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(506) 2223-1327           Published Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125           E-mail us
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Police and teachers plan strikes at start of week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Ricans are facing two days of strikes beginning with the various police forces today. Tuesday educators have been called out to protest a change in the educational calendar.

Expats can expect a traffic jam Tuesday as educators march to Casa Presidencial in Zapote. And incoming tourist might face another slowdown by the  Policía Profesional de Migración y Extranjería similar to the one that took place a week ago when air passengers at Juan Santamaría airport were backed up in long lines.

The various police agencies include the Policía Penitenciaria, the Policía de Tránsito and the Fuerza Pública, as well as the immigration police. They are asking the central government to honor agreements to adjust salaries upwards. There are salary agreements dating back to 2009 that the police and the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados say have not been honored.

Teachers have been called to gather at Plaza de la Democracia at 9 a.m. Tuesday. This is the normal meeting day of the Consejo de Gobierno, the president's cabinet, so teachers plan to present a petition at Casa Presidencial. Leonardo Garnier, minister of Educación Pública, is seeking to create a three-semester school calendar to replace the existing two semesters.

Teachers also are unhappy with budget cuts, personnel policies and pay.

Although the principal opponent of the three-semester plan is the  Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, the high school teachers, educators from all levels will march. The Magisterio Nacional, the umbrella organization, has been placing television ads to promote the march.
proposal
Teachers are upset about this


Education union leaders said that the change in the number of semesters is not negotiable. Presumably schools will operate with a skeleton staff if at all Tuesday.

Garnier has a detailed explanation of the three- semester pan on the ministry Web site. He said that since the 1970s the curriculum has been divided into three semesters and that under the current system vacations interrupt the educational process.

The proposal still allows for 10 weeks of vacation for students, and there will be no changes in pay for teachers, it said. The three semesters would vary from 13 to 15 week and they would be separated by two-week vacations, except for the five-week Christmas break from December through January.

The current Christmas break is seven weeks, and Garnier's plan would make the school year longer but not add any teaching days. Classes would remain at 42 weeks. Additional vacation days would stretch out the calendar.


Mid-year vacation coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public school students begin their mid-year vacation next Monday. Students are off through Friday, July 15. A number of public and private entities have vacation programs planned for the youngsters.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125

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Fire station in Orotina
official inaugurated


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Orotina officially has a new fire station. The facility is near the fairgrounds on Ruta 27. It was dedicated over the weekend.

In addition to a garage for a fire engine, the station has living quarters, a dining area, meeting rooms and an electrical generator and a tank of water for emergencies. The tank holds 54,000 liters or about 14,000 gallons.

Four paid firemen will be stationed there assisted by 10 volunteers from the locality, Last year firemen in Orotina responded to 252 emergencies, said the Cuerpo de Bomberos. These included structure fires, traffic accidents, water emergencies and even bee swarms.

The Orotina station is the third to be put into service this year. There also are new stations at Acosta and Pital. Next year, firemen said construction is planned for new facilities at Coronado and El Roble. The Cuerpo de Bomberos now has 67 stations with 500 paid firemen and 800 volunteers.


Seemingly without reason,
motorist kills man in crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 24-year-old motorist was involved in a collision with a taxi early Friday. The driver of another car nearly collided with the vehicles in the accident, then the driver got out and murdered the motorist.

Dead is Alejandro Chacón Marchena, the son of a well-known Central Valley lawyer. He was returning home from a girlfriend's house when the mishap took place. There does not seem to be a theory as to why an individual not involved in the accident would fire on the young man.

Chacón, the son of  Rubén Chacón Castro, was shot about 1 a.m. and died Friday afternoon in Hospital Calderón Guardia. He was hit in the head, said the Judicial investigating Organization. The elder Chacón is known for his legal work on behalf of native Costa Ricans.


Hotel guest gunned down
while trying to stop crime

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents have detained two men in the killing of a hotel guest in Cariari de Pococí early Friday.

The victim, identified by the last name of Fernández, shot it out with two men who tried to stick up the hotel staff about 1 a.m., said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was 38.

Fernández apparently became aware of a robbery of hotel staff at the reception deck and pulled his own gun to stop the crime. One of the robbers suffered wounds, agents said.

A short time later a man showed up at a local clinic with bullet wounds in his body. He was detained as a suspect, and agents were able to locate a second man.


Student carried pistol

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in Liberia said they detained a 17-year-old night high school students because he was packing a .38-caliber pistol. Officers said they checked on the identification of the student because there have been a wave of robberies where knives and guns were used in the center of Liberia. A search turned up the weapon, they said.


 
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
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary




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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125

Prisma Dental

Debate on global warming attracts expertise from Canada
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper has tried to encourage reasoned debate on the topic of man-caused global warming. This concept, prompted by former U.S. vice president Al Gore and the United Nations, has major impacts on Costa Rican foreign and environmental policy.

Costa Rica has embarked on an ambitious plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2021 and President Laura Chinchilla says she is oppose to oil drilling in the northern zone because of the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels. In addition, Christiana Figueres,  Costa Rica is executive secretary of the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Editors quickly learned that views on global warming are strongly held. July 11, 2007, this newspaper published a story on William Gray, the Colorado State University meteorologist who disagreed with Gore's take on the issue. Quickly readers took up sides.

Letter writers called global warming a hoax and another said this about Gray: "His exceptions to the causes of global climatic changes  comes with little or no documentation and no credibility." Another suggested he was a lackey of corporate America.

Gore and scientists who wrote the United Nations  report on climate change say the debate is over and the time has come to act. Not everyone agrees.

Tuesday editors published a University of Washington report that said new research lends support to evidence from numerous recent studies that suggest abrupt climate change appears to be the result of alterations in ocean circulation uniquely associated with ice ages.

A letter that commented favorable on the study drew this response Thursday:

". . . the Internet fills cyberspace with ideological rantings, half truths and outright lies which most people with at least two fingers accept without question and forward to 50 of their mindless friends."

Friday this letter appeared:

Dear Editor:
 
I must weigh in again on this topic. I am a geophysicist with 60 years' experience, and I have been working almost exclusively on global warming for the last five years. I have recently published an article on the subject in Geoscience Canada, a respected, peer-reviewed journal. The reaction has been almost uniformly positive. In fact, I have found almost no scientists, in my recent studies, who do not harbour strong misgivings about the man-made warming hypothesis.

As for CO2 warming the oceans, the reverse is correct. Sun-produced warming causes the oceans to absorb less

U.S. global warming logo
United Nation's Framwork logo depicts a toasty Earth
CO2 thereby putting more into the atmosphere. But this process takes several hundred years.

We are, indeed, entering a period (5-20 years) of cooling, due to the weak Solar Cycle 24. This will also have an effect on Ocean-Atmospheric influences and we will experience more of La Niña and less of El Niño.

It is good to see healthy debate on this issue.
 
Respectfully,
Norman Paterson
Canada and Pérez Zeledón

Paterson is a professional engineer and consulting geophysicist with 60 years’ experience in mineral and environmental geophysics. He obtained his Ph.D in geophysics at the University of Toronto in 1955, and was elected fellow, Royal Society of Canada in 1977, according to the journal.

In the interest of  healthy debate, printed below with permission, is the summary to his article. For those who wish to consult the complete, higly technical article, it is HERE!

Global Warming: The Myth, Its Causes
and Consequences


Summary

According to popular belief, recent global warming has been caused largely by greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, accruing in the atmosphere, and man is responsible for most of the ~120 ppm increase in CO2 over the last 100 years. This article cites a number of recent peer-reviewed scientific papers, and finds that contrary arguments by a growing body of scientists are generally more convincing, better presented, and supported by better empirical data than those that favour the ‘dangerous anthropogenic warming’ hypothesis.

These arguments invoke the effects of solar irradiance and ocean-atmosphere interactions, both of which have been shown to have warming effects at least as great as those claimed for CO2, and to be based on sound, well-understood scientific theory. Furthermore, the global warming models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others have in some cases been shown to be incorrect and contrary to current temperature statistics. For these and other reasons, the CO2-driven, anthropogenic warming hypothesis is regarded by many as suspect and lacking in empirical evidence.

The difficulty of refuting this popular hypothesis is exacerbated by the IPCC’s United Nations mandate to advise governments on the severity of man-made global warming, a mandate that they have followed faithfully, encouraging the emergence of a large body of funded research that supports their view. This presents a problem for global society, as the human-caused warming scenario diverts attention from other, at least equally serious environmental impacts of our industrial society. Recently, however, there appears to be a tilting of public opinion away from global warming alarmism, which may fundamentally affect the direction of the climate change debate.

Reprinted from: Geoscience Canada, vol. 38, no. 2., March 2011


Feeling luck? Here's a chance to pocket a bundle of cash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats have another long, long shot at improving their finances.

The Junta de Protección Social is pulling numbers next Sunday for a lottery that is fatter than usual. By no means is this gordito richer than the traditional Christmas lottery, but the top prize is 240 million colons or about $480,000.

The usual Sunday lottery has a top prize of about 23 percent of that.

To win all one has to do is purchase the ticket with the correct two numbers and the correct three-digit series. The numbers are picked by use of three rotating baskets. One provides the number. One provides the series, and one provides the amount of the prize. In all, there are nearly 400 prizes. There are 450,000 tickets, so expats would have a one in a 1,125 chance of at least winning something.

The drawing will be televised live, as are nearly all lottery events.

Th lottery tickets are 12,000 colons, but someone could purchase a tenth of a ticket for 1,200 colons. Frequently groups of employees, family members and neighbors buy
lottery logo

a full ticket, and the celebration is intense when the number comes up. The trick is finding an acceptable number from the limited supply available at sales outlets.

The Junta makes a huge profit on the lottery and uses the money for hundreds of social programs and organizations.

Tickets are available from registered lottery vendors on the streets and in storefront agencies. Most will not try to sell expats tickets at more than face value. Vendors will shout out the numbers they have to attract those seeking a favored arrangement of digits.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125


CR Home real estate


DNA tells the tale of two branchs of the coconut palm

By the  Washington University news staff

The coconut, the fruit of the palm Cocos nucifera, is the Swiss Army knife of the plant kingdom. In one neat package it provides a high-calorie food, potable water, fiber that can be spun into rope, and a hard shell that can be turned into charcoal. What’s more, until it is needed for some other purpose it serves as a handy flotation device.

No wonder people from ancient Austronesians to Captain Bligh pitched a few coconuts aboard before setting sail. The mutiny of the "Bounty" is supposed to have been triggered by Bligh’s harsh punishment of the theft of coconuts from the ship’s store.

So extensively is the history of the coconut interwoven with the history of people traveling that Kenneth Olsen, a plant evolutionary biologist, didn’t expect to find much geographical structure to coconut genetics when he and his colleagues set out to examine the DNA of more than 1,300 coconuts from all over the world.

“I thought it would be mostly a mish-mash,” he says, thoroughly homogenized by humans schlepping coconuts with them on their travels.

He was in for a surprise. It turned out that there are two clearly differentiated populations of coconuts, a finding that strongly suggests the coconut was brought under cultivation in two separate locations, one in the Pacific basin and the other in the Indian Ocean basin. What’s more, coconut genetics also preserve a record of prehistoric trade routes and of the colonization of the Americas.

The discoveries of the team, which included Bee Gunn, now of the Australian National University in Australia, and Luc Baudouin of the Centre International de Recherches en Agronomie pour le Développement in Montpellier, France, as well as Olsen, associate professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, are described in the June 23 online issue of the journal PLoS One.

Before the DNA era, biologists recognized a domesticated plant by its morphology. In the case of grains, for example, one of the most important traits in domestication is the loss of shattering, or the tendency of seeds to break off the central grain stalk once mature.

The trouble was it was hard to translate coconut morphology into a plausible evolutionary history.

There are two distinctively different forms of the coconut fruit, known as niu kafa and niu vai, Samoan names for traditional Polynesian varieties. The niu kafa form is triangular and oblong with a large fibrous husk. The niu vai form is rounded and contains abundant sweet coconut “water” when unripe.

“Quite often the niu vai fruit are brightly colored when they’re unripe, either bright green, or bright yellow. Sometimes they’re a beautiful gold with reddish tones,” says Olsen.

Coconuts have also been traditionally classified into tall and dwarf varieties based on the tree habit, or shape. Most coconuts are talls, but there are also dwarfs that are only several feet tall when they begin reproducing. The dwarfs account for only 5 percent of coconuts.

Dwarfs tend to be used for eating fresh, and the tall forms for coconut oil and for fiber.

“Almost all the dwarfs are self fertilizing and those three traits — being dwarf, having the rounded sweet fruit, and being self-pollinating — are thought to be the definitive domestication traits,” says Olsen.

“The traditional argument was that the niu kafa form was the wild, ancestral form that didn’t reflect human selection, in part because it was better adapted to ocean dispersal,” says Olsen. Dwarf trees with niu vai fruits were thought to be the domesticated form.

The trouble is it’s messier than that. “You almost always find coconuts near human habitations,” says Olsen, and while the niu vai is an obvious domestication form, the niu kafa form is also heavily exploited for copra, the dried meat ground and pressed to make oil, and coir, fiber woven into rope.”

“The lack of universal domestication traits together with the long history of human interaction with coconuts, made it difficult to trace the coconut’s cultivation origins strictly by morphology,” Olsen says.

The project got started when Ms. Gunn, who had long been interested in palm evolution, and who was then at the Missouri Botanical Garden, contacted Olsen, who had the laboratory facilities needed to study palm DNA.

Together they won a National Geographic Society grant that allowed Ms. Gunn to collect coconut DNA in regions of the western Indian Ocean for which there were no data. The snippets of leaf tissue from the center of the coconut tree’s crown she sent home in zip-lock bags to be analyzed.

“We had reason to suspect that coconuts from these regions —especially Madagascar and the Comoros Islands — might show evidence of ancient gene flow events brought about by ancient Austronesians setting up migration routes and trade routes across the southern Indian Ocean,” Olsen says.

Olsen’s lab genotyped 10 microsatellite regions in each palm sample. Microsatellites are regions of stuttering DNA where the same few nucleotide units are repeated many times. Mutations pop up and persist pretty easily in these regions because they usually don’t affect traits that are important to survival and so aren’t selected against, says Olsen. “So we can use these genetic markers to fingerprint the coconut,” he says.

The new collections were combined with a vast dataset
coconut
Wikipedia Commons photo
A tall coconut with niu kafa fruit. The meat of these coconuts, called copra, is often dried, ground and pressed for oil, and their fiber is spun into rope, or coir.


that had been established by the French agricultural research center, using the same genetic markers. “These data were being used for things like breeding, but no one had gone through and systematically examined the genetic variation in the context of the history of the plant,” Olsen says.

The most striking finding of the new DNA analysis is that the Pacific and Indian Ocean coconuts are quite distinct genetically. “About a third of the total genetic diversity can be partitioned between two groups that correspond to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean,” says Olsen.

“That’s a very high level of differentiation within a single species and provides pretty conclusive evidence that there were two origins of cultivation of the coconut,” he says.

In the Pacific, coconuts were likely first cultivated in island Southeast Asia, meaning the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and perhaps the continent as well. In the Indian Ocean the likely center of cultivation was the southern periphery of India, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Laccadives.

The definitive domestication traits — the dwarf habit, self-pollination and niu vai fruits — arose only in the Pacific, however, and then only in a small subset of Pacific coconuts, which is why Olsen speaks of origins of cultivation rather than of domestication.

“At least we have it easier than scientists who study animal domestication,” he says. “So much of being a domesticated animal is being tame, and behavioral traits aren’t preserved in the archeological record.”

One exception to the general Pacific/Indian Ocean split is the western Indian Ocean, specifically Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, where Ms. Gunn had collected. The coconuts there are a genetic mixture of the Indian Ocean type and the Pacific type.

Olsen and his colleagues believe the Pacific coconuts were introduced to the Indian Ocean a couple of thousand years ago by ancient Austronesians establishing trade routes connecting Southeast Asia to Madagascar and coastal east Africa.

Olsen points out that no genetic admixture is found in the more northerly Seychelles, which fall outside the trade route. He adds that a recent study of rice varieties found in Madagascar shows there is a similar mixing of the japonica and indica rice varieties from Southeast Asia and India.

To add to the historical shiver, the descendants of the people who brought the coconuts and rice are still living in Madagascar. The present-day inhabitants of the Madagascar highlands are descendants of the ancient Austronesians, Olsen says.

Much later the Indian Ocean coconut was transported to the New World by Europeans. The Portuguese carried coconuts from the Indian Ocean to the West Coast of Africa, Olsen says, and the plantations established there were a source of material that made it into the Caribbean and also to coastal Brazil.

So the coconuts that found today in Florida are largely the Indian Ocean type, Olsen says, which is why they tend to have the niu kafa form.

On the Pacific side of the New World tropics, however, the coconuts are Pacific Ocean coconuts. Some appear to have been transported there in pre-Columbian times by ancient Austronesians moving east rather than west.

During the colonial period, the Spanish brought coconuts to the Pacific coast of Mexico from the Philippines, which was for a time governed on behalf of the King of Spain from Mexico.

This is why, Olsen says, you find Pacific type coconuts on the Pacific coast of Central America and Indian type coconuts on the Atlantic coast.

“The big surprise was that there was so much genetic differentiation clearly correlated with geography, even though humans have been moving coconut around for so long.”

Far from being a mish-mash, coconut DNA preserves a record of human cultivation, voyages of exploration, trade and colonization.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Cholera cases continuing
to rise in Haiti and DR


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Cases of cholera are on the rise in Haiti and neighboring Dominican Republic, the United Nations World Health Organization reported Friday, saying more than 18,000 new cases in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, have been recorded recently.

“This increase may be partly due to the beginning of the rainy season and the flooding that hit the capital,”  spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

“Data from the Ministry of Public Health of Haiti showed that since the beginning of the outbreak until 12 June, there had been 344,623 cases of cholera and 5,397 deaths,” he added. The cholera epidemic in Haiti first erupted last October.

In the Dominican Republic, the health ministry reported that since the first cases were reported in the country late last year, there have been 1,727 confirmed cases, including 46 deaths. The ministry is continuing its epidemiological research and response, which included improving water quality and sanitation services, and public awareness campaigns on prevention.

Jasarevic said that the occupancy rate of the 2,300 beds in cholera treatment centers in Haiti and the cholera treatment units in the Port-au-Prince Metropolitan area was about 72 per cent.

Access to clean water and proper sanitation in Haiti remains the main challenge in fighting the epidemic, according to the World Health Organization.


Brazilian elected to head
U.N.'s food organization


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A former Brazilian food security minister will become the first person from Latin America to head the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations agency leading international efforts in the fight against hunger.

José Graziano da Silva, who has served as a senior regional official for organization since 2006, will take up the post of director general Jan.1 after beating five other candidates during voting Friday at the agency's headquarters in Rome.

Graziano da Silva, received 92 votes from 180 votes cast by member states during the second round of balloting, narrowly defeating Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaube, a former foreign minister of Spain.

Four other candidates, Franz Fischler of Austria, Indroyono Soesilo of Indonesia, Mohammad Saeid Noori Naeini of Iran and Abdul Latif Rashid of Iraq, all withdrew from the contest after receiving fewer votes during the first round of balloting .

Graziano da Silva, 61, will be only the eighth person to lead an agency that was established in 1945 and he will be the first person from his region.

Graziano da Silva's term will expire on July 31,  2015, but he will be eligible to run for a second, four-year term. He succeeds Jacques Diouf, who has served as director general since 1994.


Mexico's soccer team wins
Gold Cup final against U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

México rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the United States 4-2 in the Gold Cup final.

Pablo Barrera broke a 2-2 tie with a goal in the 50th minute Saturday, his second goal of the game.  México had trailed the U.S. 2-0 after just 23 minutes.

The title contest was played in front of 93,000 fans Saturday night at the sold-out Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.  Most of the crowd was cheering for México, which has now won six of the biennial North American regional football titles.  Mexico's second straight title also qualifies it for the 2013 Confederations Cup.

The U.S. took an early lead Saturday on goals by Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan, before Barrera scored Mexico's first goal.  Andrew Guardado netted the equalizer in the 36th minute, setting up Mexico's dominating second half.  After Barrera gave Mexico the lead, Giovani Dos Santos capped the scoring in the 76th minute.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 27, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 125

Costa Rica Reprot promo


Latin American news
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Masked man guns down
police officer at his home


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A masked man who was awaiting his victim gunned down a 43-year-old police officer at his home Friday night in Paso Canoas near the Panamá border.

The dead officer was identified as  Jorge Sánchez Vigil, a 23-year member of the Fuerza Pública.

The Fuerza Pública said that the killer used a 9-mm. weapon and shot the officer in the back seven times about 9 p.m.

Sánchez had just gotten out of his car and was accompanied by his wife and daughter, who witnessed the crime. Sánchez was dressed in civilian clothes, said the Fuerza Pública.

In addition to the mask, the killer wore  a dark overcoat, police said.

Sánchez worked at the police station in La Virgen in Laurel de Corredores.

Biggest threat is secularism,
survey says of evangelicals


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Despite many who have criticized Islam, Evangelical leaders around the world say they do not see Muslims as much of a threat to their faith as secularism and popular culture.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted the survey during what it called a geographically representative meeting of global evangelical leaders last year in South Africa.

The survey indicated 47 percent of respondents say Islam is the main threat to evangelical Christianity, but 71 percent put secularism in that category.

Luis Lugo is director of the Pew Forum. "To put it in context, it is not as though it is not seen as a threat, it is just that secularism in its associated practices tend to be seen as much more of a threat," he said.

Evangelical Christians generally believe in the authority of scripture, the importance of preaching, and conversion - even for Christian-born adherents.

Many leaders said in the survey that there is too much sex and violence in their societies and that consumerism and materialism are at odds with a Christian lifestyle.







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