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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Friday, July 13, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 139                          Email us
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Mar Vista

 
sloth
University of Wisconsin-Madison /
Zach Peery

Sweet idea
Chocolate plantations may become a refuge for our country's sloths
HERE!

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What has to be a first for A.M. Costa Rica, a reader is offering a whole herd of pigs via a classified ad.
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President shortcircuits those electronic cigarettes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats who have turned to electronic cigarettes to comply with the country's new, tough anti-smoking laws will be unhappy to learn that these devices, too, are being lumped with traditional tobacco products.

The law passed by the Asamblea Legislativa does not really address the issue, so some smokers have been promoting electronic cigarettes as away to get around the ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos.

The electronic cigarette sometimes is modeled to appear like a traditional one. The plastic tube contains a battery, an atomizer and a cartridge filled with nicotine. When a user inhales, the battery ignites the atomize and water vapor filled with nicotine enters the mouth. When the user exhales, the water vapor that is emitted looks a lot like cigarette smoke.

The new regulations that were drawn up to complement the law specifically prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes anywhere tobacco cigarettes are forbidden.

The 49-page document of rules originated in Casa
Presidencial. The regulations specifically forbid tobacco products that give off smoke, gases or vapor in whatever form. Included with electronic cigarettes are water pipes, also known as hookahs.

Electronic cigarette fans claim the vapor is just water free of the tars and other chemicals that make smoking a health hazard.

Electronic cigarettes are being touted as healthier choices than a tobacco product. Even some U.S. medical groups have said that electronic cigarettes are a better choice than tobacco products that emit a smoke with all kinds of cancer-causing agents.

Internet accounts generally favor the electronic cigarette. One graphic video shows an animation of a woman struggling for breath in a hospital room.

A voiceover says that electronic cigarettes will not cause emphezima and other respiratory ills associated with the tobacco variety.

A.M. Costa Rica featured electronic cigarettes in a news story in mid-April; when it appeared that the electronic devices would be permitted.


Vacationers returning, and traffic police are ready
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mid-year vacation comes to an end Monday for public school students, and those parents who took the opportunity to spend time at the beach or in the mountains are getting ready to return to their homes today or over the weekend.

Traffic police are anticipating a heavy flow of vehicles back into the Central Valley. The collapse of the westbound lanes of the General Cañas highway near Los Arcos has been repaired successfully with temporary bailey bridges, and motorists hardly notice the patch.

Policía de Tránsito officers have the option to open a third lane for westbound traffic at that point if the flow becomes too heavy. One quick fix when the pavement caved in was to take a lane from the eastbound section of the highway.

So officers have the option to reduce eastbound traffic to one lane while providing a third lane around the site of the bailey bridges, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Those who spent a week or two weeks on the coasts saw more rain than those who stayed in the Central
Valley. That situation is expected to be repeated today with cloudy mornings and downpours on the Pacific as well as the Caribbean, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. The Central Valley may see isolated showers as residents did Thursday.

The north Pacific and the Nicoya peninsula will have moderate winds and possible showers, said the forecast.

The Pacific Ocean is becoming a breeding ground for storms. The latest tropical storm is Fabio, following closely on the heels of Hurricane Emilia. Both are headed west away from Costa Rica.

However, having six named storms so early in the season is unusually, particularly to for the Pacific where fewer storms are expected. So far the Atlantic is free of storms or suspicious low-pressure areas, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The transport ministry issues a release noting that license plate restrictions based on the last digit will go back into force Monday and that restrictions will continue for heavy trucks from 6 a.m. To 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on highways leading to and from San José.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 139
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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.


Residency experts

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Water supply to valley users
will be reduced on weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The water supply to much of the Central Valley will be cut to a third over the weekend because the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is doing work on a hydroelectric plant in Cartago.

The water company, the Instituto Nacional de  Acueductos y Alcantarillados also is involved.

The power company said that the job involves building a base for future construction at the Río Macho plant. A similar reduction in the flow of domestic water is expected Sept.1 and 2.

The power company said that the reduction would begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and continue until 8 p.m. Sunday. Affected are water customers in San José, Desamparados, Curridabat, Montes de Oca, Coronado, Goicoechea, Moravia, Tres Ríos and Cartago.

The water company said about 550,000 customers will be affected. The 59-year-old hydro plant provides about 4.52 percent of the electricity generated by the  Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, it said.

Both agencies urged responsible use of water. The construction work involved the point where water is taken into the plant from the river.


security logo
This is the new logo for the ministry

Security ministry debuts
new logo, image and Web site

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry unveiled a new Web site Thursday that allows citizens to file complaints against police officers and provides telephone numbers for many reasons to contact the police. There also is access to security courses that citizens may want to take.

The new site is www.seguridadpublica.go.cr

The ministry said that a new logo has been created and that the agency is trying to change its image. The Web site bears the title Ministerio de Seguridad Pública, which is a shortening of the cumbersome Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Web site also has a section where individuals can contract a certain amount of business with the ministry, but the pages are mostly sources of information.

One section is for persons to report a stolen or missing firearm. But upon clicking that link the individual is asked to go to the   Departamento de Armas y Explosivos to report the problem in person.

The site also provides information on what documents are needed when persons go to the ministry to have their fingerprints taken.

The Web site also is  a tool for recruitment because there are several links for persons who seek to be police officers and join the Fuerza Pública.

There also is a feed of ministry press releases.

 
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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Third News Page
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 139
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Costa Rica cacao tracts may be a perfect habitat for sloths
By the University of Wisconsin-Madison news service

Like many neotropical critters, sloths are running out of room to maneuver.

As forests in South and Central America are cleared for agriculture and other human uses, populations of these arboreal leaf eaters, which depend on large trees for both food and refuge, can become isolated and at risk.

But one type of sustainable agriculture, shade-grown cacao plantations, a source of chocolate, could become critical refuges and bridges between intact forests for the iconic animals.

In an ongoing study in Costa Rica, wildlife biologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are using a complex of intact tropical forest, pasture, banana and pineapple plantations — all connected by a large shade-grown cacao farm — as a field laboratory to explore the ecology of two species of sloths in a rapidly changing environment.

"We know a lot about sloth physiology," says Jonathan Pauli, a university assistant professor of wildlife ecology who, with colleague Zach Peery, has established a sloth study on a private cacao farm in rural Costa Rica. "But when it comes to sloth ecology and behavior, we know almost nothing. It's a giant black box."

But some of that mystery is now being peeled away as studies by the Wisconsin team of both the brown-throated three-toed sloth and Hoffmann's two-toed sloth, two fairly common species, are yielding new insights into their mating habits and how the animals transit the landscape.

The fact that sloths require forested habitat and are sedentary makes them vulnerable to the deforestation common to many parts of Central and South America, notes Peery, also a university assistant professor of wildlife ecology. "Once a tract of tropical forest has been cleared, sloths have relatively little capacity to seek out new habitats."

The setting Pauli and Peery are using to study sloths is increasingly representative of the Central American landscape. It is a mix of tropical forest, pasture, banana and pineapple plantations with a large organic cacao operation as a hub. As far as sloths go, the fields where bananas and pineapples are grown may as well be deserts, Pauli says: "Sloths don't go there. They just don't move through it."

But the shade-grown cacao plantation, with its tall trees and network of cables for moving the pods that ultimately become chocolate, seems to be a de facto refuge and transit hub for the two- and three-toed sloths.

"Because of the diverse overstory of native trees, the cacao farm appears to provide excellent habitat for both species of sloths," explains Peery.

Sloths also turn up in the few trees in pastures adjacent to the cacao farm, and the Wisconsin researchers hope to find out if the animals are using that habitat as spillover. "And then, of course, we want to compare sloth populations in cacao to populations in intact tropical forests to see if cacao provides habitat that is of as high of a quality as their natural forests," Peery says.

While Pauli and Peery are conducting some of the baseline research needed to understand the behavioral and ecological proclivities of the two sloth species, they also seek to inform how land use in the neotropics can affect animals like sloths that depend on trees for their survival.

The questions they hope to address, says Pauli, relate to the landscape, the forests, pastures and cacao farms, and how the animals exploit the available habitat. "How do they compete in these environments? What are the limits to the resources? How do they partition into these different kinds of habitats?"

To flesh out sloth ecological parameters, however, requires a
Sloth
University of Wisconsin-Madison /Zach Peery
 Female two-toed sloth hangs and displays her necklace
 with distinct color combinations that is used to identify
 individual animals.



better basic understanding of sloth behavior, knowledge the Wisconsin group is now beginning to accumulate.

For example, in a study to be published in the journal Animal Behavior in September, Peery and Pauli describe the mating system of Hoffmann's two-toed sloth and show that, unlike many other animals, the females tend to disperse from their home range and that the breeding territories of males can slightly overlap, with males tolerating competitors on the fringes but excluding them, sometimes violently, from the core. And Hoffmann's two-toed sloths of both sexes seem to have multiple partners as well. "They're more promiscuous than previously thought," notes Pauli. "We see a much more flexible system of multiple matings."

In addition to contributing to the store of basic sloth knowledge, the work of the Wisconsin researchers should help wildlife and land managers make sound decisions to better balance development and conservation.

"Beyond the basic science, understanding how shade-grown agriculture can benefit sensitive tropical animals such as sloths is highly relevant, considering the ongoing and rapid loss of biodiversity in the neotropics," notes Pauli. "What kinds of ecological services can these already altered landscapes provide? Can we mitigate future biodiversity loss with a greater emphasis on shade-grown agricultural systems than crops grown in monocultures? That's the future we're facing."

Because of their sedentary nature and their dependence on forest, sloths can be viewed as an umbrella species, says Peery. "Protecting sloths could indirectly protect many other animal species in tropical forests that are harder to measure and study."

The curious thing about sloths, which are widespread in both Central and South America, is that they are highly successful in intact forests despite their iconic lackadaisical mode of locomotion.

"It hardly seems like a recipe for success and, in fact one 18th century biologist wrote that sloths were one defect away from disappearing from the Earth altogether," Peery relates. "Clearly that biologist was wrong as sloths are an extremely successful . . . . Studying the reason why is fascinating."


Some existential thoughts doing the emergency room Limbo
This week I broke my resolve to stay away from hospitals and doctors and instead home care whatever challenges to my health come my way.  I found myself in the emergency section of Hospital Mexico, the closest hospital to where I happen to be, explaining my perceived problem.

A thoughtful Dr. Palmas examined and interviewed me and made a list of exams to be done.  Then I went back to the main section of the emergency room to wait with the other patients.  It was incredibly crowded and quiet, so I spent most of my time standing . . . between the two bathrooms.  When the door guard came in and told all patients’ companions to leave, it was considerably less crowded, but still no seat for me.

An emergency room in any hospital involves 90 percent waiting and 10 percent being attended to, so one has a lot of time to observe and think.  I didn’t have a book with me, so I took the opportunity to read the world around me and ponder.

I have been in emergency rooms in hospitals Biblica, Católica, Calderón Guardia, México and San Juan de Dios, one in Limón and CIMA. My worst experience was at CIMA, where they refused to treat me until I paid or found my credit card, which I did not think to bring.  As a result my condition worsened considerably.  The best emergency rooms were at the Católica, years ago where they treated my hand for an infection from a wound.  The cost at the time was 1,200 colons.  I thought they must have meant 12,000, even then.  It was the only time I wanted to leave a hospital a tip.  The old Biblica was also pleasant and efficient.  México emergency comes in third, and is much less expensive because it is a Caja hospital.

With time to think, I began to wonder if Dante did research in an emergency room for the first circle of Hell in his “Divine Comedy.”  That circle was Limbo, a waiting room for Heaven or Hell, which fittingly describes an emergency room. In Dante’s poem Limbo was for the guiltless but damned because they were born or died too soon.  Many Greeks were among them, and fittingly, I chatted with a lovely man named Ulisis outside the X-ray room while we waited for our own X-rays.  

All of us in emergency were not guiltless in terms of how we had lived our lives (I was a smoker for nearly 40 years). Some were on gurneys (lucky them), and I noticed the hospital had extra wide ones for the larger patients.

We all waited stoically and with something else.  Present was 
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


compassion, perhaps the last refuge of humanity when it finds itself in Limbo or emergency.

Most of the hospital personnel were pleasant and helpful, although often unable to speed things up. A welcome
newcomer in mid-afternoon was the lady with coffee, tea and crackers.  I had not eaten since my early morning breakfast, so I happily drank coffee that was so weak it left no trace of residue in the glass.  But it was liquid.

Mike, a member of a writers group I belong to, has written his review of a book about biocentrism by two scientists, Lanza and Berman.  There is no way my mind understands quantum anything, but the idea has intrigued me. 

With hours to spare, I tried to imagine how biocentrism pertained to life as I knew it standing in the emergency room. If reality is only what one perceives it to be (or exists only in the consciousness of a human being), then for sure, each one of us was experiencing a different reality based on our experience, our physical condition and whether we felt we were in a waiting room to Heaven or Hell.

The hospital staff greeted new members who came on duty with smiles and kisses.  Theirs was a different reality than ours.  This became obvious to me at one point since I seemed to be the only patient smiling occasionally.

I was smiling because I was thinking about whether  Heaven or Hell or even San José is any more real than Oakland, about which Gertrude Stein said, maybe insightfully, “There is no there, there.”  My response to Gertrude is, “Once you get there, Ms Stein, it will exist.”

The one great thing about leaving an emergency room on your own two feet, looking forward to what will happen next, is that home looks like Heaven.

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Escazú Christian
A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 139
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An A.M. Costa Rica guest opinion
Jailed lawyer says he seeks action to end human rights abuses

By Arcelio Hernández Mussio*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

People who are given preventive detention in Costa Rica enter into a sort of “twilight zone” where they are set apart from society in more ways than one.

The penitentiary system is working outside the law, severe human rights violations are taking place and human rights organizations are nowhere to be seen. This is a system that unjustly deprives detainees of fundamental rights, even while
ARcelio Hernandez
Arcelio Hernández
our Constitution, International conventions and the law demand a person be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

A person should not considered innocent but at the same time treated as guilty.  And even guilty people properly sentenced by a court of law should not be subject to the human rights violations I have witnessed during my nine-months detention.

A person in preventive detention suffers extreme and unnecessary
limitations with regards to family life, which represents his main contact with the outside world, and his source of moral support during trying times.  Family visitation is generally limited to four hours per week.  While human contact is direct during these visits, which is a good thing, there is no reason for not allowing more hours, but the restriction is clearly intended to inflict suffering on the detainee and his family.  Even if found not guilty and later released, the state cannot make up the time lost.

Marital life is made almost impossible with only four hours every two weeks for conjugal visitation under precarious conditions.  Again, this is a clear indication that our culture is two-faced because, although detainees are considered innocent under the law, these restrictions imply a punishment ahead of a trial.

Parent-child contact is made difficult as well, despite the fact that our Constitution burdens the state with the protection of the family.  And men have it more difficult than women in this regard.  I recently called the Defensoria de los Habitantes trying to obtain help in some of these areas, but the woman who answered my call, who refused to give me her name, said that it was “different with women,” at which point I complained that our Constitution guarantees equality under the law, after which she hung up on me. 

Clearly, equality is nearly a matter of convenience to many in our two-faced society.  When it comes to defending a father’s right, as a father you are pretty much on your own.

Safety is another area where there is unjust discrimination against detainees.  A detainee being transported to court, or to any other place, is put in the back of a modified pick-up truck, in a closed metallic cage with very little ventilation and under extreme heat, with no seat belt, handcuffed, and oftentimes in
overcrowded conditions.  Chances of survival in case of a
traffic accident are minimal as experience has shown.  Traffic law contemplates no exceptions for these types of vehicles, but this is how the government operates.  Sadly our constitutional court is an accomplice to these human rights violations.  I have filed numerous actions there to no avail.

People detained in judicial police cells will experience a gross disregard for their basic human dignity.  To drink water or even flush the toilet, they will have to scream for assistance until a guard decides to cooperate, as faucets are out of reach of detainees.  This is only an example of the grave disregard for laws pertaining to health which characterizes our government when it comes to our penitentiary system.  Smoking might be prohibited by law in all government buildings, but the law is not respected in jails.  Roaches and other pests are all part of the unsanitary conditions you will find in any Costa Rican jail.  Here in San Ramón you can’t even find a first aid kit, and this is the country’s best facility by far.

Frankly, our whole penitentiary system is a slap in the face of human rights.  Physical and mental torture are commonplace in most prisons with the active participation of prison authorities.  Drugs are not tolerated in San Ramón prison, but this prison is the exception.  And this is not the case in prisons like San Carlos, San Sebastian or La Reforma where the drug business is fully organized, starting at the highest levels of jail administration.  Profits for some prison authorities run in the millions of colons per week.  What level of safety can a regular citizen expect in this scenario?  As the Lord said, “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

As I said, it’s been nine months since my detention, and I am still awaiting trial.  Terms stipulated in the law are not observed and our constitutional court does not enforce them. That’s becoming an accomplice to this violation of due process.  Fraudulent administration carries a minimum penalty of six months under the law, Article 222 of the penal code, so anybody can plainly see that in my case I have been forced to serve a penalty which I continue to serve without my basic right to a trial. 

For this reason I have filed a formal complaint to the International Human Rights Commission in Washington.  Perhaps my case will help mitigate some of the terrible violations against human rights which are committed every day in Costa Rica, and which the regular press does not print or disseminate.  People are killed in prison all the time, but you won’t see those deaths reported in the mainstream media.

I can be contacted via email at emailthelawyer@yahoo.com and you can also call me at the San Ramón jail from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 2445-8377 or 2447-0777.  Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

*Arcelio Hernández is a former A.M. Costa Rica advertiser and occasional legal consultant who is facing a fraud charge involving the handling of some $638,000 that foreigners put up for a hotel deal.  Hernández says the deal just fell apart. A.M. Costa Rica editors share his many of his views on preventative detention and the treatment of prisoners.


Two viruses found that may be involved in decline of coral
By the University of Oregon news service

Scientists have discovered two viruses that appear to infect the single-celled microalgae that reside in corals and are important for coral growth and health, and they say the viruses could play a role in the serious decline of coral ecosystems around the world.

These viruses, including an RNA virus never before isolated from a coral, have been shown for the first time to clearly be associated with these microalgae called Symbiodinium. If it’s proven that they are infecting those algae and causing disease, it will be another step toward understanding the multiple threats that coral reefs are facing.

The research was published Thursday in the ISME Journal, in work supported by the National Science Foundation.

“We’re way behind in our knowledge of how viral disease may affect coral health,” said Adrienne Correa, a researcher with the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University. “If viral infection is causing some bleaching, it could be important in the death of corals and contribute to reef decline. This potential threat from viruses is just starting to be recognized.”

Corals co-exist with these algae in a symbiotic relationship, scientists say, in which the algae provide energy to the coral, and contribute to the construction of reefs. The coral in turn offers a place for the algae to live and provides nutrients for it.

Corals and viruses have evolved along with their resident algae for millions of years. They have persisted through previous climate oscillations, and the presence of viruses within corals or their algae doesn’t necessarily indicate they are affecting coral colony health. If viruses are causing disease or bleaching of colonies, it’s also unknown whether this is happening now more than in the past.

“Corals are known to face various environmental threats,
bleached coral
University of Oregon photo
Coral is shown with obvious bleaching.


such a  warming temperatures, competition and pollution,” Ms. Correa said. “Some of the environmental changes of the past were likely more gradual and allowed the coral and its associates more time to adapt.

“The stresses challenging coral reefs now are more intense and frequent,” she said. “This may mean viruses cause more problems for corals and their algae now than they did historically.”

In continued research at Oregon, scientists will inoculate Symbiodinium with the viruses and try to prove they are causing actual disease. If the viruses are killing the algae, scientists said, it could have significant implications for coral reef health and survival. There are almost two dozen known diseases that are affecting coral, and scientists still do not know the cause of most of them.

Coral abundance has declined about 80 percent in the Caribbean Sea in the past 30 to 40 years, and about one-third of all corals around the world are threatened with extinction.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 13, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 139
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U.S. moves to ratify pact
outlining rights of disabled


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

American lawmakers are pressing for U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Many legislators see the pact as a global extension of a landmark federal law protecting disabled Americans at home.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill put aside partisan politics Thursday, with senators from both parties voicing support for the convention.  The U.N. measure was drafted in 2006 and has more than 150 signatory nations.

Sen. John McCain, a Republican, spoke before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

"This landmark treaty requires countries around the world to affirm what are essentially core American values of equality, justice, and dignity," said McCain.

The convention's guiding principles include non-discrimination against the disabled, the full participation and inclusion of handicapped people in society, and the right of the disabled to make decisions for themselves.

Within the United States, many of these rights are set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law more than 20 years ago.

"My hope is that U.S. ratification will have a moral impact," said Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.  "My hope is that it will send a signal to the rest of the world that it is not okay to leave a baby with downs syndrome on the side of the road to die. It is not okay to warehouse adults with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities in institutions chained to the bars of a cell when their only crime is having a disability. That it is not okay to refuse to educate children because they are blind or deaf or use a wheelchair."

Ratification has the backing of the Obama administration. The State Department's special adviser for international disability rights, Judith Heumann, says America's failure to ratify the treaty thus far hampers her ability to advocate for the disabled abroad, including handicapped Americans who travel overseas.

"It is, frankly, difficult to advance the interests of Americans with disabilities and others when we, as the United States, have not ratified the convention," Heumann explained.  "Failure to ratify deprives us of a crucial tool to secure concrete improvements, such as fewer architectural barriers and more accessible air travel."

But not all lawmakers back ratification. Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican, argued there is no need for the United States to bind itself to a global pact or submit to international scrutiny of America's treatment of disabled people. He also expressed concern that the convention's stated goal of furthering reproductive rights and health will promote abortion.

No date has been set for a Senate vote, but backers hope the convention will be ratified in coming weeks.


Robot has 100% success
playing kids finger game


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tokyo University laboratory has developed a robot that never loses at the game of rock paper scissors.  That is because its visual processing abilities and fingers work together faster than the synchronization of any human brain.  A video of the undefeated robot has garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube since going online at the end of June.

Tokyo University engineering professor Masatoshi Ishikawa has a good-natured response to frustrated human losers who accuse him of essentially creating a robot that cheats.

Every one millisecond the image processor decides, recognizes the shape the human hand is going to make, he said. “And after one millisecond can make a winnable shape, one millsecond later than a human being.  Only one millisecond.  But a human cannot see this difference because the human eye is very slow," explained Ishikawa.

More dexterous abilities, combining repetition and near perfect accuracy are the epitome of robotics. At the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory there has been amazing progress in that direction. Such as a robot that can catch a falling egg without breaking it, another one that can tie a knot, and a robot that may not be quite ready for the NBA, but is able to dribble a ball.

In such sports as baseball or cricket, the misses outnumber successes for even the most skilled athletes. That is not so in this award-winning school laboratory.  For instance, a pitching robot is the result of five years of research and a lot of trial and error. And the cost of just one finger on the robot is equivalent to that of a compact car.

The technology obviously has uses beyond fun and games. Corporations are eager to take advantage of the lab's technology for industrial and other practical uses. And there is talk of applying it to assist disabled people and enhance human capabilities.

"As a first step I want to realize a high-speed, intelligent robot. After we recognize the stability, the safety of the high speed, we will apply to the human body," Ishikawa added.

In the meantime, Ishikawa and his associates are continuing to try to make their robots faster, more flexible and more precise to consistently outdo humans.
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Latin America news
Four earthquakes register
magnitudes around 3.0

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four quakes took place Thursday with magnitudes that ranged from 2.9 to 3.2.

The first was at 6:49 a.m. The epicenter was estimated to be was just offshore the central Pacific 5.6 km (3.5 miles) south southwest of Bahía Ballena and 23 kilometers (14 miles) west of Pejibaye de Pérez Zeledón, said the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica. The magnitude was estimated at 3.2.

A second quake took place at 10:56 a.m., and the estimated magnitude was 2.9, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. It was 37 kilometers (23 miles) northeast of Puerto Vargas de Talamanca de Limón.

A quake at 1:53 p.m. was in  Nandayure de Guanacaste on the Nicoya peninsula with an estimated epicenter at Limones. The magnitude was 3.0, said the  Observatorio.

The Laboratorio reported a fourth quake at 6:15 p.m. about 5.3 kilometers (3.3 miles) north northeast of Nosara on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya peninsula. The magnitude was estimated at 3.2. the estimated epicenter also was reported as being about 6 kilometerss Cuajiniquil de Santa Cruz. That would put it about 4 miles inland.


Tree planting scheduled
for Parque la Sabana


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Volunteers of Preserve Planet will be at Parque la Sabana Saturday to plant 100 trees. This is part of a project to put 5,000 trees of native species in the part to replace those that were planted started in 1977. Many of the trees are at the end of their useful live. They include eucalyptus and cypress.

The replanting is scheduled to take eight years, and many local agencies and organizations are involved, including  Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and local firms.


New rules on seafood labels
going into effect Aug. 13


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The economics ministry is conducting training of public officials and vendors of fish products because a new regulation goes into effect Aug. 13 that requires better labeling of seafoods.    Mayi Antillón, the minister, said that there have been irregular practices in the marketplace relating to the names of the seafood products

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio coordinating the publicity campaign with the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería, the Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura and the  MARVIVA non-governmental organization.










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