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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 78             E-mail us
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More evidence that second language sharpens brain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica experience may keep older expats from becoming dingy.

There is a mountain of literature that says those who speak two languages can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's by up to five years. But dementia is a pretty drastic condition and responds to a diagnosis.

Now comes evidence that older bilingual adults compensate for age-related declines in brainpower by developing new strategies to process language. In other words bilingualism gives older adults the edge even with lesser lapses.

The latest study comes from Concordia University's Department of Psychology.

“As we get older, our working memory capacity and ability to quickly process words declines,” said Natalie Phillips, a professor at the Montreal, Canada, institution.  “As a result, older adults become a little more strategic with capacity. It’s important to stress these are normal and mild age-related changes. Participants didn’t have any cognitive deficit. Rather, they were making the best use of mental resources by using context to help them process language.”

Experimental subjects, both bilinguals and monolinguals, were asked to process three words at a time from a long list. Neurophysiological responses to these words were recorded using an electroencephalograph, an instrument that records the brain’s electrical activity and the speed of response was recorded, the university said.
In a Dartmouth University study, researchers used an optical imaging technology to find areas in the brain that indicate bilingualism and found an increase in brain activity in both the left and the right hemisphere of bilingual participants in the study.

There are a lot of unsupported suggestions on the Internet that learning a new language or even tracing a family history can keep seniors sharp.

The  Concordia seems to provide scientific support for that belief.

And, of course, most expats who move to Costa Rica find learning Spanish a necessity. If they move here with children, there is an added advantage.

There is another mountain of academic literature relating to bilingual children, who seem to have an edge over their monolingual peers.

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Girl survives encounter
with  crocodile in canal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 11-year -old Bagaces girl is reported stable in San José after she tangled with a crocodile that was living in an irrigation canal at a rice plantation.

The security ministry identified the girl as Daniela Fallas Abarca. She was airlifted late Monday by the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea of the Fuerza Pública to Juan Santamaría airport.

Officials said that the girl's parents work at the rice plantation and that due to the heat the girl approached the narrow waterway. One report said that she slipped and fell into the canal. The crocodile was described as being 3 meters long or as short as 1.5 meters. That would be between 10 and 5 feet.  Considering that the girl survived, the smaller size is more likely.

She originally was treated in Liberia, which is where the Fuerza Pública aircraft picked her up. She is in the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

The girl was the first of seven patients to be transported to San José in less than 24 hours.

Four persons, including two minors came from Nicoya where they were victims of a traffic accident.

A 10-year-old girl also was airlifted from Palmar Sur where she also was an accident victim. The crash at Uvita killed her mother, who was identified by the last name of Cajina. The family of four was heading toward Quepos when the car went into a ditch and overturned, judicial investigators said.

The seventh case came from Upala, a 21-year-old accident victim. That flight arrived at 1:05 p.m., the security ministry said.

Crocodiles at times can be extremely aggressive. They are territorial, and university biologists have documented the travel of crocodiles on the high seas between river mouths where they usually are found. That means they could appear at any beach.

Daytime bandits shoot
woman on city street

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two bandits on a bicycle held up a 23-year-old woman in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon, took her purse and cell telephone and then shot her.

The woman survived and was last reported being treated in Hospital San Juan de Dios. The Judicial Investigating Organization identified her by the last name of Guevara.

Agents reported that she is employed in the area, which contains the Iglesia Don Bosco, the Funeraría del Recuerdo and even the country's tax collecting department, the Direction General de Tributación. The area is south of Paseo Colón and east of Sabana Este.

The judicial police stressed that the bandits fired even though the woman had surrendered her belongings.

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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, Wednesday, April 20, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 78
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Five pulled from surf at Manuel Antonio amid high seas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

High seas continue to lash the Pacific beaches of Costa Rica, and five apparent tourists were trapped by the rip tides at Manuel Antonio Tuesday.

The Servico Nacional de Guardacostas was able to rescue all five, the agency said. The boats are patrolling off popular tourist beaches because of the abnormally high seas.

The security ministry said that one of those rescued was a Canadian with the name of Anthony Sawyer and that one was a U.S. citizen named David Forester. A Costa Rican, identified as Delmer Dixon Ulate also was rescued as were two persons whose nationalities were not available.
High tide at Quepos today is at 4:04 a.m. and 4:21 p.m., said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Sections of Barrio el Carmen in Puntarenas Centro were flooded with a foot or more of water at high tide Tuesday. The national emergency commission has issued an alert through the weekend.

Other communities on the central and southern Pacific coast and on the west side of the Nicoya Peninsula also are facing high tides and choppy seas.

Safety officials have issued warnings against swimming when there is a possibility of rip tides that can pull a bather far out into the Pacific. That is why the coast guard is patrolling offshore.

Another container of pineapple contained drugs, police say
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police here and in Spain with the assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have confiscated a cocaine-laden pineapple shipment.

Officials here outlined the case Tuesday, The Cuerpo Nacional de la Policía de España conducted raids April 1 and detained 12 persons, one of them a Costa Rican. Police in Spain also confiscated 204 kilos of cocaine in a container with pineapple that had been shipped from Moín March 8 to Valencia, Spain. The cocaine was packed inside the boxes of pineapples.

A total of three containers were shipped by a firm officials identified as Exportfruit Global de Centroamérica in San José.

José María Tijerino Pacheco told reporters that the investigation began late last year.  He said that the Costa Rican, identified by the last names of Corrales Melture, and a Colombian man identified as the leader of the organization made frequent trips out of Costa Rica.

There were 1,500 boxes of pineapple in each container for a total of 4,500 boxes.

This is the second case this year in which cocaine was reported to have been hidden in containers carrying pineapple. In late January from Europe came word of 10 arrests and the confiscation of more than 100 kilos of cocaine in a container filled with pineapples that originated in Pital de San Carlos.
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Anti-drug police here show how cocaine was packed into boxes of fruit.

Police had been investigating the European cocaine smuggling case for months at the request of British police.

During the investigation two suspects shipped eight or nine containers with pineapple to Europe. One container was intercepted in Rotterdam, Holland, Jan. 4. It contained 106 kilos of cocaine, agents here said. That was the container from San Carlos that left Moín Dec. 22, agents said.

There does not seem to be a link between the two cases, although officials said they would study the security measures at the Moín port to see if changes should be made.

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Key West center to coordinate effort against trafficking

By the American Forces Press Service

A new, high-tech command center in Key West, Florida, will move the fight against illicit traffickers to a new level, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said Monday.

Just before cutting a ribbon to the Joint Operations Command Center at the U.S. Naval Air Station,  Lynn said the threat that plagues the region has evolved beyond drugs alone.

"Transnational criminal organizations are posing a not-very-well-understood, but growing, threat to the United States," he told the task force staff. "It's something I know you are on the front lines of addressing and, ultimately, preventing."

The new command center serves Joint Interagency Task Force South, a subordinate command to the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command that integrates military, interagency and international capabilities to combat illicit trafficking.

Lynn traveled to Miami a day earlier to meet with Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, South Command chief, and his leadership team. In testimony last month before the House Armed Services Committee, Fraser called the task force "the center of U.S. maritime interdiction efforts in the Caribbean basin and eastern Pacific."

Using information from law enforcement agencies, the general added, the task force detects and monitors suspect aircraft and maritime vessels and then provides this information to international and interagency partners who have the authority to interdict illicit shipments and arrest members of transnational criminal organizations.

Task force members represent each U.S. military service and most federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Other members from the U.S. intelligence community represent the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Security Agency.

The task force staff includes liaison officers from 13 nations: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom.
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William J. Lynn III addresses task force staff

"We made the decision in April 2008 to apply our collective wisdom and knowledge across the interagency, our international partners and the joint team here," said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Daniel Lloyd, commander of Joint Interagency Task Force South, during the ceremony opening the new operations center.

The aim, he said, was "to come up with a better way to be even more effective in countering the illicit traffickers."

The new command center, Lloyd added, "is the first of its kind anywhere and represents the very best way we know how to conduct the fight against illicit traffickers."

In the center, intelligence and operations functions come together in a state-of-the-art command, control, communications and intelligence facility, officials said, where the task force coordinates the use of Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft, Air Force and U.S. Customs Service aircraft, and aircraft and ships from allied nations and law enforcement agencies.

"I think it's important at this moment to recognize how far we've come," said William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats.

In the 1980s, the mission was considered to be an unsolvable problem, he said, adding: "There was a never-ending stream of air and maritime vessels headed right for our coast. It was a direct threat to U.S. sovereignty." Today, he added, the problem has evolved, and so has the task force.

Obama administration ready to move ahead with trade deals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Senior Obama administration officials on Tuesday discussed the timeline for sending renegotiated free trade agreements with Panamá, Colombia and South Korea to Congress for consideration. 

After several years of delay, the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement as well as free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea appear to be on track for consideration by Congress.

The recent ratification by Panama of a tax treaty removed a major hurdle in a sequence of steps that officials say clears the way for discussions with U.S. lawmakers about the agreements.

Miriam Sapiro is the deputy U. S. trade representative. "They have done a number of things that make us now in a strong position to begin the informal process of walking through the agreement with the Congress," she said.

Ms. Sapiro said steps Panamá has taken include actions to eliminate remaining restrictions on labor rights as well as legal reforms connected to collective bargaining rights and protections for workers. 

At the White House next week, President Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli are expected to discuss next steps for the U.S.-Panama accord, and a new regional security initiative.

Dan Restrepo is senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs on the National Security Council. "The meeting and moving forward on the agreement underscore the historic relationship  between the U.S. and Panamá, one of our closest allies," he said.

But administration officials are not being specific about the
timeline for bringing the trade accords up in Congress.  There has been opposition on Capitol Hill to including all three agreements in a single legislative package.

In Tuesday's telephone news conference, officials said the Panamá and South Korea accords are at a stage where the process of formulating legislation with members of Congress can begin. 

But the administration wants to ensure that the Colombian government is meeting specific goals.

That plan, aimed at legal reforms to strengthen rights and protections for workers and labor organizers, was a topic of discussions President Obama had earlier this month at the White House with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

Michael Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, told reporters on Tuesday that the Obama administration does not see requiring Colombia to achieve all of the milestones and deadlines in the plan. 

He said the United States will evaluate Colombia's progress on its commitments and make a judgment, adding that a timeline will depend on consultations with congressional leaders on how to "sequence, time and package" the accords and related issues.

Although many members of President Obama's Democratic Party support the trade deals, some Democrats continue to voice concerns.   Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, says more work needs to be done with legal changes and reforms in Colombia regarding worker rights.

Tuesday, Rep. Mike Michaud, a Maine Democrat, issued a statement calling all three agreements flawed, adding that he and others in Congress would work to defeat them.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, April 20, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 78

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Raúl Castro is taking over
with warning on capitalism

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban President Raúl Castro has been named the head of the nation's ruling Communist Party, officially replacing his brother, former president Fidel Castro, who held the post since the party's founding 46 years ago.

President Raúl Castro was named first secretary Tuesday during a Communist Party congress in Havana.

Despite raising hopes during the gathering that a new generation of leaders could step up to top posts, the 79-year-old president said 80-year-old Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura would be his No. 2 in the party.

Raúl Castro has introduced economic reforms in Cuba, but told the party congress that he will never allow the return of capitalism.

Fidel Castro, 84, making a rare public appearance, also attended the event, wearing a blue tracksuit and looking unsteady on his feet.

Fidel Castro has faced severe problems with his health during the past few years.

In an opinion article in state-run media last month, Fidel Castro said he resigned five years ago from all his official positions, including as head of the Communist Party, when intestinal bleeding nearly killed him in 2006.

Even though it was widely known that Fidel Castro was not working as the day-to-day head of the party, the article was the first time he acknowledged resigning from the post.

Fidel Castro ceded power to Raul Castro in 2006, and in 2008, the younger Castro officially took office as president.

Monday, Cuban state-run media reported that the Communist Party had approved economic reforms offered by President Raúl Castro.

About 1,000 delegates convened for the four-day party convention, which is only the sixth time the party has met in its nearly 50-year history. The last gathering was in 1997.

Raul Castro's proposed reforms come during tough economic times for Cuba.

The reforms include significant changes to Cuba's economic system, including decentralization of the island nation's economy, a shift toward private enterprise and the eventual elimination of ration books and other subsidies. Reforms also include two, five-year term limits for politicians.

Wikileaks figure Manning
being moved to Kansas

By the American Forces Press Service

The Army plans to transfer Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified military information in the Wikileaks incident, to a new Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, said Tuesday.

Johnson explained the rationale noting that it is the right time to transfer Manning to a more appropriate facility for long-term pre-trial confinement.

Manning's transfer from the pretrial confinement facility at Marine Base Quantico in Virginia is imminent, Johnson said, but citing standard policy, he declined to provide precise details.

Johnson emphasized that the decision to transfer Manning should not be interpreted as any criticism of the pretrial facility at Quantico. Manning's lawyer claimed his client faced what amounted to torture.

As at Quantico, Manning will be allowed to receive a limited number of outside visitors at Fort Leavenworth, subject to his and the command's agreement, Johnson said. In addition, he said, the Army will allow a limited number of media representatives to tour the Leavenworth pretrial facility.

Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, is suspected of being involved in one of the largest leaks of classified material in U.S. history, Johnson said. The leak involved hundreds of thousands of diplomatic and military documents, including classified records about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Safecrackers left with less
than they carried in

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of a gang of safecrackers tried to break into the vault at the Banco Cathay in Alajuela early Tuesday, but their torch set off fire alarms that resulted in the arrival of the tactical squad of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The pair, who were recorded on film, appear to have come in through the roof and used an acetylene torch to burn their way to the vault.

The pair managed to flee before agents entered the bank, but they left behind their tools.

A handful of businesses have been victims of similar crooks.

In another burglary case, a 27-year-old man was apprehended inside La Casa de los Azulejos y Pisos Cerámicos in Los Sauces, San Francisco de Dos Ríos. He also is believed to have entered through the roof. He was facing action in the Juzgado Penal de San José.

Martelly visiting the U.S.
to promote Haitian efforts

By the A.M. Costa Rica news services

President-elect Michel Martelly is visiting the United States for talks with the heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a statement late Monday, Martelly's office said the visit will focus on job creation, education, security, reconstruction and health.

Martelly, who is to take office May 14, is to meet with Secretary of State Clinton today and hold a news conference Thursday in Washington.

Haiti's electoral council has declared Martelly the winner of the March 20 presidential runoff, but there have been repeated delays in announcing the official results.  Martelly succeeds President Rene Preval.

Haiti is struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than a million.  A cholera outbreak that began in October has killed thousands.

Martelly says his goals include free tuition for all children nationwide, housing for people living in tent camps following last year's earthquake, and strengthening the agricultural sector so Haiti can become more self-sufficient.

Delay blamed in infant death

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents are investigating the death of a newborn at a medical center in Grecia. An initial report said that the mother arrived at the center in labor and required immediate attention but that she had to wait until a physician could attend her, thus leading to the death of the baby. 

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