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These stories were published Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 19-20, 2001, Vol. 1, No. 69-70
National Museum sounds warning bell on pollution
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

You won’t have to bring boots, but the theme of the National Museum’s new exhibit is the wetlands of western Costa Rica and the water birds that live there.

Far from being simply an up-beat look at wetlands and the birds they harbor, the exhibit also hopes to raise the consciousness of the public about pollution.

Part of the exhibit is a heart-wrenching, eight-minute slide and audio show addressing the problem of pollution and contamination in the Gulf of Nicoya. An elegant long-legged bird stands next to a discarded automobile tire. A beach is covered by plastic soft drink bottles. A pipe spouts dark, fetid fluid into a stream. These are some of the disturbing images.

The museum is in the Bella Vista Fortress overlooking the downtown. The exhibition runs for a year.

Wetlands are an important aspect to the complex ecosystems of Costa Rica. Not only are they places where birds live, full- or part-time, depending on their migratory patterns, but the wetlands exercise a cleaning function.

They also are breeding grounds for the fishes, insects, amphibians and other types of creatures that make the environment tick. The museum said that two-thirds of the world’s fish live in such wetlands.

The areas also provide a barrier to flooding and water damage to places where humans live.

Costa Rica, said the museum, has more than 350 significant wetlands areas, more than 30,000 hectares or about 7 percent of the country’s land area. Many of these are around the Gulf of Nicoya.

The productiveness of the gulf has declined over the last 20 years because of pollution, said the museum in a handout explaining the 


A healthy bird juxtaposed with a bird skull sets the tone for the museum exhibit.

exhibit. The culprits are the 2 million people who live and work in the Central Valley metropolitan area because that is where the bulk of the pollution that hits the gulf originates. Specifically, the pollution pours in from the Tárcoles and Tempisque rivers as well as from nearby Puntarenas.

In addition to sewage, the museum listed a number of heavy metals, types of plastics and other contaminants that dump into the gulf. 

The exhibit is cosponsored by the government of the United Kingdoms and the British Embassy here.

The museum said that the gulf is not the only place endangered in the country by pollution, but because it is so well known it provides cautionary notice to the country of the degradation.

The subtitle of the show is "Flight between light and shadow: An opportunity to know, decide and act." Shadow, of course, means extinction.


 
This is a 

double issue

of A.M. Costa Rica

This is a double issue of A.M. Costa Rica because both of us are off to find more news in the area between Puntarenas and Manuel Antonio.

We might even dip our toes in the Pacific.

If you live in that area, let us know about any news stories that should be reported by writing to editor@amcostarica.com.

We will continue to monitor news developments in Costa Rica and events outside affecting Costa Rica. In cases of major developments, we will alert readers via the A.M. Costa Rica "latestnews" message service. Make sure you are signed up.

Regards
Jay and Sharon Brodell

Surprise!

Crouse
expects 
to get out
of jail
this week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roger Crouse is upbeat these days. In a telephone call from his prison in Liberia, the Playas del Coco bar owner said that he expected to be released in a couple of days.

He was jailed for investigation three months ago after he shot dead a bar customer who came at him with a knife, according to Crouse.

As if to herald his return to the beach community, burglars broke into his bar last week and made off with the television set and a cable selector box, Crouse said, adding that this is the second burglary since he has been incarcerated. Employees and friends have been running the bar in his absence.

Crouse also said that he was worried about his personal safety once he was freed. He said he might not resume his job running the bar where he would be a "moving target."

Crouse, 50, a Canadian, shot and killed the man in his Gaby's Bar the evening of Aug. 19. The man came at him with a knife, Crouse told investigators. The man had been in the bar earlier creating a disturbance, and police took him away only to free him and let him return to the bar two hours later.

During the three months that Crouse has been in jail he has maintained relative good humor about the situations, periodically calling friends and news reporters about latest developments. He blamed his jailing on some translation errors that resulted in misunderstandings during the initial judicial hearings. He also said Saturday that a judge considered his personal safety in deciding he should be jailed.
 

Fulbrighters focus on language study as 'patriotic'
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — There is a greater need for American universities to diversify modern language study for not only academic reasons, but also now for "patriotic" reasons. 

That was one of the conclusions of a panel assembled at George Washington University last week to discuss the future of how international student and faculty exchange programs can be expanded and enhanced after the events of Sept. 11.

Harriet Mayor Fulbright, widow of the Fulbright international exchange program founder Sen. J. William Fulbright, moderated the forum, which was organized by former U.S. Information Agency Associate Director Barry Fulton. Guest speakers were Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the university’s president, and Geza Jeszenszky, ambassador to the United States from Hungary. 

Trachtenberg spoke of GWU's involvement with university-level international exchange programs and cited Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt as countries where such programs have had success.

He also spoke of his concern over efforts by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California to introduce legislation to reform the U.S. student visa program that would have included funding for the implementation of a foreign student electronic tracking system. The legislation did not get passed, he noted, but he said that in the wake of Sept. 11 the academic community will have to be concerned about the issue of student visas, and it is likely that scrutiny of the issue will have a "chilling effect" and "long-term implications" as international exchange programs look to expand.

Trachtenberg said there is a greater need for American universities to diversify modern language study for not only academic reasons, but also now for "patriotic" reasons. In this vein, he said GWU is offering a stipend to students who wish to study Arabic — along with the politics, history and culture of Arabic-speaking regions — so they can be active participants in governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Trachtenberg said another challenge for enhancing international exchange programs is to help students and faculty determine at what point in their academic careers they feel comfortable in going abroad — and to help insure that when they return, they can do so without taking a step back in school or career because of the absence.

Ambassador Jeszenszky, a former Fulbright scholar and visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1984-86), strongly advocated international exchange programs. He, like Trachtenberg, said he believes that future leaders 

in America and other countries should take part in informational programs in a foreign country.
Jeszenszky spoke about Hungary's history and the over-turning of communism. He said the leaders who helped accomplish this were "intellectuals turned politicians" who were "greatly [empowered] in understanding the world and encouraged to stand up to dictatorship by a chance to spend some time abroad."

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Approximately 234,000 "Fulbrighters" -- 88,000 from the United States and 146,000 from other countries -- have participated in the program since its inception. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 4,500 new grants annually.

Argentina might begin
to use the dollar bill

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Argentine Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo says his country would adopt the euro or U.S. dollar if the economic crisis worsens, rather than devalue its currency, the peso.

Cavallo told U.S. reporters in an interview published Friday the country would use the dollar, euro or what he termed other "credible currency" in extreme circumstances.

The economy minister also says Argentines would never accept the peso floating freely on the open market if they are accustomed to a stable currency. By law, the peso is pegged one-to-one with the dollar.

Cavallo's remarks were published as he discussed the Argentine situation with U.S. economic and business officials at a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, of the Group of 20 developing and industrialized nations. 

He told reporters his talks with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were excellent and that Washington supports Argentina's efforts to revive its economy.

Argentina is struggling to restructure its $132 billion debt and end a 41-month-old recession that has led to double-digit unemployment.

Cavallo also said that Argentina's federal budget deficit will be no more than $7.5 billion at the end of the year. He says the deficit could be closer to $6.5 billion if bond holders agree to the government's proposed debt swap, where investors would trade higher-rate securities for ones with lower interest rates.


 
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