 14 to 19 were on the street when a vehicle drove by and shots were fired.

The time was about 8:30 p.m. Four of the shooting victims were girls. Three were 14 and one was 16.

All but one person was treated and released at a hospital. One remains there.

Agents can only speculate on why the shooting took place. Sometimes when an individual is killed, police and news broadcasters call the killing an ajuste de cuentas or an adjustment of accounts.

That tends to suggest that the shooting was justified by a past action. Frequently the dead individual was a low-level drug dealer.

Still there is a tradition in Costa Rica that neighbors punish crooks they catch because they do not expect the judicial system to do so. Nearly always police intervene and save the thief or robber from death.

As crimes continue in Costa Rica and the judicial system continues to remain weak, the danger exists that more citizens will take the law into their own hands.

Bird flu reported making comeback in Egypt, Asia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The World Bank is reporting a resurgence of bird flu. In Cambodia a 19-year-old woman and her 11-month old son have died while handling dead chickens, the bank said.

South Korea is facing an especially difficult time, the bank added. Authorities there recently declared a state of emergency to stop the rapid spread of avian flu after migrating wild birds infected poultry flocks in four provinces. Counting the new cases, the country has reported 46 outbreaks since the first was confirmed Dec. 31. More than
5 million birds have been culled so far, the international organization said.

In Egypt, a 25-year-old woman became the 39th bird flu fatality with others testing positive for the virus, including young children, said the bank.

The Egyptian government is running public service announcements to show people how to avoid avian flu, said the bank.

The bank experts say investment in stronger human and animal health surveillance and preparedness is needed to avoid recurring epidemics.

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Some prices of imports
fail to follow dollar lower

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though the U.S. dollar has depreciated against the colon by some 14 percent, the prices of imported goods have not followed suit, according to another price study by the Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio.

The ministry said that some big ticket items did decrease during the study from October 2009 to last September. But others did not. The ministry figured a decrease in the value of the U.S. dollar of some 74 colons during the study period. The dollar has continued to depreciate and the rate to buy colons is now at 494.65, according to the Banco Central

However, nearly all international trade is denominated in dollars even if the source is not the United States. The ministry said that the price of imported washing machines and agricultural chemicals were found to be lower, but other items, such as imported vehicles and cooking stoves were priced the same despite changes in the dollar.

The ministry said that other factors might be involved, such as salaries, inventory and business strategy. Differences in the prices of refrigerators, stoves and washing machines varied by as much as 36 percent depending on the outlet, according to ministry figures.

But that was minor compared to the differences in the price of imported medicines. The famous cut-rate pharmacy La Bomba was low for all four items that ministry surveyors checked.  A blood pressure medicine like Aprobel was 9,575 colons at La Bomba and 34,000 for the same amount at Farmacia la Paulina, the ministry said. That is a difference of 255 percent, it added. Other products like Exalon, Jonuvia and Lopid also showed  vast ranges of prices.

Ministry officials said they would consider the results of the survey with an eye to correcting distortions in the marketplace.

New Hospital México device
will speed up biopsies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hospital México reports that it has invested $446,000 in new equipment and chemicals to more quickly provide responses to biopsies.

The device, called an autostainer, is in the Servicio de Patología. The device will allow technicians to automate the staining and the immunohistochemistry process that identifies cancerous cells, said the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which operates the public hospital.

Previously the staining was done manually and the job was tedious. Each patient donates nine samples of a typical biopsy evaluation. Each must be stained with chemicals and treated with antigens to assess the reaction. That way technicians and pathologists can identify cancerous tissue.

The investment by the Caja includes training and maintenance of the device.

Canadian, Guatemalan held
on airport drug allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian en route to Toronto was carrying 3.57 kilos of suspected cocaine in a suitcase with a false bottom. The 48-year-old man was identified by the last name of McGlory, according to the Policía Aeroportuaria.

Friday a Guatemalan man was detained after police said he was transporting 1.1 kilos of heroin in his stomach, said police. He was identified by the last names of López Arriaga. He is 25 years old and headed home, police said.

Although organized groups regularly move drugs through the airport and over land routes, amateurs frequently are tempted to smuggle mostly cocaine because it is readily available here.  Sometimes the people who sell the would-be smuggler the cocaine turn him or her in to win points with police.

Infrared camera watching volcano

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Red Sismológica Nacional is setting up a thermal imaging system to keep and eye on Volcán Turrialba. The infrared camera will see heat and be able to study the volcano even when there is cloud cover. The device supplements the visual camera that already is in place watching the volcano. The red is affiliated with the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Find out what the papers
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 52
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Tourism chamber blames bad roads for decline in north
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bad road has cut tourism in half or by as much as 75 percent in the vicinity of Volcán Poás and in Sarapiquí, according to the national tourism chamber.

The organization called upon the central government to complete the repairs of Ruta 126. This is the highway that was heavily damaged by the Jan. 8, 2009, Cinchona earthquake. The Cámara Nacional de Turismo said that two years and two months is too long to wait to have the road fixed. The road joins Vara Blanca with Saripiquí and goes north from Heredia. It provides access to La Fortuna and San Carlos.

Affected are tourism operations above Río Angel and the Hotel La Paz Waterfall Garden, said the chamber.
Of course, residents and those who must travel in that area also are affected.

The chamber said that neighbors joined in, contracted heavy machinery and made some repairs on the highway.
 They spent about 100 million colons in personal funds restoring the highway, said the chamber. That is about $200,000 that was spent for fuel, rental of heavy machinery and other needs to make the road passable for some vehicles, said the chamber. Still the road cannot be used by passenger cars and delivery trucks, it said.

The reducing in tourism estimated by the chamber comes from the Cámara de Turismo del Volcán Poás and the Cámara de Turismo de Sarapiquí, said the national chamber.

Motorists can still use a route through Zurquí, Bajos del Toro and the San Carlos-San José highway, but these, too, are in bad shape, said the chamber.

The chamber officials are seeking the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the highway agency, to set a date for the start of repairs.

La Fortuna is the community nearest the popular Volcán Arenal.

San Ramón group seeks U.S. funds to fight drugs there
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Community Action Alliance in San Ramón has asked the U.S. Embassy for $200,000 for 12 surveillance cameras at entrances to communities between San Ramón and Angostura, including Magallanes, El Empalme, and Rio Jesús, according to Mike Styiles of the organization.

The grant request is for an embassy anti-drug initiative. The embassy has said it plans to award $700,000 in grants and may award up to seven of them.

Styles said the grant proposal also calls for a Toyota
Hi-Lux, two motorcycles, 20 additional police officers, radios and improvements to three police stations.

He said the organization had help from legislator Edgardo Araya, San Ramón Mayor Mercedes Moya, the chamber of
  commerce and seven different development associations.

The grants are supposed to be announced in May.

The grant program is designed to combat drug use, drug distribution, and/or crime through projects targeting: 1.) at risk youth, 2.) border and/or coastal communities, and/or 3.) prevention of involvement in drug use or distribution, the embassy has said.

The Community Action Alliance is relatively new and seeks to involve expats and Costa Ricans in solving local problems. The organization hosts a 10 a.m. weekly coffee at Café Delicious every Thursday and plans a mixer Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Casa Colombia Restaurante, which is on the highway near the entrance to El Empalme, said Styles in an e-mail. More information is available on the organization's Web site.

New page contains important links and information
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper is publishing a page of important links and services. It is HERE!

Over the next week the page will be expanded and improved. However, the page still will contain embassy listings and emergency numbers, flight information for both international airports, immigration contacts, links for movie listings, traffic information and weather and disaster links.

There also is a link for activities at the Teatro Nacional.
Listing for services could use improvement. We ask readers to recommend to us tradesmen and women who can be trusted to do the job assigned.

Employees will contact these individuals to see if they would like to be listed.  We will charge a reasonable fee for this service, but the main goal is to assemble a team of craftsmen, from plumbers to auto mechanics, who come recommended by fellow expats.

Everyone knows how difficult it is to find good craftsmen and repair personnel. Please send names of those you recommend to

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Tico frog helps scientists explore family's genetic makeup

By the University of Manchester news service

A tropical frog – the only one of its kind in the world – is providing conservationists with exclusive insights into the genetic make-up of its closest endangered relatives.

University of Manchester scientists have allowed two critically endangered species of Central American Leaf frogs to interbreed, producing the unique frog – a hybrid of the two species. DNA tests using a harmless mouth swab showed that the two parent frogs were actually very closely related despite being different species.

The findings are important because DNA tests on frogs of the same species but from different geographical areas have revealed considerable genetic differences. The scientists therefore suggest that conservation efforts should not only focus on each endangered species of frog but also on different populations of the same frog species.

“Almost a third of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction, so it is imperative that we identify distinct populations of critically endangered species before they are lost forever,” said Andrew Gray, curator of herpetology at the university’s Manchester Museum.

“Through allowing interbreeding, and using DNA samples taken from the frogs’ mouth, this work investigates the amount of variation both between and within species. More importantly, it is helping determine where conservation efforts should be concentrated and highlighting that some populations of critically endangered amphibians are in desperate need of further protection.”

In the past, an animal’s appearance, including its coloration, defined it. But phylogenetics – the study of evolutionary relatedness of species through genetics – is becoming increasingly important in helping biologists identify separate species in need of conservation.

The unique leaf frog, which is maintained at the
Unique frog
Photo by Andrew Gray
This is the hybrid leaf frog

Manchester Museum, was bred from the two species Agalychnis annae, from Costa Rica and Panama, and Agalychnis moreletii, which is found in humid highland tropical forests ranging from southern Mexico to central Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize.

“Allowing the interbreeding of amphibians has proven particularly useful in providing evidence for the inheritance of genes, including certain color pattern traits,” said Gray. “The study has shown that the two species used to produce the hybrid frog are extremely closely related. However, they should continue to be considered as separate, both for classification and conservation purposes.

“It is also important to recognize the levels of variation in distinct populations of other closely related species. If conservation is our prime objective, it follows that separate populations of the same species should also be conserved for the future as distinct entities and future studies should focus on assessing the levels of variation in the different populations of these wonderful creatures.”

The study "Notes on Hybridization in Leaf frogs of the genus Agalychnis (Anura, Hylidae, Phyllomedusinae)" is published in Cornell University and the National Science Institutes’ online ArXiv.

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U.S. asks Aristide to delay
his Hatian homecoming

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States, citing concern for Haiti’s stability, has urged former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide not to return to his homeland until after the country’s Sunday presidential election. The controversial Haitian figure has lived in exile in South Africa since his ouster in 2004.

Officials here are not challenging Aristide’s right to return home, which they say is assured by the country’s constitution.

But they say his immediate return, in the run-up to the country’s presidential run-off election, can only be seen as an effort to influence the voting.

The former Haitian president has lived in South Africa since shortly after being driven from office more than seven years ago by a popular uprising.

He expressed a desire to return home after former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier made a surprise return in January. Both South African officials and aides to Aristide say his return is imminent.

The United States has strongly supported the current electoral process as critical to Haiti’s stability, after years of political turmoil and the disastrous January 2010 earthquake.

State Department acting deputy spokesman Mark Toner questioned the timing of the former leader’s apparent decision.

"To return this week can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections. We would urge former president Aristide to delay his return until after the electoral process has concluded, to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere. A return prior to the election may potentially be destabilizing for the political process," he said.

Toner said the United States encourages the South African government, as what he termed a "committed partner to Haiti’s stability," to also urge Aristide to delay his return.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, led a popular revolt that ended Haiti’s three-decade Duvalier dictatorship and was elected president in 1990. 

He was ousted by the military the following year, but returned to office amid U.S. military pressure in 1994.

He was forced to leave the country again a decade later amid protests of what was seen as autocratic rule. Aristide has said that if he returns home again, he will remain a private citizen and educator.

The Sunday presidential runoff in Haiti pits former first lady Mirlande Manigat against pop singer Michel Martelly.

The electoral process to choose a successor to outgoing President Rene Preval has been controversial, with an initial round of voting in November criticized by international observers as fraud-ridden.

Pakistani court ducks ruling
on U.S. murder suspect

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Pakistani court has declined to rule on whether a U.S. man held for killing two men has diplomatic immunity.

The High Court ruled Monday that the immunity issue would be decided by the lower court that is set to try CIA contractor Raymond Davis for murder.  That court is scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday.

The U.S. says Davis acted in self-defense when he shot and killed two men in January during an alleged attempted robbery in Lahore. 

Pakistani police have rejected Davis' version of events and say their investigation found it to be a case of murder.

U.S. officials insist Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released immediately. 

The incident, complicated by the death of a third Pakistani struck by a U.S. diplomatic vehicle rushing to Davis' aid, has inflamed anti-American sentiment across Pakistan.

The case also has increased tensions between the CIA and Pakistan's military spy service, the ISI. 

Pakistani officials have demanded that the CIA release the names of all of its agents operating in Pakistan after alleging Davis was working there without Pakistan's knowledge.

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Virilla bridge work delayed
to last weekend of month

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists will get a break this weekend because the Río Virilla bridge will not be closed, according to the transport ministry.

The bridge was closed last weekend and traffic chaos developed on the Autopista General Cañas and its detours.

The Ministry de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the first phase of the bridge repair had been completed. Of 408 reinforcement grids installed in the bridge deck, some 40 were cleaned of about an inch of faulty concrete. The concrete crumbled rapidly after traffic resumed on the bridge.

Still officials do not know why the concrete failed. Some had only been down for three weeks.

The bridge will be closed the weekend of March 27, officials said. Part of the jam over the weekend was Central Valley residents trying to attend an auto show in San Antonio de Belén. The show ends next weekend.

Ministry officials insist that the concrete was tested properly before it was put down. They have enlisted the aid of the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales at the Universidad de Costa Rica for help. They also said Monday that samples will be sent to L.B. Foster Co. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the maker of the metal grid.

The concrete problem resembles a failure caused by the use of polluted water in the mix.

Anti-weapon sculpture due
to be unveiled at museum

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sculpture made of toy weapons surrendered by youngsters in 2009 and 2010 will be unveiled this morning at the Museo de los Niños y Niñas in San José. The sculptor is Sylvia Gron, president of an organization that encourages children in the arts, and students from the design program at Universidad Veritas.

The event is at 9:30 and part of the long-running security ministry campaign to teach children to avoid weapons. Toy weapons and other war toys have a negative influence on the formation of Costa Rican youth, said the ministry.

Price-controlled rice
reduced about 9 cents

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rice prices are back in the news after the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio issued a decree setting the kilo price at 691 colons, effective May 22. That is 43 colons lower than the current price, about 9 U.S. cents.

Rice producers, represented by the Asociación Nacional de Productores Arroceros, oppose any reduction in the price of rice. The ministry tried to reduce the price of rice by 100 colons a kilo, some 20 U.S. cents, but a February decision by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo set the price to the producer at 22,604 or about $45.71 per each 76.3 kilo sack. The ministry wanted a price of 20,050 colons, about $40.55.

Most Costa Ricans eat rice at most of their meals, so the price that the government fixes is an important issue. The May effective date provides for a new harvest.

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