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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, July 21, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 142        E-mail us
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Frog species vanish even before they are discovered
By the University of Maryland news staff

The first before-and-after view of an amphibian die-off has just been published by scientists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá and the University of Maryland.

Like a wave, the fungal disease that wipes out frogs — chytridiomycosis — is advancing through the Central American highlands at a rate of about 30 kilometers per year. After the disappearance of Costa Rica's golden frogs in the 1980s, Karen Lips, associate professor of biology at the University of Maryland, quickly established a monitoring program at untouched sites in neighboring Panamá.

Of the 63 species that she identified during surveys of Panama's Omar Torrijos National Park located in El Copé from 1998 to 2004, 25 species disappeared from the site in the subsequent epidemic. As of 2008, none of these species had reappeared there.

Were there additional species in the park not previously known to scientists? To find out, the authors used a genetic technique called DNA barcoding to quickly estimate that another 11 unnamed or candidate species were also present. In DNA barcoding, short genetic sequences that uniquely identify known species are generated and stored in public databases. By comparing DNA profiles from unknown organisms to the databases, researchers can identify biological specimens quickly, and construct genetic lineages. Combining the field data with the genetic information, the authors discovered that five of these unnamed species were also wiped out.

"It's sadly ironic that we are discovering new species nearly as fast as we are losing them," said Andrew Crawford, former postdoctoral fellow at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and member of the Círculo Herpetológico de Panamá, now at the University of the Andes in Colombia. "Our DNA barcode data reveal new species even at this relatively well- studied site, yet the field sampling shows that many of these species new to science are already gone here."

An epidemic that wipes out a whole group of organisms is like the fire that burned the famous
Golden frog
University of Maryland photo by Andrew J. Crawford
Panamanian Golden Frog

library of Alexandria. It destroys a huge amount of accumulated information about how life has coped with change in the past. Species surveys are like counting the number of different titles in the library, whereas a genetic survey is like counting the number of different words.

"When you lose the words, you lose the potential to make new books," said Ms. Lips, who directs the University of Maryland graduate program in sustainable development and conservation biology. "It's like the extinction of the dinosaurs. The areas where the disease has passed through are like graveyards. There's a void to be filled, and we don't know what will happen as a result."

"This is the first time that we've used genetic barcodes — DNA sequences unique to each living organism — to characterize an entire amphibian community," said Eldredge Bermingham, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute director and co-author. "Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has also done barcoding on this scale for tropical trees . . . in our forest dynamics-monitoring plot in Panamá. The before-and-after approach we took with the frogs tells us exactly what was lost to this deadly disease, 33 percent of their evolutionary history."

The U.S. National Science Foundation and the Bay and Paul Foundation funded the field work for this study, which is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Collection permits were provided by Panama's environmental authority. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panamá, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 142

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Dall'Anese and Mora
Poder Judicial photo
Franciso Dall'Anese shares a press conference with Luis Paulino Mora Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, his former law school professor. Both confirmed that Dall'Anese is resigning to take a job in Guatamala with the United Nations. The court has yet to formally accept that resignation.


Ornithological Congress
will meet here next week


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The second Costa Rican Ornithological Congress will take place next week at the Universidad de Costa Rica. The congress is dedicated to long-time researcher Dan Janzen.

There are workshops on bioacoustics and photography during the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, but the official opening of the conference is Wednesday at 8 a.m. with students’ presentations and then at 2 p.m. with an inauguration. Most presentations will be in Spanish.

Janzen speaks on the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, a project where he had major impact, Wednesday at 2:45 p.m.

The schedule for July 29 and 30 is similar with birdwalks on the university campus before the morning sessions.

Payment is required before July 28. For non-members of the Unión de Ornitólogos de Costa Rica, registration is 20,000 colons for students and 26,000 for non-students. Payment and program details are HERE!


Our reader's opinion
A World with no turtles
could happen at Osa beach


While I applaud you for bringing attention to the appalling situation in Ojochal, the record needs to be set straight about the Municipalidad de Osa. Ciudad ( Puerto) Cortes is the seat of the Canton of Osa, not Puerto Jiménez.  Confusing the political designation of Municipality of Osa with the geographic Peninsula of Osa is very common in Costa Rican media and only proves how little the rest of the country knows about our area. 

The Municipality of Osa goes from Dominical to Rincon, at the beginning of the Peninsula of Osa. Most of the Peninsula of Osa is in the Golfito canton, including Puerto Jiménez.  Countless articles about Osa have used, interchangeably, these two overlapping regions. The rest of the article about the Playa Tortuga squatter problem was completely accurate, and I would not like readers to doubt that truth because of sloppy homework by your writer.

Alexia Maizel and the rest of the Playa Tortuga Marine Turtle Conservation Program staff and volunteers have heroically risked their lives to protect the turtles while the local "authorities"  have enabled the invaders to destroy the mangroves, beach, rivers, wildlife and tranquility of this once- popular beach.

Please continue to follow this story and help our community regain the use of Playa Tortuga for the enjoyment of ALL, especially the turtles. Do we really want a world with no turtles on Turtle Beach?
Karen G. Davies
Pinuela de Osa

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dennis Rogers, the author of the article, knows better. He was a victim of an editing error.


It's Nicaragua, Iran and Chávez
keeping U.S. eyes on area


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As an expat pensionado living here full time I would like to clear up some large misconceptions of why the U.S. wants a military presence here.

First of all, the notion that the U.S. wants to control or make Costa Rica a territory, ludicrous, at best. The U.S. has had a defense treaty with Costa Rica for years, which should be welcome with the fact that Nicaragua is now nothing short of a total dictatorship and is allied, with Venezuela, which is now mining uranium for Iran for the purpose of expanding their nuclear weapons program and who is sending secret flights of personnel to Caracas on a monthly basis.

Other than fair trade the U.S. has no other intention other than to stop the flow of drugs and keep a necessary eye out for the security of the region for which no one else can or is capable of doing.

The ships that come here will offer aid and medical treatment for people here as well. To those who say "Yankee Go Home" I can only say "Who Ya Gonna call" when your country's security is threatened by a military power in the area??? We should be glad the U.S. is nearby and willing to be a good, helpful neighbor.
Fred Cole
Nuevo Arenal 
Formerly of the State of Washington

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Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

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A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 142

Rapid Respose
Rock n roll

La Negrita's 375th anniversary being honored by Correos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Aug. 2 marks the 375th anniversary of the discovery of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, known here affectionately since 1926 as La Negrita.

To mark the event, Correos de Costa Rica is making a special issue in honor of the Virgin, and emergency crews are finishing their plans on how to handle the flood of an estimated 2 million pilgrims.

The emergency organizations, mainly the Fuerza Pública, the Policía de Tránsito and the Cruz Roja, officially begin their work early Saturday, July 31. The Cruz Roja said it will have 41 aid stations set up on principal roadways all over the country, from Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean, along the Costanera Sur on the Pacific coast and at a handful of locations in southern Costa Rica and in Guanacaste.

More than 380 Cruz Roja workers will handle the stations.

Traffic police will begin blocking off lanes of principal routes Saturday, and the Fuerza Pública will have officers stationed along most routes. Pilgrims walk from all over Costa Rica and other nations in Central America to visit the basilica in Cartago where the small stone image of the Virgin is kept.

Correos, the country's postal service, Tuesday displayed the special issue that will go on sale Friday for 1,000 colons or about $1.95.

One side of the heavy paper rectangle contains a drawing of the basilica in Cartago. The other side bears two stamps that have been issued to honor the patroness of the country. "Always under your protection" reads the legend printed in Spanish. A cancelation also specifies the 375th anniversary.

The special issue will be on sale for only a week. Some will be sold at the basilica. The special commemoration also is available online and at the stamp store in the main post office downtown.

The carved stone that is venerated now was found in 1635 and was said to return miraculously to the site of the discovery where there also is a spring. The unusual
Negrita
Correos de Costa Rica photos   
This is the special issue for the Virgin of the Angels

traveling of the stone was interpreted to mean that the
Virgin, the mother of Christ, wanted a church built there. The basilica and the spring are part of the same complex. Pilgrims can take water from a tube that is believed to carry spring water. Many do so and fill plastic containers that resemble the statue of the Virgin.

At the basilica the faithful enter the central door on their knees, being so instructed by a sign. They traverse the center aisle that way to come closer to the Virgin, who is encased in precious metal high on the altar. Many women send clothing to the basilica for the benefit of the statute. Such donations are kept in an adjacent room that is much visited.

This year pilgrims receive a special blessing by passing through a large wooden door that was opened in a ceremony Sunday.

The Mass Aug. 2, a holiday, is well attended by politicians and civil leaders as well as the leadership of the clergy. 


Rush hour rains produce flash floods and close highways
Update: Transport officials said that Ruta 32, the San José-Guápiles-Limón highway was reopened earlier today. However, a railroad bridge in Heredia may be damaged, they said.


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


A strong thunderstorm with high winds and plenty of lightning tore through the Central Valley at rush hour Tuesday. Between one and a half and two inches of rain fell between 5 and 8 p.m., according to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The rain provoked flooding all through the metro area. Hard hit was Barrio la Fatima in Santo Domingo de Heredia where a stream turned into a river and heavily damaged 15 homes.

The weather institute predicts a similar scenario for today. The rain followed a hot afternoon.

The heaviest recorded downfall was at Daniel Oduber airport in LIberia. The weather institute's automatic
 
monitoring station recorded 72.9 millimeters (2.87 inches). But the rain fell at two different times, from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to midnight.The weather institute had issued a warning earlier in the day.

The 10:30 a.m. warning said that the Río Reventazón and the Río División were rising on the Caribbean coast, but that area of the country got very little rain after 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Even such wet spots as Turrialba, La Garita and Tres Rios had little precipitation Tuesday evening, according to monitoring stations. Any flooding was due to rain in the mountains.

Both Ruta 32, the San José-Guápiles-Limón highway and the section of the Autopista del Sol between Atenas and Orotina were closed Tuesday evening due to landslides. This is normal in heavy rains, although the steep slopes that produce slides are becoming a political nightmare for the Laura Chinchilla administration. There was no indication when the roads would be reopened. A dozen or more bridges through the Central Valley suffered some form of damage, and in San Carlos a bridge was reported to have collapsed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 142


Maritza Gutiérrez looks over the excavated pre-Columbian cemetery in Tres Rios.
ancient cemetery
Museo Nacional photo


New archaeological site said to be about 1,000 years old

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional has a major archaeological find on its hands in Tres Rios.

Construction for the foundation of a condominium exposed a cemetery that may be as much as 1,000 years old.  Maritza Gutiérrez, the archaeologist in charge, said that the cemetery is at least 900 square meters, that is 9,688 square feet.

The site had yielded elaborate stone work, a number of artifacts and the bones of at least 26 individuals, including infants, youngsters and adults.

The museum said that the site is unique among discoveries, which are not unusual in Costa Rica. Another discovery was that of carbon that will allow the museum experts to date very closely when the cemetery was in use. The pieces of burned material are being sent to a lab in Florida for analysis.

Museum officials were thrilled with the find, and after several months of work on the site, officials went public with the news. However, they are guarding closely the exact location to foil grave robbers. By law archaeological artifacts belong to the country.

Tres Rios is east of Cuirridabat in La Unión.
Ms. Gutiérrez said that the burials at the site are secondary. That is the bodies were reduced to bones before they were placed in individual stone crypts, some just a few inches under the ground level of today.

Unlike some cultures where elaborate grave goods were symbolically killed or broken before they were placed with the body, the pots, plates and figurines are intact. In some burials here, these grave goods occupied 90 percent of the tomb, said the experts. Each tomb had the remains of four persons.

The cemetery also appears to be of five levels, Ms. Gutiérrez said.  The most unusual aspect of the find is the elaborate craftsmanship in carving some of the sandstone used in the burials. Also used was river rock.

The cemetery is contemporary with what is now called Guayabo, an elaborate settlement that has even been honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers for its water transmission and drainage systems which still work.

Guayabo, at least a 600-acre site located further east on the southern slope of Volcán Turrialba, was a population center of about 10,000 persons, archaeologists have estimated. It was abandoned around 1400, but no one knows why. The site may have been occupied 1,000 years before Christ.



New book is a comprehensive analysis of ceramic seals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every visitor to the Museos del Banco Central has seen the pre-Columbian ceramic seals. Replicas even are on sale in the museum store.

But what were they used for? That is a question  a new book seeks to answer. The book is “Sellos Cerámicos Precolombinos de Costa Rica: fertilidad y estatus” by Sigfrido Jiménez Regidor and designer Irene Alfaro  Ulate.

The book is the first to be issued by Editoriales Universitarias Públicas Costarricenses, the new publishing house formed by the Universidad Nacional, the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Instituto Costarricense Tecnológico and the Universidad Estatal a Distancia.

Some seals are abstract, but others carry images of animals or mythological creatures. They were produced
in Costa Rica from 300 to 800 A.D., according to the
Pre-columbian seal
Example of a seal
publishing house.

Jiménez used to be restorer and conservator of the collection at the Museo de Jade of the  Instituto Nacional de Seguros. Now he is director of the  Escuela de Arte y Comunicación Visual de la Universidad Nacional.

His publisher said that the book
gives a more comprehensive vision of these ancient artifacts as a result of extensive analysis. The seals mainly are from Guanacaste and the central region of Costa Rica. These two areas have different cultural roots.

Ms. Alfaro is an independent graphic designer and professor at the Escuela de Arte y Comunicación Visual.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 142

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Car bomb signals escalation
in Mexico's cartel war

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A deadly car bomb last week, the first of its kind, suggests that Mexico's drug cartels are growing increasingly bold and sophisticated.  As illegal drugs and people cross the U.S.-Mexican border into the United States, weapons and possibly billions of dollars in cash flow south.  Speaking in Washington Tuesday, experts  said fixes will have to be multi-faceted and long-term. 

A TV station caught on tape what was a first in Mexico's fight against drugs — a car bomb targeting police  detonated in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

At least three were killed in what's being viewed as an escalation in Mexico's already raging drug war.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley:

"Unfortunately, these drug cartels, they have enormous amount of resources at their disposal. They can buy any kind of capability they want.  But we are determined, working with Mexico, to do everything in our power to reduce this violence."

In Washington Tuesday, experts gathered to discuss steps the United States and Mexico should take moving forward.

Matt Bennett is vice president of Third Way, a self-described moderate think tank. It hosted the event.

"It is not just a Mexican problem," said Bennett. "Guns and money are flowing from the United States south and fueling this problem and drugs are traveling north…"

"It's a mutual responsibility between the U.S. and Mexico," said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. "We cannot let Mexico fail."

Cuellar says tightening the border alone won't do the trick. 

The U.S. has to help Mexico develop its police force, justice system, and courts. It's hard to catch drug traffickers in Mexico, Cuellar said, and once they are caught "to prosecute someone, at least when I was down there, was less than a 2 percent chance," he said.

That's compared to a prosecution rate in the high 90s in the U.S., he said.

"Once again I want to warn everybody, especially in Mexico, if you want to come to America through Maricopa County, we are going to have enough firepower to react to any assaults on our deputy sheriffs," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Last week, while conducting his 17th immigration sweep, the sheriff brought out his big gun, a machine gun.  He said his deputies needed it for protection while patrolling desolate areas where drug and immigrant smugglers have been spotted.

But Mexico's ambassador to Washington, Arturo Sarukhan, says guns bought in states like Arizona are fueling the drug trade. 

He is calling on the U.S. to help plug the flow.

"Mexico has very stringent gun laws," said Sarukhan. "You can't walk into a store and buy a gun like you can in this country."

The United States has announced it will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.  They will help keep a look-out for illegal border crossers and smugglers and assist with criminal investigations.

Mexico's drug violence has killed nearly 25,000 people since 2006, when Mexico's president launched an anti-drug offensive.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, July 21, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 142


Latin American news
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Murderer, 17, gets 10 years

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unidentified juvenile murderer got 10 years of confinement in a specialized center at a hearing in the  Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José. The 17 year old pulled out a gun in the middle of an argument and shot Alvaro Alvarez Mora, 28, last Jan. 17 in Tejarcillos de Alajuelita.

The youth surrendered a short time later and has been in confinement since. The court acquitted him of attempted murder on a nephew of the dead man.

Cédula hours lengthened

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones has extended the hours that Costa Ricans have to obtain a cédula. The identity document is necessary for voting in the Dec. 5 elections. Offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to July 30. Offices also will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1. From Aug. 3 to Aug. 5, the offices will close at 5 p.m. instead of 4. These hours will be in force at all Tribunal locations in the country, the agency said.

$300 million loan gets OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asamblea Legislativa has approved on second and final vote Tuesday night a plan to borrow $300 million from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to finance work on bridges and roads. The government will put up $75 million of which $45.5 will go to the highway to San Carlos, the stretch from the Autopista Bernardo Soto to Sifón de San Ramón and the stretch between Abundancia and Ciudad Quesada.


They'll have full employment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sign of the times: The credit reporting agency Cero Riesgo said Tuesday that it had created a collection agency, Alcatraz Cobro Especializado.

The announcement said that the company would collect difficult debts and that it was an option before a creditor goes to court.



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