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(506) 2223-1327         Published Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 228            E-mail us
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2005 was bad for coral, but this year called worse
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Coral reefs suffered record losses as a consequence of high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005 according to the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date. Collaborators from 22 countries report that more than 80 percent of surveyed corals bleached and over 40 percent of the total surveyed died, making this the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin. The study appears in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.

The Caribbean is suffering severe bleaching again this year, and in some locations, this bleaching event is worse than the event in 2005. Not only are temperatures causing further damage to reefs hit hard during the 2005 event, but new locations have also been impacted.

Satellite-based tools from the Coral Reef Watch Program guided site selection for field observations conducted across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality in this study surpass prior efforts in both detail and extent. The reef program is run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This study also substantially raised the standards for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing satellite and forecast products. Coral bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to expel their symbiotic algae, or zooxanthellae. If prolonged or particularly severe, it may result in coral death.

“Heat stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed in the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the 
coral study
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo
Diver with a one square meter quadrat examines a bleached reef colony in St. Croix in 2005.

warmest in at least 150 years,” said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the Coral Reef Watch Program. “This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems, and events like this are likely to become more common as the climate warms.”

Through this survey, several species and localities reported bleaching for the first time, including the first known bleaching of any kind in Saba, the first documented mass bleaching at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and the first reported mass bleaching in Virgin Islands National Park of Acropora palmata, a species listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006.

The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on people and communities throughout the world. As the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide economic services, jobs, food and tourism, estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion each year.

Ms. Chinchilla says prudence is not weakness
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla reaffirmed the country's reliance on diplomacy instead of force Wednesday night as she helped mark the 27th anniversary of the nation's proclamation of neutrality.

The event also honored former president Luis Alberto Monge, who issued the neutrality proclamation at the height of the Nicaraguan civil war. He also attended.

The country believes in the power of reason and not in the reason of power, she said. She also recognized the Río San Juan invasion by Nicaraguan troops and she said it was her hope to arrive at a rational and negotiated solution. Prudence should not be confused with weakness, she said in a speech.

Ms. Chinchilla also had good words to say about the fraternal relationship between the two countries. Costa Rica has about 400,000 Nicaraguans living here either legally or illegally.

The neutrality declaration was based on pragmatism in 1983, but it has risen to the realm of a political philosophy. Ms. Chinchilla noted that the country abolished its army in 1948 and
Ms. Chinchilla and Monge
Casa Presidencial photo
Ms. Chinchilla and ex-president Monge

ratified that act in the Constitution of 1949.

Meanwhile, the Poder Judicial said a prosecutor in Pococí is investigating Eden Pastora for taking government-owned land. Pastora is the man in charge of the San Juan dredging and the effort to create a new mouth for the river. He still is in Nicaragua and a close ally of President Daniel Ortega.

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Our readers' opinions
Sky TV a good substitute
for unfeeling cable firm

Dear A.M Costa Rica:

I have read the complaints from customers of Amnet, and have heard the same locally from friends. We have lived in Costa Rica for two years now, and had Sky TV installed after we arrived. I would recommend it to anyone who is fed up with the ever-changing, and unreliable Amnet.

We have got the Sky+ machine, which is the same as Tivo in the States. We had Sky+ in the UK and liked the fact you can record two programs at the same time, while watching a third that you have recorded. Sky has many different packages that you can subscribe to, or combine. The dish is about 1 meter in diameter, but Sky installs it for free in your garden or attached to your wall.

I know I sound like a Sky TV salesman, but I am not. I am just a great fan of Sky+. We watch a lot of TV, so it is important we can get all the news and sport channels, as well as Sony, Fox, Warner etc. You don't have to sign up for the expensive movie channels, and they are not really worth it anyway. If enough people switch to Sky, maybe Amnet will wake up to the fact they are not a monopoly, and start to provide what their customers are requesting.

Mike Keelan
Miramar, Puntarenas

Cable lineup is different
than what he paid for

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to take this opportunity to agree with almost all of the respondents regarding the degree of service (or lack ) of the now infamous Amnet Cable. I have had the unfortunate experience of having to use Amnet as my cable provider because I have had no alternative. I have experienced interruption in service every month for years of the USA networks. This always happens at the end of the month and sometimes continues for as many as three to four days. Do you or I receive a refund because we did not get what we paid for?
Secondly lets explore our new and improved service:
1. No more CNBC.
2. No more Fox News.
3. No more Discovery Channel in English.
4. No more ESPN in English (including Monday night football).
5. No more movie channels in English as advertised in the propaganda that I have in my desk.
This is what we have now:
1. All sports channels in Spanish (all soccer all the time).
2. Financial channel Bloomberg with a feed from Brazil and the Brazil Stock market in Portuguese (give me a break).
3. Eight music video channels.
4. No advance notice from Amnet that they were changing 70 percent of the format that we originally agreed to
Finally, I am suggesting that everyone that is displeased with this complete lack of respect for the client and the quality of the new and improved programming, join with us in boycotting Amnet. We have a group of approximately 50 subscribers that are prepared to cancel their service and move to a different service.
There is only one thing that Amnet understands and that is money. We feel that we can garner several hundred Amnet clients to cancel service and deliver a strong message that we will not be taken advantage of, nor will we be treated as if we are idiots and will stand for what ever they choose to do. We are tired of these tactics and will not stand idly by while Amnet tries to make fools of us all!
We can be contacted at to show our strength.
Gary Mathews

Eyes of world to push
Ortega to get out

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I wrote  a letter to President Obama asking him to consider making public his support for Costa Rica and condemnation for Nicaragua pertaining to the land grab along the northern border. 

I encourage all Americans to write as well.  It appears as though Daniel Ortega's attempt to out shout President Chinchilla has backfired big time. This is a good thing.  Many things can be done on all fronts, politically as well as physically.  The pressure is on especially when Fidel Castro puts the hammer down on Ortega's actions and statements. 

Also the Costa Rican police need to make a move in the near future, methodical of course and calculated.  The stupid ditch of three shovels wide needs to be filled back up where it originated off of the southern side of the river, reassuring there will be no wash out from the massive amount of water that will soon be flowing to the ocean.  The whole ditch does not need to be filled, just a 100 feet or so. 

Then bring the police within view of the Nicaraguan army but at a safe distance with security measures in place such as cover and armament.  This is how its done in Korea and it keeps aggression in check.  It can be done.  The Nicaraguan soldiers are not battle hardened and will not enjoy having the world watch them.  And don't forget the cameras and press.  This is extremely important so that the world can see up close what they are doing.  This alone will intimidate them beyond belief.  Managua will flip.

Bruce Simpson
Hone Creek
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, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 228

Latigo K-9

Languages seem to control personal preferences, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As many bilingual individuals know, their abilities to speak two or more languages fluently is like hosting several persons within the same body.

One study shows that even infants born to bilingual mothers exhibit preferences for both languages because they heard both while in the womb.

Another study shows that bilingual speakers can focus better on tasks that are not related to communications. Psychologists theorize that the bilingual mind learns how to control disruptive influences like the second language better.

Those who speak more than one language frequently report that their entire body mannerisms change when they switch languages.

Then there is the Canadian study that found more evidence that speaking two languages can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by as much as five years.

Now comes a study from Harvard University that says that language may influence not only thoughts, but implicit preferences as well.

Bilingual individuals expressed different opinions of ethnic groups depending on which language was used to administer a test.

“Charlemagne is reputed to have said that to speak another language is to possess another soul,” said the Harvard paper’s co-author, Oludamini Ogunnaike, a Harvard graduate student, the university reported. “This study suggests that language is much more than a medium for expressing thoughts and feelings. Our work hints that language creates and shapes our thoughts and feelings as well.”

“Can we shift something as fundamental as what we like and dislike by changing the language in which our preferences are elicited?” asked co-author Mahzarin R. Banaji, a professor of social ethics at Harvard. “If the answer is yes, that gives more support to the idea that language is an important shaper of attitudes.”

According to an article prepared by Harvard:

Ogunnaike, Banaji, and Yarrow Dunham, now at the University of California, Merced, used the well-known Implicit Association Test, where participants rapidly categorize words that flash on a computer screen or are played through headphones. The test gives participants

only a fraction of a second to categorize words, not enough to think about answers.

“The IAT bypasses a large part of conscious cognition and taps into something we’re not aware of and can’t easily control,” Banaji said.

The paper appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The researchers administered the implicit association test in two settings: once in Morocco, with subjects who spoke Arabic and French, and again in the United States, with Latinos who spoke English and Spanish.

In Morocco, participants who took the test in Arabic showed greater preference for other Moroccans. When they took the test in French, that difference disappeared. Similarly, in the United States, participants who took the test in Spanish showed a greater preference for other Hispanics. But again, in English, that preference disappeared. The tests used first names that suggested the nationality of an individual.

The study results mean a lot more than quirks of the bilingual mind. They support the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis developed in the 1930s that says language influences thought and people who speak different languages think differently.

'Tis the season to pay those old traffic fines, ministry says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ebenezer Scrooge said it well: "Humbug, a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every 25th of December!"

The prickly Dicken's character was talking about Christmas, but he also could have been talking about the marchamo if such a tax existed in 19th century England. The deadline for payment is not Christmas but Jan. 1.

The government, the primary pocket picker, announced Wednesday exactly what many motorists feared. Paying off traffic tickets is obligatory for paying the marchamo or annual road tax.

The marchamo varies depending on the value of the vehicle. But the traffic tickets are generally considered to be outrageous. A driver can easily run up fines totally $1,000 in one traffic stop. Plus sales tax is levied on the fines. Motorists facing high fines have been hoping the legislature would modify the law.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Wednesday that the new traffic law that began to go into effect two years ago requires that traffic fines be paid before the marchamo can be issued. The fines are noted in a data base that is available to those accepting payment for the marchamo.

Motorists can dispute traffic fines, and many do. In that case, the fine is not assessed until the dispute is resolved. Motorists have 10 days to dispute the ticket.
The ministry also noted that fines run with the vehicle, and someone who purchases a used car can sometimes be stuck with the former owner's traffic fines if the buyer failed to do homework. Officials will not waive such fines, they said.

Since March traffic police have issued 244,000 tickets and only 37,000 have been contested. March was when the new fine structure went into effect.

Meanwhile, the legislature that took office in May is slowly considering if it will make changes in the traffic fines that are being called draconian. A number of fines are 293,400 colons or about $578. Considering the violation, there could be multiple fines at a single traffic stop.

In fact, police do not seem to be enforcing the new law with vigor. Violations include talking on a cell telephone, going through a stoplight and failing to have a special seat for a child are observed every day.

Usually the fines are assessed when there is an accident or when a driver happens into one of the traffic police checkpoints. Drunk driving is punished harshly, too, but lawmakers continue to debate at what level of blood alcohol is drunk.

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros has a place on its Web site where vehicle owners can find out how much they have to pay for the road tax. Also possible is paying online, but the operator still has to pick up the appropriate decal and paperwork.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 228

road prolbems
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photos
                        HIghway in Dota                                                             Road open but not pretty in Acosta

Ministry says 8.5 percent of national roads still blocked

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The transport ministry said Wednesday that 8.5 percent of the national highways still are not open as a result of landslides or damage caused by Tropical Storm Tomas.

That is about 178 kilometers or some 110 miles. At one point more than 2,000 kilometers of highways were out of service, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

Still blocked is the Interamericana Sur between Paso Real and Palmar Norte, according to Francisco Jiménez, the minister.

In the Provincia de San José there are roads out of service in these cantons:  Turrubares, Moravia, Pérez Zeledón, Acosta, León Cortés and Dota. In Acosta the problem is a failed bridge over the Río Pirrís.
In Pérez Zeledón there is a collapsed stretch of road between Rivas and San Gerado, the ministry said. That includes a road at Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica.

The ministry said that no roads were out of service due to the storm in the provinces of Guanacaste, Limón and Heredia.

In the Provincia de Puntarenas, some 114 kilometers of highways are out of service, including the Interamericana Sur, said the ministry.

The ministry statistics do not include roads out of service due to reasons other than the storm.

The Interamericana Norte is blocked at Cambronero because a giant rock fell on the roadway Monday and at least a half dozen more seem inclined to do the same.

Musicians demonstrate the marimba Wednesday when officials outline what will take place at the rural tourism fair.

rural toruism mirimbas
Instituto Costarricense de Turismo photo

Rural tourism fair will feature marimba as Tico heritage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 80 tourism operators and communities will be showing off their rural tourism projects at the eighth annual fair this weekend.

The event starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday with an inauguration and a concert. There are full days of exhibit from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The event is sponsored in part by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Rural tourism is an effort to bring visitors to non-traditional parts of the country where they may live with Costa Rican families and participate in daily life.  The institute estimates that 72,000 tourists visited last year to participate in rural tourism.

The event is in the Antigua Aduana, which is now known as the Centro Nacional de la Cultura y la Tecnología on
 Avenida 25 in east San José not far from the railway's Estación al Atlántico. The location is two blocks north of Avenida Central.

One of the purposes of Rural tourism is to preserve the heritage and traditions of the Costa Rican campesino or farm worker and ranchers.

This year the focus is on the marimba, the unique Costa Rica xylophone closely associated with Guanacaste.

The event will feature marimba concerts for children and adults, said the institute.

There also will be examples of other activities which are considered intangible heritage, such as the swing criole dance.

The event closes Sunday with a marimba concert at 5 p.m. Saturday there also is a 5 p.m. concert. Both days feature traditional dance demonstrations.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Food prices going higher
and supplies shrinking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, says international food import bills could pass the $1 trillion mark in 2010. 

In its latest Food Outlook report, the agency issued a warning to the international community to prepare for harder times ahead unless production of major food crops increases significantly in 2011.

Food import bills for the world's poorest countries are predicted to rise 11 percent this year and by 20 percent for low-income food-deficit countries.

The report says that passing a trillion dollars, the global import food bill will likely rise to a level not seen since food prices peaked at record levels in 2008.  Abdolreza Abbassian is a senior economist for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

"Prices of nearly all food crops have increased rather sharply over the last few months.  Some of those commodities prices have risen almost to the levels, as high as we had in 2008, which is associated with the year where we had a food crisis," said Abbassian.

The report says with the pressure on world prices of most commodities not abating, the international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks in 2011 and be prepared. Abbassian says there are more than 80 countries that are classified as low-income and food-deficit countries.

“The prices we are talking about today are 40 to 60 percent higher than last year.  Therefore for countries that are poorer among those 80 and they are many, at least 30 countries, it is a huge burden to continue buying from the world market at these current high prices,” says Abbassian.

The Food and Agriculture Organization revised its forecast for world cereal production downward, saying it would shrink by 2 percent. The agency, which had previously forecast a 1.2 percent expansion in production, said supply shortfalls due to bad weather were to blame.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said most cereal stocks are expected to decline sharply, and production should be increased to meet consumption. It added that only rice reserves are expected to rise. The report said wheat, maize and soybean production should be increased.

Haiti's president, others
seek end to violence

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti's president and international humanitarian officials are calling for an end to violent demonstrations linked to Haiti's cholera epidemic, saying they are hampering aid efforts.

President Rene Preval made the appeal in an address Tuesday.

The United Nations has called on protests to stop immediately so Haitian and international workers can save lives.

United Nations humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher says the world body has been forced to cancel flights carrying aid supplies because of security concerns in Cap-Haitien and Port de Paix. The problems have also affected people's ability to get to the hospital and forced the suspension of a water cleaning project and training of medical staff.

Fisher also condemned an attack on a World Food Program warehouse, which was looted of food supplies and burned.

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Judicial police have page
on Facebook social network

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Can't find a cop when you need one?  Try Facebook.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said Wednesday that it has opened a page in Facebook, the social network site, to provide information to the public. There also is contact information.

The latest postings include contact information for complaints and a photo of drugs confiscated in a Guápiles crack arrest. The agency plans to post some of its news on the site.

Seattle woman wins trip
to volunteer in Costa Rica

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Seattle resident Charyn Pfeuffer is one of three winners in WE tv’s and Ladies’ Home Journal’s first annual “We Do Good Awards,” a national joint initiative that recognizes women who volunteer their time to help others in need. Ms. Pfeuffer won a $5,000 voluntourism grant provided by Travelocity’s Travel to go to Costa Rica.

The Do Good initiative celebrates women and companies who make a positive impact in the lives of people and their communities. The three winners were chosen during an eight-month, three-tiered program that began with a call for nominations, followed by an online vote to select the winner in each award category.

Ms. Pfeuffer won the Travel for Good award, which recognizes a dedicated volunteer who is passionate about exploring the world around her. For the past 12 years, Ms. Pfeuffer has been a freelance food, travel and lifestyle journalist. “I've traveled around the globe in the name of work and have been profoundly impacted by the communities most underserved,” said Ms. Pfeuffer. With her travels as her inspiration, she founded The Global Citizen Project, her personal mission to spend a full year volunteering. In just three months, she raised enough money from independent donors to pay for her volunteer effort, during which she will serve in 12 different community projects in 12 countries over 12 months.

Thus far, she has helped teach and care for underprivileged children in Honduras and protect sea turtles in Mexico. Ms. Pfeuffer and her boyfriend will travel to a small community in Costa Rica and spend a week participating in a community-building project organized by one of Travelocity’s voluntourism partners, Globe Aware. She and the other members of her volunteer group will help the local village develop the basic infrastructure needed to foster a sustainable source of income from ecotourism.

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