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(506) 2223-1327                        Published Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 187                          Email us
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Revised traffic law finally passed with lower fines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature Tuesday passed on second and final reading revisions to the nation's traffic law.

Many fines in the 2-year-old law had been thrown out as disproportional by the Sala IV constitutional court. The rewrite cuts many of the fines in half.

Now fines range from 280.000 ($560) to 20,000 colons (about $40). The original law has a top fine of 416.000 colons, about $832.

The new measure retains a provision that can send to prison a driver with more than .75 grams of alcohol in the blood.

Drivers who have had a license less than three years are held to a more rigorous standard in alcohol consumption. Also held to the same standard are those in public transportation. They face administrative sanctions when the blood alcohol level is between .2 and .5 grams per liter of blood. The case becomes criminal with a blood alcohol level of .5.

The average non-commercial driver who has had a license more than three years faces administrative sanctions with a blood alcohol level from .5 to .75 grams per liter. Greater than .75 grams per liter is a criminal offense.

The rewrite also retains a system of points whereby a motorist who accumulates from 6 to 12 points can lose the right to drive. Motorists with a six-year license lose it with 12 points. If the license is for four years, the threshold is eight points. Drivers with a three-year license lose it with six points. Points are only assessed for major violations under the rewrite.

The new bill also allows judges to order community service for serious violators instead of jail.

The measure also seeks to beef up the traffic education programs. The change includes plans for a high school course in the upper grades.

The original traffic law passed the previous legislature. Almost immediately lawmakers recognized inconsistencies and draconian fines. They sought to make changes, but their time in office ran out. The legislature that took office in May 2010 picked up the task and spent more than two years doing the rewrite.

The measure now goes to Casa Presidencial for the signature of Laura Chinchilla.

As with all legislation, the contents of bills are based on legislative summaries and sometimes outdated bills. The specifics and perhaps pitfalls in this new
Proposed new fines

Category A
Fine of 280,000 colons (about $560)

Speeding 120 kph (74.4 mph) or more
Driving under the influence
Driving with an expired or suspended license
Passing in a no-passing zone or on a curve
Passing on the right
Crossing into the oncoming lane
Making an illegal U turn
Making an unauthorized left turn

Category B
Fine of 189,000 colons (about $378)

Driving without safety seats for minors 12 and
     under or those shorter than 1.45 meters (57
Doctoring a license plate
Failing to heed a traffic signal

Category C
Fine of 94.000 colons (about $180)

Driving without a license or with a suspended
Speeding more than 25 kph (14.5 mph) over the

Category D
Fine of 47,000 colons (about $94)

Failing to heed traffic signs
Failing to yield
Driving a motorcycle without reflective clothing
Driving 20 kph (12.4 mph) over the posted limit

Category E
Fine of 20,000 colons (about $40)

Driving without required documents
Have a license plate in an incorrect position
Using a loudspeaker within 100 meters of hospitals, schools, clinics or churches

rewrite will not be known until the final bill is published as a law in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

A special committee held more than 15 session with experts to devise the current measure, lawmakers noted. There was considerable discussion because some lawmakers wanted an alcohol law with zero tolerance. In other words, any trace of alcohol would result in at least a ticket.

Maybe you just have to be certifiable to drive here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The big news on the Spanish-language television stations Tuesday night involved a psychiatric patient who commandeered an ambulance and went on a drive to Rohrmoser from Pavas.

"How could they tell," asked Mario, the taxi driver. "Most of the people on the highways act like they are crazy."

"And you would have to be crazy to take off at lunch hour."

But the taxi driver said that the patient may be
diagnosed as having mental problems, but she was not unintelligent. She took a vehicle that has red lights and a siren, he noted as he listened to the television news over his taxi radio. "I wish I had one like that," he allowed.

The ambulance was left with the keys inside at the  Hospital Nacional Psiquiátrico. The motive for the female patient to take off with the vehicle is still unknown.

"If they confined all the crazy drivers, there would be no traffic jams for us to face," said Mario. Then he shut one eye and tilted his head: "And I am not too sure about you."

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Presidency is entering
the newspaper business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a new Internet newspaper, and it is produced by the ominous-sounding Ministerio de Información.

The Presidencia appears to have taken steps to make sure that President Laura Chinchilla's administration gets good press. There is little chance of hard-hitting, aggressive journalism.

The domain was registered just last Friday, according to the Costa Rican domain administration. The administrative contact is the Ministerio de la Presidencia.

However, the publication does not mention on its site that it is a product of the government. Nor does the domain have the suffix that denotes a Costa Rican government agency.

The president already has time on the radio and television each week for upbeat news. The so-called cadena nacional was envisioned as a way for the president to discuss the national issues. The Chinchilla administration has turned it into a commercial for Casa Presidencial.

The presidencial Web site does not seem to make any mention of the new Internet newspaper arrival even though the domain registration says it is published at the offices in Zapote.

Our readers' opinions
Which beneficial modification
does the writer oppose?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is not clear which genetically modified food your writer is against.

Is it the one which increases yield preventing hunger for millions?

Or the rice which is modified to contain vitamins which will prevent blindness and other illnesses in children?

Dr. John Cocker

We've been engineering
genetically for ages

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank heaven for genetic engineering. Let me be brief.

For thousands of years, we have been genetically engineering our food.   We learned to cross-pollinate crops for a larger seed heads, greater sugar content, more protein.  We bred a prize bull to certain cows for higher milk production or more meat.  We genetically engineered for food and for vanity (how else did the wolf become the chihuahua?).

We have genetically engineered for thousands of years, we just didn’t know how to do it quickly.  Now we do. 

 As for the engineering?  I really prefer a Golden retriever…..

Victoria Torley

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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RAdio Pacifico
A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 187
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Ferry service scheduled to resume today from Puntarenas dock
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ferry service from Puntarenas to two points on the Nicoya peninsula is supposed to resume today.

Transportation officials said that seven days of intense labor allowed a contractor to remove 15,000 cubic meters of sand and debris from the dock where the ferries tie up.

That is in Barrio el Carmen in Puntarenas.

The ferry routes are to Paquera and to Playa Naranjo.

The Belgium firm of Jan de Nul did the work, and the cost was $297,000, paid by the Instituto Costarricense de Puertos del Pacífico. The  División Marítimo Portuaria of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes supervised the work.
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Dredge is in the final stages of the work.

Another warning about high seas issued for the Pacific coast
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pacific coast residents are being warned again about the possibilities of high seas through Thursday.

The national emergency commission said that those most vulnerable are in Barrio el Carmen and El Cocal in Puntarenas and Boca Vieja and el Cocal de Quepos. The highest seas are expected in the mornings, the agency said. The commission also said that the south Pacific coast also might be vulnerable.

Coastal areas suffered flooding last month and in July, but estimates now are that the seas will be even higher. Some residents in Caldera at Puntarenas Centro lost their homes
when the seas pushed in sand and rocks.

The high seas are attractive to surfers, but the conditions can be fatal.

The cause of the high seas has been attributed to a number of factors, but mainly the tides are a result of the pull of the moon.

The Centro de Investigación del Mar at the Universidad de Costa Rica is working closely with the emergency commission to predict problems. The commission said that operators of small boats may face problems and that the mouths of rivers could be troublesome.

University student guns down man presumed to be a robber
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A university student who feared he was facing robbers took out his own legal weapon and killed one of the men. Police detained the other.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the student had a pistol for self-protection. The incident took place in San Pedro's Barrio Roosevelt around 9:30 p.m. Monday.

The Judicial Investigating Organization report did not give the names of the two students, but a spokeswoman for the organization, said that the dead man was César Hernández Alguilar. His associate, who is in police custody, is Michael González González.

The spokesperson said that the student who shot Hernández
was not detained by police because he had the proper permit and certification for the gun.

“He only tried to defend, and he is not in jail,” the spokesperson said.

Both students attend the Universidad de Costa Rica, and neither of the students was harmed in the incident, the agency said.

According to a bulletin from the investigation organization, the two students were walking back to their apartment from a grocery when two men pulled up to them on a motorcycle. The two men then attempted to rob the students.

The student carrying the gun pulled it out and shot the man later identified as Hernández. He died at the scene. González was detained by police when they arrived.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 187
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Significant improvements in health in Costa Rica cited in report
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In the 1900s a person living in North America would be considered old age at 48, while in Latin America and the Caribbean the average person would only make it to age 29.  Today both of these life expectancies have been extended to 78 in North American and 74 in Latin America, according to the "Health in the Americas 2012" report.

This report was compiled by the Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization from 2010 statistics.  It also said 98 percent of Latin American children live past their first birthday, while 100 years ago only 75 percent turned 1 year old.

Yet with these successes, it is still evident that the state of health in these areas is not equal to the world and even varies between the countries in the region, the report said.

"The countries of the region in this part of the world have collectively been successful in being healthier and more prosperous in the last 110 years,” said Pan American Health Organization Director Mirta Roses Periago. However, she called for efforts to make the region more equitable and sustainable.

Costa Rica has made significant improvements in health:  A Tico's life expectancy of 79.2 years. The 2010 infant mortality rate was 9.5 per 1,000 live births and only 21 mothers died out of every 100,000 births, said Health in Americas.

The report also said that only 471 out of 84,443 dengue cases between 2006 and 2010 were serious, and malaria cases dropped from 2,903 to 114 in the same time span.  From 2002 to 2010 there were 2,278 HIV and 1,805 AIDS cases reported. Here are some other findings:

There have been no cases of vaccine preventable disease.

These changes were linked to a higher literacy rate of 97 percent and a near 100 percent schooling rate.

However, persons who live in areas classified as slums are not receiving the same care and the percentage of those living in extreme poverty made a jump from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent in 2008.
According to the 2008-2009 National Survey of Nutrition 23.8 percent of children from 1 to 4 years old were at risk for malnutrition and 5.6 percent were malnourished.  Also, around 20 percent of young children and teenagers were overweight or obese, the report said.

This is just one of the many challenges of Costa Rica.  The average income has dropped to $10,200 and one out of three workers earn minimum wage. 

The leading cause of death is diseases of the circulatory system followed by cancer.  Men face risks of cancer in the prostate, stomach, lungs, colon and liver while women face breast, stomach, colon and cervical cancer, leukemia and lung cancer.

Other types of deaths are traffic accidents and violence.  Homicides have risen from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2006 to 9.33 in 2010, but suicides have decreased from 7.2 per 100,000 persons in 2006 to 5.8 per 100,000 persons in 2010.

Across Latin Americas and the Caribbean problems exist with maternal mortality, malnutrition, tuberculosis, malaria, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation. These usually affect population groups in situations of social exclusion.

Poverty is one of the determining factors of the state of health of the population. Inequalities exist between those who dwell in the city opposed to the country, or between persons who are native to those which are Spanish speaking.

Overall, around 250 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have some non-communicable disease, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  In 2007, 3.9 million people died due to these causes. 

Of these, 37 percent were under the age of 70.

Mental disorders in Latin America and the Caribbean are responsible for about 22 percent of the recorded disabilities. Depression and the use of alcohol-related disorders are the first places.

Health in the Americas is designed to analyze the progress and challenges of the American countries in order to achieve an improvement in the health. The full report is at

New snake species in Panamá enlisted into environmental cause
By the Senckenberg Research Institute news staff

Scientists of the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, have discovered a new snake species in the highlands of western Panamá.

The scientific name of the conspicuously colored reptile Sibon noalamina means "no to the mine.“ It was chosen to call attention to the fact that the habitat of this harmless snail-eating snake is severely threatened by human interventions. The researchers say that other species of amphibians and reptiles which were discovered in the region during the last years share the same fate. The study was published Tuesday in the scientific journal Zootaxa.

The snake Sibon noalamina is completely harmless for humans, yet has a pugnacious name. The light and dark-ringed reptile at first sight resembles a well-known and widespread species of snail-eater. However, closer examination revealed the non-venomous snake to represent a hitherto unknown species.

"The three individuals that we caught during several expeditions between 2008 and 2010 the montane rainforests of western Panamá differ markedly from all known species of snakes, especially in scalation characters,” said Sebastian Lotzkat, research associate of the Herpetology Department at Senckenberg Research Institute Frankfurt. "Therefore we newly described the species — it now bears the name Sibon noalamina.“

The second part of the scientific name is Spanish and translates to "no to the mine.“ Representative of other recently discovered species that probably only occur in the Tabasará mountains, Sibon noalamina stands with its name against overexploitation of nature and for the conservation of the highland rainforests of western Panama.

“Without the establishment of protected areas and the development of sustainable alternatives to large-scale forest clearance, these unique ecosystems will vanish in the foreseeable future,” Lotzkat said.

Like all representatives of the genus Sibon, the new species
new snake
©Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung/Sebastian Lotzkat
This is the newly discovered snake

belongs to the so-called snail-eaters. Apart from snails and slugs, these nocturnal animals feed on other soft-bodied prey like earthworms or amphibian eggs. Instead of defending themselves with bites, the non-venomous colubrids deter potential predators with their appearance: With its alternating light and dark rings, Sibon noalamina mimics the contrasting warning coloration of the venomous coral snakes.

The snake inhabits the mountain range known as Serranía de Tabasará in the Comarca Ngöbe-Buglé, an autonomy territory established in 1997 for the Ngöbe and Buglé. Here, the extreme poverty among the population has a share in the highest deforestation rate within Panamá: more than one-fifth of the Comarca’s forests were lost in the 1990s alone. Moreover, the region’s enormous ore deposits – especially the copper deposit in the Cerro Colorado area – are in the focus of mining companies.

As the exclusive home of several amphibian and reptile species only known from – i.e., endemic to – this mountain range, the Serranía de Tabasará is a little biodiversity hotspot of its own, although still largely unexplored.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Karen L. King photo
Front of the papyrus fragment

Possible new gospel hints
that Jesus had a wife

By the Harvard University news service

­­Four words on a previously unknown papyrus fragment provide the first evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married, Harvard Professor Karen King told the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies Tuesday.

Ms. King, a professor of divinity at Harvard Divinity School, announced the existence of the ancient text at the congress's meeting, held every four years and hosted this year by the Vatican's Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome. The four words that appear on the fragment translate to "Jesus said to them, my wife." The words, written in Coptic, a language of ancient Egyptian Christians, are on a papyrus fragment of about one and a half inches by three inches.

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," Ms. King said. "This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus's death before they began appealing to Jesus's marital status to support their positions."

Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York, said he believes the fragment to be authentic based on examination of the papyrus and the handwriting. Ariel Shisha-Halevy, a Coptic expert at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, considers it likely to be authentic on the basis of language and grammar, Ms. King said. Final judgment on the fragment, she said, depends on further examination by colleagues and further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink.

One side of the fragment contains eight incomplete lines of handwriting, while the other side is badly damaged and the ink so faded that only three words and a few individual letters are still visible, even with infrared photography and computer photo enhancement. Despite its tiny size and poor condition, Ms. King said, the fragment provides tantalizing glimpses into issues about family, discipleship, and marriage that concerned ancient Christians.

Ms. King and colleague AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University, believe that the fragment is part of a newly discovered gospel. Their analysis of the fragment is scheduled for publication in the January issue of Harvard Theological Review, a peer-reviewed journal.

The brownish-yellow, tattered fragment belongs to an anonymous private collector who contacted King to help translate and analyze it. The collector provided King with a letter from the early 1980s indicating that Professor Gerhard Fecht from the faculty of Egyptology at the Free University in Berlin believed it to be evidence for a possible marriage of Jesus.

Haiti fund will receive
$20 million from Qatar

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti will receive millions of dollars from Qatar through a special fund that aims to help the impoverished nation in the areas of health, education and housing.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Qatar's ambassador, Mohammed Bin Abdulla al-Rumaihi, made the announcement in Port-au-Prince Monday.

"This $20 million the Qatar Fund has pledged to support long-term recovery in five important areas with very strong partners in each is profoundly important," Clinton said. "And I hope will set an example for other donors who have committed funds but have not been specific yet when they will deliver how much money. The Qataris have kept their word and done it in an intelligent, forward-looking way for which I am very grateful.''

Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake two years ago which displaced more than a million people and toppled thousands of buildings.

Blow-dry hair shops
prosper despite recession

By the A.M. Costa Rica news services

Dry Bar founder Alli Webb is in the business of selling glamour.

Despite the economic downturn, Webb's Los Angeles enterprise is not only thriving, it's actually expanding across America.

At first glance, Dry Bar looks like a typical hair salon. But it's not. The stylists do not cut or color hair. Their goal is to make every client look like a celebrity with a professional shampoo and blow dry. The price of glamour is $35.

“It is such a good deal that I am willing to set aside $35 every week for it," says college student Adrienne Zubia. "So I save my money on meals, because this is more worth it for me than going out to eat."

Ms. Webb says she is selling much more than a simple blow dry.  “We feel like we are not selling blowouts. We are selling happiness and confidence that comes with a great blowout, and I think women everywhere want to feel that way.”

Ms. Webb opened her first blow-dry salon in Los Angeles to fill a gap she saw in the marketplace. 

“There was either a high-end salon where you are paying upwards of 80, 90, 100 bucks," she says, "or there was the discount chain where you kind of do not know what you are getting."

Celebrities including Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford have gotten their hair styled at Dry Bar.  Business has been so good that, in just two years, Ms. Webb has opened a total of 16 blow-dry bars across the United States. By the end of next year, she expects to open nine more. 

And Dry Bar is not the only salon of its kind to find success. 

“They are popping up every single day in a different location, and they are everywhere all across the U.S.," says Gretty Hasson, who owns My Blow L.A., which opened two years ago. “We realized it was a big trend that started.  It was in San Francisco, in Canada and some in New York of these blow-dry bars opening up and we realized what better place than Beverly Hills to open one up.”

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Another cleanup scheduled
for World Oceans Day

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In honor of Día Mundial de los Océanos Saturday, groups involved with Asociación Terra Nostra will spend the weekend cleaning around the ocean.

One such is Grupo Gollo, a company which markets and distributes household appliances, furniture, video and computer hardware. 

Grupo Gollo has an electronic recycling program and will be responsible for the collection and treatment of electronic waste during this second grand national effort of ocean cleaning Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

It is common to find electronic waste in rivers because for many it is easier to throw kitchen appliances or televisions that no longer work here. There is also informal recycling, and on many occasions the appliances are deposited on vacant lots or buried, according to staffers at the Asociación Terra Nostra.
The company's efforts will ensure that electronic waste will receive proper treatment and will not go to the dumps or municipal landfills.

The theme of the weekend is “Limpieza Internacional de Costas y Riveras” and the cleaning promotes The Ocean Conservancy organization.  The goal is to draw the attention of the world by an urgent change of culture in the management of solid waste and avoid their impact on human health and coastal ecosystems, a release said.

During this weekend institutions, municipalities, organizations and many volunteers will participate in the cleaning Playa Guacalillo in Puntarenas, rivers and other areas of 44 different cantons of the country. The beach is at the mouth of the Río Grande de Tárcoles, which carries a lot of trash from the Central Valley.

Volunteers at the event will classify all the waste they find to contribute to the production of the only world index of marine waste, divided country-by-country and published by The Ocean Conservancy.

Asociación Terra Nostra's objective is to achieve that Costa Rica in 2015 will be a green country and clean, it said.

Four held in robbery string
at Guanacaste beach towns

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men and a woman have been detained on suspicion of being the culprits in a series of at least 40 robberies in Guanacaste beach communities.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the investigating began in December. Crimes were reported in Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa and Playa Panamá, the agency said.

Many of the victims were foreigners, said the judicial police. The gang of robbers usually worked at night and entered homes where there usually was just one person.

The arrests were made during morning raids in the Liberia area.

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