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(506) 2223-1327           Posted Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 215       Email us
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Geovanny Coronodo spruces up a tomb in advance of an increase in visitors expected this week. He is no fan of American-style Halloween.

cemetery worker
A.M. Costa Rica/Andrew Rulseh Kasper

Even in the cemetery, workers prepare for vandals
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While many American tourists and expats nursed their hangovers Sunday morning and recalled the more notable costumes from the Halloween revelry the night before, many Costa Ricans were dreading the aftermath of the horrifying holiday. At least that was the case at the Cementerio del Obreros in San Jose.

Geovanny Coronodo, a grounds keeper at the cemetery, said the celebration which many Americans enjoy has no real connection with the deceased or Costa Rican culture in general and is instead about destruction, and destructive behavior.

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“The people drink whiskey and smoke drugs and it makes them crazy,” Coronodo said. “Then they come to the cemetery and break crucifixes and destroy the graves.”

He and a guard patrolling the premises Sunday afternoon said for the night of Oct. 31 security is increased on the premises and the workers and family members of those buried there just hope they can escape the night without too much damage.

“There are many beloved family members here and we have to respect that,” he said. “This is sacred ground.” The site is in Sabana Este.

Furthermore, Coronodo said the Costa Ricans have enough of their own spooky traditions, rooted in the country’s folklore, that there is no need for the predominately American celebration of Halloween.

Portions of the country’s religious community also appear to oppose the pagan celebration of Halloween. Damaris Vindas, leaving church on Sunday, said she would rather honor the beauty in life and avoid what she classified as its uglier aspects. Needless to say, she had no plans to celebrate Halloween this year.

“We need to pay attention to the pretty things — not monsters, devils, witches and things that do damage,” she said. “It is against God.”

Costa Rica's central government made a statement on Halloween in 1997 when the Día Nacional de la Mascarada was created by decree. That is why there were celebrations in Aserrí and in Parque Morazán Saturday and Saturday night. Youngsters and adults donned traditional masks, which have been used in Costa Rica for centuries. They have
Cemetery art work
A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
Costa Rican cemeteries have many elaborate monuments to the dead. So they are highly vulnerable to vandalism.

their roots in religious observances going back to Colonial days.

However, even at such events vampires, zombies and other Anglo-American creations appeared. Of course, those watering holes catering to expats and visitors have their own, frequently elaborate, Halloween celebrations.

What Coronodo and others really are worried about is what Costa Ricans call Noche de Brujas, which is the local version of Devil's night in the United States. Youngsters and some adults go on sprees of vandalism, perhaps in local cemeteries. They also block roads with burning tires and trash. The Fuerza Pública will be out in force tonight. The country had a bit of a break last year because Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rain to the country Oct. 31, and most of the criminal activity did not take place.

On a more respectful note, Many Costa Ricans will be going to the cemeteries to honor deceased relatives today, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 2, All Souls Day in the Catholic calendar, is also the Día de los Santos Difuntos, the day of the deceased saints. The annual event is very low-keyed when compared to the three-day festival in México where it is the Día de los Muertos.

Costa Ricans traditionally place flowers on the graves and perhaps do a little cleanup. The Mexicans, of course, stage elaborate meals and festivities at the graves.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 215

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Toll collection halted
because cantons appeal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The municipal administrations of the cantons of Mora, Santa Ana and Puriscal has gone to court because local motorists have no option but to use the toll route operated by the Autopista del Sol.  The legal filing said that there is no other route in good condition for traffic. The site is at the Ciudad Colón-Brasil intersection.

The filing is against the road concessionaire and the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones in the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo. A hearing had been scheduled for Nov. 7, but until then the court ordered that a toll not be collected at that location.

Canada Club planning
Christmas party Dec. 3

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Canadians have set Saturday, Dec. 3, as the date for the annual Christmas party.

The Canadian Club of Costa Rica said that the advance sale of tickets would cease Nov. 28.

The party is in Santa Ana at the Zamora Estates Hotel, starting at 6:30 p.m. with the singing of Christmas carols. Dinner and dancing will follow.

Advanced tickets at $35 each are available from the Association of Residents of Costa Rica in San José at  2233-8068, at the Out of Bounds Hotel and Tourist Center in Escazú at 2288-6762 and from Ron Findlay in Atenas at 2446-0936, the club said.

The club promises leg of pork and turkey with a cash bar.

Spark destroys structures

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fire, believed caused by a soldering torch leveled a shop and a home in La Uruca Friday and left eight adults and three youngsters homeless. The blaze was in Barrio Corazón de Jesús. The adjacent home was occupied by the shop owner.

Aid for Africa promised

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has agreed to help countries on the Horn of Africa where drought and food shortages threaten a major humanitarian disaster.

The country's representatives met in Rome Sunday at the officers of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. Costa Rica said it promised professionals like veterinarians, agronomists and technicians to help mitigate the disaster.
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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!
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 215

More rain predicted from low pressure area in Caribbean
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

More unstable air is expected to bring more clouds over Costa Rica this morning with the possibility of abundant rain later in the day.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that afternoon rains are expected over most of the country with the heaviest downpours in the mountains. These conditions are expected to continue into Tuesday, the weather institute said.

Based on weather information Friday, the national emergency commission declared an alert for its local counterparts and other emergency agencies. The agency, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias, noted that much of the country had been soaked and damaged by a progression of low pressure areas and storms. It warned of sudden flooding.

Still, there were no reports of major problems or road closures Sunday night. The Autopista del Sol reported no problems. This is the Caldera-San José highway that has been the scene of many landslides.

Work is continuing to repair road damage from the series of storms. The Conseo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, said that within a week the nation's roads would be back in the same shape as they were before the rains and flooding hit three weeks ago.

Friday the agency said there were 21 projects being completed. The agency said that the recent rains and flooding that came from storms Jova and Rina damaged just 1,250 kilometers (about 775 miles) of highway. The agency compared that to the previous year when Hurricane
Tomas damaged 3,000 kilometers (about 1,860 miles) of highway.

The road agency planned to open Paso Real at the Río  Térraba over the weekend, the last of the major trouble stops. The others were Casa Mata on the Interamericana Sur at El Guarco de Cartago and El Empalme between San Ramón and Esparza, also known as Cambronero.

In New York, the United Nations and Nicaragua launched a flash appeal Friday for $14.3 million to provide shelter, food, water and sanitation, and agricultural livelihoods to those affected by the floods that ravaged large parts of the country for the past three weeks.

During a briefing in Geneva, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the appeal will provide aid for 134,000 people over the next six months, and will respond to immediate as well as medium-term necessities to enhance the population’s early recovery.

The appeal will target seven areas that have been identified as the most affected and with the least capacity to respond: Chinandega, León, Managua, Estelí, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, and Madriz.

In addition, the appeal will target 63,000 people that have been assessed as particularly vulnerable.

Flooding has damaged the homes of more than 12,000 families and destroyed more than 200 water sources in the country. As of Friday, 10,146 people are located in emergency shelters.

El Salvador, Honduras and Belize also suffered extensive damage from the rains.

Effect of speeding fines on tourism brings call for reduction
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national tourism chamber and the rental car association are seeking a quick reduction in speed trap fines because they said the project is having a negative effect on tourism.

The Sala IV constitutional court has halted the collection of fines while appeals are pending. The bulk of the appeals say that the $600 speeding fines are disproportionate.

The Cámara Nacional de Turismo and the Asociación Costarricense de Auto Rentistas represent businesses that are
being hit by the fines. The fine is attached to the car, so some rental agencies are hiking the deposit they seek from
 customers. The chamber said that its statistics say that about 30 percent of the tourists who visit Costa Rica rent cars. If the tourist leaves without paying the fine, the rental agency is stuck paying the bill. Even if the tourist is made to pay the $600 fine, the public relations effect is serious.

There are 24 rental car companies in the country resgistered with the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Some appeals to the constitutional court challenge the method of assessing the fine against a vehicle instead of the person driving it. Companies with fleets of vehicles have a similar problem, but they at least can attach an employee's pay.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 215

There is no difficulty in finding a collection of spirits in city
By the A.M. Costa Rica paranormal staff

Late October is when expats all gather around the computer screen for scary stories.

Costa Rica is ripe for good ghost tales because the land has been inhabited for hundreds of generations, mostly before Columbus.

The nature of ghosts is that they generally hang around a small area. Hence the same fantasmas will show up frequently in the same place.

That is why there is a place not far from Hospital Calderón Guardia that has a lot of nocturnal activities. The site is on a small hill overlooking the Rio Torres. The spot was ideal for a prosperous native village until the massacre.

The Spanish had no monopoly on bloody acts. Human nature is basically the same, and a prosperous village is an ideal target. To avoid retaliation, the raiders would have to kill everyone, including the dogs. They did. And they left the bodies for the birds.

Clearly the spirits, victims of a horrible crime and uncivilized treatment of their bodies, have been bad neighbors. Now it seems that a developer is going to build a high rise on the site of their massacre. Somehow the spirits understand this and do not like it.

Fuerza Pública officers do not walk in this area alone. An occasional bum suddenly finds religion when the hairs rise on his neck and he senses a presence.

There is a house not far away that is supposed to be haunted. On a ghostly scale of one to 10 that house is about a one to the former village's 10.

Send a few surveyors onto the overgrown site or have a soil engineer drill a few test holes, and the night air will be filled with the unexplained.

Of course no one likes to talk about this, and certainly not the project developer.

The history of strange events in this area date back into the 19th century, and more than one priest has been called to dash holy water onto the ground and command the spirits away. Too bad most of the fantasmas are not Catholic.

The Bible verifies the existence of the Devil, and some religious persons affirm that the ghosts and goblins are nothing more than the Devil's associates. Instead it is possible that there are places on the earth where an odd energy exists.

In the Old and New worlds Christian bishops ordered churches to be erected on places that were considered holy or highly spiritual by Pagans and natives. The same in the New World. México is a great example where Catholic officials
Scary lane
A.M. Costa Rica graphic   
A short walk might raise the hair in north San José.

deliberately appropriated lands that were once sites of temples and pyramids.

The archaeology of Costa Rica is less monumental, but certainly there were religious sites and temples, although not made of enduring limestone.

Not all the apparitions in north San José are Native Costa Ricans. There are reports of persons dressed in Colonial garb and 18th century high-collared dresses. All appear to be otherwise occupied and hardly ever interact with live humans. Hardly anyone in the area does not have a chilling story about moving furniture, sounds in the night and footsteps.

Even in a modern office building just a block away the guards complain about the footsteps of women in the night. The multi-story structure is concrete and steel. The unexpected feet appear to be wearing high heels. The building is locked tight. None of the guards has volunteered to investigate the sounds on the upper floors. And when the sounds begin to descend, the guards are otherwise occupied in their enclosed office.

That these events have taken place is beyond dispute or maybe this is just an amusing Halloween tale. The days of All Saints and All Souls provide a reason to discuss these events. But the manifestations have no calendar. And readers are invited to submit their own theories after they have walked at dusk a few hundred meters along the east side of Parque Simón Bolívar as the road winds west and south from the Fuerza Pública police station in Barrio Otoya.

Effects in brain of marijuana mimic schizophrenia, study says
By the University of Bristol news service

Cannabis use is associated with disturbances in concentration and memory. New research by neuroscientists at the University of Bristol, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has found that brain activity becomes uncoordinated and inaccurate during these altered states of mind, leading to neurophysiological and behavioral impairments reminiscent of those seen in schizophrenia.

The collaborative study, led by Matt Jones from Bristol University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, tested whether the detrimental effects of cannabis on memory and cognition could be the result of what he termed disorchestrated brain networks.

Brain activity can be compared to performance of a philharmonic orchestra in which string, brass, woodwind and percussion sections are coupled together in rhythms dictated by the conductor. Similarly, specific structures in the brain tune in to one another at defined frequencies: their rhythmic activity gives rise to brain waves, and the tuning of these brain waves normally allows processing of information used to guide our behavior.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the researchers measured electrical activity from hundreds of neurons in rats that were given a drug that mimics the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. While the effects of the drug on individual brain
regions were subtle, the drug completely disrupted co-ordinated brain waves across the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, as though two sections of the orchestra were playing out of synch.  Both these brain structures are essential for memory and decision-making and heavily implicated in the pathology of schizophrenia.

The results from the study show that as a consequence of this decoupling of hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, the rats became unable to make accurate decisions when navigating around a maze.

“Marijuana abuse is common among sufferers of schizophrenia and recent studies have shown that the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana can induce some symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy volunteers,” siad Jones. “These findings are therefore important for our understanding of psychiatric diseases, which may arise as a consequence of disorchestrated brains and could be treated by re-tuning brain activity.”

Michal Kucewicz, another author on the study, added: “These results are an important step forward in our understanding of how rhythmic activity in the brain underlies thought processes in health and disease.”

The research is part of a program that aims to develop new tools and targets for treatment of brain diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 215

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Voters in Colombia choose
among municipal candidates

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Voters in Colombia went to the polls Sunday for regional elections under the watchful eye of thousands of military police officers.

An estimated 130,000 candidates are vying for 13,000 posts, including governors, mayors, assemblymen, council members and various municipal boards.

In an effort to prevent violence, President Juan Manuel Santos deployed 300,000 troops for the safety of voters and candidates.

The Independent Electoral Observation Mission - an independent watchdog group - says 41 candidates have been killed this year during the campaign leading up to Sunday's vote, and scores have received death threats.

The mission has deployed observers to more than 1,100 polling stations to monitor the integrity of vote.

Some 30 million Colombians have registered to vote.

Brazil's popular former chief
now fights cancer of larynx

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been diagnosed with a tumor in his larynx.

Medical officials in Sao Paulo made the statement Saturday. He is expected to undergo chemotherapy treatments as a first course of action.

The popular politician, known to Brazilians simply as "Lula," is being treated at Sao Paulo's Sirio Libanes hospital, which specializes in cancer treatment.

Current president Dilma Rousseff was treated for lymphatic cancer at the same hospital before she took office in January.

Da Silva served two terms as president, ending in December 2010. Term limits prevented him running for re-election, but he left office with approval ratings of 80 percent and above.  He is still active in Brazilian politics.

Commonwealth divides
over need for rights monitor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Commonwealth leaders meeting in Australia are divided over the appointment of an independent commissioner for the rule of law and human rights across the group of former British colonies.   An internal review has recommended that the organization appoint an impartial monitor to help members deal with issues of human rights, but the proposal is not likely to be adopted.

Commonwealth leaders meeting in western Australia agreed to give foreign ministers more power to intervene if member states deprive their citizens of human rights or threaten the judiciary or the media. Other powers agreed to allow members to investigate allegations of vote rigging and the jailing of political leaders.

However, it is not likely that the group of former British colonies will appoint an independent human rights commissioner to ensure that early diplomatic solutions can be found to sensitive issues.

Rich countries such as Australia, Britain and Canada favor a stronger action to protect human rights, but many developing nations resent outside influence.

Some members consider the move intrusive or unnecessary.  But former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser says it would be a mistake to abandon the idea.

"It's not something that's aimed at Third World countries, because especially since 9/11 some of the developed countries I believe have transgressed quite seriously in relation to human rights in the so-called fight against terrorism, in attitudes to refugees and sometimes in relation to their attitudes towards indigenous peoples," said Fraser.  "So it's not only going to be African countries that would be subject to reports, Australia would be subject to report, Canada would, and I think that would be good."

One area of agreement has been over the British monarchy.  The leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries, who have Queen Elizabeth as their head of state, have agreed to scrap outdated succession laws.  New legislation will allow the daughters and sons of future British monarchs to have equal right to the throne.  

Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, said the old laws were at odds with modern countries, and needed to be changed.

Other topics of discussion have included piracy off Somalia, forced marriage and efforts to eradicate polio.

There were also calls for Sri Lanka, the host of the next Commonwealth leaders' summit in 2013, to properly investigate war crimes committed during its civil war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Commonwealth summit comprises the leaders of 53 countries, most of them former British colonies.  Fiji was suspended from the organization following a military coup. 

Delegates will also discuss the entry of a new member, South Sudan, which recently gained independence after splitting from its northern neighbor.

The Commonwealth meeting was in Perth.

Japanese government moves
to reduce value of yen

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Japan intervened in currency markets today for the first time since August, driving the yen down sharply against the dollar and euro.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said he gave the order to begin selling yen at mid-morning after the dollar slid to 75.32 yen, its lowest point since World War II. By mid-day the dollar was trading above 79 yen and the euro had posted similar gains.

Azumi said the intervention was unilateral and would continue until he is satisfied with the result. The government is concerned that the strong yen is hurting Japan's vital export sector and could slow the country's recovery from the March earthquake and tsunami.

Japan last intervened to drive down the yen on Aug. 4, selling a record 4.5 trillion yen. However the effects were short-lived and the currency quickly resumed its climb amid concerns over the U.S. and European economies.

Azumi declined to say Monday how much the government was spending on the current intervention.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 215

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Gunmen make mistake
and kill the wrong man

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators believe a killing in Pavas early Sunday was a case of mistaken identity.

Dead is a 25-year-old man with the last name of Pérez. He died at the door to the Pavas fire station after he was confronted by four masked men, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The shooting happened in the section called Pueblo Nuevo in Pavas. Pérez was with other men, but they fled when the gunmen appeared. Agents think that the armed men were after another member of the group and mistook Pérez as their target.

Someone took the bleeding Pérez to the fire station and dumped him at the door.

In another weekend shooting, a man identified as a foreigner left a bar in La Uruca about 3:30 a.m. and suffered a bullet wound as he walked to his vehicle. He was identified by the last name of Lemos. He was 35, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. His nationality could not be determined. He was hospitalized.

In what appears to have been a holdup, the operator of a pulpería or small store suffered five bullet wounds about 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The man was identified by the last name of Fong. The store is in Ciudadela 15 de Setiembre. The storekeeper suffered bullet wounds in his chest, his jaw, in the right arm and in two locations in the back.

Another man, also believed the victim of a holdup, was thrown down an embankment into the Río Torres early Sunday. The man, who was believed to be about 63, appears to have been a robbery victim about 2 a.m. as he walked in the area less than a block from the Caribbean bus terminal. Judicial agents said that two men robbed him of his watch and 15,000 colons, about $30. Then they threw him down the embankment. He was not found until about 9 a.m., agents said. The victim suffered a broken left leg and a head wound, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Northeast U.S. is buried
under early snowstorm

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Several northeastern U.S. states have been witness to a rare October snowstorm that caused three deaths and cut power to more than 2 million homes and businesses.

As much as 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) of snow fell in parts of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey, setting records and forcing officials to declare states of emergency.

The storm also severely affected transportation with scores of flights canceled, roads closed and rail services disrupted.

The deaths were caused by storm-related accidents in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

One of the hardest hit areas was New Jersey, where more than 650,000 customers are without power. It could be several days before all services are restored throughout the multi-state region.

Air France flight crews
strike over staffing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Air France flight crews are on strike until Wednesday protesting the proposed reduction of crew members per flight.

Air France management cancelled many flights Sunday, and expects to cancel about 15 percent of scheduled flights Monday. Air France has been relying on other airlines to lessen the strike's impact.

The strike coincides with a busy holiday weekend in France.

Air France encourages travelers to monitor its Web site and check flight status before heading to the airport.

The strike has forced the cancellation of several flights between Paris and New York, Washington and Abu Dhabi, as well as several other cities.

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