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(506) 223-1327              Publised Thursday, April 19, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 77          E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Bus stops here

Some 13 passengers required medical attention Wednesday when two buses coming from Moravia collided near Parque Nacional about 1:30 p.m.

Both buses are operated by Auto Transporte Moravia, whose spokesman blamed taxis parked nearby. One driver said he just fainted and rear-ended the other bus.

Another $1 billion earmarked for Papagayo projects
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A major international real estate investment and development firm says it is involved in what will be a $1 billion project in Papagayo.

Representatives of the company,  Starwood Development, paid a call Wednesday on President Óscar Arias Sánchez. The firm, a division of the Greenwich, Connecticut,-based Starwood Capital Group in involved with the Monte del Barco project.

The project has about 500 acres of which just 40 are in a maritime zone concession. The project envisions 700 residences, two hotels, an 18-hole  golf course and a beach condo-hotel and marina

Starwood Capital Group says it is a privately held investment management firm that specializes in real estate-related investments on behalf of select private and institutional investment partners. Founded in 1991, Starwood has a diversified portfolio totaling more than $9 billion in real estates, the firm said.
starwood capital officers
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírz Vindas
Sean Arnold, Gary Raymond, and Alonso Bogantes Zamora

At the session Wednesday was Gary Raymond, division president, and Sean Arnold, division vice president. Also there was Alonso Bogantes Zamora, representing Grupo Aldesa and project financial manager.

Playa Monte de Barco is a smaller beach near Playa Iguanita within the Projecto Gulfo de Papagayo operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 77

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Lincoln School formally
inaugurates new campus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lincoln School inaugurated its new facilities in Barrio del Socorro, Santo Domingo de Heredia, Wednesday with President Óscar Arias Sánchez leading the guest list.

The 62-year-old non-profit education institution holds classes from pre-school through high school. The new location is just about four miles from the former campus in Moravia. The site is seven hectares (some 17.3 acres).

Lincoln is a bilingual institution founded by Costa Ricans and U.S. expats. It has more than 1,100 students now and hopes to educate up to 1,500 on the new campus.

Arias said that Lincoln can have a new home but Costa Rica cannot. Therefore, the country must eliminate the divide that separates the poor from the rich, he said.

Lincoln's enrollment now is about 90 percent Costa Rica. The high school offers an international diploma, a U.S.-recognized diploma and a Costa Rican diploma.

Petroleum products again
are going to increase

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Super gasoline and other petroleum products are going up, the nation's price regulator said Wednesday. Super, which is now 533 colons a liter will to to 568, an increase of 35 colons or about seven U.S. cents.

Diesel is going up just 13 colons from 362 a liter to 375, the regulating agency said.

Liquid petroleum gas is going up 12 colons a liter from 271 to 283 colons, said the  Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos. The impact will be felt by those who use gas for cooking because they will see increases of from 132 colons to 1,317 colons, depending on the size of the tank they have to fill.

The biggest jump is in aviation gasoline, which goes from 581 colons to 642, a 61-colon  increase. The regulatory agency said the price increases went to the national printer Wednesday and are expected to be published in the La Gaceta official newspaper Wednesday. That means the new prices will be effective Thursday.

Indian groups in south
combine to put on fair

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first  Feria Indígena Buenos Aires opens today in the Parque Central of that town in southern Costa Rica. The neighboring Indian communities will be contributing their traditions and efforts to the event.

Today a guided trip to the community of  Salitre is planned at 8 a.m. At 11 the communities of Salitre and Boruca will give presentations at the park., followed by Toponimia. At 1:30 p.m. the agenda said the legends and traditions of the Térrabas and Borucas will be discussed.

Friday will have presentations by the community of  Ujarrás at 11 a.m. and 2  p.m. Traditional plants will be discussed at 1:30 p.m., and the area archaeology will be discussed at  2:30 p.m.

Saturday there is a musical show at 10 a.m. and a presentation from the community of Rey Curré at 10:30 a.m.

The event is sponsored by the municipality, the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes and the Asociación de Pueblos Indígenas del Diques, among others. Buenos Aries is on the Interamerican highway south of San Isidro.

Man near Quepos shot
by his female companion

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman in  Villa Nueva de Quepos fired at her male companion and hit him in the back and neck Tuesday night, according to the Fuerza Pública.

The 24-year-old woman, identified by the last name of  Godínez, had obtained a restraining order against the man but the couple had reconciled, said police.

The victim,  Juan Bautista Agüero Fallas, 40, was injured seriously and taken to Hospital México in San Jose. The woman was held.

Consultants will manage permits

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

DCL  Consultores of Escazú has been selected by Pura Verde Development Partner as the project manager for the permits and master planning stage of the Pura Verde Resort project.

The  project will be in the Portalón area in the Cantón de Aguirre on the Central Pacific coast and will include about 740 acres, said an announcement.  DCL Consultores said that the planning and permitting stage it will manage should take about two years.

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Villalobos defense witness links Oswaldo to brother's firm
By Dennis Rogers
A.M. Costa Rica special correspondent

A man introduced as an expert witness for the defense linked Oswaldo Villalobos to the high-interest operation identified with his fugitive brother in testimony Wednesday.

Under what amounted to cross-examination, the man, Gerardo Sanabria, described Oswaldo Villalobos's Ofinter S.A. exchange houses as part of Luis Enrique Villalobos’s “conglomerate” of shell companies.

Defense lawyers appeared dismayed as their own witness continued to outline how he thinks Oswaldo Villalobos had a role in the high-interest operation.

Linking Oswaldo Villalobos to his brother's operation is a major goal of the prosecution because then he would bear partial responsibility for the loss of about $1 billion in investor funds.

The expert witness's testimony was reduced to commentary on a report already seen by the court when he arrived with a prepared presentation. Witness testimony in the Costa Rican courts must be from memory or the person’s personal knowledge.

Gerardo Sanabria appeared on the behalf of the defense to analyze the report produced by the country’s financial regulator, the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras, relating to the Ofinter exchange houses, and their relevance to Oswaldo Villalobos. The defense team put up a screen for the projector and connected a computer for what was apparently a PowerPoint presentation. Immediately as the session got under way, the prosecution objected, and the computer was removed.

Prosecutor Walter Espinoza also objected to the defense’s characterization of Sanabria as an expert witness, as he had been hired by the defense and had interviewed Oswaldo Villalobos as part of his preparation. Ewald Acuña, a lawyer for civil plaintiffs, also asked that Sanabria be reduced to analysis of the existing Superintendencia report.

Eventually Sanabria’s qualifications were allowed into the record. He was an executive with Grupo Matra (a heavy equipment dealer) from 1993 to 1998 and with the Banco Credito Agricola de Cartago from 1999 to 2005 before becoming a private consultant.

The defense’s questioning led Sanabria to explanations as to how the Superintendencia report stated that people often confuse investments in negotiable notes with investments fundamentally in cash with a given business. The first is formal and regulated, while most investments in companies are private in nature. Luis Enrique Villalobos always said he simply was borrowing money from friends.
Further objections by the prosecution led Presiding Judge Isabel Porras to question whether that comment was from the report, which Sanabria indicated it was. Eventually Judge Porras cut off Sanabria's rambling explanation of the subject and indicated that the report in question was already in the record and, indeed, the head of investigations of the Superintendencia had testified.

At this, defense attorneys Federico Campos and Rodrigo Araya retreated to the hall outside for a few minutes, and returned to continue with the same line of questioning. Following another upheld objection by Espinoza, Campos abruptly finished, calling “absurd” the restrictions on the witness.

Espinoza then proceeded to shred Sanabria’s credibility as a banking expert, reducing him to contradictions and evasion about simple matters such as interest rates in 2002. He repeatedly denied that many subjects Espinoza asked about were ever discussed specifically in the interview with Oswaldo Villalobos, or stated that he could not remember details. Sanabria had earlier described the interview as “one-and-a-half, maybe two hours” about five months ago.

Expert witnesses generally do not have interviews with defendants.

Under persistent interrogation, Sanabria then described the Ofinter exchange house as part of Luis Enrique Villalobos’ “conglomerate” of shell companies. Ofinter was involved with the capture of funds which were then put into the cash flow needs of the other companies, he said.

Looking at the books of Ofinter, he saw surprising profit levels, which he attributed to the check-changing business. When asked what a typical commission might be, he allowed that it would depend on the risk involved for the merchant, that he had seen as much as 10 percent in small village stores (pulperías) in banana growing areas.

While the defense lawyers looked on in dismay, he said Oswaldo only helped his brother manage the operation by “adding up sums.”

This contradicts dozens of witnesses who have described Oswaldo as the manager of Ofinter and not involved with the high-interest investment operation operated by Luis Enrique.

The prosecution has gone to great lengths to establish that at times employees prayed together and that the two businesses shared a safe at the Mall San Pedro Ofinter office.

Acuña also interviewed the witness, but most of his questions were objected to by the defense on the grounds that Espinoza had already asked. Judge Porras upheld most objections.

Depths off Costa Rica yield vent field with strange creatures
By the Duke University Office
of News & Communications

A new "black smoker" — an undersea mineral chimney emitting hot, iron-darkened water that attracts unusual marine life — has been discovered at about 8,500 feet underwater by an expedition exploring a volcanic ridge on the Pacific Ocean floor off Costa Rica.

Expedition leaders named their discovery the Medusa hydrothermal vent field. The researchers are working aboard the research vessel Atlantis, operated by the Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Oceanographic Institution.

Researchers picked the Medusa name to highlight the presence of a pink form of jellyfish (order Stauromedusae) as well as numerous spiky tubeworm casings that festoon the vent chimney and bring to mind the serpent-haired Medusa of Greek myth, said expedition leader Emily Klein, a geology professor from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.

The bell-shaped jellyfish sighted near the vent "are really unusual, and the ones we found may be of a different species because nobody has seen types of this color before," said Karen Von Damm, an earth sciences professor and hydrothermal vent specialist on the expedition from the University of New Hampshire's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space.

The scientists are exploring the ocean bottom with Jason II , a remotely controlled robotic vehicle operated by Woods Hole. Using Jason's mechanical arms and a temperature probe, they logged water temperatures of 335 degrees C. (635 degrees F.) at the vent's opening.

"Despite the great temperature of the vent water, it doesn't boil until 390 C  because pressures on the ocean floor are so great, about 200 times the pressure at sea level," Professor Klein said. The tremendous pressures result from the weight of almost two miles of seawater pressing down from above.

"Frankly, it's astonishing that a rich ecology thrives in these extreme environments," Professor Klein added. She noted, however, that while all the organisms near vents are adapted to the high pressures at these depths, not all experience extremely high temperatures.

"The temperature of the ocean floor is about 2 C. (35 F.) and there is a strong temperature gradient as you move away from the vent, so animals living a few inches away may experience temperatures only a few degrees above normal for the ocean floor."

Professor Von Damm said that the heat-tolerant
duke university photo of jason
Duke University photos
The undersea robot Jason II examines the smoking Medusa vent.
Duke photo of undersea creatures
Pink, bell-shaped Stauromedusae jellyfish near vent.

tubeworms found living on Medusa's chimneys, a type known as Alvinellids, are commonplace on vents in the equatorial Pacific and thrive on high-iron fluids.

The researchers aboard Atlantis are on the scene principally to study the geology of a complex section of the East Pacific Rise, one of the mid-ocean ridge systems where new crust is made as the earth spreads and releases molten lava.

According to Professor Von Damm, scientists often have found mid-ocean ridges wherever there are geothermal vents warmed by heat energy from the underlying volcanic conduits. "Each new vent sighting sparks fresh excitement, because each one is different," she said.

The Medusa vent was discovered on Easter Sunday. In addition to staff members from Duke at Durham, North Carolina, and the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, researchers from the University of South Carolina and Florida are on the project.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 77

Purdue prof designs molecule to defeat Alzheimer buildup
By the Purdue University News Service

A molecule designed by a Purdue University researcher could lead to the first drug treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

"There are many people suffering, and no effective treatment is available to them," said Arun Ghosh, the Purdue professor who designed the molecule. "There is an urgent need for a drug to treat this devastating disease, and the scientific community has been working on this problem for many years."

The National Institute on Aging estimates that as many as 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, which leads to dementia by affecting parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.

The new molecule prevents the first step in a chain of events that leads to amyloid plaque formation in the brain. The material at various stages of plaque formation is made up of fibrous clumps of toxic proteins that cause the devastating symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, said Ghosh, who has a dual appointment in the chemistry and medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology departments.

"Interdisciplinary research and the tools available today allowed us to build a molecule that is both highly potent and highly selective, meaning it does not affect other enzymes important to brain function," he said.

Jordan Tang, head of the Protein Studies Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, is one of the discoverers of the critical enzyme and target for intervention, Ghosh said.

Tang discovered a key enzyme called memapsin 2, or beta-secretase, that is involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease. The action of this enzyme on a special protein, called the amyloid precursor protein, leads to the formation of plaques in the brain. The development of an inhibitor compound targeting memapsin 2 could block this reaction, thus preventing the disease. Utilizing Tang's information about the enzyme, Ghosh designed the first memapsin 2 inhibitor.

Memapsin 2 has an additional advantage because it belongs to a class of enzymes called aspartyl proteases.
Inhibitor designer Gnosh
Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger
Arun Ghosh discusses the structure of an enzyme inhibitor designed to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers already have successfully created drugs to block proteases for the treatment of other diseases. One of these successful drugs was developed from a molecule designed by Ghosh for treatment of drug-resistant HIV, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year. The principles used in the development of these drugs can be carried over and used in the design of new drugs, Tang said.

Ghosh's team achieved a breakthrough in Alzheimer's disease research when they were the first to use a method called X-ray crystallography to map the structure of Ghosh's designed inhibitor bound to the enzyme. This revealed information necessary to move the research forward and develop molecules that could be used in drugs.

"The moment we had the crystal structure, we knew exactly how the inhibitor worked, the interactions of the molecular bonds and what properties were most important," Ghosh said.

"We began this work in 2000 and prepared and examined several hundred molecules, we now have one with great clinical potential," Ghosh said.

Evidence of child sacrifices found in capital of Toltec civilization in México
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Archaeologists in Mexico say they have discovered the remains of more than 20 children apparently sacrificed by priests in the 10th to 12th centuries.

The archaeologists say the children's bones were found in March in a grave in the town of Tula, the former capital of the Toltec civilization. The bones are thought to date from the years 950 to 1150.
Archaeologist Luis Gamboa of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History says the bones had incisions suggesting the children had their throats cut. He says the positioning of the remains around a figurine of the rain god Tlaloc also points to a group sacrifice.

Gamboa says the discovery is the first of its kind indicating that Toltecs performed sacrifices on children, in addition to sacrificing adults. The Toltec civilization flourished in Mexico until the late 12th century, pre-dating the Aztecs.

Opposition leader links Colombia's Uribe to groups that became death squads
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Colombian opposition leader has accused President Alvaro Uribe of supporting anti-crime groups in the 1990s that evolved into powerful death squads.

The politician, Sen. Gustavo Petro, told a congressional debate Tuesday that Uribe supported the anti-crime groups while serving as governor of Antioquia from 1995 to 1997.
Petro says the civilian self-defense program, known as Convivir, was infiltrated by drug smugglers and members of far-right paramilitaries, evolving into death squads that killed in the name of fighting leftist rebels.

Petro triggered a scandal last year when he accused Colombia's establishment of having ties with death squads.  Uribe has denied any connection with the illegal groups, saying he is fighting all of Colombia's armed groups.

Complaints about shark finning brought to Arias by environmentalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Environmentalists brought their concerns about shark Finning to Casa Presidencial Wednesday. Rándall Arauz of the Programa de Restauración de las Tortugas Marinas told President Óscar Arias Sánchez that shark populations were being reduced by the practice.

He also said that by using private docks, those in the
shark-finning trade escape any government oversight. Arias called the activity an incredible cruelty, said Casa Presidencial.

Asian markets consider shark fins a delicacy, and many observers believe that grants and gifts from Asian countries keep Costa Rican officials looking the other way. Costa Rican law forbids private docks, for example. but such docks exist in Puntarenas.

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