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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, July 7, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 132       E-mail us
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How Apollo 11 brought world TV to Latin America
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica


The Apollo 11 moon flight, 40 years ago this month, was the impetus for connecting Latin America to the northern hemisphere for television programming.

The U.S. government wanted to reach as many foreign viewers as possible with live shots from the moon landing, and a major effort, part of it military, was launched to connect the world. These were the days before CNN and instant transmission of news events.

The key to connecting Latin America was the bleak, unopened international airport in Maracaibo, Venezuela.  At 235 feet above sea level, the airport has just two daytime settings: bake and roast.

That was the destination for two U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo planes. The Military Airlift Command crafts carried a satellite earth station that was to be assembled on the airport grounds. It was here signals from the north would be received and distributed on the growing Latin American net.

There were no clouds that day. The U.S. Embassy had lined up an aircraft to carry reporters for the Venezuelan newspapers and television stations from the capital of Caracas to the desolate strip. All that was there was a landing strip. The only building was a small storage shack. It was here reporters and photographers huddled for two hours until the first C-130 arrived and landed without ground instructions.

The second craft had the advantage of ground communications from the cockpit of the first arrival.

The La Chinita International Airport did not open until the following November, and the U.S. Air force planes may have been the first aircraft to use the strip.

This scene was repeated elsewhere in the world as U.S. officials, still deep in the Cold War, were trying to hook up the world. They succeeded with the exception of New Zealand and a few more isolated areas. The result was a propaganda coup as more than half a billion foreigners watched Apollo 11 take off and Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Many watched the takeoff from the sidewalk in front of the Centro Cultural Venezolano Americano in Caracas. Someone had wheeled a television set to the front door, and hundreds of young Venezuelans, many of them English language students, were thrilled spectators.

The signal from Florida arrived in Maracaibo and traveled at the speed of light to local television stations in most of Latin America.
Saturn V rocket with Apoillo 11 crewNASA file photo
Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo V and crew of three springs into the air July 16, 1969.

At exactly 10:32 local time that day, July 16, the Saturn V rocket sprang into the air, awing onlookers with Gringo precision.

Four days later the lunar module began its descent in early afternoon. At The Daily Journal, the English-language daily in Caracas, staffers from all departments were crowded into the newsroom to watch the only available television. They heard Armstrong tell Houston "The Eagle has landed . . ." and cheered.

Many were Communists, Spanish exiles of a single unit from that nation's civil war. They were printers by trade, and the government of Venezuela welcomed them as a group. The backshop where the hot metal became words retained the military command structure with Don Victor, long ago the unit's sergeant, having the final word.

These were European exiles who named their kids Ludmilla and Vladimir. But the moon landing transcended national boundaries, and each printer was happy to down a paper cup filled with whiskey provided by a young American editor. They drained the bottle in celebration.

And in an expansive moment, Don Victor stood up, dug in his pocket and produced some bills. He ordered the copyboy to run to the liquor store nearby and fetch another bottle. He waited to crack the cap until Armstrong put his footprint on the moon surface later that evening.

The experience was a unifying one, and Latin America, for better or for worse, has been connected to world television since.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 132

Costa Rica Expertise
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Four held in cable thefts
throughout Guanacaste


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gang or gangs have been ravaging the telecommunications in Guanacaste since January. They have stolen mainly telephone cables for their copper content.

Early Monday Judicial police detained four men who were riding in a vehicle in the Huacas area. Agents said the men had a kilometer of cable in their vehicle.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the phone company, also announced the arrests. The company said that the cable thefts had affected the entire area around Tamarindo and cut off service to 2,500 customers.

Investigators have more than 15 complaints. They come from Río Cañas, Belén  de Carrillo, Cartagena, 27 de Abril de Santa Cruz, Linderos, Paraíso, Playa Grande and other areas.

Agents said the cable was worth 72 million colons or about $125,000. However, that likely is the replacement value of the cable to the phone company. Cable crooks would get far less money.

In most cases, crooks stole 500 meters or more of cable each time, agents said.

Cable thefts can be attributed to the higher price of copper. Telephone and electric providers have tightened up their facility to reduce such thefts. From time to time someone is electrocuted when they attempt to steal live electrical cable.


Roots of personal courage
is topic at Peace Center


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mark Klempner, author of "The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers & Their Stories of Courage," will make a presentation at the Quaker Peace Center in San José Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. His topic is  "The Courage to Resist: When Ordinary People Take Extraordinary Action."

The center also plans to show the short documentary "Franz Jägerstätter: A Man of Conscience."  Jägerstätter declined to enlist in the Austrian military and was executed, according to the center. The short documentary explores these questions about a man who is being considered for sainthood, the center said.

Klempner interviewed some of the last surviving Dutch rescuers who risked their lives by shepherding Jewish children to freedom, in defiance of the Nazis, said the center. He explores what motivated these rescuers to take such enormous risks for others, according to an announcement. He lives in Costa Rica.

The center is on Calle 15 between Avenidas 6 and 8,


August festival to feature
break dance competitions


By the A.M. Costa Rica  staff

Young urban dancers will be gearing up this summer for the Batalla Final break dancing competition. They will be hoping to go on and represent Costa Rica in the international acclaimed Battalha Final in Sao Paulo, Brazil, later this year. The break dancing competition is being held as a part of the Festival Abierto de Danza y Arte Urbano taking place in Curridabat from Aug. 21 to Aug. 23.

The festival aims to call on the hundreds of adolescents and young adults attracted to urban culture and encourage them through artistic means, according to organizers. The brainchild of various cultural organizations, the first urban festival was held in April 2007.

The organizer of the festival is Michael Bolaños, who has conducted a series of projects in this field. He hopes it will provide a space for young adults to share experiences and will promote tolerance and respect as well as offer entertainment. He also sees the events as important in developing a link between the community and government.

This year’s festival includes a series of urban art and dance events in the Centro Nacional de la Cultura east of Parque España.


Sala IV throws out old debt
at request of bank customer


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a customer went to a Banco Nacional office in Alajuela to open a savings account, the clerk declined to do so because the customer still owed money on a 32-year-old debt, according to a recent Sala IV constitutional court decision.

The bank wanted the customer to pay off the old debt first, so the customer brought the case on appeal to the constitutional court.  The court told the bank to open the account, according to a summary released by the Poder Judicial Monday.


U.N. nukes Egyptian kings
to solve old mysteries


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations nuclear agency is using its expertise to help archaeologists unearth millennia-old secrets, from the supposed murder of King Tutankhamun to the mysterious death of Great Pharaoh Ramesses II, from Egyptian mummies.

Paleoradiology is a type of science using nuclear technologies — including x-rays and neutron activation analysis — to study artifacts, skeletons, mummies and fossils.

Rethy Chhem, director of the Division of Human Health at the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, is an expert in that field and said that science allows radiologists to uncover details about mummies, such as their sex, age of death and illnesses.

X-rays found that Pharaoh Ramesses II did not, contrary to popular belief, have arthritis of the spine, which Chhem said is in line with his depiction as a great warrior.

The agency is helping countries apply nuclear technologies to archaeological study and cultural preservation.

The technologies can also be applied to monitoring pesticides in milk and finding answers to a series of sudden deaths of males in north-eastern Thailand, the agency said in a press release.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 132

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Living history will be on public display at San Vicente
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats will have a chance this weekend to shop for ceramics at the place that has been producing traditional pottery for the last 4,000 years.

The location is San Vicente de Nicoya, which has a tradition stretching back long before Christopher Columbus. Some frequent shoppers were wholesalers to the Valley of México.

The event this weekend is the V Expo-Feria de la Cerámica Chorotega, but there will be other things to do beside admire and buy elaborate, traditional pots. There also is the Ecomuseo de la Cerámica Chorotega to visit.

And there will be the usual weekend fair activities, including dances both Friday and Saturday night.

Sponsors include the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica and the Universidad Estatal a Distancia

There will be artisans from other sections of Guanacaste showing their wares, too.

Folkloric groups from Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Nicaragua also will perform as will a group from Térraba in southern Costa Rica and a number of Guanacaste groups.
ecomuseum Chorotega


The museum, which features the creations of the community, was founded in 1995 and opened its doors to the public in 2007.

The fair starts Friday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon.

The production of ceramics in San Vicente is approximately the same as when the Olmecs, Aztecs and Mayans shopped there. The museum quality work is highly prized, but the community lacks an international presence on the art scene. The artists are weak in marketing particularly to North Americans. so prices still are reasonable. Community residents frequently participate in Central Valley fairs and festivals. The festival will be on the museum grounds. More about the museum can be found on its Web site.


Ad blitz results in some improvement in ICT Web rank
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's three-weekend-old tourism blitz of the United States seems to be showing signs of success.

The Amazon.com affiliate Alexa reports that the Web site of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has gained 25,000 places on a list of the most visited sites in the United States. It is placed at 73,279 in the United States, a spot that is firmly in the important top 100,000 sites.

When the tourism institute, known as ICT, started its campaign June 21, the site was ranked around 99,000.

Alexa says its traffic rank statistics are a measure of a Web site's popularity. It said the rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and page views.

Basically the promotional campaign, called Costa Rica Plus, uses newspaper advertising to direct potential tourists to a page on the institute's Web site where nearly 100 participating merchants offer discounts or other deals. The promotion runs through Aug. 31, and the newspaper ads run through Aug. 8, the institute said.

The campaign is costing the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo $500,000.
There are some inconsistencies in the Alexa report. It says that 77 percent of the visitors to the Web pages come from google.com or google.co.cr. That suggests that newspaper readers are not remembering the exact link to the Web site but are searching for it via Google.

The overall popularity of the Web site still lags at 225,442 overall ranking, The Tico Times is listed at 214,765 with a 107,990 ranking in the United States. A.M. Costa Rica, of course, ranks higher with a 113,449 traffic ranking worldwide and  59,077 in the United States.

This newspaper has about 13,000 readers each day, according to statcounter.com.

Tourism this year has been hit hard by the world economic situation and swine flu fears. In addition, Costa Rica faces an ambitious campaign by México where tourism died at the height of the flu scare because the malady was discovered there.

Tourism here is facing the usual rainy season doldrums, and some residents said they were surprised to be among the few individuals visiting some well-known upscale resorts.

The tourism institute campaign is an effort to counter the usual rainy season declines.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 132


Our reader's opinion
More views are expressed on development in Jacó area

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The president of the Jacó Chamber of Commerce wrote very eloquently of the accomplishments that he sees in Jacó.

Yes, there have been a number of positives but with all of the development has come problems. Some of the statements might be questionable too.

I moved to Jacó about five years ago and visited it previous to that many times because my son built a home there about 12 years ago.

My girlfriend and I use to be able to go for walks at night on the beach or anywhere in town without a concern.  Now it is dangerous to take walks on the beach at night, and I carry pepper spray anytime walking in Jacó.  Everyone I know who lives in Jacó has been robbed personally or their house has been broken into since the big developers have arrived in the past three years.  I do know lots of people in the area by the way, and they have all been touched by crime.   The crime rate in the Jacó area is amongst the highest in the country.

The last wetlands on the main road in Jacó was destroyed.  Many rare water birds visited this small wetlands and it was a sanctuary for much of the birds in the local area.  It was filled in and made a park for the town.  Part of it could have been saved, but none of it was spared.  There were
other locations that a park could be built, but, of course, they had to destroy the last of the wetlands in that area.  By the way, Jacó at one time was all wetlands and provided much habitat for birds, caiman, turtles, monkeys and more.

As for the beach cleaning machine, it seems to function when the sand is not wet.  So much of the time it can't be used during the rainy season or even when the tide has been high.  The money spent on this machine could have provided several more jobs for the locals and also a couple of trucks to keep the beach clean all the time rain or shine for the entire future.

It was mentioned that fewer dogs are roaming around the town.  Yes, there is more spaying and neutering of dogs, but that is mainly to the strong efforts of the McKee foundation.  They were promised lots of funding from several developers but only to get a trickle of what was promised.  Many dogs have been poisoned just before the high season, to give the image that Jacó doesn't have many stray dogs too.

I know some of the developers say they are shocked that someone would accuse them of building these huge complexes for greed.  But the bottom line is making money off of these projects. 

Henry Kantrowitz
Quebrada Ganado



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 132


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Mrs. Clinton plans to meet
with Zelaya to show support


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States is deploring the violence associated with ousted Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya's aborted effort to return to his country Sunday and has again appealed for dialogue among parties to that country's political conflict. Secretary of State Clinton is expected to meet Zelaya Tuesday.

The State Department is reiterating its call for the return to office of the elected president of Honduras, and officials say Secretary of State Clinton will likely meet  Zelaya in Washington in a high-level show of support for the ousted leader.

The United States joined in a unanimous vote Saturday by the Organization of American States to suspend Honduras because of the refusal of authorities there to reverse the June 28 coup, in which the elected president was detained by the military and put on a plane to Costa Rica.

Prior to his ouster, U.S. diplomats had been trying to mediate a dispute triggered by Zelaya's effort to stage a referendum that would have allowed him to seek another term as president.

Despite complaints of his critics that he was acting illegally, the United States has strongly opposed his unceremonious ouster. In a statement Monday, State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. goal remains the restoration of the democratic order in Honduras while urging all the country's political players to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

To back up OAS diplomacy, the United States is withholding disbursement of most U.S. aid money for Honduras pending a formal determination by State Department lawyers that the events of June 28 constitute a military coup and require an aid cut-off under U.S. law. Annual U.S. aid to Honduras has recently averaged more than $50 million a year.

The demonstrators who showed up at the airport Sunday had hoped to greet the man they continue to regard as the legitimate president of their country. One woman, who is associated with a pro-Zelaya labor union, says his return is essential if Honduras is to remain a democracy and a nation of laws.

She says the people elected Zelaya to a four-year term and that he must be allowed to come back and finish it. New elections are scheduled for November and a new president is to take office in January.

Roberto Micheletti, the man who replaced Zelaya after he was seized by soldiers and sent out of the country a week ago, has suggested the elections could be moved up. In a news conference Sunday, he offered to participate in a dialogue to resolve the crisis. But his conciliatory talk was met with scorn by many Zelaya supporters.

Nearly half of Hondurans live in extreme poverty and their country is listed as the third-poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Zelaya pushed for more anti-poverty programs and also championed what he called people power.

But this populist approach drove a wedge between Zelaya and the business community, the military and even some of the people in his own party who had been his supporters early on. Zelaya aligned himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and traveled frequently to meet with him.

Many Hondurans worried that Zelaya was trying to turn their country into a socialist state like Cuba. Some says the ouster of Zelaya was not a coup d'etat, but a substitution of leaders brought on by his illegal actions.

The military ousted President Zelaya after he tried to implement a non-binding referendum that was supposed to lead to a change in the constitution to allow a president to serve more than one term in office. The current constitution describes any attempt to change the term limit as illegal. When the leader of the Honduran armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez refused to assist in setting up the referendum because the Supreme Court had declared it illegal, Zelaya tried to fire him. But the Supreme Court backed the general and later ordered Zelaya's arrest for violating the constitution.

Supporters of the interim government argue that the removal of Zelaya from power was legal and necessary, but their arguments have done little to sway the opinion of thousands of Zelaya supporters who continue to await his return, not only to the country, but to the presidential palace.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 132


Latin American news digest
U.N. and World Bank voice
concern over AIDS funding

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The well-being of millions of people could be put at risk as HIV prevention and treatment programmes fall victim to funding cutbacks as a result of the global economic crisis, warns a new report released Monday by the U. N. Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Bank.

The report, “The Global Economic Crisis and HIV Prevention and Treatment Programmes: Vulnerabilities and Impact,” says that eight countries — which together are home to more than 60 per cent of all those receiving AIDS treatment — are already facing shortages of antiretroviral drugs or other disruptions to treatment.

In addition, 34 out of the 71 surveyed countries report that HIV prevention programs focusing on high-risk groups such as sex workers, injection drug users and men who have sex with men are already feeling the impact of the crisis.

“This is a wake-up call which shows that many of our gains in HIV prevention and treatment could unravel because of the impact of the economic crisis,” said Michel Sidibé., program executive director.

He added that any interruption or slowing down in funding would be a disaster for the 4 million people on treatment and the millions more currently being reached by HIV prevention programmes.

In 2006, the General Assembly pledged to achieve universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010. A report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on progress on HIV/AIDS commitments shows that achieving national universal access targets by 2010 will require an estimated annual outlay of $25 billion within two years.
 
According to a news release issued by the agencies, there are no reports of major cuts in donor assistance for 2009. However, it was reported that current funding commitments for treatment programs in nearly 40 per cent of the countries examined will end in 2009 or 2010. It is feared that external aid will not increase or even be maintained at current levels.





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