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(506) 2223-1327         San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010,  Vol. 10, No. 193             E-mail us
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Bad news for coral reefs

A bleached fire coral with a Christmas tree worm on top gives a hint about how much of the Caribbean's coral may look later this year as a result of warm seas.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is tracking surface temperatures and the effects on coral both on site and from satellites. A high percent of the reefs may be killed by the phenomenon, the agency said.

But if that is not gloomy enough, researchers in London predict the extinction of coral if global warming is not stemmed.

See the stories HERE!

There's more unsettled weather in the mid-Atlantic
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As a soggy country begins to repair its storm damage and hundreds remain in public shelters, two more tropical waves are back to back in the mid-Atlantic headed in this direction.

So there is a high probability there will be more heavy rains. The U.S. National Hurricane Center puts the most western wave north of the east coast of Venezuela.

The litany of damage inflicted on the country by what is now Tropical Depression Nicole continues to mount.

A section of the Interamericana Norte highway collapsed near Cambronero, the same site where a section of the road washed away two weeks ago. Motorists were passing the spot only with difficulty.

There is damage in at least 15 cantons, said the Cruz Roja. They include San Ramón, Parrita, Barranca, Quepos, Garabito, Heredia, Atenas, Zarcero, Sarchí, Atenas, and Barva.

In Guararí de Heredia six homes were damaged by a landslide. In Parrita, rescue workers had to evacuate a senior citizen home Wednesday afternoon.

There were shelters with about 150 persons spread out among these towns Wednesday afternoon:  Parrita, Tárcoles, Atenas, San Ramón, Barranca and Zarcero.

At Playa Azul Cruz Roja workers evacuated residents by boats because the Río Tárcoles flooded and isolated the community. In San José de Trojas in Sarchí at least 50 persons were cut off by the flooding of a river.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias counted 300 persons in shelters in the Casa de la Cultra in Naranjo, Atenas, Zarcero and Sarchí. The commission was able to close the shelter in La Gloria de Puriscal by late afternoon.

At least 10 major routes were blocked, either by collapse of the road way or landslides. Ruta 141 between Palmitas and Zarcero was one. There also
was a landslide on the Interamerica Sur at Kilometer 99.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes noted that many of the landslides were in the province of Alajuela. The sunken spots on the Interamericana Norte were about a kilometer west of San Ramón. Workmen were trying to fill the depressions. Ruta 27, the San José-Caldera route was closed as a precaution between Atenas and Orotina. Heavy vehicles were not even able to use the alternate Orotina-San Mateo-Atenas highway, the ministry said.

The ministry also identified these routes that were closed due to landslides:

Ruta 301 between Sabanilla de Acosta and Parrita; Ruta 239 between la Gloria de Puriscal and Chiris de Parrita; Ruta 135, the old road between San Ramón and Palmares; Ruta 703 from San Ramón to Zarcero; Ruta 705 from San Ramón to Piedades Norte and Ruta 742 from San Ramón to Piedades Sur; Ruta 708 between Sarchí y Bajos del Toro; and Ruta 741 between Zarcero and Bajos del Toro.
The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad reported that Ruta Nacional 209 between San José and  Palmichal de Acosta was closed by a landslide near Acosta Centro. Officials said they expected the route to be closed all day today even though workmen were at the scene overnight.

The commission said that the country was saturated and any additional rains would add to the runoffs.

Casa Presidencial said that President Laura Chinchilla would give a report to the nation today at 10:30 a.m. The emergency commission is continuing a weather alert.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the influence of the tropical depression probably would continue through today, mostly because the weather system is only moving slowly from Cuba into Florida.

The new tropical waves were nothing more than a yellow spot on a word map, and the hurricane center said there was low probability that they would build into a tropical cyclone anytime soon. But nearly all major storms begin that way.

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Bill favoring women
hit another snag in court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has put another bump in the road for the proposal to increase the penalties in crimes against women.

The court was asked to review the measure by the Asamblea Legislative, which passed the bill in the first days of September. This is a routine request.

A brief statement from the Poder Judicial said that the court had found one section of the law to be unconstitutional, but there were few details.

The measure will go back to the legislature where it was passed overwhelmingly.

The bill is a redraft of one the Sala IV knocked down in 2008. At that time the court said that the measure singled out women for special treatment.

The proposal moves mistreatment from a contravención or misdemeanor, to a delito, a felony. It also penalized for from six months to two years, a man who insults a woman with whom he maintains a relationship.

Expats are leery of this law because of experiences with the current domestic violence legislation that can put a man out of his house simply based on an unsupported statement from the spouse. Women use domestic violence as a ploy to take control of a man's property.

Mexican death toll cut
as rescuers probe slide

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico has revised its earlier casualty toll from a massive landslide early Tuesday morning in a mountain village in the state of Oaxaca to 11 disappeared and no confirmed dead. Initial reports suggested that as many as 1,000 people in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec may have been buried in the mudslide.

Rescue efforts in the remote native village continued on Wednesday, as scores of residents were evacuated from the rain-drenched area. Fears of more mudslides persist because of the continuing rains.

Manuel Maza Sanchez, the director of the Oaxaca fire department, said that a lack of coordination and bad weather have made rescue efforts "futile", due to the high risk involved.

He added that they knew 11 people were buried and approximately seven or eight houses were destroyed by the mudslide, but no bodies had been found yet due to the large amount of mud.

Local officials in this town of 9,000 first said that the landslide had buried 300 houses while residents were asleep. They feared up to 1,000 people might have died.

The government responded by sending 600 rescue workers, including the army, state and federal police, firefighters, civil defense and Red Cross workers, to the town. By late Tuesday afternoon, they reported that the extent of the damage and casualty figures were much less than initially reported.

European countries face
protest by striking workers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Strikes took place across Europe Wednesday in protest against government austerity measures. Unions say over 20 million jobs have been lost across Europe since the economic downturn began.

Workers from across Europe took to the streets of Brussels Wednesday in protest against European austerity measures.  Police say most of the protesters marched on the headquarters of the European Union.

Union leaders hoped up to 100,000 people from 30 different countries would join the protest.

Millions of people in Europe have lost their jobs since the global financial downturn and European governments are reigning in public spending in a bid to combat major deficits. Belgium wasn't the only European country hit by protests Wednesday. In Spain, unions, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, launched the country's first general strike in eight years.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greek transport workers and hospital doctors walked off the job. Protests also took place Wednesday in a number of other European countries, including Poland, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy.

Firemen rescue three persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Firemen rescued three persons in the patio of a house with apartments late Tuesday. The blaze was in La Florida de Tibás.  Firemen attributed the blaze to excessive electrical connections in the proximity of combustible materials. Those rescued were an older couple, the presumed occupants of the home, and a woman tenant.

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 HERE!

From the Spanish press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 193

Caja pathologists backed up with 11,000 unstudied biopsies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national medical system is backed up with 11,000 biopsies awaiting study and a report.

Some 8,000 of them are at Hospital México, one of the principal major medical sites for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The situation is so acute that the Defensoría de los Habitantes the nation's ombudsman, steps into the case Wednesday. The Defensoría asked the Caja what steps could be taken to resolve the problem in the short run and for the long term.

The Defensoría said that on average about 10 percent of
these samples will turn out to be malignant. That means there are about 1,100 Costa Ricans walking around with some form of cancer and not getting care because of the delays in processing their biopsies.

Biopsies are not the only testing that is behind. A Caja patient heard Tuesday that there might be a year's wait for an ultrasound.

The problem with the biopsies has endured for at least two years. A Desamparadoes man who incorrectly thought he had cancer was escorted from a Caja hospital when he became enraged that the wait for a biopsy and the processing would be at least a year. That was two years ago. It turned out that the man had a minor medical problem that a private physician fixed in an office call.

Ad Astra lays the groundwork to make a public offering
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ad Astra Rocket Co. has taken steps for an eventual stock placement in the Costa Rican marketplace.

So far the rocket company and its subsidiary in Liberia have been supported by private investors. The eventual offering of stock here will make the company public. But the stock will be restricted and available only to so-called qualified investors, those with high net worth, or institutions.

Company president Franklin Chang Diaz is trying to commercialize his design of a plasma rocket. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is a likely customer. Chang, a dual Costa Rican-U.S. citizen is a former astronaut.

There was a ceremony Wednesday in the Museo de los Niños where Chang presented the company.  Also attending were representatives of the Costa Rican stock markets.
When the stock is finally offered, there will be a high buy in, and those who purchase restricted stock will have to hold it for a specified period. Typically the stock will be offered in bulk to a broker who will then sell the stock to the public.

The plasma engine already has been tested in Liberia. A test in space is expected to take place in the next two years, perhaps in conjunction with the International Space Station.

The advantage of the plasma rocket is the high speeds it can attain. A recent prediction said that a rocket propelled that way could reach mars in less than two months. Current technology would take nearly a year. The device heats a gas, perhaps argon, to temperatures many times that of the surface of the sun and then expels it through a magnetic nozzle. The nozzle has to be a magnetic field because the heat would melt any material.

Ad Astra is not now a public company in the United States. The main headquarters is in Texas.

Quepos expats wonder what became of their favorite baker
Micke Joquine Franke
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Quepos residents wonder where their favorite baker went.

Friends have filed a missing persons report on Micke Joquine Franke, 48, one of the operators of the La Roca Caliente bakery, a local gathering place. The Judicial Investigating Organization has joined the search and asked newspapers to publicize the search.

Franke, a world traveler, disappeared after visiting a bar Sept. 19, friends said. He is a German citizen. A Quepos expat said that the man was very kind, chatty, engaging and popular and everyone liked going to the bakery and chatting with the man who was called Mike.

At this point those who know him say that the probability is that he simply chose to leave and did not say good-bye. But they are not sure. They said the small amount of possessions he had are gone from the room he rented. However, he had appointments that day he did not keep.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 193

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This is the Coral Reef Watch Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Outlook through December with most of Costa Rica's near Caribbean at watch or warning stages.
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Coral bleaching is predicted to be severe in Caribbean

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that coral bleaching is likely in the Caribbean in 2010. With temperatures above-average all year, the agency's models show a strong potential for bleaching in the southern and southeastern Caribbean through October that could be as severe as in 2005 when over 80 percent of corals bleached and over 40 percent died at many sites across the Caribbean, the agency said. Scientists are already reporting coral bleaching at several Caribbean sites and severe bleaching has been reported from other parts of the world.

The administration's Coral Reef Watch satellite coral bleaching monitoring shows sea surface temperatures continue to remain above-average throughout the wider Caribbean region. Large areas of the southeastern Caribbean Sea are experiencing thermal stress capable of causing coral bleaching, the agency predicted, adding that the western Gulf of Mexico and the southern portion of the Bahamas have also experienced significant bleaching thermal stress.

The coral bleaching thermal stress outlook indicates that the high stress should continue to develop in the southern and southeast Caribbean until mid-October. Prolonged coral bleaching, can lead to coral death and the subsequent loss of coral reef habitats for a range of marine life, the agency warned.

“The early warning predictions . . .  are vital to assist coral reef managers in making early preparations for coral bleaching events,” said Billy Causey, southeast regional director for the agency's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “While managers can’t do anything immediately to prevent coral bleaching, these early warnings give them time to monitor and track the stressful event, thus learning more about both direct and secondary impacts of bleaching on coral reefs around the world.”
The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on people and communities in the Caribbean, the United States, Australia and throughout the world. As the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs provide services estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion globally each year, the administration said.

“High temperatures cause corals to force out the symbiotic algae that provide them with food. This makes the corals appear white or bleached and can increase outbreaks of infectious disease,” said Mark Eakin, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch. “Temperatures are high in the Caribbean, and we expect this to continue. This season has the potential to be one of the worst bleaching seasons for some reefs.”

A survey cruise just returned from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary where researchers saw serious bleaching, said Emma Hickerson, sanctuary research coordinator for the site, located off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. “Several species were bleached and we are concerned we could lose much of the fire corals this year,” she said.

Even though thermal stresses continues to rise in the Caribbean basin, temperatures are expected to begin cooling in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, according to the agency. In addition, recent hurricanes and tropical storms that passed near the U.S. Virgin Islands have cooled the waters there. Researchers have shown that tropical weather systems can cool the high temperatures that cause bleaching, and agency forecasts that this Atlantic hurricane season will probably be more active than usual.

In 2005, the year of the worst bleaching on record in the Caribbean, no tropical storms passed close enough to cool the Virgin Islands, resulting in 90 percent of the area corals being bleached and 60 percent dying. Overall the 2005 bleaching event was the result of the largest, most intense thermal stress recorded in the Caribbean during the 25-year satellite record.

Extinction of coral reefs predicted as a result of warmer seas

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A global temperature increase of up to 4.2 ºC and the end of coral reefs could become reality by 2100 if national targets are not revised in the Copenhagen Accord, the international pledge which was agreed at last year’s Copenhagen’s climate change conference, according to the London-based Institute of Physics.

Just ahead of the next U. N. Climate Change Conference, which starts on Monday in Tianjin, China, a new report published Wednesday in the institute's Environmental Research Letters describes how, due to lack of global action to date, only a small chance remains for keeping the global temperature increase down to 2 º C as set as a target in the accord,

Looking at individual countries’ agreed targets for emission levels, the report shows that many developed countries such as the United States and the European Union have set their aims very low, aiming at reaching emission levels just a few percent lower than 1990 levels by 2020. Only Japan and Norway are aiming to drastically reduce their emission to 25 percent and well below 1990 levels.
Presenting their results in Environmental Research Letters, a group of international researchers from seven European research centers, has also found that even if nations would agree to a 50 precent reduction of emission levels by 2050 – a target that strong international agreements would greatly facilitate – there would still only be a less than 50 percent chance to keep global warming below 2 º C.

Rising global temperature levels would not be the only consequence of failing to raise the ambition level of future global emission reductions. Increasing ocean acidification, a direct result of growing atmospheric CO2 levels, could lead to a rapid decline of coral reefs and the marine ecosystem in the 21st century, the study said.

“It is clear from this analysis that higher ambitions for 2020 are necessary to keep the options for 2 º C and 1.5 º C open without relying on potentially infeasible reduction rates after 2020," the researchers said.

Dan Kammen, editor-in-chief of Environmental Research Letters said, “The researchers provide an important lens on the ecological impacts and both social and ecological costs of inaction on climate protection.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 193

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Venezuela seeks reform
of U.N. power structure

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Venezuela called for wholesale reform of the United Nations Wednesday, suspending veto rights of the five permanent Security Council members, enlarging the 15-member body, strengthening the General Assembly and opening up the election of secretary general.

“The Bolivarian Revolution plans to contribute to the rebuilding of the structure and agenda of the United Nations, which reflects the existing and unjust power relationships in the world,” Permanent Representative Jorge Valero told the Assembly.

“This forum – as it is today – helps to reproduce those unjust relations inherited from the Second World War, becoming more exclusive and authoritarian as neo-liberal globalization advances," he said.

He cited what he called the United States’ flouting of the overwhelming demand to end its economic blockade of Cuba and Israel’s refusal to comply with dozens of Council and Assembly resolutions as “two poignant examples that show this unfair and irrational world power architecture.”

A strategy to weaken the assembly and exclude it from the most relevant world decisions is being implemented while the Security Council progressively increases its power and influence on the U.N. agenda, and takes over subjects beyond the purview conferred to it by the U.N. Charter, he said.

“The rebuilding of the United Nations involves strengthening the General Assembly in the field of international peace and security,” he added, noting that for almost 20 years discussions have been going on about council reform and strengthening the Assembly, but almost nothing has been achieved.

“Venezuela proposes to suspend the right of veto enjoyed by only five members of the United Nations. This remnant of the Second World War is incompatible with the principle of sovereign equality of states. Venezuela also proposes an increase of the membership of the Security Council in its permanent and non-permanent categories. Why are developing countries deprived of the right to partake in this forum?” The permanent members with veto are China, France, Russia,the United Kingdom and The United States.

He also called for all states to propose candidates for the U.N. Secretariat to democratize the election. “In line with democratic principles and transparency, member states must participate in both the nomination and in the appointment of this senior official. Thus, states would be free to choose among several alternatives,” he said.

U.N. asked to lead change
in world economics and trade

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two Latin American countries Wednesday called for a strengthened and reformed United Nations to take the lead in establishing a new, more democratic and open system in the fields of international finance and economy.

“The role of the United Nations in international economic and financial governance is key for allowing a democratization in decision-making that guarantees participation on an equal footing in global decisions that affect everyone and have a direct impact on short-, medium- and long-term planning,” said Luis Almagro,  the foreign minsiter of Uruguay. He was talking to the General Assembly.

His Paraguayan counterpart, Héctor Lacognata, made a similar plea in calling for a new financial architecture that achieves a fair system of trade. “We are convinced that the United Nations as a universal organization should undertake a central role in guaranteeing the success of our efforts to achieve better international coordination and coherence in the economic and financial fields,” he said.

Almagro highlighted the “imperious necessity of renewing the political commitment to attaining a multilateral system of open, equitable trade based on clear rules capable of allowing all countries to benefit from the potential that international trade offers as an engine for development.

Guatemalan Permanent Representative Gert Rosenthal also made a plea for “multilateralism in general and the United Nations in particular” in facing global challenges such as the economic crisis, climate change, and combating organized crime networks engaged in the trafficking of people arms and drugs and in money laundering.

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Health officials deplore
meddling by tobacco firms

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Health leaders meeting at the Pan American Health Organization vowed Wednesday to take action to counter attempts by the tobacco industry to subvert public health efforts aimed at protecting people from the harmful effects of tobacco use.
Ministers of health and other high-level delegates from countries throughout the Americas pledged to “oppose attempts by the tobacco industry or its allies to interfere with, delay, hinder, or impede the implementation of public health measures designed to protect the population from the consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke.”
They also called on the Pan American Health Organization to help strengthen their ability to implement tobacco control measures, particularly those contained in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Tobacco control measures such as regulations on packaging and labeling, restrictions on advertising and promotion, and bans on smoking in public places have proved highly effective in reducing tobacco consumption, they said.
As a result, these measures have been actively opposed by the tobacco industry. An expert committee convened by the World Health Organization concluded in 2000 that the tobacco industry has operated for years with the express intention of subverting the role of governments in implementing public health policies to fight the tobacco epidemic.

Esperanza Martinez, Paraguay's health minister, told fellow delegates that tobacco industry opposition was threatening to roll back her government’s efforts to comply with the framework. She cited two recent presidential decrees, one banning smoking in enclosed public spaces and the other regulating labeling and packaging of tobacco.
“The implementation of both decrees is suspended at this moment due to injunctions and a challenge to their constitutionality by members of the tobacco industry, at both the national and international levels,” she said. “Under these circumstances, it’s very clear that we need the strong political support of the countries of the region to prevent a painful setback to battles that we only recently won.”
In the resolution passed Wednesday, the organizations directing council members declared they were “deeply concerned about misinformation campaigns and legal actions” sponsored by cigarette makers and their allies against tobacco control measures.” They called on countries to publicize, to the extent legally possible, the activities of the tobacco industry in order to expose their strategies and reduce their effectiveness.
The resolution also expressed specific support for Uruguay and measures it has implemented that have made it a pioneer in tobacco control among Latin American countries.  
The framework is the first international public health treaty and was adopted by World Health member states in 2003. It contains provisions on labeling and packaging of tobacco products, smoke-free public spaces, tobacco tax increases, and restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
It also calls on countries to prevent the interference of the tobacco industry and its allies in policy making and measures related to tobacco control.
In the Americas, 27 countries have ratified the framework, most recently, the Bahamas and Suriname. Three countries, Chile, Cuba and Venezuela, tax tobacco products at 75 percent of the retail price, while at least 10 others, Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia,  Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay, have increased tobacco taxes by lesser amounts.

Nine countries, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay, are “100 percent smoke-free,” meaning they have national or local laws that cover at least 90 percent of their populations with bans on smoking in all enclosed public areas and work places (without exceptions).

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