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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Monday, April 30, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 85                            Email us
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Scientists exploring quake predictions by smell
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's earthquake experts are suggesting more study of the theory that one might be able to smell a coming earthquake.

The Red Sismológica Nacional took note of a study that says the level of ozone in the air increases dramatically in the processes leading up to an earthquake.

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science developed this idea and even suggested this is why animals behave unusually just before an earthquake. The research led by Raúl A. Baragiola said that crushing rock produces a detectable amount of ozone.

A valid method to predict quakes is the holy grail of geological science, and finding such a method would save many lives and reduce property damage.

The Red Sismológica just posted on its Facebook page a summary of Baragiola's research which was published originally in Applied Physics Letters late last year. The matter is of much more than just theoretical value because Costa Rica is geologically active and a major quake has been predicted for the Nicoya Peninsula area based on historical trends.

Ozone is a gas with three atoms of oxygen instead of the usual two. That is why is it far more active than its more stable molecule. The gas also has a pungent smell that can be detected by humans in small amounts. This is the smell that comes after an electrical discharge or lightning.

Baragiola and his team set up experiments to measure ozone produced by crushing or drilling into different igneous and metamorphic rocks, including granite, basalt, gneiss, rhyolite and quartz. Different rocks produced different amounts of ozone, with rhyolite producing the strongest ozone emission, they found, according to a university report.

Some time prior to an earthquake, pressures begin to build in underground faults, the university noted, adding that these pressures fracture rocks, and presumably, would produce detectable ozone.

To distinguish whether the ozone was coming from
smell of a quake

the rocks or from reactions in the atmosphere, the researchers conducted experiments in pure oxygen, nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide. They found that ozone was produced by fracturing rocks only in conditions containing oxygen atoms, such as air, carbon dioxide and pure oxygen molecules, indicating that it came from reactions in the gas. This suggests that rock fractures may be detectable by measuring ozone, the university said.

"If future research shows a positive correlation between ground-level ozone near geological faults and earthquakes, an array of interconnected ozone detectors could monitor anomalous patterns when rock fracture induces the release of ozone from underground and surface cracks," Baragiola was quoted as saying.

Costa Rica now has three separate networks of various types of earthquake detecting sensors, but they are not predictive. The country is located over the juncture between the Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates. This contact generates many quakes, but there are local faults, too.

The most recent quake was at 4:05 p.m. Sunday with an epicenter estimated to be less than 2 kilometers north of San Miguel de Desamparados and about 5 kilometers south of San Pedro de Montes de Oca. The magnitude was just 2.2., according to the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Country seems to have gotten the best of malaria
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica quietly has made strong inroads against the mosquito that carries malaria. The country registered 1,879 cases of malaria in 2000. In 2011 there were just 17 cases, according to the Ministerio de Salud. And the latest reports say that there have been just five cases so far this year.

The current cases were two in Jicaral, Puntarenas, one that is believed to have been imported from Nicaragua by the ill individual who now is in Carrillo, Guanacaste, and one each in Golfito, and Puntarenas. There were nine cases by this time last year, the health ministry said.
The Panamerican Health Organization is working to eliminate malaria in the Western Hemisphere by 2015.

In the 1970s Costa Rica experienced a big reduction in malaria cases but in the following years the numbers spiked.

Health officials attributed the reduction in the first years of the 21st century to various control factors.

There also was a big push against dengue, which also is mosquito-born. The effort was to reduce places where mosquitoes breed thereby reducing the number of the insects.

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Our readers' opinions
Praise for Jo Stuart
and her Friday column

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jo Stuart's Friday column, ('Education and the world's oldest profession have degenerated'), was one of her best... brilliant, insightful and true. I gave up choosing a best line, because there were so many. Kudos to A.M. Costa Rica for continuing to give a voice to this gifted writer.
Heidi Allen
Austin, Texas

Country's social system
traps those seeking a living

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Reading today's articles I was saddened by an article written by the usually funky contributor Jo Stuart, where she made the statement: "As soon as there was marriage, there was prostitution, not necessarily for the needs of men, but rather for women who did not wish to be tied down to marriage and children." . . . then she compounded the baseless comment with "Perhaps today call girls fill the role of hetaerae"  and lastly: "the street hetaerae were paid for the evening, prostitutes are paid for the deed. "

Jo, where have you been? Any woman who reads your highbrow comments would believe you make light of a bad situation. The hetaerae/woman who works the streets or the halls of The Rey would rather do anything but what it is they do if only this country offered a social support system or provided an opportunity to make a living wage and put food on the table.

Perhaps you thought your comments would stimulate a philosophical discussion and work towards a solution to these crimes of abuse against women. Instead, your hand pushes these women further down into the street.
Ray Landry

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.
Click a story for the summary

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Cocomar Rollover
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 85
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Escazú expat shoots it out with and kills armed intruder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A long-time Escazú expat faced down a gang of masked robbers Friday night and killed one of the intruders in a shootout.

The gun play took place at the Bello Horizonte home of the man identified by the Judicial Investigating Organization by the last name of Nicholas. The investigating agency said the expat was home about 9:30 p.m. when he heard a noise at the metal gate to the home. He investigated to see at least three men trying to gain entry.

The expat withdrew to the interior of the home where he obtained a pistol. Judicial investigators said there was an exchange of shots in the living room of the house. The expat shot the intruder twice in the chest and one in the right arm, said the judicial police report.

The intruder died in the house and his companions fled in
 an awaiting vehicle. He was identified by the last name of Barrantes. Judicial agents said he was 20 years old. There was no indication that the expat was detained, and agents appear to be treating the case as self defense.

The Laura Chinchilla administration has tightened the rules under which expats can have weapons. Currently only persons with permanent residency can obtain a firearm license. That means rentistas and pensionados can not have weapons legally, although many of them do have one for home protection.

The situation was different in La Uruca, also Friday night. As the operator of a pulpería or small store was closing up for the night, three men with guns approached. That was about 8 p.m. The 64-year-old store operator who has the last name of  Fernández resisted the efforts by the men to enter his store, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The victim tried to take a gun away from one of the crooks, agents said, He was shot in the hip and was recovering at Hospital México.

Breaking up
sales of crack

Judicial agents had no trouble making the arrest of a crack distributing suspect Sunday. They said they just watched him in the infamous Tierra Dominicana, a section of San Jose's Avenida 7 where the residents are mainly foreigners. The man arrested was Colombian. The sale and use of crack cocaine is frequently seen in this section of the city.

crack arrest
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública

Man held on allegation of rape at Playa Tamarindo
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers said that they have detained a suspect in the rape of an 18-year-old North American woman in Playa Tamarindo.

The arrest took place in the Pacific beachtown, they added.
There was little additional information but it appears that the man, identified by the last names of Calderón Fonseca, was detained a short time after the crime.

He was remanded to the Ministerio Público to await court action. More details probably will be released by the Poder Judicial today.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 85
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Banco Nacional finally hooks up with U.S. money processor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional said Friday that it is the first Costa Rican banking institution to affiliate with Pay Pal, the U.S. electronic payment system owned by eBay.

Many companies in Costa Rica already are Pay Pal customers, including A.M. Costa Rica. However, in order to withdraw money from a Pay Pal account, customers either had to have a bank account in the United States or another country friendly to Pay Pal or they had to have a Pay Pal debit card.

The agreement with Banco Nacional will allow Pay Pal customers who happen to have a Banco Nacional account to withdraw money directly from the U.S. payment system into an account here. Banco Nacional said that the transfer would take five days, a few days longer than transfers to and from Pay Pal from a U.S. bank account.
The bank noted that one benefit of a Pay Pal payment is that a purchaser does not have to give credit card information to a third party. Another advantage is that non-profits and others can place a donate button on their Web site to receive money to further their work.

Pay Pal takes about 4 percent from each payment, so it is competitive with credit cards. A.M. Costa Rica does not accept credit card payments directly, and, instead, directs customers to use the Pay Pal system for more security.

Pay Pal is in 190 countries and has banking arrangements with more than half.  Pay Pal's service 10 years ago was spotty, and some Costa Rican business people had bad experiences then. However, eBay purchased the company for $1.5 billion in 2002, and customer services appears to have improved. A.M. Costa Rica reported its experiences with Pay Pal in a CR Business article in 2010.

Exhibit in Alajuela shows
how Gringo eyes see country

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Expat artist Donaldo Voelker has a show with his oil paintings through May 29 at the Museo Juan Santamaría in Alajuela.

The title of the exhibition is La Otra América or “The Other America” in English. The artist said the show recognizes how many Latinos are sensitive due to their perception of the dominance of the United States of America in the Western Hemisphere. 

A post says in Spanish “At times North Americans think that the United States is a synonym for ‘America.’  Nevertheless, the Gringo painter Donaldo Voelker prefers to paint the landscapes and peoples of Latin America, that which he calls in jest as: ‘The Other America.’”

The artist said that this exhibition is about oil paintings, not about economics and politics. With his perspective as a foreign transplant to Costa Rica and as a historian, Voelker said he believes that he sees some things that other Costa Rican representational artists tend to overlook. 

For example, he paints the hanging flor de itabo.  “I like to paint this flower, like van Gogh painted his sunflowers,”  he said. Another example is the Caribbean bicyclist holding an umbrella while cycling in the rain.  Clusters of old wooden workers houses, like those found near Quepos and Parrita are a recent theme of interest.  “Soon they will all be demolished and it’s already started,” he said.

The exhibit also includes 18 oils from Voelker's travels to other Latin American nations, including Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador and Argentina.  “While I love the scenic options that Costa Rica provides me, I must explore other Latin countries, to find those people living far from cities, to paint agricultural workers in traditional clothes, or going deep into the exotic jungle,  just as had done my artistic heroes, the Frenchman Paul Gauguín and the early 20th Century German Expressionists,” said Voelker.
For more information would-be visitors can contact the Museo Juan Santamaría at 2441-4775 or visit the Web page at  The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is closed Mondays.  

Voelker moved to Costa Rica in 2004. Voelker had his first art class in Heredia that year, he has said. He is a pensionado who retired from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit.
flor de itabo
Flor de itabo as captured by Donaldo Voelker

The artist with one of his works

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, April 30, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 85
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

French reporter captured
by Colombian rebels

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian officials say a French journalist is missing after a military mission he was covering was attacked by leftist rebels in southern Colombia.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Sunday Romeo Langlois, a reporter for news channel France 24 was taken prisoner during the firefight.  He gave no details about who was holding Langlois or where, or whether the hostage-takers were in contact with French or Colombian authorities.

The Colombian Defense Ministry said Langlois was accompanying police and military forces on a mission to dismantle drug laboratories in the jungles of the southern state of Caqueta.

It said three soldiers and a police officer were killed Sunday in the gun battle with the Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia rebels. Five soldiers earlier reported missing were later found alive.

The rebels known as FARC have been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.  Their numbers have dwindled over the years, but some analysts estimate the group has as many as 9,000 fighters.

FARC has been designated as a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States and the European Union.

Cuban film stars make
real their acting roles

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two Cuban actors who starred in a film about defectors have themselves defected to the United States.

Actress Anailin de la Rua and actor Javier Nunez came out of hiding Saturday to confirm that they will apply for political asylum.

The two disappeared last week while on their way from Cuba to New York to attend the Tribeca Film Festival.

Their film, Una Noche, “One Night”, follows three Cuban teenagers who try to escape their homeland on a raft to start a new life in Miami. Ms. De la Rua and Nunez, who fell in love during filming, play a brother and sister, but only one of them survives the risky journey.

The film won three awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, including the best actor award for Javier Nunez, which he shared with another of the film's actors.

The pair said their real-life decision to leave Cuba stemmed from the success of the film and invitations to travel to premieres overseas.

Religion said losing ground
with young Americans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

College campuses are among the least religious places in America, largely because people tend to drift away from faith when they are young. But a study focusing on 18- to 24-year-old Americans finds many rejecting religious doctrine and orthodoxy in general.

Findings of the Millennial Values Survey, a joint survey of the Public Religion Research Institute, and Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, indicate that many of the youngest millennials — members of the so called millennial generation — are leaving their childhood faith and ending up mostly unaffiliated.

Around one quarter of respondents said they don't identify with any religion, more than twice the 11 percent raised in households without any particular faith.

According to Dr. Robert Jones, the research institute's CEO and one of the study's lead researchers, this group is changing the way Americans view and practice religion.

"Basically all the varieties of Christian religion are in negative territories," said Jones, adding that Catholics and white mainline Protestants saw the largest losses away from childhood religious identification.

"Millennials kind of have a complicated relationship with religion," said Abigail Clauhs, one of a group of university students from around the country invited to be present at the survey's release.

"In my own personal experience dealing with other millennials my age, there's a lot of those kinds of stories of 'Well, I was raised like this, but I am now this, or I'm not religious at all,'" she said. "There's a lot of shifting, and people don't tend to be as committed to one strict set of doctrines or dogmas, even if they might be spiritual still."

Ms. Clauhs, a religion major at Boston University, was raised by a southern Baptist father and a Roman Catholic mother.

"I actually identify as Unitarian Universalist now," she said, explaining with a chuckle that "you're allowed to believe what you want."

Only 23 percent of the survey's respondents said they believe the Bible is the word of God and should be taken literally. And while 76 percent agreed with the statement that Christianity "has good values and principals," more than six in 10 said the way the faith is practiced today is judgmental and anti-gay.

Jones said it may not be surprising that millennials are less likely to attend church than older Americans.

"Even on very basic questions like the nature of God, for example, we see millennials much less likely to believe in a personal God that one can have a relationship with, and much more likely to believe in a kind of God as an impersonal force," he said.

The survey's results also suggest that many millennials aren't looking for spirituality online. Fewer than half of respondents with Facebook accounts, for example, list a religious affiliation on their profile page.

But Jones said results do suggest millennials are seeking spirituality, albeit with less commitment than the traditional structured church experience.

"A social service opportunity for you to go and do some good in the city, that's going to be connected to the deepest things you believe about reality and God," he said, describing the kind of experience that might appeal to them. "And you know you can come this time, maybe you don't come next time, and you know six months later you'll come again.

"That kind of more free-form engagement, that's something that this generation is really looking for," he said, adding that millennials "really do look to change the face of religion in the country."
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This is the new Coronado fire station that was dedicated Saturday in Urbanización Villa Flores, San Francisco. The structure replaces one that has been donated for the fire agency's use since 2006.

Sales tax reports soon
to be due electronically

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's tax collector has set June 1 as the date for fully electronic sales tax reports.

The reports that usually are due by the 15th of the month have been produced during the last few months on the  EDDI-7 system that was supplied to taxpayers by the Dirección General de Tributación, the tax collector.  The computer produced a document that contained a bar code. Taxpayers would take these to a bank and present the form with payment of the tax.

After June 1 banks will not accept the form, said Tributación. Instead, the form will be sent directly to the tax collecting agency via the Internet. Payment will then be made online, too, to the Tributación account at the various banks.

The agency of the Ministerio de Hacienda has been moving toward electronic reporting for the last year.

U.S. is seeking to award
$850,000 in green grants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. government is prepared to award up to $850,000 to organizations interested in promoting clean energy in Central America and the Caribbean.

The grants will be the result of a competition in which  organizations will submit proposals. The competition is part of a cooperation under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, according to the U.S. Embassy. This initiative intends to support regional projects that include activities in two or more countries in Central America or the Caribbean, it said.

The money is subject to budget approval by the U.S. congress, the embassy noted. The Barack Obama administration has been criticized for its lavish spending on alternate energy projects, including some that have gone bankrupt.

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