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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, April 21, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 79             E-mail us
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Most of the faithful, like these in a 2010 procession, are not overly concerned with theology
Mass media really messes up traditional Easter story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A century ago worshippers generally had to accept whatever the Bible said or whatever the priest or minister handed down from the pulpit.

Television and the Internet have brought vast changes, and dozens of academics and producers are floating theories that clash with the traditional Easter story.

Even Judas Iscariot, the traitorous apostle and the most hated man in Christendom, was not such a bad guy after all, according to a recent book.

Nevertheless, hundreds of Central Valley youngsters will be burning effigies of the shamed apostle this weekend and generally misbehaving. Police are on alert.

The point may be a small one but a just-released book says that the Last Supper was on a Wednesday, not the traditional Thursday. The claim has to do with the calendars in force in First century Jerusalem and discrepancies between the four major gospels. Colin Humphreys, a Cambridge University scientist, makes a powerful argument. Pretty soon Costa Rican employees will be getting three days off in Semana Santa instead of the two days that are holidays now.

Mary Magdalene also has received a makeover. Instead of the redeemed harlot, she now is cast by some as the wife of Jesus and the head of the infant
church after his death. Dan Brown's book and subsequent 2003 "The Da Vinci Code" movie, although fiction, did much to popularize this opinion.

Jesus himself has gotten a makeover. Instead of the movie star with the flowing hair and commanding statute, Richard Neave,  a forensic artist, created a face in 2002 that basically resembles most other men who lived in the Middle East at that time. Instead of a Greek god, the Jesus created by Neave is a swarthy fellow who looks like he was sent from central casting for the title role in "The Merchant of Venice."

Others have tried to determine how Jesus looked by studying the Shroud of Turin, said to be the burial cloth of Christ. Another one of those pesky television shows, however, claims that Leonardo da Vinci faked the shroud with a camera obscura and even used his own face as a model.

Meanwhile, some investigators, including some in the Central Valley, discount the existence of Jesus and say the biblical story is just a retelling of a number of crucifixions of religious leaders down through the ages, beginning with Krishna. One such person is Sam Butler, who self-published "A CURSE ON ALL THEIR HOUSES - How Religious SCRIPTURE and Practices Support Intolerance, Violence, and Even War."

The rabbit is going to leave just coal in his basket Sunday morning.

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Our readers' opinions
Why is the U.S. currency
not linked to gold, silver?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In April 1764 the English Parliament banned the American Colonies from issuing paper money.

The colonies had been issuing paper money of dubious value since 1690 when Massachusetts was the first colony to issue paper money.

Only after the Continental Congress almost ruined the country and nearly lost the War of Independence with the issuance of paper money, did the statesmen ban this activity in Article 1, Section 10, of the 1787 Constitution.
Clause 1 of this section states:
No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, confederation, grant letters of marque or reprisal, coin money, emit bills of credit, MAKE ANYTHING BUT GOLD AND SILVER COIN A TENDER IN PAYMENT OF DEBTS.
Is it any wonder that we are wondering what happened to the purchasing power of the dollar vs the colon.
Angela Jimenez

Water company ignores
big leak in Rohrmoser

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I live 100 meters north of SuperRoma, the last boulevard in Rohrmoser.  On Saturday morning, April 16, I noticed water spouting out of a leak about 25 meters north of my house.  I called AyA--got no response. I called a second phone number I found in the Women's Club Handbook--again no answer. 

Then, I asked an employee who spoke Spanish to call. He did, but said it was Saturday--there would be no answer.  The water has continued to leak since then.  I called again on Sunday, and on Monday asked a Tico neighbor to call, thinking he might have better luck.  He told me, "This is Semana Santa. Nothing will be done until next week."
This is really an OUTRAGE.  In a country which often lacks potable water, are there no EMERGENCY resources or outlets to deal with this situation?
I am an American living in Costa Rica, and I cannot believe that such waste could occur here.  Doesn't the government and its agencies need to work to protect the resources which allow people to live here?
I await your response.

Sima F. Hecht

Another water complaint

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My friend lives 100 meters north of SuperRoma (last boulevard in Rohrmoser).  When I visited Sunday, water was bubbling up out in front of a neighbors home 25 meters away.   Today is Wednesday and the water is still spouting.  AyA does not answer.  This is sinful.  30 percent of the people in Central America do not have potable water, but here we just let it run down into the sewers.
Win Canavan
San Rafael de Escazu
and San Jose, California

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!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 79
Latigo K-9

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
Police making hundreds
of checkpoint arrests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Públicas officers are maintaining checkpoints, and they have already detained eight persons carrying guns.

They also have confiscated marijuana, they said.

The checkpoints are on the major highways. Already 306 persons have been detained for a variety of allegations.

The checkpoints are being maintained all Semana Santa.

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Some good advice came in on the qualities of a columnist
We received lots of suggestions about what makes a good A.M. Costa Rica columnist. There was repetition, of course.  Readers have similar criteria for someone writing a column; i.e. be well-read, and informed and accurate.  Be dependable (my editor certainly agrees with that), and interesting.  Sue thinks a good columnist should “stir your mind and cause a laugh, a tear or a strong shout of agreement or disagreement" and should be able to laugh at the self mocking motto, “Costa Rica …we make easy hard.”  And finally, be opinionated but not a rant.  All agree, there are enough ranters in the “letters to the editor” section.

Randi in San Ramón listed seven points of advice beginning with not only should a columnist be living here, but he/she should like living in Costa Rica as well, and Ruth added ”but not be overly charmed by its inefficiencies” (claiming to quote my son Justin on that).  To which Randi adds, “Be able to see through the eyes of the paper’s audience, and to a lesser degree, through the eyes of the Ticos.”

Fitz, as a reader, wants to experience the sounds and smells and feel of a place, and Randi says, “engage the senses of humor, compassion, adventure, whimsy, and originality” (to name a few), but would agree with Fitz, “Express provocative thoughts inspired by the simple acts of grace that occur in our daily life.”

And finally, a columnist should be able to take criticism.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful advice and descriptions of what makes a good columnist.  I will try to remember all of them as long as I write — anything.

Recently I read an opinion column in The New York Times by a woman who recounted living in New York as a student in 2002.  She took all kinds of bizarre and unusual jobs in an effort to feel like a real New Yorker.  After thinking that New York had certainly changed since the 60s when I lived there. I doubt I would have taken a job as a dominatrix just to know the New Yorkers who patronize them, although I agree, in their other lives, the clients were probably New York movers and shakers.

Working for Levi’s didn’t make me feel like a San Franciscan, even working as a Kelly Girl temp for lawyer Roy Cohn on a divorce case between a famous Broadway playwright and his French wife didn’t make me feel like a New Yorker.

I felt protective and defensive about San Jose, California, and comfortable in the city, finding it modest and welcoming compared to its neighbors to the north, but mainly it was about the university.  But I do feel like a Josephina.  Why?

The other day I was telling some new friends who were visiting, where Mora’s Bookstore now is, and one of them, Richard, a painter, leaned forward, slapped his hands on his knees and said, “I finally get it!”

We all looked at him with “Get what?”

“The reason for giving directions by landmarks and buildings instead of street numbers.”

I had never heard anyone defend this direction giving
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

whre is it!
A.M. Costa Rica photo
A columnist has to get around, too. So we wonder who knows where this pleasant courtyard is.

 practice, just complain about it.  Then he explained that with physical references you actually see where you are and where you are going, while saying “the corner of 12th street and 2nd Avenue, or 234 West 57th street, you have no mental picture of your city.

It is true, when I think of a particular location in San José, I can see the surrounding stores or parking lots or visualize what is usually going on in a nearby park. 

Fitz feels like a Washingtonian because he is very much involved in the cultural and political life of the city as well as the business of having built a number of buildings there.  He also thinks it is a beautiful city and simply likes coming back to it and being in it.

San José is not yet a “beautiful city,” although parts of it are.  I always love the moment when my bus or taxi arrives in front of the Gran Hotel with its yellow half-circle awnings above the windows, and the Teatro Nacional to the right, looking permanent and elegantly European and welcoming.  Some people find the city threatening, I find the streets filled with pedestrians friendly and energizing.

It’s just my kind of town; everyone has one, I am sure.  I hope they are lucky enough to live in it or near it.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 79

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New technique could propagate vanilla to meet high demand

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

It’s one of the world’s two best-loved flavors, and demand for it is increasing all the time but now its future in the global food industry could be more secure, thanks to research at The University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus.

Vanillin is a compound that comes from the vanilla bean, the ‘fruit’ of the flowering vanilla orchid. The orchid is a tropical, climbing vine originally cultivated by ancient Central American civilizations such as the Aztecs and is now grown worldwide with Madagascar, Indonesia and China by far the biggest producers.

The uniquely scented flavor of vanilla is second only to chocolate in popularity on the world’s palate. It’s also the second most expensive spice after saffron. But highly labor intensive cultivation methods and the plant’s temperamental life cycle and propagation mean production on a global scale is struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for the product.

Scientists in the School of Biosciences on the University’s Malaysia campus are working to create new and robust methods for the cloning of some economic species and some rare species of the orchid through tissue culture. The research is concentrating on the most common cultivated vanilla orchid, Vanilla planifolia, a perennial which
produces the pods from which the natural vanillin is extracted.

Traditionally the vanilla orchid is propagated by stem cuttings but this method is labor intensive, time-consuming and not economical because taking cuttings can cause the retardation of the mother plant and a reduction in yield. Tissue culture or ‘cloning’ of a high quality parent plant from non-reproductive cells offers a viable and simple method for the large scale commercial production of vanilla plants, but the technique has a current flaw which the scientists are hoping to overcome.

Problems arise when variations occur in the sub-clones of one parental line, creating off-types. which are not of the same quality as the parent plant. It can be costly if a high percentage of the micro propagated sub-clones are off-types that have to be scrapped.

The scientists have been awarded a Fundamental Research grant from the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education to use DNA marker systems to investigate how these mutations occur. Such marker systems have been widely used to detect the genetic similarities and differences in micro-propagated material in various plants and are simple, quick and cost-effective for routine application.

The research is being carried out by Dr. Peter Alderson and Dr. Chin Chiew Foan in the School of Biosciences.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
For your international reading pleasure:

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, April 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 79

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Escazú Christian Fellowship
offers Holy Week services

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Escazú Christian Fellowship will lead worshipers through the events of the last week of Jesus' life during services today, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The services will be at International Baptist Church in Guachipelín.

At 7 p.m. today, the church will hold a Tenebrae service (a service of shadows) which draws participants into the Holy Week story as the church grows gradually darker. Candles and lights are extinguished as Jesus' death draws nearer.

At Noon on Friday, worshipers will hear the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John, sing familiar hymns, and hear the traditional "Solemn Reproaches of the Cross" which implicate God's people in the crucifixion of Christ.

At 7 a.m. Sunday, Escazú Christian Fellowship and International Baptist Church celebrate together the resurrection of Christ at a sunrise service, with a light breakfast following. Escazú Christian Fellowship worships again at 5 p.m. at its regular time.

All are welcome to participate in any of the services, said  Pastor Stacey Steck. For more information, please contact Pastor Stacey Steck at or 8395-9653, or browse

Mrs. Clinton says she'll back
Haiti's Martelly all the way

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Haitian president-elect Michel Martelly Wednesday the United States will back him all the way in his efforts to revive the country’s economy after last year’s earthquake and years of political turmoil.  Martelly is in Washington for key meetings in advance of his May 14 inauguration.

Neither Martelly nor Clinton made any attempt to minimize Haiti’s daunting problems, but both set a hopeful tone about the country’s future with the secretary of State promising him full U.S. backing.

Martelly, a political novice and former entertainer, won a presidential run-off vote in March, capping a months-long electoral process marred by violence and fraud charges.

He has mapped out an ambitious political program focusing on resettling the huge number of Haitians still living in tents after the January 2010 earthquake, tackling the earthquake-related cholera epidemic, and reviving an economy that contracted by more than 5 percent last year.

Standing alongside Martelly after their meeting, Secretary Clinton said helping Haiti recover is not only a U.S. foreign policy goal but a personal priority of herself and her husband, the former U.S. president now the United Nations envoy for Haiti.

She made light-hearted reference to Martelly’s trademark shaved pate, which became a campaign icon, as she affirmed traditional U.S. support for Haiti.

"Some of you may know that Mr. Martelly’s campaign slogan was tete kale. Now, I’m told the literal translation of that slogan is bald head, which doesn’t need any further explanation," she said. "But tete kale is also an expression that means all the way. And the people of Haiti may have a long road ahead of them. But as they walk it, the United States will be with you all the way."

Martelly, for his part, said that despite nearly $3 billion in U.S. government and private earthquake aid, the recovery process is "despairingly slow."  He warned that the cholera epidemic could worsen again with the onset of the rainy and hurricane seasons.

"These were the complaints that were expressed by a desperate population throughout my election campaign," he said. "This is why recovery and restarting the economy is a fundamental necessity for my government. This is why I plan on work relentlessly toward the reconstruction of the framework of international aid, to give new life to the business sector and to develop the capabilities of government institutions and of civil society."

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration acknowledges successes by Haitian authorities in some areas of reconstruction.

But she pointedly urged a streamlining of government procedures for approving building permits, new businesses and investments, and lamented an overcrowded Haitian prison system where she said 80 percent of detainees have yet to face trial.

Martelly’s first meetings Tuesday were with the leaders of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for meetings focusing on rising world food prices and policies in Haiti that can spur employment.
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