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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 167    E-mail us
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New study says plastic leaches toxins into ocean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All that plastic that washes from the Central Valley, down the Río Grande de Tarcoles and into the Gulf of Nicoya may not be so benign.

A new study said that plastics are not indestructible but, instead, decompose with surprising speed and release potentially toxic substances into the water. The report of the study comes from the American Chemical Society to which Japanese researcher Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University, Chiba, Japan, presented his findings.

The study says that some plastics quickly release toxic chemicals. "Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable," said the chemist. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.” Billions of pounds of plastic waste are believed floating in the world’s oceans,

Any walk along Costa Rica's beaches is sure to turn up empty plastic bottles and other waste plastic.

The chemist told the American Chemical Society that polystyrene begins to decompose within one year, releasing components that are detectable in the parts-per-million range. Those chemicals also decompose in the open water and inside marine life. However, the volume of plastics in the ocean is increasing, so that decomposition products remain a potential problem, he said.

The researchers duplicated ocean conditions in the lab to keep track of the decomposition. Saido reported that the decomposing plastics release potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and phosphorothioate oligomer, which can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals.
beach trash
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Beach cleanups, like this 2006 one in Playa del Coco, show the prevalence of all kinds of plastic.

Bisphenol A is a high production estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, according to U.S. researchers. There is significant human exposure as detectable levels of the chemical have been found in 93 percent of urine samples collected from people 6 years and older, they said. The estimated amount of bisphenol A ingested in humans is similar to the doses used in animal models that cause a variety of diseases and dysfunctions, according to the researchers. They are at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.

The American Chemical Society said that the study directed by Saido was the first to look at the decomposition results of plastic in oceans. Until now, plastics were considered to be indestructible and the principal concern was the way they interfere with marine life that may become ensnared.


Museum will present a big band fiesta to honor the country's mothers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday will be big band day at the Museo Nacional, and visitors will be encouraged to dance.
The museum is presenting three groups in what is being called a homage to mothers, although the Día de la Madre was Aug. 15.

The Banda de San José and the Caballeros del Ritmo will perform, but the big attraction is
Costa Rica's own big band, the Orquesta de Lubín Barahona. This 67-year-old group was born in the era of the Dorseys and Benny Goodman. The orchestra is directed by the second generation.

The location for the free event will be in the boulevard along the east side of the museum. Among others the nationally known signer Rafa Pérez will interprete some boleros that are designed to be reminders of decades past, said the museum.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 167

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd http://crexpertise.com E-mail info@crexpertise.com Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

Puriscal Properties
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


Appraiser

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Angela Jiménez
ask Angela Jiménez
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Insurance brokers

Financial Planning & International Health Insurance
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Residency experts

Residency in Costa Rica
A full service immigration agency
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Getting and authenticating documents can be a chore —

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Physicians and surgeons

Dr. Marco A. Mora Aguilar, Neurosurgeon
Dr. Mora
Dr. Marco A. Mora
Available for surgery in any of the private hospitals in San José.
                
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Psychiatrist

Dr. Luis Carlos Sancho Torres
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Dr. Sancho
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office: 2246-3458 or 2246-3459
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Dentists and dental surgery

Dental Cosmetics Costa Rica
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Hearing consultant

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Acupuncture physician

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Accountants

James Brohl, C.P.A. & M.B.A.
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• US Tax return preparation  for
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• eFile returns: secure with faster refunds
• Assist with back reporting and other filing issues
• Take advantage of the Foreign
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• Business Consulting to facilitate working in Costa Rica
• Accounting for US and International Financial Reporting


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U.S. Tax International

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5422-8/13/09

Real estate agents and services

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7Legal services

Arcelio Hernandez, Esq.
BUFETE HERNANDEZ MUSSIO Y ASOCIADOS

CRTitle.com
Member: Cenpac, AmCham
Jaco: Tel. 2643-3058 - Fax. 2643-0358
US & Canada: 1-305-280-6860
Skype: hernandez.mussio
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• Trademarks 
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• Notary public services in
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CONSULTORIA JURIDICA EMPRESARIAL CA, S.A.
Attorneys & Notaries
 Tel.  2280-9692 / 2225-9322      
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New location on Rohrmoser Blvd.
 Phone: (506) 2232-1014

Obama advisers predict
up to 90,000 flu deaths


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama's science advisers say swine flu could kill up to 90,000 Americans during the winter flu season in the United States.

That contrasts with the usual seasonal flu, which is linked to between 30,000 and 40,000 deaths each year.

The report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology says the flu virus could infect as much as half the U.S. population. The study released Monday calls for the government to speed up the preparation of flu vaccine for distribution to people most at risk. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says drug companies have begun testing swine flu vaccines on children. She says if the testing program continues, a vaccine should be developed by mid-October.

The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreak a pandemic, and it says up to two billion people may eventually be infected.

Drug sale suspect arrested

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 51-year-old man has been identified as the prime suspect in the sale of drugs at the Universidad Nacional in Heredia.

Anti-drug agents identified him by the last names of Hernández Velásquez and said that he was detained near the school Sunday.

Agents said the man made deliveries from his home in Los Lagos with his own vehicle to locations as far away as San José.

Venezuela takes biggest hit

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Venezuela is the county in Latin American that has lost the most in its trade with the United States while the countries that are members of the Central American Free Trade Agreement suffered the least decline.

The analysis was done by the Latin Business Chronicle based on U.S. Census Bureau figures for the first half of 2009.

Only Uruguay and Haiti increased their exports to the United States during the period. Total trade with the region fell by 27.2 percent to $228.9 billion.  Imports fell by 31.4 percent to $125 billion, the Chronicle said.

Man becomes 133rd victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who appears to have been in an argument in his neighborhood has become the 133th murder victim in 2009.

The Judicial Investigating Organization gave the total Monday as employees reported the death of a 22-year-old man with the last name of Barquero. He entered Hospital San Juan de Dios Sunday night with bullet wounds in the chest and lower back.

He came from the settlement of 14 de Setiembre where witnesses said he engaged in a fight with someone else there and was shot.


Spare tire held surprise

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police said they found 56 kilos of cocaine inside the spare tires of a truck that was inspected Sunday at the Peñas Blancas boarder crossing with Nicaragua. Detained was the driver, a 49-year-old Costa Rican with the last names off  Muñoz Vega.

Police said the destination of the truck was said to be Honduras.

Japan donates ambulances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Embassy of Japan in Costa Rica has delivered to the Cruz Roja four ambulances and equipment. The vehicles will be used in Buenos Aires de Puntarenas, Laurel, Sardinal and Metropolitano. The value of the donation is $176,500, said the Cruz Roja

Our reader's opinion
Cryptographer gives opinion
on digital signature plan


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Recently you ran a story about Costa Rica going to legally recognized electronic public signatures.  A GREAT idea - about time, and a bit ahead of even the USA.  BUT...  I have my doubts. 

There were practically NO details of the system given.  If the keys are less than "a few" thousand decimal digits long, this system may be easy to break, making it possible for notaries to sign papers in someone else's name.  Another thing: It is a great idea to put the secret key in a card, along with the software and a small one-chip computer to do the actual crypto work.  But the key should not come preloaded. 

If the key is preloaded, then certainly someone in the government will have a list of the key pairs - in cryptography we say "Never trust a guy that says 'trust me'"  The key cards should be distributed through secure bank-like locations, as your article stated.  But the key cards should be blank. The customer then causes the key to be generated (in the card) by doing random things like playing a simple video game while the card measures the time between key strokes, mouse movements, or whatever.  The key card should then generate two keys. The public (verification) one would be immediately registered at the bank and through them the government.  The secret (signing key) should be burned into the card in a way that nobody, not even the customer, knows it's contents. 

If the contents are known by even one person, or machine (other than the card) then pretty soon two, four, eight, sixteenjillion will have the key. Ask the direct to home satellite people!  Ask RACSA about passwords.  No, the secret key must be so secret no human may ever know the contents.  The cards must be tamper proof, self destructing when examined, be it physical, x-ray, you name it.  

For the system to be taken seriously, the design must be public and reviewed by the crypto community at large.  There must be one, and only one secret, the signing key. One last thing: They need a revocation key and expiration date.  If this system is not constructed this way, it will lead to fraud, sooner rather than later. You heard it here first.
Charlie Merritt
San Isidro de Alajuela

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

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 weekday.

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.

Searching
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.

Newspages
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.

Classifieds
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.

Advertising information
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Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


Did you try
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We're not trying to avoid you. We just are victims of another ICE problem.

The workmen came and disconnected the phones in our old office before they found out that they did not have sufficient space to install the lines in the new office.

You can reach us at 8832-5564.

But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica 

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 167

another great month
Your Costa Rica










Marchers in traditional dress say no to park development and to the pending bill that would permit it.

turtle protest
A.M. Costa Rica/Valeria Morales Espinoza

Park defenders claim bill would reduce size by 35 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Supporters of Parque Nacional Marino Las Baula marched through San José to the legislature Monday demanding the defeat of a bill that would downgrade the Pacific turtle nesting site to a national refuge. They claim this would reduce the park size by 35 percent and permit development.

The problem is that the central government is caught in the middle. The Sala IV has ordered it to expropriate private holdings that are within the park boundary. But the government does not have the money to do that.

The park just north of Playa Grande on the far Pacific coast was created in the 1990s, but the park boundaries were drawn to include the private properties. So inside the park today are tourist hotels, luxury houses and property being developed. The government failed to purchase the properties at that time, and the values have gone up
dramatically. If the area were a refuge, the developments could remain. The bill calls for mixed use.

In addition to the marine turtle nesting activities, the park, some 445 hectares (about 1,100 acres) also contains extensive mangrove swamps populated by 174 species of birds.

In May bill 17.383 was presented to lawmakers. Park supporters have been upset since.  Monday the marchers said that the proposed bill contains 14 unconstitutional items. It was Hugo Brenes, a priest from Santa Bárbara de Santa Cruz, who estimated that the plan would reduce the size of the park by 35 percent. The marchers presented a petition with 2,500 signatures.

Brenes said the main problem in Guanacaste is that tourism development has not been transformed into the welfare of the people.


U.S. helicopters return to their base after belated search
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. helicopter crews have returned to their base in Honduras after two days of searching for a missing Illinois man at Parque Nacional Rincon de la Vieja.

The servicemen, part of Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano air base, arrived in Costa Rica eight days after the man, David Gimelfarb, was reported missing. He was on a hike in the park. His vehicle was located.

The U.S. Embassy here finally requested support from the U.S. Southern Command long after the Cruz Roja and other agencies were searching.
An embassy spokesperson said Monday that the crews of the two Blackhawk helicopters covered 100 square miles in the area of the park.

They searched Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to information provided by the embassy.

"Our military did everything possible in supporting the efforts of the Costa Rican Red Cross, the National Police, park rangers and local guides," said the embassy release.  "We regret that they were unable to find David Gimelfarb."

Initially the 28-year-old doctoral student's family was met with disinterest at the embassy, they reported.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 167

Redrafted law to protect women is back in legislative hopper
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Women lawmakers and judicial employees officially presented a redraft of a law to protect women from violence.

They say that this draft will withstand scrutiny by the Sala IV constitutional court.  It was that court that ruled two sections of the law unconstitutional last October.

The redraft appears very similar to that which was thrown out, but the women say the measure is constitutional.

The key sections cover mistreatment of women by men and offenses to the dignity of women. If a husband yells at his wife, he violates one section of the law. There is no reciprocal penalty for women yelling at men.

The lawmakers and officials said that penalties against offending the dignity of women are necessary because that is where domestic violence starts.

When the two sections of the law were declared unconstitutional, 6,459 men were facing criminal action for mistreatment and 5,790 faced judicial action for what the women call emotional violence.
The women lawmakers presenting the bill Monday were 
Hilda González, president of the Comisión de la Mujer, Lorena Vásquez, Ana Helena Chacón and Patricia Romero. Also present was Zarela Villanueva Monge, a supreme court magistrate.

Said legislator González: "As you know, two articles of the same law had been declared unconstitutional, for which we reinitiated an effort of consensus and dialog with all the women's organizations in the country. We have a working commission to develop a text with excellent work realized with the women magistrates of the Poder Judicial.

The new draft penalized mistreatment of women with six months to a year in prison if the woman is incapacitated for less than 5 days. If the women is more seriously injured, the penalty is eight months to a year. The second section that was redrafted provides for six months to two years in prison a husband or male companion who with work or deed publicly or in private offends a woman with whom he is married, has a declared union in fact, or does not.

There is no reciprocal penalty for a woman who offends her mate. The second article, No. 25 in the original bill, refers to offenses that are difficult to typify, the women said.


Replacement for earthquake-damaged school is inaugurated
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials inaugurated the new school in Poasito Monday. This is a replacement for the structure that was heavily damaged in the Jan. 8 earthquake.

The new facility cost nearly $1 million, and was financed by the Ministerio de Educación Pública on land donated by a resident, Manuel Emilio Avendaño.
Among other upgrades, the new school has a roofed basketball court, a computer lab, 10 academic classrooms and two rooms for preschoolers. In addition there are ramps for the disabled.

The ministry also plans to put in facilities for a secondary school nearby. Construction starts soon, said Leonardo Garnier, the education minister. This project will be slightly more than $1 million, officials said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 167

Casa Alfi Hotel

Happiness on Wall Street
might be a bit premature


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Major U.S. stock indexes are at their highest levels for the year following the U.S. Federal Reserve's improved economic outlook last week and a national report showing a big bump in home sales. The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes surged seven percent in July — the biggest monthly increase in more than 10 years. The good news has helped stoke hopes for an economic recovery. But the picture is not as rosy as it seems.

Sales of existing homes rose sharply in July, surpassing expectations and fueling optimism that the U.S. economy is on the right track. "Affordability is at an all-time high. You have home prices that have dropped 25 to 30 percent. You have interest rates at very low amounts and you have consumers who have been waiting to buy. Combine that with the eight-thousand dollar tax credit you get if you're a first time buyer, and it's creating a solid demand," said Zip Realty's Patrick Lashinsky.

But the higher demand is just part of the larger picture. Although the increase was the largest in 10 years, average homeowners have lost about 15 percent of the value of their homes.

Economist Mark Zandi says that's symptomatic of a bigger problem in the housing market. "House prices will continue to fall so long as foreclosures continue to mount, so we have to see and hopefully we will see that the president's loan modification plan to forestall the crisis, kicks in," he said.

But critics of the government's plan, aimed at helping struggling homeowners modify loans to make them more affordable, say fewer than 10 percent of eligible loans have been changed.

That means many homeowners will continue paying high interest rates on loans worth more than their homes.

Last month, more than 360,000 homeowners were foreclosed, an increase of more than 30 percent since last year.

Zandi says part of the problem is that banks are still reluctant to lend. "Well, they're nervous, I mean unemployment is rising, house prices are still falling and as long as that continues, they're going to be reluctant to extend out credit," he said.

Realtors say the majority of homeowners who plan to stay in their homes need not worry. "If you are not looking to sell your house, don't get caught up in what the data says. I think you can be confident it will get back to that price point and it will pass it. Will it be in a year or two? Probably not. Within a five to seven-year horizon, I think that you'll be fine," Lashinsky said.

That's little comfort for an estimated four million homeowners who are struggling to make monthly payments.

And with unemployment expected to peak next year, the worry is that foreclosures will continue to rise, making prospects for an economic recovery more elusive.



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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 167

Latin American news
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Super repellents are in labs,
but may not get to market

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

After searching for more than 50 years, scientists finally have discovered a number of new mosquito repellents that beat DEET, the gold standard for warding off those pesky, sometimes disease-carrying insects. The stuff seems like a dream come true. It makes mosquitoes buzz off three times longer than DEET, the active ingredient in many of today’s bug repellents. It does not have the unpleasant odor of DEET. And it does not cause DEET’s sticky-skin sensation.

But there’s a fly in the ointment: The odds may be stacked against any of the new repellents finding a place on store shelves this year or next — or ever.

Ulrich R. Bernier, lead researcher for the repellent study, said the costly, time-consuming pre-market testing and approval process is a hurdle that will delay availability of the repellents, which were discovered last year. The results of his team’s work were presented at the 238th national meeting of the American Chemical Society by Maia Tsikoli, a post-doctoral researcher working with Bernier.

Both are at the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit of the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesvilla, Florida.

“Commercial availability of topical repellents can take years and a significant investment to achieve that end goal,” Bernier said.

“The cost will be several hundred thousand dollars. Once you determine that the repellent works through some screening process, we then have to go through a toxicological hazard evaluation involving numerous toxicological tests.”

Provided the repellents continue to work well when tested in the laboratory on human skin, and if they pass the battery of toxicological tests, they would still face a series of tests to prove their effectiveness in making mosquitoes bug off," Bernier said.




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