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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, July 5, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 131           E-mail us
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Tourism firms expect about 60 percent occupancy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourism operators are anticipating an occupancy rate just short of 60 percent as Costa Ricans take advantage of the midyear vacation.

Public school children have two weeks off, but even government agencies like the Poder Judicial plan to close down for at least a week although vital services will be maintained.

The estimate of occupancy comes from a survey of 100 hotels and other firms offering lodgings. The survey came from the Cámera Nacional de Turismo, which tries to maintain a statistical watch on the industry.

The optimism was not shared by everyone. Tourism operators in southern Guanacaste said they anticipated just 43.33 percent occupancy. Those in the Puntarenas Centro vicinity estimated 53.89 percent. The south Pacific operators said 53.89 percent, while those in the central Pacific said 52.46 percent.

Tourism operators in the southern Caribbean where the weather is less rainy this time of year were the most optimistic at 70 percent.

A number of tourism operators are offering special
packages for Costa Rican vacationers. Consequently most operators will be running at less than break-even this season.

Another complication is that many Costa Ricans stay with relatives or friends and avoid the hotels and bed and breakfast operation all together.

Local tourism has always been the mainstay of the industry, said the chamber.

Juan Carlos Ramos, chamber president, said an increase in tourism during the vacation period and during the rest of the year will depend on a strong focus by firms to attract and offer incentives for tourism.

He added that four- and five-star operations were more optimistic than the average and that the more economical lodgings and beach operations were below the average in their expectations.

The tourism industry has been struggling to offset the impact of the international situation.

Another favorable development for the industry is the summer vacation season in the United States and Canada. These tourists are not as well-heeled as the high-season visitors. They mainly are students, teachers and average wage earners.

There is a small break for those who lose license
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Persons with a Costa Rican driving license are getting a break in the event their document is lost or stolen.

The transport ministry said Monday that all that is required is a 5,000 colons fee (about $10) and a cédula to effect a replacement.

That means a blood test and a medical exam are
not required if the missing license still is valid.

However, if the cédula vanished at the same time as the license, the driver has to get a new one first before applying for a replacement license, the ministry said. Costa Ricans would do that at the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

Foreign residents would have to get a new document from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

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Strong storm sweeps city
and floods some homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A string of heavy thunderstorms swept through the metro area between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday and dumped an inch of rain on San José.

The downpour caused flooding in Tibás and in San Juan de Desamparados, both chronic trouble spots.

Lesser quantities of rain fell elsewhere. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said 27.1 millimeters fell in San José, That's 1.06 of an inch. Cartago got 23.9 millimeters (.94 of an inch). Pavas got 15.3 millimeters or .6 of an inch. Juan Santamaría airport got 10.6 millimeters or about .42 of an inch.

Two homes were destroyed in Desamparados. Others were flooded by a local river that has caused trouble in the past. Homeowners fared better in Tibás, but homes were still flooded with water and mud.

At Banco Nacional the computer system failed due to electrical problems brought on by the storm.

The weather institute is predicting the same for today for the Central Valley and the Pacific coast. Little rain is expected on the Caribbean coast and just scattered showers in the northern zone.

A low pressure system in the Pacific has enlarged but has become more disorganized, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it does not think the area will develop into a strong storm.

Both types of gasoline
will decrease in price

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The regulating agency has decreed a decrease in the prices for gasoline and authorized an increase in diesel.

The agency, the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos, said super gasoline would decrease 28 colons and plus would go down 35 colons. The new prices when the decree is published within five days in the official newspaper puts super at 712 colons, about $1.43 a liter. Plus will be 691 colons a liter, about $1.39.

The diesel price is going up 26 colons to 653 colons a liter, about $1.31.

Other petroleum products are going up slightly.

The prices reflect the cost of petroleum between May 26 and June 9 as well as an exchange rate of 504.49 colons to the U.S. dollar, the agency said.

Costa Rica signs tax pacts
with Australia, Nordic states

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has signed tax treaties with Australia and the Nordic countries, the foreign ministry said Monday.

The agreements allow the tax authorities of the countries to exchange information.

The Australian agreement was signed in México by  Gabriela Jiménez, the Costa Rican ambassador there.

The Nordic agreement covers seven countries. That pact was signed in Paris, France, by  Ambassador Carlos Bonilla
The agreements comply with international standards for handling taxes.

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.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 131

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Journalism groups upset because lawmakers shelve a bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Many in the media business are astounded that the Asamblea Legislative would ashcan a freedom of expression bill that has been in the works for years.

Lawmakers voted 37 to 6 to archive or shelve the bill, No.  15.974. Among other changes, the bill would have removed the criminal penalties for defamation and provide civil remedies. Now defamation and related allegations remain criminal matters.

The journalism professional organization, the Colegio de Periodistas, and the  Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión came out against the legislative decision.

The colegio in its weekly newsletter quoted José María Villalta Flores Estrada of Frente Amplio. The legislator said that he heard a colleague say that he did not want to give more tools and weapons to the press.

The  Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión made the point in a press release that the beneficiaries of the legal change would be the private citizens who may address public issues in an Internet discussion and elsewhere.

Latin cultures strongly protect reputations, and defamation can result in a jail term. A.M. Costa Rica spent thousands of dollars over the last three years defending editors and reporters against a baseless defamation allegation in which a lawyer here prosecuted the case on the strength of a power of attorney signed by a man and woman who were fugitives living in Panamá.

The press institute noted that the bill stems from a case Costa Rica lost before the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. That was the case of reporter  Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, who was convicted of defamation in 1999.

Herrera, a  reporter for La Nación, wrote articles in 1995 outlining European press reports of corruption involving a
Costa Rican diplomat there. Herrera was convicted by a trial court of criminal defamation, and the verdict later was upheld by the Corte Suprema de Justicia. He and the newspaper were ordered to pay damages.

The newspaper carried the case to the  Inter American Commission on Human Rights and later to the interamerican court. Many journalist organizations filed briefs in support of the reporter. The interamerican court reversed the verdict and awarded Herrera and the newspaper damages and costs.

One of the briefs came from the Committee to Protect Journalists. It said: "Costa Rica's criminal prosecution of Mr. Herrera violated Article 13 of the American Convention [on Human Rights]. Laws that permit journalists to be prosecuted criminally for the content of their reporting are a hazard to freedom of the press and the right of citizens to be informed." 

"Such laws have an inevitable chilling effect on freedom of expression. They must not apply unless ‘there is an obvious and direct threat of lawless violence,' which was obviously not the case with Mr. Herrera's articles."

The Costa Rican bill has been through a number of hearings and generated mountains of paperwork. Periodically lawmakers would pledge their support for the measure, but that was not the case with those who took office a year ago.

"The lack of support to the proposal was a deplorable signal to the hemisphere in that our country ignores the jurisprudence and the standards established by an international court whose location an be found just a few kilometers from the Costa Rican congress," said the press institute. The international court is in San Pedro.

Lawmakers are well aware that the media had a strong role in the scandals that ended in convictions of two former presidents in separate case. The wife of one convicted president now serves in the legislature.

Country logs 113 killings in the first six months of the year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Personal security has become the No 1 political and social issue. A series of headline-grabbing murders has propelled the issue to the forefront of the public mind perhaps because citizens do not believe that the central government or courts are taking steps to stem the wave.

So far this year 113 person had died by what is being called aggression. With more deaths comes a change in the way street robberies are conducted. Sometimes the crook shoots first or at the first sign of resistance.

An 18-year-old woman became a statistic in Siquirres Sunday night as she walked with a girlfriend. Bandits pulled up in a vehicle and sought her possessions. She resisted, and a robber shot her in the throat. The woman, who had the last name of Farguharson, died shortly after reached in  Clínica de Siquirres, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Siquirres has been plagued by bandits in vehicles. A store owner was shot gunned to death there last week, and at least one girl was raped.
A shopkeeper in Barrio San José in San Ramón de Alajuela died early Monday when he went to open up his pulpería about 5 a.m.

The man was identified as Hugo Jiménez Delgado, 65. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that men in a car tried to rob his small food store. He, too, resisted and received two bullets in the chest. He died in Hospital Carlos Luis Valverde. Agents said it appeared that the bandits took nothing before they fled the scene.

Meanwhile in San José prosecutors are seeking preventative detention for a man with the last names of  Briceño Cano in the murder of a 15-year-old mother at a park in San Rafael de Escazú early Sunday. He was one of four persons detained shortly after someone smashed in the girl's head with a brick. The other three persons involved are juveniles, and they have been set free with conditions, said the Poder Judicial. The case is an apparent sex crime.

Agents theorize that the girl and some of her friends were drinking early Sunday in the park before the crime took place. She leaves a 9 month old in the care of her parents.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 131

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Two lanternfish and several bits of plastic collected during the research voyage.
plastic and fish
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego/J. Leicther

Study shows 9 percent of fish ingested bits of plastic

By the  Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The first scientific results from an ambitious voyage led by a group of graduate students from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego offer a stark view of human pollution and its infiltration of an area of the ocean that has been labeled as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”

Two graduate students with the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition, or SEAPLEX, found evidence of plastic waste in more than 9 percent of the stomachs of fish collected during their voyage to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Based on their evidence, authors Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch estimate that fish in the intermediate ocean depths of the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year.

Their results were published June 27 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

During the SEAPLEX voyage in August 2009, a team of Scripps graduate students traveled more than 1,000 miles west of California to the eastern sector of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre aboard the Scripps research vessel New Horizon. Over 20 days the students, New Horizon crew and expedition volunteers conducted comprehensive and rigorous scientific sampling at numerous locations. They collected fish specimens, water samples and marine debris at depths ranging from the sea surface to thousands of feet depth.

Of the 141 fishes spanning 27 species dissected in the study, Davison and Ms. Asch found that 9.2 percent of the stomach contents of mid-water fishes contained plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail. The researchers say the majority of the stomach plastic pieces were so small their origin could not be determined.

“About nine percent of examined fishes contained plastic in their stomach. That is an underestimate of the true ingestion rate because a fish may regurgitate or pass a plastic item, or even die from eating it. We didn’t measure those rates, so our nine percent figure is too low by an unknown amount,” said Davison.

The authors say previous studies on fish and plastic ingestion may have included so-called “net-feeding” biases. Net feeding can lead to artificially high cases of plastic ingestion by fishes while they are confined in a net with a high concentration of plastic debris. The Scripps study’s results were designed to avoid such bias. The highest concentrations of plastic were retrieved by a surface collecting device called a manta net, which sampled for only 15 minutes at a time. The short sampling time minimizes the risk of net feeding by preventing large concentrations of plastic from building up, and also by reducing the amount of time that a captured fish spends in the net. In addition to the manta net, the fishes were also collected with other nets that sample deeper in the water column where there is less plastic to be ingested through net feeding.

The new study focused on the prevalence of plastic ingestion, but effects such as toxicological impacts on fish and composition of the plastic were outside of the study’s goals.

The majority of fish examined in the study were myctophids, commonly called lanternfish because of their luminescent tissue. Lanternfishes are hypothesized to use luminescence for several purposes, including counter-illumination (thwarts predators attempting to silhouette the lanternfish against sunlight), mate
manta net
Matt Durham, Jim Leichter and Pete Davison deploy a Matsuda-Oozeki-Hu trawl at the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

attraction and identification and illumination of prey. Such fish generally inhabit the 200- to 1,000-meter (650- to 3,280-foot) depth during the day and swim to the surface at night.

“These fish have an important role in the food chain because they connect plankton at the base of the food chain with higher levels. We have estimated the incidence at which plastic is entering the food chain, and I think there are potential impacts, but what those impacts are will take more research,” said Ms. Asch.

Rather than a visible “patch” or “island” of trash, marine debris is highly dispersed across thousands of miles of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. The debris area cannot be mapped from air or space, so SEAPLEX researchers collected samples in 132 net tows (130 of which contained plastic) across a distance of more than 2,375 kilometers (1,700 miles) in an attempt to find the boundaries of the patch. The region, a “convergence zone” where floating debris in water congregates, is generally avoided by mariners due to its calm winds and mild currents. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre has been understudied by scientists, leaving many open questions about marine debris in the area and its long-term effects on the marine environment.

“This study clearly emphasizes the importance of directly sampling in the environment where the impacts may be occurring,” said James Leichter, a Scripps associate professor of biological oceanography who participated in the SEAPLEX expedition but was not an author of the new paper. “We are seeing that most of our prior predictions and expectations about potential impacts have been based on speculation rather than evidence and in many cases we have in fact underestimated the magnitude of effects. SEAPLEX also clearly illustrates how relatively small amounts of funding directed for novel field sampling and work in remote places can vastly increase our knowledge and understanding of environmental problems.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 131

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Chávez returns home
to mark 200th birthday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has addressed thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of his presidential palace in Caracas, hours after returning home from Cuba, where he underwent cancer surgery.

President Chávez discussed his health during the 30-minute speech Monday evening, telling the crowd he will win this battle for life.  The president, who was wearing a green military uniform and red beret, also said he had to submit to strict medical treatment.

Many of his supporters waved the Venezuelan flag as well as banners bearing his image and at times, interrupted his speech with chants.  At one point during the address, the president held up a small crucifix and kissed it. 

The Venezuelan leader's return to the South American country in the early-morning hours Monday came one day before the country celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Last week, President Chávez announced in a televised speech from Cuba that he underwent surgery there to remove a tumor with cancerous cells.  He did not indicate the type of cancer he had, and questions remain about how sick he is.  Prior to that surgery, Chávez underwent an operation in Cuba for what officials said was an abscess in his pelvic area.

Sunday, a Cuban government Web site posted a four-minute video of  Chávez on the island.  It showed him walking in an outdoor location and conversing with several people.

The 56-year-old Chávez looked thinner and less robust but was seen joking with his visitors, who included Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.   Chávez has ruled Venezuela since 1999.

Independence celebrated
all over United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Americans celebrated Independence Day Monday. The day is the anniversary of the country's founding in 1776.

On the day known informally as the Fourth of July, U.S. citizens celebrate with parades, picnics, ball games, and concerts. Fourth of July decorations feature the colors of the American flag, red, white, and blue.

Traditional fireworks lit up the nighttime skies over small towns and major cities, including New York and Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. In the nation's capital, Washington, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall for the annual fireworks display and concert featuring popular recording artists.

One hundred new U.S. citizens were sworn in at Mount Vernon outside Washington, the home of the first U.S. president, George Washington. The current president, Barack Obama, hosted members of the military and their families for an evening White House barbecue and concert featuring the U.S. Marine Band.

On a lighter note, New York City's beach resort area, Coney Island, celebrated July 4 with an annual hot dog-eating contest. Contenders had 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs and buns as possible. World champion Joey Chestnut won for the fifth year in a row, eating 62 hot dogs. The women's winner, Sonya Thomas, ate 40 hot dogs.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia in June 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress formally approved a resolution of independence from Britain. Then, it set about making revisions to Jefferson's draft declaration, finally approving the document on July 4.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 131

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Obama becomes target
of bogus Twitter note

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hackers on Sunday broke into the Twitter feed of U.S. network Fox News and posted six messages falsely reporting the death of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Fox News released a statement Monday saying the reports were false and malicious and apologizing for any distress they caused. The feed was suspended after the hacking became apparent, and Fox says it has asked the Twitter company to investigate.

The tweets began in the early-morning hours of Sunday, reporting that Obama had been shot twice while campaigning at a restaurant in the state of Iowa. But Fox later confirmed that Obama was spending the U.S. Independence Day holiday in Washington, D.C. as scheduled.

Some reports link the incident to an anonymous hacking group called Script Kiddies. A spokesman for the Secret Service, the U.S. law-enforcement agency responsible for guarding the president and vice-president, among others, refused to comment.

Future king faces
protesters in Quebec

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Britain's Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine, have traveled to Canada's Prince Edward Island as part of their nine-day tour of the country, after facing small protests in Quebec City.

A small group of demonstrators protesting against the British monarchy turned Sunday in Quebec City.  Canada is part of the Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth as its head. Police kept the 200 protesters away from the celebration welcoming the future British king and queen, whose formal titles are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Protesters also met the couple at their earlier stop in Montreal. Anti-British sentiment is strongest in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

This is William and Catherine's first overseas trip since their April wedding. They arrived in the Canadian capital of Ottawa last week and also stopped in Montreal, paying tribute to Canadian soldiers and touring historic sites.

The couple will wrap up their Canadian visit in Alberta before heading to the western U.S. state of California.

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