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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, May 3, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 88                           Email us
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July 4 U.S. expat picnic returning to Cervercería site
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The American Colony Committee is returning to the Cervercería Costa Rica picnic grounds for the July 4 bash this year.

The committee also is returning to the tradition of a morning event, although the time this year will be a bit later, from 9 a.m. to 1p.m.

The committee joined with Avenida Escazú last year for a July 4 celebration at the shopping strip, but Mother nature soaked the proceedings to such an extent that traffic was snarled all over the Central Valley and many would-be attendees just could not make the festivities.

The committee described the change in a letter to potential donors. Last year Avenida Escazú picked up the tab, but this year the committee again has to raise funds. As the letter pointed out, the committee receives no U.S. government funding. The letter did not say if the committee would revert to the policy of charging a fee for those who come to enjoy the festivities. In the past a fee of 2,500 colons (about $5) was assessed for adults who attended the Cervercería celebration.
The picnic has grown over more than 50 years from a U.S. expat gathering at the home of the U.S. ambassador, to the present event that draws thousands. This picnic will be the 52nd organized by the committee, it said.

The picnic was designed to provide the children of U.S. expats with a real July 4 celebration. Children still are a priority with games and rides in previous years. The Cervercería grounds west of San José contains a large field for all types of games. Usually services clubs, the U.S. Embassy and veteran groups set up informational booths for visitors.

The event has been restricted to U.S. citizens and close family members.  That has drawn some criticism, but committee spokespersons reply that the food, soft drinks and beer would be exhausted quickly if the general public were invited. This year the committee says that U.S. citizens, their families and their Tico friends can celebrate the 236th year of independence of the United States.

The committee has a Web site where additional information will be published. For now, it includes photos and descriptions of previous July 4 events and a brief history.


National museum will celebrate its 125 years Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday the Museo Nacional will celebrate its 125th birthday with a public celebration at the museum and the adjoining Plaza de la Democracia.

Entrance to the downtown museum will be free that day for Costa Ricans and residents with identification. At 10:30 a.m. museum officials and representatives from Correos de Costa Rica will unveil a commemorative stamp that marks the birthday. Then the Banda de Conciertos de San José under the direction of Juan Bautista Loaiza will play the first of three concerts scheduled for the museum grounds. Other concerts are Saturday and Sunday. The music will be Costa Rican, the museum said.

Also Friday a major event is planned for the evening. At 5:30 p.m. music groups will play in the plaza. The museum said the types of dance would include fusion, aerobatics, vertical dance and dancing with fire.

Following that will be a program titled Un Viaje al
museum logo

Mundo de los Ancestros or “a trip to the world of the ancestors.”

The sound and light show will feature acrobatic artists descending from the walls of the museum dressed as mystical animals from the pre-Columbian era, including reptiles, birds, cats and others, said the museum.

A description said that the idea is to create a time portal through which spectators can experience the magic of the ancestors who lived close to nature and animals and these relationships dominated their lives.

The Grupo Metamorfosis will close the evening event with original music and also jazz, rock, fusion and Latin. The entire event is free. The museum is between Avenida Central and Avenida 2 in the eastern part of the downtown opposite the legislative complex.


Owners of 65,000 vehicles have not paid road tax
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national insurance institute said Wednesday that owners of some 65,000 vehicles have not paid the marchamo or road tax for 2012. That is about 6.2 percent of the vehicles in the country, it added.

There are 23,859 motorcycles listed as unpaid and 845 buses, it said.

Drivers who are caught circulating without the required marchamo can be fined 308,295 colons, some $616, said the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.
So far this year, 994,574 operators have paid the required road tax on their vehicles and the amount they paid was 117 billion colons, said the institute. That's about $234 million.

The road tax is supposed to be paid by Dec. 31. If it is not, interest and a fine is assessed. Some owners do not pay the tax because their vehicles no longer are road worthy or because they have accumulated traffic fines that have a value greater than the vehicle.

The institute collects unpaid traffic fines with the road tax.

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Land use in Golfito seen
as generating problems


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials came out with a critical report Wednesday on the canton of Golfito.

Despite a 1.2 billion-colon investment by emergency officials, the developmental disorder of the area can generate disasters, said the report.

The document was prepared by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, the Ministerio del Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones and the Estado de la Nación. A summary came from the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, which said it had invested substantial sums in disaster mitigation in the area.

Better planning and use of the land would help prevent disasters, said the commission. Of particular concern was development in flood plains.

The commission said that it had in reserve about 500 million colons, about $1 million, for more work in the area. This includes extraction of material from the Río Claro.

Public employees facing
financial report deadline


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 12,500 persons who hold top jobs in government have to report their financial standing by May 22, said the Contraloría de la República. This is an annual measure to reduce corruption.

The Contraloría is receiving such documents from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. until then and also has aides available to help public employees with their paperwork.

Staffers from the Contraloría also will be making rounds to agencies that have a number of persons who must make the reports. The employees must swear to the accuracy of the reports.


Traffic police welcome
59 new police officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Traffic officials welcomed 59 new officers Wednesday. The recruits have completed a basic course in traffic law and handling highway traffic. They join 850 officers currently on duty.

The recruits also received training in equipment, such as weapons, radar guns and alcohol sensors, said the Dirección General de Tránsito.

 
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!
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Nicoya fish
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photos
These are just a small part of the many species that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.
Fishing institute provides a guide to the many fish in the ocean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ever run into a fish and no matter how deep you dig, you just cannot come up with a name?

Well, the government's Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura has a cheat sheet.

There is a very low likelihood of running into a fish at a neighborhood cocktail party unless it is on a plate. But fishing fans have the problem all the time.

The institute has been the subject of a lot of criticism, in part because of an apparent blind eye to shark finning.

However, the institute Web site had row after row of fish that might be raised commercially, like tilapia or that can be found in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Who knew that there were so many species there? Who knew that there were so many named corvina?
dream rainbow
Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura photo
This rainbow trout is one of the commercially raised species.

The institute site also has a number of useful links for fishing captains and others who know the regional fishing news, including red tides. The site also has a link to a NASA contractor that provides satellite shots. Such information is vital for predicting the weather.


Giant plastic bottle sculpture planned to raise awareness
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local environmental organization is beginning an awareness campaign about the great amount of plastic in the oceans.

The organization is Preserve the Planet, and it is working with the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Preserve the Planet said it would erect a large structure of plastic near the Gimnasio Nacional in Parque la Sabana and inaugurate it Tuesday.

Artist Francesco Bracci created the work which is supposed to show the way humans are mistreating the environment with plastic. The structure is to be 14 meters wide by nine meters high, or 46 feet by about 30. It is being called the Ola de Plastico or “wave of plastic.”
Most readers have seen photos of Pacific beaches where the discarded plastic bottles of the Central Valley accumulate. Less well known is that when plastic enters the sea it is chopped finely and infiltrates hundreds of feet of the top layers of the oceans. By this time most of the pieces are measured in millimeters. Scientists worry about ocean life ingesting these plastic particles and the possibility that they may carry disease and unwanted marine life to new locations.

Luis Diego Marín Schumacher, coordinator of Preserve the Planet, estimated that the sculpture contains 6,000 discarded plastic bottles.

Marín said he expected San José Mayor Johnny Araya Monge to inaugurate the display.

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Bilingual teens appear to handle important sounds better
By the Northwestern University news staff

A new Northwestern University study provides the first biological evidence that bilinguals’ rich experience with language fine-tunes their auditory nervous system and helps them juggle linguistic input in ways that enhance attention and working memory.

Northwestern bilingualism expert Viorica Marian teamed up with auditory neuroscientist Nina Kraus to investigate how bilingualism affects the brain. In particular, they looked at subcortical auditory regions that are bathed with input from cognitive brain areas.

Ms. Kraus has already shown that lifelong music training enhances language processing, and looking at subcortical auditory regions helped to tell that tale. “For our joint study, we asked if bilingualism could also promote experience-dependent changes in the fundamental encoding of sound in the brainstem -- an evolutionarily ancient part of the brain,” said Ms. Marian, professor of communication sciences.

The answer is a resounding yes, according to the study in the April 30 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found the experience of bilingualism changes how the nervous system responds to sound.

“People do crossword puzzles and other activities to keep their minds sharp,” Ms. Marian said. “But the advantages we’ve 
discovered in dual language speakers come automatically simply from knowing and using two languages. It seems that the benefits of bilingualism are particularly powerful and broad, and include attention, inhibition and encoding of sound.”

“Bilingualism serves as enrichment for the brain and has real consequences when it comes to executive function, specifically attention and working memory,” said Ms. Kraus. In future studies, she and Ms. Marian will investigate whether these advantages can be achieved by learning a language later in life.

In the study, the researchers recorded the brainstem responses to complex sounds in 23 bilingual English-and-Spanish-speaking teenagers and 25 English-only-speaking teens as they heard speech sounds in two conditions.

Under a quiet condition, the groups responded similarly. But against a backdrop of background noise, the bilingual brains were significantly better at encoding the fundamental frequency of speech sounds known to underlie pitch perception and grouping of auditory objects. This enhancement was linked with advantages in auditory attention.

“Bilinguals are natural jugglers,” said Ms. Marian. “The bilingual juggles linguistic input and, it appears, automatically pays greater attention to relevant versus irrelevant sounds. Rather than promoting linguistic confusion, bilingualism promotes improved inhibitory control,’ or the ability to pick out relevant speech sounds and ignore others.”


Radio show designed to bring public science and technology
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two women are launching a radio show that will report and generate discussion on science and technology.

The women are journalist Ana Madrigal and Paola Vega, who holds a doctorate in microelectronics from the Hamburg,  Germany, Technical University. The show will be aired 
 Saturdays at 11 a.m. on Radio Actual (107.1 FM), said the  Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología, which supports the project.

The show is called Proyecto Costa Rica 2050. Eventually the producers want to expand to television, the printed media and special events to continue to bring news of science to the public, they said.

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Chávez OKs labor law
that greatly favors workers


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuela's president has signed into law a new labor code that greatly favors workers.

Based on summaries by publications in Caracas, the code reduced the work week two hours to 40 hours and eliminates subcontracting in the country.

The measure also reinstates the premium that workers received up to 1997 on retirement. The code also requires employers to pay retroactively workers who did not receive this premium since 1997.

President Hugo Chávez said on television as he signed the measure that the priority of the law was workers rights and not capitalistic profit.

The law also requires employers to pay wrongfully dismissed employees double their retirement bonus.

New parents also receive two years job security and mothers receive paid maternity leave six weeks before and 20 weeks after birth. Fathers get two to four weeks maternity leave. Parents also receive paid time off if children are sick, said the code.

Chávez is a candidate for reelection Oct. 7.


Catholic hierarchy unhappy
with nuns helping poor


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After a night on the street, dozens of homeless men and women file into a shelter in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring. A walk down the hall takes them to the cafeteria, where they get a hot breakfast, and attention from a secularly-clothed nun, Sister Mary Mulholland.

"Lilly, how are you?" she asks one of them. "You don't look like you're too good today."

They are the down and out of this city. But their lives are a little better because after 20 years as a Catholic school religion teacher, Sister Mary left the job to help people who have nowhere else to go.

"This is how I get grounded in my life, this is what the Gospel means for me, to live out the gospel," says the 66-year-old sister.

There are many nuns in America living out their faith like Sister Mary Mulholland.  But the Vatican says they are not doing enough to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.

Last month, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the panel that enforces Catholic orthodoxy, issued a doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the umbrella organization that represents the majority of the 55,000 nuns in the United States. 

The assessment said that while there has been a great deal of work on the part of Leadership Conference promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.

The panel, headed by American Cardinal William Levada, appointed Seattle Bishop Peter Sartain to overhaul governance of the Leadership Conference.

Sister Mary Mulholland belongs to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a Leadership congregation headed by Sister Pat McDermott.

"We are stunned, we are shocked," Sister Pat said. "I think the sense of being shocked has turned to a real deep sadness, and an anger, of the judgments that seemingly are being made about our lives."

One of the judgments in the doctrinal assessment was that nuns are flirting with radical feminism.

McDermott says they are just living out the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which allowed nuns to shed the habit and called on them to live among the poor.

"And now we find ourselves being judged seemingly from another standard," she said.

Donna Bethel of Christendom College, a conservative Catholic liberal arts school in Front Royal, Virginia, says the problem is that sisters are pursuing social justice the wrong way.

"You can't say you're devoted to social justice and ignore the problem of abortion," she said. "If you cannot respect life, what is the point of all the other rights?"

Sister Pat sees it differently. "The Catholic tradition has always been a 'both-and' tradition, so faith without good works, that is not our story.  Faith with good works is our story," she said.

For Sister Mary, that means trying to find someone a job and a place to live, and not trying to impose her beliefs on others.

"We all carry a piece of the truth.  That is the way I see it," she said.  "And when we put it all together, we get closer to the revelation that God wants to come to."

Critics say that while the Catholic Church's male hierarchy has avoided accountability for sex scandals, it is disciplining a dwindling group of American women who have consecrated their lives to their faith.
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Robotic space shuttle
will not fly this Monday


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A private company called SpaceX plans to attempt something that has only been accomplished by governments — sending a spacecraft up to the International Space Station.  But SpaceX issued a statement Wednesday saying the Monday launch had to be postponed, adding that SpaceX is "continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA."  A new launch date has yet to be set.

If all goes according to plan, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying its unmanned Dragon capsule will lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Then, the cargo-carrying spacecraft will journey toward the International Space Station, where it will dock, if all goes well.

It is the first time a private company will attempt such a mission.

This demonstration launch had been targeted for November 2011, then rescheduled multiple times this year.

Elon Musk, the chief executive officer at SpaceX, said at a NASA news briefing last month that many things can go wrong with such complex, relatively new technologies.

He said the biggest challenges have been related to Dragon's planned proximity and berthing operations with the space station, and he said software testing has been the main cause of delays.

"Does the software always do the right thing in a particular circumstance?  And when you've got 18 engines and you've got six flight computers and a whole bunch of other systems, the test matrix of that is enormous," said Musk.

Musk said the Falcon 9 rocket, which has been tested twice, is not the issue.  Nor are the elements of the Dragon spacecraft that were tested during its orbital mission in 2010, such as its thrusters, heat shield and parachutes.

He emphasized that Dragon is an autonomous, robotic spaceship and that berthing with the space station is a complicated maneuver.

"It's not as though there is somebody flying it with a joystick or that there is somebody on board who can make real-time corrections," he said. "Dragon is making lots of decisions all the time to optimize the probability of success, so there's a lot of intelligence on board the spacecraft and all of that has to be tested thoroughly, and that's the biggest driver of the timeline."

SpaceX made history when it successfully tested its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule in December 2010.  It is the only commercial company to re-enter a spacecraft from Earth orbit.  But the next step is for the reusable Dragon to make it to the space station, which is zooming around the Earth every 90 minutes.

The station is well stocked, so there are no concerns if the astronauts do not get the cargo on this demonstration flight.

To date, NASA has invested $381 million in SpaceX's commercial cargo capabilities.  The U.S. space agency is investing in commercial companies to handle low-Earth orbit transportation so NASA can focus on the next generation of spacecraft that can go deeper into space.











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