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These stories were published Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 172
Jo Stuart
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. . . And then it is on to Tierra del Fuego
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A team of six cyclists led by German Joachim Franz reached Heredia late Tuesday afternoon after a holdup in Honduras made them a few hours late.  The team is riding from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego to raise awareness of AIDS.

The team reached the northern Honduran border at 8 p.m. one night last week and Honduran officials wouldn't let them continue their journey until 8 a.m. the folllowing morning.

The team of four men and two women has been riding 24 hours a day taking turns in two-hour shifts since Aug. 12.  They are averaging 700 kilometers (435 miles) a day. 

The team, supported by the Panamerican Health Organization and the United Nations program on AIDS, is “selling” each of the kilometers to the public for 10 euros a share.  A euro is currently $1.22. 

The only planned stop in their trip is a flight from Panama City to Quito, Ecuador.  The team's sponsors would not let them cross Colombia for security reasons, said Dr. Alexander Steinbienner, the team's chiropractic, and the stretch between southern Panamá and northern Colombia known as the Darrien Gap has no road.     

This is the fifth time Franz has undertaken an AIDS awareness expedition.  The endurance athlete had a friend who died of AIDS five years ago and, as a result, he decided to devote his life to fighting the disease.  To train for this trip he and a team ran a circle around the coast of Iceland to show that even a small isolated island can have problems with AIDS.    

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Joachim Franz and designated biker Holger Schuchard.

Last year, Franz and a team drove a 2-meter tall AIDS ribbon from Germany to Krgyzstan.  Along the way he had the ribbon signed by AIDS institutions, town halls and parliamentary members before he lugged it up the 24,000 foot Pik Pobedy to symbolically bring life to the death zone.  The area above 7000 meters – a little under 23,000 feet – is known as the death zone to mountain climbers.

The year before he and two others took a two-week tour through South Africa running a little over a marathon in the mornings and biking between 75 and 90 miles in the afternoons.  In 2002, he rode a mountain bike from Paris to Dakar, Senegal, through the Sahara desert.  These also were aimed at raising money and awareness about AIDS.  If all goes well, the team should reach Ushuaia, Argentina, Sept. 18.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 172

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A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Pejibayes are halved and peeled as a snack

Farmers expect big yield
of pejibayes in Tucurrique

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ticos in the United States may be able to have a little taste of home.  Pejibaye farmers in Tucurrique are anticipating a harvest large enough that agricultural operators hope to export some to the United States.

The harvest begins now and will reach its peak sometime in September or October, said the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. The yield generally tapers off by December.     

Pejibayes are generally peeled, boiled and then dabbed  with mayonnaise but they can also be used in soup, pasta and pastries among other plates.  These are the little orange fruits found bobbing in the hot water at the grocery and sometimes sold in baggies on the street.

Their use as food goes back at least 2,000 years. Today they are eaten as a snack, ground into flour or lightly fermented as a drink. They are called peach palms in Caribbean English and sometimes palm nuts in the United States.

Finance minister won't
win any assembly friends

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The minister, Federico Carrillo, who runs the nation's budgetary and financial establishment, the Ministerio de Hacienda, endeared himself to his political party when he told a newspaper interviewer that the party had no chance of winning the next national election.

Quickly, Gerardo González, the president of the Asamblea Legislativa, called for his firing.

President Abel Pacheco was asked about the situation Tuesday at a press conference. He said he knows nothing but allowed that there may be differences among members of his party. All involved are members of the Partido Unidad Cristiana.

Carrillo has angered legislators by keeping a tight rein on money. The most recent budget he presented to lawmakers prompted a dispute over where to spend the nation's money, and Carrillo added his view that a $30 million loan for a legislative office tower was not a priority.

Carrillo also happens to be Pacheco's chief lobbyist in favor of the proposed fiscal plan, a massive proposal to raise $500 million in new taxes. Pacheco is counting on the tax plan to solve many of the nation's ills. But the assembly may not pass it. It has been languishing there for three years, and some lawmakers have serious questions about levying that much new taxes on a struggling economy.
Mask exhibit inagurated Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museos de Banco Central will inaugrate an exposition of masks Sunday. More than 250 pieces of masks and mask-related garb will be on display. The exposdition is entitled: "Rostros, Diablos y Animales: Máscaras en las Fiestas Centroamericanas"

The exposition also will give geographical references as to where the individual masks are designed and their cultural significance.

2,000 Ticos affected by storm

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rica consulate in New Orleans said that some 2,000 Ticos live in the area hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The consul, Joanne Leigh, reported that checking on the condition of Costa Rican citizens is hampered by failures in utility services. However, an e-mail address has been set up for those who seek information on family members: consulcrno@hotmail.com
Our readers' opinions

He seeks help from here
for hurricane victims

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Where are the friends of the Americans?

Where are all the so called "friends" of the United States? Whenever there is a disaster anywhere in the world, even in areas where people hate the U.S.A., the U.S.A. has always been present, it is always one of the first countries to offer help and money. Look at the millions given recently by the U.S.A. to the tsunami victims in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Millions given to the earthquake victims of Iran and elsewhere where people are "enemies of the USA."

Are they grateful to America? Most of them receive the help but still keep the resentment against America in their hearts. But now that almost a third of the U.S.A. has been declared a disaster area, NO ONE has come forward to offer help to the AMERICANS. The real estate is dead in the area. Homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, jobs, shops, churches, loses of lives, EVERYTHING is gone. Many of these places cannot be recovered to live anymore. People's life resources drowned in a day. We must remember that life is a two-sided street.

The U.S.A. is now in dire need of money and goods to help all these hundreds of thousands of people who have lost EVERYTHING. They are homeless, jobless, and without hope. Can you imagine this happening to you? Imagine a major earthquake flattening your home and business. Floods washing away all that you labored for during your lifetime.Now is the time to come forward and offer your help.

Even a token offer of help would be a good way to show appreciation for the help that the United States of America has always given to the world.

We should all offer whatever we can, even a dollar, to the relief committee for reconstruction and help of this disaster.

Carl Lawrence    
San José

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Private banks will have to pay full income tax
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A criticism of the government's proposed fiscal plan is that officials don't need it because they are not collecting the taxes they should be collecting now.

Lawmakers took steps to close one loophole Tuesday. They moved to reform a section of the banking law that allows the government regulator to make big deductions from the net income of firms it supervises.

José Miguel Corrales Bolaños, who favored the
change, said the net effect was that private banks pay little income tax. The measure passed with 31 of 41 deputies voting for the change.

With the change private banks will pay 30 percent tax on net earnings the same way any other company does. The  Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras will not be able to adjust the net income.

Private banks are in competition with the big government-run banks, so the final economic impact of the change is not known.

Agricultural mininster at meeting in Ecuador
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rodolfo Coto Pacheco, the minister of Agricultura y Ganadería, is in Ecuador to participate in a biennial meeting of agriculture officials from all over the continent.

The three-day meeting of the Western Hemisphere ministers of agriculture began Monday in Guayaquil at which discussions will be held on how to reduce poverty in the region, create jobs and promote rural prosperity.

The meeting of the hemisphere's agriculture ministers is held every two years as part of the Summit of Americas process.  Sponsors of the meeting include the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, with headquarters in San José, which supports the efforts of the region's countries to promote agricultural development.
In a statement, the Organization of American States said agriculture ministers in Guayaquil will examine such issues as the potential of agricultural biotechnologies to help improve the environment and spur job growth; prospects for energy derived from agricultural products; alleviation of rural poverty; and targeting the promotion of prosperity and job creation in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the hemisphere's labor ministers will meet in Mexico City from Sept. 26 to Sept. 27 to examine a range of issues related to high levels of unemployment in certain parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.  They will also discuss the need to modernize labor conditions, increase labor stability and improve workers' quality of life.

The meeting will bring together international labor organizations, the private business sector and workers' groups.

A report from CR-Home Realty
If you are frustrated by literally thousands of so called "realtors," insane pricing and confusing Web sites as you endlessly search for the perfect property in Costa Rica . . . . STOP!!
We believe that the area of GRECIA offers far more than almost any other area of the country for retirees and those seeking a beautiful and peaceful home in which to enjoy life while enjoying the beauty and security which Costa Rica has to offer.
WHY?  ..... read on....

Grecia is Central . . . 50 minutes from San Jose, CIMA hospital, the Multiplaza, sports and cultural events. . . . one half hour from Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela . . . and a little over an hour to the Central Pacific beaches!

Real estate properties in Grecia are still reasonably priced . . . prices here are about 10% of what they are in Escazú and about half of what they are in neighboring Atenas. Grecia is affordable.

The mountains of Grecia offer the perfect climate: 68-82 degrees all year round.

Grecia has its own hospital with excellent professional services and great shopping.  Every Saturday the town is host to one of the best open air markets in the country.  Fruits and vegetables galore.

Grecia is known as the "cleanest city in Latin America"

No howler monkeys or sloths here, but the area is home to countless flocks of parrots and literally thousands of species of birds and butterflies.

Coffee bushes

Fantastic views

 Bustling downtown Grecia

Because of its location and agricultural base (coffee and sugar cane) Grecia is green ALL YEAR ROUND.  

Crime is extremely low here.  No one worries about walking around town at night here.  There are still petty thefts, but neighbors here watch out for each other.

Everyone who visits Grecia and the area comments on the simplicity of life here.  Life here does proceed at a different pace and the lifestyle here takes us back to a simpler time that nearly all of us wish for but cannot have.  Family is still valued here, and Sunday is family day when extended families get together without fail. 

The builders, contractors and craftsmen here are old fashioned. They keep their word, they are excellent craftsmen who take pride in their work AND they honor their contracts. Most importantly, the properties we have available are drop dead gorgeous! Views, rivers, waterfalls, coffee, sugar cane, privacy.  We most likely have exactly what you thought you could never find. 

If this sounds like Paradise (or maybe that we are exaggerating . . .) come and see for yourselves before everyone discovers Grecia.

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Low-calorie diet won't prolong life much, expert says
By the University of California-Los Angeles
News Service

Severely restricting calories over decades may add a few years to a human life span, but will not enable humans to live to 125 and beyond, as many have speculated, evolutionary biologists report.

"Our message is that suffering years of misery to remain super-skinny is not going to have a big payoff in terms of a longer life," said UCLA evolutionary biologist John Phelan. "I once heard someone say caloric restriction may not make you live forever, but it sure would seem like it. Try to maintain a healthy body weight, but don't deprive yourself of all pleasure.  Moderation appears to be a more sensible solution.

"With mice, if you restrict their caloric intake by 10 percent, they live longer than if they have unlimited access to food," Phelan said. "If you restrict their intake by 20 percent, they live even longer, and restrict them to 50 percent, they live longer still; but restrict their intake by 60 percent and they starve to death.

"Humans, in contrast, will not have rodent-like results from dramatically restricting calories," he said. "Caloric restriction is not a panacea. While caloric restriction is likely to be almost universal in its beneficial effects on longevity, the benefit to humans is going to be small, even if humans restrict their caloric intake substantially and over long periods of time."

Phelan developed the first mathematical model demonstrating the relationship between caloric intake and longevity, using representative data from controlled experiments with rodents, as well as published studies on humans, diet and longevity. He and Michael Rose, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, published their findings in a journal article titled, "Why dietary restriction substantially increases longevity in animal models but won't in humans," published in the August issue of the peer-reviewed journal Ageing Research Reviews.

Their mathematical model shows that people who consume the most calories have a shorter life span, and that if people severely restrict their calories over their lifetimes, their life span increases by between 3 percent and 7 percent — far less than the 20-plus years some have hoped could be achieved by drastic caloric restriction. He considers the 3 percent figure more likely than the 7 percent.

"The trade-off between calories and longevity appears to be close to a linear relationship, but the slope isn't
very steep," said Phelan, whose model predicts the
relationship between calories consumed and life span.

Phelan's conclusion is that the few extra years of life are not worth the suffering necessary to achieve them.

"Do you want to spend decades severely limiting what you eat to live a few more years?  You will be unhappy and then your life will end shortly after mine ends," Phelan jokes.

Scientists have known for six decades that cutting the caloric intake of rodents by 40 percent or 50 percent results in dramatically longer lives for them.

"You can practically double their life span," Phelan said. "The same result has been found in fish, spiders and many other species. If it works for them, some thought, it should work for us; I'm here to tell you it doesn't."

Phelan, co-author of the book, "Mean Genes," conducted his dissertation at Harvard University 10 years ago on caloric restriction and on why it works in extending the lives of rodents.

"When you restrict the caloric intake of rodents, the first thing they do is shut off their reproductive system," said Phelan, citing a finding from his dissertation. A normal rodent reaches maturity at one month of age, and begins reproducing its body weight in offspring every month‑and‑a‑half. If humans shut off reproduction by severely limiting calories, "our reduction in wear and tear on the body is minimal," he said.

The rodents placed on severely restricted diets bit people who tried to hold them, and had an unpleasant demeanor, unlike the more docile animals given more "normal" amounts of food, Phelan said.

"I think about food all the time," he said. "I'm not going to be so extreme that I become the mouse that bites anyone who touches me. My advice about food is be sensible, and don't be a fanatic about it because the payoffs are not worth it."

While the relationship between how much you eat and your life span is not so dramatic, there are very real costs of being overweight — including greater risk for heart disease and other life‑threatening illnesses, Phelan said.

The human data factored into the mathematical model include the caloric intake of people in Japan, and their longevity, compared with sumo wrestlers, who consume more than twice the normal male diet, and men in Okinawa, Japan, who consume less than the average Japanese male.

Jo Stuart
About us
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