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(506) 223-1327                  Published Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 159            E-mail us   
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Turrialba at dawn
Photo by Ted Douglas near La Suiza with a Panasonic Luminix with Leica telephoto lens
The Turrialba volcano was letting off a little steam Sunday about 5:30 a.m. when this photo was taken. Scientists still are unsure if the mountain will go back to sleep or show increased activity. Some of the smoke and vapor comes from new cracks outside the most western
crater. One is 20 meters (66 feet) wide and the other is 100 meters (328 feet) long. The gas being expelled is around 88 degrees C. or 190 F., said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. Acid rain caused by the gases is damaging nearby vegetation.


New research is bad news for nation's frog species
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

The disease that is ravaging Costa Rica's frog population can be spread by spores that last in the environment for years, according to new research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scientists there have studied the same deadly fungus,  Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis,  and concluded that this discovery seriously complicates efforts to save the frogs from extinction. This is the same fungus blamed for the rapid decline of amphibians in the mountains of Costa Rica.

In the western United States, the center of the Berkeley research, the fungus has been spreading quickly, moving west to east across the Sierra Nevada at a pace of about a mile per year, according to the researchers. Tens of thousands of mountain yellow-legged frogs in hundreds of sites have disappeared.

Alan Pounds, an ecologist at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve and Tropical Science Center, was the lead author of a report published in the Jan. 12, 2006, issue of the journal Nature. He said that the fungal disease, encouraged by climate change, has hundreds of species around the world teetering on the brink of extinction or has already pushed them into the abyss.

At least 110 species of brightly colored harlequin frogs once lived near streams in the tropics of Central and South America, but about two-thirds vanished in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the summary by Pounds.

The decline of  the mountain yellow-legged frog in the western United States has been attributed to the introduction of non-native predatory fish in some areas and to chytridiomycosis, a quickly spreading
disease caused by this waterborne fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis.

The Berkeley study, to appear in next week's edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the frog-killing fungus may end up playing the bigger role in the frog's demise because of its ability to spread over long distances and possibly persist in the environment as a consequence of sexual reproduction which results in spores, according to the researchers.

"This group of fungi, when it reproduces sexually, can create spores that can last for a decade," said John Taylor, Berkeley professor of plant and
microbial biology and principal investigator of that study. "That could make this pathogen a harder problem to defeat. As a resistant spore, the fungus could be transported by animals, including humans or birds, or lay dormant in an infected area until a new host comes along."

In other words, tourists could spread the spores.

The findings could help explain the global spread of this disease, which has also been found in South America, Australia, Europe and Africa, said the Berkeley researchers. While human-assisted spread is possible, the fungus also has infected amphibians in pristine areas too remote for human activity. The study also provides an answer as to why reintroduction efforts with frogs have failed. The spores persist in the environment and infect new arrivals.

Pounds' year-old study was based on research at some 50 sites in Central and South America. He and his colleagues concluded that the earth's rising temperatures enhance cloud cover on tropical mountains, leading to cooler days and warmer nights, both of which favor the fungus.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 159

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Rains hit Guanacaste hard
and put some in shelters

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sections of Guanacaste got up to 65 mm. (2.6 inches) of rain over the weekend, and parts of Santa Cruz were knee deep in water.

Daniel Gallardo, president of the national emergency commission said that some 70 families had been put in shelters there. Boats were trying to establish contact with other communities that had been cut off by the flooding.

The Instituto Meteorólogico Nacional said that cloudy skies would continue today but suggested that the worst might be over. It predicted weather typical for the season, which means downpours in the afternoon.

The automatic station in Liberia registered 42.6 mms. (1.7 inches) of rain Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday and some 23.8 mms. (.94 inches) from 7 a..m. on.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias issued an alert for the area.

Rainfall was considerably less in the Central Valley and in Limón province. However, in Pavas nearly an inch of rain was reported Saturday.

U.S. citizen takes a bullet
and then endures crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. citizen was one of three persons wounded Saturday night in Jacó when two men on a motorcycle opened fire. Then the man became a traffic victim when the ambulance carrying him to Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas collided with a car and overturned.

The man was identified by the last name of Grant. Two Costa Ricans also suffered bullet wounds although none was thought to be life threatening. Four rescue workers were injured when the ambulance overturned as it neared Puntarenas centro.

Meanwhile, in Limón on the Caribbean two U.S. citizens are recovering from bullet wounds. One was identified as Terry Harold, who was shot in the stomach. Harold told the Judicial Investigating Organization that he was shot by a man who tried to hold him up when he was in a park in the area known as Siglo XXI.

Attendants at Hospital Tony Facio said a second U.S. citizen also was there. They identified him as Henry Mckann, 57. They said he also suffered a bullet wound.

Rifles and pistols lead
to arrest of four men


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detained four men, including one identified as a U.S. citizen, after shots were heard in San Jerónimo de Moravia, they reported.

Investigators reported that they found at least four weapons within the two cars used by the men. One weapon was an AK-47 rifle, they said.

The arrests took place in an area known as Calle Tornillal.  The U.S. citizen was accompanied by a Dominican and two Costa Ricans. He was identified by the last name of Steven.
Among the weapons also was a 9-mm. pistol and a number of cartridges, said police.

Another coastal quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A short shock at 7:38 p.m. Saturday came from an earthquake estimated at a 4.1 magnitude about 11 kms. northwest of Quepos, said the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. The shock was felt from Puriscal to the Central Valley to Pérez Zeledón, said the observatory, an agency of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Arias to attend forum
on peace plan Aug. 21


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez will go to Nicaragua to talk about the Central American peace plan on its 20th anniversary.  Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo has invited him to a forum Aug. 21.

The event will be at the Universidad Católica de Managua where Arias also will receive an honorary doctorate. He also ready holds an earned doctorate in political science.  Obando y Bravo was the mediator for the peace plan that ended multiple wars.

There was no word if Daniel Ortega, the current Nicaraguan president who was also president 20 years ago, would attend. He did not come to a similar event last week in San José and called Arias a conspirator with the United States in an interview in Managua.

Our reader's opinion

He reports bribe demand
by airport public official


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been an avid reader of your e-paper for several years and have relied on your reports.  I am an American living in Santa Barbara, California.  My wife is a naturalized American citizen and a Costa Rican citizen.  We have two daughters, ages 8 and 11 years, who are American citizens (born in the U.S.A.), and they are also Costa Rican citizens.  They travel to Costa Rica every summer for four to six weeks vacation.  They always travel as U.S. citizens carrying U.S. passports.

On Saturday they were returning to the U.S. on an American Airlines flight.  As they passed through immigration she and the children were questioned by the officer, (who refused to give his name).  He told her she did not have the necessary permission from Costa Rican immigration for my children to leave the country because they were also Costa Rican citizens.  She asked to speak to his supervisor, and he told her this would make matters worse.  The kids were crying and in the end he demanded a $100 bribe of which she paid $60 and was then allowed to leave the country.

I am sure your readers would be interested in this report and you may reprint it with my permission.  I will send copies to the American Embassy and Costa Rican Immigration as well.

Robert Zylstra,
Santa Barbara, California
 
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Guess who just decided to come down to earth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Besides the potholes and the lack of road shoulders, drivers in Costa Rica have to look out for sloth crossings.

A lot of animals will dash in front of the car, but a sloth ambles, crossing the highway at a reckless nine feet a minute.

Not often do the tree dwellers make it to the ground where they are vulnerable to jaguars and automobiles, but when they do, they are a sight for visitors.

A three-toed sloth, Bradypus variegatus, with its distinctive black eye stripes or mask, had just finished dragging itself across the entrance road to Palenque Margarita and Palenque Tonjibe, just north of Guatuso.  When gently stroked, it hissed in protest.  To avoid the humans, it started climbing the first tree it encountered, only to find itself stuck at the top of a fence post.

A sloth is not aggressive, but its claws can do a job if it is provoked.
sloth on patrol
A.M. Costa Rica/Donna Lynn Norton
Life is pretty good if you are a sloth

The sloth should be the mascot for expats here. The animal sleeps about 16 hours a day and gently and slowly munches leaves the rest of the time.



The delicate balance between enough and plain greed
El hambre mató a pocos; la hartura a muchos.

“Hunger kills some, but gluttony kills many.”
 
These days it seems that greed has become such a part of everyday life that those who lack a sufficiently avaricious nature are viewed as somehow rather stupid. Today’s dicho has to do with the ill affects of too much of too many good things.
 
My niece has one of those cell phones, the least function of which, it seems to me, is the making and receiving of telephone calls. It’s more like a mini entertainment center than a telephonic device. In any case, she loves to download all kinds of junk to this glorified gadget, such as music, pictures, animated cartoons and computer games.
 
Sometimes her phone becomes so saturated with clutter that there is no room left on its tiny memory chip for a brief text message. Or worse, in the process of downloading all this debris off the Internet she also manages to acquire a nasty little virus thus rendering the device totally useless. She has changed her cellular phone number so many times that I no longer even try to learn it and never call her on her mobile phone.
 
When one has too much of something, even if it is nice — it is TOO MUCH. I do love money, and I often find myself wishing I had a bit more of it. But I have to admit that I am quite content and don’t really want for anything.
 
I remember once hearing some obscenely wealthy man in the United States, whose name now escapes me, when asked what he worried about the most responding, “Not having enough money.” It occurred to me at the time that this was probably the only thing this man and I had in common, though we would probably disagree on the meaning of enough.
 
Aristotle Onasis, an extremely wealthy man to be sure, once remarked that a person could never be too rich or too thin. Well, as to the latter I think that anyone who has suffered from anorexia nervosa will attest to the fact that it is most certainly possible to be too thin. In fact, it can kill you. With regard to being too rich, I think this statement, especially coming, as it did, from the mouth of one of world’s richest men at the time, reflects a kind of greed-driven anxiety, which robs one of any sense of real security and eternally threatens one’s serenity and peace of mind. It also goads a person to gathering — by one means or the other — a disproportionate amount of the world’s economic resources unto himself.
 
Most certainly, being without money can be a terrible thing. But it is not necessarily the end of life as we know it. Once when I was a young man, I decided to take a vacation trip to a certain island in the Caribbean. I arrived late at night with Costa Rica colons in my pocket but none of the local currency. Everything was closed, and I did not have a place to spend the remainder of the night. Fortunately it is a very small island, so I decided to walk from the tiny airport in the direction of the town.

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto


A taxi pulled over and the driver asked me if I was going to town. I responded in the affirmative, but explained that I did not have money to pay his fare. With a smile he responded that he would take me in his cab and I could pay him the next day after I’d obtained some cash.
 
So, I climbed into the taxi and he asked me where I wanted to go.  I have to admit this was not the most carefully planned trip I’ve ever made, but when you’re a kid things like hotel reservations seem mere trivial details. All I could say was that I didn't have a place to stay.

So, the driver suggested a pleasant small hotel overlooking the sea. I considered that I might be able to get the hotel manager to accept the same deal I had made with the cabbie.
 
But the manager was not at the hotel when I arrived, and no one at the front desk was willing to take the responsibility for making such a decision. They allowed, however, that I could spend the rest of the night waiting in the lobby. Well, at least I had a place to sit down and the hotel was air-conditioned.

I’d not been sitting there very long when someone called me by my last name. “Hay! Soto” he called out. I looked up and saw a man about my same age approaching. He looked familiar, and sure enough he turned out to be a chum of mine from elementary school. Well, to make a long story a little shorter, this fellow was the manager of the hotel, and he instructed the desk clerk to give me a room and extend me credit.  
 
I do think I was also a bit luckier back in my salad days than I seem to be in my approaching dotage. But doesn’t it say something in the Bible about not concerning one’s self too much about what you will eat, or what you will drink, or what you will put on?
 
Alas, however, ours is not an altruistic age. But I do sometimes think we’d do better for ourselves if we were less obsessed with our own security and slightly more concerned, on a personal level, with that of our fellow humans.

Remember this coming Wednesday the 15 of August, is Mother’s day in Costa Rica and to all you wonderful women out there, have a very Special Day.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 159


Arias has a date today with very, very wealthy Saudi investor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez has a date this afternoon with Al-Waleed bin Tala Alsaud, a major investor who is a member of the Saudi royal family.

Forbes magazine estimates his fortune at $20 billion. Among his holdings is a major stake in the Four Seasons Hotel group, and that is where he stayed in northwestern Costa Rica.

Although his luxury 747 aircraft sprouted flags on landing in Liberia, he is not considered a major player in Saudi politics. However, he is well known as an astute investor and expresses political views of his own. He holds a graduate degree from Syracuse University in New York.

Arias has invited the visitor to his Rohrmoser home instead of Casa Presidencial.
Al-Waleed, 52, made news in 2002 when he offered New York City $10 million in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which the majority of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.

However, Mayor Rudy Giuliani turned him down because the donation was conditional. Al-Waleed said he wanted the United States to modify its policies in the Middle East, according to the then-mayor.

Al-Waleed traveled to the Four Season in a bus, leading an entourage of more than a dozen sports utility vehicles from the Daniel Oduber airport..

The visit by the Saudi investor fits with the Arias administration's goal of expanding its overseas contacts.

Costa Rica closed its embassy in Jerusalem and moved it to Tel Aviv in part to open doors to Middle Eastern states.


Three Latin presidents meet and agree to share the cost of energy production
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina met Friday in the southern Bolivian town of Tarija.

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner signed agreements to share the costs of energy production. They agreed to fund the construction of a gas-separation plant near Bolivia's border with Argentina.

Chávez has been campaigning for more integration of the
energy industry in South America. Bolivia is his last stop on a four-nation tour meant to promote South American energy production.

The four nations on Chávez's tour include Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia. He announced intentions to buy as much as $1 billion worth of Argentine bonds and guaranteed Uruguay access to Venezuelan oil for decades.

Chávez has been lobbying to join the South American trade block Mercosur, which is comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.


Fatal shooting at U.S.-México border involved an agent and a possible smuggler
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico is demanding the United States conduct an investigation following the shooting death of a man who allegedly tried to cross the border into the U.S. illegally.

U.S. authorities say a border patrol agent shot and killed a suspected smuggler of illegal immigrants on Wednesday at the fence that separates the southern U.S. city of El Paso, Texas, from Mexico. U.S. authorities say the man tried to
hit the agent with a rock and was holding bolt cutters in his other hand.

Mexico's foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the Mexican government opposes the use of lethal weapons "in situations that do not represent a proportionate risk."

The incident is the latest of several border shootings that have strained relations between the United States and Mexico.


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