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(506) 223-1327               Published Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 229                  E-mail us
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Poaching turtle eggs making a comeback on Pacific
By Bryan Kay
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Turtle egg poaching at Playa Junquillal in Guanacaste has taken a sharp rise — just a couple of months after conservationists said the practice had been almost wiped out.

The World Wildlife Fund, which has been working with local people to combat the problem, announced in September how the fund's efforts had wiped out the illegal activity.

But Gabriel Francia, the man behind the awareness project, said there has been a recent spike in poaching in the area to about 25 percent.

He blamed the increase on a population surge, saying the likely culprits were people who are living in the area for short periods of time, such as those working in the booming Guanacaste construction trade.

They don’t have children in the schools, and they don’t have any long-term relationship with the area, he added.

Francia earlier had said in a press release about the first arrivals of the leatherback species for the nesting season how poaching had dropped from 100 percent to nearly zero.

The World Wildlife Fund has been working with the Junquillal, Paraiso and Pargos communities for two years in a project known as the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Project.

One of the key planks of the project involves working with children in the local schools. Francia said the hope is that youngsters will take the message about the dangers of turtle egg poaching home to their parents.

Valerie Guthrie, another of the project organizers, said they can’t completely rule out locals as responsible since eating turtle eggs is “super cultural” in Junquillal. But she said moves were now being made to work in conjunction with the construction companies to disseminate the same message.

Local hotel owner Rainer Frommlet said the project had been successful, but estimates that around 50 percent of local people continue to flout the law.

“The ratio of those who respect the turtles to those who don’t is probably still 50-50,” he said. “But before it was probably 70-30 against.”
Young men and a turtle
A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Menor and Jaime Jen await the end of egg laying by an olive ridley turtle so they can hide them elsewhere.

Reformed poachers Jaime and Menor Jen, two of the local volunteers,  blame much of the residual poaching on alcoholics who steal the eggs and sell them.

 “The problem with alcoholics is they take them so they can get a drink,” said Jaime Jen. “They sell them for 2,000 or 3,000 colons for 100.” That's from about $4 to nearly $6.

During a recent night patrol of the beaches at Junquillal, the two men told a reporter how they had been unaware of the damage they were causing to marine turtle populations until the project began.

Pacific leatherbacks — one of three species the Junquillal project works with, along with the olive
ridley and the black — are an endangered species. Biologists say that numbers have dropped by around 90 percent in the last two decades. Egg poaching has been identified as part of the problem, but accidental catches by fishermen, climate change and coastal development have also been cited as factors.

Meanwhile, as the Jen brothers spoke of their fondness for the creatures, an olive ridley emerged from the sea to lay eggs.

The pair waited patiently as the turtle laid 106 eggs in a nest it had burrowed in the sand. Then the two men collected the eggs and put them in another spot where poachers will be less likely to find them.

They carry out the patrols every night, but claim they have no intention of returning to their old ways.

“We learned about the problems in the sea and the numbers. Plus, they are beautiful,” added Jaime Jen.
Building a turtle nursery
A.M. Costa Rica/Bryan Kay
Volunteers maintain an enclosure designed to protect turtle nests and their eggs.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 229

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Our readers' opinions
Sex in car not romance,
published author reports


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
While I realize you were likely translating an article from La Nación or other Spanish-language news source, I'd like to point out that there is nothing "romantic" about a sexual encounter between a grown man and a 12-year-old girl, even if he did pay her the princely sum of 1,000 colons.

By definition (according to the Cambridge online dictionary) sex is " sexual activity involving the penis or vagina, especially when a man puts his penis into a woman's vagina."  There are many more definitions given, of course, but this doesn't seem the the venue to produce them all.

Romance is defined as "a close, usually short relationship of love between two people." An example is given: "They married after a whirlwind romance." Again, many more variations follow.

As the published author of 44 romance novels in several sub-genres under the main umbrella of "romance," I find it odd that people (unfortunately, mostly male people) automatically equate sex with romance. The two, while they often complement each other (and always do in my novels), are not one and the same.

I sincerely doubt the 12-year-old in the article felt romantic about the man, or he about her. In many jurisdictions the sexual act for which he paid would be considered statutory rape. The man deserves to be in jail. I could also suggest castration, horsewhipping or other draconian punishments, but I expect the child (if he asked) lied about her age because she desperately wanted the money he offered.

Judy Gill

EDITOR'S NOTE: A.M. Costa Rica does not copy or translate news stories from the Spanish-language press. That would be stealing. As to the man caught with the 12-year-old, he received six years and now will face an additional allegation of paying a bribe to two policemen.


He's for those free hugs

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding story on A.M. Costa Rica on Nov. 14:  Michael Sánchez Giving fee hugs. 

The world needs more of him. A positive attitude and a friendly hug could all do us some good.  I want to express to Michael Sánchez ‘’KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.’’

R. Everman
Guanacaste/Tampa. Florida


Garbage at Puntarenas dock
turns off cruise ship visitors


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I hear and read so many complaints about Costa Rica that it makes me sick.  I love this little country, so much that I usually make people sick telling them how wonderful it is and that the people are awesome.  I love the people, I love the climate, and I love being able to live well on my income, and I'm by no means rich. 

When I hear people complain, my reply is "you know they still sell one-way tickets back to where you came from," but they don't want to hear that.  I have done all I can to help the little community I live in and love it, and have gotten everything back tenfold.  My passion is a small home for children, which I help support.
 
BUT, I do have one remark, which I have a hard time understanding.  Tourism is the NO. 1 moneymaker for Costa Rica, and the airport looks nice, nicer than some in other third world countries, and the tours are amazing. 

Last Sunday I had six family members who were on a two-week cruise, and they were going to be in Puntarenas for the day so me and two friends drove over to spend the day with them.  I was shocked at the debarkation point. 

It was filthy, trash along the boardwalk, there was trash everywhere and the first thing you see is a park that is dilapidated, and a building that is closed up and looks like it is falling down. 

There looked to be at least 30 huge buses there to pick up tourists that were going on excursions,  You would think, with labor as low as it is here, each bus could be charged a 5,000-colon fee to pick up clients there and use that money to hire about 10-15 people who I'm sure could use the money, to keep that area picked up and clean, like they do in downtown San José. 

My family made the remark that their "first impression" was not a very good one, and I was embarrassed, since I had built our little country up so. First impressions do last and that is sad, especially in a situation that would be so easy fixed. 

You know, when you invite people to your home for a visit, you at least pick up and make it presentable, and I can't say that for where the cruise ships land in Puntarenas.  So lets' sweep the floors and pick up the trash before inviting people over.  
James Overstreet
Santo Domingo de Heredia


Reader  offers clarifications
on some statistical points


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I don't disagree with most of Michael Crow's opinions, but I think his use of statistical exaggeration to make his points undermines his credibility.

1. Bankruptcy has been made more difficult recently, but it is not illegal.

2. The U.S. prison population is around 1 of every 136, not 1 of 36.

3. The 2004 presidential election turnout was 56.69 percent, not 26 percent.

I guess journalism schools do teach tenants, since most students probably rent a place to live, but one of the most important tenets those tenants are taught is to check your facts.

T. McLaughlin
Washington, D.C.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 229




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Teams of oxen will kick off the Christmas season Sunday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What do big cows have to do with Christmas?

In Christian theology, Jesus Christ was placed in a manger shortly after birth. A manger is normally where hay is placed for cows and other animals.

But in Costa Rica the relationship is less abstract. Cows mean the start of the Christmas season, and, with luck, a harbinger of the dry season.

Each year oxcart hobbyists and their giant animals gather at Parque la Sabana and then carry life-size statues of saints and other religious figures in their carts into downtown San José.

The parade this year is next Sunday, according to the Municipalidad de San José. This is one of the biggest gatherings of the boyeros and their bueyes. The oxcart operators will lead their animals, usually two abreast, from the foot of Paseo Colón into the downtown.

The parade is scheduled to start at 9 a.m., but oxen are notoriously unconcerned with the time.  Animals, their drivers and the carts will pass a reviewing stand.

The oxcart is a symbol of Costa Rica, even though the bright paint on the carts and their wooden wheels was not typical until an Italian immigrant started using bright colors in the early part of the 20th century in Escazú.

The carts have been the workhorse of the Costa Rican transportation system. They were the principal way coffee beans reached the Pacific ports until they were displaced by the railroad. Oxen still are used on farms for hauling wood and other chores that require brawn. They have the bulk and muscles of mature bulls, but they have been surgically altered to improve their disposition. Many teams are led by 8-year-old and 9-year-old boys and girls using a steel-tipped wand to remind the animals of the correct direction.

The mystique of the boyero in Costa Rica approaches that
blessing of the bueyes
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Most boyeros cannot envision Heaven without their animals. These are being blessed with holy water during the 2006 festival.

of the cowboy in the American West. Visitors will have a chance to sample some of the traditions the day before the parade. Many of the participants will camp overnight in Parque la Sabana around the Estadio Nacional on the northwest corner.

There will be songs, cookouts and a taste of 19th century life.


Young people seek to claim just portions of national budgets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An unusual encounter between Guatemalan and Costa Rican young people resulted in a call for more emphasis on youth by government agencies.

The encounter was part of the final day of a regional conference on the prevention of violence against children.

The conference was set up by the U.N. Children's Fund, and it resulted in agreement among the participants to work to eliminate all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment.

On the other hand, the participants agreed that there has been rising insecurity over the last 10 years in the region and that youth crime and violence is increasing. The participants acknowledged that more data is needed on youth crime and violence.

The encounter was between a Guatemalan youth theater group and youngsters from Costa Rica. The young people wrote a declaration in which they said that their peers in Latin America represent the majority and that they deserve more recognition in budgetary decision-making and participation, said a summary from the United Nations.
The young people called for improved education, more cultural activities, improved healthcare, more laws and
better enforcement against the exploitation of young people and better paying jobs for youths and programs to allow youngsters to learn technical skills and reduce school dropout rates and child labor.

In return, the youngsters agreed to avoid violence themselves and familiarize themselves with topics that affect them.

Costa Rica already has a national plan for the prevention of violence and the promotion of peace.

The participants at the two-day session agreed that most countries have policies that focus on social control and repression rather than addressing the program beforehand with prevention, the United Nations summary noted.

In El Salvador and Honduras the problems of youth gangs is a major law enforcement challenge. Policy makers in Costa Rica have said that lack of opportunity is what leads youth into crime.

The central government is trying to stifle youth crime by social action projects and sports.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 229

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MIT scientists cite protein as key in reversing Alzheimer's
By the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
News Office

Bolstering disintegrating neural connections may help boost brainpower in Alzheimer's disease patients, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report.

The researchers zeroed in on the enzymes that manipulate a key scaffolding protein for synapses, the connections through which brain cells communicate. Synapses are weakened and lost in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

"We identified a major underlying mechanism through which synapses are strengthened and maintained," said Morgan H. Sheng, a professor at the Boston-based university's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "The enzymes involved could be good targets for potential drug treatments."

A protein called postsynaptic density-95 is a key building block of synapses. Like the steel girders in a building, it acts as a scaffold around which other components are assembled. "The more PSD-95 molecules, the bigger and stronger the synapse," said co-author Myung Jong Kim, a Picower research scientist.
Previous research had shown that mice genetically altered to have less PSD-95 experienced learning and memory problems.

In the current study, the researchers identified for the first time the enzymes that work behind the scenes on PSD-95, adding a phosphate group to a specific amino acid in the PSD-95 protein. This process — called phosphorylation — is critical for PSD-95 to do its job in supporting synapses.

"Adding a phosphate group to a single amino acid allows PSD-95 to promote synapse size and strength," said Sheng. "Therefore, promoting this process could help improve cognitive function."

Sheng believes manipulating PSD-95 could lead to bigger and more robust synapses, which would boost brainpower in both normal and diseased brains.

"It's possible that promoting PSD-95 phosphorylation could also help neuropsychiatric illnesses in which synapse function goes awry, such as schizophrenia, depression and autism," Sheng said.

The researchers reported their work in the Nov. 8 issue of Neuron.


Chávez says more war in Mideast would bring $200 oil
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has warned that oil prices could more than double to $200 a barrel if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela.

Chávez made the comment Saturday during an opening speech in Riyadh. The session was a summit of the Organization of Petroeum Exporting Countries.

Before heading to the summit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in Bahrain and played down the prospect of a possible war with the United States, saying he did not believe there would be any new war in the region.
The two-day gathering of the petroleum exporting countries is only the third summit since its founding in 1960.

In ministerial talks Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the organization should avoid declaring concern about the weakening value of the U.S. dollar, saying the mention of it from these nations could have a further impact.

Iran and Venezuela are pressing to hold talks about the dollar at the summit. Oil is priced in dollars, so the falling value of the currency contributes to the rising price of oil.
The discussion Friday was mistakenly broadcast to journalists via a closed-circuit television system.


Another strong aftershock hits off Chile on third day after killer quake
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. Geological agency says an earthquake has struck off the coast of northern Chile, the latest in a string of quakes shaking the region since Wednesday.

Saturday's tremor hit at a shallow depth of 7 kilometers below the surface and struck at a 6.0 magnitude. It
occurred 125 kms (78 mile) southwest of Tocopilla, which was hardest-hit by a 7.7 magnitude quake Wednesday.

At least two people were killed in that quake and 15,000 people were displaced.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised financial aid to help rebuild damaged houses and infrastructure.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 229


Third time still is no charm for New England soccer team
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Houston Dynamo has repeated as champions of U.S. Major League Soccer. The Dynamo won the MLS Cup Sunday with a 2-1 comeback victory over the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium in Washington,.

The title game was the first to feature the same two teams from the previous championship. New England got on the scoreboard first with a goal by Taylor Twellman in the 20th minute. But the second half belonged to Houston.

Zimbabwean international Joseph Ngwenya got the equalizer for Houston from close range. Canadian Dwayne De Rosario's powerful 12-meter header in the 74th minute was the game-winning goal.

Houston becomes just the second major league soccer club to win back-to-back championships. DC United won the league's first two titles in 1996 and 1997. De Rosario also scored the game-winning goal in the 2001 game when the franchise was known as the San Jose Earthquakes.
 "In 2001 it was special," said De Rosario. "And I think this one is even more special because just the fact that we are the second team now to go back-to-back. And just to make history in the league again, to go back-to-back is special a moment. And I think this moment will live in our hearts forever."

This is the third straight year New England has lost in the title match. New England defender Jay Heaps says he is disappointed with the way his team lost.

"We did not take our chances," said Heaps. "But at the same time we have been a great defensive team during these playoffs. And I think we are a little disappointed that we let in even a scrappy goal. A great goal, you have to tip your hat. But a scrappy goal. We feel like we have defended scrappy goals all year. And to let one in is a little disheartening."

In 2005 the Revolution lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Galaxy, and last year New England also lost to Houston, beaten in a penalty kick shootout following overtime.


Ramírez (Who else?) takes a fourth crown in La Ruta de los Conquistadores
bike race winners
La Ruta photo
Federick Ramírez leads the pack for a time Saturday on the last leg.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Federico Ramírez won the Ruta de los Conquistadores for the fourth time Saturday with an overall time of 17 hours, 40 minutes and 21 seconds.

Susan Haywood of the United States won the women's title at 22 hours, 50 minutes and 6 seconds.

Both had been on the coast-to-coast trail for four days.

Ramírez, a Costa Rican, finished third just a few seconds behind Frenchman Thomas Dietsch and Swiss biker Thomas Zahnd in the fourth leg of the route that ended at Playa Bonita near Limón. But his overall time for the four days was enough to get him the championship. The final leg began at Aquiares in Turrialba,

Ms. Haywood also did not finish first in the fourth stage. She was behind  Louise Kobin but had accumulated enough of a lead that she took the title.

Race organizers found the railroad bridge over the Río Matina to be in such bad shape that the bike racers were detoured onto the main highway, adding a kilometer to the race distance.

This was the 15th competition of what organizers call the toughest bike race in the world.

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