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(506) 2223-1327               Published Thursday, July 8, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 133        E-mail us
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Bilinguals reported better at certain brain functions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

Bilingual individuals appear to think faster and more efficiently due to a different form of cerebral control.

That comes from a report from a Spanish university that put monolingual speakers and people who are bilingual under magnetic  resonance imagings to watch the brain work. Bilingualism appears to reorganize the brain, the study concluded.

The study was done at the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón, Spain, led by César Ávila Rivera, professor of basic psychology. The study showed that bilinguals use the left inferior frontal lobe, the Broca's area, to respond to stimuli where what psychologists call executive functions are performed,such as ordering forms by color or shape. Monolinguals use the right part to respond to the same stimuli, the study concluded.

Executive functions are brain processes such as planning, abstract thinking and troubleshooting.

The left Broca's area is located in the frontal left hemisphere of the brain and is responsible for performing language processing tasks such as speech production and, in the case of bilinguals, control of the language used, the university said. Several behavioral researches had already found this difference between bilinguals and monolinguals, but so far there had been developed no neural description.

"Findings are very important because they show an unknown aspect of bilingualism, which goes beyond linguistic advantages, and they also show bilinguals are more effective in responding to certain stimuli," said Avila. The research shows that bilingualism does not only have effects on the brain at a linguistic level, but that it also works differently, she said,
creativity and thought

emphasizing the importance of introducing languages at an early age because it generates cognitive benefits.

Scientists have had the participation of voluntary students from the Universitat Jaume I and the collaboration of the Hospital General of Castellón, where the functional magnetic resonance imagings were done. The sample was composed of two extreme groups: On one hand, young people who had developed bilingualism (Catalan and Spanish) at an early age and on the other, young Spanish monolinguals from other regions or other Spanish-speaking countries.
This research is part of a larger project called "Bilingualism and Cognitive Neuroscience”at a consortium of four Spanish universities.

The research does not address the benefit of bilingualism in persons who acquired the second language later in life, such as U.S. expats in Costa Rica, but there is significant research that shows anyone who acquires a language creates a special section in the brain to handle it once a certain fluency is reached, regardless of age.

Sharp late morning shock rated at 5.0 by scientists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
posted at 11 a.m.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 5.0 took place at 10:31 a.m. local time today, Thursday, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The epicenter was given as 10 kilometers southwest of Orotina, not far from the central Pacific coast.
The observatory, part of Universidad Nacional, said the quake was caused by the Coco tectonic plate pushing under the Caribe plate.

This is a typical cause of earthquakes in Costa Rica. The process is called subduction.

The short shock was felt in the Central Valley and probably in the entire country, said the observatory.

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This is what agents have to identify the body

Leads sought to man with belt

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A distinctive brown belt is about all the investigators have to go on in order to learn the identity of a man whose body was found June 16 near Betania de Cutris.

The man was about 25 to 35 and was dressed in blue pants, agents said.

The belt has a buckle that says Genuine Casual American Jean with the letters GK highlighted. There also are other metal ornaments on the belt that resemble tags for animals. In life the man appears to have been about 5-feet, 2-inches, said agents. In Costa Rica terms that is 1.58 meters.

Anyone with information can call 2460-0922 or 800-8000-645, agents said.

Another trafficking suspect
caught in Nandayure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police captured an 11th person Wednesday in the Playa Bejuco, Nandayure, case where 1,091 kilos of cocaine were confiscated Tuesday.

The man was identified as a Colombian with the last names of  Rodeo González. Anti-drug police said they suspect that the man fled through a window when the initial raid took place. He was arrested in 2002 on a drug trafficking charge, they added.

The other 10 suspects were detained in the raid at a home where the cocaine was located, agent said.

The case began with a suspicious neighbor who contacted police. A fastboat adrift in the sea also was confiscated, agents said.

Obama seeks to double
U.S. exports to world

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama says the United States is on pace to meet his goal of doubling its exports within five years.
The president has expanded an advisory committee on stimulating business abroad, and says his administration's efforts to boost the exports of U.S. goods and business around the world are off to a solid start.

"American exports grew almost 17 percent over the first four months of this year, compared to the same period last year," said Obama.  "Part of this, of course, is due to the global recovery.  But we are also moving forward on improving conditions for America's exporters."

The president told business leaders gathered at the White House Wednesday the global marketplace requires American businesses to continue to be more competitive.

"Ninety-five percent of the world's customers and fastest-growing markets are beyond our borders," said the president.  "So if we want to find new growth streams, if we want to find new markets and new opportunity, we have got to compete for those new customers, because other nations are competing for those new customers."

Obama named 18 business leaders to his council on business exports, which advises him on promoting U.S. goods and jobs. The council includes the leaders of large companies such as Ford Motor, Xerox and Walt Disney.

The president said one of his main trade priorities is to promote U.S. businesses and workers worldwide.  He said so far this year, the government has coordinated 18 trade missions to 24 countries.  He said the Export-Import Bank has more than doubled its loans to American exporters since last year, with many of those loans going to smaller businesses.

Obama said his administration is pushing hard to open new markets and remove trade barriers for American businesses. He also promised to do everything within his power to enforce trade agreements.

The president listed some of his administration's accomplishments in the trade area, including agreements to sell poultry to Russia and pork to China, and a World Trade Organization rejection of European subsidies to the aircraft maker Airbus.

Venezuelan critic of Chávez
loses his dairy farm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Human Rights Foundation said that a Venezuela diplomat lost his dairy farm when police and land institute workers confiscated it and sold off or gave away the cattle.

The foundation said that one of the cows ended up being barbecued for President Hugo Chávez.

The diplomat is Diego Arria, 70, who purchased the farm in 1988 and built it to produce 600 gallons of milk daily, according to Thor Halvorssen of the foundation. This expropriation was punishment for Arria's criticism of Chávez, and Chávez even presented photos of the farm on Venezuelan state television, said Halvorssen.

Arria has served as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, and as a personal advisor to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said Halvorssen., who added:

Arria captured the world's attention when, as president of the U.N. Security Council, he condemned the failure of the international community to act against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for his brutal treatment of Bosnian Muslims. He was a star witness during the prosecution of Milosevic for the genocide at Srebrenica. Prior to his U.N. tenure, Arria had been a leading political figure in Venezuela, serving as governor of the capital Caracas in the 1970s.

Halvorssen, in a published commentary,said he felt partially responsible for Arria's current predicament because he extended an invitation to him in April to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum, a human rights conference in Norway that this year included Lech Walesa, Rebiya Kadeer, Anwar Ibrahim, and Garry Kasparov.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 133

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Security minister says police are drastically understaffed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister says that the country is short from 7,000 to 12,000 police officers. He told a legislative committee that the number currently at work is only about 50 percent what the nation needs.

Only about 4,000 officers are available at any one time, the minister, José María Tijerino Pacheco, told the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana Tuesday.

He also said that the country lacked a strong introductory course for new policeman. The Costa Rican police school is six months, but Tijerino said that many countries, including Spain, have a basic police course of two years. The current system has many flaws, the minister said. For example, a police recruit graduates having fired a service weapon just 75 times when experts recommend 100 shots every 15 days, he said.

Tijerino is promoting the idea of a new police school, perhaps with funding from international development banks. The current school is in Guanacaste. So far ministry officials have just held exploratory discussions on the idea, he said.
He comes to the position of minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública after having served as the nation's chief prosecutor.

The minister noted to deputies that the country has become a bridge for the shipping of drugs north by Colombian and Mexican cartels. He said that the state of the ministry's police vehicles was hampered by the extensive paperwork needed for the purchase of the most basic repair parts.

The shortage of police and police vehicles will come as no surprise to expats in beach communities. Many have been complaining for years about the unavailability of police officers. In some towns, the police ask a caller to agree to provide money for fuel before they will travel to answer an emergency call.

Although several embassies here routinely provide vehicles to the police, maintenance is not consistent and some vehicles are taken out of service in less than a year. President Óscar Arias Sánchez promised to increase the nation's street cops by 5,000 officers. He appears to have reached that goal. However, the Fuerza Pública is plagued by absenteeism and long-term sick leaves.

Suspects held in bold May 5 robbery of armored car
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons have been detained as the Judicial Investigating Organization seeks suspects in a bold robbery of an armored car last May 5.

The Poder Judicial said that gunmen took nearly 200 million colons or about $375,000 in the evening heist.

The crime happened in Limonal de Abangares when the crew of the Grupo Seguridad Integral vehicle stopped at a supermarket for a break. After the holdup, agents criticized
 the truck crew for being too regular in their behavior.

Agents conducted at least four raids Wednesday to detain three persons, including a former policeman.  Raids took place in Desamparados, Coronado and two in Abangares, said the Poder Judicial. Detained was a man with the last name of Alvarado Acuña, identified as the former Fuerza Pública officer.

Also held were men with the last names of Elizondo Sánchez and García Picado. Agents said they were seeking other suspects.

Defensoría seeks reduction in toll for Caldera highway
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Defensoría de los Habitantes wants a better understanding of how the fees have been established for the Autopista del Sol and other concession projects in the country.

In the case of the highway, the agency said that it is studying the way the toll was fixed. The final toll was approved by the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Publicos, but a private firm, URS Greiner, developed the method to figure the amount, said the Defensoría.
The toll for traveling the entire route from San José to Caldera went from the equivalent of $2.11 to $2.75 to make the project more attractive to investors, said the Defensoría. The Defensoría said that URS Greiner has not provided all the data on how the toll was computed.

The Defensoría asked the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes to correct what it said was an inflated toll.

A stretch of the toll road between Atenas and Orotina remains closed because the steep slopes at the side of the road are collapsing and endangering motorists.

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Rio Sucio and Blanco
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Bus on Ruta 32 crosses the confluence of the Río Blanco and the Río Sucio north of San José

Overflight discounts the fears of blockage of Río Sucio

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Scientists concerned about a change in the water color of the Río Sucio flew over the watershed Wednesday and determined that there are no blockages in the river that could cause a flash flood later.

The researchers from the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional took hundreds of detailed photos of both the Río Sucio and the Río Blanco, which also is called Río Hondura.

The concern developed when the color of the river changed from the usual yellow-orange to a white-gray. Rangers at the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo were the first to notice the change. The reason appears to be a very fine white clay in suspension.

The flight did disclose that there have been landslides in the upper reaches of the rivers, which begin in the area of Volcán Irazú. But there are no temporary and possibly dangerous natural dams.
Researchers noted that in 1993, the color of the Río Sucio changed radically because of material produced by an eruption at Irazú. That does not seem to be the case now although the volcano has begun producing gas during the last two years.

The area surveyed was some 20 kilometers from the bridge of Ruta 32, the main road from San José to Guápiles and Limón upstream to the volcano.

The river valleys are rough terrain, and scientists feared to go too far upstream on foot because of the danger that a natural dam somewhere would rupture. So with the help of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, they took to the air. The area also was hit recently by a string of small earthquakes centered on Irazú. These might have contributed to landslides, researchers said.

The scientists said they expect that the Río Sucio will eventually return to its normal color, caused by local minerals after rains wash away the suspended clay particles.

Moving day looms for patients at Heredia hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A handful of agencies will go to work a week from today to move more than 100 patients from the obsolete  117-year-old Hospital San Vicente de Paúl in Heredia to the nearly $85 million replacement.

Much of the work will be by the Cruz Roja, which will provide ambulances and trained crews for the move. The new facility is 400 meters south of the existing hospital on 11 hectares (27 acres).
The  five-story complex has 36,000 square meters of space (387,500 square feet). The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social is the agency that runs the nation's hospitals.

Persons in intensive care will get priority, the Cruz Roja said, noting that practice for the move took place Tuesday.

Cruz Roja staffers from all over the metro area will participate, as will hospital employees, Ministerio de Salud workers and even the Policía de Tránsito.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 8, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 133

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Cuba reported ready to free
many political prisoners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuba's Roman Catholic Church says the government has agreed to release 52 political prisoners, and that five would be allowed to go free within hours and leave for Spain.

The archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, released a statement Wednesday, saying the remaining 47 would be freed in the coming months.  The deal was announced in Havana after the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, met with Ortega, President Raúl Castro and other officials.  Moratinos has been in Cuba this week to discuss human rights and other topics.

It was not clear, however, which dissidents would win their freedom in what would be the island's largest mass liberation of political prisoners in years.  The Catholic Church says the 52 were among 75 people arrested in 2003 during a government crackdown on dissent.

A U.S. State Department official said Washington is checking on the reports of the Cuban prisoner release and that if they are true, then the United States would welcome that.

Michael Posner, assistant secretary of State, also said the U.S. has been closely monitoring, in particular, the case of dissident Guillermo Farinas, who has been on a hunger strike for more than four months.

Cuba has said Farinas is in danger of dying.  The state-run newspaper, Granma, reported Saturday that the opposition activist has a blood clot in his neck and that the clot has left him in danger of dying, even though he has gained weight by intravenous feeding.

The paper did not refer to the reason for Farinas's hunger strike or give details of his background of political protest and activism.

The 48-year-old Farinas began refusing food in late February to demand that authorities free dozens of political prisoners.  He also started the fast to protest the death of another dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after his own long hunger strike in prison.

Zapata's death prompted international criticism of the Cuban government.

Spain had offered exile to Farinas to allow him to regain his health, but he rejected the offer.

Cuba says it has no political prisoners, only mercenaries who Havana claims are working with the United States to undermine Cuban communism.

Noriega gets seven years
for laundering drug money

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A French court Wednesday convicted Panama's former military ruler Manuel Noriega on charges of laundering drug money and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

Manuel Noriega, 76, spent most of the past two decades behind bars in the United States.  Now a French court has sentenced him to another seven years in prison.  He was found guilty by a Paris court of laundering about $2 million worth of illegal drug money.  He is accused of taking money from Colombian drug lords while he was in power during the 1980s and putting the money in French bank accounts.

Noriega's lawyers argued that as a serving head of state, he should have been immune from prosecution.  One of his lawyers, Antonin Levy, called the decision by the French court politically motivated.

"The critical issue was, of course, politics," said Levy.  "They by all means are trying to keep General Noriega in jail.  They don't want him to go out.  He's been in jail for more than 20 years now and the maximum rule is to keep him inside a cell.  And they will do everything they can, everything possible to make him stay in jail and not go back to Panama."

Noriega was arrested in 1990, after the United States invaded Panama and removed him from power.  He was given a 40-year sentence in 1992, which was later reduced to 30 years on appeal and further reduced to 17 years.  He was held in custody pending his extradition to France earlier this year.
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Big World Cup final set
for Spain and Netherlands

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Spain will play the Netherlands in Sunday's World Cup football final in South Africa.  Spain advanced to the title game for the first time on Wednesday by beating Germany, 1-0.

Spain dominated possession in the match at Moses Mabhida Stadium in South Africa's coastal city of Durban.  Spanish midfielders controlled the action from the opening whistle with quick and precise passes.  But they had trouble finishing, until central defender Carles Puyol broke a scoreless deadlock in the 73rd minute.  Puyol, who plays for Barcelona, leaped high to head in a goal from Xavi Hernandez's corner kick.

The game was a rematch of the 2008 European Championship final that Spain won by the same score.

Spain's head coach, Vicente del Bosque, said he thought his team played a great game -- from defense through to attack.  Spanish star David Villa, who is tied with Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands for the tournament scoring lead with five goals each, said his team should have scored more goals, but he said, "the one from Puyol has put us in the final."

In Sunday's final, Spain will play a Dutch squad that also has never won football's premier event.  The Netherlands lost the 1974 title game to Germany, and the 1978 final to Argentina.

Dutch police say more than 60,000 fans poured into downtown Amsterdam to watch the team's 3-2 victory over Uruguay in the semifinals on a giant TV screen.  Afterward, some fans expressed their jubilation about the Netherlands being back in a World Cup final after a 32-year break.

A crowd of almost 61,000 people attended the Spain-Germany semifinal. 

Among the dignitaries on hand was Queen Sofia of Spain, who sat between Sepp Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, and South African President Jacob Zuma.

World Cup attendance in South Africa has passed three million.  Africa's first World Cup is expected to place third in attendance behind the 1994 World Cup in the United States and the 2006 tournament in Germany.  The 1994 World Cup set an attendance record with 3.59 million fans.

The Dutch victory was well-recieved in Costa Rica by the country's expats here.

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