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(506) 223-1327                Published Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 165         E-mail us   
Jo Stuart
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Campaign over trade treaty begins to get interesting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With less than 50 days remaining until the nation votes on the free trade treaty with the United States, the gloves are coming off on both sides of the debate.

Both a support and an opponent of the free trade treaty report that they were roughed up over the weekend, and university students are planning a march today to protest an opinion of the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones.

Meanwhile, the Internet is becoming more interesting. Not only are more and more Web sites springing up, but some are fairly creative and filled with humor.

It was Fabio Chavez Castro, 52, who said he was beat up by anti-treaty activists in a Barrio México bar Friday night. He suffered a gash over his left eyebrow when a man kicked and pulled him and threw him into the street.

Chavez and others identified the aggressors as union leaders opposed to the free trade treaty.

Although he was not accused of fighting, Albino Vargas, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, was present, according to Chavez. That was enough for someone to create a moving Internet cartoon showing a Vargas likeness bashing Chavez over the head with a chair.

The poster boy for the no forces is Adrian Carranza. He is a university student who identified himself as a journalist with the anti-treaty Web site Carranza said (and has photos to support his claim) that he was roughed up Saturday by police in San Ramón when he was covering the activities of protesters there.

President Óscar Arias Sánchez was supposed to be there promoting the free trade treaty and so was the Unidad Intervención Policial, the tactical squad. Carranza's 16-year-old brother also was involved in the brief melee with police. Carranza said he suffered insults. Photos on the Web site show him having his shirt ripped off. Videos were distributed to national television stations. He said he spent two hours in jail.

Fernando Berrocal, minister of security, promised an investigation.

Even free trade proponents would have to agree
Arias of Hamblin cartoon shows Óscar Arias leading respected national institutions over a cliff.

that those against the treaty have been more creative in designing Web pages and adding humor to their arguments. The Web site has a full page of cartoons, including one that features Arias as the moronic cartoon character Pinky and his brother Rodrigo as The Brain repeating a version of the pair's signature line on the cartoon show:

"Rodrigo, what are we going to do tonight?"

"The same as we do every night, Oscarito. Try and get the trade treaty approved."

By contrast, the lead Web page of the backers of the treaty is dull.

The march today is said to be in defense of university autonomy. The Tribunal de Elecciones decided that universities should be bound by the same rules as everyone else: public employees should not spend public money or public time on the treaty campaign. Specifically the Universidad Nacional and the Universidad de Costa Rica object to a ruling that says public entities cannot place ads in the media urging a no vote Oct. 7.

The universities claim they have a higher authority, a constitutional clause, that gives employees the freedom to act according to the dictates of the university councils. All four public universities in Costa Rica appear to oppose the free trade treaty, and the rector or head of one is a principal spokesman against the document.

The members of the university community are planning to march to the tribunal building just west of Parque Nacional about 9 a.m. and then enjoy a concert in the Plaza de la Democracia afterwards.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 165

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White color in rice seen
as result of human effort

By the Cornell University News Service

Some 10,000 years ago white rice evolved from wild red rice and began spreading around the globe. But how did this happen?

Researchers at Cornell and elsewhere have determined that 97.9 percent of all white rice is derived from a mutation in a single gene originating in the Japonica subspecies of rice. Their report, published online in the journal PloS (Public Library of Science) Genetics, suggests that early farmers favored, bred and spread white rice around the world.

The researchers speculate that ancient farmers actively bred and spread white rice varieties first throughout the Himalayan region and then the rest of the world because the varieties cooked faster (requiring less fuel), their hulls were easier to remove compared with red rice, and disease and insects were easier to see amid the white grains. The farmers also may have favored one mutation over the other because it may have produced favorable grains more consistently, the researchers say.

In 2006 the researchers first identified the gene that makes the rice seed's bran layer, or pericarp, white. This gave rice breeders and engineers a genetic marker to help develop new breeds.

Researchers noted that due to the genetics of pericarp color in rice (white grain is recessive and maternally inherited), when white grains appear in the grain clusters on the stems, it is an indication that all seeds in the clusters will be white. Offspring from these seeds will continue to produce white-grain plants.

The researchers theorize that women who shucked rice for cooking thousands of years ago would have recognized the value of the white seeds and may have set aside selected clusters for breeding and planting.

Kin of Colombian hostages
seek help from Hugo Chávez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Relatives of Colombians kidnapped by leftist rebels have traveled to neighboring Venezuela to discuss the plight of the hostages with President Hugo Chávez and lobby for a humanitarian exchange.

Chávez has offered to engage in a dialogue with the rebel Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia whose captives include police officers, soldiers, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

Betancourt's mother was part of the delegation headed to Caracas, along with school teacher Gustavo Moncayo, whose son, a soldier, has been in rebel custody for several years. Moncayo recently walked halfway across Colombia to plead for a prisoner exchange with the rebels.

Chávez is expected to travel to Bógota in the coming days to discuss the hostage issue with his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe. Colombia has one of the world's highest kidnapping rates.

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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.


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A typical edition will consist of a front page and three other newspages. Sometimes there will be four additional newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 165

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The beauty of the metric system is that it is all related
By Martin Emanual*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is on the metric system. The United States is on a pints-gallons-pounds-acres-feet -yard system. Once you understand metrics, you can relate this to your everyday life. For instance, I read in A.M. Costa Rica that it rained 65mm in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste. Also, the report noted that 65mm is the same as 2.6 inches.

But what does 2.6 inches (or 2- 5/8”) of water really tell me?

Once we understand metrics, 65mm of water falling tells us that 1 square meter of that town got 65 liters of water. That’s 65 Dos Pinos milk cartons. So, 1 mm of water spread over 100cm x 100cm  (one square meter) is 1 liter. Also, that milk carton filled with 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilo.

Woah! 65 kilos — milk cartons — liters over every m2 in Guanacaste!!! A lot of water!

So, in the metric system, liquid, distance and weight are
metric system
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all related to each other. (Tape measures, sold in your
local feretería, include both meters and feet.)

But, tell me quickly, how many gallons, pints or cups is 2-5/8 inches spread over 1 square foot, or 1 square yard?

*Mr. Emanuel is from San Isidro, Heredia

Hurricane Dean put damper on beach holidays Monday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The unusual waves that lapped at the Caribbean coast Sunday night and Monday caused residents of Cieneguita and Barrio Quinto, to abandon their homes and head for higher ground in Corrales and Pacuare. 

The waves, estimated Sunday at as much as 5 meters (16 feet), crashed over the seawall in Limón centro and flowed down at least two city blocks, according to a resident who is a reader. The high surf was blamed on Hurricane Dean.

All Monday higher than normal waves were hitting the seawall and crashing onto the coast at Limón.

The situation was a letdown for those who were at the coast for a holiday. Monday was the last day of a three-day weekend, and visitors and residents alike usually hit the surf.

That was not to be. One couple who tried it were summarily ordered off the beach.

About 7:30 a.m. Monday on Playa Moín, two tourists, Jan Sampson from England and Alan Thomas from the United States, were walking in shallow water, when two motorcycle policemen ordered them, nicely, out of the water, said the reader. The policemen said that as the sea 
was unstable and too unpredictable for anyone to enter. 

Police then resumed patrolling the beach, presumably keeping others out of the surf.

Although Dean continues to move north and west, the effects of the near category 5 storm are still being felt here. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that westerly winds caused by the storm will continue today. The Pacific slope will be rainy and the Pacific Ocean will be unstable due to the backhand of the storm.

Forecasters expect the hurricane to make a direct hit today on the eastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula. In the Mexican resort town of Cancun, scores of tourists packed the airport in search of flights leaving the area ahead of the storm. Mexico's state oil company also evacuated workers from oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, according to wire service reports.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center called the storm potentially catastrophic. In a report just after midnight today the service said that the eye of the storm was expected to make landfall in a few hours. Belize was included in the storm danger area.

After crossing the Yucatan, the storm is expected to make landfall again on the central Mexican Caribbean coast.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 165

Cultural critic says Immigrants are cambiandoing English
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

English is a living, dynamic language that is invigorated by new speakers, including foreign students, tourists and immigrants, says cultural critic Ilan Stavans.

Even native English speakers never use the exact same language, Stavans said in an interview. “As the language changes, often as a result of newcomers, so do its speakers.”

For example, the mixing of Chinese and English, Korean and English, Japanese and English, and Vietnamese and English are worldwide phenomena, Stavans said. Within the United States, Asian immigrants are using English as their language of communication while also infusing it with their own linguistic attributes. Stavans predicts that English in the late 21st century will borrow from the constellation of Asian languages in unforeseen ways.

“It is a mistake to think of the English taught in the classroom as divorced from the living English, the one heard on the street, in restaurants, on TV and music,” according to Stavans. Teachers should introduce students, even beginners, to the wide array of possibilities of a language, he added. “In a multiethnic society like ours, it is important to use different linguistic varieties as education tools.”

Spanglish is a hybrid form of English and Spanish especially popular among young people, and one of the most striking ways language evolves in response to immigration and globalization, according to Stavans.

In the last five years, Spanglish has become an important marketing tool in the United States, Stavans said. Such
 companies as Taco Bell, Hallmark and Mountain Dew are using Spanglish to reach a new type of customer.

In a global economy, companies seek diverse ways to advertise their products, and those ways often include an array of linguistic possibilities, according to Stavans.

Translators play an especially important role in understanding innovations in language –— to be successful they need to be attuned to two languages and must be willing to improvise, “perhaps even to coin new terms,” Stavans said.

The characters in a novel seldom use a standard language to communicate, Stavans said.  Instead, they personalize the language, adapting it to their needs, making the language local. A good translator is also an ethnolinguist, capable of recreating the various sounds or tone of spoken language, Stavans said.

One of Stavans’ favorite Spanglish words is estressar, which expresses a very modern form of anxiety, in English to be stressed out.  Some Spanglish words render an English word — average, for example — in a form easier for Spanish speakers to say: averaje (a-ve-RAH-je).

Others show the wit and imagination characteristic of all slang: someone who is assimilating may be referred to as an avocado, or a dynamic female may be referred to as an aeróbica (ay-RO-bi-ka).

Stavans teaches at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and is an internationally known cultural critic, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer and TV host.

Controversial Canadian-U.S.-México summit ends today
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada conclude their private summit talks today at a Canadian resort. The leaders are focusing on economic and security issues.

They are looking for ways to make the North American Free Trade Agreement more efficient by facilitating the flow of goods and services across safe borders, according to the official version.

It is a matter of extreme economic importance. Canada is the United States' biggest trading partner, and Mexico is not far behind. Energy exports — primarily oil — are paramount.

Regional experts, such as David Biette, say the stakes are high.

"It is important that we be able to get the things that we need as Americans in our stores and for our businesses easily and without a lot of worry that they are going to get stuck at the border," said David Biette.

Biette is the Director of the Canada Institute at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. He says the three leaders have to increase border security without creating obstacles to trade.

"It is working together, assessing risk and keeping the bad guys out and keeping good stuff going," he said. "And that
 works on the Canada-U.S. border as well as the Mexico-U.S. border. There is a lot of work to do there."

The White House says no major announcements are expected to emerge from this North America summit. U.S. officials say the goal is to give the three leaders an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to a prosperous and secure hemisphere.

They will do so under the auspices of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, or SPP, an initiative begun in 2005. Opponents on the left say the whole idea is merely a way to put more money in the pockets of big business, while those on the right fear it would lead to a European Union-style super-government in North America.

Armand Perschard, head of the Mexico program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said critics are playing to the fears of people in all three countries.

"I tend to see that there is a nationalistic segment of society in all three countries that tend to be the globo-phobes of the three societies," said Perschard. "They tend to look at the SPP negatively in a sense because they see the deepening integration of North America as something that would be counter-productive and something that would be an encroachment on the sovereignty of the three nations."

Thousands of protesters have vowed to disrupt the summit.

Three-meter-high fences were erected around the grounds of the luxury resort housing the talks to keep them away.

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