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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, Nov. 19, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 229           E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Technicians blasted that rock on the Interamericana Norte Thursday into pieces that workmen can remove. The site at Cambronero is adjacent to the bailey bridge that was put in after a washout last month. The
job was done by a firm called Explotex, and Daniel Cruz Porras, general manager, said business was good lately, thanks to the rain. Another blast is planned for today, after which officials may open the key highway.

Letter sparks wave of complaints about cable firm
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A reader appears to have hit a nerve with expats here when he criticized Amnet for its cable television service.

The reader, Gary Mathews of Escazú, said that he received e-mails from more than 50 persons Thursday as a result of his letter that was published in A.M. Costa Rica.

Mathews noted in another e-mail that the consumer division of the economics ministry was looking into Amnet and its adherence to its own contract. If anyone wishes to call the ministry direct they can call 800-CONSUMO and file a verbal complaint, he said, adding that if the agency is inundated with calls they may accelerate their investigation.

"The Gringos and some Ticos are livid," said Mathews. "I received a response from a hotel chain that advertises to their prospective clients that the hotel provides Fox News and CNBC in order to attract North Americans and as an added perk. When some of their clients arrived and found out that they did not have the channels as promised they became angry. Clients are hard to obtain and
 if they think that they have been misled they will not return."

Amnet shuffled the channel listings and put a number of favorite expat channels, like Fox, into an upgraded package.

To see these premium channels requires a special box, and some readers complain that Amnet is slow to deliver the needed device.

What galls Mathews and others is that Amnet still is advertising CNBC even though it does not seem to be available. He said one of the unhappy customers is a lawyer who has had long discussions with Amnet management.

'The only thing that people want is what we have paid for," he said. "We uphold our end of the contract by paying for the service in advance!! We do not get the same respect in return. This issue will not go away soon, it will only get worse because in Costa Rica businesses for the most part do not assume responsibility for their actions.

Amnet is owned by Millicom International Cellular S.A., a European firm.

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Costa Rica moves ahead
on two fronts over island

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica continued its diplomatic attack against Nicaragua with two initiatives Thursday.

The country made an urgent request of the International Court of Justice in The Hague to issue stop-work order on the development of a new river mouth on the Río San Juan.

The country also successfully obtained agreement from the Organization of American States to convene what is known as a consultative meeting of ministers of foreign affairs.

René Castro, foreign minster, announced that the action before the international court seeks to recover land lost to the Nicaraguan invasion and to avoid irreparable damages to the environment. In advance of any full-scale hearing, the country is asked for interim measures that require Nicaragua to stop work on what the ministry called a canal, which is on Costa Rican soil. The international court has jurisdiction over the two countries' international borders.

The Organization of American States request to convene the session Dec. 7 passed with 22 votes in favor and one vote against. Seven countries abstained, including Nicaragua. The schedule of the meeting said that ministers would discuss appropriate measures to be taken.

The hemispheric organization already has voted to ask Nicaragua to remove its troops from the Isla Calero but stop short of calling the island Costa Rican territory.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has declined to do so and called the vote in Washington the product of influence by  narcotraffickers.

Nicaragua began the dispute by dredging in the river. But workers also dug a trench across the island that is expected to lead the river to create a new mouth to the Caribbean.

The Nicaraguan flag has been flying over the island, and Costa Rican police stationed nearby have avoided a confrontation.

Final orchestra concert
is farewell to its director

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tonight and Sunday will be the farewell concerts for Chosei Komatsu, the director for seven years of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional.

The Coro Sinfónico Nacional also will participate. The principal work is Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 known as the "Resurrection." The work has five movements.

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud said that Komatsu is analyzing other offers and has not decided what he will do in the future. However, he is reported to have said he will spend vacations in Costa Rica.

The concert tonight is at 8 o'clock. The Sunday concert  is at 10:30 a.m., both in the Teatro Nacional. A television screen will be erected again in the Plaza de la Cultura for the audience overflow.

City asks citizens to help
guard manhole covers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José would like residents to keep the manhole covers in place. The steel covers are much valued by crooks who swipe them and sell them to equally crooked junk yard operators.

The municipality said Thursday that it has considered other materials in place of steel but has not found a satisfactory substitute. Consequently it is asking citizens to keep watch, it said.

Missing manholes provide excitement for motorists when a wheel drops into an open hole. Sewer systems with missing covers also are collectors of all kinds of garbage that eventually leads to a blockage and flooding, the city said.

Mixed weather expected
for today and Saturday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend weather promises to be warmer than the previous week with about a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms in the Central Valley each day.

The country still is seeing some effects from a disorganized low pressure area that is now centered off the coast of Honduras.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the Caribbean and the northern zone will have cloudy skies and likely rain.

An increase in winds from the north might keep the Pacific coast and the Central Valley drier.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low 80s (27 and 28 C.) in the Central Valley today and Saturday. But they will dip a few degrees Sunday and Monday, forecasts say.

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, Friday, Nov. 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 229

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Another vehicle fell victim to the Central Valley train service Thursday evening just a block west of Hospital Calderón Guardia. This is a popular spot for train-car collisions. There were no obvious injuries Thursday evening, although the driver of the sports utility vehicle was pregnant. As wrecks go, this was far from the worst. Rail officials have declined to put in gates at key
crossings, so there is violent meeting with a vehicle about once a week somewhere on the rail line. This is the San José-Heredia branch, and rail traffic was held up for a time while a wrecker carried away the damaged vehicle. There was a wreck last week 200 feet to the north at another crossing. And there was a wreck at this same spot Sept. 14.

A bite by a tiny bug causes
a major medical ordeal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What may have been the bite of a tiny mosquito last April in Jacó marked the beginning of a medical ordeal for a Denver man.

The man, Ed Stevenson, a lawyer, talks easily about his brush with death now that he is well on the way to recovery. His experience is what everyone fears in the tropics: A mystery disease that ravages the body.

Stevenson was in a coma, his kidneys failed and physicians at the Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, considered amputating his leg. His leg still is wrapped up with an elastic bandage, but he has returned to Costa Rica.

As best as can be determined, the bite of the mosquito (if it was a mosquito) caused an infection that became an abscess. The hospital stay was 17 days.

The 49-year-old visitor did not have dengue or any of the other recognized mosquito-born diseases. The malady, which he said caused his leg to "explode," may well have been a secondary infection. Medical experts say that the lower limbs are most prone to such infections particularly if the initial bite is scratched or otherwise injured.

In addition to bacteria, some mosquitos carry viruses that can produce the same symptoms that Stevenson experienced, according to the medical literature.

Visitors to Jacó and other beach areas generally are advised to use insect repellent during the day. The mosquito that carries dengue is a day bitter. At night, screens or a bed net are recommended. Some experienced tropical travelers check window screens immediately upon being shown to a hotel room.
Denver man
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Ed Stevenson and bandaged leg

So how come a mediocre dancer continues to advance?
 As I have said before quite a few times, things change, even in Costa Rica.  This makes it difficult to recommend any business or even a museum, and be sure it is going to be ‘as advertised’ by whoever is giving it a thumbs up. The sad truth is buyers should always beware.

That doesn’t happen just in Costa Rica. I used to teach ballroom dancing, and I am a sometime fan of "Dancing with the Stars," a reality show on ABC-TV.  Lately I have been watching them each week because of two mesmerizing dancers: Jennifer Grey and Brandy.  They and their partners are a joy to watch and at times have transported me into the magic of their dance. Four contestants, Brandy, Jennifer, Kyle Massey and Bristol, have reached the finals.

Bristol, obviously not a dancer, started with all of the grace of a wooden soldier but has continued to soldier on.  She is the youngest of the group and has been given the easiest routines (some of the other dancers get pretty acrobatic), yet the judges have consistently given her the lowest scores of almost any contestant ever, because they are tough and, in truth, she is a mediocre dancer.  Kyle defies his size and shape with his charm and grace.  Jennifer, at 50, is the oldest, yet has received some perfect scores of 10 from the judges, as has Brandy.   I like to rate the dancers, too, and my scores have consistently matched the “official” ones.

The dancers’ fates are determined by the combined votes of the judges and viewers. The judges are professionals and expert dancers. Obviously, not every viewer has had the experience of waltzing or dancing the foxtrot with a partner.  (Dancing has changed considerably over the years.) But they do know what they like. And to quote one more time, “the American people have spoken.”  Thus Bristol survives each week over far superior dancers.  She says it is because she is just like us (I doubt that) and people identify with her (I don’t doubt that).

I don’t want to start a polemic about Bristol Palin or even about the viewers who voted – they have figured out how to stuff the ballot box and, as we know, are not always well-informed or discerning. Bristol did not ask to be on the show, it had to be the producers of "Dancing with the Stars" who decided she was a star and invited her.  They must have been thinking of ratings, which equal profits.  And we must accept (sob!) that even reality shows are in it
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

for the money.  I’ve been told that some of the other reality shows are rigged.  But "Dancing with the Stars"?

This column was begun last week but I decided to wait until this week’s show to see if it was going where I thought it was.

All that surprised me was the behavior of the judges. Bruno and Len, the two men, totally caved.  Bruno tends to be generous, but Len is adamant about the finer points and will deduct for an improperly bent leg, an awkwardly pointed toe or less than perfect footwork.  He disagreed with Carrie Anne, obviously not seeing Bristol’s misstep and nearly leaped out of his chair to praise Bristol.  In my opinion, only Carrie Anne held on to some integrity of honest critiquing that a judge should have.  I could accept her 8.

I have this uneasy feeling that the producers of the show called everyone in (except Bristol) and told them that for the sake of profits, they should all go along to get along.  And so, by those whose reputations depend upon them, honesty, integrity and standards are left by the wayside in favor of mediocrity.

Recently Cable TV pundits are considering whether or not politics are involved.  You think?  Unless you live alone in a cave or next to a pond, politics are a part of your life.  Don’t be surprised if this is a harbinger of things to come. A reality show can be dismissed, but real life is another matter. If the United States wants to be first in the world, mediocre isn’t going to make it no matter how popular.

As I said, things change, but I hope, in Costa Rica, we can take a lesson from this.  There are values that Costa Rica is known and praised for and that invite the rest of the world to witness. Those of us who have chosen to live here need to maintain these values and not let the bottom line compromise them.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 229

An adult La loma tree frog (Hyloscirtus colymba)
adult frog
Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Endangered frog successfully bred in Panamá captivity

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As frogs around the world continue to disappear — many killed by a rapidly spreading disease called chytridiomycosis, which attacks the skin cells of amphibians — one critically endangered species has received an encouraging boost. Although the La Loma tree frog, Hyloscirtus colymba, is notoriously difficult to care for in captivity, the Panamá Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is the first to successfully breed this species.

“We are some of the first researchers to attempt to breed these animals into captivity and we have very little information about how to care for them,” said Brian Gratwicke, international coordinator for the project and a research biologist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, one of nine project partners. “We were warned that we might not be able to keep these frogs alive, but through a little bit of guesswork, attention to detail and collaboration with other husbandry experts, we’ve managed to breed them. The lessons we’re learning have put us on target to save this incredible species and our other priority species in Panamá.”

The rescue project currently has 28 adult La Loma tree frogs and four tadpoles at the Summit Municipal Park outside of Panama City, Panamá.

In addition to the La Loma tree frog, the project also has successfully bred the endangered Limosa harlequin frog, Atelopus limosus. Keepers will continue to carefully monitor the tadpoles of both species.

Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The rescue project aims to save more than 20 species of frogs in Panamá, one of the world’s last
strongholds for amphibian biodiversity. While the global amphibian crisis is the result of habitat loss, climate change and pollution, chytridiomycosis is likely at least partly responsible for the disappearances of 94 of the 120 frog species thought to have gone extinct since 1980.

“Although the outlook for amphibians is grim, the rescue project’s recent developments give us hope for these unique Panamanian species,” said Roberto Ibáñez, local director of the project and a scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, one of the project’s partners. “We are creating what amounts to an ark for these animals so that their species may survive this deadly disease. We’re also looking for a cure so that someday we can safely release the frogs back into the wild.”

Of Panama’s six harlequin frog species, five are in collections at the Summit Zoological Park and the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in El Valle, Panamá. One species, the Chiriqui harlequin frog, A. chiriquiensis, from western Panamá, is likely extinct. The other species range from being extinct in the wild — the Panamanian golden frog, A. zeteki, — to being endangered.

The mission of the Panamá Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is to rescue amphibian species that are in extreme danger of extinction throughout Panamá. The project’s efforts and expertise are focused on establishing assurance colonies and developing methodologies to reduce the impact of the amphibian chytrid fungus so that one day captive amphibians may be reintroduced to the wild. Project participants include Africam Safari, Panama’s Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, Houston Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Summit Municipal Park and Zoo New England.

Two young avian residents of the fabled island were caputured by the lens of the artist.
Isla de coco boobies
Photo by Edwar Herreño

On and around Cocos provides subjects for new show

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Edwar Herreño, a marine biologist and photographer, is the artist whose works will be displayed beginning Saturday at The Hidden Garden Art Gallery in Liberia.

The show is the product of some 5,500 hours under water around Isla de Cocos, the country's distant national park in the Pacific.  Herreño uses video in addition to still photography.

The gallery is 5 kilometers west of the Liberia
International Airport and is open Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The show continues through Dec. 4.

Said Carlos Hiller, the gallery's artist in residence:

"Edward was born in Colombia and after graduating as a biologist set out to find the perfect, utopic place, the 'Island.' Now he has a mission to share this beauty captured in pixels, which permeate our own retinas with these powerful images. His mission also has the urgent purpose to create the awareness that this beauty is now threatened because the human hand reaches the most remote places."

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News of Bolivia     News of Ecuador
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 18, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 229

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Haiti's cholera epidemic
expected to become worse

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. health experts say Haiti's cholera epidemic could easily get worse, warning the country could face long-term problems with the disease and repeated outbreaks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a report that the course of the current outbreak is difficult to predict. The report said the Haitian population has no preexisting immunity to cholera and said environmental conditions in Haiti are favorable for its continued spread.

Haiti's health ministry says cholera has already killed more than 1,100 people since the outbreak was first reported late last month. Nearly 18,400 people have been hospitalized.

The European Union's humanitarian aid commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, urged member states Thursday to help Haiti fight the epidemic by sending the country supplies, not just money. Georgieva said Haiti has an urgent need for supplies, including medication and water purification tablets.

Some Haitians accuse U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal of bringing the waterborne disease to the Caribbean nation. Violent riots broke out this week, with demonstrators burning cars and tires and attacking U.N. bases.

Two protesters were killed Monday in clashes with U.N. troops, while a third demonstrator died Wednesday.

Haitian President Rene Preval and U.N. officials have called for an end to the violence, saying it will only hamper aid efforts.

The U.N. says it has been forced to cancel flights carrying aid supplies because of security concerns in Cap Haitien and Port de Paix.  Roadblocks and other problems caused by the protests also have affected people's ability to get to the hospital, and have forced the suspension of a water cleaning project and training of medical staff.

Meanwhile, former U.S. president Bill Clinton's foundation announced Wednesday it has committed $1.5 million in response to the cholera outbreak.  The foundation says it is committing $1 million in immediate assistance to train 10,000 community health workers across Haiti.  It also says it will support a long-term cholera education and awareness campaign. 

Health officials in the Dominican Republic and the United States say they have identified cases of cholera in their nations. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, reported one case of the disease in a Haitian man who is receiving treatment.  Authorities in the southern U.S. state of Florida say they have also confirmed a case in a woman who visited Haiti near where the outbreak began.  Officials say they are investigating other possible cases in Florida.

Health workers fear an explosion of the disease in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of thousands of people have been living in crowded, squalid tent cities since the January earthquake that devastated the country.

Cholera is spread through fecal-contaminated food and water.  It causes vomiting and diarrhea, and can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death.  Hospitals and clinics in Haiti are now struggling to treat a growing number of people suffering from diarrhea and dehydration.  The World Health Organization says the bacteria that causes the disease will be in Haiti for years.

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Constitutional court gets
appeal over national anthem

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman has gone to the Sala IV constitutional court to seek action against what she says are gross and discriminatory phrases against women contained in the national anthem, the Himno Nacional.

Among other things she objects to the line that says verás a tu pueblo valiente y viril, which means "you will see your people valiant and virile." As in English, viril means having the characteristics of a strong man. She also objects to phrases that talk about men and boys but not women and girls.

The woman, identified by a Poder Judicial summary as Oriette Zonta Elizondo, wants the court to declare the song unconstitutional and order that the song be rewritten.

Venezuela turns over
rebel trio to Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Venezuela has deported three suspected rebels back to Colombia in a sign of improved cooperation between the two countries.

Officials from both nations say the alleged guerillas were handed over to Colombian authorities in Bogota late Wednesday. The three were wanted for murder, kidnapping and inciting war.

One of the suspects is believed to be a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias or FARC, Colombia's main rebel group. The other two are believed to be members of the Ejercito de LIberación Nacional, also known as ELN.

Relations between the two nations began warming in August when Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos met after Santos won Colombia's presidential election to succeed Alvaro Uribe.

During that meeting, Venezuela and Colombia restored diplomatic relations that were cut last year after Uribe accused Venezuela of harboring leftist Colombian rebels.

The two presidents also met earlier this month in Caracas to discuss cooperation on energy and infrastructure projects and re-establishing political ties.

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