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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 191             E-mail us
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Fan violence a growing concern at sports events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hooliganism in the European sense is not as prevalent here. But fan violence still is a fact at many soccer games.

Some fans are members of informal groups called  barras. They dress in their team's colors and frequently carry the competition on the field into the streets. Buses are pelted with rocks or worse.

Many such fans are minors, but then there are the older instigators, perhaps underemployed individuals whose lives now revolve around the successes and failures of their favorite team.

A clash between rival fans resulted in finger pointing Monday. The Fuerza Pública is blaming the management of Estadio Carlos Ugalde in San Carlos for not having enough private security guards. That allegation came on the heels of a bloody confrontation between San Carlos and Heredia fans off the field. One man, identified by the Poder Judicial as José Manuel Marín Castro fell to the ground as those around him kicked and hit him. His bloody face made the front page of El Diario Extra Monday. The attack happened inside the stadium.

The Poder Judicial said that five persons, including a minor were being investigated for the attack. They have the last names of Brenes Rodríguez, Solano Gutiérrez, Latino Villareal and Orias Alfaro. The minor was not identified.

Barras for the various football soccer teams gather
at times for transportation in the major urban areas.
One expat told of being faced by fans as he and a brother walked through Parque Morazán. The youngsters tried to take possessions and instigate a fight. Fuerza Pública officers intervened.

Storekeepers warn expats to avoid the gathering of the barras.

In fact, the Fuerza Pública provides close surveillance when the barras gather. Near Parque Morazán in San José is a popular place as they await bus transportation. The police have been known to park a mobil command unit nearby to keep close watch on the mostly male and younger crowd.

Sunday at the Heredia San Carlos soccer game, fans knocked down a fence, threw a trash can and otherwise issued challenges.

This is not a new phenomenon. Fan violence goes back to the 19th century in Europe and to at least the 1950s in Latin America. The difference is that Costa Rica's young population provides numerous candidates for football gangs.

Although the Fuerza Pública keeps close track of the football gangs and even hold meetings with leaders, the agency said Monday that internal security at soccer stadiums is the responsibility of the private operators. It said that San Carlos should have had 35 to 40 private security guards instead of about half that number. The Fuerza Pública said it had 60 officers outside the stadium to stem any street violence.

Bathers and boat owners get warnings in anticipation of high seas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Don't go in the water on the Pacific. That's the warning from the national emergency commission that said Monday high seas are expected there this week.

The agency also suggested that boat owners put their craft in protected areas.

The cause, said the emergency commission, is a continued low pressure area north of Nicaragua. The system strengthened Monday and weather
experts think that it may revert to a tropical depression at least.

The emergency commission directed its warnings in particular to Playas del Coco and Bahia Salinas and urged bathers to stay out of the water in the face of rough seas.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said it is more of the same for today. Moisture coming in from the oceans will bring clouds and then afternoon rains of variable intensity, which is typical of this time of year.

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A bridge too far
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Despite being light weight, this bailey bridge in Tibás can handle a dump truck.

Second temporary bridge
planned for Tibás roadway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials expect to begin putting up a second bailey bridge on national route 5 between San Juan de Tibás and Cinco Esquinas.

Half the bridge there collapsed last week and the other half was undermined by the water in the waterway below.

Highway engineers quickly erected a bailey bridge to span the absent piece of roadway that carried traffic to Tibás. And now they plan to install a second to take pressure off the undermined section. The collapse of the bridge cut water and other utility lines.

Since then, the road has been one lane.

This is the second time this year that the bridge has been damaged. In July the section that carries San José-bound traffic suffered damage from rain.

Costa Rica is a heavy user of bailey bridges to span damaged stretches of roadway. The British created the bridges in the early 1940s to advance the war effort. The main advantage is that heavy equipment is not required to put the bridge into place. Workers just tip up the front end and roll it to bridge the damaged area.

An identical bridge was put into use on the Interamericana earlier this month when heavy rain washed away a section of the roadway.

Month will end with walk
to celebrate desire for peace

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials and students will mark the end of the patriotic month with a walk from the Mercado Central in San José to the Centro Nacional de Cultura Thursday. Once at the centro there will be a ceremony.

September is designated the patriotic month in Costa Rica because Sept. 15 is the Día de la Independencia.

The ministries of Cultura, Justicia and Educación are sponsoring the walk, called a Caminata por la Paz.  President Laura Chinchilla and some of her ministers are expected to attend.

The walk organizes at 8 a.m. when students from many of the downtown schools gather. And walkers step off at 8:30 a.m.

Statistics have their day
as decision-making tool

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has joined the celebration of World Statistics Day, which, for the first time this Oct. 20 will raise awareness of the importance of statistics in decision-making, designing national development policies and government transparency, the agency said.

World Statistics Day was established by resolution of the U.N. General Assembly in June under the theme celebrating the many achievements of official statistics, acknowledging their importance for national socio-economic development and as a basic pillar of democracy.

The U.N. resolution asserts that it is essential for countries to count with national statistics capabilities in order to produce reliable and timely statistics and indicators that may serve as the basis for informed decisions based on the core values of service, integrity and professionalism.

Job fair set for Thursday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least nine private employers will be offering up to 350 jobs at a fair organized by the Municipalidad de San José Thursday in the Hotel Parque del Lago in Sabana Este.

Organizers said that high school graduation is a requirement.

Sought are applicants for sales, delivery, administrative assistants, call center operators, credit analysts, bank tellers, and restaurant workers, among others. The event starts at 8 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m., the municipality said.

Iwo Jima leaving Nicaragua

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. military experts and members of non-government organizations are leaving Bluefields, Nicaragua, after finishing up the same type of humanitarian mission they completed this month in the province of Limón.

The mission is Mission Continuing Promise 2010 and the boat is the USS Iwo Jima.  The mission brought a team of medical, dental, veterinary and engineering professionals to work alongside their Nicaraguan counterparts. There were participants from 13 nations, including Costa Rica. The visit  began Sept. 16 and lasted nine days.

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A.M. Costa Rica guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
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.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

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.

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, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 191

Sala IV slaps concession agency for shortcut on land deal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fact of Costa Rican life is that sometimes it is better to plunge ahead with a project rather than stand by while all the approvals are obtained.

In part, that is because the procedures to obtain approvals are so complex.

But who would have suspected that the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones would do that same thing?

The Sala IV constitutional court found against the Consejo
in a decision announced Monday. The Consejo in conjunction with the Autopista del Sol took over and built an access road on land it did not own and has not yet started the process to expropriate the section, the court found.

The Consejo put in a roadway, gutters and other improvements, and the two brothers who own the property appealed. They have the last names of Alfaro Quesada. The land is alongside the autopista in Concepción de Atenas.

The court gave the Consejo 10 days to start expropriation process. The road connects two communities cut off by the construction of the main highway.

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To celebrate the World Day of Tourism, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo organized these 70 volunteers to clean up the pedestrian boulevard downtown Monday. Some 40 persons were institute employees and
30 persons came from various hotels. The tourism institute just kicked off a cleanup program that aims to remove garbage and trash from the eyes of visitors. The presence of trash is a major tourist complaint.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 191

New genetic study rebuts intelligent design argument

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The more complex a plant or animal, the more difficulty it should have adapting to changes in the environment. That's been a maxim of evolutionary theory since biologist Ronald A. Fisher put forth the idea in 1930. But if that tenet is true, how do you explain all the well-adapted, complex organisms — from orchids to bower birds to humans?

This "cost of complexity" conundrum puzzles biologists and offers ammunition to proponents of intelligent design, who hold that such intricacy could arise only through the efforts of a divine designer, not through natural selection. A new analysis by Jianzhi "George" Zhang and coworkers at the University of Michigan and Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes reveals flaws in the models from which the cost of complexity idea arose and shows that complexity can, indeed, develop through evolutionary processes. In fact, a moderate amount of complexity best equips organisms to adapt to environmental change, the research suggests. The findings will be published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

The study focused on a genetic phenomenon called pleiotropy, in which a single gene affects more than one trait. Examples of pleiotropy are well known in certain human diseases, and the effect also has been documented in experimental animals such as fruit flies. Biologists also recognize its importance in development, aging and many evolutionary processes. However, pleiotropy is difficult to measure, and its general patterns are poorly understood, said Zhang, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. 

Even so, scientists have developed mathematical models of the phenomenon, based on certain assumptions, and have made predictions from the results of the models. Zhang and coworkers decided to test the assumptions against real-life observations by analyzing several large databases that catalog the effects of specific genetic mutations on traits in model organisms (yeast, roundworms and mice). Each data set included hundreds to thousands of genes and tens to hundreds of traits.

For simplicity, mathematical models of pleiotropy have assumed that all genes in an organism affect all of its traits to some extent. But Zhang's group found that most genes affect only a small number of traits, while relatively few genes affect large numbers of traits.
What's more, they found a "modular" pattern of organization, with genes and traits grouped into sets. Genes in a particular set affect a particular group of traits, but not traits in other groups.

In addition, the researchers learned that the more traits a gene affects, the stronger its effect on each trait.

All of these findings challenge the assumptions underlying the classic mathematical models that suggest complexity is prohibitively costly.

When Fisher first wrote about the cost of complexity, he argued that random mutations — which, along with natural selection, drive evolution —are more likely to benefit simple organisms than complex organisms.
"Think of a hammer and a microscope," Zhang said. "One is complex, one is simple. If you change the length of an arbitrary component of the system by an inch, for example, you're more likely to break the microscope than the hammer."

In a paper published in 2000, evolutionary geneticist H. Allen Orr of Rochester came up with additional reasons for the cost of complexity. According to his model, even if a mutation benefits a complex organism, it's unlikely to spread throughout the whole population and become "fixed." And even if it does that, the advantage of the mutation is likely to be small. 

By incorporating a more realistic representation of pleiotropy, Zhang's analysis found the reverse of Orr's arguments to be true. Although Fisher's observation still holds, reversing Orr's assertions minimizes its impact, thus reducing the cost of complexity. 

Further, the analysis showed that the ability of organisms to adapt is highest at intermediate levels of complexity. "This means a simple organism is not best and a very complex organism is not best; some intermediate level of complexity is best in terms of the adaptation rate," Zhang said.

The new findings help buffer evolutionary biology against the criticisms of intelligent design proponents, Zhang said. "The evolution of complexity is one thing that they often target. Admittedly, there were some theoretical difficulties in explaining the evolution of complexity because of the notion of the cost of complexity, but with our findings these difficulties are now removed."

Readers react favorably to new Spanish news summary service
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Reader response to A.M. Costa Rica's translated Spanish-language news was enthusiastic and positive Monday.
The newspaper surveys the Spanish-language press early each morning and then publishes a brief fair use summary of the most relevant. The summaries are linked via a translation program to the original news story. So readers can see La Nación, El Diario Extra, Al Día and other newspapers in the original format but in English.

Unlike other English-language newspapers, A.M. Costa Rica does not take material from the Spanish papers to use in its own news stories. News stories written here are based on original sources. For 10 years A.M. Costa Rica editors resisted the temptation to steal news material from the local Spanish newspapers. Technology and international law now provide a legal way to give readers what they may need under the concept of fair use.

Editors believe that this service, online as Costa Rica Report, will let expats improve their Spanish language ability and also give them a broad view of what is happening in the country. Some readers commented on the uneven quality of the translations, but what is seen today is far better than what was available several years ago, and the software continues to improve. Others noted that they can find the original Spanish-language news articles online and then compare them to the translated version, thereby improving their own vocabulary.

Some advertisers wrote to say they liked the new service, too, because it brings more readers to the pages of the newspaper. In fact, more than 700 pages were served by Costa Rica Reports in the first 16 hours that the free service was available.

The goal is to have the news posted in feed format by 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 191

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Robot in here
Wire services photo
The sophisticated ARM robot

Robots go on display
and seek human feedback

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

These days, robots are more common. Consider the Roomba, a programmable robotic vacuum which cleans floors on its own.

"We wanted to make something simple that people could use every day," said Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot, the company that makes the smart vacuum. "And that's what inspired us to build the Roomba."

IRobot makes everything from the Roomba and remote-controlled bomb-disposal units, to robots that someday might become a part of a human.

"You can have robotics incorporated into your body, to give back that arm or leg that you've lost, either in service or through some accident or disease," says Ms. Greiner.

New robot technology was on display recently in Denver, Colorado, at the annual convention of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International.

Although robots have been developed mainly for military applications, civilian uses for the technology are growing, according to Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International.

"Whether it be firefighting, whether it be first responders or disaster response, unmanned systems allow human beings to be able to do their mission with an extension of their hands, their eyes and their ears."

Remote-controlled land rovers can detonate bombs or buried land mines. Edison Hudson of iRobot says some robots swim and can monitor ocean pollution. "We can put them in the ocean and they'll swim for eight or nine months, collecting data," said Hudson.

At the convention, the U.S. government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, displayed a state-of-the-art robotic "man."

The agency has a history of inventing things like the Arpanet, which was the father of the Internet in the 1960s, Saturn 5 rockets and stealth aircraft, said Robert Mandelbaum, DARPA's project manager.

The robotic man is the Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program, or ARM. Instead of depending on remote-control, ARM can actually look at some blocks, find one with a special pattern, and move it to a new location. Mandelbaum says more challenging tasks lie ahead.

"Pick up a gym bag, unzip it, reach inside, feel around without visual feedback, and find an object that's inside the gym bag." Some day, a DARPA robot might find a hidden bomb or help a disabled person select a shirt and button it, he said.

To advance the technology, the agency plans to let members of the pubic write software for ARM, then sign onto the Internet and watch a model of ARM perform the task.

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Opponents of Chávez say
they got 52 percent of vote

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez say they received 52 percent of the popular vote. But they only got 65 seats and supporters of Chávez got 98.

The opposition 40 percent of the vote is enough to prevent the president from railroading through major legislation. Such measures take a two-thirds vote.

Chávez, on the other hand, denied Monday that his supporters lost the popular vote. He said the opposition was lying and using incorrect figures. He also argued with a radio reporter who asked him pointed questions.

Opposition groups said the results marked a key victory in their attempts to place a check on Chávez.

Election officials announced the results at 2 a.m. Monday in Venezuela, following delays at polling stations outside the capital, Caracas. The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral, Tibisay Lucena, said officials waited to release numbers until the outcome of a handful of tight races became clear.

She said, in spite of a few glitches, the vote was a success.

Ms. Lucena offered congratulations to candidates who won, and those who lost, saying it was a great contest.

Two seats went to a party that split from the ruling socialists this year.

For some opposition candidates, the vote results showed a clear message of support from voters. In Caracas, opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado said Venezuelans do not want to see the country pushed further toward communism.

Machado said the people have rejected the current national assembly, adding that elected lawmakers must work to represent all of the country and not just part of it.

Opposition leaders said the results showed they had claimed 52 percent of the general vote across Venezuela, defeating the ruling socialist party. However, a new redistricting plan has boosted the number of national assembly seats in areas with relatively lower populations, they said.

The governor of northwestern Zulia state, Pablo Pérez, said the nation's election system prevented opposition candidates from claiming 52 percent of seats in the National Assembly. But he said the vote was a clear victory for the opposition.

Perez said the challenge is for all opposition leaders to be prepared to work with the government and socialist lawmakers to help the country.

Many voters say the new assembly must be prepared to tackle growing problems, such as rising inflation and unemployment, and violent crime fueled in part by the illegal drug trade.

Meanwhile the opposition is looking toward the 2012 presidential vote.

Another offshore earthquake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was another quake offshore from Montezuma in the tip of the Nicoya peninsula at 8:33 a.m. Monday. Earthquake experts said the tremor had a magnitude of 4.1. That is roughly the same area where a5.0 quake took place Sept, 16. that was followed by at least 60 aftershocks.

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