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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, June 30, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 127       E-mail us
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Arias and Ortega
Casa Presidencial photo
Unintended unity!

In just a few hours Sunday Honduran opponents of President José Manuel Zelaya managed to unit every other leader in the Western Hemisphere. Left or right, north or south, they all condemn the expulsion of the democratically elected president.

Even Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and President Óscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica (left) are united on this point despite past differences.

See our story HERE!



INS told method for buying repair parts is flawed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite an electronic system to find parts for damaged vehicles, the Instituto Nacional de  Seguros has been paying the highest price 80 percent of the time, according to the Superintendencia de Pensiones.

With the opening of the insurance market to competition, the Superintendencia now has oversight responsibilities and provides an outside look at the former monopoly government insurance giant, known as INS.

The Superintendencia, in a report released Monday, also was critical of how the company has been guarding against money laundering. It also said the company lacked controls over independent agents.
The repair parts are big business. The Superintendencia report said that despite the Sistema de Repuestos Virtual, the policyholder is not getting clear and correct information. Vehicle owners pay a percentage of the cost of repairs, so extra costs run up by the institute result in high costs for customers.

The Superintendencia already has filed a complaint with the Comisión para la Promoción de Competencia in which it asked for an investigation of the institute and the Asociación de Importadores de Vehículos y Maquínarias for alleged monopolistic practices involving the computerized system.

The Superintendencia gave the institute until July 10 to correct the deficiencies or shut it down.


Police trying to stop a wave of cattle thefts in northern zone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On top of the drug smuggling, street robberies and shootings, the Fuerza Pública now has to worry about cattle rustling.

The agency said Monday that police in the Upala area were being reinforced. There has been a surge of cattle thefts.

The agency also revealed that its officers are working in conjunction with Nicaraguan police.

Rustlers frequently take cattle across national
borders to escape prosecution.  The security ministry had sent an additional patrol and a bus to the area to move officers. There is concern because rustlers usually are armed heavily. Plus there is the possibility of running into drug smugglers.

The major cattle thefts are taking place in San José de Upala, Birmania and El Delirio, officers said.

Friday law officers met with cattlemen in the area to develop a strategy. The Fuerza Pública will be cracking down on the entry and exit to and from Costa Rica as well and making more aggressive checks of immigration documents.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 127

Costa Rica Expertise
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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Physicians and surgeons

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Dr. Mora
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7Legal services

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 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Woman, 35, becomes second
person to die with swine flu


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A second person has died while being infected with the swine flu virus.

The Ministerio de Salud said the victim was a 35-year-old woman who entered a San José hospital with severe respiratory problems. She also had high blood pressure and was obese, the ministry said.  She developed pneumonia and suffered rapid health reverses, they added.

No one who was in contact with the woman appears to have been infected by the virus, they said.

The woman's case is not typical because most cases are light. More than 200 persons have now been confirmed with the disease, but the other death also was an individual, a man, who suffered from extensive health problems unrelated to the flu.

Viruses of today are offspring
of deadly 1918 influenza


By the National Institutes of Health

The influenza virus that wreaked worldwide havoc in 1918-1919 founded a viral dynasty that persists to this day, according to scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. In an article published online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine, authors argue that humans have lived in an influenza pandemic era since 1918, and they describe how the novel 2009 H1N1 virus now circling the globe is yet another manifestation of this enduring viral family.
 
“The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic was a defining event in the history of public health,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director for the allergy institute. He is one of the authors.  “The legacy of that pandemic lives on in many ways, including the fact that the descendents of the 1918 virus have continued to circulate for nine decades.”
 
Influenza viruses have eight genes, two of which, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, code for virus surface proteins that allow the virus to enter a host cell and spread from cell to cell. There are 144 possible HN combinations. However, only three (H1N1, H2N2 and H3N2) have ever been found in influenza viruses that are fully adapted to infect humans. Other combinations, such as avian influenza H5N1, occasionally infect people, but they are bird viruses, not human viruses.
 
“The eight influenza genes can be thought of as players on a team: Certain combinations of players may arise through chance and endow the virus with new abilities, such as the ability to infect a new type of host,” said David M. Morens, senior advisor at the institute.  That is likely what happened to spark the 1918 pandemic, he added. Scientists have shown that the founding virus was an avian-like virus. The virus had a novel set of eight genes and — through still-unknown mechanisms — gained the ability to infect people and spread readily from person to person.
 
Not only did the 1918 H1N1 virus set off an explosive pandemic in which tens of millions died, during the pandemic the virus was transmitted from humans to pigs, where — as it does in people — it continues to evolve to this day. “Ever since 1918, this tenacious virus has drawn on a bag of evolutionary tricks to survive in one form or another and to spawn a host of novel progeny viruses with novel gene constellations, through the periodic importation or exportation of viral genes,” write the authors.
 
“All human-adapted influenza A viruses of today — both seasonal variations and those that caused more dramatic pandemics — are descendents, direct or indirect, of that founding virus,” said Jeffery K. Taubenberger, a senior investigator in the institute's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases. “Thus we can be said to be living in a pandemic era that began in 1918.”
 
How exactly do new influenza gene teams make the leap from aquatic birds to a new host, such as people or other mammals? What factors determine whether infection in a new host yields a dead-end infection or sustained, human-to-human transmission, as happened in 1918? Research on such topics is intense, but at this time definitive answers remain elusive, said Morens.
 
It is known that the human immune system mounts a defense against the influenza virus’s H and N proteins, primarily in the form of antibodies. But as population-wide immunity to any new variant of flu arises, the virus reacts by changing in large and small ways that make it more difficult for antibodies to recognize it. For nearly a century, then, the immune system has been engaged in a complicated duel with the 1918 influenza virus and its progeny, say the authors.
 
While the dynasty founded by the virus of 1918 shows little evidence of being overthrown, the authors note that there may be some cause for optimism. When viewed through a long lens of many decades, it does appear that successive pandemics and outbreaks caused by later generations of the 1918 influenza dynasty are decreasing in severity, notes Morens. This is due in part to advances in medicine and public health measures, he said, but this trend also may reflect viral evolutionary pathways that favor increases in the virus’s ability to spread from host to host, combined with decreases in its tendency to kill those hosts.

“Although we must be prepared to deal with the possibility of a new and clinically severe influenza pandemic caused by an entirely new virus, we must also understand in greater depth, and continue to explore, the determinants and dynamics of the pandemic era in which we live,” concluded the authors.

Sala IV orders a halt
to municipal garbage fires


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Puntarenas had an unusual way of getting rid of garbage and other trash that city workers collected on the highways. They took the material to a vacant lot and set it afire.

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered a stop to the practice.

A resident in the Cacharita section said that homes near the lot were adversely affected by the practice and that there was a risk of setting homes ablaze and triggering lung diseases.

The resident, identified by the last names of Salas Campos, also said that the smoke generated can cut down visibility for motor vehicle drivers in the areas.

Heavy afternoon storm
also brought some hail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A heavy afternoon downpour, complete with hail, hit the San José downtown about 1 p.m.

The Instituto Meteorological Nacional blamed the unsettled weather on a tropical wave that had passed over the country.

The hail did not appear to be big enough to cause damage, They were about an eighth of an inch in diameter. 

In a brief period nearly an inch and a half of rain fell (36.1 millimeters) at the weather institute's facility in Barrio Aranjuez on northeast San José. That was more than twice the amount of rain (15.6 millimeters) that fell Sunday.

Some light rain continued through the night.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 127

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presidents meeting in Managua
Casa Presidencial photo
Presidents meet on the situation in Honduras
Zelaya, Carlos Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Álvaro Colom of Guatemala, Arias and Felipe Calderón of México
Regional leaders move to put pressure on Honduran officials
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government leaders meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, agreed Monday to put the pressure on the new regime in Honduras.

According to Costa Rican officials at the meeting, the Sistema Integración Centroamericana told the directors of the Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica to suspend loans and transfers of funds to the current Honduran government. In addition, the organization suspended cultural political, financial and even sports relationships.

The leaders also agreed to prevent the participation in the group of any Honduran diplomats not accredited by José Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president.

Zelaya was at the meeting, which also attracted representatives from all over the hemisphere, including presidents who are not members of the Sistema.

With military action Sunday morning, Honduran opponents of the president converted him into a type of martyr and united the entire hemisphere, regardless of political leanings, against themselves.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua also have agreed to close their national borders to commercial transport for at least 48 hours. However, Costa Rica has declined to take commercial reprisals for political motivations, according to the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior. However, Costa Rica does not have a border with Honduras.

A key link of the Interamerican highway crosses Honduras from Nicaragua to El Salvador.

Zelaya, who is scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly later this week, said he would return to Honduras Thursday. Crowds supporting him have grown from hundreds to thousands in the capital of Tegucigalpa.

José Miguel Insulza, general secretary of the Organization of American States, who also was at the meeting, agreed to accompany Zelaya.

The Inter American Press Association, in a separate  message, condemned limitations placed on news media and journalists following Zelaya's ouster and issued a public demand that incoming officials respect press freedom without reservations and which is at risk under a new 48-hour curfew.

After Zelaya was removed from office and expelled from the country, Roberto Micheletti Bain was sworn in as president of Honduras by Congress, and a two-day curfew was imposed, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily.
Announcing a state of emergency, the National Telecommunications Commission banned cable television transmissions, blacking out CNN Español, Telesur and Cubavisión Internacional. It was also learned that earlier state radio and television broadcasts were suspended.

Local media complained that demonstrators in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Zula opposed to Zelaya’s overthrow attacked and insulted reporters and photographers and destroyed newspaper vending kiosks.

The Tegucigalpa daily newspaper El Heraldo reported an attack on one of its photographers covering a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace. In San Pedro Sula, the newspaper El Tiempo reported that members of the military went to Canal 11 TV and its own headquarters and ordered a halt to reporting and broadcasting statements by officials of the ousted Zelaya administration.

La Prensa in San Pedro Sula declared that “a group of reporters, photographers and drivers from the newspaper were threatened while covering the crisis in the country” and were photographed by demonstrators who attempted to seize their equipment, while Monday morning a distribution van was attacked by a mob.

Journalists from The Associated Press and the Venezuelan Telesur network were taken by soldiers from their hotel Monday and questioned at an immigration office then released.

Arias was the first president to talk with Zelaya after the coup. The ousted president turned up at Juan Santamaría airport in his pajamas on a Honduran military jet. He and Arias conducted a joint press conference there. Arias has been unwaivering that the constitutional order must be reestablished in Honduras.

The Asamblea Legislativa in Costa Rica approved a motion Monday condemning the coup and demanding a return to the constitutional order.

The congressional leaders and the military in Honduras claim that Zelaya's ouster was legal. The military claims its officers were working on instructions from the country's supreme court.

The coup took place on the same day that Zelaya was hoping to stage a non-binding referendum on changing the country's constitution. He wants to seek a second term, which is prohibited now. The supreme court called the referendum illegal and the military declined to distribute ballot boxes as soldiers traditionally do.  Zelaya fired the nation's top general Thursday igniting the spark that resulted in his ouster Sunday morning.


Reporters in Washington conduct mystery phone interviews
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Washington reporters gather around the telephone for an important interview with State Department officials, it's more like a game show.

Take a high-level briefing Sunday on the Honduras situation. The briefing was on what Washington insiders call background. In other words, despite taking a government paycheck, the State Department officials do not want their name connected to their comments.

Reporters on the other end of telephone lines were instructed by an aide identified as Ian Kelly to refer to the mystery individuals as Mr. Senior Administration Official Number One and Mr. Senior Administration Official Number Two.

The State Department later released a verbatim transcript of the telephone presentations. The officials made such controversial comments as this:

"We view President Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras, and we’ve called for a full restoration of democratic order in Honduras."

Presumably most of the reporters could identify the voices on the other end of the telephone line. But not Bill Schmick. He said: "I’m with Bloomberg. And I don’t cover State, and I just wonder, do you plan to identify yourself for somebody who doesn't recognize voices? This exchange followed:
MR. KELLY: I think not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: That’s the whole meaning of background.

QUESTION: No, I understand the meaning of background. But you know, in other places, they tell you who — they at least tell you who’s talking.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. This is Ian Kelly. If you want to contact me separately, I’ll be glad to talk to you.

QUESTION: Okay. How do I do that?

MR. KELLY: Well, we can talk after the conference.

Presumably the rest of the reporters on the conference call attributed their information to unidentified State Department sources with a probability that they really knew who was talking.

They included such heavy hitters as Elise Labott of CNN,  Cal Woodward of The Associated Press, Mark Mazzetti and Marc Lacey of The New York Times, Juan Lopez of CNN Español, Andrea Mitchell, of NBC News, Maria Pena of EFE News Services, Rubén Barerra of Notimex, Rosiland Jordan of Al Jazeera English, Julio Marenco of La Prensa Grafica in El Salvador, Mary Beth Sheridan of The Washington Post, Dmitri Kirsanov of ITAR-TASS, the Russian news agency, and Kirit Radia of ABC News.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 127


High court decision on firemen is blow to affirmative action
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided a civil rights case that could have a far-reaching impact on race-based affirmative action programs.  By a 5-4 vote the high court sided with white firefighters in Connecticut who had said they were the victims of reverse discrimination. 

The decision involves the city of New Haven, Connecticut.

The firefighters had sued the city after it scrapped the results of a promotion exam after it became clear that no African-Americans and only a few Hispanics were likely to win promotions.

Several white firefighters did well in the exam and appeared headed for promotions, but New Haven officials feared the city could become the target of lawsuits by minority firefighters who took the exam.

The majority opinion in the five-to-four Supreme Court decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the key swing vote on a court sharply divided between conservative and liberal-leaning factions.  It came on the final day of the court's annual term.

Kennedy wrote that New Haven's decision to throw out the results of the promotion exam violated federal civil-rights law because the white firefighters were penalized because of the lack of successful black applicants.

The high-court ruling overturned a previous decision by a federal appeals court panel that included Judge Sonia Sotomayor.  President Barack Obama has nominated Judge Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

Conservative groups and critics of affirmative action hiring programs welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

Michael Rosman is with the Center for Individual Rights in Washington.

"I think it is justice.  What the city did was intentional discrimination," said Rosman.  "The list that was promulgated in 2004 is going to be used and those firefighters who were at the top of the list are going to be promoted."

Supporters of affirmative action programs say the Supreme Court decision will complicate the efforts of local and state governments to ensure that minority applicants are treated fairly in the hiring process.

"The problem that we see in this kind of a decision is that it requires state and local governments to say to women
or minorities, if you are upset, you have to sue us because we cannot make any changes unilaterally," said Richard Primus, a legal scholar at the University of Michigan.

Many Republicans praised the Supreme Court ruling and said the high court's reversal of Judge Sotomayor in the lower court raises questions about her judicial philosophy.

Judge Sotomayor is sure to be asked about the case when her Senate confirmation hearings begin July 13.

But Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, believes the Supreme Court ruling in the New Haven case will not have a negative impact on her nomination.

"The bottom line is that the excellence, wisdom and moderation Judge Sotomayor has displayed in her decisions on the 2nd Circuit will follow her as she serves on the Supreme Court bench.  I believe she will be a positive addition to the United States Supreme Court," said Schumer.

If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor will become the first Hispanic justice and only the second woman on the current court, joining Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sotomayor is not expected to affect the ideological balance on the high court since the man she is replacing, Justice David Souter, generally voted with the court's liberal faction. 


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

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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 week day.

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.

Searching

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Giant archive in English
permits tracking language


By the Uppsala University news service

Historical collections that include everything ever written in a dozen American and British newspapers since they started are now available electronically. Donald MacQueen from Uppsala University, Sweden, has carried out the first comprehensive study that makes use of this resource in order to track changes in language usage, a method that makes it possible to attain an entirely new degree of precision in dating.

The gigantic newspaper archives contain news and feature articles as well as editorials and commercial and classified advertisements. Together they comprise tens of billions of words. In his dissertation in English linguistics, MacQueen has examined the word million in English, especially how language usage shifted from the previously nearly totally dominant "five millions of inhabitants" to today's "five million inhabitants." With the help of these electronic collections of texts that only recently became available, he has succeeded in pinning down when and where the modern expression began to take over.

When you study the occurrence of uncommon words in smaller text archives of one or a few million words, you only get a few examples to analyze, he said. "These collections are much larger, and they have enabled me to obtain extremely reliable historical data for one year at a time. In this way I have been able to trace the shift with a precision that was not previously possible in linguistic studies," he explained.

It turns out that the modern construction took over in the American newspapers in the middle of the 1880s and in the British The Times only in the mid 1910s. What's more, it became apparent that the transitional period was shorter in The Times. These circumstances indicate that usage in American newspapers influenced and accelerated the shift in the British newspaper.

This took place at the height of the British empire, and roughly when the U.S. economy overtook the British for the first time. MacQueen tentatively sees as an impetus for the change in usage, apart from the fact that both expressions suddenly began to be used more frequently, the greater propensity for people to embrace innovations during periods of severe social crisis, in this case the American Civil War and World War I. It is also possible that these wars entailed major population movements that could have impacted usage.

"Another discovery I made, thanks to the huge amount of data, is that when the use of the two constructions began to be roughly equal in frequency, the newspapers chose quite simply to avoid using such constructions, writing numeral expressions instead. After World War II, when there was no longer any doubt which construction was the right one, the newspapers reverted to writing number-word expressions again," he says.

The dissertation also includes a comparison with languages like French and German, where the corresponding grammatical shift regarding the word million from being a noun to an ordinary number word has not yet taken place.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 127


Latin American news digest
Missing trio in la Fortuna
included a U.S. tourist


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. tourist, a Costa Rican woman and her sister, 11, were lost overnight in the La Fortuna area but were found safe Monday.

Marisol Flores, director of the Fuerza Pública in the area identified the individuals as Kristel Mehan, 20, of the United States, Lizeth Araya, 19, and Priscilla Araya, 11.

The woman were staying at a local hotel and went out for a walk. When they did not return, authorities were notified.   The Cruz Roja participated in the search, which started about 5 a.m.

Just two hours later, the trio were spotted leaving a tunnel on the Río Danta, said the Fuerza Pública director. The only injuries were some scraps, the director added.


Canada Day will feature
singer Amanda Rheaume

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Embassy of Canada is sponsoring the Canadian singer Amanda Rheaume Wednesday evening at the Hotel Intercontinental in Escazú.

Wednesday is Canada Day, the celebration of the country's birthday.

The evening is being sponsored by the various companies in Costa Rica that have Canadian roots.

Ambassador Neil Reeder and his wife Irene Hansen-Reeder are the hosts of the by-invitation event.

Ms. Rheaume released in May her newest album "Kiss Me Back."  It was recorded in Canada.


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What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007  and 2008 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details