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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 112                           Email us
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Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo

Key route
getting bridge

Workmen install a temporary bailey bridge at Quebrada Flores near Arenal after the first major washout of the rainy season. Highway officials note that the road, Ruta 142 is a key tourist route. The road goes along Lake Arenal and crosses the dam to the community of Arenal. The washout was Wednesday.

Country wasn't so pura vida thousands of years ago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's adventure tour business would have been at its peak about 15,000 years ago. Humans shared what is now the national territory with all types of megafauna.

These included creatures bigger than elephants with gigantic tusks, giant sloths, saber-tooth cats, cave bears, camels and hungry birds with 12-foot wingspans.

These are all gone now. Some scientists suspect global climate change contributed to the extinction. Others blame the human hunter. Much of the evidence that archaeologists and paleontologists need is under water. Modern humans probably lived on the coast 14,000 years ago, and the receding ice age dumped enough water into the seas to raise the level 200 feet.

Costa Rica's history has a giant hole before the Spanish arrived. Modern excavating techniques began to be used here only in 1970. Many of the artifacts that are in the museums do not have a clear history. This hampers the experts.

What scientists know generally comes from accidental finds. Remains of nine-foot-tall Cuvieronius hyodon, the elephant-like creature, are scattered all over the country but concentrated in the Central Valley. That doesn't mean the creatures congregated there. The discoveries of teeth and bones came because of the greater amount of modern construction and excavation. One piece of such a critter turned up near Paseo Colón, according to a report at the Museo Nacional.

The fate of the megafauna is important today as experts plan an international meeting to discuss climate change. The changes that began about 10,000 years ago as the glacial period was ending appears to have been beneficial to man because of the extinction of the giant beasts.

There is no doubt that man shared this strange world. Excavation turned up the rib of a mastodon near Seattle, Washington, and the bone had what appeared to be a lance tip imbedded in it. The rib was dated to 13,800 years ago.

A University of Wisconsin researcher concluded from certain spore samples that the number of large animals began to dwindle about 15,000 years ago, perhaps not from human causes. Scientists speculate that as rainfall increased forest began to replace grasslands in Central America displacing the grazing Cuvieronius hyodon.

Excavations in Chile showed that early man ate
Mega fauna

these animals and close relatives and used the skin for tent material and other purposes. But other scientists note that man probably has been in the New World for at least 40,000 years, so blaming humans for the extinction might be a stretch. Disease also has been put forth for a cause.  The ecosystem was so linked that a decline in one form of animal might cause declines in others.

Much of Costa Rica's archaeology has focused on the stone spheres, gold objects and obvious dwelling places which might be up to 3,000 years old. Archaeologists familiar with the situation say that more investment is needed for research. Even the Guayabo national monument near Turrialba has not been excavated fully. Other sites are being painstakingly excavated but the results are generally reported only in academic journals.

Some 15,000 years ago the human residents of Costa Rica would have needed protection from some of the giant predators. They must have used caves as homes and burned fires. Little has been discovered even though the accepted theory is that humans passed through Costa Rica on their way to populate South America. There have been many more finds there. There have been a few in Panamá.

Richard Cooke of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute said that clearing and burning began in Panamá 13,200 years ago. The Clovis hunters probably hunted mastodons and giant ground sloths, he said.

The Clovis people were those who left distinctive stone lance heads presumed to be used to hunt the megafauna.

Meanwhile, scientists warn against free-lance excavations that could ruin what they need to date and understand a site. The Museo Nacional maintains a data base of the country's archaeological sites, and is open to contact by citizens who think they may have found something.

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Our reader's opinion
Vote for Obama will bottle
GOP's supply side genie

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
As the presidential campaign revs up into high gear even earlier than usual this year, there is one thing of which we all, regardless of who we support, can be sure.  That is that this campaign cycle promises to be one of the ugliest and most expensive the United States has ever seen.
As a liberal Democrat who, overall, supports President Obama for re-election; I am struck by just how effective what I call the New American Right has been at revising history and conning a good chunk of the U.S. electorate into believing that Barack Obama is totally responsible for the current economic mess in which the United States remains mired.
Now, in one regard he is. His early attempts to turn the U.S. economy around were nowhere near big or bold enough to dig  the U.S. economy out of the ditch into which three decades of nearly uninterrupted supply side, a/k/a/ trickle down or voodoo, economics drove it.
But it is the claim by the GOP and the New American Right that they have the prescription to fix the economy if only Obama and the Democrats are defeated in November that raises the definition of revisionism to dizzying new heights.
The reality is we have been taking the GOP/New American Right's economic medicine for a very long time. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama may have reduced the dosage a bit, but neither had the political cajones to put the evil "supply side" genie back into its bottle for good.
The current U.S. economy is not an "Obama economy." It is a "Republican economy."
We are still taking the "tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the poor and middle class" medicine, despite all the evidence that it is only making our symptoms worse.
Unemployment remains unacceptably high in the U.S. No one disputes that. But the GOP/New American Right's claims that Obama is responsible for that is utter nonsense.
The bulk of the U.S. job losses of the Great Recession peaked in late 2008 and early 2009, long before Obama's policies had been in place long enough to have any effect.
On Obama's watch, in fact, we have seen a steady increase in new job creation, although the pace remains unacceptably slow.
His collaboration with the private sector, vis a vis the saving of GM, did more to stem the slide into a full blown economic depression than any other thing Obama has done so far.
The GOP/New American Right's claims that Obama is the biggest spender of all time are also pure fiction.
The fact is the rate of government spending — federal, state, and local — when adjusted for population growth and inflation, has been falling at a rate not seen since the early 1950s.
The GOP/New American Right's claims that taxes are choking the economic recovery is also laughable when one considers that federal taxes as a share of the nation's GDP are at, or near, historic lows. They are, in fact, lower today than what they were when Ronald Reagan, the great believer in the supply side economics genie, was in the White House.
Voters in the United States, and those living abroad, do have a clear choice this November.
That choice is either to elect a man who will, no doubt, let a second or third supply side economics genie out of the bottle on behalf the U.S. plutocracy — with all the disturbing possibilities that entails — or they can re-elect a man who, freed from the political constraints of re-election, might actually get bold enough to put the supply side economics genie back in the bottle for good and get the U.S. economy back on track and restore the American Dream that has increasingly become a nightmare for far too many middle and working class individuals and families after three decades of what George Herbert Walker Bush honestly and correctly labeled voodoo economics way back in 1980.
Michael Cook
Gloucester, Massachusettss
 and Playa Cocles

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 112
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Lawmaker expected to file suit over publishing fake photos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmaker Carlos Góngora of Movimiento Libertario is expected to file a civil suit now that the Sala IV has criticized  Extra TV42 and the daily newspaper Prensa Libre for publishing a faked picture of the man that was circulating on the Internet.

The decision by the Sala IV opens the door to similar litigation by persons who think they have been offended by news reports.

While admitting the news value of the story, the Sala IV said that “The liberty of expression ought to develop in harmony with the other fundamental rights, among which are intimacy and honor.”  The court decision said that just because the photo montage appeared elsewhere there was no justification for the news media to display it because this hurt more deeply the intimacy and honor of the lawmaker.

Both the television station and the newspaper are members of Grupo Extra. The flagship publication, El Diario Extra, said
Tuesday that the court decision puts in jeopardy liberty of the press.

Góngora was the victim of a photo montage that was doctored to put him in a sexual pose. La Extra did not run the montage but commented that the photos were of poor quality.

The lawmaker filed a criminal complaint against the anonymous person who distributed the montage at the beginning of May and also sent it to the other 56 legislators. As a result of the Sala IV decision, the lawmaker is expected to file a civil suit against the media company because the court said he should.

Basically the court said that editors would have to think about the impact on a news subject's honor before publishing an article or photo. However, it did say that the story itself, about a presumed Internet crime affecting a lawmaker, was worthy of publication. The court also said that each situation should be analyzed independently. La Extra called the decision confusing.

Lawmakers hear how $187 million loan will be put to use
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's plan for reforming criminals begins in prison by constructing training facilities, according to Jorge Rodríguez and Max Loría, vice ministers of Justicia y Paz. They appeared Tuesday before the  Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios to explain how a loan from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo will be put to use.

The loan totals $187 million, and Costa Rica will have to provide $55 million in matching money. The legislature must still approve the loan. The bank already has done so.
The money also will be used for training prison employees and for the construction of 2,700 cells to relieve overcrowding, they said.

The money also will go to create centers for young people with the goal of reducing violence. The so-called civic centers will be in Desamparados, San Carlos, Cartago Centro, Santo Domingo, Santa Cruz, Garabito and Pococí, the committee heard.

The plan includes what is being called reinsertion social, meaning putting a convict back into society at the end of his or her term behind bars.

Celebrities go on YouTube to seek support for Paul Watson
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to bring out celebrities to urge freedom for Paul Watson, the anti-whaling activist and society founder.

The Five Nation Iroquois Confederacy has asked for his release. Brigitte Bardot, the movie sex symbol of the 1950s, also has done so. So has Pamela Anderson and television's Bob Barker. They all are on YouTube asking viewers to send letters to the German justice ministry asking that Watson not be extradited from there to Costa Rica.

The latest entry is Richard Dean Anderson, who played  MacGyver on television and also starred in “Stargate.” He is a member of Sea Shepherd's board.

In his one-minute YouTube speech he claimed that the Taiwanese shark finning mafia would kill Watson if he came to Costa Rica. He said to extradite Watson would be tantamount to a death sentence.
There also are YouTube videos that are critical of Watson and his aggressive actions against the Japanese whaling fleet and shark fishermen.

Watson is in trouble because his “Ocean Warrior” collided with a Costa Rican fishing boat in Guatemalan waters in 2002.

He did not show up at a later court hearing and said he did not know about it. Eventually Costa Rica issued a warrant.

Despite the YouTube claims, Watson has said he is willing to return to Costa Rica to settle with the fishermen. The collision was taped and became part of the award-winning movie “Sharkwater.” A.M. Costa Rica has called the case against Watson bogus because editors have viewed the tape repeatedly and could not see any damage to the ship or fishermen.

Watson's crew sprayed them with water because they thought they were fishing illegally for shark.

Watson is out on bail in Germany awaiting court action.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 112
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Cost of climate change impact put at $100 billion a year
By the Inter-American Development Bank

Latin America and the Caribbean face annual damages in the order of $100 billion by 2050 from diminishing agricultural yields, disappearing glaciers, flooding, droughts and other events triggered by a warming planet, according to the findings of a new report to be released at the Rio+20 summit.

On the positive side, the cost of investments in adaptation to address these impacts is much smaller, in the order of one tenth the physical damages, according to the study jointly produced by the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean and the World Wildlife Fund.

However, the study also notes that forceful reductions in global emissions of greenhouse gases are needed to avert some of the potentially catastrophic longer term consequences of climate change. The report estimates that countries would need to invest an additional $110 billion per year over the next four decades to decrease per capita carbon emissions to levels consistent with global climate stabilization goals.

“Many climate-related changes are irreversible and will continue to impact the region over the long term,” said Walter Vergara, the development bank's chief of climate change and sustainability and the lead researcher of the study, whose preliminary findings were presented Tuesday in Washington at an event jointly hosted by the bank and the Center for American Progress. “To prevent further damages, adaptation is necessary but not enough. Bolder actions are needed to bend the emissions curve in the coming decades,”  the report said.

Latin America and the Caribbean contribute only 11 percent of the emissions that cause global warming. However, countries are especially vulnerable to its effects, given the region’s dependence on natural resources, an infrastructure network that is susceptible to climate events, and the presence of bio-climate hotspots such as the Amazon basin, the Caribbean coral biome, coastal wetlands and fragile mountain eco-systems, said the report.

Estimated yearly damages in Latin America and the Caribbean caused by the physical impacts associated with the a rise of 2 degrees C over pre-industrial levels are of the order of $100 billion by 2050, or about 2 percent of gross domestic product at current values, according to the report titled “The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean: Options for Climate Resilient Low Carbon Development.”

The study cites climate impacts in areas such as agriculture, exposure to tropical diseases and changing rainfall patterns,
 among others. For instance, the report cites recent work estimating the loss of net agricultural exports in the region valued at between $30 billion and $52 billion in 2050.

Mexico and Brazil have the largest land distribution just above sea level, making those countries vulnerable to rising sea levels. A rise of one meter in the sea level could affect 6,700 kilometers of roads and cause extensive flooding and coastal damage. A 50 percent loss of the coral cover in the Caribbean from coral bleaching would cost at least $7 billion to the economies in the region, said the report.

The study notes that the adaptation costs are a small fraction of the costs of physical impacts, conservatively estimated at two-tenths of a percent of gross domestic product for the region, at current values. In addition, adaptation efforts would have significant development benefits, from enhanced water and food security to improved air quality and less vehicle congestion, further reducing their net costs, the report said.

“Investments in adaptation are cost effective and have substantial co-benefits” said Luis Miguel Galindo, chief of the climate change unit of the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean, a key contributor to the study. “Also, some of these adaptation measures are very easy to implement and have significant positive impacts.”

Though adaptation is important, substantial investments are also required in order to drastically cut the region’s projected carbon emissions to levels consistent with global climate stabilization goals, the report said.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, Latin America and the Caribbean would contribute 9.3 tons per capita of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, up from the current 4.7 tons per capita. The report identifies pathways to bend the emission curve to two tons per capita, by promoting zero net emissions from deforestation and other land-use practices by 2030, combined with efforts to eliminate the carbon footprint in the power matrix and transport infrastructure by 2050, at an annual cost of $110 billion.

“Yes, spending $110 billion a year for a region that faces major development challenges is not an easy proposition,” said Pablo Gutman, the director of environmental economics at the Wildlife Fund. “However, this would also bring about major benefits such as improved food and energy security; people would have healthier lives in cleaner environments.”

“In the long term,” added Vergara, “this is the surest way to ensure Latin America and the Caribbean continues to prosper along a sustainable path.”

Public school students in upper grades will get sex education
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Consejo Superior de Educación has approved a series of units on sexuality for all students in seventh, eighth and ninth grade.

The program will begin in the 2013 school year. The units
cover interpersonal relations, culture, power, reproductive health, human rights and other fundamentals.

The units will take up an hour a week during class time, said  Leonardo Garnier, the minister of Educación Pública. He said the units were set up because members of the public have been demanding them.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Hanging-upside-down yoga
said to help the vertebrae

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A growing number of health clubs around the world is offering exercise that allows people to stretch and strengthen their bodies while hanging in the air, often upside down.  It's called anti-gravity yoga.

At first glance, students hanging upside down on hammocks made of silk cloth hanging from the ceiling seems more like acrobatics than yoga.

“When I first saw people hanging upside down from hammocks and calling it yoga I thought they were crazy," said student Marie Bice. "But it ended up being a lot of fun and just swinging it felt very playful.”

She said anti-gravity yoga is not all play.  It’s also hard work, with benefits.

“I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my back and doing this work has really helped my back with that," she said.

Instructor Heather Blair says hanging upside down helps the body in a way that regular yoga does not offer.

“You actually have spinal decompression so when you’re upside down your vertebrae actually open up so the space in between the vertebrae opens naturally and gently," said Ms. Blair.

Dancer, choreographer, gymnast and creator of anti-gravity yoga, Christopher Harrison, says "I created it so even my mother can do it," said Harrison.

Harrison first created this form of yoga for athletes, then modified it and started teaching it to the public in the United States in 2009.  Since then, it has gained international attention.  Several countries, including China, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil, now offer such classes. 

Peacemaking cardinal dies
and is praised in Guatemala

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, who helped negotiate an end to Guatemala's bloody three-decade civil war, has died at the age 80.

Local church officials say Quezada passed away Monday at a hospital in Guatemala City from an intestinal disorder.

Quezada was a bishop when he was named head of the National Reconciliation Commission in 1987.  His work on the commission laid the groundwork for the 1996 peace accord between the government and the leftist guerilla movement, ending 36 years of fighting. 

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez has ordered three days of national mourning for Quezada, whom he called a fighter for peace and reconciliation.

He was elevated to cardinal in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

Wisconsin's Walker survives
contentious recall battle

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. media reports say the governor of the state of Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker, has survived a recall election, defeating Democrat Tom Barrett and will finish his term in office.

Walker had defeated Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor, in the 2010 general election.

Shortly after taking office, Walker pushed through a law that sharply curtailed the right of most government employees to bargain for pay raises and other benefits, angering unions and Democratic activists. The law set off days of large angry protests at the state capitol in Madison. A grassroots campaign earlier this year gathered nearly 1 million signatures in a petition drive to force the recall election.

The recall effort in Wisconsin attracted money and attention from Republican and Democratic supporters across the country. Walker raised $30 million to fight off the recall, far more than Barrett's $4 million. Democrats hoped to offset the Republican money advantage with a major effort to encourage voter participation.

Walker, who has served 17 months out of a four-year term, said after casting his ballot on Tuesday that many residents are relieved the recall vote finally has taken place.

“I think most people are happy to have the election over. I think certainly for my family and I think most voters in the state wanted to have all of the attack ads off. They want to have their TVs back. They want to have their lives back. And I think that a lot of the folks out here from outside of the state will move on to Florida. They'll move on to Ohio and they move on to other states and we get back to business.''

Barrett commented that long lines at polling places are a sign of strong interest in the election.

“People are engaged in this. What we've noted in the last 96 hours is, around the state the energy has been building and building and building.”

The Wisconsin recall election is also seen as preview of the U.S. presidential race between incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and likely Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney. Mr. Obama easily won Wisconsin in the 2008 presidential campaign. But analysts say a Walker victory could mean that Romney will win the state in the November general election.

The most recent successful recall vote was California Governor Gray Davis's loss to Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. Walker was the first governor to survive a recall.

Also facing a recall in Tuesday's election were Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and three Republican state senators.

Voters in California are also casting ballots on three controversial issues. Voters statewide are deciding whether to boost the tax on a pack of cigarettes by a dollar. The extra money wold be used for cancer research. Supporters say passage will encourage smokers to quit. Opponents call it another layer of bureaucracy.

Also, voters in the cash-strapped cities of San Diego and San Jose are voting on pension reforms for government workers.
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Google warns Gmail users
of state-sponsored attacks

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Internet giant Google is warning many users of its popular Gmail service that they may be the target of state-sponsored cyber attacks.

The California-based company unveiled a new warning system Tuesday to alert Gmail users when it suspects state-sponsored attackers are attempting to compromise their accounts or computers using malicious software.

Many China-based Gmail users reported received the warning early Wednesday in the form of a banner message at the top of their email accounts. The warning also reportedly appeared on accounts in the U.S. and Japan.

Google said in a blog post the appearance of the warning does not necessarily mean that the account has been hijacked, but that it may be a target. The company urged account holders to create a strong password and take a number of other security procedures to ensure protection.

Google says it cannot provide details on how it knows that specific attacks are government-sponsored. But it said detailed analysis and victim reports strongly suggest the involvement of governments or state-sponsored groups.

Although Google did not mention any specific governments that may be behind the attacks, many technology analysts suggest it may be another chapter in the long-running dispute between Google and China over censorship and web privacy issues.

The announcement comes days after Google took a veiled swipe at Beijing's massive Internet censorship network. Google said last week it would begin alerting users when they type a search term likely to be blocked in mainland China.

Last week's announcement was careful not to mention Chinese government censors. But it said searching for such terms often causes error messages and temporary disconnections, wryly noting that Google engineers have “taken a long, hard look at our systems and have not found any problems.”

Google has in the past blamed China for cyber attacks. Last year, the Internet giant accused China-based hackers of breaking into the email accounts of hundreds of people, including senior U.S. officials, journalists, and Chinese political activists.

Google complained of a much wider cyber attack by Chinese-based hackers in 2010, which led it to move the servers of its popular Chinese search engine to Hong Kong.

Though the move outside mainland China meant Beijing could not fine-tune Google search results, the government still censors material by blocking results for terms that it considers harmful or subversive.

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