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(506) 223-1327               Published Thursday, July 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 132               E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Flame of the forest nursery
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Spectacular tree

They are called flame of the forest, and they make a blazing display this time of year all over Costa Rica.

At left is a nursery where the ornamental plants are cultivated. But most now grow wild.

See our story

New jetliner promises more passenger comfort
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

They are calling it the Dreamliner. It is Boeing's newest passenger jet that will debut Sunday. The company promises more comfort for air travelers.

The airline manufacturer is promising larger windows, wide aisles, wide seats, large overhead bins and new lighting.

Boeing already has more than 600 orders for planes to 45 airline customers, worth an estimated $100 billion in sales. So far Continental has ordered four of the new aircraft, Air Canada 23 and First Choice four. There is no indication yet when the aircraft might be slated for a Costa Rican route.

Unlike the last generation of jumbo jets, like the Airbus A-380 which seats 550 passengers, the 787 is smaller.  The Dreamliner is designed to carry up to 330 people, and to access regional airports.  And it is lighter, made from
Company rendering of Boeing 787

composite materials, primarily plastic.

"For airlines we are looking at a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over today's airplanes, significantly better costs so that airlines can continue to be profitable," said Boeing spokesman Randy Tinseth.  Frequent travelers hope the airlines pass on some of the savings.

While sales for the 787 Dreamliner are brisk and Boeing's immediate future looks promising, there are still concerns.  Unforeseen production delays would cut profits and the airplane has yet to actually fly. 

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 132

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Failed States Index gives
Costa Rica good marks

By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica ranks a healthy 140th on the list of countries most likely to fail, according to the 2007 Failed States Index produced by the Fund for Peace. Sudan leads the list, followed closely by Iraq and Somalia.

The 177 countries in this year’s study are grouped as “critical,” “warning,” “moderate,” and “sustainable.” The worst group is mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In the Western Hemisphere, only Haiti is in that group, though Colombia nearly makes the grade, saved by its economic situation.

Most of Latin America is in the “warning” category, while “moderate” Costa Rica is bettered only by Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Those with similar scores to Costa Rica are eastern European countries and smaller Persian Gulf states. The United States and the larger European countries are also in this category.

The countries considered “sustainable” are the usual suspects from northern Europe and Oceania, along with Canada and Japan.

Scores are the result of a large automated internet search with values for 12 categories related to demographics, equality, corruption, and internal instability, with some fine-tuning by human analysts. The results seem much more intuitive than previous editions.

Costa Rica scores relatively well in categories related to government behavior and corruption. The ranking is dragged down by development issues, with the score for uneven development among the worst in the moderate group.

The category “massive movement of refugees or internal displacement resulting in complex humanitarian emergencies” shows a poor score. Any sort of immigration seems to trigger increments. Likewise “human flight” for all the Ticos in New Jersey.

In terms of demographic pressures, the young population and presumably also immigration produces a poor score, despite rapidly falling birth rates here. Apparently Iceland’s 2.0 fertility rate (replacement rate 2.1, Costa Rica 2.2 according to the CIA) with practically no immigration is the most desirable. Countries with very low birthrates such as Italy are treated unfavorably as well.

More puzzling are the poor showings for intervention of other states or external political actors and human rights abuses, though the latter may refer to the sad state of the Costa Rican judicial system. What the group grievance score refers to is similarly unclear.

Costa Rica and the United States are actually somewhat similar in their strengths and weaknesses, unsurprising considering the importance the study gives to immigration and unequal distribution of wealth.

For the full ranking see HERE.

Heavy flooding hits cantons
in country's northern zone

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials have put their resources in action to help those who have been inundated by heavy rains in the northern zone.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that some 30 persons have been forced from their homes into shelters in Santa Clara, near San Carlos. The cantons of Upala, Los Chiles, Guatuso and San Carlos are under an emergency alert.
In Santa Clara, the rios Niño and Guacalito flooded about 60 homes, the commission said. Some had up to five feet of water in the living areas, said the commission.

Officials hope the water level will lower today so an evaluation can be made. They said at least one bridge in the area on a main highway was at the point of collapsing.

Based on weather predictions, the commission reported it was concerned about some sections of the Caribbean.

Honduran president to help
start envionmental campaign

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Honduras, José Zelaya Rosales, will be in Costa Rica Friday to help President Óscar Arias Sánchez launch his "peace with nature" initiative.

Zelaya will arrive in the morning and visit the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad. Then he will receive the keys to the city from Mayor Johnny Araya at the Municipalidad de San José building.

The Paz con la Naturaleza launching is in the evening at Teatro Nacional. The project includes internal efforts and also external efforts to use Costa Rica's influence on the world stage to address pressing environmental problems.

The peace with nature slogan originated with former president Abel Pacheco who also sent lawmakers a series of environmental amendments to the Costa Rican Constitution. Environmentalists said Wednesday they wondered if Arias would use his influence to obtain passage of the controversial Pacheco measures. One amendment says that when humans and nature collide, nature should prevail.

Our reader's opinion
We don't give the truth
to our readers on Villalobos

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The UCCR has more members now than it had 5 years ago.  We both know that the trial is not over until the appeals are heard.  By calling this a Ponzi scheme and constantly giving one-sided information you are not presenting the truth to your readers.  LEV [Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho] has repeatedly told his creditors that he has every intention to pay back what he owes, as soon as it is possible for him to do so.  He accepted funds after the July 4th raid because he did not know that he would be closed down permanently.  Had he not left the country he would have spent all these years in prison with Osvaldo and very little chance to prove his case, protect our funds and meet his obligations.
John Manners
United and Concerned Citizens
of Costa Rica

EDITOR'S NOTE: A.M. Costa Rica usually does not reply directly to crticial letters to the editor. We let our work speak for itself. It is HERE.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 132

Puerto Limon Agency

A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Seed pods are natural toys and can easily be converted into tiny canoes

Flame of the forest tree goes in for spectacular displays
By Donna Lynn Norton
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The tree that brings forth bright red flowers this time of year is also an import.

The spectacular, flaming, scarlet-orange tulip-like flowers appear to be giant blossoms on the African tulip tree, also called "flame of the forest."  This is an illusion.  There are many individual flowers blooming in tiers out of a much larger ball-shaped cluster of buds.  So a cluster of flower buds gives the illusion of being just one, very showy, giant flower. 

The outer buds bloom before the inner ones, with the buds of the lowest tier bending outward a few at a time.  The flowers then open into big, crinkled, brilliant flame-scarlet, cup-shaped blossoms, revealing red-streaked, gold throats and frilly yellow edges.

They are all over now, in the city and in the forest, to an altitude of 2,000 meters or so. They are plants many tourists remember about Costa Rica.

Each unopened flower bud is brown and is shaped like a banana or horn.  Since each bud is filled with water, children squeeze them and use them as natural water pistols.  When the woody seed pod is ripe, it falls to the ground and splits open, and children use them for boat races because they look and float like dugout canoes.  These seed pods are poisonous if eaten. 

Five to ten seed pods appear above the flower foliage, having about 500 seeds per pod.  The edible seeds are delicate with a tissue-papery texture and transparent “winglets” that fly away with the slightest hint of a breeze.

The tree can bloom year round, and the flowers last about 3 days.  The open flower holds moisture and provides 
flame of forest blossem
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Giant flower actually is many individual blooms

nectar for many species of birds and bats, which in turn, pollinate the flower. 

In Costa Rica the locals call it the llamarada (pronounced "yamarada"), and say it means “the flame of the fire.”  It is also called llama del bosque ("flame of the forest") and also is known as fireball or fire tree.  It’s scientific name is Spathodea campanulata, and is in the bignonia or trumpet creeper family. 

This tree comes from the rainforests of tropical, equatorial Africa, so those here are offspring of imported trees.  The biggest trees grow in moist, sheltered ravines, and it grows and flowers best in full sun.  They often begin blooming when they are only a few years old, and some trees can be completely loaded with flowers.   There is a rare, yellow variety of the tree, too.

Sala IV constitutional court says that fast track approval for treaties is legal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The decision came too late for the free trade treaty with the United States. But the Sala IV constitutional court made a ruling Wednesday that will expedite future international treaties.

Four of the seven magistrates found that an amendment to the rules at the Asamblea Legislativa were not unconstitutional and did not violate the basic principles of lawmaking. This was the second high court decision in two days on trade treaties.

The amendment, identified as Articulo 41 bis, establishes a period of from 22 to 28 sessions of the legislature for lawmakers to discuss and decide on international treaties.

The measure originally was put forward to expedite the passage of the free trade treaty with the United States.

Subsequently, the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones decided
that this treaty will now go to a public referendum Oct. 7.

Majority lawmakers reasoned that since international treaties cannot be changed, legislators should be able to make up their minds in a reasonable period.

The court decision came on an appeal by Asamblea Legislativa deputies from the Partido Acción Ciudadana and two other lawmakers. They oppose the free trade treaty with the United States and wanted to use extensive debate as a stalling tactic.

The Arias administration, which  maintains a thin two-thirds majority in the legislature, anticipates several other international treaties, including one with Panamá, which already has been signed, and another with the European Union, which has yet to be negotiated.

Tuesday, the Sala IV magistrates found, 5-2, that the controversial free trade treaty with the United States itself was constitutional.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 132

Chrysler and Chinese firm plan exports to Latin America
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. automaker Chrysler and Chinese car company Chery have signed a deal to launch a low-cost production facility in China that would export cars to Latin America or Eastern Europe within a year

For years, major foreign automakers have been aggressively expanding production in China, which last year became the world's second largest market for cars. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers says passenger car sales in China last year rose 37 percent to nearly four million.

Chrysler Group head Tom LaSorda told reporters in Beijing that his company is committed to the China deal.

"The Chrysler Group has a long-term commitment to China," said LaSorda. "We are committed to continue offering world-class vehicles to the domestic market. And as of today, we are committed to building vehicles here for export."

LaSorda said the first Chinese-made cars from the venture are expected to reach Latin America or Eastern Europe within a year. He said he expects models for export to North America or Western Europe to be ready within two and a half years.

LaSorda said Chrysler will work closely with Chery to ensure that the cars meet U.S. and European safety and emissions standards. He added that the venture's production
could reach several hundred thousand autos per year.

Japan's Honda Motor company has exported Chinese-built Jazz model cars to Europe since 2005.

Ten-year-old Chery, based in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhu, is China's largest automaker. The company assembles vehicles with partners in Brazil, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia, Russia and Ukraine. It recently announced plans to open a factory with an Argentine partner in Uruguay, its first venture in Latin America.

Chery CEO and chairman Yin Tongyao said the deal will help his company improve its skills as it tries to expand foreign sales of its own models.

He said Chery has little experience in international business and has much to learn from a big and experienced company like Chrysler.

Chinese carmakers already export low-priced trucks and buses, mostly to Africa and other developing countries.

The first Chrysler-Chery export will be based on Chery's A1 compact car model, and sold under the Dodge brand. LaSorda said the two companies will jointly develop future models.

The Chrysler Group is a division of DaimlerChrysler. The division is being sold to Cerberus Capital Management, an international investment firm, and will continue to sell Chrysler and Dodge brand automobiles.

Latin CDs are a merchandising bright spot in music sales
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sales of Latin music CDs are on the rise in the United States. Industry figures show that while overall demand for compact discs is declining, sales at U.S. stores stocking CDs from Central and South America are growing. And facing tough competition from online retailers, many mainstream shops are now offering Latin music in an effort to boost their bottom line.

Mega 98.1 is a Latin music radio station based in Florida. It caters to the state's growing Hispanic population and, according to the station's Michelle Gonzalez, its audience is on the rise. "It's only going to keep growing and, you know, the growth is tremendous and as long as we keep putting out and producing good quality products and competing with the general market, we're going to be right there."

Arbitron, which collects audience data in the U.S., says Spanish language radio stations now reach more listeners collectively than their English-language rock and pop counterparts.

Professor Rey Sanchez of the University of Miami says the boom in Hispanic radio, combined with a growing Latino population with a traditional love of music, are reasons why U.S. Latin music sales are up.

"They're just great music customers and as a group — Hispanics from many different countries — music is such an important part of their culture. And Latin music has flourished in the United States," he says.
The Museo Del Disco CD store in Miami claims to stock the most complete Latin music collection in the world -- some 40,000 titles. Hinsul Lazo is the stores' owner. He says recent Hispanic immigrants are more likely to buy CDs than download music online. "They're not as technologically driven as other nationalities because they're still behind on the educational side of technology."

Nielson Soundscan, a company that tracks CD sales in the U.S., says Latin music purchases rose 5.2 percent in 2006, while overall CD sales fell almost 5 percent.

But Sanchez predicts competition from Internet retailers will eventually hurt Latin CD sales as Hispanics download more online.

"In the same period of time that Soundscan sales were up 5.2 percent, shipments of Latin music for the same year, 2006, were actually down 21 percent from the year before. And I think you're going to see a continued downward trend in shipments of CDs," said the professor.

Latin music storeowners, such as Hinsul Lazo, agree. He worries about selling the 180,000 CDs in his warehouse.

He says most of his customers are over 40, so he is increasingly working with eBay, Amazon and other web sites to reach younger Hispanics.

"We've got a certain product line that no one has got, so as long as we stay on top of the ball we shouldn't have a problem." Lazo says he is selling more CDs to larger retail chains that are keen to cash in on the Latin music market.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 132

Olympic Committee awards 2014 winter games to Sochi
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi has been awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Sochi bid won in a vote Wednesday by members of the International Olympic Committee who met in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Salzburg, Austria was eliminated after the first round of voting. Sochi then emerged the winner with
the majority of votes in the final round. Russia, an Olympic power which has won 293 Winter Games medals, has never hosted the Winter Olympics.

The vote totals were not immediately released. But the result was a triumph for Vladmir Putin. The Russian president put his international prestige on the line by coming to Guatemala to lobby committee members. Putin led Sochi's final formal presentation to the assembly.

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