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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Monday, July 16, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 140                          Email us
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Mar Vista

Fising boat
Sierra  Goodman photo
Taurus I crew members haul in the net. The yellow buoys mark the perimeter that still is in the sea.
Tuna crew releases dolphin after visitors show up
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Drake Bay tourism operator said she happened upon a commercial tuna boat with a net full of frightened and panicked dolphin. Her intervention, including jumping in the ocean, caused the tuna crew to work to free the dolphin although there were mammal casualties, she reported.

The tourism operator is Sierra  Goodman, who is a specialist in sea mammals like dolphin and whales. She also is the president and founder of the Vidamarina Foundation, which seeks to create a marine sanctuary.

Ms. Goodman was at sea with a family from Switzerland when she said she encountered the commercial operation. Dolphin frequently travel with tuna and can be captured in fishing nets. Dolphin, like humans, are air breathers, so captured dolphin frequently drown if they are not freed.

In this case, Ms. Goodman identified the animals as spinner dolphin, a subspecies that inhabit a restricted range only off the coast of Costa Rica, she said.

“When we arrived, what we found totally broke our hearts,” she said. “About 1,000 beautiful, divine spinner dolphins were inside their big net, swimming in circles, afraid and confused. We saw a little baby dolphin outside the net swimming around like crazy trying to reach his family. I filmed it all. I filmed them pulling in the nets, I filmed when several of their guys, upon seeing us, jumped into the water to try to free any stuck dolphins.”

 “The dolphins were crying out, making all kinds of strange sounds, and the little dolphin outside kept racing by in a total panic,” she added.

Ms. Goodman said that to document the event from inside the net she dove into the water with a camera and began filming, Unfortunately as she left the net, the camera slipped off her arm and sank from sight. She said she saw dead dolphin in the net.
Sierra  Goodman photo 
Dolphin fight to get out of the net

The woman returned the next day for a repetition.

Another net also had dolphin, but fewer in number. She estimated about 100. The crew began rescuing the dolphin after they saw the boat with observers, she said. A YouTube presentation shows the activity on the second day. The crew managed to release the dolphin but there were no tuna in the net, she reported.

Ms. Goodman said that the concept of dolphin-safe tuna is a not true. “If you are still eating canned tuna, and I don’t care if there is a picture of a happy dolphin on your can that says 'Dolphin Safe' it is a LIE!!!! Even with supposed dolphin safe laws, the dolphins are still maimed, stressed and only 'less' are killed. There is no way to fish yellow fin tuna in this way and have it be dolphin safe.”

She and other environmentalists are checking to see if the Venezuelan-owned boat is working legally, she said.

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission says that the Taurus I is one of 25 tuna boats operated by Venezuelan companies, and the boat has a capacity to carry 1,191 tuna to port. Frequently Venezuelan fishing boats that operate in the Pacific unload their catch at ports in other countries. The Taurus I is large enough to have its own helicopter to spot pods of dolphin and schools of tuna.

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Traffic officer kills man
who tried to slash him

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A traffic policeman killed a man Saturday night in a confrontation in San Marcos de Tarrazú.

The Judicial police said that the man who was shot had been going through the center of town threatening people with a knife.

When a police patrol car arrived, agents said that the man with the knife pulled open the passenger door of the patrol car and attempted to stab the officer inside. The traffic officer, identified by the last name of Arias, was riding with a Fuerza Pública officer.

Dead was a man with the last name of  Hernández, He was shot multiple times in the chest, agents said. He was a resident of the area, and there does not seem to be an early explanation as to why he was acting in a threatening way.

Presidents meet at Río Sixaola
and promise a new bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla met with Panama's president,  Ricardo Martinelli, Friday at the new, temporary bridge over the Río Sixaola. They said that they would seek money for a permanent bridge from the  Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica. The estimated cost will be about $30 million, said Casa Presidencial.

Anyone who has traveled by land south into Panamá along Costa Rica's Caribbean coast knows about the Sixaola rail bridge. It was built in 1908 and later became a bridge for vehicles and pedestrians. It is single-lane. The rail bridge will be converted into a pedestrian walkway, said transport officials.

The new bridge is another of those bailey structures. This one is 244 meters long, about 800 feet. Costa Rica put up $1.2 million for its share of the work. The total cost is $2.3 million.

The press in Panamá has been critical of Martinelli because there was no bidding on this contract.

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 140
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Train passengers participate in the Costa Rica national sport of waiting in line at the Estación al Atlántico in north San José. Some passengers arrive an hour early to make sure they can get on the train at the time they want.

waiting line
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

Heredia line is a 30-minute trip with spectacular scenic views
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Trains have been revered throughout history and recounted in biographies and classic stories as memorable and magical.

The 30-minute train ride from the Estación al Atlántico in downtown San José to Heredia Centro is no Polar Express, but it is a quick journey through beautiful, lush scenery that gives a picture perfect view of Costa Rican life and culture.

Owned by Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles, the train only operates during commuter hours, leaving the Atlantic station from 5:30 to 8 a.m. and 3:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Trains leave in 30-minute intervals. This week as mid-year vacation ends and public school resumes, the schedule is being extended slightly.

A line of parents, children, students and professionals wraps around the station building between departures.   All these persons have the goal of making it to their daily destination in a timely manner.  During peak hours most arrive an hour in advance to secure a seat at the time they want.

Tired, one woman leaned against a post and complained about the wait.  Yet, when asked if she liked the train, she responded, “Yes, it's nice and fast.”

Travelers file into four 48-seat cars.  It is not uncommon to hear children chattering about things they find interesting or coworkers giving updates from the day.  In seats, couples share enamored looks, university students study from their books or lecture notes, and tired workers catch a nap.

Employees at the station fill the train with passengers, first starting with the seats.  They then fill the connector parts and aisles with people standing. The worn seat cushions and spots on the carpeted aisle show the car's age. The railway has been around since the 1870s, but was damaged in the 1991 earthquake.  The institute, known as Incofer, worked to make the line operational again, and brought the commuter line back in 2009. Despite all, the cars are still in good condition and provide a comfort level to patrons better than the bus. And there are some new cars purchased from the Spanish narrow-gauge system.

Operating at street level, the train crosses busy intersections and coasts through neighborhoods.  Unlike the United States, there are neither flashing lights nor moving white arms that come down to form a barrier between the tracks.  Only a simple warning sign exists to instruct residents and motorists of the possibility of an advancing train.  As an extra precaution, trains blast loud horns the whole trip.  According to staff, the horn has decreased the amount of accidents. 

Passengers say they hear the  horn all the time so it doesn't bother them.  However, those not used to the noise receive a blaring headache before the ride is over.  One hotel owner in north San José hired crossing guards so his guests would not be jolted from their bed by the nearby train.

A look outside the window may afford travelers the opportunity to see walkers along the track or school children dressed in their uniforms who congregate in tunnels. People sit on their porches, converse and share dinner while children play in the yard as the train passes. The train goes over bridges and reaches elevations that supplies a view of houses and buildings located on mountains.  Vegetation provides a
ready to head out
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
 One of the self-propelled railcars purchased from Spain
 awaits the signal to leave the San José station. The railway
 institute uses older cars with diesel engines, too.

beautiful scenery complete of tall trees and crops complete with tiny creeks.

Many people hold their camera phones and digital cameras up to the windows in hopes of capturing the view.  It's a difficult feat for the bumpy and jerky ride,  Unless the person has a fast shutter speed, the pictures end up blurred.

The roughness of the ride comes from the uneven rails.  The line is a narrow single tracks, which becomes a problem when two trains that are going in opposite directions meet.  One train has to back up to the a siding where the track splits and wait for the other train to pass.  Afterwards, the train takes time to gain momentum again and progress forward.

There are three stops between San José and Heredia: Cuatro Reinas de Tibás, Santa Rosa de Heredia, and Miraflores.  None of these stops has a station but are unmanned, elevated platforms with a tin roof in case of rain.  The whole thing resembles a bus stop, and those awaiting the train crowd together in the small, cramped space.

The final stop is the downtown of Costa Rica's smallest providence, Heredia.  The train lets passengers off right outside of the central market filled with butchers offering fresh meat.  The streets are lined with buses and vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables.  Also, in the area are multiple shops, hair salons that offer a variety of styles including braids, and restaurants.  For a quick snack, fried chicken store fronts and ice cream shops are available too. 

Tourists wanting to travel to this location may find a train only operating in early mornings and late afternoons to be inconvenient.  But for those with a little time to wait, the trip is worth it.  The best part is it's only 420 colons, a little less than a dollar, and the trip travels a route in half the time as a car or bus.

Upon arrival in Heredia Centro, train passengers are greeted by displays of products at the municipality's central market.

Centrla market
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

Police snag pair suspected of stealing metal from rail worksite
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For some, the valley rail line is a source of quick transportation. But for others, it is a source of metal to steal.
Police said they stopped a flatbed truck Sunday in San Rafael La Unión, Cartago, and found six I-beams that they believe came from a railroad worksite. The  Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles is extending the valley line into Cartago.

The  Fuerza Pública said officers were tipped by a telephone call that led to the arrests of two men about 7:40 a.m. The truck was loaded with what appears to be junk with the I-beams hidden under a plastic tarp.

The I-beams are used to provide support for the track rails, police explained.  At the scene was  Miguel Carabaguíaz, head of the railway institute, who told police that the truck or a similar one had been seen at sites where other material has gone missing, police said.

suspicious truck
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo
  Police officer inspects contents of truck that carried the

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 140
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New York students beginning their Nosara recycling center
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of seven students and a professor from the New York Institute of Technology are spearheading a summer-long project to build a recycling facility for the small, Pacific coast community of Nosara.

Starting as an architectural design competition for institute students last November, the project turned into a semester-long course where they planned out the logistics of building the center. Many  will come to Costa Rica this summer to help make the center a reality.

Last weekend, the numerous local organizations raised money for the center and put on a concert at a local bar featuring a band called Drummers, hoping to raise awareness the need for Nosara community-members to recycle.

Tobias Holler, architect and assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology, came up with the idea of enlisting students to collaborate with the Nosara community to build the facility and has been leading the U.S. side of the effort ever since.

“Ever since I started teaching, I was thinking about a project that could involve my students, that I could I bring my students here and do a project for the community,” said Holler.

Nosara, a name that generally refers to the region that includes several beach communities, is a remote town on the Pacific side of the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste province.

Despite decades of pleading to the government of Nicoya canton, the Guanacaste province, and the nation, there are no paved roads leading into Nosara, and the dirt roads easily fall into disrepair after heavy rains.

Lacking this basic piece of infrastructure, the government cannot easily provide normal services, such as waste disposal and emergency responses, to the communities of Nosara,

“It’s a total abandonment,” said Marco Johanning, owner of the Nosara Spanish Institute and a member of Sustainable Nosara. “The biggest contributor of taxes for the district of Nicoya is Nosara, and we’re abandoned, and we’re tired of it.”

In some cases the government has allowed Nosara to set up self-regulation systems, such as the community being allowed to distribute its own water.

In other cases the nearby towns took initiative themselves, and set up a communal dump and a volunteer fire department.

However, without regulation many community members put little effort into separating materials that can be recycled from regular trash. That puts too much  garbage at a dump that was only meant to be a short-term fix until the government took control of garbage disposal.
“We don’t want it here,” said Johanning. “It’s threatening our aquifer.”

Again lacking support from upper levels of government, local organizations including the Nosara Civic Association, the Asociación de Desechos and Reciclaje de Nosara, teamed up with a local architecture firm and Holler to set up a more sustainable system for disposing of trash.

Holler had been to Nosara several times before starting the project and said he saw a variety of ways to give his students practical experience related to architecture.

He asked the civic association if his students could design and build something that would benefit the community, and the group requested they set up the recycling center.

“With architecture, it’s one side when you’re in school sitting on the computer, doing your drawings, but it’s a whole different side when you see the construction and you actually see what the contractors go through,” said Talha Kirmani, a student on the project and recent institute graduate.

About 15 teams of students submitted their own designs of what the recycling center should look like. They were put to a public vote on Facebook.

The top four teams, 12 students, came to Nosara from New York to present their design and get feedback from the community, and before the month was over Holler was leading a class to plan and organize the project, eventually recruiting members of the other teams to help build the center.

The first set of seven students arrived in Nosara July 2. For the rest of the summer at least 10 students at a time will be staying in the community while working on constructing the project.

Janielle Calnick says that the preliminary set-up work has been frustratingly sluggish compared to how quickly it would go in the United States. They have been building temporary structures like a toilet and a shed for supplies.

“It’s been kind of slow, as in everything has to be organized as far as the materials and getting an account open at the local hardware store and all of that stuff is like a process here, whereas in the States it would almost be 1-2-3, but here it’s been taking longer,” she said.

Although most of the first group of students will leave this week, they showed excitement to finally get a start on the recycling center itself this week and leave a permanent mark on the project. Even with 35 students working on the center through July and August, construction on the facility is expected to continue on into the beginning of next year.

“When we leave at the end of August, there’ll be other local volunteers and contractors who will finish the project,” said Holler. “Depending on how fast they work, we may actually come back for Christmas break.”

Organization setting up home for exploited kids gets permit
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Salvando Corazones has received a license from the Ministerio de Salud to operate a safe house for young female victims of sexual enslavement, the organization said. María Jesús González, health chief, told the organization that this is the first license of its kind ever issued in Costa Rica, Salvando Corazones said.

Salvando Corazones is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against the trafficking of children into the sex industry in Costa Rica. Child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation living in Salvando safe houses will receive schooling, rehabilitative services, and the unconditional love and support of a dedicated staff, the organization said.

María Fejervary, executive director of Salvando Corazones,  is
 overseeing small-scale renovations to the house including the installation of banisters and the conversion of bathrooms for handicapped accessibility. Before Salvando can begin accepting children into the home in the Lake Arenal area, it will need to furnish it and secure operating costs for at least one year of operation, the organization said.
Ms. Fejervary says that the opening of this first safe house is just a start, and that more are in the works.  “But all the safe houses in the world are not going to fix the core problem. We need to de something to stop the sexual exploitation of children in Costa Rica,” she added. “If we’re going to make a real difference, we’ll need a lot of help from government agencies, community partners, and the public. This needs to be a group effort.”

The organization has its Web site HERE.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 16, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 140
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Miami firm now ships
U.S. packages to Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Direct maritime shipments from Miami to Cuba resumed Friday for the first time in half a century.
The shipments included items from authorized religious groups, charitable organizations and individuals sending packages to family and friends on the island.

The first ship from Miami entered Havana harbor in the early hours Friday. 
The ships left from a Miami river terminal through what is to be a weekly service provided by International Port Corp. 
The company holds licenses from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the 50-year economic embargo on Cuba, and from the U.S. Commerce Department.
The service costs about $6 per half kilogram and takes one to two weeks, depending on the destination in Cuba.
Similar services exist from other U.S. ports, but this was the first time in 50 years that such a shipment had arrived from Miami, which is home to a large Cuban exile community.
Cuban media had not mentioned the renewed shipments.

U.N. refugee agency cites
deaths in sea by escapees

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations refugee agency Friday voiced concern over the number of people from Haiti and other Caribbean countries who have risked their lives trying to escape by sea from difficult living situations in their homelands.

“Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to flee their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels,” said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Although no firm statistics exist, it is estimated that hundreds of deaths occur yearly as a result.”

Tuesday, a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants ran aground near the Bahamas. In an earlier incident on June 12, more than a dozen Haitians lost their lives in Bahamian and United States waters while trying to reach the shores of Florida, the refugee agency reported.

“These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to,” said Ms. Fleming.

Inside Haiti, some 421,000 people are still living in camps in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere in the country. The political situation remains tense, with increased levels of criminality and insecurity.

U.S. Coast Guard data shows that since December over 900 people have been found on boats in rescue or interception operations, including some 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic.

Ms. Fleming said her agency also is concerned about countries returning people to Haiti, ignoring an earlier joint appeal by the United Nations asking states not to return Haitians for humanitarian reasons, without adequate individual protection screening.

London security firm
falls short on personnel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A private firm contracted to provide security at the 2012 London Olympics has apologized to Olympic officials for failing to provide all the personnel it had promised.

G4S said Saturday it is having difficulty processing applicants for the security jobs. That has prompted British government officials to order an additional 3,500 military personnel to take up security duty during the games.

Since G4S will have to pay for the extra troops, the firm estimates it will lose between $54 million and $77 million on its Olympic security deal.

Part of the military presence at the Olympics includes the British assault ship HMS Ocean, which has sailed up the River Thames to guard London.  The games begin July 27 and will run through Aug. 12.

JPMorgan Chase reports
larger loss than estimated

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The largest U.S. bank, JPMorgan Chase, says it lost $5.8 billion in bad trades this year, nearly triple its original estimate.

The Wall Street investment bank said two months ago it estimated that losses originating in its London trading office would total about $2 billion. But in a new earnings statement Friday, the bank said it lost $4.4 billion in the April-to-June period and an additional $1.4 billion earlier this year and in the first days of this month.

The bank's chairman, Jamie Dimon, said that in recent months it had "significantly reduced" the risk in its trading operations and believes it has "put most of this problem behind us."

Despite the trading loss, the bank reported a $5 billion second quarter profit. Its corporate value, however, has dropped about 15 percent since the trading loss was first disclosed.

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coral drilling
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute photo
Ian Macintyre of the Smithsonian Institution and Steven Vollmer of Northeastern University extract a core from a reef.

Panama's Pacific coral died
4,000 years ago, study says

By the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
news service

Coral reefs in Panama’s Pacific died and came back to life again, according to a report in Science magazine. Researchers took cores from 6,000-year-old reefs using a 17-foot aluminum bore. They were surprised to discover that the reefs died about 4,000 years ago, and began to grow again 2,500 years later, said the article. There is a similar gap in reefs from Australia and Japan, they added.

Extreme oscillations between hot El Niño years and cold La Niña years may have caused the collapse, the researchers speculated..

“Current climate change could definitely trump overfishing and pollution as causes of reef decline,” said Lauren Toth, a doctoral student from Florida Institute of Technology. “If we are able to get a handle on climate change, then we might be able to save coral reefs,” said her advisor, Richard Aronson, in an interview on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

Like tree rings, reef cores reveal patterns of growth that indicate the health of a reef through time.

Central Pacific experiences
a Saturday earthquake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 3.7-magnitude earthquake hit the central Pacific coast early Saturday. The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica  at the Universidad de Costa Rica said the epicenter was 15.4 kilometers (about 9.5 miles) east of Savegre on the Pacific coast and 14.9 kilometers west southwest of San Isidro de El General. The time was 5:09 a.m.

Friday a 3.3-magnitude quake was reported on the Nicoya peninsula just 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles) west of Tambor in approximately the same place as a July 10 quake.

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