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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 161       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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World's oceans reported to be in deep, deep trouble
By University Communications
and Public Affairs
University of California, San Diego

Human activities are driving the health of the world’s oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.

Such is the prognosis of Jeremy Jackson, a professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in a bold new assessment of the oceans and their ecological health. He published his study in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jackson said he believes that human impacts are laying the groundwork for mass extinctions in the oceans on par with vast ecological upheavals of the past.

He cites the combined effects of habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.

Jackson, director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, has tagged the ongoing transformation as “the rise of slime.” The new paper, “Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean,” is a result of Jackson’s presentation last December at a biodiversity and extinction colloquium convened by the National Academy of Sciences.

“The purpose of the talk and the paper is to make clear just how dire the situation is and how rapidly things are getting worse,” said Jackson. “It’s a lot like the issue of climate change that we had ignored for so long. If anything, the situation in the oceans could be worse because we are so close to the precipice in many ways.”

In the assessment, Jackson reviews and synthesizes a range of research studies on marine ecosystem health and in particular key studies conducted since a seminal 2001 study he led analyzing the impacts of historical overfishing. The new study includes overfishing, but expands to include threats from areas such as nutrient runoff that lead to so-called dead zones of low oxygen. He also incorporates increases in ocean warming and acidification resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.

Jackson described the potently destructive effects when forces combine to degrade ocean health. For example, climate change can exacerbate stresses on the marine environment already brought by overfishing and pollution.

“All of the different kinds of data and methods of
ocean mess
Photo by Jennifer E. Smith
This Christmas Island coral reef overtaken by algae features murky waters and few fish.

analysis point in the same direction of drastic and increasingly rapid degradation of marine ecosystems,” Jackson writes in the paper.

During a recent research expedition to Kiritimati, or Christmas Island, Jackson and other researchers documented a coral reef overtaken by algae, featuring murky waters and few fish. The researchers say pollution, overfishing, warming waters or some combination of the three are to blame.

Jackson furthers his analysis by constructing a chart of marine ecosystems and their endangered status. Coral reefs, Jackson’s primary area of research, are critically endangered and among the most threatened ecosystems. Also critically endangered are estuaries and coastal seas, threatened by overfishing and runoff. Continental shelves are endangered due to, among other things, losses of fishes and sharks. And the open ocean ecosystem is listed as threatened mainly through losses at the hands of overfishing.

“Just as we say that leatherback turtles are critically endangered, I looked at entire ecosystems as if they were a species,” said Jackson. “The reality is that if we want to have coral reefs in the future, we’re going to have to behave that way and recognize the magnitude of the response that’s necessary to achieve it.”

To stop the degradation of the oceans, Jackson identifies overexploitation, pollution and climate change as the three main drivers that must be addressed.

“The challenges of bringing these threats under control are enormously complex and will require fundamental changes in fisheries, agricultural practices and the ways we obtain energy for everything we do,” he writes.

“So it’s not a happy picture and the only way to deal with it is in segments. The only way to keep one’s sanity and try to achieve real success is to carve out sectors of the problem that can be addressed in effective terms and get on it as quickly as possible.”

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Unusual shark finally
gets its name on list

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A strange egg-laying shark is official listed now as an inhabitant or at least a visitor to Costa Rican waters. The Mexican hornshark has been seen here before by local fisherman, but the one snagged by Luis Angel Rojas off Isla Herradura near Jacó Aug. 4 goes in the books as the first recorded sighting, according to the non-profit Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas. The small shark is about 3 feet long.

This species of shark, Heterodontus mexicanus, lives in deep coastal waters with rocky sea beds 20 to 50 meters (66 to 165 feet) or more where they principally feed on small mollusks and crustaceans, said the organization in a press release.

Most sharks bear live young, the organization noted, but this species lays eggs on the ocean floor that take a year to hatch, the release said.

Between 2006 and 2007, the Tárcoles Fishermen’s Cooperative and the Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas developed fishing research to better define marine management and conservation policies, and identified certain areas, for example the Río Tárcoles mouth and the fishing grounds known as Herradura, as shark reproduction sites that should be protected, said the organization.

Unfortunately, the uncontrolled operation of shrimp trawlers in the area has been identified as the biggest threat to attaining a sustainable fishery, due to their unselective and destructive nature, said the organization.

While this is the first official report of this hornshark in Costa Rica, Tárcoles fishermen have long known of its existence, according to the Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas.

“This species of shark is only rarely caught when fishing for groupers and snappers using a bottom set longline in the fishing area known as Isla Herradura, and it’s usually freed alive because it has no commercial value,” said Rojas, according to the release.

Anti-crime committee OKs
alternative text for new law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special committee seeking to beef up laws against crimes and to give citizens more protection approved a substitute text Wednesday. The text includes protection for victims and witnesses.

According to a release from committee member Evita Arguedas Maklouf, the new text increases the penalty for certain thefts from three months to one year and the penalty for receiving stolen goods is increased from three to five years.

The action in the Comisión Especial de Seguridad Ciudadana is in response to an original bill submitted by the Presidencia and drafted by a committee headed by Laura Chinchilla, the vice president. Now the approved text will be sent to the various criminal justice agencies and the courts for a review.

The measure came from the official perception that a crime wave was sweeping Costa Rica. Ms. Chinchilla's proposal was for an integrated approach that targeted poverty and other social ills on the assumption that they spawned criminality. The committee is believed to have left these approaches on the table in order to directly address crime.

The text of the substitute bill was not available Wednesday night, but members of the committee said it was the result of a consensus.

Lawmakers did say that the proposal would create a special police unit to protect victims and witnesses and also provide for a fund to compensate victims. There also is believed to be mandatory pretrial detention for certain crimes when the suspect is caught in the act.

Meeting to consider course
for the next 20 months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Arias administration will hold an internal discussion Aug. 23 to determine priorities for the remainder of the term in light of the economic impact of the world economy on Costa Rica. President Óscar Arias Sánchez, who cannot seek re-election in February, leaves office in May 2010.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia, announced this Wednesday.

The meeting will include legislative deputies from the president's Partido Liberación Nacional, minister and heads of other government agencies.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 161

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A.M. Costa Rica photos/Melissa Hinkley and Elise Sonray
Yolanda Gitemez Bonilla and her stunning assortment of flowers

For Mom there's nothing better than red roses
flower spraying
Marineth Alpizar Solorzano can provide any color.

flower arranger
Jenny Rivera Gutiérrez, daughter of Yolanda Gitemez, takes about 10 minutes to build an arrangement.

white rose
A white rose is among the possibilities.

selection of roses
A color for every mood!
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Newspapers, the television and Internet are filled with advertisements promoting the newest frying pans, washers and dryers and stylish clothes so a Costa Rican can buy mom that perfect gift.  But Friday most mothers here only want one thing: to spend quality time with their loved ones while celebrating El Día de la Madre.

Instead of stressing out about that perfect gift, many turn to the traditional way of showing they care with a simple rose. 

Vendors in San Jose can be found selling roses and flowers of all kinds 24 hours a day.  That way, when a passer-by smells the fragrance of the sweet flowers, he and even she can allow the senses to take charge and buy a flower for that special someone. 

Although flowers are all about personal preference, there are some occasions that just call for a certain type.  El Día de la Madre is one of those times, and, according to Yolanda Gitemez Bonilla, she just can't get enough roses, specifically red roses.  Mrs. Gitemez has run a flower business in San Jose for 30 years.  She started her business in front of the La Iglesia Carmen.  Now it is on Avenida 2 downtown.

She said “everyday varies.  We make enough to live every day to eat and to buy clothes.  Mothers day, we make more, but that keeps our business running throughout the year on slow days.”     

Traditionally flowers have been a special present for only women.  But, according to Mrs. Gitemez, flowers are a great gift for men as well.  The most common types of flowers for men are carnations and sunflowers.  Although these are the most popular, there is really only one restriction when it comes to buying flowers for men: Don't give them pink flowers, said Mrs. Gitemez. 

There are a few instructions from the flower vendors that will help all kinds of blossoms maintain their beauty.  The first thing to remember is to water the flowers every morning and night, they said. 

Kattia Sánchez Calderón at another shop on the pedestrian boulevard near the Banco de Costa Rica demonstrated how to clip the bottom of the stems at an angle so the flowers have the best chance to absorb water. 

They also advise keeping the blooms in an area that is slightly cooler, around 79 degrees F and in a place that is away from direct sunlight or cooling vents. 

The cost of the flowers also varies, but one rose or tulip typically costs $1.  Arrangements of flowers can cost from $20 to $35. 

The flower shops just north of the Banco de Costa Rica on the pedestrian mall are well known to tourists. The modern location is shared by four vendors, including  Marineth Alpizar Solorzano, whose husband 's family has run the business for 40 years.

Her customer service includes spray painting flowers with the purchaser's favorite color. Each custom bloom is 2,000 colons, about $3.65.
trimming stems
Kattia Sánchez Calderón demonstrates trimming the stems.

shared flower locale
Popular flower shop is shared by four vendors.

not just roses
The choice need not be just among roses.

demanding attention
Flowers demand attention from passers-by

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 161

Anti-drug police raid 11 locations seeking members of San José network
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police made 11 raids and detained seven persons Wednesday in an effort they said was aimed as a network that distributed drugs in San José. The network is believed to have been distributing drugs in Los Guido de Desamparados, Zapote, Lomas Del Río in Pavas, Lomas de Ocloro in Barrio Naciones Unidas and La Carbonera in Paso Ancho.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública identified one suspect by the last names of Mora Núñez and said he was the leader of the criminal organization. They said he lived in San Antonio de Belén in the condominiums Las Garzas.

Also detained was the man's wife, identified by the last names of Crespi Guzmán, said police.
Taking part in the raids were the Policía de Control de Drogas, the Unidad Especial de Apoyo and Unidad de Intervención Policial, the ministry's swat team.

The ministry said that police officers confiscated 2,691 doses of crack, 14 doses and 105 grams of cocaine, 404 doses and 213 grams of marijuana and more than 11 million colons, about $20,000.

Also confiscated was a Hummer automobile, a Suzuki Gran Vitara, a rifle, a shotgun and two other firearms.

Agents said that the raids were part of the national plan against crack sponsored by the security ministry and announced last week.

However, police said that arrests of individuals linked to this organization extend back as far as 2001.

Arias announces in woman's prison the pardon of inmate because she is a mother
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cabinet of President Óscar Arias Sánchez authorized a pardon Wednesday for a woman serving time for a drug crime.

Casa Presidencial announced the pardon but said little about the nature of the woman's crime except that it was related to drugs. She was identified as Miriam Umaña, who was convicted to eight years in prison and began serving the term March 23, 2007.

The president made the announcement when he toured Buen Pastor prison in Desamparados. The visit was, in part, to honor mothers, and Arias said that mothers want to
celebrate the day with their children. The Día de la Madre is Friday.

Without the pardon, the woman would have had to serve time until Feb. 12, 2015. With good time she could have left Oct. 20, 2013. This is the fifth pardon authorized by the Arias cabinet. Such an action is typical around holidays.

Two women were pardoned for mother's day last year, and the cabinet pardoned a man and a woman in May.

Usually Casa Presidencial gives an explanation and reason for the pardon, but not this year. An eight-year prison term usually is what might be expected after the conviction of a trafficker or pusher.

Two men get 30-year sentences in Heredia murder of English teacher in 2007
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
A court in Heredia has sentenced two men to 30 years in prison each for the murder of an English teacher in July 2007. The victim was Esteban Solano Víquez, 25. Solano was an English teacher at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in los Yoses, according to reports at the time of his death.

On July 7, 2007, Solano and a group of friends stopped by a popular fast food restaurant in downtown Heredia,
according to the court release. Two men approached the  group of friends and threatened one of the women with a knife, telling her to hand over her belongings. Solano stepped between the woman, who has the last names Delgado Salazar, and the two men who threatened her. One of the men stabbed Solano in the stomach.

Police captured two suspects weeks later. The Tribunal de Juicio de Heredia court sentenced the men who have the last names Garita Matamoros and Soto Alvarado to 27 years for murder and three years for robbery.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 161

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Old pages

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 week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

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.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


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.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Two held as home invaders
in three Cartago crimes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents Wednesday detained two men they suspect were involved in at least three cases of violent home invasions in the Cartago area.

One was detained in a home in San Felipe de Alajuelita and the other in a home in Tejarcillos.

Agents said that the home invaders would wait outside a residence until a member of the family entered or left. They would take advantage of the open door or gate to burst in, tie up the occupants and take away any valuables.
Governors will meet
with Bolivia's Morales

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Five Bolivian opposition governors have agreed to meet with President Evo Morales in La Paz for a dialogue on the political crisis that threatens to divide the country.

The governors made their decision Wednesday after meeting among themselves in the city of Santa Cruz.

Morales invited them for talks after voters confirmed his mandate in Sunday's nationwide recall referendum.

Election officials said Wednesday that with most ballots counted, Morales has won 67 percent support.

The president has said the results validate his plans for reforms. The referendum was seen as a way to gauge support for the leftist leader's policies. Opposition conservative governors in eastern Bolivia have been pushing for more autonomy for their energy-rich region.

Eight of the country's nine governors also faced recall. Three of the governors — including two opponents of the president — were ousted.

Fidel Castro marks 82nd
with private birthday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has turned 82 years old.

The former president marked his birthday privately Wednesday. Castro has not been seen in public in more than two years.

In July 2006, he underwent emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding and ceded power to his younger brother, Raúl, on what was then a provisional basis. After nearly a half-century in power, Castro permanently stepped down in February and Raúl Castro was formally named president.

Cuban Olympic athletes Wednesday sent birthday messages to Fidel Castro from Beijing, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sent him a portrait of South American independence figure Simón Bolívar.

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

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