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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, April 15, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 74            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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flower one
Codiaeum variegatum
flower four
Arundina graminifolia

flower two
Canna indica
Photos by Saray Ramírez Vindas
flower three
Heliconia psittacorum
flower six
Ixora coccinea,
the jungle geranium or
flame of the woods

If you didn't have a rainy season,
there'd be no cascade of flowers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the beginnings of the rainy season, plants and flowers are coming alive again.

These are from the La Fortuna area, which is about 350 feet above sea level. the plants may be more advanced than normal because they are in an irrigated setting.

There are those who dislike the rainy season, but the period does have its compensations. Nevertheless, some of the more showy trees actually flower at the end of the dry season.

Costa Rica certainly is a mecca for plant lovers. The country hosts at least 1,200 species of orchids. There are some nine species of canna, a New World plant, and all are represented in Costa Rica. The Heliconia rostrata, while not the official flower of Costa Rica (that's the Guaria morada), is the national flower of a half dozen other states.

With the many changes in elevation in Costa Rica, plants have a way of finding the climate that suites them best. From La Fortuna, the distance is not far to the continental divide that is about 1,900 meters or about 6,200 feet above sea level. Every few feet represent a change in the microclimate.

Even with all the books and assistance some of the plants are hard to identify, such as the one on the right. Any ideas?
flower seven
Heliconia rostrata
flower five
Not sure

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Pedestrian bridge OK'd
for Paso Ancho circle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's budgetary watchdog has given the green light for a pedestrian bridge over the circunvalación at the Paso Ancho traffic circle. This is at the new San Sebastian overpass.

The watchdog agency, the Contraloría General de la República said that the threat to human life was so great that the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad can seek a direct contract to construct the project. The decision eliminates the time span necessary for a process of bidding.

The cost of the project is estimated to be no more than $243,000, according to the decision announced Friday. The road agency has a metal modular structure in mind, officials said. The highway is a bypass to San José municipal traffic and runs south of town through the Hatillos. The road is four-lane and heavily traveled.

Flamingo private school
gets official recognition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The La Paz Community School has been accredited as a Costa Rican private school, it said Friday.

This means that the school in Flamingo has fulfilled all the requirements of a private school, said the announcement.

The school is a non-profit, bilingual institution and now has 57 students, the school said. The education emphasizes preservation of local Costa Rican ecology and culture while celebrating the relatively recent influx of international communities into the region, it said, noting that students come from 16 countries.

The announcement said that the school's board hopes to expand into a full high school program by 2012. The school now has classes from kindergarten to seventh grade and provides classes to seven secondary students. The school is on a North American style September to July calendar. This is the school's first year.

Arias traveling to Cancún
for world economic forum

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez is among the 500 or so top global leaders who are participating starting today in the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancún, Mexico.

Under the theme “Securing a Place in an Uncertain Economic Landscape,” the meeting will be co-hosted by the Government of Mexico under the patronage of President Felipe Calderón, who will be participating in the event.

According to Casa Presidencial, one of the topics is a discussion on how economic problems in the United States might affect Latin America. Arias is scheduled to speak Wednesday in a discussion about the coming decade along with Calderón and Álvaro Uribe, president of Colombia.

The event is at the Hilton Cancún Golf & Spa Resort. Arias is due back Wednesday night.

Researchers create green gas
from tree and plant cellulose   

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Researchers have made a breakthrough in the development of "green gasoline," a liquid identical to standard gasoline yet created from sustainable biomass sources like switchgrass and poplar trees.

Reporting in the cover article of the April 7 issue of Chemistry & Sustainability, Energy & Materials, George Huber of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and his graduate students Torren Carlson and Tushar Vispute announced the first direct conversion of plant cellulose into gasoline components.

While it may be five to 10 years before green gasoline arrives at the pump or finds its way into a fighter jet, these breakthroughs have bypassed significant hurdles to bringing green gasoline biofuels to market.

"It is likely that the future consumer will not even know that they are putting biofuels into their car," said Huber. "Biofuels in the future will most likely be similar in chemical composition to gasoline and diesel fuel used today. The challenge for chemical engineers is to efficiently produce liquid fuels from biomass while fitting into the existing infrastructure today."

For their new approach, the researchers rapidly heated cellulose in the presence of solid catalysts, materials that speed up reactions. They then rapidly cooled the products to create a liquid that contains many of the compounds found in gasoline.

The entire process was completed in under two minutes using relatively moderate amounts of heat. The compounds that formed in that single step, like naphthalene and toluene, make up one fourth of the chemicals found in gasoline. The liquid can be further treated to form the remaining fuel components or can be used "as is" for a high octane gasoline blend.

Beyond academic laboratories, both small businesses and Fortune 500 petroleum refiners are pursuing green gasoline. Companies are designing ways to hybridize their existing refineries to enable petroleum products including fuels, textiles, and plastics to be made from either crude oil or biomass and the military community has shown strong interest in making jet fuel and diesel from the same sources.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 74

fish and shark at coco
Photos courtesy of Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco
The ocean around the island is a protected zone and part of the park with many marine species.
Foundation plans eight-day tour to raise funds for Coco Island
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An organization that supports the environmental work at the Isla del Coco plans an eight-day trip for 70 persons to raise funds.

The organization is the Friends of Cocos Island Foundation or La Fundación Amigos de la Isla del Coco. The organization has been working since 1994 to safeguard the environmental riches of the volcanic island and surrounding ocean, which is 532 kms or 330 miles southwest of Puntarenas.

The funds raised with the trip will be used to purchase a smaller boat for the park rangers, to improve the conditions of the workers on the island and to continue the campaign of protection for the Parque Nacional Isla del Coco, the organization said.

Jessica Chavarría, trip coordinator said that the cruise is being put on in conjunction with the Organización para Estudios Tropicales. A series of activities include two piano concerts, snorkeling, a visit to petroglyphs on the island and free time to just wander.

This is the principal difference between this trip and a commercial voyage, said Ms. Chavarría.
isladel coco from air
The island is only 24 square kilometers, about 5,930 acres

Rather than tourists the target audience for the tour are
Costa Rican businessmen who could enjoy a trip to the island and make contact with others in business, said the organization. The price per person is $1,815, the group said. The trip is not even advertised on the organization's English Web pages.

Last year the organization raised $30,000 for the park, and members hope to surpass this figure this year, said Ms. Chavarría. She said that only 10 vacancies remain for the trip, which is planned form April 26 to May 3.

Osa will see an environmental festival there this Sunday
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Sunday the fourth annual Osa Peninsula Earth Day Festival is again expected to attract hundreds of participants from communities throughout the peninsula, providing an opportunity to network and celebrate nature. The theme for this year is Living in Peace with Nature, presenting a variety of practical applications, organizers said.

The location of the 2008 Osa Earth Day Festival will be at the public waterfront and campground area known as “the Yacht Club,” at the entrance to Parrot Bay Village.  A giant tent will be pitched to host activities and exhibits and protect the event from the rain showers.

In 2004, the Osa joined with other communities around the world kicking off a festival in downtown Puerto Jiménez with a great showing of community support and involvement.  For the past four years, the community has continued to build on this success by offering a free event, which celebrates the environment and reflects diversity. 
The festival hosts numerous environmental exhibits with a variety of interactive educational opportunities for children and adults, as well as diverse live entertainment, music, contests and speakers. 

The Osa Earth Day Festival maintains free admission and free transportation to draw the largest cross-section from rural communities. Association Women of the Osa, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and other local organizations and individuals are planning this event as an on-going effort to raise public awareness and education about conservation on the Osa Peninsula.

The festival organizers are seeking financial support from local businesses and organizations and friends.  For more information about the upcoming event or to become an exhibitor, presenter or donor, those interested can contact or call 8820-7095.

The Osa Peninsula is in extreme southwest Costa Rica and is noted for the Parque Nacional Corcovado there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, April 15, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 74

World food shortage begins to assume crisis proportions
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Sharply rising costs for food staples and fuel are leading to deadly clashes in impoverished countries and likely will continue for some time, say international experts.

"The problem is very serious around the world due to severe price rises, and we have seen riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Haiti and Burkina Faso," says Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N.'s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization. "There is a risk that this unrest will spread in countries where 50 to 60 percent of income goes to food."

The Food and Agriculture Organization attributes rising prices to a combination of factors, including reduced production because of climate change, historically low levels of food stocks, higher consumption of meat and dairy products in emerging economies, increased demand for biofuels production, drought and the higher cost of energy and transportation.

President George Bush expressed significant concern about the crisis during a cabinet meeting Monday in Washington.  "We are in a process right now of looking at ways to meet some of the ongoing food needs of certain countries beyond what has already been provided," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.  The president has raised the issue with his national security advisers and he has asked that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to look at what can be done, said Perino.

International agencies such as the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization are holding conferences in the next several weeks to address the urgent demands for relief and to find longer-term solutions.  And
the U.S. Agriculture Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are hosting their 10th annual  International Food Aid Conference in Kansas City, Missouri this week to address many of the more dire food shortage issues that have begun emerging in recent weeks across the globe.

Diouf, speaking at the Global Agro-Industries Forum in New Delhi April 9, said that world food prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine months and that there are severe shortages of rice, wheat and corn. The Food and Agriculture Organization also has reported incidents of civil unrest in Indonesia, Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Bolivia, Senegal and Uzbekistan over food prices.

The Washington-based World Bank estimates that 33 countries face social unrest because of rising food and energy prices.

The government of Haiti fell April 12 when senators fired Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis after recent food riots.  The government of President René Préval had convinced rioters to end more than a week of civil strife stemming from higher food prices.  Rioters looted government warehouses and used rocks to attack shops, according to news reports.  According to U.N. officials, the price of staples such as rice, beans, fruit and condensed milk has gone up 50 percent in the past year, while the cost of pasta has more than doubled in Haiti.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged donor countries to provide emergency aid.

The World Bank announced Saturday in Washington that it was providing a $10 million grant for Haiti to help the government respond to the increasing unaffordability of food for poor families. 

Bush says Colombia trade deal is dead if Congress does not vote now
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush says the proposed U.S. trade deal with Colombia is dead unless House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, schedules a vote now.

Bush spoke to reporters briefly Monday, after meeting with his cabinet.

He said it was a big disappointment that the House of Representatives last week moved to indefinitely delay a vote on the deal with Colombia. The House vote eliminated a 
rule that would have forced Congress to vote on the controversial trade deal within 90 legislative days.

Calling it an agreement that was good for American consumers and for the national interest, the president said the Congress has let down Colombia, an important ally.

Bush also called on Congress to act to make tax cuts permanent and to help U.S. families struggling to hold onto their homes amid the housing crisis. He said laws should not bail out lenders but be designed to keep homeowners financially solvent.

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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Mating mechanism control
mosquitoes with dengue

By the Cornell University news service

Cornell University researchers have identified a mating mechanism that possibly could be adapted to prevent female mosquitoes from spreading the viruses that cause dengue fever, second only to malaria as the most virulent mosquito-borne disease in the tropical world.

The researchers have discovered 63 proteins that male mosquitoes transfer to Aedes aegypti females during mating and are thought briefly to change the females' physiology and behavior, in particular suppressing the female's appetite for mammalian blood.

In a study published in the journal Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Cornell researchers in Ithaca, New York, report that the proteins in the seminal fluid of the males also trigger a loss of sexual appetite in the females, stimulate egg production and influence clotting of the blood she has ingested.

The findings could lead to novel strategies to prevent the spread of dengue as well as mosquito-borne yellow fever viruses. "This is a new angle in our fight against vector-borne disease," said Laura Harrington, Cornell associate professor of entomology and the paper's senior author.

Dengue affects 50 million people annually, and two-thirds of the world's population is at risk. In the past year, it has reached epidemic levels in Asia, South and Central America and Mexico, where the number of dengue cases has increased by more than 300 percent from a year earlier. No dengue vaccine is available, and no treatment exists beyond supportive care.

Photographer freed at last
by U.S. military in Iraq

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. military has announced it will release Associated Press photographer Bill Hussein, who has been held in custody in Iraq for more than two years for allegedly working with insurgents.

The military released a statement late Monday saying Hussein would be released because Iraqi officials have cleared him of all allegations.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops searching for criminals in Basra Monday rescued a British journalist kidnapped two months ago. A defense ministry spokesman said the troops found Richard Butler by chance, after they were fired on from the house where the journalist was being held.

Butler was working for the U.S. television network CBS when gunmen seized him and his interpreter from a Basra hotel in early February. The interpreter was released.

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