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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, March 28, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 61             E-mail us
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After inaugural comes marketing and management
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Now that the inauguration of the new national stadium is over, Costa Rica finds itself in the same situation as a youth whose grandmother just presented him a high performance sports car.

There's maintenance and insurance. These are areas at which the Costa Rican central government does not excel, not to mention marketing.

The initial indictions are not promising. The Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación announced Friday that it was planning to obtain fire and liability insurance. This was a necessity that seems to have been forgotten until a daily newspaper brought up the issue.

Luis Eduardo Peraza Murillo, director of the sports institute, said that the firm Jotabequ that was in charge of the inaugural event had maintained short-term coverage.

For fire insurance Peraza estimated that the institute, which now controls the stadium, will have to pay about $168,000 a year for $84.6 million coverage. That is for the physical stadium and $1.6 million coverage on its two giant television screens, the institute said.

Liability insurance will range from $48,231 to $144,693 a year depending on the amount of coverage purchased. The institute is considering policies of from $3 million to $10 million.

The People's Republic of China, of course, paid for the construction of the stadium. But now the country is on its own in supporting the facility at Parque la Sabana.

The political situation also is uncertain. President Laura Chinchilla lists a Ministerio de Deportes among the ministries in her government. Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez sent a bill to the legislature creating such an entity. But the measure has not passed yet. The new ministry, if it is formed, is expected to assume the responsibilities and the assets of the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación. However, there are those who want to keep the status quo. The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud use to have Deportes in its title, but that word has been edited out.

Despite not being created, the sports ministry already has had minor financial scandals. Former minister Giselle Goyenaga resigned in early February after a flap about a trip she took to Monaco, and President Chinchilla named Carlos Benavides, the tourism minister, to handle the sports job, too.

Benavides has promoted a trust agreement with Banco Nacional de Costa Rica to handle maintenance of the stadium.  The agreement is not final yet, but the bank would designate a management firm to run the stadium day-to-day. The agreement suggests that the income from the stadium would be sufficient to operate the facility.

Little has been said about marketing the stadium. The government philosophy seems to be: If we build it, they will come. However, marketing is a key element of any facility.

The majority of similar stadiums have been constructed around a sports team that calls the facility home.

This guarantees a certain number of activities a year, be it basketball, football or baseball.

Stadium stamp
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Stamp and token mark
stadium inauguration

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Correos de Costa Rica has issued a commemorative stamp and a metal token to mark the opening of the national stadium.

The stamp bears photos of both the new and the old stadiums in Parque la Sabana.  Both were released Saturday during the stadium's inauguration. They were available for sale at the stadium. The stamp also comes with a first-day cover and a special cancelation. The stamp has a face value of 1,000 colons or about $2.

The metal token looks like a coin but it has no monetary value. It is produced by the Mint of Costa Rica S.A. The mint, also called Casa de la Moneda, is in Ipís de Goicoechea. It is a private firm not to be confused with the government mint that went out of business in 1949.  The mint's main customer now is the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

inauugral token
Face shows stadium, and reverse shows athletes

Except for the Costa Rican national soccer team, so far there is no other home team to keep the national stadium full. In fact, there is competition from the major soccer teams that already have their own stadiums. Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, for example, is a frequent location for musical events.

U.S. stadium operations make additional money selling the name. The national stadium most certainly will be named after Óscar Arias, and there is little chance of an "Óscar Arias-Marlboro" name being hung on the facility.

The new stadium has a full slate of activities for the initial days of its life. The Costa Rican national team takes on Argentina Tuesday, and Colombian singer Shakira performs in April. The temporary stadium management seems ready to allow private firms to do the marketing for their own events.

The Shakira concert tickets range from $30 to $126 per seat. But other events have prices as low as $12.

In addition, the 35,000-seat stadium holds many fewer spectators for musical events.

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Tsunami warning system test
discloses communication flaws

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The first full-scale test of the tsunami warning system in the Caribbean has highlighted the need to reinforce preparations as well as improve communication, evacuation plans and the role of the private sector, the United Nations said Friday.

The simulated tsunami alert, dubbed Caribe Wave 2011, was carried out Wednesday and involved 34 countries. Under the test scenario, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake was signaled off the coast of the Virgin Islands, which generated a tsunami with waves reaching of up to 10 meters.

The exercise tested the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, which was set up in 2005 under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The exercise highlighted a number of gaps in the transmission of information, UNESCO said in a news release, noting that in several areas, the message was not received by the Global Telecommunications System.

In other cases, reception of messages via the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network failed. At national levels only a few mobile telephone operators joined the exercise.

Populations and media throughout the region keenly followed the exercise, which also allowed for an evaluation of evacuation plans and the role of the private sector in the case of a catastrophe, the agency added.

Hospital gets go-ahead
to fix up surgery rooms

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contraloría General de la República has authorized the nation's health provider to enter into a direct contract for the remodeling of surgery rooms at Hospital San Juan de Dios.

This means that the medical provider, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, does not have to enter into a lengthy bid process.

Earlier this month the Ministerio de Salud issued an order closing 15 operating rooms over the subsequent 80 days. The hospital surgery rooms were deteriorated, the ministry said.

The approval from the nation's budget watchdog permits the spending of up to 2.7 billion colons or about $5.5 million.

Our reader's opinion
Shame on Costa Rica
for selling out to China

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am very disappointed in Costa Rica and their selling out to Communist China.  I watched most of the grand inauguration of the new stadium.  Costa Rica has been a very strong anti-Communist country for decades.  Ticos have literally hated the concept of communism.  They were scared to death that Nicaragua would be a communist satellite back in the 80s. 

Some Ticos were afraid of the political group PAC thinking they represented too much of a communist lean.   Yet it was no problem for over 1,000 Chinese to come here and build the stadium.  That is something that was never allowed in this country.  If a job could be done by a Tico, then it was done by a Tico.  How easy it is to bend or break the rules when so much influence is brought on.

Now the Ticos embrace the largest Communist regime on the planet.  It was quite pitiful to see President Laura Chinchilla dressed in a Chinese outfit for the inauguration of the new stadium. Ex-president Arias couldn't praise the Communist country any more than he did.  

Óscar Arias who won a Nobel Peace Prize and used the money to establish a human rights organization now embraces one of the most brutal regimes in the world, all for the sake of money.  The Chinese had the audacity to sing a song and a dance in honor of Tibet which they overtook and conquered and have continued to destroy that entire culture. 

I am sorry to see Costa Rica sell its soul for a soccer stadium and some chump change given to them by their now best friend, China.  Shame on Costa Rica and shame on Ticos for selling out to a Communist country like China.

Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 28, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 61
Latigo K-9

Data shows that Arenal is shifting slightly toward lake
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Arenal volcano appears to be shifting to the west about 7 centimeters (2.75 inches) a year. The movement has been documented by sophisticated measurement devices.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica of the Universidad Nacional is conducting a field survey to study the movement in conjunction with Georgia Tech. The observatory made the announcement as it disclosed the results of measurements made by researchers at the universities of Oxford and Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The British researchers used lasers, satellites, and GPS devices to document the movement.

Marino Protti, a volcano expert with the observatory, said the movement of the mountain is in the direction of Lake
Arenal. The observatory said that this deformation of the flank of the volcano was not likely to be harmful to humans because there were none in the area nearby.

The scientists still are unclear on the reason for the movement, but Protti was quoted in a university release saying that the new volcano formed with an eruption in 1968 sits on an older, perhaps unstable volcano as a base. Gravity might be causing the movement, he suggested. The worse-case scenario, he said, would be a large avalanche of material.

The European scientists used a network of global positioning devices 1,000 meters up the mountain which provided daily information, according to the university. The scientists noted that the movement of the mountain was greater in the rainy season when moisture lubricated the soil. They also used Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging to maintain precise records.

There's some serious swimming at Heredia's public pool
By Connie Foss
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The concept of the power lunch is taken to a new level at the Heredia municipal pool.

During lunch hour, the pool’s lap lanes are congested with men and women getting down to the business of swimming. Freelance trainer Mario Ureña assigns specific swim regimens to a group of businessmen who gather every day to enjoy swimming as well as train for competitive events. Ureña, a professor of physics at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia lives in San Miguel de Desamparados. He has been enjoying this lunchtime activity at the pool for about 12 years, he said. 

One of the men who benefits from Ureña’s swim instruction is Heredia lawyer and notary Juan Carlos Camacho. Camacho said he met Ureña at the pool in 1999. He had just returned from a study tour in Barcelona where he had begun swimming and wanted to continue to receive coaching after his return to Costa Rica. “We met, and I told him I wanted to train with him,” he said. He has been training with Ureña at the Heredia pool since then.

Camacho said he goes to the pool at lunch time for three reasons: Fun, exercise and competition. “Swimming helps me get away from my daily concerns and keeps me in shape. I´m 40 years old. And, I like to compete in open water,” he said. Swimming is his main form of exercise. “I'm also going to the gym, but only occasionally. I go to the pool every day from Monday to Friday and occasionally on Saturdays,” he said.

Trainer Ureña prepares a weekly individualized program, corrects technique and also trains himself, because, according to Camacho, “He is also a very good swimmer!”

“Swimming has not only changed my body, but my life," said Comacho. "I hope I can swim even in my golden years.”

Ureña is helping his swimmers prepare for a competition to be held in Punta Leona on the first weekend in April. Saturday’s race will be 3 K and Sunday’s race will be 2.5 K.

Others who are not Ureña's students also come to the pool.

On a bright, sunny day Diego Chacon, 23, and Adriana Brenes, 25, met for a swim before going to work. They, like Ureña’s students, visit the Heredia public pool for a combination of exercise and recreation during the lunch hour.
swim trainer
A.M. Costa Rica/Connie Foss
Trainer Mario Ureña chats with a swimmer

Both said they come to the Heredia public pool three times a week to exercise and enjoy the nice environment. Chacon and Ms. Brenes are trainers at a gymnasium in Barva, where they go to work after their noon hour swim in the pool. Ms. Brenes says, with a smile, that she is Chacon’s personal swim trainer.

Chacon said that he does not come to the pool much during rainy season because of the danger of thunderstorms. He also said that, since the pool is unheated, in the rainy season the water is “like the ninth circle of hell,” a reference to Dante "Divine Comedy."

The Heredia public pool is located in the sports complex next to El Palacio del Deportes.  The pool is unheated, Olympic-size (50 meters in length) and surrounded by palm trees and concrete benches for picnicking. It is open every day of the week for groups and individuals. The pool is divided into a lap section and free swimming section. There is also a smaller wading pool for children, adjacent to the larger pool. There are spacious, clean changing rooms equipped with open showers, also unheated.

Adult admission is 1,000 colons (about $2). Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

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Orchids adapt so they can live peacefully together

By the Imperial College London news service

Scientists have discovered why orchids are one of the most successful groups of flowering plants. It is all down to their relationships with the bees that pollinate them and the fungi that nourish them. The study, published in The American Naturalist, is the culmination of a 10-year research project in South Africa involving researchers from Imperial College London, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and other international institutions.

The orchid family is one of the largest groups of flowering plants with over 22,000 species worldwide.  Research suggests that there is such a huge range of species because orchids are highly adaptable, and individual species can interact with bees and other pollinators, in different ways.

For example, when orchids and Pterygodium pentherianum Pterygodium schelpei live side by side, Pterygodium pentherianum puts its pollen on the bee's front legs, whereas Pterygodium schelpei puts it on the bee's abdomen.  This means that one bee can carry pollen from two distinct species without mixing it.

The study also shows how orchids are able to live harmoniously together with different species working in partnership with different microscopic fungi in the soil, ensuring they do not compete with each other.

Prior to this recent study, it was known that orchids have strong interactions with bees, which pollinate the flowers in return for food such as nectar or oils, and also with fungi, which supply minerals to the roots in return for sugars. These relationships are among the best examples of nature's system of mutual benefit and are believed to have been important for enabling orchids to evolve into so many different species. However, the mechanisms by which these relationships affect the number of plant species, and these species' ability to coexist, had remained obscure.

Tim Barraclough from the Division of Biology at Imperial College London co-led an international team of plant scientists to investigate how these interactions affect orchid diversity.  "Orchids are hyper-diverse globally, particularly in South Africa, where they have diversified to a large extent, so we wanted to find out how lots of species are able to exist without competition," he said.

The group studied 52 orchid species in a small region of South Africa, which all secrete oil inside their flowers that female bees collect to feed to their larvae. In order to investigate which pollinating bees were visiting the different species, they collected orchid pollen from the bees for DNA sequencing and analysis. They found strong evidence that when an orchid moved to a new geographical area it adapted to a different pollinating bee species, and interestingly, some competing orchid species were able to adapt by placing pollen on different body parts of the same bee.

"What is remarkable in these orchids is that diversity is generated not only through switches between bees, but also by switches between different body parts of the same bee, so two closely related orchids might place pollen on different segments of one bee's front leg," added Barraclough. "It's given us a fundamental insight into how so many new species can originate, and once they originate how they are able to coexist without exchanging genes."
bees on orchids
Photo Copyright by A. Pauw
The oil-secreting orchid Pterygodium halii, uses unique scent to attract female oil-collecting bees of the species Rediviva macgregori.

The researchers also studied the microscopic fungi living on the roots of the orchid to see how this relationship
was affecting plant diversity. Most flowering plants host microscopic fungi in their roots that help the plant take up nutrients from the soil. Until now it has been difficult to investigate this interaction, as most of the fungi belong to species that are difficult to culture. The researchers overcame this challenge by combining a molecular technique known as DNA barcoding with field experiments. In contrast to the bees, where orchid species normally share the same insect pollinator, the plants needed to use different fungal partners in order to coexist in the same region.

"By tapping into different kinds of fungi, different plant species access different pools of nutrients and so the problem of living together without competing for the same resources is solved," said Barraclough. However, the same fungal partners are found in different geographical areas and so orchid species that originate in different areas, by adapting to different pollinators, tend still to use the same fungi, he said.

The team's fieldwork shows that shifts in pollination traits were important for bringing about new species and allowing coexistence in a diverse group of orchids, whereas shifts in fungal partner were important for coexistence but not for speciation. Many other groups of flowering plants enter into similar relationships with pollinators and fungi, and both the origins and the future survival of that diversity could depend critically on understanding these relationships.

Sala IV backs executive branch on Isla Calero appeal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal that accused the government of dragging its feet on the Isla Caldero invasion.

The case was brought by a man identified as Jaime Gutiérrez Góngora who sought a court order making the Chinchilla administration use the Fuerza Pública to evict Nicaragua troops from the national soil.

The constitutional court said the decision not to use force and to seek support from various international organizations was the exclusive right of the executive branch in exercising the rights the Costa Rican constitution has assigned to it.
A summary of the decision was released Sunday by the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, which has taken the lead role in the situation. The appeal went to the Sala IV Jan. 31, and the decision was made Feb. 23. There was no explanation why the summary was delayed.

Gutiérrez is a highly respected urologist who also writes opinion pieces on politics and history.

The International Court of Justice March 8 issued a temporary order requiring both Costa Rica and Nicaragua to leave the Isla Calero in northeastern Costa Rica.

A decision by the court was sought by the Chinchilla administration after Nicaragua rejected a similar request from the Organization of American States.

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Canadian no-confidence vote
ends Harper's five-year rule

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Canadian opposition parties have toppled the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Lawmakers voted 156 to 45 to end Harper's five-year minority government. The action Friday set the stage for Canada's fourth election in seven years, possibly on May 2.

In calling for the no-confidence vote, the opposition parties alleged that Harper was in contempt of parliament for failure to fully disclose financial details of his anti-crime legislation, corporate tax cuts and plans to buy 65 American-made stealth fighter jets.

The leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, said that after five years of Conservative rule, in his words, "it is time to say enough is enough." He said a party that conceals facts does not deserve to remain in office.

The Conservatives accused their opponents of "political and partisan games" in calling for the no-confidence vote. Harper has said that a new election could harm the country's economic recovery, although Canada has rebounded from the global recession more quickly than some other industrialized nations.

No-confidence votes are rare in the Canadian parliament, with Friday's vote only the sixth in the last 144 years.

Opinion polls show that a plurality of Canadian voters still favor the Conservatives.  But if the three left-of-center parties — the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois — again control a majority of seats in parliament, they could attempt to form a coalition government.  If Harper's Conservatives control a plurality of seats, he could again seek to form a minority government.

The opposition parties tried to form a coalition government in 2008, but Harper thwarted the effort by shutting down parliament for three months.

Terror plot at cricket tourney
derailed, Interpol chief says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Interpol says it has stopped a possible terrorist attack on the cricket World Cup, which is underway in South Asia.

Interpol chief Ronald Noble told reporters in Islamabad Thursday that the agency was able last week to "identify, locate and arrest a terrorist" with the help of authorities in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Noble said the man with criminal intentions was arrested on his way to the Maldives after leaving the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

The Interpol chief spoke at a press briefing alongside Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Neither official gave details of the suspect or the terror plot.

The World Cup is being hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The three countries have increased security for the tournament, with India issuing a general alert for possible attacks until the end of the World Cup April 2.

Jimmy Carter visits Cuba
to help imprisoned U.S. man

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba Monday for a three-day visit at the invitation of the Cuban government.

While officially he has been invited to learn about the Communist nation's new economic policies, Carter is expected to intervene on behalf of an American contractor recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison.

Alan Gross was accused of subversive work providing illegal Internet access to dissident groups. Gross said he was trying to provide Internet service to members of Cuba's small Jewish community.

Carter will meet with Havana's Jewish leaders and Catholic leader Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who last year helped win the release of most of the island's political prisoners.

Carter will also meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro before leaving the island Wednesday.

The Nobel Peace laureate has played a mediating role in other international problems, including last August when he went to North Korea to secure the release of an American imprisoned there.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, March 28, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 61

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Police make arrests
around new stadium

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men robbed an individual headed to the inauguration of the national stadium Saturday, but policemen on motorcycles captured them, the Fuerza Pública said.  The men took a cell phone.

Also detained near the new stadium was a man with a 30-centimeter knife, about 12 inches. Two other persons were detained on outstanding warrants, police said.

Meanwhile in Cartago over the weekend 175 police officers swept barrios Manuel de Jesús, Los Diques and  Las Latas, Paraíso as well as the Cantón de La Unión. In all nine persons were detained, six for immigration violations.

Police said they checked out 550 vehicles and 1,179 persons over the weekend.

Power to be shut off
around Mall San Pedro

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía de Fuerza y Luz will be turning off the power to an area of San Pedro today, including a large part of Barrio Dent.

The shutoff is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. while workmen extend lines, the company said. The area is 600 meters south of Mall San Pedro and 800 meters west. Included is the Ministerio de Planificación on the Boulevard de Barrio Dent, the Embassy of Italy and businesses along Avenida Central. The mall also is listed, but that facility has its own backup power.

Taxi driver was on job
only a short time

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Young skateboarders found the body of a slain taxi driver Sunday on the site of a former factory in Barrio Dent, San Pedro.

The body was hidden in a concrete tunnel that had been used for utility pipes.

The man assumed the job of driving a taxi only three days earlier, police said.

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