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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 166       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A guest editorial
Eating fish: Facts many do not want to hear
By Capt. Paul Watson*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

It looks like the fish are turning the tables on humanity. Not by choice, but because ecological realities have boomeranged back upon humankind.

Tins of tuna fish now contain warnings that the product should not be eaten by pregnant women or young children because of high levels of mercury and other toxic heavy metals. The tuna companies and the government have decided that men and non-pregnant women are expendable. Anything to protect the unborn fetus, of course. After we’re born, we’re on our own to play toxic roulette.

Farm raised salmon contain antibiotics, growth hormones and even a dye to color the flesh a pleasing pink while still alive.

Long living fish like halibut, cod, orange roughy and swordfish contain large amounts of heavy metals. When you can live over a century like a halibut, you accumulate decades of toxins. When you live high up on the food chain, you build up mercury and other heavy metals.

Orcas in the Pacific Northwest are the most chemically contaminated animals in the world. Beluga whales in the St. Lawrence are treated as toxic waste when they die.

We treat the oceans like sewers and then act surprised that the fish that is eaten is polluted.

If you flushed your toilet through your refrigerator every morning, dousing all your food with fecal material and urine, would you then have that food for lunch or dinner?

Humans can be willfully blind and deliberately ignorant when it comes to food. We would never eat a piece of fish sitting in a bowl of mercury, arsenic and PCB’s garnished with a lump of human fecal material on top. Yet when the lump of crap is brushed off and the toxins washed away, we serve up that lump of sautéed toxic fish flesh without a thought of what has penetrated the cells of the meat.

The federal government of Canada has just allocated $190,000 to investigate the impact of traditional fish diets on West coast native communities.

Canadian Inuit have exceptionally high levels of toxic contaminants in their bodies because of their traditional reliance on whales and seals. The study currently being undertaken on Canada’s west coast will reveal how high the level of contaminants are among Pacific Northwest First Nations.

I predict that the study will reveal that over 100 West coast aboriginal communities are indeed facing a crisis of increasing levels of toxicity in the fish they eat.

This crisis is not one created by the activities of most native people but is the consequence of mining, logging, sewage, manufacturing and salmon farming. Clear-cutting, agricultural run-off and mine tailings are actions that invite ecological consequences.

The chemical stew includes dioxins, furans, PCBs, flame retardants and DDT, mercury, arsenic and lead, all of which can accumulate in the bodies of humans and animals.

Quatsino First Nation Chief Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, who was raised in the traditional style on the northwest tip of the island, said in a recent interview that in a recent seven-day period, she ate salmon and crab on four of the days.

Unfortunately for the chief and her people this is no longer a healthy diet.

On the other side of the world in the Faeroe Islands about halfway between Iceland and Scotland, the level of mercury toxicity in the brains of Faeroese children is the highest in the world. Mercury literally eats away brain tissue. Faeroese health officials are now world experts on Minamata disease, which is the name given to mercury poisoning.

I, myself, was raised in a fishing village on

Canada’s east coast. The staples of my childhood were lobster, scallops, clams, cod, flounder, and smelts. We did not eat mussels because they were considered dirty. Today the restaurants in my hometown serve mussels because they are the most common shellfish that remains. They are even dirtier today than they were three decades ago.

It is hard to have an appetite for clams when the mud they are being dug from reeks of raw purplish oozing sewage.

I’ve given up “seafood.”  I don’t have the ability of disassociation needed to separate the realities of over-exploitation and toxicity from the food that I eat.

And eating the flesh of mammals and birds instead still does not alleviate the pressure on marine wildlife. More than 50 percent of the biomass taken from the sea is converted to fish meal to be fed to domesticated land animals. We have literally converted herbaceous mammals like cows, sheep, pigs and sheep into the world’s foremost aquatic predators.

The main staple of the puffin in the North Sea, the sand eel, has been so overly exploited by Danish fisheries for animal feed that puffins have starved by the thousands.

A great percentage of the fish caught off Chile goes to feed the ever-expanding populations of farmed salmon. It takes dozens of fish snatched from the sea to raise just one farmed raised Atlantic salmon.

The number of domestic housecats throughout the world actually consume more tuna than all the world’s seals combined. This kind of biological upheaval in feeding patterns is having serious environmental consequences.

And then to add insult to injury, humans point an accusatory finger at seals, dolphins, sea-birds and whales and whine that diminished fish populations have been caused by these aquatic predators. At the same time they suggest that humans are innocently just trying to feed their families and enjoy a prawn cocktail.

This disassociation has gone so far that recently a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals attempted to host a live crab boil where they would have inflicted cruelty on some sea-animals to raise funds to prevent cruelty to cute and cuddly land animals.

We humans can justify anything and everything we do.

In the end, nature bats last, and the fish are having their revenge as the natural reaction to our ecologically criminal actions kicks into high gear.

But telling people that smoking causes cancer does not deter some people from smoking and telling people that eating fish can kill you will most likely not deter some people from eating fish.

They prefer to continue playing toxic roulette.
*Captain Watson is the founder and president  of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  The ships operated by the Sea Shepherd Society serve only vegan meals. Capt. Watson has been active in fighting the shark finning trade in Costa Rica.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 166

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Immigration scofflaws get
a new lockup in Hatillo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials will be inaugurating a new lockup for foreigners this morning.

This is the place where illegal aliens are housed along with those suspected of being illegal. This also is where foreigners being expelled spend their last days in Costa Rica.

The new location is in Hatillo Centro on San José south side.

The center is supposed to be para extranjeros en tránsito, according to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.  But don't expect cocktails like at some V.I.P. lounge at the airport.

The new immigration jail replaces the one that was housed in the former Delta Uno Fuerza Pública headquarters on Avenida 3 near Parque España. The police headquarters moved to the west, and the immigration jail had to vacate.

In Costa Rican terms the new lockup is 75 meters south of the Clínica Solón Núñez.

Legion post now has
a ladies auxiliary

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 14 woman have become charter members of the new Ladies Auxiliary of American Legion Post 16.

Victoria Chaves of San Ramon is president, Enid Phelps of Heredia is secretary and Ofelia Crowninshield of Santa Rosa de Santo Domingo is treasurer, the legion reported.

The Ladies Auxiliary will be meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at the Hotel Americana in Heredia. Further information is available from
Ms. Chaves at 391-3323, Ms. Phelps at 261-2240, or the post adjutant, Kenneth Johnson, at 591-1695.

The post is named in honor of Sergeant First Class Raymond Edison Jones, Jr., who died in Iraq and had relatives here.

Three die near Puntarenas
in spectacular crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A spectacular crash involving two tractor-trailers and two passenger cars killed three persons and blocked the Interamericana highway in Barranca for more than four hours Monday.

One of the trucks burst into flames after the crash. One of the truckers died as did two local women in a passenger car that was caught between the two trucks.

The site was in front of the Refinadora Costarricense de Petroleo plant where the road is just two lanes. The crash happened about 1 p.m. Barranca is near Puntarenas.

Mother's Days benefit
gift store operators

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Merchants were counting their winnings Monday night after have benefited from two Mother's Days in the same week.

Stores were doing a brisk business Monday with those who had put off until the last minute a gift for Mom.

Traditional Mother's Day is Aug. 15. But a law passed last year moves the official recognition of the day and the legal holiday to the next Monday to provide Costa Ricans with a three day weekend.

There is strong sentiment to move the day back to where it was, and a proposed law may be introduced to that effect.

This year, the wise offspring brought gifts to Mom last Tuesday and again Monday. Mother occupies a nearly divine position in the Costa Rican family, so observance of Mother's Day is just a step down from Christmas.

The weather cooperated, too. The skies, although cloudy, did not dump a lot of rain.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says that the Central Valley and the north Pacific will experience less rain, thanks to a change in weather patterns. Rain will be isolated in the Central Pacific but more general in the south Pacific, the institute said.

Bush OKs continuing
to target drug planes

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

President George Bush has authorized the U.S. Department of State to continue assistance to Colombia in carrying out an Airbridge Denial Program that targets civil aircraft "reasonably suspected of trafficking in illicit drugs," said the White House.

The White House explained that the president's authorization was granted after determining that Colombia "has put in place appropriate procedures to protect against the loss of innocent life in connection with interdiction operations."

The program began in the early 1990s, and it operates in Peru as well as in Colombia.  However, it temporarily was suspended following the April 2001 accidental shootdown by the Peruvian air force of an aircraft carrying U.S. missionaries.  The incident, triggered by a mistaken belief that the airplane was being used to transport illicit drugs, caused the deaths of Baptist missionary Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter.  The program was resumed only after the governments of Peru, Colombia and the United States jointly established a new series of safety procedures to prevent similar tragedies.

Reintroduced in Colombia in August 2003, the denial program is part of a broader counternarcotics effort that entails close cooperation between Colombia and the United States.  Among U.S. federal agencies, the State Department takes the lead in coordinating assistance with the government of Colombia.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 166

A better idea for fiscal responsibility
By the A.M. Costa Rica humor staff

The A.M. Costa Rica Fiscal Study and Beer Drinking Committee has announced its plan to fix up the country's finances.

A current proposal in the Asamblea Legislativa, put forth by the Arias administration, seeks to tax corporations $200 each a year with the hope that the number of registered companies will diminish.

Coincidentally, the AMCRFSABDC has suggested taxing politicians $2,000 each a year in hopes of the same outcome: fewer politicians.

Thursday the chief prosecutor appeared before lawmakers and said the national drug institute was worthless and should be abolished, saving millions of colons a year.

The AMCRFSABDC disagrees and thinks that the drug institute should tax drugs. Considering the massive amounts of white powder smuggled through the country and the hectares of the tall green weed growing all over, a small levy would be enough to make the nation the financial powerhouse of the 21st century.

After all, the only thing officials do now when they capture a load is burn it. Mostly.

But then the AMCRFSABDC says the Banco Central de Costa Rica should be abolished. These are the guys with the power to print money, and they still ran up a $2.8 billion deficit. Talk about management. And the nifty facilities at Avenida Central and Calle Central could be turned into a new Casa Presidencial, eliminating the plan to spend millions on new structures around Parque Nacional.

Speaking of buildings, the Asamblea Legislativa complex on Cuesta de Mora is overrun with rats. We
are talking about the four-legged kind. There are also serious structural problems way too expensive for financially strapped Costa Rica to repair.

So the AMCRFSABDC thinks the country should do what it did with the docks on the Pacific at Caldera. A concession could be granted for an Asamblea Legislativa. In exchange for an extensive private investment to fix up the sagging physical plant, a private contractor could hold hearings and make and unmake laws for the next 20 years.

A private legislative contractor would be able to raise the level of discourse by importing jesters from all over instead of just Costa Rica.

What to do about the country's big deficit? The 13 percent tax on professionals proposed by the Arias administration seems fruitful. It's a great idea: Make the tax laws so complex that everyone needs an accountant, and then add a tax to their accountancy bill.

And then there are the professional ladies working the bars. The AMCRFSABDC thinks they should pay a value-added tax, too, but a proportional tax based on . . . . Well, you know.

The beer drinkers on our committee also think that great strides could be made in the collection of taxes. Tributación, the tax collecting agency, has been getting instructions from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. That's because the IRS did such a good job up north that their own mothers won't talk to them.

But our committee thought that a change in tactics is called for. President Óscar Arias wants to tax the daylights out of the rich to provide for the poor. The committee thinks the rich should give the money directly to the poor eliminating the government bureaucracy.

Audubon name creates a flap for Bocas development
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sociedad Audubon de Panamá is irked that a Bocas de Toro developer has incorporated a certification from Audubon International in its environmental application for its Red Frog Beach Club.

The Panamá society came out with a press release disclaiming any knowledge of Audubon International and said the organization has no relationship with the Panamá organization or the National Audubon Society in the United States, The Panamá group was critical of the project developers,  Pillar Panamá, and the firm that prepared the environmental submission, Ingemar Panamá.

But it turns out that there is an Audubon International, one of the unaffiliated Audubon groups in the United States. This one is located in New York. It is a not-for-profit educational organization, according to its Web site.
The New York group has a certification program for golf courses. In fact, it is critcized on yet another Web site, this one in Texas, for being too close to the golf industry.  The organization receives money from the U.S. Golf Association, its Web page said.

Red Frog Beach Club says it has a World class Arnold Palmer golf course in the design stage and a 100-slip marina. A promotional video on its Web site shows no significant construction.

Said the company: "The final result will be over 1,700 acres total, 3 miles of beachfront, and 1,000 meters of seafront. Red Frog Beach will eventually include over 250 single-family lots and 550 condo units. The total amount of units will be near 800 units."

The development is on Isla Bastimentos, one of the islands that makes up Bocas. The location is just south of the Costa Rican border at Sixaola in Panamá eiher via Changuinola or Almirante. 

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 166

Other nations asked to pressure for change in Cuba
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The European Union and other members of the global community can play an important role in helping Cuba make a transition to democracy, said Thomas Shannon, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

In a video conference last week with an audience in the Czech Republic's capital of Prague, Shannon said the Europeans can make it clear to the Cuban regime that they will not tolerate increased repression once Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, reportedly suffering from serious health problems, is no longer capable of "being present as a political leader."

Shannon repeated the U.S. offer to consider lifting its trade embargo on Havana if the Cuban regime fulfills a number of requirements, such as releasing political prisoners; guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech and association; allowing the creation of organizations that are independent of the state, including trade unions, neighborhood associations, and political parties; and starting a pathway that leads to free and fair elections.

The assistant secretary said President George Bush offered in a 2002 speech "to look at how the embargo could be lifted," but Castro rejected the offer.

"The offer is still on the table," Shannon emphasized.  He said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, co-chairs of the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, have noted that the United States wants to "find a way to engage with Cuba as it makes its transition to democracy. 

"We want to find a way to be helpful as Cubans begin to build and develop a democratic state,"  he said.

But in Shannon’s view the members of Castro's regime have "no intention of giving up power." The powerbrokers in the regime, such as Castro's brother and designated successor, Raúl Castro, "will do everything they can to maintain the totalitarian state."

"This is where we believe the international community" can make its opposition clear about such a political course, Shannon said.

At the same time, Shannon reiterated the U.S. view
that the Cuban people themselves must drive a transition to democracy in Cuba.

"Neither the United States nor other members of the international community can impose any kind of political situation in Cuba," Shannon said.  "What happens in Cuba is something that is going to be determined by the Cuban people."

Shannon said the strength of the international community's voice on promoting democracy in Cuba "is going to depend on the degree to which we all speak together.  Therefore, we will work very, very hard to make sure that our voice and others are part of a concerted effort, as opposed to a diverse or disintegrated effort."

The official said the United States is part of a global consensus that reincorporating Cuba into the larger community of democratic nations "has to be one of the primary diplomatic goals" of the international community.

Shannon said Fidel Castro "is in the midst of a very serious health crisis," but the severity of his illness is unknown because the Cuban state is "opaque."

Cuba's government, he said, "does not see information as something that it shares with its citizens or the world.  Quite the contrary, it sees information as something that it guards and uses for political purposes."

But Shannon said it is evident that at "80 years of age and suffering from significant health problems that the ability of Fidel Castro to continue to play an active role in the day-to-day management of the Cuban state is ending."

Shannon said that "what we are seeing ... is the beginnings of a slow-motion transfer of power from Fidel Castro, a revolutionary leader, to individuals who represent the different institutions of a totalitarian state."

As the process moves forward, Shannon said, "we believe that now is an important time for the United States and the international community and those interested in democracy, such as civil society and non-governmental organizations, to begin talking about what a transition to democracy in Cuba should look like, and what expectations the international community has for that transition."

López Obrado vows to keep fighting for presidency as long as it takes
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of people gathered Sunday to hear Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the Zócalo, Mexico City's main square.  López Obrador, who lost the election by a narrow margin, has vowed to keep on protesting on the streets as ¨long as it takes¨ if electoral officials declare his rival, conservative Felipe Calderón, the winner of last month's presidential election.

It has been more than three weeks since López Obrador of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática called on his supporters to set up camps in the heart of Mexico City in demand of a full recount of 41 million ballots from last month's presidential election.

Only last week, Mexican riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who rallied outside Congress in support of López Obrador.

Sunday, while people in the southern state of Chiapas went to the polls to elect a governor, López Obrador spoke out against the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, which ran Mexico for seven decades, and the Partido Acción Nacional, which formed a coalition to put up a joint candidate in Chiapas.  He says the only purpose of the coalition is to defend privileges, not to make changes for the better.

What happens in Chiapas is important to López Obrador. A defeat in Mexico's poorest state, analysts say,  could weaken his national protest movement to stop Caldereón from taking office.
López Obrador has vowed to keep his street protests going. He said he plans to disrupt President Vicente Fox´s annual state of the union address to Congress  Sept. 1 and to stop the federal electoral tribunal from delivering a document to Calderón making him president Sept. 6.

He has also threatened to interrupt the Independence Day celebrations Sept. 15, and has called a "national democratic convention" for Sept. 16, the day the Mexican army holds an annual parade.  His strategy has raised fears of confrontations between police and protesters.

The electoral tribunal ordered a recount in 9 percent of the country's 130,000 polling places. The recount has been completed but the results have not been made public. the Tribunal has until Sept. 6 to certify a winner.

Cecilia Plazolo, a 58-year-old nurse sleeping in one of the tents in the Zócalo says López Obrador is the only politician who has ever cared for Mexico´s poor.

"I´ve always been sad when I see malnourished kids, I always asked when can we find a president who cares about the poor? I´ve been supporting López Obrador for a while," she said.

López Obrador's demand for a full vote-by-vote recount appears unlikely, but he says his campaign of resistance will continue.

Striking copper miners in Chile reject latest offer from mine operator
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Striking workers at the world's biggest copper mine in Chile have rejected the latest offer from employers, bringing the strike into its third week.

Employees at the Escondida mine in northern Chile turned down the offer from majority owner BHP Billiton, an Australian firm, after a meeting late Sunday.

The company offered the mine's 2,000 employees a three-year deal or a four-year deal. The three-year deal included a 4 percent raise and almost $24,000 in bonuses, while the second deal included an additional raise of 1.3 percent in the fourth year and a $32,000 bonus.
But employees say the offers aren't enough. They say they want a deal that reflects the surge in copper prices over the past several years. Copper prices were near $3.40 a pound on Friday.

Production at the mine has been at about 50 percent since the strike began. On Friday, BHP Billiton shut down the mine altogether after striking workers blocked the mine's access roads.

Miners initially demanded a 13 percent wage increase and a $30,000 bonus, but cut their demands last week to 10 percent.

The Escondida copper mine is in Chile's Atacama desert north of the capital of Santiago. The mine accounts for 8 percent of world copper production.

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