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(506) 2223-1327               Published Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 203          E-mail us
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New age
spider


Residents who eschew meat will be happy to learn that scientists have discovered a like-minded vegetarian spider here. The creature was first noted in Costa Rica. It is the only one of an estimated 40,000 spider species that is not an aggressive predatory, a uniquely Costa Rican arachnid. See our story
Vegetarian spider
Villanova University photo


Applause greets stiff sentences in White House case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You know you have done something bad when the courtroom erupts in applause after judges sentence you to nearly 200 years in prison.

That's what happened in the Tribunal de Juicio de Pavas when a three-judge panel sentenced Carlos Mena Jiménez to 193 years and Christian Mora Cantillano to 179 years. They were convicted of the horrific robbery, abduction, murder and rapes of three employees of the Jazz Casino in the White House Hotel in San Antonio de Escazú.

Under Costa Rican law the men can only serve 50 years, but each will be in their mid-70s when they are released if they survive prison.

As a judge read the sentence, spectators burst into applause. They included two women who survived the night of horror and the family of the woman who did not. She was Yerlín Marín Salazar, then-24, a mother of a 6-year-old child.

Her father, Carlos, engaged in a shouting match across the courtroom with Mena. Both traded insults. A court security guard tried to silence the father, and six guards ushered Mena away.

The lanky Mora appeared dejected and took no part in the shouting match.

Both men were said to be high on drugs and under the influence of alcohol when they intercepted a car containing the three women, who left work about 1:30 a.m. Investigators characterized the crime as
a crime by common criminals who killed for pleasure whenever someone resisted a robbery. The site was about a mile from their workplace.

Mena was on bond awaiting court action on another robbery allegation.

The three women were abducted, and then Ms. Marín was forced to kneel in a roadside ditch where she was shot in the head. That took place near San Antonio de Belén. The two other women, the victim's older sister, Arelis, then 28, and
work companion Angie Peraza Fernández, then-25, were taken to automatic tellers and then to a motel where they were assaulted and then individually ordered out of a car for execution.

The sister had suffered a bullet wound in the neck at a site near the Autopista Próspero Fernández. Ms. Peraza lost an eye from a bullet wound to her head.

However, both survived and were telling their story even as rescue workers took them for medical treatment.

Just three days later agents captured the suspects. In doing so they staged raids at several homes in the Pavas area. In one place they found the cell phone of a robbery victim who had been gunned down in another crime. They also found a 9-mm. pistol.

Prosecutors sought longer sentences of 230 and 236 years for the men on the variety of charges for which they were accused. The three judges were women.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 203

Costa Rica Expertise
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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 Web page lists
estimated land values


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José has posted to its Web site estimates of the value of property for use in computing the forms for the new luxury home tax, which went into effect Oct. 1.

The municipality produced listings by district for estimated values. Each district is broken down by individual barrio and proposed value.

For example, a typical 50 square meter lot along Avenida 2 and Parque Central in the central business distrcit is listed at 700,000 colons per square meter, about $1,200. A square meter in Barrio Cuba is 50,000 colons ($86) and a square meter in Cristo Rey is 60,000 colons ($103.50). Both Barrio Cuba and Barrio Cristo Rey are low-income areas.

According to the Dirección General de Tributación, these standard values should be adjusted according to degree of slope, access, availability of utilities and its permitted use.

Tributación has created some complex formulas to correct to the actual property. See stories Monday and Tuesday.

Soccer hopes now turning
to crucial Washington game

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The semi-holiday Tuesday ended not the way Ticos hoped. The under-20 Costa Rican team dropped a close match 1-0 to favorite Brazil.

But the young Tico players still have a chance for third place in a game against Hungary Friday. At the very least, Costa Ricans can hold up their heads because Tuesday's game was not a blowout against powerhouse Brazil.

Brazil's Alan Kardec scored in the 67th minute of the game. Brazil dominated in the time of ball possession and shots on goal. Most public employees got three hours off to see the game. Some private employees did too.

The nation's soccer hopes turn tonight to Washington, D.C., where the national team tries to seal third place ranking in the World Cup preliminaries. The United States team already has qualified for the 2010 matches in South Africa. So has México. If Costa Rica wins or Honduras loses its match tonight against El Salvador, the Ticos will qualify, too. If Costa Rica ties the United States tonight, and Honduras wins, the Ticos will end up in fourth place even though both teams have the same number of game points. The difference is based on the number of goals scored.

If Costa Rica ends up in fourth place, the team faces a two-game away series against a South American fifth place finisher for a World Cup berth. The opponent could be Argentina, Uruguay or Ecuador.

Costa Rica's team has experienced a turnaround under new coach Rene Simoes. The players hope to win a World Cup spot for the third time in a row.

Honduras lost a heartbreaker 3-2 to the United States Saturday while Costa Rica was finishing off Trinidad & Tobago 4-0. So the Hondurans are not in a mood to lose. And El Salvador, which already has been eliminated from World Cup play, still has the home advantage tonight.

Intel reports strong growth
in third-quarter results


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Intel Corp. Tuesday reported third-quarter revenue of $9.4 billion. The company reported operating income of $2.6 billion, net income of $1.9 billion and earnings per share of 33 cents.

"Intel's strong third-quarter results underscore that computing is essential to people's lives, proving the importance of technology innovation in leading an economic recovery," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO. "This momentum in the current economic climate, plus our product leadership, gives us confidence about our business prospects going forward.

The company said the third-quarter revenue was the strongest second-to-third quarter growth in over 30 years. The company has facilities in Belén in Costa Rica.

Woman survives attack
but loses her right hand


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man pulled a machete on his female companion and chopped off her right hand in a morning confrontation in Zapatón de Puriscal, according to the Fuerza Pública.

Both individuals ended up in serious condition in Hospital San Juan de Dios. She suffered many injuries in the 7 a.m. attack. He swollowed some kind of toxic chemical before police could detain him, they said.

He was identified by the last names of Pérez Sánchez. She was not identified. But attendants said she had cuts to the bone in the body and deep cuts to the back, neck and face. When she was brought into the hospital emergency room attendants covered her entire body with a sheet so as not to expose the wounds.

Patricia now a depression
but Baja still may get rain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Patricia has weakened to a tropical depression, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

All watches and warnings have been discontinued, the center said. Patricia, when it was a tropical storm with the potential to get much stronger, was threatening Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. The Mexican government issued a tropical storm watch for the southern portion of the peninsula Monday.

The storm still could produce rains of one to two inches over the southern Baja, said the center. The center of the storm was expected to pass directly over the southern Baja early today, and then the storm was supposed to take a turn to the west.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 203

Only known veggie spider calls Costa Rica its home
By the Villanova University news service

There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders in the world, all of which have been thought to be strict predators that feed on insects or other animals. Now, scientists have found that a small Central American jumping spider has a uniquely different diet: the species Bagheera kiplingi feeds predominantly on plant food.

The research, led by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University and Eric Olson of Brandeis University, has revealed the extraordinary ecology and behavior in Bagheera kiplingi, which lives throughout much of Central America and southern Mexico. There, the spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a relationship with certain ants that has long been a staple of ecology textbooks: the ants fiercely guard the plants against most would-be herbivores, while the acacias provide both housing for the ants via swollen, hollow spines and food in the form of nectar (excreted from glands at the base of each leaf) and specialized leaf tips known as Beltian bodies.

The Bagheera spiders are cheaters in the ant-acacia system, stealing and eating both nectar and — most remarkably —Beltian bodies without helping to defend the plant. The spiders get the job done through active avoidance of patrolling acacia ants, relying on excellent eyesight, agility, and cognitive skills.

The research appeared in the Tuesday issue of Current Biology.

Co-author Olson first discovered the spider diet in Costa Rica in 2001. In 2007, Meehan independently observed the same behaviors in a spider population in coastal Quintana Roo, south of Cancún, Mexico, during a field project for a tropical biology course taught by Villanova professor and study co-author Robert Curry. The two research groups subsequently combined efforts to jointly publish the discovery. The research also formed the basis of Meehan's masters degree from Villanova, completed this year.

In the field, the researchers documented behavioral patterns through direct observations and high-definition video recordings. Vegetarianism was especially clear in the Mexican population: Beltian bodies accounted for more than 90 percent of 140 food items identified. According to Meehan, "This is the first spider in the world known to deliberately hunt plant parts. It is also the first found to go after plants as a primary food source." Spiders in Costa Rica more frequently supplemented plant food with animal prey items, including ant larvae.

"What surprised us most about discovering this spider's extraordinary ecology was to find it on the ant acacias,"
spider on acacia plant
Villanova  University photo
Bagheera kiplingi spider on acacia plant

according to Curry. "This well-known mutualism has been studied by tropical ecologists for nearly 50 years, yet the spider's role was not noticed until Olson's discovery in 2001. We were lucky to find in Mexico an area where the spider is both exceptionally abundant and even more herbivorous than in Costa Rica."

The researchers backed up their field observations with the results of laboratory analyses — conducted with the help of co-authors Matthew Reudink and Kurt Kyser of Queens University, Canada. They measured  carbon and nitrogen isotopes for the various components of the ant-acacia system (Beltian bodies, ants, Bagheera spiders) and for other kinds of local spiders. The measurements showed that Bagheera kiplingi was more similar to the herbivorous acacia ants than to any of the other spiders sampled.  Collectively, the data show that Bagheera kiplingi obtains most of its diet directly or indirectly from the acacia plants, especially in México.

This research has broader implications, according to Meehan and Curry. It shows that coevolution between an ant and a plant can result in the development of plant structures that may be especially vulnerable to exploitation by third parties, including species such as spiders that normally focus on completely different kinds of prey. Also, Bagheera lives and nests on the acacia plants at very high densities, with hints of males helping to care for eggs and young, another behavior that is virtually unknown among spiders. This suggests that the transition to vegetarianism in Bagheera may have strongly influenced the species' social evolution, a possibility that the researchers are continuing to study.


Ballestero case nearly a replay of Quirós helicopter ride
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In September utilities boss Pedro Pablo Quirós faced a possible criminal case for using a helicopter for personal use.

Now the vice president of the Asamblea Legislativa faces approximately the same allegation. Critics of the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration say the case is another example of corruption.

The second shoe has not fallen for Quirós, executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. Prosecutors still are considering the case.

The assembly vice president, Mauren Ballestero, commandeered a security ministry single-engine plane Sunday for a round trip to Liberia. Now she said she had to make the trip so she could retrieve her passport from her apartment there. She was leaving the country Sunday night.

Lawmakers are not allowed access to ministry planes, so when critics in San José learned that Ms. Ballestero also attended a Partido Liberación Nacional assembly to nominate local candidates, complaints were made to the Tribunal Supreme de Elecciones, which has the power to ouster her.

Tuesday she said she would pay for the trip, some $1,000.
Quirós may face allegations of converting public property to his own use. The case is not clear cut because Quirós had business reasons to use the helicopter March 21. He visited the Cariblanco generating plant that was knocked out by the Jan. 8 Cinchona earthquake. He also visited an electrical coop's annual meeting.

The questionable visits are to the wedding of a legislative deputy's daughter in Zarcero and to the Puriscal home of the agency's general manager for a party.

The Partido Acción Ciudadana has been aggressive in denouncing the Ballestero trip. The party sent out a press release citing alleged abuse of public property by Arias administration appointees. Two ministers, Fernando Zumbado of Vivienda and Roberto Doble of Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, have been forced to resign.

Zumbado's successor, Clara Zomer, made the news when reporters learned she has taken part in an expensive business lunch at an upscale Escazú restaurant.

The political party also noted that Daniel Gallardo, head of the national emergency commission, also had to leave in a corruption scandal.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio Público, the nation's prosecutor, said it was investigating the Ballestero case. The case was sent there by the nation's chief prosecutor, the agency said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 203


Undersea observatories to track ocean changes continually

By the National Science Foundation

Giving scientists never-before-seen views of the world's oceans, the National Science Foundation and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership have signed a cooperative agreement that supports the construction and initial operation of a network of undersea sensors for observing complex ocean processes such as climate variability, ocean circulation and ocean acidification at several coastal, open-ocean and seafloor locations.

Continuous data flow from hundreds of sensors will be integrated by a sophisticated computing network and will be openly available to scientists, policy makers, students and the public.

"Through the Recovery Act, we are putting people to work today to find answers to some of the major scientific and environmental challenges that we face," said Arden L. Bement, Jr., director of the National Science Foundation.

"The oceans drive an incredible range of natural phenomena, including our climate, and directly impact society in myriad ways," Bement explained. "New approaches are crucial to our understanding of changes now happening in the world's oceans. OOI will install the latest technologies where they can best serve scientists, policymakers and the public." The initials are those of the project, the Ocean Observatories Initiative.

"Moving a large project to the construction phase requires rigorous planning," said Julie Morris, foundation division director for ocean sciences. "Remarkable cooperation and commitment from the OOI team is translating a long-held dream into a new reality for the ocean sciences research community."

Advanced ocean research and sensor tools are a significant improvement over past techniques. Remotely operated and autonomous vehicles go deeper and perform longer than submarines. Underwater samplers do in minutes what once took hours in a lab. Telecommunications cables link experiments directly to office computers on land. At sea, satellite uplinks shuttle buoy data at increasing speeds.

Sited in critical areas of the open and coastal ocean, the project will radically change the rate and scale of ocean data collection. The networked observatory will focus on global, regional and coastal science questions.
It will also provide platforms to support new kinds of instruments and autonomous vehicles.

"OOI is an unprecedented opportunity for, and whole new approach to, advancing our understanding of how the ocean works and interacts with the atmosphere and solid Earth," said Robert Gagosian, president and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. "It will allow scientists to answer complex questions — questions only dreamed of a few years ago — about the future health of our planet, such as the ocean's role in climate change. It's very exciting to be part of this huge step forward in the ocean sciences."

The five-plus-year construction phase, funded initially with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds, will begin this month. The foundation got $3 billion under the act.
observatory locations
Center for Environmental Visualization, University of Washington
Drawing shows the location of the observatories in North and South America.

The first year of funding under the cooperative agreement will support a range of construction efforts, including production engineering and prototyping of key coastal and open-ocean components (moorings, buoys, sensors), award of the primary seafloor cable contract, completion of a shore station for power and data, and software development for sensor interfaces to the network.

Subsequent years of funding will support the completion of coastal, deep-ocean, and seafloor systems, with initial data flow scheduled for early 2013 and final commissioning of the full system in 2015. Three organizations responsible for the construction of the components of the full network:

* Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (and its partners, Oregon State University and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, are responsible for coastal and global moorings and their associated autonomous vehicles.  Raytheon will also serve as a partner and provide project management and systems engineering support.

* The University of Washington is responsible for cabled seafloor systems and moorings on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate.

* The cyberinfrastructure component is being implemented by the University of California at San Diego.

In 2010 the program will add an education and public engagement team as the fourth implementing organization. It will take advantage of the technology and combined science and education vision of the project.

"This award represents the fulfillment of more than a decade of planning and hard work by hundreds of ocean scientists, and reflects the commitment of the National Science Foundation to new approaches for documenting ocean processes," said Tim Cowles, program director at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.


   
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 203

Casa Alfi Hotel

Bike recycling program
aids developing countries


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

When Stephen Popick and his wife got new bikes they donated their old bikes to Bikes for the World. "My bikes wouldn’t fetch a nice price and wouldn’t be worth trying to have a yard sale to sell," Popick said when he dropped them off at a collection site, "but they could be useful to somebody else."

That's the idea behind Bikes for the World. Keith Oberg, executive director of the non-profit organization, says nearly every American home has an old bicycle that isn't being ridden. "It sits there in the garage, or basement or shed going to waste. Bikes for the World puts it to good use in developing countries, puts it in the hands of somebody who needs a means of transportation to get to work or to get to school."

Bikes for the World collects unwanted bikes almost every weekend with help from volunteer organizations here in the Washington area, where the organization is based.

It ships the bikes to non-profit organizations overseas, who repair and distribute the bikes. 

Oberg says Bikes for the World currently has partners in seven countries in Africa and Central America and is working on developing more partnerships. Those organizations use the bikes in different ways.

"These bikes usually go to people who have nothing, have no transportation option," says Helen Gelband, who serves on the advisory board for Bikes for the World. "We have a lot of stories about how they are used and how they have helped people increase their income, just by being able to carry more stuff or go more places."

They may allow rural health care workers to get to more patients on their daily rounds. Or help start a small bike rental business for a budding entrepreneur. They may provide work for bike mechanics. Or they may be given to a student as incentive to stay in school. Oberg says in some communities, students may have to walk eight kilometers (five miles) or more to school.

"Many of them are motivated to do that, but there are pressures to drop out, to help on the farm to earn money,” he says. “To provide a bicycle as a gift to a student in secondary school, to empower them to cover that distance three times faster than they did before, gives them the means to help out at home and still study."

Last year, Bikes for the World collected and shipped 10,000 bikes overseas. This year it hopes to exceed that number.



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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 203


Latin American news
U.S. educated MBAs seek
future outside of the U.S.


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers the financial industry is still reeling from the credit crisis. Hundreds of thousands of financial jobs have been lost, and for those graduating from business school the employment outlook is bleak. Some Asian Americans and U.S.- educated Asians are considering opportunities outside the U.S. in China, India, and beyond.

A year ago, investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed and thousands of bankers lost their jobs.  These workers were not alone. New York City is warning that 46,000 financial jobs and hundreds of thousands more that depend on Wall Street could be lost by 2010.

Masters of business administration students say that makes them nervous. Before the financial crisis, an MBA almost guaranteed a job in finance. At a recent MBA jobs fair for Asian-Americans and Asians educated in the U.S., the lines were long at potential employers' booths.

Xiang Wang is from Beijing and is due to graduate soon with an MBA from Clark University in Massachusetts. He is worried about the lack of jobs, coupled with his need for a work visa.

"If we want a sponsor for our H1-B (visa), no company will accept our resume so it is very hard," he explained.

But Wall Street's loss could be Asia's gain. Exhibiting here are a number of Asian countries interested in employing Asian graduates with U.S. educations for jobs in Asia.

Joeseph Nam is from South Korea's Trade Agency. They are building a database of graduates to pass on to Korean companies hungry for U.S.-educated talent.

"Less jobs on Wall Street means more people are willing to go overseas. They are willing to accept somewhat less compensation or benefits," he noted.

China, India, and other Asian countries are seeing an upsurge of highly educated returnees. Last year, the Chinese government saw a jump of 55 percent in the number of returnees. And a recent study by Duke University showed that Asians educated in the U.S. believe there is a growing demand for their skills back in their home countries.

While graduates here may be worried about their immediate job prospects, professional organizations believe that Asian Americans or U.S.-educated Asians are ideally placed for the future. Thomas Sim from the National Association of Asian American professionals says their language skills and strong growth in Asia will help them in the long term.




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