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(506) 2223-1327           Published Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 163          Email us
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infected coral
University of Georgia/James W. Porter
Human effect
on marine life


This is an example of white pox disease on the endangered elkhorn coral in the Florida Keys. White pox disease comes from organisms in human sewage, researchers just determined. When it infects coral, it causes white blotches by killing the coral tissue and revealing the coral’s white limestone skeleton underneath. 

Our story in HERE!



Prosecutors take action in three major criminal cases
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police and prosecutors detained 19 persons in the vicinity of Puntarenas Centro on allegations of robbery, threats, extortion and drug trafficking.  The Poder Judicial said 12 of the suspects are current police officers and that three were former police officers. One person detained was a priest from a Puntarenas church.

The arrests followed 15 raids in the area headed by organized crime prosecutors. All but the priest were being held overnight in cells of the Judicial Investigating Organization in San José. Court appearances are expected today.

But that was not the only action against corruption Wednesday. The Poder Judicial revealed that 11 prison guards were being questioned formally in the beating death May 21 of inmate Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez following an abortive breakout attempt May 11. No names were released, but such questioning is part of the process of leveling criminal allegations. The 11 are expected to be in court this morning, too. They were among more than 20 guards investigated in the case.

Meanwhile on the Caribbean side, a former mayor of Matina, two municipal workers and two employees of local firms were detained in an investigation of embezzlement of public funds. The original allegation came from the current municipal mayor.

The suspects were being held in Goicoechea but were appearing via video at a court hearing in Limón.

Agents had been investigating the Puntarenas situation since February, they said. The allegations run deep. The Roman Catholic priest, identified by the last names of Montes de Oca Cordero, went free Wednesday afternoon after being questioned.

That happened when the organized crime prosecutors determined that the priest would face a fraud charge but that his actions did not relate to
 the criminal framework that involved the other suspects, said the Poder Judicial. The priest was ordered to make himself available for additional questioning. The allegation is that he misappropriated donations made by churchgoers and turned the money over to the other individuals.

Those who remain detained were identified by the last names of Jiménez Fallas, Fait Montiel, Rosales Medina, Araya Villalobos, Mena Arrieta, Ramírez Díaz, Quesada Alvarez, Carballo Ugalde, Montes Carrillo, Montenegro Reina, Matarrita Aguirre and Boza Castillo, all active members of the Fuerza Pública. The former policemen have the last names of Guerrero Matarrita, Ulate Torrente and Arnett Barboza, said the Poder Judicial.

Private citizens who were detained have the last names of Mellado Centeno, Nuñez Marroquín and  Cordero Morales, the Poder Judicial said.

The 18 individuals are accused of conducting a reign of terror in their community by dealing in drugs, intimidating witnesses and threatening and extorting money from residents. The policemen identified by the last names of Jiménez Fallas and Fait Montiel were said to be leaders of the group.

The Matina case involves the ex-mayor, identified by the last names of Colphan Reid and two municipal employees, identified by the last names of Acevedo Calderón y Valverde Espinoza, said the Poder Judicial. The suspects who work for companies that sold supplies to the municipality were identified by the last names of Alvarado Lizano and Díaz Zeledón.

According to the Poder Judicial some 25 million colons authorized by the Asamblea Legislativa for various schools in the zone were misappropriated. That is about $50,000.

Prosecutors say that the money was paid to the firms to supply the items but that never happened. The prosecutors also contend that the purchase orders given the firms contained false signatures and stamps, said the Poder Judicial.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 163

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weather
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
Color of the low pressure areas reflects the possibilities.

Two more tropical waves
might affect weather here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two more tropical waves are headed in this direction, and one is just off the Caribbean coast.

The waves are those troughs of low pressure that sweep across the Atlantic from Africa and generally bring unstable weather.

The closest has a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. It is broad, spanning much of the western Caribbean.

The hurricane center said that the system is beginning to show signs of organization and environmental conditions appear ripe for the formation of at least a tropical depression, the center said. The system is moving west at 15 to 20 mph.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional in San José said Wednesday that hot morning temperatures and the general humidity that is coming in from the Pacific favors heavy storms and thunderstorms. There was rain in San José during the afternoon. The Caribbean was mostly dry, and the shower activity did not reach a level of major concern, despite the institute's warning. It said that some rivers might overflow.

However, the same conditions prevail today, and the institute expects more rain and electrical activity. But it also said that the humidity was diminished by the rains Wednesday.

The second tropical wave is still in the mid-atlantic. It is accompanied by showers, said the hurricane center. It is moving west at 15 mph, the center said. The center said that it did not expect much development in the next 48 hours but conditions could be more conducive for development later.

Although hurricanes almost never touch Costa Rica, their indirect effects can cause major damage. Tropical waves are associated with many of the major storms.


Robber kills jeweler, 33,
in Alajuela Centro stickup


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gunman killed an Alajuela jeweler Tuesday night as he left his workplace in the center of town and was walking to his vehicle to return home, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The man was identified by the last name of Ariel. He was 33, agents said.

Agents said they believe that the assailant took a briefcase the victim carried after shooting him in the head. The briefcase contained a device for pulverizing gold.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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 HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary






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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 163

Prisma dental

City and bank embark on project to create an urban forest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José and Banco Nacional have kicked off a project to plant 50,000 trees of native species in the city over the next five years. And the plan is that  bank customers will purchase trees for planting.

postal tree
Municipalidad de San José photo
Mayor Araya wiedles shovel to fill in around root ball.
Mayor Johnny Araya was among a group that planted the first tree on the east side of the Correos de Costa Rica headquarters Wednesday.

In a joint press release, the bank and the city outlined what is being called the foresta urbana or "urban forest." Araya has been promoting what he called the repopulation of the city center.

The trees are being called the lungs of the city that will reduce carbon dioxide and cool the air.

The municipality is putting in the first 3 million colons, about $6,000. It also will promote the project.

The bank is putting a link on its Web page so that customers can purchase one or more trees. Large companies also have been solicited.  Coca Cola FEMSA, the bottling firm and Yanber S.A., the plastics company, already have accepted, the release said.

The trees will be planted in three types of locations. The first is along the streets and sidewalks. They also will be planted in parks and also in protected areas along rivers and other waterways. Bushes also may be planted.

In addition to hardwood native species, palms will be planted, said the bank and the city.

The trees are not cheap. Planting one along a city street will cost a bank customer 30,000 colons or about $60. Trees in parks will cost 19,500 colons each, about $39. In the protected areas, the trees will cost 12,500 colons or about $25.

Banco Nacional will pay for the first 100. Initially the plantings will be in the central districts and then include other areas, the release said.

The release noted that passenger cars in the city may produce a ton of carbon dioxide a day. Some trees do well in city locations because they like carbon dioxide. Plants convert it to oxygen and cellular matter.









Police recruits graduated Wednesday make up a sea of blue as they listen to speeches by officials.

new cops
Casa Presidencial photo

President urges approval of new tax at police graduation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla called upon lawmakers to provide the money for resources as she participated at a graduation of two classes of police recruits.

She praised the 357 new members of the Fuerza Pública as making a sacrifice for their country.

The security ministry said that three more classes are in training, and these contain 550 more officers.

Ms. Chinchilla expects lawmakers to pass a $316 tax on each active corporation in the country to raise some 37 trillion colons, about $74 million, for security.

About $30 million is to support the new police schools. Casa Presidencial pointed out Wednesday that each new
officer costs nearly 3 million colons or about $6,000 during their six and a half months of basic training. There are more than 1,000 class hours.

Lawmakers have approved the corporate tax on first reading, but do not seem anxious to give it final approval. Inactive corporations will pay half.

The ceremony Wednesday was in the Plaza de la Democracia. The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that the new officers included 60 women and 297 men.

President Chinchilla has banked heavily on reducing crime by putting more officers on the street. However, persons in towns outside the metro area have reported an increase in criminality because crooks are moving from the more populated areas to the suburbs.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 163

Human sewage shown to be fatal to coral in Caribbean
EDITOR'S NOTE: What has been called Costa Rica's dirty little secret is the fact that most of the country's sewage ends up untreated in either the Pacific or the Caribbean. Nearly all Central Valley sewage drains through feeder rivers into the Río Grande de Tárcoles and then into the Gulf of Nicoya. Readers need to remember that when they swim or eat seafood, including shrimp. The following is a major breakthrough in studying the effects of human sewage on marine life.


By the University of Georgia News Service

A research team from Rollins College in Florida and the University of Georgia has identified human sewage as the source of the coral-killing pathogen that causes white pox disease of Caribbean elkhorn coral. Once the most common coral in the Caribbean, elkhorn coral was listed for protection under the U. S. Endangered Species Act in 2006, largely due to white pox disease. The team's findings have just been published in the peer-reviewed open access journal PLoS ONE.

Kathryn P. Sutherland, associate professor of biology at Rollins College, and her research collaborators, Erin K. Lipp and James W. Porter of the University of Georgia, have known since 2002 that the bacterium that killed coral was the same species as found in humans. "When we identified Serratia marcescens as the cause of white pox, we could only speculate that human waste was the source of the pathogen because the bacterium is also found in the waste of other animals," Sutherland said.

In order to determine a source for the pathogen, the research team collected and analyzed human samples from the wastewater treatment facility in Key West and samples from several other animals, such as Key deer and seagulls. While Serratia marcescens was found in these other animals, genetic analyses showed that only the strain from human sewage matched the strain found in white pox diseased corals on the reef. The final piece of the investigative puzzle was to show that this unique strain was pathogenic to corals.

With funding from Florida's Mote Marine Laboratory "Protect Our Reefs" grant program, Ms. Sutherland, Ms. Lipp and Porter conducted challenge experiments by inoculating fragments of coral with the strain found in both humans and corals to see if it would cause disease. The experiments were carried out in a laboratory in closed seawater tanks to eliminate any risk of infection to wild populations of corals.

"The strain caused disease in elkhorn coral in five days, so we now have definitive evidence that humans are a source of the pathogen that causes this devastating disease of corals," Ms. Sutherland said.

"These bacteria do not come from the ocean, they come from us," said Porter. Water-related activities in the Florida Keys generate more than $3 billion a year for Florida and the local economy. "We are killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and we've got the smoking gun to prove it," Porter said.

Serratia marcescens is also a pathogen of humans, causing respiratory, wound and urinary tract infections, meningitis, and pneumonia. Human diseases caused by this bacterium are
Health elkhorn coral
University of Georgia/James W. Porter
A healthy stand of endangered elk-horn coral is found on Sombrero Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  In the last 15 years, almost 90 percent of elkhorn populations in the Florida Keys have died, landing this once common coral on the endangered species list.

most often associated with hospital-acquired infections of newborn infants and immune-compromised adults. This research reveals a new disease pathway, from humans to wildlife, which is the opposite of the traditional wildlife-to-human disease transmission model. The movement of pathogens from wildlife to humans is well documented — for example, bird flu or HIV — but the movement of disease-causing microbes from humans to marine invertebrates has never been shown before. This is the first time that a human disease has been shown to cause population declines of a marine invertebrate.

"Bacteria from humans kill corals-that's the bad news," said Porter. "But the good news is that we can solve this problem with advanced wastewater treatment facilities," like one recently completed in Key West. "This problem is not like hurricanes, which we can't control. We can do something about this one," he said. The entire Florida Keys is in the process of upgrading local wastewater treatment plants, and these measures will eliminate this source of the bacterium.

The Rollins College and University of Georgia collaborative research group is currently funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the ecology of white pox disease in the Florida Keys. The five-year study will focus on mechanisms of transmission of the coral pathogen and the factors that drive the emergence and maintenance of white pox outbreaks, including water quality, climate variability and patterns of human population density. "We are concerned that disease incidence or severity may increase with rising temperatures," Lipp said, "reinforcing the importance of protecting near-shore water quality in a changing climate."

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 163

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chávez will nationalize
Venezuelan gold industry


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he plans to give the government exclusive control over the nation's gold mining industry to boost the country's international reserves.

Speaking on state television Wednesday, Chávez said he will issue a decree in the coming days to nationalize operations currently under the control of private and foreign companies.  Gold will be the latest sector in the Venezuelan economy to be put under state control by the socialist leader.

Venezuela has about $18 billion in gold reserves, but most of that amount, $11 billion, is held overseas.  Chávez agreed last year to allow private gold miners to export as much as 50 percent of their output.  But, in his latest remarks, Chávez said Venezuela cannot continue allowing its gold to be taken away, as he put it.

A Venezuelan opposition lawmaker said Tuesday the government is considering repatriating almost all of its gold reserves held abroad.


Shootout with military
kills seven traffickers


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Authorities in Mexico say seven suspected drug traffickers have been killed in a gunfight with army troops in the western state of Michoacan.

News reports say the gun battle erupted early Tuesday in the town of Tacambaro, as troops patrolled the area and encountered the traffickers.  Tacambaro is south of the state capital, Morelia.

Michoacan is the base for the drug cartel known as La Familia and has been the site of bloody, drug-related violence.  It is also the region where a drug gang calling itself Knights Templar has emerged as a spinoff from La Familia.

Michoacan is the home state of President Felipe Calderón, who launched a military crackdown on Mexico's drug cartels after taking office in late 2006.  Since then, more than 41,000 people have died in violence linked to the gangs.


Chávez and Ahmadinejad
will discuss oil prices


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The presidents of Venezuela and Iran have agreed to boost dialogue within the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries as global economic concerns impact world oil prices.

The Venezuelan government made the comment Tuesday, one day after President Hugo Chávez spoke with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by telephone.  The two leaders spoke ahead of next month's meeting in Caracas on strengthening political and economic cooperation between their two countries.

Both Venezuela and Iran belong to the organization known as OPEC.

Separately, both leaders discussed the conflicts in Libya and Syria.  A Venezuelan Foreign Ministry statement says the two have agreed to closely follow the situation in those countries and deepen efforts to achieve peace. The statement did not elaborate.

October, President Chávez met with Ahmadinejad in Caracas.  Both men said they were united in efforts to establish a new world order that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.  They also denounced what they called U.S. imperialism and said their opponents will not be able to impede cooperation between Venezuela and Iran.

Caracas and Tehran have solidified their political and trade ties in recent years.


U.N. unit plans 10-year study
of noise effects in ocean


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With noisy human activity on the world's oceans possibly disrupting the well-being of marine creatures, perhaps reducing their ability to find food, seek out mates or avoid predators, the United Nations is hosting a meeting to launch a decade-long investigation into the problem.

"Many marine species rely mainly on sound as a source of environmental information, in much the same way as human beings rely on their eyesight," the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Wednesday of the meeting, to be held at its Paris headquarters from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.

"Although very little research exists to prove any links, there is a growing suspicion that increasing noise levels, and some sounds in particular, are altering the behavior of marine animals and perhaps even reducing their capacity to perform normal life functions such as finding food, seeking out mates or avoiding predators.

"Evidence suggests, for example, that several whale species have raised the volume of the squeaks, clicks and moans by which they communicate with each other."

In light of the growing concern, fueled by the increasing industrialization of the oceans, leading marine scientists and representatives from the private sector and military establishments will use the meeting to plan the decade-long International Quiet Ocean Experiment aimed at filling the considerable knowledge gaps so that management of ocean noise can be more informed and effective.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 163

Costa Rica Reprot promo


Latin America news
Scammers revert to email
in lieu of newspaper ads


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Having been unsuccessful in placing an ad for cut-rate cell telephones in A.M. Costa Rica and associated titles, Nigerian marketers have turned to direct email.

And overnight they have become more sophisticated. Their emails are being sent through a notorious U.S. Internet server to avoid showing that they are located in Lagos.

They still are using a special type of British cell telephone that transfers the incoming call to other countries.

In addition, they have renamed their firm Apple Company because they are offering a number of Apple products.

“Customers never experience what is called Breach of contract since our operation, Fidelity guarantee our service,our product are  100% international waranty and guarantee,” says the email.

The prices are attractive. The email offers an Apple iPhone 4 with 16 gigabytes of memory for $350. That's less than half of the same device on Amazon.com. Other prices are similar.

They still have a ways to go. Other scammers have created fake Web sites to promote their legitimacy. One such site even cautions against sending money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Instead, it provides what is described as a trust service to protect buyers and uses a British bank account.

There also are seemingly unrelated sites that attest to the legitimacy of the fake Web site.


Trafficking trial starts
today in Santa Cruz


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man and his son will go on trial today in Santa Cruz on allegations that they ran a call girl ring and induced minors to join it.

The father has the last name of Pizarro Angulo, and the son has the names of Pizarro Nuñez.  Both were detained last September in an undercover operation. The principal customers of their organization were foreigners, said the Poder Judicial.

Some of the minors said they had been recruited under the false promise that they were involved with an academy for models and would be giving fashion shows at various bars in Sardinal and the Central Valley, said the Poder Judicial.

The women were involved in a photo shoot in Playa Panamá and later the undercover agent was asked to pick out a companion from the photos that were in an album, said the Poder Judicial. The payment was made with money marked previously by a judge, said the Poder Judicial.

Costa Rica is anxious to have some convictions for human trafficking, even if it is merely a local operation because it has been criticized by the United States for not doing enough to crack down on such practices.

The trial is scheduled for two days.



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