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(506) 2223-1327          Published Tuesday, March 29, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 62             E-mail us
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The gas and acid rain have destroyed much of the vegetation and damaged the soil, the report said.
before and after
Photos by Eliécer Duarte González

Turrialba volcano is taking a toll on its neighbors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Acid rain and acidic gas have been ravaging the southwest side of the Turrialba volcano. Not only the vegetation has suffered. Homes and outbuildings constructed of metals like zinc are being consumed continually by the years of exposure.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica released a report Monday outlining the devastation and impact on agriculture. The area southwest of the volcano seems to have suffered the most because of the prevailing winds.

The field study was done by Eliécer Duarte González and Erick Fernández Soto. Duarte has a file of photos taken in previous years that shows the progression of the damage when compared with current photos. The report said that the effect on animals needs to be investigated.

Even vegetation believed to be resistant to the acid rain and gas has suffered during three years of exposure. Some native species are completely defoliated, the report said.

A path that connects the small community of La Central with La Picada on the flank of the volcano shows tracts of land that have been yellowed by the gas, according to the report. Sometimes, the report
said, heavy rains can revitalize the vegetation, but the cumulative effect appears to have sterilized the soil.

Some farm fields where potatoes have been raised are abandoned, the report said.

The emissions of gas have been going on for five years, but the report noted that there has not been a study of the economic effects yet.

The report noted that in what it terms a heroic act a teacher and children were receiving classes amid the gas in a structure that was corroded and deteriorating due to the environment.

Although the observatory has tried to generate interest in the situation, said the report, there has been little response. But it said there still is time to take preventative measures. It called for action by the Ministerio de Salud and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería as well as the nation's milk distributors to study the situation from social and economic perspectives to keep the area from remaining semi-abandoned due to the severe impact of what it called an uncomfortable neighbor, the volcano.

The nearby Irazú volcano also is putting out gas, and adjacent farmland also shows effects of the acid.

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Extra trains will carry
fans to tonight's game

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles is putting on extra trains to carry fans to the Costa Rica-Argentina game tonight.
Public transport has been called into service because designers of the new $100 million stadium neglected to provide more than 400 parking spots.

A seven-car train will leave the Indoor Club station in Curridabat at 3:15 p.m. and arrive near the stadium 43 minutes later, said the rail institute.

Additional trains will leave at 4 and 4:30 p.m., and a regularly scheduled train will leave at 5:05 p.m., the institute said. There also will be a 5:45 p.m. train in addition to the regularly scheduled 6:11 train. Yet another special train will leave the Estación al Atlántico at 7:05 p.m.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes also has authorized fleets of special buses from all points of the Central Valley. They will be identified by distinctive colored placards in the front window. Motorists who brought their vehicles to the Saturday inauguration and soccer game with China reported lengthy delays, as did motorists who had to pass by the stadium in Parque la Sabana.

The Argentine soccer squad arrived Monday night under police escort and spent time becoming familiar with the stadium.

Grupo Nación embarrassed
by discovery of drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo Nación, the publishers of the Spanish-language daily newspaper and other titles, was very clear: It is not in the drug smuggling business. The company acted quickly to dispel rumors after a tractor trailer carrying cardboard sold by Grupo Nación was searched at Penas Blancas at the Nicaraguan border.

Anti-drug police said they found some 49-kilos of cocaine in the right fuel tank of the vehicle. They still were searching for more drugs Monday night.

Grupo Nación said through its newspaper that the cardboard had been in an Heredia warehouse and did not come from its main Tibás facility. It said the 20 tons of cardboard had been sold to a Nicaragua firm that arranged for transportation. Police detained the Guatemalan driver.

Our readers' opinions
Did country sell it soul
for  a new soccer stadium?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I thought the reader’s opinion “Shame on Costa Rica for selling out to China“ was right on.  I remember thinking, during the negotiation stages for the stadium were just beginning, how terrible it was when the great man of peace, President Arias, cancelled the visit by the Dali Lama because he didn’t want to offend the president of China.

Then during construction, realizing the whole process was controlled by China and built with 90 percent Chinese labor, it became apparent there was more to the agreement than just donation of a new stadium.

I watched the entire inauguration.  Most of the stage presentation by China was wonderful.  However, I, too, thought it ironic when the Tibetan dance was presented, considering their illegal occupation of Tibet for decades now.  President Chinchilla would have represented her country better had she been dressed in traditional Costa Rican attire rather than pay homage to the Chinese.

I am concerned that Costa Rica, the heretofore-great country of peace and human rights, has sold its soul for a few police vehicles and a new soccer stadium.
Robert Piazza  
Birri de Heredia

Ticos were not consulted
on selling out to China

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Here we go again, an expat painting us Ticos with a very broad brush. When Mr. Kantrowitz states, "I am very disappointed in Costa Rica and their selling out to Communist China," I have no quarrel with him. It's when he expands that notion and states that "shame on Ticos for selling out to a communist country like China" that I feel compelled to remind him that we Ticos are not consulted on such matters any more than Americans are consulted on going to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya.
Joaquin Aguilar
San Isidro de Heredia

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, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 62
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Bold gunmen strike at the very heart of shopping district
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though dozens of police officers have been stationed downtown, a band of bold robbers is sticking up businesses on San Jose's Avenida Central, better known as the pedestrian mall.

The robbers struck again Monday, this time a bit off their territory near Hospital San Juan de Dios on Paseo Colón.  A shoe store operator suffered a bullet wound in the leg.

Visitors to San José have noticed a dramatic increase in police presence. In addition to Fuerza Pública officers, many of them new recruits, the central canton also has a municipal force. The increased policing is a program of the Chinchilla administration.

Still the daring robbers seem to have no trouble evading the police when they commit their crimes, mainly between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Downtown shop owners are bracing for yet another robbery. The gang is believed responsible for five stickups in the last 10 days.

Meanwhile in Grecia judicial agents detained three minors
and two adults Monday in six raids. They said the five were a gang that has been robbing stores in Grecia and San Isidro. The agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization confiscated five television sets, a flat computer monitor, a keyboard and other electronic devices, they said.

Agents said that the five also are suspects in home robberies.

In an unrelated robbery and murder case, the Poder Judicial confirmed Monday that three men suspected of killing a competition cyclist Jan. 31 have been remanded to prison. This was a highly publicized murder of John Mauricio Castro Hidalgo, 25, in Coris de Cartago. Castro, an engineer, was practicing with three friends when they were confronted by an armed trio.

The court action took place in the Juzgado Penal de Tres Rios over the weekend. The trio were identified by the last names of Barrantes Sánchez, Membreño González and Mora Morales. They were detained in San Francisco de Dos Ríos, in San José and in Herradura de Puntarenas Friday. They are jailed for three months for investigation.

The murder resulted in the publication of similar cyclist robberies and revealed the dangers that these athletes face. Police also beefed up patrols of known bike trails.

Transition period is here officially, weather institute says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national weather services says that the pacific coast and the Central Valley are in the period of transition between the dry and rainy season.

The agency, the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, explained Monday that high pressure is weakening over the Caribbean and the Northern Hemisphere is warming due to the arrival of spring. That means the winds that keep away the rain are getting weak also.

The transition period, the institute noted is characterized by high variability in the weather. One day there are heavy thunderstorms and the next day is dry, it said.

This transition period begins in the last week of March and lasts through the first two weeks of April in the Central Pacific. In the Central Valley, this period continues until April 25, the institute said.

Guanacaste, which is the area that enters the dry season first and enters the rainy season last, will not see the transition period until the last half of April, said the institute.
This period also is marked by very warm days, said the institute.

The southern Pacific already is in the rainy season, it noted, and the Caribbean coast and the northern zone will see an increase in rain at the end of April and the beginning of May.

The rainy season is earlier this year. The weather institute predicts the season will arrive in the Central Valley between April 26 and April 30, a week earlier than the May 6 to 10 average.

The central Pacific will be about 10 days earlier this year ahead of the average of April 26 to 30, said the institute.

The rains are predicted for the north Pacific between May 1 and 5, nearly two weeks earlier than the May 16 to 20 average, said the institute.

The rainy season, which tourism operators like to call the green season, is marked by sunny mornings with thunderclouds building by early afternoon. The heaviest rains seem to come in October and November.

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Latin women seem to worry more about their cancer risks

By the University of Michigan news service
Most women face only a small risk of breast cancer coming back after they complete their treatment. Yet a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center finds that nearly half of Latinas who speak little English expressed a great deal of worry about recurrence.

“Some worry about cancer recurrence is understandable. But for some women, these worries can be so strong that they impact their treatment decisions, symptom reporting and screening behaviors, and overall quality of life,” says study author Nancy K. Janz, professor of health behavior and health education at the university's School of Public Health.

The researchers found substantial variation based on racial or ethnic background, with Latinas who speak primarily Spanish expressing the most worry and African-Americans expressing the least worry. For Latinas, the researchers considered acculturation, a measure of how much a person is integrated or assimilated into American society. For Latinas, a significant factor is whether they speak primarily English or Spanish.

While 46 percent of less-assimilated Latinas reported they worry “very much” about recurrence, that number drops to 25 percent for highly assimilated Latinas, 14 percent for white women and 13 percent for African-Americans.

On the other hand, about 29 percent of African-American women said they were not at all worried about recurrence, while only 10 percent of unassimilated Latinas did.
Researchers from the Cancer Surveillance and Outcomes Research Team, a multidisciplinary collaboration among five centers across the country, surveyed 1,837 women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Results appear in the April 1 issue of Cancer.

In addition, researchers found that women who reported understanding information better, receiving more help with their symptoms and receiving more coordinated care were less likely to worry about recurrence.

Previous studies suggested women are frequently dissatisfied with the information they receive about their recurrence risk. The current study’s authors highlight the need to provide better counseling about recurrence.

“The challenge is to ensure women are aware of the signs of recurrence while not increasing anxious preoccupation with excessive worry. How much women worry about recurrence is often not aligned with their actual risk for cancer recurrence,” Professor Janz says.

“We need to better understand the factors that increase the likelihood women will worry and develop strategies to help women with excessive worry. Programs to assist women must be culturally sensitive and tailored to differences in communication style, social support and coping strategies,” she adds.

Breast cancer statistics: 209,060 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,230 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society

Tsunami brings out worst in some, postal inspectors report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami have spawned a series of Internet scams, including fake Facebook and YouTube sites.

The U.S. Postal Service said it estimated that 1.7 million fake Web sites have been started for a variety of criminal activities related to the earthquake. The most obvious are fake sites that seek donations.

However, postal inspectors said that scamsters are using the sites to harvest email addresses, to obtain personal  information and to distributing computer viruses.
Another scam is promising donors they will get much more money back after Japanese victims win huge court settlements. The emails bascally are variations of the usual spam scams with adjustments for Japan.

"In another scam, a link on Facebook to a purported video of a whale being tossed from the ocean into a building leads to a fraudulent YouTube site, which gathers personal information," said postal inspectors. "The link even has a hidden 'like' button that, when selected, spreads the scam to others on the user’s Facebook pages."

In Costa Rica the Cruz Roja collects donations, which are then channeled through the Red Cross network to Japan.

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Carter and wife greeted
by top official in Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is on a three-day unofficial visit to Cuba where there are some expectations he may discuss the case of a jailed American contractor.

Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, welcomed the 86-year-old Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, when they arrived Monday at Havana's airport.

The head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, Jonathan Farrar, also was there to greet the former president.

Carter's visit is a private trip under the auspices of his nonprofit organization, the Carter Center.  The Cuban government invited him to learn about the Communist nation's new economic policies, and he is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raúl Castro before leaving Wednesday.

The former U.S. president could also take up the case of Alan Gross, the American contractor recently sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison.

Cuban authorities accused Gross of subversive work by giving dissident groups satellite communications equipment for Internet access.  Gross said he was trying to improve Internet service to members of Cuba's small Jewish community.  The United States has repeatedly called for his release.

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

China is cracking down
on Internet writer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China has charged well-known pro-democracy writer and editor Ran Yunfei with subversion for his alleged role in calling for popular uprisings in China similar to those gripping the Middle East and North Africa.

Ran's wife told a reporter she received a copy of the formal charging documents Monday and said they were dated last Friday. She said she will move quickly to hire a lawyer to defend her spouse and expects formal court proceedings within two months.

Analysts say the formal charges allow police to continue their detention of the activist while moving him closer to a criminal trial.

Ran, a 46-year-old writer, magazine editor and blogger from southwestern Sichuan province, has been an online presence in China for more than a decade.  He was arrested five weeks ago in Chengdu, as police in Beijing and Shanghai moved to squelch protests called for by unidentified activists in Internet postings. 

Before his arrest, Ran was known for his frequent criticism of government policy and for his calls for tolerance for dissenting views. 

In recent months, as domestic Web sites in China refused to carry his writings, he moved his blogs and other social networking outside China, circumventing government efforts to block his material.

Naranjo told to provide
sewer lines and treatment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the Municipalidad de Naranjo and the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados to develop a plan for sewers and a treatment plant within 18 months.

A resident brought the case and said that municipal officials did not make available any plan for sewage treatment.

The resident said that municipal officials did not think that such a project was their job but that it should be done by the potential users. The court disagreed and designated Acueductos y Alcantarillados because it has authority over sewer service.

The judicial order said that the municipality and Acueductos y Alcantarillados must prepare within 18 months technical and feasibility studies for a treatment plant and put it into operation. It said the deadline was fixed.
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Young scientist on trail
of vanishing amphibians

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 14-year-old young scientist from a Phoenix, Arizona, suburb is hot on the trail of why frogs and other amphibians are vanishing. He is one of the students who came to Washington, D.C., for the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science competition.

The awards ceremony this month was the culmination of an intense week during which the 40 finalists were queried by judges and the public.  These high achievers were whittled down from nearly 2,000 contestants nationwide, representing excellence across many disciplines.

Scott Boisvert is the young scientist from a suburb of Phoenix. At 14, he approached the University of Arizona to request time in their laboratory.  Over the course of four years he refined a project studying a fungus linked to the decline of amphibians across the globe. 

"It is actually the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs," says Boisvert. "I was trying to see if different chemistry in the environment, different chemicals and substances in the water across Arizona, could potentially kill the fungus and stop its spread and infection of the amphibians."

According to Boisvert, his research has been accepted for publication in a professional science journal. He hopes his findings help guide habitat conservation managers around the world.  At the Intel Science Talent Search, the work earned him a 10th place finish and a $20,000 award.

Arbitration law encourages
lawmakers to think big

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are talking about making Costa Rica a center of arbitration for the world. The comments came after the legislature passed a law that brings the country into conformity with a model U.N. statute.

The law outlines the steps for an arbitration by foreigners in the country. Costa Rica has agreements with some countries for arbitration but this law would cover all business operations in the country.

But some lawmakers would like to extend the system and invite business people from all over the world to designate Costa Rica as the venue where disputes could be arbitrated.

Pregnant girl, 13, airlifted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio de Vigilancia of the Sección Aérea of the Fuerza Pública made an emergency flight to Corredores in southern Costa Rica Sunday to bring a pregnant 13 year old to San José for observation.

The girl is believed to be 30 weeks pregnant and was a high risk pregnancy, the Fuerza Pública said.

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