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(506) 2223-1327              Published Tuesday, June 15, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 116        E-mail us
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pumaon the prowl
Photo by the conservation organization Yaguará
No smiles here

This puma or mountain lion did not get a chance to smile as the automatic camera caught him (or her) looking for breakfast.

Despite news stories about such animals being in the hills of Heredia, this cat lives on the Osa Peninsula.

See story HERE!

Rural residents take action to get bridges fixed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rural residents in Cartago found out Monday how to get public works started. They blocked bridges in their area and then marched, 100 persons strong, down a main highway to Casa Presidencial.

Almost immediately, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said the needed work in that area would be started quickly. The rural residents, many of them farmers, met with President Laura Chinchilla.

The government said it gave orders to start work on a temporary bridge that would withstand weights of 40 tons over the Río Atirro. Demonstrators blocked the bridge with trees early Monday. The bridge is near a sugar mill which is the destination for heavy vehicles.

The new structure will be a Bailey bridge, one of those expandable steel spans. Officials promised to have the work done in 40 days.

A reader said the protest was about "how horrible our local steel bridges are with missing steel plates.  Buses have not been able to cross the bridges for weeks.   Our cars must traverse the bridges, and they have whole sections of steel missing.  The protesters removed more giant steel plates during the night and threw them into the Rio Atirro that flows under the bridge.  They cut
down trees and blocked the bridges with them,
which probably kept people from dying in the dark."

There were two other public works that have been jump started by the protests.  The works ministry said that all were in the Tucurrique and Pejibaye areas.

The ministry also promised to install a second bridge in the Pejibaye sector within three months. This span, too, will support 40 tons, officials said.

The ministry also said that Ruta 225, a national road, will be given a gravel coat and that officials will try to specify a budget item for reconstructing the roadway.
In addition to the march in Zapote at Casa Presidencial, demonstrators also blocked a road near the Cachi dam in Cartago, officials said.

Government officials tried to put a positive spin on the event and said that the protest shows that official doors always are open. The protestors said they simply were making the government act on old promises.

The Óscar Arias Sánchez administration was plagued by bridge problems because needed maintenance had not been done for years. Ms. Chinchilla has inherited the problems.

Negotiations begin over possible July 1 wage hikes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minimum wages are on the table again.

Employee representatives met with the Consejo Nacional de Salarios Monday to press their case for increases. Employers will be talking to the council Wednesday, and Monday Sandra Piszk, the minister of Trabajo, will be the presenter.

The council is expected to fix the minimum salaries sometime next week. They will go into effect for work done on and after July 1.  In January
employees got a 5 percent increase.

Many Costa Ricans work at the minimum wage, which is specified for every occupation. Many expats employ maids and gardeners who may be working for a salary. If they are not independent contractors, they are covered by the minimum salaries, which will be published on the ministry Web site.

Workers who are not at the minimum level likely will seek increases based on the percentage awarded by the council.

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Woman attacked in home
and suffers slashed arm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police captured two suspects less than a kilometer away from the home of a U.S. woman who was beaten up and stabbed Saturday.

The crime, believed to be a home invasion, happened in La Cruz, Guanacaste, according to police.

The Poder Judicial said that two men entered the woman's home Saturday afternoon, beat her up and stole items there. Two suspects were captured a kilometer away, said the Poder Judicial, giving their last names as Alonso Mendoza and Barrero Hurtado. They were being processed in the Liberia prosecutor's office Monday.

Police identified the woman as Mary Kathleen Gells, 55, originally from Iowa. They said she was a tourist who was on vacation here. Police also said that the woman was admitted to  Hospital Edgardo Baltodano Briceño in Liberia in stable condition. They said she suffered a deep cut in her right arm when she tried to defend herself.

Police said that $1,200 in U.S. currency and 200,000 colons were taken from the woman as well as various pieces of jewelry worth about 500,000 colons. Police said they recovered the jewelry when they detained the two men.

Study says why volcanoes
are not at plate junctures

By the University of Southern California news service
If tectonic plate collisions cause volcanic eruptions, as every fifth grader knows, why do some volcanoes erupt far from a plate boundary?

A study in Nature suggests that volcanoes and mountains in the Mediterranean can grow from the pressure of the semi-liquid mantle pushing on Earth’s crust from below.

“The rise and subsidence of different points of the earth is not restricted to the exact locations of the plate boundary. You can get tectonic activity away from a plate boundary,” said study co-author and associate professor of earth sciences Thorsten Becker. He is on the faculty at the University of Southern California.

The study connects mantle flow to uplift and volcanism in mobile belts — crustal fragments floating between continental plates.

The model should be able to predict uplift and likely volcanic hotspots in other mobile belts, such as the North American Cordillera (including the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada) and the Himalayas. “We have a tool to be able to answer these questions,” Becker said.

Scientists previously had suggested a connection between mantle upwelling and volcanism, Becker said. The Nature study is the first to propose the connection in mobile belts.

Becker and collaborator Claudio Faccenna of the University of Rome believe that small-scale convection in the mantle is partly responsible for shaping mobile belts.

Mantle that sinks at the plate boundary flows back up farther away, pushing on the crust and causing uplift and crustal motions detectable by a global positioning system, the authors found.

The slow but inexorable motions can move mountains — both gradually and through earthquakes or eruptions.

The study identified two mountain ranges raised almost entirely by mantle flow, according to the authors: the southern Meseta Central plateau in Spain and the Massif Central in France.

Becker and Faccenna inferred mantle flow from interpreting seismic mantle tomography, which provides a picture of the deep earth just like a CAT scan, using seismic waves instead of X-rays.

Assuming that the speed of the waves depends mainly on the temperature of crust and mantle (waves travel slower through warmer matter), the authors used temperature differences to model the direction of mantle convection.

Regions of upward flow, as predicted by the model, mostly coincided with uplift or volcanic activity away from plate boundaries.

“Mantle circulation … appears more important than previously thought, and generates vigorous upwellings even far from the subduction zone,” the authors wrote.

The study culminates work started 13 years ago when Becker was a graduate student at Harvard University and Faccenna was a visiting scholar.

Vanishing profession at work

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Safecrackers are considered the elite of the criminal world, but it is a dying profession with the growing use of electronic transfers and better security.

But that is not the case in Guápiles where someone cut cables to an alarm system and then used an acetylene torch to cut into a safe at a financial institution there. The crook had access because the target sits next to a vacant lot.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that it was seeking the help of the citizenry to help locate a suspect. They said a large sum of money was taken, probably Saturday night.

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 116

Krav maga
Rock and Roll

All photo by the conservation organization Yaguará
A jaguar on the prowl
Cameras are stalking the feline stalkers on the Osa Peninsula
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Research on big cats in the Osa Peninsula is not limited to the large protected areas which are the last strongholds of jaguar in Costa Rica. Areas outside Parque Nacional Corcovado are the focus of Yaguará, which studies use of altered habitats and the interaction of jaguars and pumas with human activities.

Conservationists hope to recover enough forest to eventually link Corcovado with the Parque Nacional Peñas Blancas and even the highland Parque Internacional La Amistad. Charismatic large predators like jaguar can become flagships for this effort.

Established cat researcher Ricardo Moreno leads the scientific side of the project. Much of his previous work on ocelot, puma, and jaguar diets was conducted in Panamá.

The present studies of cat use of fragmented landscapes on the Osa relies heavily on camera traps, which use motion sensors to take a picture of what passes by, usually on a trail. As cats, especially ocelots, often use regular latrines, those are a focus of attention.

There are about 175 cameras scattered on trails around the area between the east boundary of the Corcovado park and the southeastern tip of the peninsula, an area of about 15 by 5 kilometers. Photographs show that the large cat species are out both by day and night, with puma slightly more diurnal than the others. In general the cameras can capture shy and elusive species unlikely to be observed by humans.

Spotted cats have unique patterns, meaning individuals can be identified when they appear at more than one camera sampling point. This requires two cameras to get both sides of the animal. Pumas are more difficult, but scars and other marks can be used. One female with an injured tail has been photographed at enough points to give a fair approximation of her range.

From individuals that have been identified the researchers calculate that ocelots have a home range of about 6.6 square kilometers and pumas 9 square kilometers on the Osa. Male puma ranges in Canada have been estimated as high as 1,000 square kilometers, with females much less.

GPS monitoring devices are also fitted to several ocelots and white-lipped peccaries for more accurate tracking, with no results analyzed yet.

If the camera flash is towards the eyes of the more nocturnal species, an impressive eye-shine results. It is not known how long it takes the animal to recover from this and be able to see in the dark again.

More than 20 other species appear on the photos, including two smaller cats, the jaguarundi and margay.  Also tayra,
An oselot is the smaller of the three cats

two species of raccoons, lots of coatis and peccaries, curassow, right up to one nude human “not worried about the snakes,” as researcher Aida Bustamante put it.

Mostly the traps wait on an empty trail, with coatis accounting for seven records per 100 trap/nights. Only collared peccary, agouti, and great curassow appear more than one day in a hundred.

Sampling feces has produced a database of prey species for the three large cats, with preferred food animals varying as might be expected. For ocelots, 10 species were identified but the main prey is iguanas and rodents up to the size of the agouti. Pumas eat the white-collared peccary and coatis heavily. Jaguars also eat many coatis, generally the most numerous large animal in the area, but can also tackle the larger white-lipped peccary and even tapirs. All three eat sloths regularly. Both pumas and jaguars have a slightly more varied diet with 15 species for each recorded.

At Cana in remote eastern Panamá, another study by Moreno found less difference between jaguar and puma prey selection, with a smaller sample. Human impact on the large cats and their prey is minimal there.

Deforestation and poaching affect the hunting patterns of the larger species and can lead to conflict with livestock. Ocelots are more tolerant of deforested conditions and human presence, so have some reputation as chicken eaters. A much more serious issue is jaguar and puma predation on cattle. While rare, it risks alienation of relatively powerful local interests.

It is also possible to tell if a jaguar was really responsible for a dead cow since its powerful jaws can crush the back of the skull of the unfortunate animal. Pumas are more likely to kill by strangulation so tooth marks will appear on other bones from an older carcass.

Education and compensation are two tools protecting cats
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Community relations is a big part of keeping wildlife and human residents on good terms when the wildlife is perceived as harmful or even dangerous, the way big predators like jaguars are.

The program run by Yaguará in the Osa Peninsula area relies on two facets, education projects to convince local people that large predators are not bad or dangerous and need protection and direct compensation for livestock losses.

Aida Bustamante meets with groups of people anywhere they accumulate and records more than 450 chats in the area. She talks to locals at schools, community meetings, and arranges activities for adults and children. At hotels both visitors and staff are targeted. She says the effort must be constant, and that many visiting researchers make little effort to reach local inhabitants. She added:

“You have to understand the reality of these people and show them that it’s possible to coexist with wildlife and not have to choose between their activities and the animals.”

Commercial poaching of prey species and habitat destruction are the main issues at hand to bring these large felines and people into close contact. Deforestation, while still spotty on the Osa and largely controlled, breaks up the cats’ large home ranges and makes it more likely for them to view cattle as food. Most deforestation is by definition for pasture.

Prey species of interest to human hunters are mostly the tepezcuintle, a highly sought-after large rodent. Two species of wild pigs, the collared and white-lipped peccaries, are also eaten. Tapirs are hunted by people but are too large for most cats to tackle.

Subsistence poaching is another issue but is more related to the cost of living in a remote place with a tourist presence, says Ms. Bustamante. Also some hunting is related to resentment of the government authorities and various outsiders, " . . . who prohibit something without
reserach team
Aida Bustamante meets with residents

offering any alternatives.” Often the positive aspects of conservation like income from tourism does not reach local people.

Poaching for pelts is another risk to the populations of the spotted cats, with commercial outlets in Panamá not understood by the authorities, said Bustamante.

Usually following an incident of lost livestock, the offending animal might be hunted down and shot. Dogs track the cats, and there is still an element of hunting for the thrill of the chase itself in the rural society as well as sport hunters from San José and Panama City.

Compensation for ranchers’ losses is a strategy little tried outside of North America where it is usually related to wolves. But given that even one individual of a rare species is a huge loss from such a small population and gene pool as is present on the Osa Peninsula, if it avoids other needed conservation efforts by keeping the offending animal from being killed then it is highly cost-effective, the association says.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 15, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 116

Universities to march today to seek more money in budgets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

University community members plan a march this morning to urge the central government to provide more money for the institutions' budgets.

The march is supposed to begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Universidad de Costa Rica and then move to Zapote and Casa Presidencial where President Laura Chinchilla will be meeting with her cabinet in a regular session.

The Universidad Estatal a Distancia said it was on strike Monday to protest a delay in defining the budgets for the public universities.
The other universities also will be marching, so those institutions will have limited services today.

That is not the only strike facing the new government.

Medical residents are trying to negotiate a better deal with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. They went on strike Monday. These are physicians in training who have to spend some years in residency at hospitals to hone their skills.

The Caja wants any physicians working as residents at its hospitals to sign a promissory note and agree to work nine years for the Caja after they complete their training.

Rains came but they appear to have been moderate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The moist grip that a new tropical wave had on the country is expected to loosen this morning. However, rain is likely to be spotty all day around the country, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The expected heavy rains turned out to be moderate. One of the heaviest rainfalls showed up on the automatic measuring station at Volcán Turrialba where 35.1 millimeters fell from 7 a.m. Monday. That's about 1.4
inches. La Garita, which seems to attract rain, got 51.2
millimeters or about two inches mostly from noon until 4 p.m.

Pavas reported 17.2 and the weather institute headquarters in Barrio Aranjuez in San José reported 16 millimeters. That's about .62 or an inch.

The weather institute issued a special bulletin at 7 p.m. warning about cresting rivers.

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U.S. brands 13 countries
as failing on trafficking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. State Department report released Monday lists 13 countries, including Iran, North Korea, Burma and Cuba, as failing to meet minimum international standards in the fight against human trafficking.  The 10th annual global human trafficking report rates the United States for the first time. 

The massive State Department report assessed the anti-trafficking efforts of 177 countries, including the United States where it says that despite strong enforcement efforts there are cases of forced labor and prostitution and debt bondage.

Countries covered in the report are placed in three categories, according to anti-trafficking performance.

Those lowest rated, in Tier 3, are subject to U.S. sanctions, where applicable, including cuts in non-humanitarian aid.

There are 13 Tier 3 countries this year, four fewer than in 2009, reflecting what U.S. officials say is growing awareness and anti-trafficking enforcement. Costa Rica is in Tier 2.

Eleven holdovers from last year remain in Tier 3: Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Kuwait, Mauritania, North Korea, Papua-New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Dominican Republic joined Tier 3, while five countries, Chad, Fiji, Malaysia, Niger, Swaziland and Syria, were credited with progress and upgraded from the bottom category.

At a State Department event to release the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the survey is not about finger-pointing or casting blame, but about encouraging and prodding countries to act against what she called the "scourge of modern slavery."

She noted that the report cites cases of sexual slavery and labor bondage in the United States, despite its overall Tier-One rating.

"In some cases, foreign workers, drawn by the hope of a better life in America, are trapped by abusive employers," said Mrs. Clinton. "And there are Americans, unfortunately, who are held in sexual slavery.  And this report sends a clear message to all of our countrymen and women: human trafficking is not someone else's problem.  Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn't exist in our own communities."

Briefing reporters, the State Department's anti-trafficking coordinator, Luis C de Baca, highlighted strides by several countries, including Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Malaysia and most notably Bosnia-Herzegovina, a longtime Tier 3 country, which climbed to Tier 1 this year.

He said U.S. officials see the beginning of anti-trafficking action in Persian Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, although they remain in Tier 3.

C de Baca dismissed a suggestion that the U.S. dislike of Cuba's Communist government played a role in that country's Tier 3 ranking.

He said Cuba still has no anti-trafficking law and that the Communist North Korean government might be complicit in forced labor practices against its own workers sent abroad.

The State Department envoy said 116 countries have anti-trafficking laws and that labor-abuse convictions tripled last year.
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Legend and sausage king
Jimmy Dean dies at 81

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Country singer, actor and sausage entrepreneur Jimmy Dean died Sunday at his home in Virginia.  He was 81.  Dean was one of country music's most memorable personalities.

Dean's music career spanned more than three decades, but his success in the recording studio was nearly overshadowed by his best-selling brand of sausage and other breakfast foods. 

Jimmy Ray Dean first learned to play accordion and harmonica while growing up in Plainview, Texas. 

After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he settled in Washington, D.C. where he hosted a local radio show called "Town and Country Time" with his band The Texas Wildcats. 

During this time, Dean launched his singing career with Columbia Records and produced a string of minor hits in the 1950s.  In 1961, he became an international sensation with the release of "Big Bad John," a song he co-wrote with another country legend, Roy Acuff.

Dean's tale of a heroic miner nicknamed "Big Bad John" shot to No. 1 on both the country and pop charts, and won the Grammy Award for best country and western recording.  Dean followed with his own nationally-televised variety show, which ran for three seasons. 

Soon, he was headlining at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.  Dean has the distinction of being the first-ever guest host on "The Tonight Show," and he was the first country star to play in the Las Vegas tourist district known as "The Strip." 

In 1969, Dean founded the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. in his hometown of Plainview, Texas.  Millions will always remember him as the charming and mild-mannered spokesman of his own television commercials for Jimmy Dean Pork Sausages.

When Dean sold his company in 1984, he continued to build on his acting career, that earlier included a supporting role in the 1971 motion picture, "Diamonds Are Forever," part of the James Bond action series.  One of Dean's starring roles came in the 1990 film, "Big Bad John," based on his Grammy-winning single. 

Dean was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year, and was scheduled to be inducted in October.

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