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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, June 2, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 109        E-mail us    
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When you eat, your brain slows down
Fighting the snooze gap: Siesta has value

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite all its traditions and cultural achievements, there still is a glaring lack in Costa Rica:

The siesta.

When all over the Latin world people are snuggling down for a half hour of shuteye after lunch, Costa Ricans must return to work groggy and fighting heavy eyelids.

Venezuelans have siestas. The siesta defines Mexican culture. What happened here?

Perhaps the siesta never caught on in the Central Valley because the climate is temperate and residents need not retreat from the midday heat. But maybe the rest of the Latin world is right after all.

Now there are scientific findings to support the idea of a siesta.

Scientists at The University of Manchester, England, have for the first time uncovered how brain cells or neurons that keep humans alert become turned off after the body takes on food, the university reported.

The findings — published in the scientific journal Neuron this week — have implications for treating obesity and eating disorders as well as understanding levels of consciousness.

"It has been known for a while that people and animals can become sleepy and less


active after a meal, but brain signals responsible for this were poorly understood," said Dr. Denis Burdakov, the lead researcher based in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences.

"We have pinpointed how glucose — the sugar in food — can stop brain cells from producing signals that keep us awake.

Dr. Burdakov's research has shown exactly how glucose blocks or inhibits neurons that make orexins, the tiny proteins that are vital for normal regulation of the state of consciousness.

Malfunction of orexin neurons can lead to narcolepsy, where sufferers cannot stay awake, and obesity. There is also evidence that orexin neurons play a role in learning, reward-seeking and addiction.

This previously unknown mechanism is so sensitive it can detect minute changes in glucose levels — the type that occurs between meals for example, the researcher said.
This may well provide an explanation for after-meal tiredness and why it is difficult to sleep when hungry, he added.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 109


Costa Rica Expertise
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Loan sought to fix up
some national parks


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country will seek a $20 million loan from the International Development Bank to improve access and internal amenities of selected national parks.

The project will attempt to renovate parks that have fallen into disrepair over the last four years.

The request is being made by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, according to Carlos Ricardo Benavides, tourism minister.

Benavides said that the money would go where the need is greatest. Like other efforts to improve the nation's failing infrastructure, there is a long process before Costa Rica gets the money.

First the development Bank has to be convinced of the need. Then the project goes to the budgetary ministry, Hacienda, and then, if approved, to the Asamblea Legislativa because lawmakers must approve the measure, too.

The proposal would refurbish amenities inside the parks, too, like bathrooms, Benavides said.

Investor group agitates
for quicker Villalobos trial


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group that represents some investors in the failed Villalobos high-interest scheme is urging its followers to write letters to the Sala IV constitutional court and others in the judicial system to demand that a date be set for the fraud trial of Oswaldo Villalobos.

The organization, United Concerned Citizens and Residents, points out that a law enforcement raid on the Villalobos brothers money exchanges and investment offices took place nearly four years ago.

Luis Enrique Villalobos is still a fugitive, but Oswaldo Villalobos faces trial sometime this year. His lawyers sought and obtained a Sala IV ruling that he should get a trial quickly. However, no date has been set.

The United Concerned Citizens is the group that supports the Villalobos Brothers and expected Enrique Villalobos to return and pay off his investors. The brothers closed their offices in November 2002, a little more than four months after the raid.

"We continue to wait.  We have been patient, but your voices must now be heard," said the United Concerned Citizen e-mail. The members generally are not parties to the criminal and civil suit and have no legal standing. But they believe that Oswaldo Villalobos will be exonerated, an event that will cause the brothers to settle their accounts with the investors.

The Costa Rican justice system is notoriously slow.

Oswaldo Villalobos faces allegations of illegal banking, fraud and money laundering. Several hundred creditors have joined as private parties to the suit. They will share in any court award if the allegations are sustained.

The Villalobos brothers for years paid up to 3 percent per month on dollar investments on the condition that their creditors did not ask too many questions about the source of the income.  There may have been as much as $1 billion on the brothers' books when they closed down.

Japan will donate
musical instruments


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government of Japan will give $496,000 in musical instruments to the Centro Nacional de la Música.

The center includes the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, the Instituto Nacional de Música, the Compañía Lírica Nacional and the Coro Sinfónico Nacional.

The director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional is Chosei Komatsu, a Japanese national.

The donation is expected to be announced formally today in a meeting with Costa Rican officials and the Japanese ambassador,  Yoshihiko Sumi.

Environment fair starting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A mini-fair of water, dubbed "Festival Madre Fértil, Tierra Nuestra," is planned for the Museo Nacional Sunday from 9 to 2:30 p.m.

The event is a principal one in the more than week long festival that has an environmental theme. The museum will be the site of the inauguration of the festival Monday at 6 p.m. The festival includes distribution of information about the environment, theater, concerts and games.

Costa Ricans and residents pay 500 colons to enter, about $1. Foreigners pay $4. Children and students get reduced rates.

Woman loses money

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A robber took money from a women in front of a special bank window inside the Registro Nacional in Zapote Thursday, according to an observer.

The observer said the man took the cash from the woman and then fled the heavily guarded building which is surrounded by a steel fence and guard stations.

No one attempted to hinder him, the observer said. Police had no report available.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 109




 
Tourism video defines country as land of rain, fútbol
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commercial opens with rain bathing a broadleaf forest plant.

The scene switches to a Costa Rica-U.S. soccer game Oct. 8 when the national team qualified for the World Cup in a penetrating downpour.

Then there is the history of Costa Rica soccer leading up to the national team's presence in Germany for next Friday's opening World Cup match.

This is a summary of one of the videos prepared by the tourism institute to promote the country, a land of rain and football.

A second video effort begins with a couple running along a beach and ends with a long-distance shot of Volcán Arenal.

This 30-second effort is the commercial that will be shown five minutes before the Costa Rica-Germany game June 9. The pitch is low-keyed but there is a Web address that leads to the German version of the
Web page of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister of Turismo, said Thursday that the television effort would reach 24 million persons. That includes an airing five minutes after the game.

These television efforts on multiple channels make up the core of the nation's promotion efforts for which a $4.2 million budget has been authorized. The commercials will cost $372,290 on the day of the game. The total television budget is $2.8 million.

Part of the total budget, about $270,000 will go for half-page, four-color advertisements in 11 publications. The print ad, which runs on four different days, also are low key. They do not invite people to visit Costa Rica. They say in three languages roughly: This time we are visitors . . . the next time in our house. The photo is of youngsters playing soccer on a beach.

In addition, Costa Rica is placing an ad in the program for the World Cup games and setting up a booth at the various arenas where the national team will play.


It's takes a visitor to give a push to the city's culture
My country cousin, Sandy came in from Tilarán this past weekend.  She lives on a large spread of land overlooking Lake Arenal with lots of trees with howler monkeys in them on a road with no sidewalks.  She used to raise horses, now it is bonsai.  So I guess I can legitimately call her my country cousin.  She comes into the city for a dose of culture, besides other things, because as yet the countryside around Lake Arenal has plenty of nature but not much culture. 

Sandy was in luck last weekend. She loves the opera and "Don Giovanni" was playing at the Auditorio Nacional. And then on Sunday was the last showing of “Same Time Next Year” at the Little Theatre.  We did it all, including out to dinner on Sunday.  Dinner after the opera was out of the question since the performance began at 7 and was three and a half-hours long. That put it beyond my bedtime.  It was delightful but (in my opinion), a few of the last scenes could have used some editing.  

The chairs in the auditorium are very comfortable, and I fell asleep just once.  I knew I had when my arm fell off the armrest and woke me up.  It reminded me of the scientist who maintained he got by on very little sleep by taking short naps.  Really short naps.  He would sit in his chair with an orange in his hand and when he dropped off to sleep the orange would fall to the floor and awaken him.  He insisted that he felt rested from those few seconds of sleep.  Actually, I found myself more wide awake after my two seconds’ nap.  "Don Giovanni" is Mozart’s version of the carryings on of that outrageous womanizer Don Juan. 

"Same Time Next Year" is about George, a married man who is certainly not a womanizer, and Doris, who is also married to someone else.  They meet once a year at the same motel where they first met.  I don’t remember ever having been so caught up in a play.  I was with them every minute in that motel room over the years.  Lisa DeFuso and Tom Humes, a married couple in real life, were the two actors.  I laughed a lot and twice, much to my surprise, broke into tears.

This entertaining weekend was topped with more
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com


laughter and dinner with friends Liz and Dick at the relatively new restaurant Saga. 

Many years ago when I was living in Gettysburg, I used to listen to the opera on Saturdays.  But I can recall having been to one only once. I was living in San Jose, California, and went with a friend to San Francisco.  It was a big deal, and I dressed up for the affair.  On Saturday there were women in jeans and skimpy tops and men in sports shirts.  I thought they could have gone to a little more trouble than that.  Sandy and I had taken pains with our dress.

Actually, people were more “publicly presentable” at the play.  I feel rather strongly (is it a sign of age?) that we should try to, if not be, as pleasing to the eye as possible when we go out into public. At least we should not offend.  But that is beside the point.  I truly doubt that I would have seen a better production of "Same Time Next Year" on Broadway, and no two better actors than Tom and Lisa.  And I can’t imagine a more electrifying "Don Giovanni" than Jose Arturo Chacón, who has also sung with the Washington Summer Opera — where I am sure they paid a lot more to see him perform.

This weekend, had I paid for all my enjoyments (for some reason I kept being treated), it would have cost me the sum total of about $46.  The last time I saw a little theater play in the States was probably 10 years ago and the ticket was $36.

And the truth is, had Sandy not come into San José for a bit of culture, I probably would have missed everything.  But I did say, didn’t I, that she is a country cousin, not a country bumpkin.  How many country bumpkins go around your apartment humming the arias from "Don Giovanni"? 






You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 2, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 109





A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas         
Tránsito officers conduct spot checks on passing buses in Paseo Colón
Transit police take to the streets to enforce bus rules
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The job was like shooting fish in a barrel. Only 10 percent of the nation's bus fleet are equipped with mandatory ramps for the disabled.

So Tránsito officers were out Thursday enforcing the law that had a 10-year period for compliance that now has ended.

The main complaint from bus drivers is that they and not the company they work for are responsible for the administrative sanction, which can be as much as 30,000 colons, some $59.

In addition to wheelchair ramps, the law calls for
non-skid floors, signal buttons that sound and also light up, as well as preferential seating for the elderly, the disabled and pregnant passengers.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte is enforcing the law. Those buses listed as failing to be in compliance will have three months to remedy the deficiencies or they will be prohibited from using the nation's highways.

So many of the buses lack ramps that officials fear a crises if too many are out of service.

German Marín Sandí, director of Tránsito, said checks would continue around the principal bus routes but at times when travelers would not be seriously inconvenienced.


Charging illegal immigrants cuts flow in West Texas
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

In the debate over immigration reform in the United States, some citizens have called for a halt to illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border, while others contend it is impossible to completely stop the flow of poor migrants across the 3,000-km. (1,864-mile) line.  But a new Border Patrol pilot program is showing that strict enforcement of existing U.S. immigration laws can have a dramatic effect.

The Del Rio sector of the U.S.-Mexico border runs for 288 kilometers (179 miles) along the Rio Grande River, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico.

Since December of last year, the U.S. Border Patrol has tried a new program here that has curtailed both immigrant crossings and drug trafficking.  With the cooperation of local law enforcement and U.S. attorneys in the area, the Border Patrol has sent hundreds of illegal entrants to be prosecuted for their crimes.

Under existing U.S. law, a person who enters the United States at any point other than an official port of entry is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be sentenced to up to six months in prison.  In an interview, Del Rio Border Patrol spokesman Randy Clark said the threat of punishment has discouraged people from crossing here.

"In our busiest station, where we once apprehended the most aliens, we are now close to 70 percent down for the month of May, when we compare it to 2005," he said.  "For the period of the operation, which is December 2005 to present, we have noticed a 50 percent decline in the station, overall, for those six months."

Clark says the secret to the program's success is the application of existing law and the use of penalties spelled out in the statutes.  In the Del Rio sector, agents have ended the so-called "revolving door"
practice, whereby captured illegal immigrants were simply processed and sent back into Mexico, where they could then make another attempt at crossing.  It has been common for Border Patrol agents to apprehend the same individual two or three times in the same day because of this practice.

Agent Clark says under the zero-tolerance program, dubbed "Operation Streamline," someone who has been jailed for breaking U.S. immigration law once will face more punishment for doing it again.

"If they enter the United States after serving that sentence and being removed from the country, then they find themselves in the predicament that they either are going to be prosecuted for a felony, because it is their second offense, or, if we elect to prosecute for a misdemeanor, they may face a stiffer penalty than on that first occasion," he added.

Clark says existing law gives federal prosecutors leeway to charge a person with a felony if they are a repeat offender, but this only applies to people crossing the border illegally.

A controversial bill passed by the House of Representatives in December would have made it a felony for anyone to be in the United States illegally, but some congressmen who voted for it say that provision is likely to be dropped from a comprehensive bill worked out in the coming weeks between representatives of the House and Senate.

Clark says agents freed from the burden of processing and returning detainees can now spend more time catching them.  He says President Bush's promise to send National Guard troops to the border should also be a help in that regard.

Border Patrol officials in Washington are closely monitoring "Operation Streamline" on the west Texas border, but Clark says it is too soon to say that this same approach can be applied everywhere else on the border.




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