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(506) 2223-1327                      Published Wednesday, May 2, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 87                            Email us
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labor day marchers
A.M. Costa Rica photos
The May 1 labor day march attracted thousands
of union members and many individual protesters Tuesday, including some voicing opinions against corruption. There also were a half dozen independent bands, oversized masks of politicians

and those seeking to defend the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The political left was well-represented, too. The day was hot and sunny for the most part. More of the story is

Another moderate quake takes place at gulf hot spot
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday saw a flurry of moderate earthquakes in Costa Rica including one at the sensitive mouth of the Gulf of Nicoya. In the Pacific offshore from Chiapas, México, monitoring stations recorded a 5.8 to 6.3 quake at 4:43 p.m. Costa Rica time.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said that the larger quake was about 510 kilometers (316 miles) northwest of La Cruz, Guanacaste.

The Gulf of Nicoya quake was in about the same area as one last Nov. 2 and also one March 25, 1990, that was estimated at 7.0 magnitude and caused substantial damage on the peninsula.

The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica estimated the epicenter at the mouth of the gulf to be about 27.5 kilometers (16 miles) east of Cabo Blanco at the peninsula's tip and 25.7 kilometers (17 miles) west southwest of Jacó in the central Pacific coast. The quake took place at 4:08 p.m., said the  Laboratorio, which said the magnitude was 3.0. The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico estimated the magnitude at 2.7.

There were two other felt quakes Tuesday. The first was at 43 minutes after midnight near San Carlos de Tarrazú. The magnitude was estimated at 2.5 by the Observatorio. A bit more than an hour later, at 1:46 a.m., a quake took place northeast of Golfito in the southern mountains. The Observatorio said the magnitude was 2.5.

Earthquake experts have been predicting a major event somewhere in the Gulf of Nicoya or further to the north. There was a flurry of quakes at the

quake location
Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico graphic
Green dot indicated estimated epicenter.

mouth of the gulf Nov. 2 with the largest being estimated at 5.4. Earthquake scientists do not see these events as a sign of bigger quakes to come, but many residents think that these smaller quakes take the pressure off the internal stresses of the earth's crust, and they welcome them.

Costa Rica is one of the most earthquake-prone and volcanically active countries in the world, according to the University of California at Santa Cruz, which has studied the area extensively. Just off the west coast is the Middle America Trench, where a section of the sea floor called the Cocos Plate dives beneath Central America, generating powerful earthquakes and feeding a string of active volcanoes, said researchers. This type of boundary between two converging plates of the earth's crust is called a subduction zone ― and such zones are notorious for generating the most powerful and destructive earthquakes.

Scientists have been trying to prepare Nicoya residents for what they believe is an inevitable major earthquake. In fact, the Red Sismológica Nacional at the Universidad de Costa Rica held general meetings for Nicoya residents a year ago to alert them and suggest ways to prepare.

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Sports fishing contest
in Papagayo June 6 to 9

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Serious sports fishing fans will be at the Presidential Papagayo Cup June 6 to 9, sponsored by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

The cup contest is one of the Presidential Challenge series dedicated to the conservation and protection of billfish and inshore gamefish.

The tournament format provides for cash prizes based on the number of participating teams, plus an optional jackpot to further increase the amount that can be won by the top three, said Presidential Challenge Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Proceeds from such events will benefit The Billfish Foundation Central America Billfish Management Project, the Adopt-A-Billfish Satellite Tagging Program and the Take Marlin Off The Menu program of the International Game Fish Association.

The Papagayo Cup event is being hosted by Marina Papagayo. The location is in northwest Costa Rica, which organizers say is in the heart of the country's summer marlin and sailfish grounds

New finance minister
formally sworn in

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new financial minister returned from Africa in time to be sworn in Tuesday. He is Edgar Ayales Esna of Curridabat.

Ayales replaced Fernando Hererro who was forced to quit because of a series of tax scandals. Ayales has worked at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

His first job as head of the Ministerio de Hacienda will be to work with lawmakers to obtain passages of several interim measures President Laura Chinchilla has proposed to tighten tax collection.

The 62-year-old economist was in Africa consulting with the government of Angola.

Find out what the papers
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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!
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One of the more unruly demonstrators at the Asamblea Legislative Tuesday afternoon made clear how she feels about the politicians who were inside. Others used a megaphone.

The woman wears a visor from a teachers group, the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, but that does not mean she is a member.
A.M. Costa Rica photo

President will set up committee to study democracy here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla said Tuesday that she soon would set up a committee of experts to improve the functioning and quality of the country's democracy. She said she is seeking a discussion with practical consequences.

The announcement follows the president's obvious frustration with her inability to get measures passed by the Asamblea Legislativa. She was speaking in her state of the country address to the lawmakers.

As she has said before, she told her audience that the process of making laws that is shared by the three major powers of the government results in confusion and long waits. She repeated her claim that the minority can impose its will on the democratically elected majority. She was critical of union and corporate pressures.

This is the same statement she made when the Sala IV constitutional court ruled that her massive tax plan had been passed improperly by the legislature. Opposition lawmakers brought the process to the court.

Former president Óscar Arias Sánchez had similar ideas, and he, too, suggested changing the Costa Rican Constitution after his long battle to win passage of the free trade treaty with the United States.

Ms. Chinchilla's statements are unusual because she has a political science education, and she must know that the role of any constitution is to protect the minority from the majority.

Other than her announcement of a committee, which she did not describe in detail, the president's speech contained little new for anyone who had been reading the newspapers. She outlined many new programs, took credit for a reduction in crime and said organized crime was a serious threat. She also seemed to take credit for an increase in tourism. She said that the country saw 2 million tourists last year. She did not mention that more than 400,000 were from Nicaragua. She also took credit for an improved economic situation.

At the end of her speech she apologized, saying:

“I know that I have committed errors in these first two years of my administration, and I appreciate the frank and constructive criticism that allowed me to fix them. However, I can guarantee you that I acted with absolute honesty and good faith, moved only by my deep convictions and desire to serve my people.”

The president made no mention of the tax scandals and others that have ravaged her administration. She did appear to expect that her tax proposals would again come before lawmakers. She is pushing for an expanded 14 percent value-added tax and has also asked lawmakers to pass interim measures against evasion and improved tax collections.

The president has good reason to be hopeful because her Partido Liberación Nacional forged a new coalition with the minority Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión to win control of the legislature. A member of that party, Víctor Emilio Granados, was elected assembly president for the coming year in a vote earlier Tuesday. Two other members of the four-member party obtained directorate positions. Meanwhile, Liberación gained control of most of the assembly committees, including the one that considers financial measures. 
leftist party
A.M. Costa Rica photo
 Red was the color of the day for leftist marchers. One group
 even had a sound truck play the 'Internationale,' the
 socialist anthem.

During the morning parade celebrating the International Day of the Worker, Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión was the object
of scorn for having broken a coalition that ruled the assembly since May 1, 2011. Then in the early afternoon a vocal group of about 25 persons gathered outside the assembly complex and shouted at the lawmakers who were meeting inside. There was one megaphone.

One concern voiced by the small, unruly group was that the new assembly president was convicted of fraud against Banco Nacional in the 1980s. They were so vocal that employees of the assembly left their jobs to watch the spectacle. One women continued to make rude gestures. They still were there when Ms. Chinchilla spoke in the evening, but police ended up dispersing them.

That was the most passionate display during the day. Most of the nation's public employee unions marched accompanied by a handful of independent bands and sound trucks. The various parties of the political left had a strong turnout. Frente Amplio, which has just one lawmaker in the assembly augmented their numbers by promising a party after the parade.

At one point some union members associated with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social joined hands and encircled the block on which the Caja headquarters stands. A theme of the day was to protect the Caja against aggressive politicians. The Caja, the nation's health provider, has experienced a shakeup in its board of directors. Some unions seek to put a member of their organization on the board.

There was a heavy police presence, but no disturbances were reported until the incidents at the legislative complex where officers had erected barriers.

The Cámara de Industrias quickly responded to the president's talk by saying its members were pleased that Ms. Chinchilla reported on procedures to improve the submission of paperwork and pushed for private electrical generating. The president had said that creating a corporation had been reduced to just 20 days during her administration.

The chamber cited paperwork for approvals at the Ministerio de Salud and environmental approvals by the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. However, the chamber statement noted that the president was short on specifics when she spoke of small business and agriculture.

May Day marked with parades and marches around the world
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets in cities around the world to mark International Workers Day with marches and calls for higher pay and better working conditions.

In Europe, workers filled the streets in Athens, Paris, Madrid and elsewhere, where protests were fueled by growing anger at the austerity measures governments have imposed to cut their budget deficits. In Madrid, thousands demonstrated against the highest jobless rate in the 17-nation euro currency union and labor reforms that make it easier to fire workers.

One Greek union president, Kostas Tsikrikas, said the push for austerity has severely hurt workers.

"The problems we face today are as big as they have been in the past. Unfortunately, the harsh austerity policies that are imposed in our country by international lenders are policies that take us back by a century. They cancel rights that have been attained with the workers' struggles and sacrifices," said Tsikrikas.

In Russia, president-elect Vladimir Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev joined tens of thousands in a march through Moscow. Marchers held huge banners supporting their labor unions and factories.

One pensioner in Russia, Anna Maltseva, said May Day was a
celebration of the solidarity of workers throughout the world. "I would like this day not just to be a labor holiday every year, celebrating May and freedom, but an international day of solidarity among working people, when we all support each other widely, at least on this day," she said.

In Asia, thousands gathered in Taiwan and the capital cities of Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia to mark May Day with rallies organized by trade unions. The demonstrators called for higher wages to help them with rising consumer prices and voiced other complaints.

In Taiwan, one 30-year-old nurse, Li Hua-Cheng, deplored her working conditions in a hospital.

"We have been oppressed by the hospitals for a long time, and it has been hard especially when one person has to handle three people's jobs until we eventually develop health problems. This is very inhumane. Moreover, if we have health problems, then we can't provide good care to the patients, and if something happens to the patients, we could make mistakes because of fatigue," she said.

In New York, the May Day protests appeared to be substantially smaller than elsewhere around the globe.
Some demonstrators picketed in front of major corporate headquarters. On the country's West Coast, protesters disrupted ferry service in San Francisco.

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Caja reports surgeons have sucessfully repaired patient's aorta
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Surgeons at Hospital México have reconstructed the aorta of a patient. The job was in two steps 12 months apart, said the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, which operates the nation's public hospitals.

The aorta is the main blood vessel of the body. In the case of the patient, the aorta was malformed. There was a possibility of rupture without surgery, said the Caja.

The thoracic surgeon in charge was Edgar Méndez Jiménez. The Caja gave this explanation:

The patient also had a heart valve that was not working correctly. That was the first effort, and the valve was replaced with a Dacron tube with an artificial valve incorporated within.

To do that, the Caja said the patient was cooled to 16 degrees
C for 30 minutes to slow the flow of blood. That's 56 degrees F, far lower than normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees F or 37 degrees C. In addition the blood flow was diverted from the heart mechanically while the surgical team worked.

The second procedure 12 months later was more complicated, said the Caja. It involved replacing part of the aorta. To do that the patient again was cooled, this time for an hour and 15 minutes. External blood flow also was provided. The surgeons also used retrograde perfusion in which oxygenated blood was forced through the veins to keep the patient's brain alive during the surgery.

Then the surgeons used what is known as the elephant trunk procedure to put a 10-centimeter (about 4-inch) tube of Dacron around the aorta.

The Caja praised the work and said that this type of surgery can only be done at the better hospitals in the hemisphere.

Press group cites murder, abduction and attack against reporter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Inter American Press Association has condemned the murder in Mexico of journalist Regina Martínez, and expressed concern at the disappearance in Colombia of a French correspondent and at an attack on a radio announcer in Brazil.

According to information obtained by the association's Rapid Response Unit in Mexico, Ms. Martínez was the correspondent in Veracruz of the magazine Proceso for the past 10 years and was known for her balanced reporting of political matters, corruption, lack of safety and violence. She recently had been investigating alleged political corruption in the city of Veracruz, in the state of the same name.

Initial inquiries point to the fact that she had been beaten and then strangled Friday evening. Her body was found the following day in the bathtub at her home in Xalapa, the state capital, after a neighbor told police that that afternoon the door to Ms. Martínez’ house had been left open all day.

Ms. Martínez’ death raised indignation among journalists throughout the country and organizations in defense of press freedom and free speech, which called on the federal and state governments not to let the murder go unpunished, a plea which the Inter American Press Association has joined, said Gustavo Mohme, chairman of its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, added, “So long as we continue accumulating statistics concerning crimes against journalists in Mexico with none of them being solved, lack of punishment will reign.”

Ms. Martínez had also worked as a reporter for the local newspaper Diario de Xalapa and correspondent of the Veracruz paper La Jornada.
Since 2003 another seven journalists have been killed in Veracruz: Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Hugo Barragán Ortiz, Roberto Marcos García, Adolfo Sánchez Guzmán, Noel López Olguín, Yolanda Ordaz and Miguel Ángel López Velasco, along with his son and wife. Jesús Mejía Lechuga and Evaristo Ortega Zárate remain missing. None of the cases has been solved.

In Colombia the whereabouts remain unknown since Saturday of French journalist Roméo Langlois, correspondent of France 24 television. He was accompanying the Colombian Army in Caquetá province with the aim of making a documentary about the war on drug trafficking.

That day there was heavy fighting between soldiers and guerrillas belonging to the self-styled Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. According to the army, Langlois was believed to have been injured, stripped of his equipment, bulletproof vest and protective helmet, to have declared himself to be a civilian and to have withdrawn from the combat zone. It is presumed that he was abducted by the rebels.

Later Tuesday a woman caller claiming to represent rebels said that the Frenchman had been captured and was being held as a prisoner of war.

In another development, the journalism advocacy association expressed concern at an attack carried out in Brazil. Early Saturday morning unidentified assailants shot at the home of radio reporter Vinicius Henriques in the town of João Pessoa, capital of Paraíba state. There were no reports of injuries during the attack.

Henriques is host of the newscast “Rota da Noticia” aired by Rádio Arapuan FM, in which he covers the police beat.

Editor's Note: The parent corporation of A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter American Press Association.

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Five said to be anarchists
held in Ohio bridge plot

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Five men have been arrested by federal authorities for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge near the U.S. city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Cleveland division, Stephen Anthony, says the five were taken into custody late Monday, after they attempted to remotely detonate devices they bought from undercover FBI agents.

"The individuals explored the illegal purchase of explosives, as well as the concept of using precursor chemicals and Internet knowledge to make homemade explosives.  They ultimately negotiated with FBI undercover agents and purchased two inert, I say inert, improvised explosive devices, IEDs, which were presented as C-4-based remote-activated IEDs," Anthony said.

A criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland identifies three of the suspects as "self-proclaimed anarchists."  Authorities say the men had considered a series of evolving plots over several months.

The complaint says the initial plot involved using smoke grenades to distract law enforcement so that the suspects could topple financial institution signs on top of buildings in downtown Cleveland.  Later, the plot reportedly grew to include remotely detonating C-4 explosives.  The final plan identified a bridge near Cleveland as the target.

Authorities say the plot is not connected to the one-year anniversary of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's death.

Fugitive who ran vet scam
finally caught in Oregon

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

U.S. federal marshals have captured a fugitive accused of running a scam that raised $100 million dollars from people who thought they were donating to help U.S. Navy veterans.

Authorities identify the suspect as “Bobby Thompson,” which they say is one of many aliases he used. Federal agents captured him Monday in Portland, Oregon, charging him with crimes including theft, fraud, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Thompson had been on the run for two years since he was indicted in Ohio. He was featured twice on America's Most Wanted, a popular television series that profiled fugitives. Ohio's attorney general said it is believed he stole up to $2 million from people in Ohio.

Authorities say Thompson founded a group called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, and raised nearly $100 million from private donors. But officials say very little of the money, if any, actually went to help American veterans.

Thompson's co-conspirator pled guilty to the scheme last year and is serving a five-year prison term.

Evo Morales follows lead
of Cristina Fernandez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

Bolivian President Evo Morales says the government is taking over the Spanish-owned power company and he ordered the army to seize control of the electricity grid.

Morales said Tuesday Spain's Red Electrica company's investment in Bolivia was inadequate. He also said the government should be responsible for generating electricity.

Morales did not say how the Bolivian government would compensate the Spanish company. Its Bolivian assets were responsible for less than 3 percent of its 2011 revenue.

Bolivia's move comes just weeks after Argentina said it would nationalize the local branch of Spain's Repsol's oil company. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also accused that Spanish-owned company of a lack of investment in the local economy.

Judge rejects immunity
for high profile rape case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The former head of the International Monetary Fund will have to appear in court in connection with allegations he tried to rape a hotel maid in New York.

A U.S. judge Tuesday rejected a motion by Dominique Strauss-Kahn to have the lawsuit thrown out on the grounds he has diplomatic immunity.

State Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon in the Bronx ruled the French politician cannot claim immunity from the civil suit filed by New York hotel maid Nafisatou Diallo because he did not claim immunity following his arrest last May. The judge said Strauss-Kahn further undermined any claim to immunity by resigning shortly after the alleged incident became public.

Diallo said Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in his Manhattan hotel suite, but prosecutors dropped criminal charges last summer, citing doubts about Diallo's credibility.

Diallo then filed suit against Strauss-Kahn in civil court. Strauss-Kahn has denied doing anything violent during the encounter with Diallo.

Strauss-Kahn's attorney, Amit Mehta, had argued that an International Monetary Fund chief enjoys the same diplomatic immunity as a French ambassador. Mehta argued that executives of the international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations need immunity from prosecution so that these agencies can function properly.

Diallo's lawyers said the immunity claim relies on a U.N. agreement the U.S. did not sign.

In March, the former Fund chief was charged with pimping as part of organized crime in France. His French lawyers said Strauss-Kahn is being hounded for his libertine ways.  The Socialist politician was once considered a top rival to President Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election.
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Venus to pass over sun
in rare planetary event

By the Institute of Physics news staff

On June 5 and 6, millions of people around the world will be able to see Venus pass across the face of the Sun in what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It will take Venus about six hours to complete its transit, appearing as a small black dot on the Sun’s surface in an event that will not happen again until 2117.

In this month’s Physics World, Jay M. Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College, Massachusetts, explores the science behind Venus’s transit and gives an account of its fascinating history.

Transits of Venus occur only on the very rare occasions when Venus and the Earth are in a line with the Sun. At other times Venus passes below or above the Sun because the two orbits are at a slight angle to each other. Transits occur in pairs separated by eight years, with the gap between pairs of transits alternating between 105.5 and 121.5 years. The last transit was in 2004.

Building on the original theories of Nicolaus Copernicus from 1543, scientists were able to predict and record the transits of both Mercury and Venus in the centuries that followed.

Johannes Kepler successfully predicted that both planets would transit the Sun in 1631, part of which was verified with Mercury’s transit of that year. But the first transit of Venus to actually be viewed was in 1639 – an event that had been predicted by the English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks. He observed the transit in the village of Much Hoole in Lancashire – the only other person to see it being his correspondent, William Crabtree, in Manchester.

Later, in 1716, Edmond Halley proposed using a transit of Venus to predict the precise distance between the Earth and the Sun, known as the astronomical unit.  As a result, hundreds of expeditions were sent all over the world to observe the 1761 and 1769 transits. A young James Cook took the Endeavour to the island of Tahiti, where he successfully observed the transit at a site that is still called Point Venus.

Pasachoff expects the transit to confirm his team’s theory about the phenomenon called “the black-drop effect” – a strange, dark band linking Venus's silhouette with the sky outside the Sun that appears for about a minute starting just as Venus first enters the solar disk.

Pasachoff and his colleagues will concentrate on observing Venus's atmosphere as it appears when Venus is only half onto the solar disk.  He also believes that observations of the transit will help astronomers who are looking for extrasolar planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

"Doing so verifies that the techniques for studying events on and around other stars hold true in our own backyard. In other words, by looking up close at transits in our solar system, we may be able to see subtle effects that can help exoplanet hunters explain what they are seeing when they view distant suns," Pasachoff writes.

Not content with viewing this year's transit from Earth, scientists in France will be using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the effect of Venus’s transit very slightly darkening the Moon. Pasachoff and colleagues even hope to use Hubble to watch Venus passing in front of the Sun as seen from Jupiter – an event that will take place on 20 September this year – and will be using NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting Saturn, to see a transit of Venus from Saturn on 21 December.

“We are fortunate in that we are truly living in a golden period of planetary transits and it is one of which I hope astronomers can take full advantage,” he writes.

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