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(506) 223-1327        Published Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 197       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Facts wanting on disease implications
Salmon have deadly lice, but what of farmed tuna?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Critics of an undersea tuna farm in southwestern Costa Rica have not stressed the disease issue, but such farms could be the source of deadly viruses that could ravage Costa Rica's diverse fish and animal populations.

Although not a disease, a report from the University of Alberta Tuesday said that salmon farms were causing the death of up to to 95 per cent of migrating wild juvenile salmon that pass by.

The caged salmon are a source of a natural parasite called a salmon louse. These are small crustaceans (Lepeopshtheirus salmonis). The primary sea lice hosts are adult salmon. Under natural conditions, according to a university release, the adults are far offshore when the juveniles are migrating out to sea. Fish farms put adult salmon in net pens along the migration routes, and the result is a cloud of sea lice through which the juveniles must migrate, said the release.

"It takes only one or two sea lice to kill a juvenile pink or chum salmon," said Martin Krkosek. "The juveniles are so vulnerable because they are so small — only one to two inches long."  He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta's Centre for Mathematical Biology.

The study, done in coastal British Columbia, is being heralded as the first to provide confirmation that sea lice from fish farms kill wild salmon and to what extent. However, the problem is well-known enough to have been featured on a 2005 segment of the television series "Boston Legal," starring William Shatner and James Spader.

Not so for possible diseases promoted by tuna farms.

Krkosek said in an e-mail exchange Tuesday with A.M. Costa Rica:  "I would guess that the possibility of disease problems due to tuna ranching have been completely unstudied."

The researcher did cite a report that a herpes virus showed up in Australian waters in 1995, killing many of the small fish there. Sardines imported to feed nearby fish-farmed tuna got the blame.

"The virus whipped across the ocean like a brushfire front, moving at 30 kms. a day and leaving behind it a sea of dead fish," said Rex Dalton, the U.S. West Coast correspondent for the magazine Nature in a Sept. 29, 2004, online report. "Eventually, it was estimated that 75 percent of pilchards in the region died. Seabirds, from Australasian gannets to penguins, starved in the wake of the disaster. In 1998, another virus attack knocked out many of the remaining

pilchards." Pilchards are herring-like food fish important to the birds.

In addition to Australia, tuna farms are operating in the Mediterranean and along Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

Dalton credits biologist Dr. John Volpe of the  University of Victoria, who happens to be a co-author with Krkosek of the sea lice study, with being one of the first scientists to issue warnings about potential environmental damage from salmon pens off British Columbia in the mid-1990s. "The opportunity for large-scale environmental disasters is enormous," Volpe has said of plans to install fish farms off the U.S. coast.

In Costa Rica two scientists told lawmakers last week that the environmental impact study provided by Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A. for the Golfo Dulce project was lacking.  Gerardo Umaña Villalobos, a biologist at the Universidad de Costa Rica, told the legislative Comisión de Ambiente that the study has deficiencies. For example, the impacts on turtles, dolphin and sharks were not considered, he said.

Ricardo Jimenez of Universidad Nacional agreed that there were flaws in the study, particularly relating to contaminants.

The tuna farm project has received a green light by governmental agencies, but the approvals are being appealed to the Sala IV constitutional court. Environmentalists are joined by residents of the area and tourism officials in opposing the plan.

The size of the project is staggering. The tuna firm wants to construct underwater holding cages 7.4 kms. (4.6 miles) long and 2.1 kms. (1.3 miles) wide. The cages would be down 22 meters into the water, some 70 feet. The tuna farm would be about a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) off the coast. 

The farm would be stocked by young yellowfin tuna purchased from local fishermen. Most of the existing tuna farms fatten the bluefin tuna that is much in demand in Japan for sushi.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 197

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Autopsy results awaited
in death of Canadian

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian tourist slipped and fell into a hotel pool in Playa Sámara Monday afternoon, and investigators are awaiting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

The man was identified as Alfred Hunsinger, 75, of Toronto. He had entered the country Saturday and was staying at the Hotel Belvedere, a hotel employee said. He was alone in the country.

Hunsinger fell into the pool around midday, and he was dead when rescuers got him out, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The hotel employee said that Hunsinger suffered minor falls several times during his stay at the hotel.

The autopsy will try to determine if the death was from natural causes, drowning or an injury.

Man caught in New Jersey
will face rape charge here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. immigration officials have detained a Costa Rican national wanted to face a rape charge in Pérez Zeledón criminal court.

Saul Hidalgo Molina
The man is Saul Hidalgo Molina, who was held on an arrest warrant issued here in February. Local agents of the International Police Agency/Dirección de Investigación y Seguridad  here generated information on his whereabouts. The crime involved took place at the beginning of the decade, agents said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agents arrested Hidalgo Thursday when he left his apartment in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

Officials here said he agreed to return to Costa Rica and is expected on a flight Friday.

Grupo Nación exec dies
in car-motorcycle crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commercial director of Grupo Nación died Tuesday night in a head-on crash between his motorcycle and a car, the firm said.

He was Luciano Cisneros Gallo, 47, a 22-year employee of the company which includes the La Nación newspaper. The accident happened in La Uruca.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

Ninth orchestra performance
will be this weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional presents its ninth concert of the season with Cyrus Ginwala of San Francisco, California, as the invited conductor Friday at 8 p.m. and again Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in the Teatro Nacional.

The featured performer will be violinist Narciso Figueroa who will interpret the work of Costa Rican Benjamín Gutiérrez "el Concierto para Violín y Orquesta."

Other works on the program are Stravinsky's "Firebird," Giuseppe Verdi's "The Power of Destiny" from the opera of the same name and Franz Liszt's "The Preludes."

Figueroa is from Puerto Rico and a member of a well-known musical family there.

He is a Julliard School graduate and University of Michigan State alumnus with an extensive history of performances, including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Our Reader's Opinion
U.S. special interests pushed
Internet gambling measure

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: your article on the U.S. Internet gambling ban, the media-at-large reports the business community itself has no trouble identifying the U.S. gambling industry, hiding behind the skirts of the religious right, as the real force behind the legislation.

The established Internet gambling corporations are largely foreign controlled and get half their business from U.S. customers. Naturally enough, U.S. corporate gambling interests —  including casinos and racetracks —  don't appreciate the competition. It is all an unpleasant reminder of the power of U.S. private interests in U.S. policy, achieved by the legal conduit of cash political donations by Washington lobbyists.

As for any free trade challenges by the foreign losers, and no matter what any treaties say, they will be no match against the power of U.S. private interests, something Costa Rican free traders might want to keep in mind.

A good recent example is the never ending U.S.-Canada lumber spat, where Canada appealed illegal U.S. tarriffs as free trade treaty violations. In this case, and despite the repeated successful appeals in Canada's favour, the U.S. administration simply ignored the rulings, allowing its own lumber interests to prevail.

Whatever all this says about morality, it also says a lot about the almighty dollar. When our governments tell us about right and wrong and what's good for us, let's be sure they are not really talking about money — and who gets it.

R. Martin

EDITOR'S NOTE: The United States and Canada reached a deal on the softwood lumber dispute in July. Canada would be reimbursed $4 billion of an estimated $5.4 billion that the United States imposed as duties on imported Canadian lumber. The Canadian Parliament still has to approve the deal.
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 197

Free trade gets a rousing endorsement at Casa Presidencial
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There was no disputes over the benefits of free trade Tuesday when President Óscar Arias Sánchez met with Felipe Calderón, the president-elect of México.

Arias noted the many common elements that exist between the two countries and said the best way to generate wealth, provide employment and grow the economy was free trade, according to a summary provided by Casa Presidencial.

Calderón said he wanted to relaunch the projects involved in Plan Puebla-Panamá and those regional projects that unite México and Central America. "I share the vision of the future that President Arias has," said Calderón. He said he sought mechanisms to strengthen commercial exchanges between México and Costa Rica.

"The greatest percentage of investments received in México was linked since 1994 to the exportation sector and the free trade treaty," said Calderón, referring to the agreement between México, the United States and Canada. "Almost 74 percent of the new jobs are linked to the growth of international commerce derived from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the salaries of the NAFTA sector are almost 42 percent greater on average than the national salaries."

Arias said he had no doubts over the benefits of free trade and that he has defended the need for Costa Rica to enlarge its markets because this is the motor of growth for a small country of just 4.5 million inhabitants, he said. The Asamblea Legislativa is studying the free trade treaty with the United States, and a vote is anticipated before the Christmas break.

"For economies so small as the Central Americans, commerce is vital," said Arias. "We have to be the Phoenicians of the 21st century. We ought to be more and more merchants." Phoenician traders dominated the
Mediterranean for as many as 2,000 years before Christ.

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Felipe Calderón at Casa Presidencial

Plan Puebla-Panamá is a regional integration scheme that includes tourism, education, health, highways, electrical
generation and gas. The area of concern includes the nine southern states of México (from the city of Puebla south) and all of Central America. The plan is promoted by the Interamerican Development Bank.

The plan is controversial and environmentalists say rain forests would be destroyed and rural residents displaced. Vicente Fox, the outgoing president of México, strongly supported the plan, which seems to have become mired down in recent years.

Both Calderón and Arias are skillful and successful politicians. Calderón just won his nation's presidency by a  mere half a percent over a rival who is more to the left. Arias defeated Ottón Solís of the Partido Acción Ciudadana by a bit more than 1 percent of the popular vote. Solís choose not to contest the results, but in México Andrés López Obrador, who came in second, has declared himself a shadow president.

Couple who rowed Atlantic embarking on speaking and film tour in Canada
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian couple, Julie Wafaei and Colin Angus, who rowed the Atlantic and then biked to Canada have produced a 55-minute documentary about the around the world experience.

The couple landed at Limón Feb. 26, a bit off-course from the Florida port they had planned. But they did cross the Atlantic from Portugal in five months during a record hurricane season. They were the first to do so under their own power.

Angus actually circled the whole world on his own muscle power. Ms. Wafaei joined him in mid-trip. The pair used zero-emissions travel to highlight issues with global warming and to inspire others to use non-motorized transportation.

Now, they have left their home in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island to travel across Canada in a speaking tour beginning today that will also premiere this documentary, “Beyond the Horizon,”according to a release. The Expedition Canada Show will include a 50-minute presentation by the pair where they share their adventures around the globe followed by the film premiere, the release said. Angus has produced two other adventure films.

The Expedition Canada Tour includes 24 shows across Canada with the first stop today in Courtenay, British Columbia. The full schedule is on the tour Web site.

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Colin Angus and Julie Wafaei when they arrived in Limón last Feb. 26.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 197

Miami Herald publisher reverses firings and then resigns
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The publisher of The Miami Herald newspaper has resigned and reversed the recent firings of two reporters who accepted payment from the U.S. government for broadcast work.

Jesus Diaz was publisher of the English-language paper and its Spanish-language edition, El Nuevo Herald. He announced his resignation, Tuesday.

Diaz authorized the firings and he said he still believes the reporters in question had a conflict of interest in accepting
payments from the government's Office of Cuba
 Broadcasting. But he said in a letter to readers the fired reporters will be allowed to return to the newspaper.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting paid the journalists to appear as guests on programs beamed to Cuba. The dismissals caused controversy in the Cuban-American community.

Diaz said an investigation revealed that several other employees of the newspaper also had accepted payments from Radio Marti and TV Marti for appearances. He said they would not be disciplined. He said it was clear the newspaper had not communicated well its conflict-of-interest policy.

U.S. launches 10 new task forces against human trafficking
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Department of Justice is intensifying its fight against human trafficking by providing additional funding to build partnerships between law enforcement agencies and victims’rights organizations in the United States.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced Monday almost $8 million in additional funding to create 10 new anti-trafficking task forces.

Gonzales explained the objectives of the task forces in a keynote address at the 2006 National Conference on Human Trafficking, taking place in New Orleans.  Conference participants include law enforcement professionals, victims' advocates, nonprofit groups, academics and government employees.

The additional funding, Gonzales said, will help cement partnerships between law enforcement agencies and victim-services organizations and aid the task forces' work of identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking as well as apprehending and prosecuting the perpetrators.

For example, one of the grants will go to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement to work with the state sheriffs' association in fighting trafficking along the Interstate Highway 10 corridor in Louisiana. That corridor, Gonzales said, has become a magnet for human traffickers taking advantage of the labor needs in hurricane-damaged areas of the state.

“The task force,” he said, “will use regional response teams to identify and rescue victims in targeted areas and put a stop to the exploitation and abuse of laborers.”

“In these task forces,” he explained, “service providers and law enforcement rescue victims and help restore their human dignity.”

Gonzales said that partnerships, information-sharing and cooperation “cannot be underestimated when it comes to fighting a crime like human trafficking — an act that is sinister to the point of feeling overwhelming at times.”
According to the attorney general, an estimated 17,500 people — mostly women and children — are forced into
prostitution, sweatshops and domestic servitude every year in the United States alone.

But he acknowledged that it is difficult to estimate accurately the number of trafficking victims in the United States or worldwide.

“We do know,” Gonzales said, “that programs funded by the Justice Department have served more than 1,500 victims in the past three years.”

Progress in fighting the criminals, however, is somewhat more easily measured, Gonzales said. For example, since 2001 the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' offices have prosecuted more than 300 human trafficking defendants, secured more than 200 convictions and guilty pleas, and opened nearly 650 new investigations, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s “Innocence Lost Initiative,” spearheaded by its Criminal Division, has

resulted in 543 arrests and 94 convictions, in both the federal and state courts, of pimps who prey on children, Gonzales said.  There are 16 “Innocence Lost Initiative” task forces around the country and more will be established, the attorney general said.

The Justice Department also has developed a model state law that has been endorsed by the U.S. Senate and sent to state governors and legislative leaders. In 2004, Gonzales said, only four states had laws against trafficking. Today, more than two dozen have enacted tough anti-trafficking laws that reflect the principles of the department's model criminal statute.

Gonzales condemned human trafficking as “a violation of the human body, mind and spirit.”

“The victims of human trafficking are often lured to this country with the promise that they will enjoy the great gifts of liberty,” Gonzales said. “This is an insult to our country, and it is personally disappointing because my own family came here from Mexico to find a better life. The thirst for freedom and opportunity is part of the human spirit and is very strong in this world — to offer it as a lure for purposes of a crime is unconscionable.”

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