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These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 188
Jo Stuart
About us
Photo courtesy of Ann Senghas
A language takes root
in Nicaraguan school

What happens when 50 deaf children are put together in their own school without any language training?

In Managua it seems they created their own way to communicate in sign, and now researchers say the home-grown techniques have evolved into a real language.

The lad at left is signing Nicaragua with an upside down V.


Predictions suggest totally average weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather for the next four months in much of the counry probably will be totally average, according to estimates by the Insituto Meteorológico Nacional.

Rainfall will be average or slightly lower than average for the season, according to the most recent predictions. The estimate sets the probability at 50 to 65 percent.

For those who were hoping for a quick end of the rainy season, there is some bad news. The weather estimates say that the departure of daily rain also will be average or slightly later. Typically November is the month when the rains begin to depart. The dry season begins in northern Guanacaste during the first or second week of November and sweeps through the country until it hits the south Pacific during the third or fourth week of December,

The weather institute bases its predictions on six models and actual data from 22 weather stations around the country.

Average rainfall is highly variable throughout Costa Rica. For example, the average for October rainfall in Limón on the Caribbean is just 8.5 

inches. But in Quepos on the Pacific the average is 25 inches.

Last year, about 20 percent more rain fell than the average throughout the country. 2004 will go into the books as the year with more hard downours, said the weather bureau.

The weather bureau also noted that September and October are the months in which there is a high probability of cyclones in the Caribbean. So far this year there have been two but they caused no damage, said the weather bureau.

The XIII Foro Regional del Clima de América Central, which met in Santa Ana in July also predicted a normal, average year for much of Costa Rica.

A 45 percent probability exists of below-normal precipitation along the Caribbean coast north of Limón, known as the llanuras of Tortuguero, and on into the southern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. 

The Pacific from Tamarindo on the Nicoya Peninsula south to Panamá has a 45 percent probability of being somewhat wetter than normal, said the weather forum, which used data from all of Central America.

Good news on reduction of the cases of dengue in the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dengue, the mosquito-born disease that can prove fatal, is down about 50 percent this year.

María del Rocío Sáenz, the minister of Salud, said Tuesday that 5,589 dengue cases have been reported this year. At the same time last year, there were 10,664 cases.

Only nine cases of potentially fatal hemorrhagic dengue have been reported, compared to 24 at the same time in 2003.

In 2003 the nation had 19,703 cases of dengue, and officials embarked on a major prevention campaign in January concentrating on the breeding spots for mosquitoes.

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Police say they busted
international coke ring

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police said they busted up an international cocaine smuggling operation Tuesday with a series of raids and the arrest of seven persons. 

And in Gracia, anti-drug officials arrested four persons Monday night and said they were principal distributers in that town.

In a raid in Cariari agents arrested two Italians they said were reponsible for sending couriers with drugs to Italy. They were identified by the last names of Maddaloni De Rosa. One man was 37 and the other was 46, police said. 

The 46-year-old man had been detained Sept. 14 along with an associate after a police check turned up 13 kilos of cocaine in the car in which he was riding, police said. That took place on the Bernardo Soto Highway in el Coyol de Alajuela.

Several of the persons facing investigation were arrested at Juan Santamaría Airport. The smugglers favored suitcases with false bottoms or hid drugs on their person.

The two Italians have lived in the country for seven years, officials said. Also held was a 31-year-old Colombian with the last names of Gómez Tirado. This man runs a service station in Lagunilla de Heredia. and was described as the man who provided the funding for the operation.

The Grecia operation involved raids at homes in San Roque and Puente Piedra. The men arrested there are considered to be local vendors.

Our readers’ views

Overpopulation blamed
for the ills of world

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The global tax proposal is a ridiculous and unworkable stopgap. Global hunger and poverty can only be eliminated by reducing population. Any measure less, as negative population growth has been saying for decades, "is doomed to failure," and only temporary at best. 

Brazil has one of the worst records in addressing their uncontrolled birthrates. Every social & economic problem can be traced to only one source, and that is overpopulation. 

When will the politicians recognize that by continuing to ignore the consequences of overpopulation they are only prolonging the misery of millions and, destroying our natural resources in the process. 

H. Franz 
Las Vegas, Nev. 
Personal note on Rather
by fellow student

Dear A.M. Costa Rica

I read with interest an article by a reader about CBS News and Dan Rather. By chance, I attended Sam Houston State University with Dan Rather in the early 50s. This was near the end of the Korean War. 

The university had initialed compulsory ROTC for freshmen, which included me. I had no problem with it, but in those days the university was not air-conditioned. So, when we wore our uniforms, we looked somewhat wilted. Dan Rather was editor of the school paper and often criticized the ROTC. So, he wrote an article in the school paper saying the ROTC students were at attention, while their uniforms were at ease. He was reprimanded by the university president. He also did the local high school football games. 

After graduation, he became a sports announcer for the University of Houston football games and did some local CBS affiliate KPRC-TV news. A hurricane hit Galveston and he went with a crew to broadcast direct from the Island. It made him a celebrity and shortly he was in New York.

I can tell you from first hand knowledge, Dan has always been a pompous ass. As far as I know the closest he every came to the military duty was criticizing it. The guy (Ben Barnes) he interviewed on the same program, who said he got Bush into the National Guard, was run out of office for a land bribery scandal. 

I have no idea why he has had problems with the Bushs and other Republicans. He is from a working class area of Houston called the Heights, which has had a number of successful people. When he and I were both young, there were almost NO Republicans in Texas. Franklin Roosevelt was God. 

Bush got elected congressman from an upper-middle class area in Harris County that was cut out for Republicans. There were many conservative Democrats. The conservative Democrats became Republicans starting with Eisenhower and Reagan. It would not surprise me, if this is the end for Dan and may be like the old adage "some people succeed until they fail". 

Bobby Ruffín 
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Managua study shows complexity grows
Youngsters created a sign language on their own
By the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — At a school here deaf children have been creating a sign language all their own over the last three decades. "Nicaraguan Sign Language," or "NSL," began with pantomime-like gestures. Each time new young people learn NSL, they add to it, making it more complex.

Now, according to Ann Senghas of Barnard College of Columbia University, NSL has become a true language. It follows many of the basic rules common to other languages that have existed much longer than NSL. 

In a study published in the Friday issue of the journal Science, Senghas and her colleagues show that kids seem to have a natural tendency to transform a simple form of communication into language as they learn it. She doesn’t think they do this consciously. It’s just part of how the human brain learns.

Before the 1970s, most deaf people in Nicaragua stayed at home and had little contact with each other. The Nicaraguan government created a new elementary school offering special education in 1977 and a school for adolescents in 1981.

Approximately 50 deaf students enrolled the first year, and the number grew to over 200 by 1981. No one taught the children to sign, but as soon as they were together they began to develop a system of gestures for communicating with each other, both in and out of school. Today there are approximately 800 deaf signers of NSL, ranging from 4 to 45 years old.

In all languages, ideas get broken down into specific words. But, there are some ideas that you could also express with a single gesture, such as rolling down a hill. 

How would you use your hands to show something rolling down a hill if you didn’t know a sign language? 

Students converse in their own language.
Photos courtesy of Ann Senghas
Double-handed speech adds complexity.

You probably moved your hand in circles along a downward path. 

In the study, participants from different age groups that had learned NSL and hearing participants that spoke Spanish watched a cartoon in which a cat swallows a bowling ball and then wobbles down a steep road. Then, they told the story in their own sign language.

The younger signers used two different signs for "wobbling" and "down." In contrast, the older signers — who still use the simpler, early form of NSL — used a single hand gesture.

The researchers concluded that as each new group of children has learned NSL, they’ve made it even more language-like, with gestures representing individual words.

"It's an unusual community, sort of upside-down, in the sense that the children lead the way. The children are the most fluent users of the language, not the older adults," Senghas said.

It’s not just these children in Nicaragua that play such an important role in shaping their language. Senghas thinks kids have helped all languages evolve over time, just by learning them.

And in the classroom, too.

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Pacheco presents a globalization litany to U.N.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco came out strongly for globalization in many forms Tuesday. He spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Pacheco said that globalization was a fact and that Costa Rica would like to see the international community recognize and practice more respect for human and labor rights, provide better protection of the environment and spend less on the military  in favor of social investment.

"I believe the hour has arrived to talk of a global society without exceptions," said Pacheco in the preface of his talk. A copy was released in San José by Casa Presidencial. 

Pacheco covered a wide range of topics:

• He urged a reform of the U.N. Security Council so that no member country could block action by a veto. "Not only is this anti-democratic but it also is contrary to the principal of legal equality of the states, consecrated in the San Francisco Charter," the 1945 document that created the United Nations.

• He proposed a U.N. high commission against terrorism that would work with the Security 

Council, the General Assembly and other U.N. organizations "to fight this evil and its causes." He said only an international body can respond adequately to the challenge of terrorism.

• He urged more nations to accept the unqualified jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

• He urged the adoption of an international convention to prohibit human cloning. Costa Rica has urged that idea, and U.S. President George Bush, in his speech to the same body, said "In this session, the U.N. will consider a resolution sponsored by Costa Rica calling for a comprehensive ban on human cloning. I support that resolution and urge all governments to affirm a basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another."

• He urged nations to unite to supply the aid needed so that the Kyoto Protocol on the environment enters into force and so that the U.N. can work to consolidate environmental efforts in a world organization similar to the International Monetary Fund.

"If we want an enduring peace and a secure world, we ought to give a humanistic dimension to relations among countries," he said.

New 10-point U.S. biometic ID system goes into use
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that integrated 10-point biometric identification technology is operating in each U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol station in the United States.

The new capability allows border patrol agents to simultaneously search the FBI's fingerprint database. The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the Automated Biometric 
Identification System provide rapid identification

of individuals with outstanding criminal warrants through electronic comparison of 10-point digital fingerscans against a national database.

Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary of border and transportation security, hailed the new capability as a "fast and effective weapon in the war on terror," adding that "its implementation is absolutely critical to our priority mission to protect our borders."

Deployment of identification capability will be extended to all 115 air and sea points of entry and the 50 busiest land border ports of entry by Nov. 15, Homeland Security said.

Two key interest rates raised slightly on belief economy improving
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The policy-setting group of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, has raised a key interest rate for the third time in three months, as widely expected, on evidence that the U.S. economy has regained some momentum.

In a statement Tuesday, the Federal Open Market Committee said it decided to raise the federal funds rate, the rate banks charge one another for overnight loans, by 0.25 percentage points to 1.75 percent. In a related action, the Board of Governors raised the discount rate, the rate the Federal Reserve charges banks for loans, by 0.25 percentage point to 2.75 percent.

The committee said that it views the economic expansion as regaining some speed and labor 

market conditions as improving "modestly" after a slowdown earlier in the year, mostly as a result of a "substantial" rise in energy prices.

The Open Market Committee said that inflation increases and the expectation of such increases have moderated in recent months despite rising energy costs.

The committee used language identical to that in the statement issued Aug. 10 at the conclusion of its previous rate-setting meeting to signal that it intends to raise interest rates at a "measured" pace but stands ready to respond to changes in economic prospects to maintain price stability.

The meeting Tuesday was the last scheduled policy-setting session before the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Jo Stuart
About us
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