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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, July 14, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 138           E-mail us
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Turtle front view
Photo from 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey'

Young loggerhead turtle is on a 9,300-mile odyssey that is filled with dangers. This turtle is the star of a new movie  about what filmmakers call nature's greatest survival story.

Our story is HERE!


Costa Rican agricultural officials have declared the giant African snail to be mollusk non grata. They fear the snails, which devour 500 different types of plants and even eat stucco off walls, might sneak in through commercial routes. They carry human diseases, too. Already the species is in some of the Caribbean islands.

Our story is HERE!
giant African snail
Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer
Services, Division of Plant Industry, photo

Police doing a big business in snagging illegal guns
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officials report that officers confiscated more than 800 firearms from January to May this year. As expected, the greatest number of illegal weapons were found in the provinces of San José and Limón.

The figure comes from the department's Sección de Análisis y Estadísticas, which said that more than 600 of the firearms were revolvers or pistols. Homemade firearms accounted for 115 of the confiscations.

Many of these are simply tubes that can house a shell. Sometimes the firing pin is a nail. Still they can be lethal.

Even as police officials were announcing the numbers, officers on the street still were confiscating weapons.  A .22 caliber handgun came into police hands in Alajuelita Wednesday afternoon as they arrested two men as robbery suspects. There also were confiscation in Puntarenas and Cartago.
weapons confiscated
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
All these homemade weapons were confiscated in the province of Limón, police said.

The statistical summary made no distinction between weapons confiscated administratively, such as from hunters, and those confiscated from criminal suspects. Some people carry illegal weapons because they are afraid of criminals or are unable to complete the lengthy process of getting a gun permit.

Not all of the confiscations result in criminal prosecutions.

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Our reader's opinion
Story was paranoid rant
that serves to increase fear

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The following letters comment on a story published Tuesday titled "Complex web links Chávez, Iran, Hezbollah, drugs," based on congressional testimony. The story is HERE!

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What the heck was that ridiculous, paranoid rant doing in A.M. Costa Rica?

The only thing missing was Glen Beck and his infamous chalk board to explain the dubious links between U.S. citizen’s enormous appetite for cocaine,  Middle East politics, and “Homeland insecurity”.  What is clear from this article is that the war on drugs is also a war of fear – the first being required to sustain the second.

Personally I wish all recreational drugs would be decriminalized and dealt as the medical issues that they present to the users. This, however, would remove the criminal element and all the pain and suffering that breaths life into the U.S. drug/military/industrial conspiracy.

Here in Costa Rica we see our beloved little country suffering as illegal cocaine passes through on its way to North American customers. So we are not immune here, or to the insanity in the U.S. government that continues to drive the war on drugs.
R. Martin

Claims are similar to those
raised over Saddam and Iraq

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This report sounds similar to what Ahmed Chalabi told the Bush Administration and the Congress, that led the U.S. to go to war with Iraq.  We later find out Chalabi's information and accusations turned out to be either false or over exaggerated.  The main thrust of allegations was to paint Iraq as a danger to the United States so we could take action against that country.

Now the focus is on the fourth largest oil producer, Venezuela, and the oil rich countries of Bolivia and Ecuador. They all have another thing in common.  They have thrown out the multinational oil giants.

We were snookered into believing that there would be a Communist take over of Central America through Nicaragua.  That turned into a long, drawn out war for nothing, except helping to worsen another country because the U.S. didn't like their politics.
Now we are listening to Robert Noriega about the ills of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, supposedly connected to Iran and Hezbollah in the drug trade.   Noriega is a senior fellow at the very conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.  That might make one suspicious to start with.  Think tanks, on the left and the right, generally have their own agenda or ideologies they want played out.

Douglas Farah, also mentioned, has many facets as well.  One of his blog's entries is titled, “The MB (Muslim Brotherhood) Inroads Into the Obama Administration."  He talks about Georgetown University being Saudi Arabian financed and a pulpit for the Muslim agenda.  Maybe he should look to see how much of the U.S. government is financed by Saudi Arabia or the ties between the Bush family and the Royal Saudi family.  Maybe he could comment on the connection between the Saudi billionaire whose investment firm is one of the biggest stakeholders in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. 

The report to the House subcommittee regarding these accusations may be accurate and may not be.   It is important to further investigate these allegations before jumping to conclusions.  We have jumped to conclusions too many times and paid dearly for it with young American lives and trillions of tax dollars being wasted.  

Noriega said, 'I believe there will be an attack on U.S. personnel, installations or interests in the Americas as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe that they are capable of such an operation".   We were also told. from reliable sources, that Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to the United States, involved with Al Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction.   The facts about the relationships between these countries, including Hezbollah, seem to permeate similar stories we were told leading up to the Iraq, Vietnam and Nicaraguan wars. 

 Better to wait and get the facts from multiple sources and not from a few people that may have an agenda for overthrowing another nation.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

American Enterprise Institute
should be subject to doubt

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The AEI American Enterprise Institute is at it again. Scare tactics over an imagined cabal doesn't merit your front page.

The neo-cons of the AEI have their own agenda, as they did when they promoted the invasion of Iraq, scaring us with Saddam's non-existent WMD.

Whenever they shout "boo," don't jump -- doubt, and doubt again..
Carl Robbins
David, Panama, and Atlanta, Georgia

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, Thursday, July 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 138

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Agricultural inspectors have eye on a slow-moving threat
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican agricultural officials say that the giant African snail would cause vast loses to the country's biodiversity if it ever got a foothold here. The snail also is a public health threat because of the diseases it carries, they said.

The snail (Achatina fulica) already has invaded Caribbean islands and was identified in Saint Lucia and Barbados in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also is on alert.

Costa Rican agricultural inspectors are on the lookout for the snails and the eggs of snails. The most likely form of transportation would be on the interior or exterior of shipping containers, they said. The snails are hardy and can endure long periods without eating.  They also reproduce rapidly.

These are the largest snails in the world and could compete successfully with native snails.

Some individuals have kept these snails as pets elsewhere, but agricultural officials all over the world warn against doing so because of the various serious human diseases the snails carry. In fact, U.S. officials have special techniques to inspect for these critters because they intercept them frequently, mainly en route from Asia and Africa.

The Servicio Fitosanitario del Estado of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería just issued a special alert for the snails.

The snails can do damage to the coffee and banana plants as well as a host of vegetable crops. They can live up to nine years. A snail can lay 1,000 eggs a year. The shell can be 30 centimeters long, nearly a foot.
snails in a tree
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service photo
Snails cluster in a tree in Barbados

Florida officials report that they have eradicated the species in that state.

Because of the probability of carrying infectious diseases, officials encourage escargot lovers to save their garlic butter and purchase farm-raised snails for culinary purposes or to at least cook wild snails well.

President promises partial bailout of deficit-ridden Caja
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla went on nationwide television Wednesday night to promise that the central government would expedite its payment to shore up the financially faltering Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Ms. Chinchilla warned that some medical services, including maternity were not sustainable.

The president said that the central government agreed Wednesday to transfer 85 billion colons, some $169 million to the Caja this year to offset the greater part of the agency's deficit.

The central government owes more than that, but the Ministerio de Hacienda has been in negotiations with Caja officials with the goal of paying some but not all.

A.M. Costa Rica reported earlier this month on the financial problems, mainly because all foreign residents are now required to affiliate with the government health and pension provider.
The Caja's employee union estimated that the central government is behind 1 trillion colons or about $2 billion.
The union still plans to begin  a long-term strike Tuesday,
although there may be some modifications in the wake of Ms. Chinchilla's 8 p.m. speech.

The Caja runs the public hospitals and the many clinics that are the first-level health providers for most Costa Rican.

The central government said that 54 billion colons of the money going to the Caja are for reimbursements for health services for individuals who cannot pay and received services even though they were not enrolled. The government also has promised to make more payments next year. The Caja is an independent institution, but the top-level staff are political appointees.

Ms. Chinchilla did not have any answers for the long-term financial health of the agency, but she asked the Caja board of directors to set up a study commission. The Panamerican Health Organization is expected to submit a report on the Caja soon.

The president also made a pitch for passage of her administration's proposal for new taxes, including a 14 percent value added tax that is languishing in the legislature. She said the central government was having financial problems, too.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 138

CR Home

New movie chronicles the dangerous life of loggerheads

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
with staff reports

"Two hundred million years ago, turtles lived on land. When the dinosaurs came, they ran to the sea and became creatures of the tides."

Those words mark the start of "Turtle: The Incredible Journey," a film about the migratory cycle of loggerhead turtles.

Filmmaker Nick Stringer follows a female turtle’s journey from a sandy Florida beach, across the Gulf Stream to Newfoundland to the Azores, back to the Caribbean and, years later, back to Florida. It's a years-long journey that only one in 10,000 loggerheads survives, putting the turtles' long-term survival at risk.

The film opens as hatchlings emerge on a Florida beach. They struggle to dig themselves out, escape predatory crabs and begin a journey in the seas. The documentary follows one of those turtles in what filmmakers call nature's greatest survival story.

British actress Miranda Richardson narrates as the film follows the turtle on a 15,000-kilometer migration, guided only by instinct. That's about 9,300 miles.

Along the way, the star turtle dines on jellyfish. Migrating dolphins and a small shark will accompany her on parts of the journey. But she will also dodge perils, both natural and man-made.

“They go back to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs," says Richardson, who is also an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund. "That’s what they do. If there is no beach, they can’t lay their eggs. If there are oil spills, they can choke and die. If there are plastic bags, which they mistake as jelly fish because they don’t know any better, they can die.”

Richardson says some steps have been taken to help the turtles survive, like protecting beaches where turtles lay their eggs and creating hatcheries on some beaches. 

“There are protected beaches. The turtles are excluded from shrimp trawlers by these TEDs, Turtle Exclusion Devices. They have a 99 percent chance of success.”

In 1987, the United States required shrimpers to use turtle excluders, a kind of trap door on trawling nets so turtles can escape if caught in them. But shrimpers, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, have reportedly resisted using these escape hatches.  If they are trapped in shrimp nets, the air-breathing turtles can drown.

Richardson says humans must do more.

tuortle swimming
Photo from 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey'
Star of the show enjoys the surf

“I think we know that we are, as a species, very wasteful,
and we have to clean up our act.  And then we give the turtles and other marine mammals the best chance they can possibly have."

In the film, the star turtle beats the odds by braving the elements and making it back to Florida to lay her eggs.

Richardson hopes the film will raise awareness among the younger generation, so that the loggerhead turtle's migratory journey isn't made any more perilous than it already is.

Costa Rica once again is under a U.S. embargo because Washington does not think the country does enough to protect sea turtles, according to the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, an environmental organization. The Costa Rica shrimp trawling fleet catches and drowns 15,000 sea turtles a year, the organization estimated.

Costa Rican shrimp has faced four embargoes since 1999, the organization noted. The latest is 2 years old and has just been extended.

“The national shrimp trawl fleet has shown that they have no interest whatsoever in marine conservation nor sustainable fisheries,” said Randall Arauz, president of the organization known for short as Pretoma.  “They don’t only kill turtles, they also target snappers and groupers, threatening sustainable artisanal fisheries,” he added.

Much of the problem is the reluctance of local shrimp trawling captains to use turtle excluders. The United States extended the prohibition on Costa Rican shrimp last May. Pretoma noted that Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panamá, and Suriname have been certified and can ship shrimp into the United States.

U.N. agency estimates positive growth for this year and next

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.N. agency for Latin America is predicting 3.2 percent economic growth here in 2011. It's estimate for 2012 is 3.5 percent.

That's good news because many countries posted negative growth in 2009.

Those estimates are slightly lower than the 4.7 percent projected growth for all of Latin America in 2011 and the 4.1 percent estimate for 2012. The estimates for Costa Rica are lower than all the Central American states except El Salvador. Panamá is estimated to have an 8.5 percent growth this year and 6.0 percent the next.

Latin America and the Caribbean will maintain the recovery that began in the second half of 2009 following the international economic crisis, and will grow by 4.7 percent thanks to the boost of internal demand, according to the agency, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The data is included in the "Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2010-2011," which was released Wednesday.

In 2011, regional growth is mainly being driven by private consumption, which is attributable to improved labor indicators and increased credit, said the report.

According to the report, growth will also have a positive  
impact on the region's labor market, which means that the unemployment rate may fall from 7.3 percent in 2010 to between 6.7 and 7 percent in 2011.

In terms of countries, the fastest growing this year will be Panama (8.5 percent), followed by Argentina (8.3 percent),  Haiti (8.0 percent) and Peru (7.1 percent). At the same time, Brazil and Mexico will grow by 4 percent, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by 4.5 percent and Colombia by 5.3  percent, the report estimated.

The report say that rising international food and fuel prices, in a context of higher internal demand, have given rise to inflationary pressures. As a result, several of the region's countries have toughened their monetary policy, which has increased the difference between internal and international interest rates. In a context characterized by extremely high external liquidity, this may lead to exchange rate appreciation in the region.

According to the report, the region's economic authorities should implement measures to contain currency appreciation by combining foreign exchange market interventions, checks on capital inflows and financial regulations. Such measures would be boosted by an accompanying fiscal policy aimed at increasing public sector savings.

Lastly, the report points out the uncertainties in the international economy, particularly in the United States, Europe and Japan, and the possibility of a worsening international climate limiting the region's growth potential.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 14, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 138

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chávez says he'll receive
chemotherapy for his cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he may have chemotherapy or radiation treatment following his recent surgery for cancer.

Chávez announced Wednesday that he is starting the second stage of treatment for cancer, although he did not elaborate on what kind of cancer he has. He said chemotherapy or radiation treatment would be the third stage. He said that stage is meant to armor his body against cancer cells. He said he has lost weight and is adopting a healthier lifestyle.

The president, known for his hours-long speeches, has also curtailed some activities since his surgery. He said he has learned to delegate tasks to others.

Chávez returned to Venezuela July 4 after having surgery in Cuba to remove a tumor in his pelvic region. He has not released many details about his illness, but he has vowed to fight it. He has assured Venezuelans that he intends to remain in control of the country, which is South America's biggest oil producer.

The 56-year-old president, an outspoken critic of the United States, took office in 1999.

Brazilian plane mishap
kills 16 in beach landing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian authorities say a small plane has crashed in northeastern Brazil, killing all 16 people on board.

The regional Noar airlines plane went down early Wednesday, shortly after takeoff from the city of Recife.  It was heading to the city of Natal.

Brazil's air force says the pilot reported problems almost immediately and tried to make an emergency landing on a beach.  The plane crashed and burst into flames. 

A fire official is quoted in local media as saying the pilot averted an even bigger disaster, narrowly avoiding a densely populated area.

The cause of the crash is not yet clear.

Chain of undersea volcanoes
located in South Atlantic

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British research team has discovered a chain of 12 undersea volcanoes near the remote South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is the first group of large undersea volcanoes ever found in the Antarctic region.

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey say that seven of the massive volcanoes are still active. Some of the mountain peaks rise three kilometers above the ocean floor, nearly tall enough to break the water’s surface. The collapsed craters of others measure five kilometers across.

When undersea volcanoes erupt or collapse, they can trigger powerful natural phenomena, such as tsunamis. The research team says its discovery will help researchers better understand that process.

Volcanic hot water vents on the ocean floor also create rich and unique ecosystems for many species of marine life found nowhere else on the planet.

The research team found the undersea mounts while using specialized sonar technology to create a high-resolution map of the ocean floor during Antarctic survey voyages in 2007 and 2010.

British Antarctic Survey is a leading international environmental research center, and is responsible for Britain’s national scientific activities in Antarctica.

14 more deaths reported
in northern México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At least 14 people were killed Tuesday in three separate incidents across northern Mexico.

At least four of the deaths came when gunmen opened fire at a soccer field in Ciudad Juárez.

The attacks were the latest in a wave of suspected drug cartel violence. 

Four years ago President Felipe Calderón deployed tens of thousands of troops to take on the powerful drug traffickers.  The escalating drug war has caused nearly 40,000 deaths.
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French national day
being celebrated here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is France's national day, called the La Fête Nationale.

Among other organizations related to that country, the offices of Alliance Française, the nation's cultural arm here, will be closed.

The day is informally called Bastille Day by people who are not French, but the origins are more complex. The Bastille was the prison that was stormed July 12, 1789, at the outset of the French Revolution.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the U.S. secretary of State, noted the French contribution to philosophy and democracy in her annual message.

"Creating and sustaining a representative government is never easy, but the United States and the world have drawn inspiration from the French Republic for more than two centuries. Founded on shared ideals of liberty and equality and strengthened through the sufferings and triumphs of two world wars, this relationship is a powerful example to the world," she said.

The day also is a red-letter one for diplomats all over the world who will have the advantage today for French hospitality. After all, this is the country that coined the term haute cuisine. Parties at French and Italian embassies are held in high regard.

Quakes and high seas
are reasons for alerts

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national emergency commission has declared an alert in the Upala area due to slides and cracks in the soil following a string of earthquakes Tuesday and Wednesday. And another alert has been issued for the Pacific coast due to high seas.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said there were 90 aftershocks Tuesday and Wednesday following the 5.3 magnitude major quake. A map by the observatory shows the quakes clustered midway between Upala and Liberia in the volcanic central mountains.

The emergency commission said that fears about slides blocking the Río Guacalito were diminished after experts conducted an overflight of the area early Wednesday. The river course appeared to be normal, the commission said.

However, there still were 25 homes with some damage by the quake and at least one that is now uninhabitable due to ground slippage, the commission said.

Meanwhile, the commission said another problem has developed on the Pacific coast. There are predictions of high seas and strong winds. The commission issued what amounted to a small boat warning for the rest of the week.

A boat did overturn Wednesday just a few yards from the Paseo de los Turistas promenade in Puntarenas. Some 15 tourists were aboard. The boat is the Cocal II, which was overloaded, said the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, which responded. Only one person actually was dumped into the water, they said. The mishap was attributed to a strong wave.

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