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(506) 2223-1327         Posted Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 188              E-mail us
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Country warned about approaching storm system
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats probably should not plan on any golf games this weekend. And it might not be a bad idea to pick up some bottled water and flashlight batteries.

Both the U.S. and Costa Rican weather agencies are warning of a low pressure area off the Venezuelan coast that could become a tropical depression or even a tropical storm. Both the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, and the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional here concur in this prediction.

But the Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnología produced an unexpected warning Wednesday in which the low pressure area was likened to Hurricane Mitch that devastated Central America in late October and early November 1998. The center also said the weather system's track was similar to hurricanes Gilbert and Joan, both in 1988.

The hurricanes did not make landfall in Costa Rica but the impact still was severe.

The meteorological institute did warn of indirect effects. It said forecasters expected the system to reach Costa Rica by Thursday. The storm was moving in this direction at 25 kilometers per hour. The U.S. Hurricane Center said "environmental conditions appear favorable for development and this system could become a tropical depression during the next day or two as it moves westward at 15 mph toward the western Caribbean.  There is a high chance, 60 percent, of this system becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours." 

The meteorological institute said effects could not be predicted with complete accuracy but that the south and central Pacific coast probably will see rain of variable intensity starting today and high seas at the same time.

The institute warned of high seas for the north Pacific coast, too, and said rains probably would last through Sunday.

The Central Valley will see rain from the storm today, too, but perhaps more from Friday to Sunday.

The Caribbean coast probably wold be spared the 
weather graphic
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
This graphic shows the approximate location of the low pressure system at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

influence of the system, the institute said, warning that there could be persistent rain in the coastal mountains. The same was true for the northern zone, it said.

The country has seen a lot of rain in the last week. Highway cuts still are shedding rocks and debris. Storm damage has been costly. 

The hurricane center forecast called for heavy rain over Venezuela and Colombia in the next day or so followed by similar conditions over portions of Central America.

The Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnología was more specific. It predicted accumulated precipitation of from 250 to 400 millimeters through Friday along the Pacific coast. That is from 10 to 16 inches.  It urged precautionary measures in case of major flooding.

The technology center, which is linked to all the nation's universities, urged residents to get a portable radio and prepare medicines and personal papers in case they have to flee their homes. It also warned motorists about crossing swollen rivers. Rivers have taken the lives of at least three motorists in the last two weeks.

The dangers have not only been on the Pacific coast. Central Valley residents along the Río María Aguilar from La Unión de Cartago through San José have had their homes flooded and some destroyed by raging waters in the last week. The national emergency commission said that 130 persons fled to public shelters.

The center also warned that a pass nearby from a major hurricane would inflict heavy damage on infrastructure and agriculture.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 188

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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo 
  Here are some of the weapons and handloading
  materials police found


Surprise cache of guns
and ammunition uncovered

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What began as a domestic violence call in Paso Ancho led to the discovery of 15 sidearms, a shotgun, gun powder, thousands of bullets and reloading equipment.

Fuerza Pública officers confiscated it all.

The bullets ranged from .22 caliber to .45 caliber. Police said that the gunpowder totaled 21.3 kilos or nearly 45 pounds. There also were gun barrels.

Damaged highway section
still being repaired


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials hope to have the damaged section of the Interamericana Norte back in full service by Tuesday. The section is open to one-way traffic now.

This is the site at Cerro Cambronero where heavy rains washed out a drain pipe and a large section of the road. Workmen installed a concrete drain system in place of the destroyed corrugated metal one, and highway officials put up a temporary bailey bridge over the gap. That temporary bridge was closed for a time earlier this week when rains undermined the places where the bridge was resting.

MACO construction company workers are filling in the gap. The dirt and rock will be compacted and a new asphalt layer put down, highway officials have said.

Meanwhile trucks are banned from the temporary bridge. Buses are being allow through, but cargo trucks have to take an alternate route. One of these is the Autopista del Sol between San José and Caldera.

Repair work has been hampered by the heavy rains.

Home invading suspects
caught in Puntarenas

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in El Roble de Puntarenas said they captured seven men suspected of tricking their way into a home and holding two minors there at gunpoint.

The men were detained after neighbors of the home alerted police that men were taking items from the dwelling.

Police said crooks pretended to be ice cream vendors and learned that the children were in the home alone. They entered and held the youngsters at gunpoint while they sacked the place, police said.

Officers detained the seven suspects after a short chase and roadblock. Offices said the men did not have weapons when detained. They are searching some of the countryside near where the arrests were made.

Desamparados man given
24 years for hurting son


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man convicted of continual physical violence against his year-and-a-half-old child got 24 years in prison Wednesday on attempted murder and a weapons charge.

The man was identified by the last names of Alemán Guerrero. He holds Nicaraguan citizenship, the Poder Judicial said.

The Fuerza Pública intervened in October 2009 at the home in San Juan de Dios de Desamparados. When the child cried, said prosecutors, the man would dunk the boy in cold water. The child also suffered bruises all over the body, some of them from a man's belt, said the Poder Judicial.

The man had threatened his wife so she would not report what he was doing, said prosecutors. But the women filed a complaint Oct. 18, 2009, and police rescued the boy.
 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 188

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Cacao tree yields genetic secrets for possible manipulation
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two separate groups of scientists have unraveled the genetic code of the cacao tree.

It's good news for the millions of small farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America whose livelihoods depend on the seeds from which chocolate is made. There are cacao plantations in Costa Rica.

Candy is a $40 billion-a-year business. But many of the more than five million farmers worldwide who produce cocoa are living in poverty.

One reason for that is that their farms are not very productive, according to Howard-Yana Shapiro, head of plant research for the U.S.-based candy giant, Mars Inc. Shapiro says the average West African cacao tree farmer produces only about 400 kilograms of cocoa beans per hectare.

"There's a yield potential of maybe 4,000 kilos, 10 times what the average is in West Africa," he says. "We saw the disparity."

To reduce that disparity, Mars helped fund a project to sequence the genome of the cacao tree. The Mars project sequenced the most common variety. French researchers led a separate effort focusing on the high-quality Criollo variety.

Genome data is expected to help with some of the most common problems facing cacao growers. Each year farmers lose about a third of their harvest to pests and fungal diseases, says Bill Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation, an industry-sponsored group promoting sustainable cocoa farming.

"This type of program we feel is going to be very beneficial in helping to breed trees that are more tolerant or resistant against some of the fungal pests," he says.
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And with better productivity, he adds, farmers can earn more money and improve their social conditions.

Mars team leader Shapiro says it's a win-win both for the company and for cocoa farmers.

"We want to be in business sustainably in the future. We want to have certified cocoa that is sustainably grown. We want the farmers to have a sustainable life. We don't want them to all have to move to the city."

The genome data will be publically available without restrictions or patents. Shapiro expects improved cacao trees to start reaching farmers in about three years.


Bus crash in Pérez Zeledón injures 30 high schoolers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A school bus carrying about 50 students went off the road and plunged down a hill Wednesday morning in Pejibaye de Pérez Zeledón. Some 30 students were injured, and at least two were airlifted to San José by police.

The mishap of unknown cause took place shortly after 8
a.m. The students were headed to the Liceo de Pejibaye.

The bulk of the students were treated locally.

The Dirección del Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea of the security ministry said that another patient, unrelated to the bus crash also was taken to San José and gave birth during the trip.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 188

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Dole reports new study shows animals prosper near its farm

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Dole Food Company, Inc. said it has completed an animal monitoring study carried out at El Bosque, a Dole pineapple farm in Costa Rica, together with scientists working with Fundecor, a non-governmental organization active in protecting the natural resources of the Costa Rican central mountains.  The study reveals not only that wildlife has been preserved, compared to a baseline survey carried out in 2005, but also that several vulnerable species are being effectively protected in the forest flanking the farm.

El Bosque is a Dole-owned pineapple plantation located in the province of Limón.  The farm covers a surface of 1,400 hectares, abut 3,460 acres. Some 850 hectares (2,100 acres) are dedicated to pineapple production and the rest is mostly protected forests. The study was performed in July and focused on the use of infrared cameras to gauge the presence of fauna on the forest-floor of the 80-hectare reserve at El Bosque. 

A total of 11 mammal species from 11 different genera, nine families and five orders were registered by the cameras.

This exploratory study revealed the presence of species that are highly vulnerable to fragmentation, habitat destruction and hunting, such as the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and the paca (Cuniculus paca), a forest-dwelling herbivore, said German Obando, director of research and technology at Fundecor. This is evidence that the surveillance and conservation practices implemented by Dole are effectively protecting the forest, he added.

“As the survey confirmed, the forest at our El Bosque farm is fundamental to maintaining and increasing several
mammalian populations. The results illustrate that despite
frequent misconceptions about high-yield plantation agriculture, our Dole production practices make it possible to co-exist with nature and produce in a truly sustainable way and in harmony with nature,” said Richard Toman, vice president pineapple operations for Dole Latin America.

He also said that the company has commissioned two similar studies, one at a banana plantation in Sarapiquí and pineapple farms in San Carlos.

The survey was commissioned during World Environment Day last June and was part of a broader set of initiatives organized by Dole at banana and pineapple operations, not only in Costa Rica but also in Honduras, Ecuador and Perú.  These other initiatives included the planting of 30,000 trees with community, schools, workers and their children, the conduction of environmental awareness seminars for the children, the collection of trash alongside rivers and roads, the presentation of recycling programs by women leaders and the installation of bird feeders for hummingbirds and others.

Dole, with 2009 net revenues of $6.8 billion, is the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and is the leading producer of organic bananas and producer/shipper of organic pineapples.

Founded in 1991, Fundecor is a non-governmental organization whose mission is to protect the natural resources of the Costa Rican central mountains by using market-based strategies and cutting edge research and development for the creation and improvement of public policy under the principle that conversation and development should coexist in harmony.



Jeannette Arias among six who are fiscal general finalists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ewald Acuña did not make the cut, but Jeannette Arias Meza is one of the finalists to be the country's next fiscal general or chief prosecutor.

The Poder Judicial realized a list of finalists Wednesday. The original 19 candidates have been cut to six. In addition to Ms. Arias, Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, a former vice minister of security is a finalist. So is Rafael Sanabria Rojas, a criminal court judge. Two other candidates are working now as prosecutors. They are Emilia Navas Aparicio of delitos económicos and Édgar Ramírez
Villalobos, who works in Pérez Zeledón. The final candidate is Guillermo Hernández Ramírez, who is on the staff of the drug trafficking prosecutor.

Acuña, a former judge, represented a number of U.S. citizens in the Oswaldo Villalobos fraud trial.

Ms. Arias also was known to North Americans because she headed the victim assistance office at the same time.

The Poder Judicial said that the magistrates of the Corte Suprema de Justicia probably will make their choice when they meet Monday.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 188

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Obama reveals new policy
to promote real development


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama Wednesday announced a new U.S. international global development policy focused on incentives for economic growth, rather than outright grants of food or financial aid. His address came at the end of a three-day United Nations summit on the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

Obama is making clear that the United States is not abandoning its role as a leading provider of emergency aid, as seen in its recent response to natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.

But in his address to the closing session of the review conference on Millennium Development Goals, he said the U.S. foreign assistance program will henceforth focus on helping low-income countries actually develop — moving from poverty to prosperity.

"Our focus on assistance has saved lives in the short term, but it hasn't always improved those societies over the long-term," said Obama. "Consider the millions of people who have relied on food assistance for decades. That's not development, that's dependence, and it's a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty."

The themes sounded by the president in the address to the 140-country gathering are not entirely new, and incorporate some initiatives begun by the previous Bush administration including its Millennium Challenge grants to countries that commit to good governance and self help.

But the approach has now been incorporated in an unprecedented presidential policy directive on global development signed by Obama earlier Wednesday.

The directive declares that development in the world's poorer countries is vital to U.S. national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States.

In the speech, Obama defended his roll-out of the new policy at a time of hard economic times in the United States. He said progress in the poorest countries can advance the interests of people far beyond their borders, including Americans.

"When millions of fathers cannot provide for their families, it feeds the despair that can fuel instability and violent extremism," said  Obama. "When a disease goes unchecked, it can endanger the health of millions around the world. So let's put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests. And let's reject the cynicism that says certain countries are condemned to perpetual poverty."

Obama said the new U.S. strategy will seek to break down trade barriers and combat official corruption, which he said in many places is the single greatest barrier to prosperity and a profound violation of human rights.

The U.N. summit delivered a mixed report on fulfillment of the Millennium Development goals set by the world body 10 years ago.

Most advanced economies including the United States failed to reach the goal of devoting seven tenths of one per cent of their annual gross national product to development aid, though officials say the U.S. remains by far the largest single donor in terms of total assistance.

Leaders of developing countries urged rich countries to stay committed to development goals, with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, among others, complaining of a protectionist trend spawned by the global economic downturn.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Wednesday launched a $40-billion global strategy to make headway on maternal and child health, one of the slowest moving sectors of the Millennium goals, aimed at saving the lives of 16 million woman and children over the next five years.

The summit countries have set a revised 2015 deadline for fulfilling the millennium goals.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 188


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Ms. Chinchilla wants cash
from drug-using countries


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Following in the footsteps of her mentor, Óscar Arias Sánchez, President Laura Chinchilla showed Wednesday that she was not shy about asking developed countries for money.

Ms. Chinchilla used the forum of the traditional and ritualistic speech world leaders make each year at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Ms. Chinchilla said that developed countries should kick in a percentage of their gross domestic product to help lesser developed nations fight drug trafficking.

Arias used to promote the idea that developed nations should forgive debt to developing countries.

Ms. Chinchilla said that the drug problem was not the making of developing countries and that it is the consumer nations that should pay.

Billions of dollars each year flow from north to south as the product of drug sales. But not much of this money ends up in the hands of Latin American politicians.

The United States has been criticized for distributing much of its foreign aid to advance the fight against illegal drugs. Critics cite such programs as the Merida Initiative.


Public supports president,
opinion survey shows


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial said that a recent CID-Gallup poll shows that the public has confidence in the work of the administration.

The poll, commissioned by the newspaper El Diario Extra, shows that 76 percent of those interviewed support the president. Fewer, some 54 percent, approve of what the administration has done so far.

Marco Vargas, minister of the Presidencia, said that the public support will allow the president to push her favorite projects.

These include a new law on electrical generating and plans to tax online and physical casinos and corporations to provide money for citizen security.

Typically heads of state enjoy widespread public support until they make an unpopular move. El Diario Extra noted that former president Óscar Arias Sánchez enjoyed the support of 70 percent in a similar survey. His support dropped sharply as the controversy of the free trade treaty with the United States played out.

The survey was done in person and by telephone from Sept. 5 to 10.

Air Canada plans flight
to Liberia each Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

AirCanada will be making a weekly run between Montreal and Liberia, Guanacaste, starting in December, according to the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Air Canada offers tourism packages to 90 destinations, including Costa Rica.

Initially the aircraft flying into Daniel Oduber airport will carry 120 passengers each Monday.





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