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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Thursday, July 19, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 143                          Email us
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Nosara surf
A.M. Costa Rica/Aaron Knapp
The early morning ritual at the mouth the of Río Nosara finds locals gathering for food and fish to
sell. But this just happened to be a perfect day. Our story is HERE!

INS says it will stop accepting paper reports Aug. 1
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national insurance company is eliminating monthly paperwork in the same way that other government agencies have.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros said Wednesday that it will not accept paper forms for riesgo de trabajo or employee insurance as of Aug. 1. The monthly reports of employee salaries and time on the job usually are due by the 10th day of the month.

The institute, known as INS, has been accepting electronic filings as an option for years, but a press release Wednesday said that a new system, called RT Virtual was being adopted.

The elimination of paper forms is part of the government program to reduce the use of paper.

In order to enter the electronic system, an employer has to have a user name and password. The agency did not make clear if current electronic users have to obtain a new password for the new system.
The new system does not address one of the major complaints by expat employers. They have complained for years that the same information is required of the insurance agency that is required by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. They wonder why the government could not come up with one form for both agencies. Both forms seek employee monthly salaries. The Caja needs this information to assess social security charges, and INS needs the information in case an employee suffers an injury and has to be compensated for missed wages.

INS also said that any additions or deletions from the list of employees had to be done electronically, too.  Employers try to add new workers provisionally on the day he or she starts to work.

A.M. Costa Rica reported Tuesday on the trials and tribulations of trying to present the required monthly sales tax report to the Dirección General de Tributación. That agency requires filers to download a fat piece of software, and they keep upgrading the program.

This weekend will see the early birds on pilgrimage
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the celebration of  Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles is a bit less than two weeks away, the Cruz Roja and the various police forces have firmed up their plans.

Some 1,200 Fuerza Pública officers will be on duty starting Saturday. They will work until Aug. 5 on this special assignment guarding the routes that lead to and from Cartago and the basilica there.

Typically this weekend will see a wave of early birds who will walk to Cartago to avoid the rush that develops closer to Aug. 2, the legal holiday that includes a religious celebration at the basilica.

The security ministry also will be using its aircraft
to watch the routes. The display of police will increase as the number of pilgrims do likewise.

The Cruz Roja said that it will have 720 workers providing aid and comfort to pilgrims, but that agency will not be in full swing until July 28. There will be aid stations set up near the country's population centers and on the principal highways.

This weekend also is the time when pilgrims from outside the country will begin their hike. Some come from Panamá and Guatemala.

An estimated 2 million persons make the pilgrimage each year from their home to the basilica in Cartago. As Aug. 2 draws near, traffic will be rerouted along the major routes to accommodate the columns of pilgrims.

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Our reader's opinion
Caja needs to improve service
to reduce prescription default

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding the story on Wednesday, July 18, on the Caja prescription pickup failure rate:
I think it is amazing that 92 percent of the prescriptions filled by Caja are picked up by the patient.  Multiple trips to file prescriptions and to schedule appointments must be very difficult and expensive for even the most patient patient, especially the farther one is from the clinic/hospital.  Working clients must be particularly frustrated by the multiple trips and poor adherence to scheduled times . 

Caja administration should join the 20th century ( nice if they could go the entire way and check into the 21st) and institute phone and Web ordering and scheduling for their patients. The current system is wasteful of both public and private resources.  It is understandable why only a third of the people are members of Caja and likely fewer are regular clients of Caja. A healthy young person wouldn't willingly stand for the problems. But those are the very people who could lower the per-member cost, and an unhealthy person could have real problems with the multiple trips required.
The most important issue should be that the 8 percent are not receiving the medicines that the doctors have prescribed.  The effort to fill the prescription is the same regardless of whether the prescription is picked up or not, so only the reshelving is a loss.  How can the system improve the pickup percentage? Ideas like more days to pick up, Internet and phone refill orders, longer supply so few refills are necessary, more months of refills issued for chronic conditions, mail delivery of prescriptions and undoubtably there are other ideas other than to conclude that the 8 percent are deadbeats.
John Osborn
member and patient of Caja

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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, Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 142
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Fishing montage
A,M, Costa Rica photos
Handliners hang fish from their belts while Carlos Yaniz displays a photogenic fish

Early morning fishing ritual gets a big break from El Niño
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As the rising sun began to turn the clouds pink from behind the mountains, about two dozen fishermen began to congregate in the surf where the Río Nosara River meets the Pacific Ocean on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Although the nearby beach communities are known for having an above average number of expats and plenty of tourists, this was primarily a Tico crowd made up of teenaged, middle-aged and retirement-aged men who methodically come to the same place at the same time day after day, some for sport but most trying to either feed and earn money for their families.

Nothing seemed unusual that morning, but this was no ordinary day for these fishermen, and it showed as it look less than two hours for most of them to catch more than half dozen fish, which dangled limply on ropes tied around their waists.

“You picked the perfect day to come,” said Carlos “Chiqui” Yaniz, a Cuban-American permanent resident who acted as a guide last Friday morning.

Yaniz explained that the mouth of the Nosara is always a prime location to catch medium-sized fish like sea bass, snapper, snook and others that feed on schools of sardines that gather there.  But the number of sardines has increased dramatically due to the El Niño climate pattern, which has recently began to manifest itself in local weather.

Temperatures of the eastern Pacific Ocean swing between warm and cool. The two stages can last from nine months to two years in a cycle that takes three to seven years to complete.

While the change in temperature is only about half of a degree celsius, both stages can have dramatic effects on global weather.

For Costa Rica, El Niño's recent resurgence has resulted in an unusually dry rainy season. For sardine lovers, El Niño has made Costa Rica's Pacific Coast heaven.

With the oscillation of ocean temperature, fish populations also rise and decline. Sardines thrive in the slightly warmer water that El Niño brings. Anchovies thrive in La Niña's cooler water.

The massive schools of sardines migrate along the Pacific Coast and eventually get pushed to the beaches, resulting in a free-for-all for every nearby bird, fish – and fisherman.

However, Yaniz is quick to note that fishing this good is rare a treat that usually has to be earned.

“When you surf fish like we did, you have to put in your time,” he said. “If you do that, you catch you're share.”

Like many of Nosara's American immigrant population, Yaniz has operated a variety of different businesses in town over the years, including a hotel, a small real estate company and a fishing charter.

While some expats run or golf or read the paper every morning before work for mental and physical stimulation, Yaniz fishes at the mouth of the Nosara, sometimes even before sunrise.

After many years of taking tourists out on the open water to fish, he says that those fish come easy to him and the thrill has long since vanished. “This is a challenge,” he said as we began wading across the Nosara, about 100 meters from the mouth of the river.

“Shuffle your feet,” he added. That gently shoves small stingrays out of the way. If stepped on, these stingrays are much more likely to provide hours of pain.

We joined a group of straight-faced locals, most of whom used hand lines, twirling and tossing the bait above their heads like a lasso, then pulling in their lines by hand while wrapping it around a small piece of flat, polished wood.

Although most of the fishermen were visibly annoyed at the distraction I caused as I followed and observed them bringing in their catches, they quickly warmed to me after they had securely captured the fish, eager to pose with their prizes grinning from ear to ear. Once they cast their next line, they once again treated me with annoyed tolerance.

“I'll do your first cast and then you're on your own,” said Yaniz as he lent me one of his fishing poles.

Used to fishing out of a small boat for bluegill and smallmouth bass, very rarely northern pike and muskellunge in the calm lakes of Wisconsin, it took some time to adjust to casting in waist-high water while dodging waves, especially while using a left-handed reel.
beached fish
A.M. Costa Rica photo
This little fish is bound for the pan.

Occasionally Yaniz would shout out directions and bring my attention to a local bringing in a big fish, in one case a very exotic looking rooster fish, or his own mackerel. While fishing in the surf was not coming naturally, it was clear that all of these fishermen got excited when any of them caught a fish, and this day that excitement was in overdrive.

In my most fortuitous moment of the day, I heard Yaniz call out to me, and I looked over to him pointing out to water in front of me.  “There!” he shouted.

When I looked to the spot about ten meters in front of me, the water appeared to be boiling. Yaniz later explained a school of predatory fish were attacking a school of sardines.

I stopped trying to cast out in the distance and aimed at the spot of water that was swirling with activity. It took only a few seconds for me to feel the unmistakable pull of a fish on the other end of the line.

After struggling for about 10 minutes, a local named Uriel, who had been hand-lining, approached me and grabbed my line and signaled me to continue reeling.

I quickly got over the humiliation that I could not bring in my own fish. I watched him unflinchingly drag in the line with his bare hands while the fish struggled. I reeled in the excess line.

“Afuera! Afuera!” he said, gesturing me to move closer toward the beach.

When we finally had secured the fish, which Yaniz later identified as a jack crevalle. Uriel mechanically unhooked the flat, foot-long fish, held it up and said “Mio,” indicating that he wanted to keep it. I agreed without hesitation since he had been the one to bring it in. He took it back to the beach to bury it and keep it safe from waiting buzzards.

Yaniz explained that he usually gives his fish to the local fishermen, who either eat or sell them for a living. He added that jack crevalle are an acquired taste anyway.

Although I was unable to catch anything else for the rest of the day save for a sardine and a small crab that managed to hook themselves on my line at the same time, the other fishermen brought in fish after fish, mostly snook and sea bass.

Yaniz and I called it a day after two hours, so that he could go to a meeting related to his real estate business, but also he explained that he wanted to give room to the people who needed to catch the fish.

He did not leave without a trophy, though. We trudged once again across the river with our polls as he carried his two-foot-long mackerel over his shoulder and with an excited but satisfied demeanor that seemed to indicate that nothing could ruin the rest of his day.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica
Escazú Christian
A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 143
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Great wall
of El Guarco

Road agency workers have finished two retaining walls at  San Isidro del Guarco on the Interamericana Sur. The site is at the same place where a slide eight years ago demolished the highway. There were problems there last year, too.
great wall
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo

Amphibians facing a complexity of threats leading to infections
By the University of Oregon news service

Climate change, habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species are all involved in the global crisis of amphibian declines and extinctions, researchers suggest in a new analysis, but increasingly these forces are causing actual mortality in the form of infectious disease.

Amphibians are now, and always have been hosts for a wide range of infectious organisms, including viruses, bacteria and fungi, scientists said in a review published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

But in recent decades, disease seems to have taken a more prominent role in causing mortality. Because of multiple stresses, many induced by humans, amphibians now succumb to diseases they may historically have been better able to resist or tolerate, said the study.

“There’s more and more evidence of the role of disease in the biodiversity crisis, in both amphibians and other types of animals,” said Andrew Blaustein, professor of zoology at Oregon State University and author of the recent analysis.

“It’s normal for animals to deal with infectious organisms, often many of them simultaneously,” he said. “But in the face of pollution, a reduced immune response, climate change, evolving pathogens and many other stresses in such a short period of time, many species now simply can’t survive.”

The current extinction rates of amphibians - which existed even before dinosaurs roamed the Earth - may be more than 200 times the background rate of extinction, the scientists note in this report. From an evolutionary perspective, amphibians that survived for hundreds of millions of years may be undergoing a major extinction event.

Because they have both terrestrial and aquatic life stages amphibians are exposed to various environmental forces more than some other animals, scientists say, and a higher percentage of them are threatened with extinction than are birds or mammals. However, similar concerns may become apparent in many animal species, including humans, as environmental changes and stresses grow, they said.

Among the observations in this report:
deformed frog
Oregon State University/ Pieter Johnson
 Infection with trematodes in this leopard frog caused extra
 legs to grow.

* Infectious disease around the world is increasing at an unprecedented rate.

  * Natural stresses such as competition and predation have been joined by human-induced stresses, ranging from pollution to global warming.

    * These forces can reduce immune competence in amphibians, even as climate change, invasive species and other factors increase pathogen spread, persistence, growth and mortality.

    * Some amphibians deal with stress by hormonal changes such as increased production of glucocorticoids, but on a sustained basis, that approach can further suppress their immune system.

    * Warmer winters and night-time temperatures may reduce the cycle of pathogen die-offs that would naturally occur in colder regions.

These forces are complex, the researchers noted. The effects of climate change on amphibian disease, for instance, my cause some pathogens to increase in prevalence and severity, while others decline.

Understanding the driving forces behind these changes, the scientists said, will be important not only to address amphibian declines but also to deal with emerging infections in many other plants and animals, including humans. Such impacts can affect wildlife conservation, economic growth and human health.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 143
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

More counties added to list
of drought affected in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 39 more counties in eight states as natural disaster areas as the country struggles with its worst drought since 1956.

Wednesday's declaration makes farmers and ranchers eligible for low-interest government loans to cover their losses.

Little rain and high temperatures have put 61 percent of the continental United States in a moderate to exceptional drought this year. Agriculture officials say nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states have been designated disaster areas for the 2012 crop year.

Vilsack met with President Barack Obama Wednesday, saying 38 percent of the U.S. corn crop and 30 percent of soybeans are rated poor to very poor. Corn and soybean prices have soared.

Vilsack said he and President Obama are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in the U.S. economy.

U.S. still cannot screen
all foreign aviation students

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

More than a decade after the al Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States, a new U.S. government report says that some foreign aviation students still are not subject to terror database screening until after they have completed their flight training.  A Transportation Security Administration official faced tough criticism on Wednesday.
Several of the hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 trained in the United States to learn to fly jets into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people.
A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says American commercial flight schools could still be unknowingly training potential terrorists.
At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Mike Rogers, chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, part of House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, said he is amazed and disturbed that this is possible, given the measures put in place during the past decade.
"We have cancer patients, Iraq War veterans, and Nobel Peace Prize winners, all forced to undergo rigorous security checks before getting on an airplane.  At the same time, there are foreign nationals in the U.S. training to fly, just like Mohamed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers did, and not all of them are necessarily getting a security background check," he said.
After the attacks, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, established the Alien Flight Student Program to ensure that all foreign flight students receive criminal background checks and are screened against a terrorist watch list before they begin training.
At Wednesday's hearing, the TSA came under pressure from several lawmakers for the lack of screening cited in the report.
TSA official Kerwin Wilson said flight schools share some of the responsibility. "Flight training providers, regulated under this program, are prohibited from providing flight training to aliens until a security threat assessment has been successfully conducted by TSA," he said.
Some House lawmakers at the hearing pointed out that the United States has been a global leader in flight training, and that it is impossible to provide absolute security from all potential threats, domestic and foreign.
Rep. Chip Cravaack said, "We have a viable business in the United States in making sure that people without malintent want to come to the United States to become one of the best pilots in the world."
Government officials at the hearing said they will work to resolve the terror database screening problem within the next three months. 
Another security weakness that emerged in the hearing is that U.S. citizens who are on the government's no-fly list because they are considered threats would still be able to learn how to fly at commercial flight schools.  U.S. citizens are not subject to the same screening regulations as foreign flight students.  Lawmakers said this is another issue that the TSA needs to address.

Amnesty says Ecuador uses
false charges against activists

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Amnesty International says authorities in Ecuador are harassing leaders of native groups and farmers to prevent them from organizing protests against projects that would affect their environment and lands.

In a report issued Tuesday, the human rights group cites the cases of 24 activists targeted with what appear to be unfounded charges, arbitrary arrests and strict bail conditions for campaigning against laws and policies on the use of natural resources. The questionable charges took place over an 18-month period.

The report says the 24 leaders have faced 16 charges of terrorism, 11 charges of sabotage, six charges of blocking roads and one charge of homicide, linked to protests in 2009 and 2010.  Judges have dismissed many of the charges and arrests as baseless, but 11 of the 24 people have not yet been cleared.

Amnesty's researcher Tamaryn Nelson says these charges are having a chilling effect on entire communities, who become reluctant to voice legitimate concerns about decisions that affect them.

The Latin American country is a large producer of crude oil, and the government has announced plans to expand mining. These projects encroach on farming land and have an effect on the environment in rural communities. 

Nelson says that instead of engaging in constructive dialogue and proper consultation with the affected communities, authorities are using any tool in the box to discourage people from voicing their disapproval.  She calls on the authorities in Ecuador to promote, protect and respect the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association of its people.

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Unemployment rate is set
at 10.4 percent by survey

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica had 10.4 percent of its workers without jobs in the first four months of the year, But the country added 150,000 new jobs during the last 12 months.

That is the result of a panel survey by the  Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos that released the results Wednesday. The institute has been tracking the jobless rate through the economic crisis. The institute gets the data by physical interviews at thousands of pre-selected homes.

As is usually the case, those with less education have been the workers first fired and last hired. Also unemployment is higher among youths.

The unemployment rate was as high as 10.9 percent in 2011.

The institute said it saw the results as an indication of recovery. The institute based that opinion on an increase in jobs of 8.8 percent from the middle of 2011 until the first four months of this year.

Workers in  Goicoechea
might go on strike today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unhappy workers of the  Municipalidad de Goicoechea are threatening a strike for 7:30 a.m. today.

The threat comes after a conciliation meeting that was arranged by the  Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said that the mayor,  Ana Lucía Madrigal Faerron, did not show up at the meeting, and the union organization said this was a display of lack of respect.

After the meeting municipal employees met in  Guadalupe to plan strategy for a strike, said the  Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados.

The dispute involved the municipality's heavy use of temporary workers who do not receive full benefits such as vacations and a Christmas bonus because they are dismissed after several months of work and then rehired.

Six quakes reported
with four in Guanacaste

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There were six earthquakes Wednesday that ranged from a magnitude of 2.7 to 3.3, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The strongest was at 6:18 a.m. about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) south southwest of Santa Cruz in northern Guanacaste, said the Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica. That agency rated the magnitude at 3.5. The quake was felt strongest in Nosara and Santa Cruz, the agency said. Four of the six quakes were in Guanacaste, said the Observatorio . Three were in the Santa Cruz area and one was near  Abangares, it said.

Others were at 1:49 p.m. at Santa Bárbara de Heredia and one was a kilometer southeast of Zancudo near Golfito. That one was estimated at 3.5 magnitude by the Laboratorio.

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