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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug.10, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 157
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Fate deals a very bad hand to that spirited young whale
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A baby humpback whale made a big splash in the Friday paper with a series of photos that showed it leaping out of the Pacific near Drake Bay.

For two weeks the whale and its antics enthralled those who traveled on the ocean. The baby grew to be 10 feet.

It was not going to get any bigger. The body of the 2-week-old whale turned up Monday on a beach, the apparent victim of rowdy relatives.

"I am totally devastated today," said Sierra Goodman, the lodge owner who took the photos. She said in an e-mail that she suspected problems when she saw a whale she thought was the mother in a group of five others, The baby was nowhere to be seen.

"My initial feeling is that the baby was probably drowned by the aggressive males after the mom, that it wasn't a

Photo by Sierra Goodman
Young Spirit in better days
v
man-induced death," said Ms. Goodman.  "I am going to check into this further, but that is my initial feeling." She had named the baby whale Spirit because of the happy character the young whale showed.

The good news is that Ms. Goodman said she saw several other mother-baby pairs on the ocean, and she believed that Spirit will live on through her photos. Ms. Goodman is owner of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula and president of Fundación Vida Marina.



U.S. will put computer chip in each new passport by next year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. State Department plans to start issuing electronic passports by December.

The agency said Tuesday that an electronic chip will be incorporated into the body of the passport, and the chip will hold the same information that is printed within.

The chip will also contain facial features of the passport bearer, said the department. A digital signature will protect the stored data from alteration and reduce the threat of photo        substitution. Right now U.S. passports are hot items on the black market in Costa Rica where a stolen passport can fetch up to $300.

The State Department's push is a response to the tightening identification procedures prompted by terrorist attacks.

The agency said that anti-skimming technology will be incorporated into the passport to prevent unauthorized access by persons not associated with the U.S.
government. This would prevent someone with a reading device from scanning a crowd of travelers, for example,

Although the first electronic passports will be issued in December, the new technology will not be universal until October 2006, the agency said.

Now U.S. passports contain bar codes that help immigration and State Department employees keep track of who is entering and leaving the country.  Airlines use the bar codes, too, in order to  provide officials with information on passengers.

The department also said that some technology may be used that would keep the passport chip from being read until the bar code in the passport meets an electronic reader.

The new technology is likely to raise concerns among privacy advocates and others who believe that federal officials are seeking to create an electronic ID card for all citizens.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 157

 
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Pavas to San Pedro
Trains at rush hour
proposed by officials


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government plans to run trains during the peak commuter hours starting in September.

The plans are not detailed yet, but officials were talking about the idea at the weekly Consejo de Gobierno Tuesday.

A passenger train would run from San Pedro to Pavas and a similar train would run from Pavas to San Pedro in the morning.  A second run would be made in the late afternoon.

The idea is to use the train for commuters in order to save motor fuel. A recent trial run on the passenger trains showed that a number of structures have been built that encroach on the train rights-of-way. There has been no passenger service here since the mid-1990s, although the trains are in the hands of a government agency, Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles.

The head of the railroad agency quit a month ago, alleging lack of interest on the part of government officials and lack of support.

The train tracks in San José run in the middle of Avenida Principal, so a passenger train would add to the congestion. During a week-long trial run at least one vehicle was smashed when it got in the way of a train.

Costa Rica has been criticized in transportation circles for not capitalizing on its railway system. Much of the line is intact from the Caribbean to Siquirres and from Caldera on the Pacific to San José.

The rail line through the mountains north of San José has been neglected. Occasional cargo trains run between San José and Caldera. A tourist train has been in service along the same route some weekends.

Other Central American countries have been exploring the possibility of a "dry canal" to replace the time-consuming and expensive cargo ship transit through the Panamá Canal. Such a dry canal really would be train tracks to move oceangoing containers.

Costa Rica already has the track in place but has had little interest in using it.

The government also said Tuesday that truck traffic on the Autopista General Cañas would be restricted in the morning and evening rush hours to aid in traffic flow.
  
Pro-treaty forces
march to Pacheco


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employees of some 40 to 60 private firms marched on Casa Presdencial Tuesday to encourage Abel Pacheco to send the free trade treaty to the Asamblea Legislativa for consideration and, they hope, passage.

Estimates of the marchers ranged from 2,000 to 5,000.

Several marchers met with the president. However, Pacheco did not promise to send the measure to the assembly.

Pacheco has been sitting on the treaty for months, ostensibly while a group of five laymen evaluate the complex document. Their report is due next month.

The country is divided on the free trade issue between those who expect to benefit, like the marchers Tuesday, and those who fear the consequences.

Proponents of the plan started late but have now embarked on a high-energy public relations and advertising campaign.
  
Taxi drivers may
get hefty raise


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The technical staff of the country's price control agency is suggesting a massive raise for taxi operators. The proposal still has to obtain the approval of the top officials.

The agency is the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, and the proposal is that taxi drivers get an 88 percent increase in the rate charges for an additional kilometer of driving.

The cost of an additional kilometer would go from 160 colons (33 U.S. cents) to 300 (about 63 U.S. cents) under the plan in two stages.

The increases are enough to alter fundamentally the transportation patterns of persons in the Central Valley.

Taxi operators have not received a real raise in years. Any increase in fares have been offset by the devaluation of the colon and the increase in fuel costs.

Orchid growers plan
to present classes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

La Asociación de Mujeres Artesanales de San Isidro de Atenas is offering a course that will teach those without a green thumb how to cultivate orchids and other ornamental plants.  The two courses are scheduled for Saturday and Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in San Isidro de Atenas in front of the Beneficio San Isidro. 

According to Iris Fernández Solano, a representative of the Unión de Mujeres Productores de Orquídeas de la Región Central Occidental y la Rambla, the course will cost 6,000 colons ($12.45).  The charge covers a snack, an instruction booklet, materials and a small orchid. 

For more information call 446-6289 or 446-4415.
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

Real estate agents and services

MARGARET SOHN
formerly with  Carico and now with Great Estates
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real estate experience

Member of the Costa Rican Real Estate Association, Lic. #1000

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samargo@racsa.co.cr
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Dentists

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A walking stick does not seem at all timid nor does the boy holding it.

A.M. Costa Rica/Erin Zlomek


This place is just crawling with all kinds of insects
By Erin Zlomek
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Standing behind his desk in a button-down shirt and pressed pants, Olger González M. looks every bit the proper businessman – except for the 3-inch Hercules beetle horn hanging from his neck.

For almost three years the former real estate investor has been tending a slightly different venture: the Monteverde bug museum “Mundo de los Insectos.”

The establishment is more than a museum with bugs stuck to the wall. It has those, too. But there also are up to 20 different types of spiders, beetles and scorpions and 20 different species of butterflies living within what seems more like a bug zoo. There even is a butterfly garden. The beetle horn Gonzalez wears is from the largest and strongest of Costa Rica’s 400 different species of beetles. The horn is capable of cutting through bone, he said. The beetle is a museum favorite.

González says Costa Rica’s insect population is the part of the county’s ecosystem that is hardest to enjoy. The entrepreneur says not knowing if a certain insect or spider is venomous and or dangerous prevents spectators from lingering too long. He claims his museum habitat allows people to take a closer look at several creatures they may otherwise not get to – or want to -- see in their natural habitat.

One such creature is the banana spider. According to a museum guide, the banana spider is 10 times more deadly than the black widow and accounts for the majority of Costa Rica’s spider bite deaths.  The arachnid injects its victims with a paralyzing neurotoxin.

Found mostly on the country’s Caribbean side, the creature gets its name because it hides in banana crates, at times biting fruit handlers.

The museum also carries wolf spiders, wood spiders and tarantulas, among others, but does not actually breed the spiders as it does with butterflies. Gonzalez said people as far as Limón will personally deliver insects they find interesting or believe to be dangerous. The museum receives all of its spiders this way, he said.

The museum itself resembles a giant greenhouse but has black vinyl walls to protect both its caged and un-caged insects from the direct sun. If the museum 
How about a bug
for an earing? It's a show-stopper at
the Mundos de los Insectos in Monteverde.



is a greenhouse, then an attendant there is its gardener, giving tours and feeding the insects daily. The most popular insects with children are said to be the leaf bugs and stick bugs, which look and feel exactly as their names suggest. Attendants will often fashion “leaf bug earrings” on tour, attaching the gripping insects to one lucky patron’s ears.

González said he enjoy the museum’s spiders the most. Gonzalez says he’s had an interest in entomology in general, for as long as he can remember.

However it hasn’t all been a party, as he said opening the museum forced him to overcome a personal fear of scorpions. He says the museum has a fear conquering effect – several patrons who are scared of or squeamish around insects when they enter, leave with a greater understanding and appreciation for the creatures.

The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and entry is $7 U.S. dollars.


Central American agriculturalists in U.S. for training
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Under a program sponsored by the U.S. government, 10 agricultural scientists from Central America have begun a five- to six-week training program at U.S. universities and research facilities on techniques for increasing production.

Mike Johanns, U.S. secretary of agriculture, said his agency worked in conjunction with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, to identify the scientists from Central America who would receive training in the United States.  The scientists are from the five Central American nations covered by the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by President George Bush Aug. 2.

"When these scientists return to their countries, their newly gained knowledge will help to promote food security, raise agricultural productivity and create economic growth in the region," said Johanns.  "This training will also enhance support for local authorities in the development of regulatory frameworks that are consistent with international guidelines for the safe trade in agricultural products."
The 10 scientists are receiving their training under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program.  The department's Foreign Agricultural Service administers the program in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says its goal is to help developing countries strengthen sustainable agricultural practices by providing short-term scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers and university faculty.

The program was launched in March 2004 in honor of Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts to reduce global hunger.  Borlaug, now 91 years old, is hailed as the father of the "Green Revolution," aimed at increasing agricultural production in order to help developing countries meet the needs of their growing populations. 

Borlaug's work is said to have virtually eliminated recurring famines in South Asia and helped global food production outpace population growth.






 
Two authors reflect on the meaning of the Beatles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

On Aug. 15, 1965, more than 55,000 screaming fans filled New York's Shea Stadium to hear the Beatles.  That was the largest crowd ever to attend a concert at that time 40 years ago.

"You never forget something like that," says Larry Kane, author of "Ticket to Ride." The only American journalist to travel with the Beatles for almost three years, Kane covered that concert and 63 others between 1964 and 1966 as a reporter for a Miami radio station.

"The truth is, in the beginning I didn't want to go," he says. "I thought why would anybody who is serious about news, covering politics, want to travel with a band. But I knew, a week into it, that it was a phenomenon that I had never seen before in my life."

According to some observers, the four young men from Britain became one of the most influential cultural forces of the 20th century.

In "Ticket to Ride," Kane recalls behind-the-scenes stories from his travels with the Beatles, and his personal experience dealing with the "Fab Four" on a daily basis. "I was 21. Paul McCartney was three months older," he said. "John Lennon was two years older along with Ringo Starr. George Harrison was a year younger than me. He was 20. I was stunned and shocked at the maturity of the four of them, and the way they handled the world stage just five years after they were a garage band. I was also truly surprised at their intellectual curiosity."

According to cultural historian Steven Stark, Americans loved the Beatles because they were smart, funny and -- unlike other stars of rock and roll -- they represented the middle class.

"Elvis Presley was a truck driver, the Beatles were not," he says. "They were middle class suburban kids. They knew who Beethoven was. That allowed them to influence the middle class in America in a way that had not been true with rock and roll groups until then."

To understand why the Beatles became the central force they did, Stark spent three years in Liverpool, England, where John, Paul, George and Ringo grew up. In his book, "Meet the Beatles," he talks about the cultural environment that made this port town a very special place to live. "First of all, it created a matriarchal society," he says. "The men tended to be away for months, if not years at a time, at sea. Boys and girls tended to be raised by their mothers."

Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney lost their mothers when they were teenagers. That,  Stark said,
 had an incredible influence on them in terms of writing songs that appealed to women. "Up until the time they arrived, rock and roll was still fairly sexist," he says. "You had songs like, 'I'm not the kind of guy who likes to hang around, I just go from girl to girl.' Girls were supposed to wait at home, like in the song "Johnny Angel," and wait for boy friends to come back whenever they decided to. In contrast, the Beatles wrote songs in which they told boys to be nicer to their girl friends, songs like, 'she loves you, you're going to lose that girl.' They also wrote songs that were very sensitive to the concerns of women like, 'Lovely Rita Meter Maid.'"

Stark said the Beatles were also influential in changing the depiction of masculinity. "When they arrived in America in 1964, their hair, at that time, was shockingly revolutionary," he says. "The model for male look was the 'crew cut,' which was military prescribed; it was what the astronauts wore. When they arrived here, it radically began to change the way men looked and the way they thought about the way they looked."

The Beatles' influence pushed all kinds of boundaries — not just of music and fashion, but the outlook of an entire generation. Steven Stark says they had a universal message that appealed to young people everywhere. "They represented freedom, the idea that one person can make a difference, that the whole is greater than some of its parts," he says. "I mean, if you look at the titles of their songs, 'Come Together,' 'All You Need is Love,' 'All Together Now,' 'We Can Work it Out.' There is an optimism, a philosophy of freedom there; personal freedom and political freedom."

The Beatles broke up in 1970. Stark points to a number of reasons:

"One is the culture began to turn dark in the late 1960s," he says. "We have the assassinations, the riots in the streets. The Beatles who had always been optimistic, upbeat band found themselves somehow out of favor. It was an era, in which Rolling Stones who presented a much darker image in songs like, 'Sympathy for the Devil,' tended to be more popular. Second, they had been together for a long time,15 years. Finally, they had worked very hard. They were exhausted both emotionally and physically. They put out two albums a year, constantly touring. I think they just couldn't move on any more."

John, Paul, George and Ringo each went on to successful solo careers, but the music they made together as The Beatles remains popular. And while some of today's acts may hope to achieve the same level of cultural influence as the boys from Liverpool,

Steven Stark doubts any will.


Appeals court overturns spying convictions of Cubans
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. Appeals Court has overturned the convictions of five Cuban men convicted of spying on the United States and ordered a new trial in the case.  The men were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms in 2001.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 93-page order overturning the convictions, saying the five Cuban espionage agents did not receive a fair trial because of strong community sentiment against them in Miami's large Cuban-exile community. 

A federal court jury convicted the five men in June of 2001 on espionage charges. Of the five men, three received life terms in prison.  Additionally one of the five, Gerardo Hernández, who prosecutors say was the leader of the group, was found guilty on murder conspiracy charges for his role in the deaths of four men in 1996. The four, members of Hermanos al Rescate, were on board two planes that were shot down by Cuban fighter jets as they patrolled the Cuban waters looking for refugees. The murder conspiracy conviction of Hernández also was overturned.

Lawyers for the five men hailed the decision saying even though there were no Cuban exiles on the jury, prosecutors made inflammatory remarks in their closing arguments that led to the convictions. Paul McKenna the attorney for Hernández said the appeals court ruling upholds basic constitutional rights.
"The core of our Constitution is the fundamental right that everybody gets a fair trial.  These five men did not," said McKenna.

At their trial the five Cubans admitted espionage activities, but said they were spying on exile groups in Miami, and not on the United States. The five were part of a larger group of 14 individuals detained by U.S. authorities in what came to be known as the wasp network.  Several of the spies were employed at or near U.S. military installations in Florida.  Cuban officials were quoted by news agencies on Tuesday as saying the appeals court ruling validates the Cuban government position that the trial was unjust.

Reaction in Miami's Cuban exile community to the appeals court ruling has been overwhelmingly negative, with many exile figures calling the ruling an outrage. José Basulto, the head of Hermanos al rescate or Brothers to the Rescue, whose two planes where shot down in 1996, said he believes the men did in fact receive a fair trial. 

"I am very disappointed," he said.  "These men were found guilty by a jury of their peers.  I believe that if they are retried again, they will again be found guilty, even though it might be done outside of Miami."

Defense attorney's say they will seek the immediate release of their clients who remain in prison.  They also say they will seek a change of venue for any new trial.  Lawyers for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami who prosecuted the case issued a brief statement saying only that they are reviewing the opinion.

  

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