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(506) 2223-1327         Published Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 201            E-mail us
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endangers birds
The birds are clockwise from the top, the spoonbill, the crested eagle, the yellow-tailed oriole and the harpy eagle at the 9 o'clock position.

Stamp issues feature endangered birds, education
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This year's Parque Nacional postage stamp issue features four birds that are in danger of extinction.

They are the roseate spoonbill, called in Spanish the garza rosada, (Platalea ajaja), the harpy eagle, called in Spanish the águila arpía (Harpia harpyja), the yellow-tailed oriole or chiltote (Icterus mesomelas) and the crested eagle or águila crestada (Morphnus guianensis).

The stamps went on sale with little fanfare. The purpose of the stamps is to impress on the population the importance of preserving the natural riches that the country possesses, said Correos de Costa Rica, the postal service.

The collection features birds that are in danger for different reasons. The spoonbill, whose habitat is mainly the fresh and salt wetlands, is in danger from humans who have damaged the land and generated pollution. The crested eagle is in danger due to deforestation, and the yellow-tailed oriole is sought after for captivity because of its beautiful song.

The harpy eagle, the largest member of the species in the Americas, is endangered by deforestation and hunting, said the postal service. Correos de Costa Rica comes out each year with stamps showing a different aspect of the country's national parks.

The postal service this year put out 60,000 stamps, just 15,000 of each. There also were 2,000 first-day covers.

The postal services also has issued two stamps
education stamps
The education issue

honoring higher education. One stamp depicts part of a mural done by Eduarto Torijano at the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro. The second depicts detail of the disarmament, work and peace monument done by Thelvia Marín at the Universidad de la Paz in Ciudad Colón

Each of the 30,000 stamps has a face value of 500 colons.

All of the current stamps, first-day covers and other presentations are available at the stamp store in the first floor of the main post office downtown. They also are available with a credit card by mail via the Correo Web site.

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New Women's Club group
addresses sustainability

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Ever struggle with how to operate sustainability and, at the same time, balance costs? Do you wonder what businesses mean when they say they are green-friendly? And do you wish there was more guidance in implementing green practices in a developing country?

The third meeting of the The Professional Women’s Network will address ideas to help women use sustainability as a competitive business model and to improve practices as professionals. Panelists include Alexis Fournier of Recycle Art, Jani Schulz of Rainforest Radio, Alida Francisco of Bamboo Global Exchange, Kate Cruse of 10:10 and The British Embassy.

The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at Restaurant Tin Jo on Calle 11 between Avenidas 6 and 8 downtown San José. Reservations may be made by emailing or at the Web site.

The Professional Women’s Network is a new interest group of the Women’s Club of Costa Rica, active for 70 years serving local communities. The Network has been developed specifically for women of all nationalities to encourage personal and professional development through networking with other professional women, and to develop programs to contribute to all women in Costa Rica. The Network is an English-speaking group but beginner level English is welcome.

La Niña likely to strengthen
U.N. weather agency says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The La Niña weather pattern is likely to continue and may strengthen over the next four to six months, potentially bringing abnormal conditions to widely separate areas of the world, from floods to droughts to below or above normal temperatures, the United Nations weather agency said Monday.

La Niña, characterized by unusually cool ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, is the opposite of El Niño, characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures, and both events can last for 12 months or more, disrupting normal tropical rainfall atmospheric circulation, with widespread impacts on climate in many parts of the world.

But although the current La Niña has similarities to past events, its local impacts may differ from those observed in the past, the World Meteorological Organization warned in its latest update, stressing that for managing climate-related risks, it is important to consider both prevailing La Niña conditions and other factors with potential influence on the local climate.

Our reader's opinion
Kolbi wireless service
gets worse and worse

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm on the sidelines waiting for some competition for the communication market after a long fought TLC or CAFTA battle, I'm glad I'm not holding my breath. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is trying to ramp up its technology to compete with whoever comes here to challenge them, but has simply forgotten or its management is too ignorant to understand is that “It's Customer Service, Stupid.” This is what people are looking for. If they could manage to grasp this as part of their business plan, they may just keep there heads above water. We have all experienced the constant interruptions in service, the delays with available phone lines, private and cellular and the ever increasing rates for these inadequate services.

I bought into this Kolbi wireless idea like many others have. I got rid of my satellite service and then moved on to Reico. Both were costly, but were still far better than what I'm getting now. I paid for the highest download and upload speeds with this Kolbi, and at first I was delighted. There were some glitches, but for the people in our local office in Nuevo Arenal, I perservered. They went out of their way to help me. But you see, the speed I pay for has been little by little deminishing. It is being interupted constantly now, and sometimes I can't even get on line. It is about 75 percent less than what I first received and expected. Tonight I sit here and can't even upload an e-mail.

Here's is where “Customer Service” shows its ugly face. Although the local office staff would like to see me have what I paid for, their hands are tied. No one above them really cares. The answer from them recently is there is a problem with the tower and who knows when they will come to fix that.  I've also been told that too many people have Kolbi's now and that this lessens the bandwidth so we lose the speed we contracted for. Not one person has offered to lower the monthly rate while this is being fixed. You see, beyond the local ICE staff, no one really cares.

I understand that a company has run new fiber optic lines down our road and I'm hoping it's Amnet so I can fire ICE. But I'm sure ICE will be getting a cut from Amnet since their using ICE poles to run the lines. If I had a lot of money, which I don't and besides the others things I would do with it, No. 1 on my list would be to fire ICE and go total solar for electricity and use any of the competition for telephone. Anyone but ICE!!!
Tom Ploskina
Nuevo Arenal

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 Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 201

Latigo K-9

earthquake map
Red Sismológica Nacional/A.M. Costa Rica graphic
Looking sideways to the north at a cross section of the country. Each green dot represents a previous quake.
Central mountains appear to be active earthquake zone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If anyone had doubts that Costa Rica is geologically active, a report this week by the Red Sismológica Nacional will change the mind.

The author, Mauricio Mora Fernández, produced the report after the three quakes that took place near Zarcero Friday. The biggest quake, magnitude 5.9, took place at 7:54 p.m. A quake of 3.3 magnitude followed at 10:16 p.m. And that was followed by an 11:15 p.m. quake of 4.1 magnitude.

Mora said that all these quakes took place within the Coco tectonic plate, which is under the bulk of the country.

Because they were so deep, there was no serious damage, and the second and third quakes may not have been sensed by many people, Mora said. The initial quake was estimated
to be 84 kilometers beneath the surface. That's about 52 miles.

Mora noted that a quake Nov. 19, 1948, had a magnitude of 7.0 and that one in 1992 had a magnitude of 6.2. These are infrequent events, he said and due to the great depth usually do not have grave effects.

The Red Nacional is part of the Universidad de Costa Rica and affiliated with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

The Coco plate reaches 100 kilometers below the surface of the central volcanic mountains, called the Cordillera Volcánica Central. The cross sectional map that the Red Nacional produced shows a green dot for every quake registered between 1985 and 2008.

The deeper the location, the fewer the quakes.

Security tightened in wake of discovery of airborne drugs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican police officials pulled out all the stops Sunday night and Monday as they struggled to understand how a drug-laden plane could come and go without the cargo being discovered.

The flurry of police activity came after the Sunday morning crash of a Piper Cherokee carrying perhaps 200 kilos of cocaine in its wings:

There were these other developments Monday:

• The copilot, identified as Máximo Aníbal Ramírez Cotón, 53, died in Hospital México.

• Two men who hold positions in the company that owned the plane were detained trying to cross the border illegally into Nicaragua. They were identified as Rubén Martinez Trujillo, 53, and Elvis Mendoza Rivera, 31. Both are Mexican nationals.

• Immigration officials said that Martínez tried to trick them by booking a flight on a commercial aircraft leaving from Juan Santamaría airport.

• Immigration officials also disclosed that Martínez has been in and out of the country 25 times.

• Fuerza Pública officers beefed up the security at Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas while security officials denied that they were the blame for not detecting the drug load. The Pavas airport has international traffic but the bulk of the flights are within Costa Rica.

• Fuerza Pública officers also beefed up security at Hospital México where the pilot of the plane, identified by the last name of Monzón, remained in critical condition. Family visits to patients have been restricted. The hospital does not have a secure law enforcement wing.

The aircraft rolled to the left and crashed on the bank of the Río Torres about 8 a.m. after a long, lumbering takeoff from the Pavas airport.

Law officers said they thought that the drug shipment
drug plane
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
The crash happened in one of the few places in Pavas that is not full of people and houses.

might have come from Quepos on another aircraft, which is why the drugs in the left wing fuel tank were not discovered when the plane got the routine once over from anti-drug agents.

The bulk of the investigation is in the hands of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública because that ministry houses the anti-drug police.

The company that owns the downed plane, ATA, maintains a hanger at the airport. Police searched it Monday after flying the two men caught at the border to the location.

There is no surprise that there are plenty of drugs in the country. Costa Rica has long been known as a transit point for the illegal substance. However, this appears to be the first time that a major shipment has been linked to the Pavas airport, which is operated by the civil aviation authorities.

The use of the airport as a drug shipment center probably would not have become known except that the pilot took off with the craft overloaded.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 201

Passport and cédula deliveries help postal service prosper

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cédula and passport delivery service of Correos de Costa Rica has turned out to be a big success and a way the government postal service can insulate itself from the winds of change.

Correos said that it has delivered 150,000 passports and cédulas in the first six months of the year. It also has delivered 100,000 sets of documents for students in a special program set up by the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, the social welfare agency.

The postal service reported that it had earnings of 6.6 billion colons in the first half of the year with net earnings of 740 million colons, about $1.46 million. That is a big turnaround from the same period in 2009 when Correos posted a deficit of 500 million, a bit less than $1 million.
The postal service does not get money from the national budget. It has to survive on what it brings in.

The postal service continues to make money on such traditional items as the delivery of bank statements and electric bills. That and the sale of stamps has increased 26 percent over last year. The expresss service EMS showed a 33 percent increase, Correos said. It competes with the private firms like DHL and Federal Express.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería has expanded the way it issues passports and cédulas de residencia. Cédula renewals can be handled at Banco de Costa Rica, and the final document is processed by the immigration service which then sends it to a designated office of Correos de Costa Rica.

Applicants pick up the document there. 

Small temperature changes in tropics expected to be crucial

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In recent decades, documented biological changes in the far Northern Hemisphere — from species extinctions to shifting geographic ranges — have been attributed to global warming. Such changes were expected because warming has been fastest in the northern temperate zone and the Arctic.

But new research published in the Oct. 7 edition of Nature adds to growing evidence that, even though the temperature increase has been smaller in the tropics, the impact of warming on life could be much greater there than in colder climates.

The study focused on ectothermic, or cold-blooded, organisms (those whose body temperature approximates the temperature of their surroundings). Researchers used nearly 500 million temperature readings from more than 3,000 stations around the world to chart temperature increases from 1961 through 2009, then examined the effect of those increases on metabolism.

"The expectation was that physiological changes would also be greatest in the north temperate-Arctic region, but when we ran the numbers that expectation was flipped on its head," said lead author Michael Dillon, an assistant professor of zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming.

Metabolic changes are key to understanding some major impacts of climate warming because a higher metabolic rate requires more food and more oxygen, said co-author Raymond Huey, a biology professor. If, for example, an organism has to spend more time eating or conserving energy, it might have less time and energy for reproduction.

"Metabolic rate tells you how fast the animal is living and thus its intensity of life," Huey said.

Using a well-documented, century-old understanding that metabolic rates for cold-blooded animals increase faster the  warmer the temperature, the researchers determined that the effects on metabolism will be greatest in the 
tropics, even though that region has the smallest actual warming. Metabolic impacts will be less in the Arctic, even though it has shown the most warming. In essence, organisms in the tropics show greater effects because they start at much higher temperatures than animals in the Arctic.

Dillon and co-author George Wang of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, sifted through temperature data maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. They came up with readings from 3,186 stations that met their criteria of recording temperature at least every six hours during every season from 1961 through 2009. The stations, though not evenly spaced, represented every region of the globe except Antarctica.

The data, the scientists said, reflect temperature changes since 1980 that are consistent with other recent findings that show the earth is getting warmer. Temperatures rose fastest in the Arctic, not quite as fast in the northern temperate zone and even more slowly in the tropics.

"Just because the temperature change in the tropics is small doesn't mean the biological impacts will be small," Huey said. "All of the studies we're doing suggest the opposite is true."

In fact, previous research has indicated that small temperature changes can push tropical organisms beyond their optimal body temperatures and cause substantial stress, while organisms in temperate and polar regions can tolerate much larger increases because they already are used to large seasonal temperature swings.

The scientists say the effects of warming temperatures in the tropics have largely been ignored because temperature increases have been much greater farther north and because so few researchers work in the tropics.

"I think this argues strongly that we need more studies of the impacts of warming on organisms in the tropics," Dillon said.

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U.S. students abroad drink
more, new study concludes

By the University of Washington news service

For American students, spending a semester or two studying in a foreign country means the opportunity to improve foreign language skills and become immersed in a different culture. And for some of those students, studying abroad can involve greater alcohol consumption.

New results from University of Washington researchers point to why some students drink more alcohol while abroad and suggest ways to intervene.

"We hear stories in the media and elsewhere about students going abroad, drinking too much and getting into trouble. But no one has ever measured this risky drinking behavior and there are no published studies of prevention strategies before they go abroad," said Eric Pedersen, a graduate student in psychology at the university.

Like heavy drinking on campus, consequences of drinking while studying abroad can be mild, such as missed classes due to hangovers, or more severe, such as fights, injuries and regrettable sexual experiences. But heavy drinking while in a different country can present additional problems, including disrupted travel plans, promoting negative stereotypes of American students and even legal issues with a foreign government, the researchers said.

In the current issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Pedersen and co-authors report that students doubled how much they drank while they were away, upping their consumption from about four alcoholic drinks per week while at home to about eight drinks per week while they were abroad.

"We can't really say if this is risky drinking or not," Pedersen said. "This could be a drink a night -- a glass of wine at dinner -- over the course of a week." Or, these students could be binge drinking, imbibing four drinks on Friday nights, for example, and another four drinks on Saturday nights.

Most of the 177 survey participants were abroad for three to five months. About two weeks before the students left, they completed a pre-departure survey asking how many alcoholic drinks they consumed each week, how much they planned to drink while they were away and what their perceptions were of the drinking habits of others studying abroad. A month after they returned to campus, they completed surveys about how much they drank while abroad and how much they were currently drinking.

When students returned to campus, generally they lessened their alcohol consumption to their pre-trip levels. But those who drank the most while away returned home drinking more heavily than when they left.

"That speaks to how there may be lasting changes in drinking behavior," Pedersen said.

Pedersen's data also support the idea that students younger than 21, the legal drinking age in the U.S., take advantage of more lax drinking laws abroad. The underage students in his study nearly tripled their drinking, whereas students over 21 doubled their intake of alcohol.

Drinking behavior also differed according to where in the world the students studied. Those who went to Europe, Australia or New Zealand drank more heavily while they were abroad than those who went to Asia, Latin America, the Middle East or Africa.

"Students have misperceptions about drinking in different countries," Pedersen said. For instance, students may think "Germans drink all the time and that's what I'm going to do too," he said. Correcting those misperceptions before the students go abroad could decrease their alcohol consumption while traveling.

Similarly, students have misperceptions about how much other American students drink. They overestimate, and then may adjust their own drinking behavior to try to match what they think everyone else is doing, Pedersen said.

Pedersen and his co-authors recommend that prevention programs target students who are heavy drinkers and intend to drink heavily while abroad. Talking with these students before they travel could correct their misperceptions of their peers' drinking habits and those of residents in different countries, resulting in less alcohol intake.
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Rescue hatch passes test
as Chile readies Phoenix

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Chilean emergency crews have successfully tested a rescue hatch designed to retrieve 33 miners trapped underground since Aug. 5.  Officials plan to begin lifting the men one-by-one to the surface early Wednesday.

Rescue crews in Chile lowered the rescue device 610 meters into the rescue shaft, just 12-meters short of the chamber where the miners are trapped in northern Chile.  Officials authorized the test after crews finished placing steel lining along the top portion of the shaft, to minimize concerns about possible falling rocks or dust.

Mining minister Laurence Golborne said the results of the initial test with the hatch, known as the Phoenix, were very promising.

Golborne said the rescue hatch performed well on both lined and unlined portions of the shaft.  He said there were no signs of falling dust or other debris.

Chilean navy engineers and mining experts helped build the Phoenix, which is about 50 centimeter (about 20 inches) wide and includes an oxygen supply and a phone to communicate with rescue crews on the surface.

Andres Sougarret, head of rescue operations, said crews are completing work on an Austrian-built winch that will lower the device into the mine shaft and pull the miners to the surface.

He said if they encounter no problems, then the rescue operation may begin early Wednesday.

Sougarret said engineers plan to conduct additional tests before the rescue operation begins, adding that the first people to ride in the hatch will be rescue personnel.

Officials say two mining experts and two paramedics will descend into the mine shaft to help the miners in the final rescue phase.

Health officials have been monitoring the miners' health and providing them a special diet in recent weeks.

Health minister Jaime Mañalich said the latest indication from the miners shows their health conditions are stable, even after more than two months underground.  He said officials will consider the status of each miner when they decide who will surface first.

Mañalich said the decision on the first miner to be rescued will be made moments before the operation begins. He said there is a group of 10 miners with delicate health conditions, who will have priority for rescue.

Mañalich added that paramedic crews and military helicopters have been rehearsing the steps needed to fly miners to a nearby hospital after their rescue.  Officials say the 32 Chileans and one Bolivian miner will be monitored for weeks to come to ensure their physical and mental health.

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