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A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Thursday, April 14, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 73
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas 
Bugs return with bad news on weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They are not as graceful as the swallows coming back to San Juan Capistano, but the beetles are arriving.

Actually the bugs never left, although they spent their youth in a different form.

For Costa Ricans the arrival of the escarabajos de mayoare a sure sign the rainy season is here.

The first bug of the year is the guy (gal?) seen above. He dropped by the office Wednesday and became the first beetle to be noticed this year. Soon the traditional June bugs, brown and hard-shelled, will make multiple appearances and spend the evenings bouncing into the windows.

As the season changes, so does wildlife in Costa Rica. On the Pacific coast, the first good rainstorm brings million of crabs out into the open. But the crabs 

are a consequence and not a prediction of the season.

Wednesday was a spectacular day, even by Costa Rican standards with only dark clouds gathering at sundown in the Central Valley. But somehow our visiting bug knows the rains are near.

We think the bug is of the genera Oileus. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad in Santo Domingo de Heredia maintains a Web site with mug shots of the bugs of Costa Rica. The work is credited to a 2001 effort by entomologist John F. Lawrence. And the bugs are identified with detailed photos. We matched our guy there.

But with hundreds of thousands of types of coleopteras, who can be sure.

The older style of Volkswagen also is called an escarabajo here. But they are significantly bigger than the one-and-a- half inch beetle visitor who came by Wednesday.

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Alajuela hospital trio had own business at public lab, officials say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three professionals associated with the pathology section of  Hospital San Rafael de Alajuela have been arrested. Officials said they were using the hospital laboratory for their own medical business.

The senior person arrested was the chief of internal medicine at the hospital, a physician identified by the last name of Villalobos, said officials. A medical science technician identified by the last name of Arrollo, also was detained. A woman, identified by the last name of Ledezma, who was a technician in cytology, also was detained.

The case is being handled by the Dirección de Investigaciones Especializadas of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The investigation began two months ago after the hospital director filed a complaint, officials said.

Specifically the complaint was that the individuals were working on hospital time and with hospital equipment to provide private laboratory services. Among the services were the examination of tissue taken in biopsies for which patients were charged between 10,000 and 20,000 colons, some $21 to $42.

Such biopsies are closely associated with diagnoses for cancer.

Agents raided the home of Arrollo in Barva de Heredia and a storefront that was supposed to be a laboratory. However, officials said the location was simply a front where samples from patients were dropped off and then taken for analysis at the public hospital.

Agents said they confiscated computer equipment, receipts for work done and human samples that had been left for analysis as well as a quantity of supplies from the public hospital.

More reader opinions 

He’ll keep coming back

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading all of these letters about crime in Costa Rica, I just had to write and tell you some wonderful experiences I've had there. I go to Costa Rica just about every year, some years more than once because our daughter owns a lodge in Drake Bay where she takes people swimming with wild dolphins and we visit her as often as we can.

The first year I went, I was too generous with tips for our daughter's staff and didn't leave myself enough money to pay for the airport tax. I just didn't know about it and hadn't planned for it. A few employees at the airport came to my rescue, pitched in and gave me enough money to pay the tax!

Another year, a taxi driver gave me a tour of the San José area and didn't charge me for it. He was so proud of his country, he just wanted me to see more of it.

We have been so impressed with the warmth, friendliness and generosity of Ticos! Unfortunately, crime is everywhere. On a per capita basis, there probably isn't any more crime in Costa Rica than there is in New York!

I'll keep coming back!!

Dyan Goodman 
Mission Viejo, Calif.

Unconcerned by highwaymen

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I have been reading your Web site since I returned to Detroit, Michigan, from Tamarindo, Costa Rica. My wife and I traveled the coastal road where these talked-about robbers are operating and did not encounter any problems even though we stopped often for pictures and walks on your beautiful beaches. Let me say that I was impressed with the friendliness of the Costa Rican people first of all. We stopped at many cafes for lunch and cold bottles of beer. 

We never once encountered any beggars and did not feel pressured in the gift shops, unlike many places in Mexico and your neighboring countries. The Costa Rican people should be proud of their country and the way of life there. If you want to experience crime, I invite you to visit Detroit where most honest citizens carry legal handguns. 

If you want to experience bad roads I invite you to visit Detroit. Our roads make yours look excellent. 

Tell the people of Costa Rica for me that a little bit of highway robbery will not keep me from visiting again. I think the best of Costa Rica and its citizens and don't think that a few bad people will ruin your country for tourism.

Eric E. Scheuer 
Warren, Mich.

Pope story called editorial

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Liberal socialists believe next Pope should be a liberal socialist. I believe in editorials, and I believe in news stories, but I do not believe in editorials masquerading as news stories. Mary Hunt?, Women’s Alliance? Leadership on debt repayment?, PLEASE spare me the rant. Liberation theology was opposed by Pope John Paul. Ordination of women was and is opposed based on Catholic theology. 

Why not have an opposing viewpoint in the article and an explanation of WHY the church is opposed to these modern innovations. Any time the word PROGRESSIVE is used, watch out. Someone is about to turn logic on its head, and declare that it is a new reality we all much adhere to. Either that, or hold on to your wallet since income redistribution under the disguise of curing injustice in just around the corner. 

How making the wealthy poorer is going to elevate the poor is in need of a coherent explanation.  It is interesting that you conclude the article stating that one to the most important legacies was the growth of dialogue between Muslin-Catholic and Jewish-Catholic factions. I suppose his contributions to the fall of communism don't rank with the socialists. 

As a suggestion, why don't you set up an editorial section and keep the news and opinion separate. I would be grateful. 

Mike Hankins 
Santa Ana, CA

Travel concern near Bocas

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am sending this to you simply as a piece of information readers may be able to use in planning trips to Bocas del Toro, Panama.

I travel to Bocas often. I just returned from a trip last night and feel strongly folks should know the river journey from Changuinola, Panama, to Isla Colon, where Bocas del Toro is located, has changed significantly. The river has disappeared for a stretch of 500 to 800 meters. The entire breakwater was washed away and that part of the "river" is now open sea. 

Of course what is worse, there are good size waves breaking on where the river used to be. The waves are capable of capsizing the water taxi. Our water taxi nearly capsized twice.

The previous way of getting to Bocas via Almirante might be a better alternative.

Bob Morgan
Professional Directory
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Anti-trade treaty groups plan strategy session today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Individuals, organizations and pressure groups that oppose a free trade treaty with the United States plan to meet this morning in downtown San José.

The meeting at the Teatro Melico Salazar will follow a march through part of the downtown. The meeting is being called the Cumbre Social por Costa Rica y en Contra del TLC, or the social summit for Costa Rica and against the TLC.

The meeting is being organized by Albino Vargas Barrantes, general secretary of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. These are the people who believe they will lose their jobs or suffer reverses if the treaty is approved. TLC is from the Spanish words trato de libre comercio or free trade treaty.

Vargas said he envisions a big meeting of men, women and representatives of various unions and social sectors who will join together to solidify an alliance against the treaty with the United States.

The various groups would join together under the name of the Comisión Nacional de Enlace. Vargas was the impetus behind the Movimiento Cívico Nacional. But that name has lost favor after it was involved in extended blockages of the nations highways.

Vargas, in a release, said the purposes of the meeting were to show the diversity and strength of those opposed to the treaty and to hear the position of distinct social sectors of the country.

He said he also will use the meeting to consolidate the political position against the treaty and to determine the actions that the groups will take to slow down the approval of the treaty by the Asamblea Nacional.

Vargas noted that the theater will hold 980 persons comfortably. However, he and his organization have been burned before when great crowds did not materialize at his call. So he said the meeting today would be one of quality and not of quantity. He said he was targeting those people who would be called opinion leaders in English.

U.S. senators express concern over free trade pact
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. lawmakers are voicing concerns about a proposed free trade agreement with Central America, suggesting the Bush administration has an uphill battle to get congressional passage of the accord. 

Peter Allgeier, acting U.S. trade representative, came to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to approve the trade agreement, which would lower tariffs on products traded between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Allgeier said while nearly all goods from the six countries now enter the United States duty free, the same cannot be said of U.S. goods going to those nations.  He said that would change under the trade agreement, known as CAFTA:

"More than 80 percent of consumer and industrial goods from the United States will become duty free in CAFTA and Dominican Republican on day one of the agreement," he said.  "More than half of our current farm exports to Central America will become duty free immediately."

Allgeier said the pact would nearly double agricultural exports to the region by $1.5 billion a year.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, agreed, and warned his colleagues against opposing the accord.

"A vote against CAFTA is a vote for the status quo. It is a vote to maintain unilateral trade, keep our trade barriers to our exports to those countries very high," he explained.

But the accord is opposed by labor unions, concerned about labor practices and lower wages in Central America, and the U.S. sugar industry, because the pact would increase the amount of sugar that could be imported into the United States.

The top Democrat on the Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, says he has heard concerns about the trade deal from a number of constituents in his state, which produces agricultural products, including sugar beets.

"Some of the farmers and ranchers of my state say they have misgivings about this agreement," he said.

Jack Roney of the American Sugar Alliance said the pact could devastate the U.S. sugar industry.

Allgeier responded that there is a provision in the agreement under which the United States can compensate Central American exporters in place of imports of sugar.

Other senators are concerned about the impact of the agreement on U.S. jobs.  Some believe their states lost jobs when the North American Free Trade Agreement went into force 11 years ago, and they fear more will be lost under a Central American trade pact.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, says she believes the Bush administration has not done enough to enforce trade agreements to prevent job losses.

"We do not know what our government is doing to enforce these agreements," she said.  "That is the point.  That is why you have lost trust with respect to these agreements, because so many jobs have been lost.  Certainly Maine is an example of that, with manufacturing, textile and apparel.  We have been devastated over the last four years.  It has been alarming.  And that has been true across the country."

Allgeier argued the United States is serious about enforcing trade pacts, and said the administration is willing to work more closely with Congress on the issue.

Algeier added that garment factories in Central America and the Dominican Republic are large consumers of U.S.-made textile fabric and yarn. "CAFTA will help keep it that way," he said, "by delivering tariff preference benefits for clothing made in the region that uses U.S. yarn and fabric."

Citing increased global competition, particularly from Asia, Allgeier warned lawmakers that "without CAFTA, our domestic yarn and textile industry would likely lose one of its biggest customers." Obviously, "without the tariff preference benefits of CAFTA, apparel companies may well move production to China," he said. "In China, there are no special trade incentives for apparel producers to buy U.S. yarn and fabric," which is the reason why "a T-shirt that is made in Honduras is likely to contain well over 50 percent U.S. content, while a T-shirt made in China is likely to contain very little U.S. content at all."

Allgeier emphasized that the health of the U.S. yarn sector is heavily dependent on a thriving textile industry in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

Central American trade issues were also discussed at a House International Relations Committee hearing Wednesday. The House and Senate could vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement in the coming months.

In case you missed it:
A.M. Costa Rica, April 5, 2005
Our readership more than doubles in one year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica set another readership record in March when the newspaper registered 2.16 million hits. That was a 22.9 percent increase over February and a 106 percent increase over March 2004, the first month the newspaper exceeded a million hits.

Other statistics had similar increases.

Some 397,368 individual pages were viewed by 99,351 readers. And 45,435 of those readers were registered as unique, which means they were only counted once regardless of how many times they visited the pages in a single day. 

The statistics are maintained by the Internet service provider in the United States where A.M. Costa Rica is hosted. The hosting company keeps track of visits independent of A.M. Costa Rica.

The statistical programs screen out hits and visits by mechanical means, other computers and automated Web crawlers.

The statistics show that the average viewer sees about four pages at every visit to the paper. 

Said Jay Brodell, editor:

"Our dramatic increase in readership over the last three and a half years is no surprise to our advertisers who are getting more and more business from the wave of retirees and would-be retirees who are looking at Costa Rica as a new home and need solid, daily information.

"It’s a new world, and our progressive advertisers recognize that."

A.M. Costa Rica statistics are available on a page that is updated every month HERE!

Hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies are missing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The arrival of spring in Mexico and the southern United States usually means the mass arrival of monarch butterflies. But this year a hundred-million of them are missing. Their disappearance is causing an international dispute over who or what is to blame.

Michoacan state in Mexico is one of the few places on earth where you can actually hear butterflies fly.

But this year, despite the way it looks, biologists who study the monarch say it is in trouble. American biologist Lincoln Brower works with organizations that are trying to save the butterfly.

"We've been studying it (the butterfly) for about 14 years and this is down about 75 percent below the average number that come here. There's no question the Achilles heel of the monarch butterfly is deforestation in Mexico," Brower said.

Illegal logging, which the Mexican government has been unable to stop, robs the butterflies of the fir trees 

they need for protection from the winter cold and rain.

In the summer, monarchs live in the soy and cornfields of the United States and Canada. They are finding less food there because powerful new herbicides are killing the milkweed plants that also grow in these fields, and milkweed happens to be the only thing monarchs eat. 

That's something that Ernesto Enkerlin of Mexico's National Commission for Protected Areas doesn't hesitate to point out.

"We need to make sure that our agricultural practices allow for certain areas to maintain milkweed populations," says Enkerlin.

The butterflies have less to eat and fewer places to live. Monarch butterflies have survived natural disasters like this killer frost three years ago. But Brower doubts they'll be able to withstand the man-made threats.

"We're close to where the straw breaks the camel's back. How much can you load on this butterfly before its capacity to bounce back is wiped out ," said Brower.

U.N. agency calls murder of Mexican editor an attack on press freedom
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The United Nations has joined global condemnation of the April 8 murder of a Mexican journalist, whose newspaper published frequent articles on drug trafficking and corruption.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization called the murder of Raúl Gibb Guerrero a "serious attack on press freedom and freedom of expression, which are essential to democracy and rule of law."

Gibb was editor of the daily newspaper La Opinión, published in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Gibb was shot fatally as he was on his way home.

The agency called on the Mexican authorities to do all in their power to find and prosecute the murderers of the journalist.

The U.N. organization's mandate includes the defense of freedom of expression and press freedom, and it has issued numerous denunciations of violence against journalists around the world in recent years.

Jo Stuart
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