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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 163
Jo Stuart
About us
Photo by Claudio Granados Gómez
Those great photos just keep coming in!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not everyone got a chance to enter photos in our contest that concluded Monday with the announcement of the last winner. Photos are still coming in, and some participants entered shots from outside Costa Rica that still are worth seeing.

So from time to time we will publish these photos as an encouragement to the art in Costa Rica. And it is no secret that there is great 
public demand for a second annual contest with a deadline of April 15, 2004. Rules will be

announced in a month or two, but they will be basically the same as the rules this year. 

However, photos that we run now will not be eligible to participate in the 2004 contest.

A.M. Costa Rica, from time to time, also purchases photos of spot news events. 

The photo above is the work of Claudio Granados Gómez, 16. The photo is of the Arenal Volcano taken from Granados’ home in La Fortuna one March afternoon when the ash and activity of the volcano merged with the sunset.

Check out our Sports photos HERE!
Scenic photos HERE! 
Wildlife photos HERE!
and People pixs HERE!
Lawmakers get chance to work on registry law
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch has sent lawmakers a measure that would create a national registry of persons who have committed crimes against young people.

Included in the package were a bundle of press freedom measures, too.

The legislature is meeting in extraordinary session during August when it can only consider measures suggested by the executive branch.

The registry measure is called the Katia y Osvaldo law because of the two children who died at the hands of abductors. The actual content of the specific law was not available Monday night, but the general idea is to have a law that allows police officers to keep track of potential child molesters living in the area.

The measure, as passed in the United States as 

Megan’s Law, has several forms. The most demanding is a version that requires police to notify neighbors when someone with a criminal record of acts against children moves into the neighborhood.

The law commemorates Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 9, who was found buried under a neighbor’s floor in the Quesada Duran section of San José July 10, and Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, then 3, who vanished when a neighbor took him from his home June 4, 2002.

The suspect in the González case has a criminal record of abduction and rape.

Both the Katia and Osvaldo measure and the press freedom proposals were active in the current legislature. The executive action was made Monday by acting President Linneth Saborío Chaverri and Ricardo Toledo, minister of the Presidencia. President Abel Pacheco is visiting Taiwan.

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Harlem Ballet performers head here to African fest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Members of the famous Ballet of Harlem from New York and the Steel Band of Trinidad and Tobago will be some of the featured performers next week in the V Festival Flores de la Diáspora Africana.

According to Carol Britton, a key figure in organizing the activities, the festival is a way to break the silence over the true history of Africa and its descendents.

The event will be Aug. 21 and 22 at the Museo Nacional just east of the Plaza de la Democracia in San Jose’s downtown and in Limón, the unofficial capital of Costa Rica’s Caribbean culture.

Calypso, rhythm and blues, jazz and gospel are among the many musical mainstreams of black culture here and elsewhere. These will be represented by foreign and Costa Rican groups.

Each year this event brings together some 25,000 persons both in San José and at locations near Limón.

A release said that attending this year would be Gospel Master Key, Calypso Chacrá, the Big Band de Costa Rica, the Squad de Rythm and Jazz and Chucho Valdés Jr.

From New York, in addition to soloists from the Ballet of Harlem, will be the Opus Dance Theater. The ballet is considered the most important center of Afro-style choreography in the United States and the world.

From Barbados, the National Folkloric Company will bring popular, reggae, soca and calypso music.

And for those with more interest than music, the museum said that it would host an international chef who would offer the public a gastronomical tour of the cuisine of descendents of Africans in Costa Rica, Perú and Trinidad and Tobago.

A Brazilian dance group also is expected along with photographic expositions and other activities.

The organizer of the event is the Fundación Arte y Cultura para el Desarrollo, and admission is 1,000 colons a person, some $2.50. Additional information is available at 253-9814.

The museum is involved because administrators consider the event to be high in cultural value, it said in the release.

Francisco Corrales, director general of the musem and an internationally known archaeologist, said:

"We ought not lose sight of the fact that the Costa Rica of today is a product of mixing among the Indigenous, whites, Negroes and other human groups that in different periods and for many years arrived in our land bringing their new customs, enriching the cultural diversity of our country."

Given this diversity, Ms. Britton said she considered the festival a form of education about tolerance and respect that residents ought to have for the ethnic and cultural diversity of Costa Rica.

Neighbor held in murder of 65-year-old woman
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Add a 65-year-old woman to the mounting murder toll. She was found about 2 p.m. Sunday by a family member in her home in Platanares de Buenos Aires in southern Costa Rica.

Investigators identified her as Ofilia Elizondo Rodríguez. She was battered all over her body and head with an object. A spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said she had been raped.

Agents quckly located a suspect. A neighbor, 44-year-old Hipólito Ortiz Rojas, had been living in the area for at least two months. Agents discovered that he was the subject of a capture 

order issued by the Juzgado Zona Atlantico to face an allegation of aggression. When agents searched his premises, they said they found jewelry belonging to the dead woman.

The death comes in a three-day weekend that saw the murder of two security guards and a resident of Paso Canos near the Panamanian border. A third security guard also died on the job, but his death may have been suicide.

In addition seven persons died in traffic accidents Saturday and Sunday. The latest was José Angulo Briceño, 66, who died about 5 p.m. Sunday at La Cuesta Corredores in southern Costa Rica when a car left the highway and ran him over as he waited for a friend.

West Nile virus feared
spreading illness here

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An education campaign is under way in the Western Hemisphere to warn about the dangers of contracting the West Nile virus, which in its severest form can cause meningitis, encephalitis, and death. The mosquito-born virus has come to Latin America.

The campaign by the Pan American Health Organization responds to the growing risk in the Americas of catching the virus. The organization said in a statement that West Nile is "progressing" in the Western Hemisphere, in Africa, and in the Middle East.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in an update on the situation that 470 cases of West Nile virus have been reported in the United States so far in 2003. During 2002, 4,156 cases were reported in the United States, with 284 resulting deaths. 

West Nile gets its name from the part of Uganda where the virus was first identified in 1937. Prior to 1999, the virus had only been identified in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. West Nile was first detected in the United States in 1999, when 62 cases and seven deaths from the virus were reported in the New York City area. Since then, West Nile has spread into Canada and Latin America.

Mosquitoes become West Nile carriers by feeding on infected birds. Infected mosquitoes can then spread West Nile to humans and other animals when they bite. Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent contracting the virus, said the Centers for Disease Control. The agency also recommends cleaning out mosquitoes from the places where a person lives and works, and wearing protective clothing and applying insect repellents when outside.

"We have to be concerned with mosquitoes that bite birds and humans," said Joxel Garcia of the Pan American Health Organization. "But you are going to find mosquitoes like that all through the entire Western Hemisphere. So one of the things in which we have to work very aggressively is to educate the people" to protect themselves.

Colombia’s Uribe met
with rural gunfire

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BOGOTA, Colombia — Gunfire erupted near a village in northeast Colombia as President Alvaro Uribe arrived for a visit on Sunday. 

No one was reported injured in the attack that authorities blamed on members from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). 

Urbie's helicopter turned around before reaching the village of Granada where the suspected rebels opened fire. 

A spokesman for the president said a helicopter carrying Uribe's security team later fired into the jungle where the shots originated, but there was no word if any guerrillas had been hit. 

The president left his wife in a nearby town and then later returned to Granada to mark the reconstruction of the village which was destroyed by FARC rebels in 2000. 

The suspected assassination attempt was the latest close-call for Uribe since becoming president. In past attempts, FARC rebels are blamed for placing a car-bomb in his vehicle and firing mortars during his presidential swearing-in ceremony. 

U.S. moves against
EU’s genetic food ban

By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

The United States, backed by Canada and Argentina, has formally complained to the World Trade Organization that the European Union ban on genetically modified food is illegal. 

Washington calls the European Union's refusal to import genetically modified food discriminatory and illegal under international trade rules. It says no scientific evidence exists to show that the crops harm human health or the environment as the Europeans claim. 

The EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy, calls the U.S. move unnecessary litigation. He says the European rules governing genetically modified food are clear, transparent and non-discriminatory. 

Under WTO rules on the settlement of trade disputes, the European Union is allowed to temporarily delay investigation. But the dispute panel will be automatically formed at the end of the month, when Washington is expected to repeat its request. 

Last month, the European Union ended a five-year moratorium on biotech products, but said these products had to be labeled as such. U.S. farmers say the labeling will be costly and an unfair trade barrier. 

If the WTO dispute panel sides with Washington, the United States, Canada, and Argentina, would be allowed to impose trade sanctions on Europe. American farmers estimate they have lost about $300 million a year because of EU restrictions on corn exports. 

The panel's decision can be appealed, and the process could take up to 18 months. 

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A face only a dentist could love. This is a cast of the skull of the new dinosaur with a small horn on top. The fossil dates from 65 million years ago.
University of Chicago photo by Wendy Taylor
First-ever dino skull find delights team in India
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A joint Indian-American research team reports that a stocky, carnivorous dinosaur with an unusual head crest has been identified from bones collected in India.

A press release says the dinosaur, whose 65-million-year-old bones were found near the Narmada River in western India, has been named Rajasaurus narmadensis. The discovery includes the first skull ever assembled of a dinosaur of any kind in India.

University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, one of the researchers involved in the assembly of the dinosaur, said the creature lived at about the time the age of dinosaurs came to a close. "It was a significant predator that was related to species on continental Africa, Madagascar and South America," he said.

The nine-meter-long (29-foot) dinosaur was heavy
and strong, and had a distinctive look because of a

  bone that protruded from the top of its head, thought to be some kind of horn. 

Dinosaur skeletons are rare in India, in part because the terrain renders many of the key geological formations inaccessible to digging. However, a major Indian expedition to the Narmada region in 1983 collected hundreds of dinosaur bones. 

It was from this collection of bones, stored at a geological survey office in Jaipur, India, that the research team was recently able to assemble the skeleton of Rajasaurus.

Co-leader Jeff Wilson said the dinosaur was heavy and strong and would have pursued a diet that included the long-necked, plant-eating sauropod dinosaurs that roamed the Narmada region. It had a distinctive look, he said: 

"There is a bone that protruded from the top of its head, so we think it had some kind of horn on top -- its closest relatives had either one horn or two." 

Smallpox shots may last longer than first thought
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study shows that older U.S. citizens may be less vulnerable to a possible bio-terrorist attack using the smallpox virus than previously thought.

The study conducted by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University shows that the vast majority of Americans vaccinated against smallpox more than 25 years ago may still have a substantial level of immunity to the fatal virus. Some 120 million Americans were vaccinated against smallpox more than 30 years ago. Until now, the vaccine has been assumed to offer its best protection for only three to five years.

The university study also concluded that in the long run, repeated vaccinations do not result in a higher level of disease protection. The researchers studied more than 300 people who had been vaccinated, some several times.

But some experts say they are not reassured by the new study. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease cautioned that the relationship between immune response and real protection from disease is still not well understood. He also noted that the finding

does not address the fact that half of Americans have never been vaccinated for smallpox.

Currently, the U.S. government requires about one half million military personnel to get the smallpox vaccination. 

The Bush administration is also seeking to voluntarily immunize several million medical and emergency personnel who could be immediately exposed to smallpox in any outbreak. However, fewer than 40,000 workers have so far volunteered to receive the vaccination.

Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, but the U.S. government believes some groups may have developed the virus for use as a biological weapon. The United States and Russia kept samples.

A panel of U.S. scientists recently suggested that most Americans should not get vaccinated for smallpox unless they remain under medical supervision after the inoculation. 

The panel emphasized that the risk of a biological attack using smallpox is only theoretical, while noting the side effects carry greater risks than other inoculations. 

Argentina shows some growth but still struggles
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Less then two years after suffering a disastrous financial collapse, Argentina's economy is growing once again. But many Argentines say their personal fortunes remain bleak and that they see little, if any, improvement in their country's economic performance. 

Near the end of 2001 Argentina took drastic measures in a desperate attempt to remain financially solvent. The government froze bank accounts, slashed pensions, and cut public-sector salaries and spending. 

Nothing seemed to help. In December 2001, Argentina defaulted on its massive $132 billion foreign debt. Two presidents resigned in as many weeks. 

A new president, Eduardo Duhalde, abandoned a 10-year program that had kept the peso pegged one-to-one to the U.S. dollar. Argentina's currency promptly lost more than 70 percent of its value.

Then-President Duhalde compared Argentina's woes to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"You saw what happened in the United States on September 11th, a tremendous tragedy," he said. "Here in Argentina, we are suffering something equally horrific, but something that is happening every day and consuming us bit by bit, like a slow-motion explosion." 

Today, Argentina has another president, Nestor Kirchner, and an economy that is currently growing at a 5.5 percent annual rate. But for millions of unemployed Argentines, life remains excruciatingly difficult. Among them is 25-year-old Alejandro Gómez, who lost his job as a telemarketer in 2001.

"I have been without work for more than a year and a half," Gómez said, "and cannot find anything. He says he has been able to survive thanks to his parents, who have helped him. Otherwise, I would be picking through garbage to eat."

Nearly one in four Argentines is without work. Many who do have jobs have been forced to accept low-paying positions they would never have considered just a few years ago. Sociologist Graciela Romer says, in less than two years, 

Argentina has witnessed the near-complete disappearance of its middle class.

"Argentina, a country once known for its vibrant middle class, has seen the emergence of a new class of poor people: former-middle class citizens whose incomes have fallen so far as to leave them impoverished," she said. "Today there is an inverse social mobility in which young people are finding themselves worse off then their parents."

Ms. Romer says the crisis has been accompanied by a surge in crime and suicide.

"The rate of teenage suicide in Argentina has increased by 80 percent since 1994," she said. "This is indicative of a country where young people have no future." 

President Kirchner has launched modest programs to help struggling families pay for groceries and to spark employment at the micro-economic level. But he is constrained by a treasury that is all but bankrupt, and international creditors who demand tough austerity measures as a condition for renegotiating Argentina's debt.

President Kirchner's spokesman, Miguel Nuñez, says Argentina wants to satisfy its creditors. But he adds that, in the short term, the country must focus on immediate needs.

Nuñez says Argentina must think about its own people and reconstruct its economy according to three principles: reviving its exports, import substitution, and boosting domestic consumption.

Andrew Powell, who served as chief economist at Argentina's Central Bank from 1996 to 2001, says  President Kirchner has some breathing room.

"There is a strong trade surplus, so Argentina has been earning dollars, and reserves are stable or actually slightly increasing," he said. "But there is no new borrowing and very little investment from outside of the country. Going forward, I do not think that situation is going to change until the debt is renegotiated and the local financial system is put on a sure footing. At the same time, it is not obvious to me that Argentina needs credit, at this stage, to be able to grow."

But Powell says Argentina cannot delay painful decisions forever, and that a day of reckoning with its creditors will one day be at hand. 

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