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Homebrew considered as a mystery disease cause
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One possible cause of a mysterious chronic kidney disease that causes the organ to shut down is bootleg liquor, according to specialist Ray Wong McClure. 

“You can get liquor from the supermarkets, but in Guanacaste they mix fruits and several types of sugars.  Then they ferment it,” he said.

Wong works at the central office of Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and is the director of an investigation to solve the mystery of the cause of this disease.  The study is in its preliminary stages, but so far he knows that is a problem mostly with young men in the coast, he said.

This knowledge comes from an impact study conducted last year from patients at Hospital Dr. Enrique Baltodano Briceño in Liberia, Guanacaste. 

Analyzing data from 2005 until 2010, researchers found that there were 150 cases in the region.  Out of these cases, 52 percent were under the age of 50 and 90.7 percent were males. 

In this period, the disease had a 36 percent mortality rate.

Starting next month, Wong, a physician, and his team of experts will begin a one-year case study in eight clinics of eight different cantons.   These regions are Liberia, Cañas, Nandayure, Nicoya, Hojancha, La Cruz, Carrillo and Bagaces.  The majority of the budget, 75 percent, will be spent in Cañas, Bagaces and Carrillo because of the high impact there, he said.
“The study is weighted which means it is oriented to cantons with bigger problems,” said Wong.

Overall it is a multi-center research project with an  assorted group that consists of Centro Nacional de Intoxicaciones, Nefrología-Hospital México, Nefrología-Hospital Calderón Guardia, Servicio de Medicina Interna de Hospital Dr. Enrique Baltodano as well as family physicians of Guanacaste. 

The experiment will compare patients of the disease with a control group.  The group will be exposed to different factors such as labor, pesticides and liquor.
“What we are looking to find out is what was the experience in the past that provoked the condition.  The cause of the condition could be anything.  Today it is a mystery,” said Wong.

An analysis of global health data showed that from 2005 to 2009, kidney failure has killed more than 2,800 men a year in Central America, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which first reported on the issue in December.

In Costa Rica, death from the disease is up 16 percent from 2005. In El Salvador and Nicaragua over the last two decades, the number of men dying from kidney disease has risen fivefold, according to the report. Now more men are dying from the ailment than from HIV/AIDS, diabetes and leukemia combined, the U.S.-based center added.

The illness also has been blamed on dehydration. Wong has noted that the disease has been identified in laborers outside of the sugar cane industry such as construction, possibly ruling out the link to pesticides. 

Officials plan to eliminate directions a la Tico
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It's official. Two major state banks and the Municipalidad de San José will unveil this morning what is being described as a way to identify dozens of blocks in the city with modern addresses.

This is the latest effort to get away from the landmark system that took root in Costa Rica in early Colonial times. That is the use of meters and directions from a landmark that may no longer be standing.

Nearly all buildings in downtown San José have numbers. The offices of A.M. Costa Rica are at 1335 Avenida 11,  but no one uses that address. Instead, the offices are located 175 meters west of the ramp at Hospital Calderón Guardia.

San José Mayor Johnny Araya, a likely presidential candidate, has been pushing for modern nomenclature. That is not just to make the town look modern. Emergency vehicle crews often are stymied by the archaic instructions. Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional both say that delivery services and Correos de Costa Rica will benefit from the new system.

Alas, anyone wishing to see the presentation of the new system this morning at 9:30 a.m. has to
directions al la tico

find it by going 100 meters north of the Catedral Metropolitana. That's on Calle 0 for those who keep track.

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Maritime zone dwellers
get their eviction delay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla has signed into law a measure that places a moratorium on evictions in the nation's maritime zone. The measure likely will be subject to a court appeal.

The president also said that three proposed laws would benefit those who live in the maritime zone, at the nation's borders and on state land. They will be presented to the legislature.

The central government recognizes that the two-year moratorium is a temporary measure.

One proposal covers coastal areas where there is no zoning law or plan regulador. According to Casa Presidencial, the measure allows construction in the maritime zone to remain until a zoning plan is enacted as long as there is no negative environmental factors. Then the construction must conform to the plan.

A second proposal would declare towns in the maritime zone as urban areas and allow local authorities to set up a zoning plan.  Urban areas have far more flexibility in allowing construction in the maritime zone.

The zone is 200 meters inland from mean high tide. A number of communities on both coasts have extensive construction inside these limits. Such a law received approval for the southern Caribbean, but the Sala IV declared the measure unconstitutional

Ms. Chinchilla signed the law Tuesday, but the action was not announced until Wednesday.

Casa Presidencial also released Wednesday the text of a letter that the president sent to Víctor Emilio Granados, president of the Asamblea Legisaltiva. In it, Ms. Chinchilla outlined her reasons for vetoing a bill that would have permitted widespread photocopying of copyrighted works.

The bill was presented as a way to help students by letting them  photocopy texts legally, but the measure was far broader.

Copy shop operators, who face penalties including prison for infringing on copyrighted works, supported the measure. Authors and others involved in creating intellectual property urged a veto.

Two-day job fair in Escazú

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday and Saturday potential employers will staff a job fair at Multiplaza in Escazú, The event is promoted by Grupo Roble and the Municipalidad de Escazú. The time both days is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

An announcement said that there might be as many as 1,000 jobs open. Some 500 are expected to be permanent and 400 are expected to be temporary.

Applicants are asked to bring a resume either on paper or as an electronic document, said the announcement.

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
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Minnesota couple finds their future in Caribbean chocolate
By Connie Foss
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Caribeans Café has celebrated a grand re-opening at a new location in Cocles, where it will serve signature chocolate drinks as well as be the starting place for visitors to the Chocolate Forest Tour.

Paul and Jean Johnson came to Puerto Viejo from Minnesota more than six years ago. At the time, they never imagined they would become the area’s cacao experts, helping native families develop what they call value-added chocolate production: chocolate produced in one place, from tree to bar. The Johnsons were first introduced to cacao while caretaking a house in a forest that had once been a cacatal, or cacao plantation.

They began experimenting with making their own chocolate, as do many area residents. But the Johnsons had a business knack in addition to a good recipe for making chocolate. Eventually their garage chocolate production took over the back room of their café in Puerto Viejo, where Johnson used the coffee grinder for the dual purpose of grinding cacao beans.

In December 2010, the Johnsons made the decision to close the original Caribeans Café at its prime location facing the beach in Puerto Viejo in order to focus on the cacao plantation and chocolate production. They refer to this decision to close the café as pruning in order to grow their chocolate production.

Although the Johnsons still sold coffee and chocolate at the weekly farmers’ market in town, their real business was taking root on the cacao plantation, where they moved the equipment back to their garage and expanded the production process. The Chocolate Forest Tour in Cocles has been keeping the Johnsons busy, but their real work has been in developing a community of small, labor intensive cacao plantations where chocolate is produced on site from their own cacao beans.

The Johnsons did not begin with a five-year business plan. The growth of Caribeans Café and the Chocolate Forest Tour have been a process much like pruning and growing cacao in order to help it thrive. Their growth as cacao and chocolate producers branched out into helping others do the same. Now they see themselves in the vanguard of a new economic emergence of the cacao industry here in the Caribbean, what they hope will create the Napa Valley effect, a sustainable culture for families and a Renaissance in the appreciation of fine chocolates.

While the Caribeans Café serves specialty drinks where
A.M. Costa Rica/Connie Foss
Paul Johnson shows off some of the local product

chocolate will be featured more than coffee and a chocolador  showcases their many unique blends of chocolate bars for sale, the Chocolate Forest Tour is the real feature in the Johnsons’ business.

On the tour, visitors walk through the forest on an ancient mango trail and experience cacao production by seeing the trees and flowers and tasting the fruit. The chocolate tasting itself is held on the mountaintop next to a breathtaking view of the ocean all the way to Manzanillo. Invention, creativity and innovation are rampant, evidenced in the chocolate buffet where guests are invited to eat pieces of chocolate along with dibs and dabs of various herbs and spices. Garlic and black pepper are popular choices, as well as ginger and cilantro.

Next week, Johnson will take his innovative ideas about chocolate to the North West Chocolate Festival, held in Seattle, Washington.

Judges and prosecutors will be required to report their worth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judges and prosecutors will have to declare their holdings under a change in a law that received initial approval Wednesday.

The law is one designed to prevent official corruption. Many governmental officials already have to declare their worth every year. Now those in the judiciary will have to do so, too, if the bill gets final approval.
Lawmakers gave final approval to a measure that prohibits lawyers who work for a municipality from moonlighting in their profession. The measure makes an exception for municipal lawyers who do legal work for close relatives or for those who have a temporary job of three months or less.

The Asamblea Legislativa, which includes as members many lawyers, also ordered that in compensation for this prohibition, municipal lawyers will receive a bonus of 65 percent of their salary.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 193
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A recent Saturday ¡Enamorate de tu ciudad! was sort of like a three-ring circus.
Saturdays are days to show love of the city and to just have fun
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every Saturday the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud along with Banco Popular and Alliance Française invites the local communities to rediscover Costa Rica's parks and fall in love with downtown San José.

“The main objective of the program is to activate the cultural leisure activities on a schedule of proposed activities for relaxation, fun, education, physical activity and the active participation of the public of all ages,” said the ministry's Web site.

The cultural ministry launched this weekend program, ¡Enamorate de tu ciudad! Corredor Cultural, last year on Feb. 12.  Since its initiation, artists, yoga instructors and musicians have come to spaces such as Parque España, Parque Jardín de Paz and Parque Morazán to bring patrons culture, exercise, entertainment and fun.

“With cultural and recreation interventions, it has been possible to strengthen a culture of peace among people of all ages and from various social strata, who Saturday to Saturday are at a meeting point that is safe and proper for the accomplishment of
various cultural and recreational activities,” said a release from Alliance Française.

Alliance Française will present an exhibit about the weekend event today at 7 p.m.  The showcase will have photographs showing some of the different activities carried out in the parks and their impact on the visitors.  Also on display will be items made in construction workshops visitors to the program made. The exposition runs until Oct. 11 at the organization's Barrio Amón location.

Youth from urban areas will present drawings, mosaics and an audiovisual presentation tonight. These young people will also perform an urban dance.

This exhibition intends to capture the essence of the program which consists of the activation of the parks in San José, as cultural, permanent, and open spaces that promote the recovery of traditions, through performances, where the visitor can interact and be an integral part of the program, Alliance said.

¡Enamorate de tu ciudad! is held every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.   The programming includes guided visits to museums, visual art workshops, yoga, capoeira and Creole swing, poetry readings, music and circus acts, sports, board games and crafts.

New Museo de Arte y Diseño exposition tres partes diviso est
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo will explore the flexibility, ambiguity and suggestiveness of art through its new series entitled minima maxima sunt by Eduardo Chang.

The exhibit, which makes use of Latin words, takes participants on a journey through three parts: visual art, verbal and creation.

First is the artwork of Chang.  The artist said that he wishes to reinterpret the world that now has become used to short ideas, tweets and Facebook status back into complex thought. The exhibit started Sept. 19 and will run until Oct. 13.

He uses a series of everyday images to provoke topics similar to the period of the scientific enlightenment. 

"The game of the form with the contents from a minimum number of items, is an important aspect in the motion for Chang," said museum curator Maria José Chavarria. "The word that is repeated, the mention of the appropriate appointment, elasticity in their various uses, returns to the appropriation of contexualizations, snapshots, and famous phrases in a community of global and immediate information."

The second portion, ipsissima verb or "the very word," is a free film series of classic American movies that depict everyday culture.
"In these projections we find quotations we quote on a daily basis in the form of memes or tributes," the museum said. "They are understood as a kind of cultural soup, something like a tablet that allows a complex idea to penetrate quickly. This is true for historical phrases, sayings of popular wisdom and snippets of pop culture. These films show a true breeding ground which swarm instant thoughts and characters that seem to always have ipsissima verb."

Woody Allen's 1980 production "Stardust Memories" is the first film and will play today.  Next is 1998's "Rushmore" directed by Wes Anderson on Oct. 4 followed by 2001's "Donnie Darko" directed by Richard Kelly Oct. 11.  All movies begin at 6 p.m.

Ending the series will be a workshop, verb, non acta, on Oct. 13 that allows participants to create a visual representation of impromptu phrases.  They can make preliminary photos or sketches. But they will only be allowed to use magazines, photocopies, scissors and glue for the final product.

Those involved will have 45 minutes for production, 2.5 minutes to present and explain their results and fifteen minutes to share a small potluck snack.

This last event is from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Space is limited and persons can register by e-mail at or telephone at  2223-6012 or 2222-3489.  The contact person is Antonieta Sibaja.

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Freedom to blaspheme
seen as constitutional right

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Rev. Karen Brau and her flock at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., don't get too worked up about the sacredness of religious symbols. This year they are covering up crosses so that a Jewish congregation can use the large 19th century church for High Holiday worship.

And when a crucifix is desecrated, as in the 1987 Andres Serrano artwork "Piss Christ" that is stirring up controversy again with its appearance in a new show this week in New York, Rev. Brau says she feels sadness. But she tries to understand what is motivating the action.

"Is the person who desecrates a cross with urine, are they coming from a place of having experienced some of the horrors that church has done over time to people, whether it be the Crusades or burning of people, or some of the stuff now with the Catholic church and abuse?" she asks.

At the same time, the pastor sympathizes with Muslims who were angered by the "Innocence of Muslims" Internet video that insulted their holy prophet because Muslims see it as an attack on their faith.

"And so when you look at it in that way, I think I do have understanding as to why it would garner this reaction that seems very very pointed," she said.

Many Americans may have conflicting feelings about the "Innocence of Muslims" video that has sparked deadly protests in the Muslim world. But even Muslims in the United States know that in this country blasphemy is not punished.

Imam Hassan Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, condemns the Egyptian American Coptic Christians who made the film.  

"These Coptics, unfortunately, took advantage of the freedom offered to them by our society. Had they been living elsewhere, maybe they could not have wreaked this havoc and caused all this turmoil," he said.

But that's exactly what is intended by the First Amendment to the Constitution, according to Robert Destro, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law & Religion at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

"Our government is not supposed to take sides in religious disputes," says the professor, who has written the leading law school textbook in the United States on the subject of religious liberty.

"If there is a problem between believing Muslims and whoever made this video, which most of us have never seen, then that's a problem to be worked out privately among them," he says, adding that American Muslim scholars have also said that is the response the Quran prescribes to the faithful.

"They're supposed to confront the person and admonish them in a good and charitable way," he said.

American law only allows speech to be restricted that is a threat to public order, and the controversy over "Innocence of Muslims" is a religious dispute, Destro says, because it was made by someone whose apparent aim was to criticize Islam.

But some legal scholars are now arguing that in a globalized world it may be necessary to reconsider what American law counts as incitement. Destro says any limiting of free speech would be dangerous.

"The very idea that we start to say to people your thoughts are illegitimate, where does that stop?" he says. "It's very easy to say we should protect other people's sensibilities. But it's very easy for governments to turn that into a tool of political or religious oppression."

Destro says America's First Amendment is based on a religious belief: that only the Almighty can judge whether a person has chosen the right path to Him. And it goes further than European countries, where certain forms of hate speech are restricted.

Destro offers a hypothetical example: "In the United States, if I wanted to deny the Holocaust, I will never go to jail for it," he says. "I will be embarrassed, I will be shunned, I will be ridiculed for having made those kinds of statements, but those are moral judgments made by my fellow citizens."

Andy Williams remembered
for 75 years in show business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Singer Andy Williams died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Missouri, after a long battle with bladder cancer.  He was 84 years old.  Williams, who marked his 75th anniversary in show business this year, was known for his smooth, baritone delivery of romantic love songs.  He was also a popular U.S. television star who hosted a highly-rated weekly variety show and annual Christmas TV specials. 

Williams debuted on the pop charts in April of 1956 and less than one year later scored his first No. 1 hit with "Butterfly."

Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, Williams began his career at age 8 when he teamed up with his three brothers on their own radio series in Des Moines, Iowa.  In the mid-1940s his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where the quartet continued to perform until the Korean War draft forced them to temporarily disband.  Following the war, the Williams Brothers teamed with comedienne Kay Thompson, and for the next five years, they sold out venues throughout the U.S. and Europe.

In 1953, the Williams Brothers broke up permanently, and a year later, Andy signed his first solo recording contract with Cadence Records.  His most successful years were spent with Columbia Records beginning in 1961.  Williams' own Emmy Award-winning television series ran on the NBC network from 1962 to 1971.  The show introduced many new acts such as the Osmond Brothers, who fondly remember the crooner for launching their careers.

"Andy's the one that started it for us," they said. "He was the whole beginning of it.  And what a voice!  We grew up together.  If there was anything stable in our lives, it was being on Andy's show and with him."

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Andy Williams popularized several songs from motion pictures.  Among them were his signature tune "Moon River" from "Breakfast At Tiffany's," as well as the themes to "Love Story," "Dear Heart," "The Godfather" and "Days Of Wine And Roses." 

Andy Williams recorded more than 800 songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German and Japanese.  His Christmas albums and compilations were among his bestselling recordings.

Williams’ popularity continued long after his chart success faded.  In 1992, he opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri where for years he performed six nights a week.  He once commented on his accomplishments and the changing trends in the music industry.
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Trade deal with Colombia
is defended and promoted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Commerce ministry officials defended the proposed free trade agreement between Costa Rica and Colombia and sought to show business owners the opportunities available in the treaty at a conference Wednesday.

The conference also included a panel discussion and forum of business leaders from the food, tire and pharmaceutical industries supporting the treaty. Leading the discussion was Fernando Ocampo, vice minister of the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

The treaty has been sharply criticized by some leaders in manufacturing industries.

Five presidents of chambers that represent some of these industries condemned the treaty Monday. These industrial leaders said that the two countries compete in similar areas and do not have complementary products to export.

Using the panel members of various industries as evidence, Ocampo sought to show that this was not the case for all sectors or industries. He explained that the objective of both countries in the negotiations is to provide opportunities for some industries while still protecting others.

“It’s a very complex process, but we are very confident that at the end of the negotiation we will be able to have a good balance between these two interests,” said Ocampo.

Today is the final day in the second round of negotiations between Costa Rica and Colombia over the free trade agreement.

“In every specific subsector, there are industries or companies that want to export to Colombia, but there are also companies that say ‘I am afraid’ or ‘I have some concerns about imports from Colombia,' Ocampo said. “We are trying to have a balance at the end of the negotiations.”

The panel included food industry leaders Rebecca González, general manager of Alimentos Kámuk International, and Marvin Rodríguez, of Grupo Pelón. Additionally, Roy Rojas, international relations manager at the tire producer Bridgestone, and Alvaro Camacho, president of an association representing the pharmaceutical industry spoke in the panel.

Although this meeting catered more to those who are looking to export to Colombia than those that are nervous about Colombian exports, Ocampo said that the process is continuing. He noted that there was a series of consultation forums held last month for industries and that there are ones coming up in October in order to get input from those that think they will be affected by the proposed agreement.

“We have done this before,” said Ocampo. “We have done it with the China negotiations, we have done it with the European negotiations, and at the end everyone was happy with the results.”

“We believe that with Colombia we will be able to keep the same balance,” he added, noting that the third round of negotiations will take place in December.

Lone bandit gets $1,100
in San Pedro stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A bandit held up employees at a clothing store that occurred in San Pedro Montes de Oca Tuesday night, according to judicial investigators.

A bulletin from the Judicial Investigating Organization said that a man entered the store at approximately 7:30 p.m. A judicial spokesperson said that the man demanded the money in the store's cash register, and threatened the store employees while claiming to have a gun. However, the spokesperson also said that none of the victims saw the gun.

According to the announcement, the man took 550,000 colons (about $1,100) from the cash register as well as some of the store's merchandise.

The spokesperson confirmed that the store is called Ruta Urbana. The store is located on the same block as the Outlet Mall in San Pedro, about 100 meters south of La Farmacía Bomba.

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