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(506) 2223-1327         Published Monday, Dec. 6, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 240           E-mail us
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Bee attack provides reminder to expats living here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An encounter with Africanized bees Sunday highlighted the continual danger of those insects in Costa Rica.

Cruz Roja rescue workers were trying to recover the body of a man who fell from a bridge over the Río Virilla Tuesday evening. As they lowered themselves to the river bed, they disturbed a natural hive of honeybees under the bridge. The result was rapid.

Some 15 individuals, most of them standing on the railway right-of-way adjacent to the bridge suffered stings from the bees. Three Cruz Roja workers had to be hospitalized and were reported to be in serious condition.

Among those stung were the children and the wife of the fall victim. Meanwhile, the current seems to have carried away the body while rescue workers were distracted by the bees.

Every hive of honeybees in Costa Rica contains the Africanized strain. The strain started when African bee queens imported by a researcher in Manaus, Brazil, escaped in the late 1950s.

Honeybees are not native to the Americas, and colonists imported the more placid strains from Italy and central Europe, and these spread throughout the two continents over the next several hundred years.

The escaped African bees mated with the European strains in Brazil to produce a hybrid that is known for aggressively guarding its hive. Eventually the genetically superior Africanized bees spread north through Central America. They reached the southern United States in 1990, assisted in part by a similar escape at a Louisiana research lab.

The Africanized bees are physically identical to the European bees, and it takes a DNA test to tell them apart.

Life was not easy for bees in African, so the successful lineages were those that were highly defensive. They also collect honey more efficiently.

The African bees entered the popular culture as Killer Bees, which even spawned a John Belushi characterization on "Saturday Night Live." There also were a sensational book and at least one horror movie. The African bees do not winter well, which is why they have not moved into the U.S. temperate zones.

In Costa Rica it is not unusual to see hives in hollow trees or even in some of the concrete utility poles, which are hollow.

Firemen get frequent calls to eliminate wild hives of Africanized bees because they are likely to attack humans and animals en masse. Many of the deaths from such bees have been of individuals who could not move quickly to escape, such as someone with a disability or the elderly.

African bees will chase a human victim a half mile or more.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Africanized bees can build hives in spaces too small for other bees. They swarm frequently. The

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
The queen bee is easily recognized because she has a large abdomen.

department recommends not approaching a wild bee hive closer than 100 feet. The insects also are sensitive to vibrations.

The department has this advice for anyone who is attacked:

" . . . Do not stop running until you reach shelter, such as a vehicle or building. A few bees may follow you indoors. However, if you run to a well-lit area, the bees will tend to become confused and fly to windows. Do not jump into water! The bees will wait for you to come up for air. If you are trapped for some reason, cover up with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, or whatever else is immediately available."

The department estimates that 500 stings can kill a child but a human can survive 1,100 stings. But some persons with allergies can die from a single sting.

The usual firefighting gear protects the body of rescuers, but the face is left exposed unless a veil is used. Cruz Roja workers Sunday were wearing heavy clothing, which probably spared them from many stings.

African bee venom is not more poisonous than that of other strains, but the bees attack in continual waves. Each bee dies as it stings and loses its stinger. Those removing stingers try to keep from injecting more venom from the attached glands that are left behind.

The fall victim has been identified as Germán José López Alemán. The rail bridge is called locally the Puente Negro. It spans the river between Tibás and Santo Domingo de Heredia. It is a frequent shortcut for residents. López, a Nicaraguan agricultural worker, was crossing the bridge with his son and a work companion when the San José-Heredia train reached the bridge. The other two managed to hang on, but the speculation is that the train hit a backpack being worn by López and knocked him into the river some 30 meters (about 98 feet) below.  Rescue workers have been seeking his body since.

Latin American beekeepers have managed to work with Africanized colonies. They try to insulate them from vibrations and pay attention to their daily moods. Beekeepers also are trying to create docile strains in the same way Europeans did long ago with the Italian and bees from the Caucasus.

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Low turnout provides win
for established parties

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When there is low voter turnout, the political party with the best organization usually wins.

That is what happened Sunday where in some cantons the turnout was as low as 13 percent. The faithful of the Partido Liberación Nacional turned out and that party took the bulk of the 80 mayoral races, according to preliminary figures by the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

There were few surprises. In San José Johnny Araya Monge won a third term. He has served 20 years and will continue to serve until 2016. He won despite disclosures earlier in the year that he had not been living in the central canton of San José.

Araya's challengers, Gloria Valerín of Accion Ciudadana and Óscar López of Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión battled for a distant second place with about 15 percent of the vote each. Araya appears to have accumulated about 60 percent of the vote.

Unidad Social Cristiana, another long-running political party, garnered nine mayoral races.

Local parties won the mayor's race in Curridabat and Escazú. In San Pedro the candidate of Renovación Costarricense won.

There were two unusual developments during the day. In Matina men in a vehicle fired shots in the direction of a voting location. Officials blamed drunkenness instead of an effort to disrupt the vote.

In Pococí the Tribunal de Elecciones delayed the vote for one week because some persons who were to handle voting failed to show up.

RACSA web page
Once logged in, sensitive information is displayed

RACSA's payment age failed
to hold customer data securely

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Sensitive information about customers’ credit cards remains unencrypted and vulnerable on Radiográfica Costarricense’s Web site.

Credit card numbers relating to recent automatic payment operations are recorded and displayed. Also retained are the card’s issuing bank, expiration date, and three-digit security code. The redesigned page containing that information has the button for log-out partially under another graphic element in some browsers. This makes it easy to inadvertently leave the personal data screen open and accessible to even a relatively unsophisticated hacker.

Sometimes the log-out button does not work.

The page in question is the one customers use to pay their monthly Internet charge or recharge their pre-paid Internet access card.

RACSA is a subsidiary of the Instituto Costarricence de Electricidad, and for much of the history of the Internet in Costa Rica was the monopoly operator. It is still the supplier of last resort for those unable to get a broadband line and depending on dial-up service. It is also the present supplier of WiFi and Wimax in the country. Press reports suggest RACSA will eventually be subsumed into ICE.

RACSA also provides internet feeder services for CableTica and other smaller cable television providers. Amnet now has its own internet connection.

Messages seeking comment on RACSA’s security policies to its webmaster and press agent were not immediately answered.

Sediment is survival key
for inundated wetlands

By the U.S. Geological Survey

Many coastal wetlands worldwide — including several on the U.S. Atlantic coast — may be more sensitive than previously thought to climate change and sea-level rise projections for the 21st century.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists made this conclusion from an international research modeling effort published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Scientists identified conditions under which coastal wetlands could survive rising sea level.

Using a rapid sea-level rise scenario, most coastal wetlands worldwide will disappear near the end of the 21st century. In contrast, under the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with low sediment availability and low tidal ranges are vulnerable and may drown. However, in the slow sea-level rise projection, wetlands with higher sediment availability would be more likely to survive.

The U.S. Geological Survey scientists specifically identified the sediment levels and difference between high and low tide necessary for marshes to survive sea-level rise. As water floods a wetland and flows through its vegetation, sediment is carried from upstream and deposited on the wetland’s surface, allowing it to gain elevation. High tidal ranges allow for better sediment delivery, and the higher sediment concentrations in the water allow wetlands to build more elevation.

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.
Click a story for the summary

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Nicaraguan flag and workmen are along the ditch dug on the Isla Calero in this November photo
Heavy rains may have changed geography of Río San Juan
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

While President Laura Chinchilla sought support opposing the Nicaraguan invasion, heavy flooding took place at the Río San Juan and adjacent waterways.

There is speculation in northeastern Costa Rica that the flooding San Juan ripped though a hand-dug ditch to create a new mouth to the river. There has been no report of that taking place from Costa Rican officials, and private flights over the Isla Calero where the Nicaraguan army set up camp are prohibited.

The new mouth for the river was the point of Nicaraguan operations there. They had been characterized as a dredging operation, and dredges are expected to enlarge the new channel after the river has done its work.

Workmen dug the trench from the south bank of the river into the environmentally sensitive Portillos lagoon. This has generated concerns among many academics in other parts of the world as well as in Costa Rica.

Ms. Chinchilla was at the 20th summit of Latin American leaders in Mar del Plata, Argentina. She stressed that Costa Rica, lacking a standing army, seeks to defend its right to live in peace.

Ms. Chinchilla held a number of one-on-one meetings with other leaders, and the summit issued a statement supporting democracy and opposing any effort to destroy the democratic institutions of a country or any attempted coups.

Among those meeting with Ms. Chinchilla was José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States. The organization has called for Nicaragua and Costa Rica to move any troops from the disputed zone, but Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega rejected the request and said his country may pull out of the hemispheric organization.
The new river channel is expected to be a factor in the efforts to increase tourism in the Nicaraguan river.

The flooding was prompted by the same low pressure area that caused damage in Costa Rica, killed at least one man and drove 2,000 from their homes.

Reports Friday from Barra del Colorado, which is on the Río Colorado not far from the disputed island, said that water was up to three feet in the main street and that flooding had reached the local airport runway. That was said to be something that never had happened.

Also flooded was the local school where Fuerza Pública officers have made a headquarters to keep an eye on the Nicaraguan threat. They also use the school as living quarters.

The weather was good Sunday, but there is no report if Costa Rican observers flew over the canal site.

Barra del Colorado residents are quick to counter any suggestion that the river cannot plow its own channel. They tell recent stories of a youngster playing with a soup spoon who caused another nearby waterway to change its course.

The new river channel, if it exists, will enable ships to enter the Río San Juan and avoid the meandering stretch that now links the main channel with the Caribbean. NIcaragua also plans to build a new airport at San Juan de Nicaragua, which is just north of the present river channel. There also are plans for a major dam on the river upstream.

An Israeli newspaper has reported that Iran is involved with Venezuela in helping Nicaragua construct a canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific. The San Juan provides access to Lake Nicaragua.

The northwest shore of the lake is just a few miles from the Pacific at Rivas.

New opinion page will feature readers' letters from archive
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

During the first year that A.M. Costa Rica was published, reader letters were printed on a special page. That gave less than adequate exposure to some interesting thoughts and ideas that readers have.

Since then, reader letters have been published on a news page, frequently Page 2. Although those pages were archived and the reader letters are available with a search, they are hard to locate.

So beginning today reader letters will be archived in a news feed that appears on A.M. Costa Rica's new opinion page.
The page also is being constructed to provide room for the newspaper's opinion and outside opinion that is designed to promote discussion and thought.

Today the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders launches a strong defense of Wikileaks, the Web site that is publishing the formerly confidential or secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Please find it HERE!

And those who wish to comment on the guest editorial or on any other aspect of Costa Rican life are invited to send their letters to:

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 240

Firemen compete
Cuerpo de Bomberos photo

Some 16 teams of five firemen each and 26 individual competitors participated in a series of five challenges Saturday. They had to haul a hose, drag a presumed fire victim out of danger, climb a tower and do other 
acts connected with firefighting. Firemen from Pavas won, and Alí Camacho of Santa Cruz was the individual winner. The event was part of the 145th anniversary celebration of the Cuerpo de Bomberos.

Puerto Viejo robberies result in 37-year prison term

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Puerto Viejo de Limón man received a 37-year jail sentence for attacks on women in his community.

The man was identified by the last names of Brown Humphy. He was detained last May and pointed out in a lineup by victims, said the Poder Judicial.

The case was tried in the Tribunal Penal de Limón.

He was convicted of robbery with violence involving a woman with the last name of Rodríguez for which he received five years.

He also was convicted for aggravated robbery, rape and  attempted murder involved a women with the last name of
 Freeman. For these crimes he received a total of 32 years in prison. He also was convicted of aggravated robbery of a man named Verdugo and a female with the last name of Medina for which he received seven years each.

However, under rules of sentencing the total term is 37 years.

The crimes happened in March, April of 2008 and May and August of 2008 in Puerto Viejo. Most of the victims were accosted while they walked alone after dark.

He used a knife and nearly always beat up his victim.

There also were six allegations of rape, one of holding someone against their will and two of aggravated robbery. He was found not guilty on these counts.

Latin countries are biodiversity superpowers, U.N. says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean must act to protect the extraordinary wealth of plant and wildlife in the region and harness their potential as biodiversity superpowers, according to a new United Nations report.

“Latin America and the Caribbean have one of the greatest endowments of natural capital in the world,” said Heraldo Muñoz, director of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.N. Development Programme, which produced the report.

“The policies recommended in our report have the potential to transform traditional models of development – raising the quality of life of millions by preserving and restoring our biodiversity and eco-system services,” he added.

The report – entitled “Latin America and the Caribbean: A Biodiversity Superpower” – is the culmination of two years of research and was launched on Thursday during the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Governments, held in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

According to the report, the region is home to six of the world’s most biodiverse countries – Brazil, Colombia,
Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela – as well as the
 single most biologically diverse area in the world, the Amazon rainforest. 

South America alone has more than 40 per cent of the Earth’s biodiversity, and more than a quarter of its forests.

The report urges policymakers to assess the economic contribution of the biodiversity and ecosystems services to areas such as food production, disease control, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and tourism, among others, also making the case for sustainable business investments and contributions.

It recommends that governments provide incentives, such as tax breaks, to direct public and private investments while stepping up efforts to conserve ecosystems.

In addition, it recommends raising awareness among policymakers, consumers and the rural poor, and investing to be at the forefront of biodiversity and ecosystems services-based technologies, products and markets.

The report adds that biodiversity-related products and services are of crucial importance to the region and their sustainable and strategic use can help boost the region’s long-term growth.

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Brazilian president-elect
seeks quick visit to U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian President-elect Dilma Rousseff, who will be the country's first female president, says she wants closer ties with the United States.

Ms. Rousseff told the Washington Post newspaper, in an article published Sunday, that the U.S. and Brazil together have an important role to play in the world.

She said she has not yet accepted any invitations to visit other countries because she is setting up her administration before taking office Jan. 1. But she said she would like to visit U.S. President Barack Obama "in the very first days" of her administration.

Ms. Rousseff also said she does not favor the latest U.S. monetary policy known as "quantitative easing," meant to stimulate the economy. She said a systematic devaluation of the dollar can prompt reactions of protectionism.

Ms. Rousseff, who was backed by incumbent President Luiz Inacio da Silva, has said she will adhere to the previous administration's policies in many regards. But she said Sunday that she does not agree with Brazil's decision not to back a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Iran for human rights violations.

A former political prisoner, Ms. Rousseff said she would not feel comfortable not speaking out against such issues as Iran's policy of stoning women.

U.S. military said helping
Mexican drug strike teams

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A published report says the U.S. government is aiding elite units of Mexican marines to pursue drug cartel bosses in aggressive "capture or kill" missions.

The Washington Post cites unidentified diplomats and law enforcement officials as saying the training and information-sharing is at a stronger level than previously known.

The newspaper reports Mexican officials have denied the U.S. military is training Mexican marines, while the U.S. Defense Department has declined to discuss the training.

However, U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks have described the government's training effort. The cables have been posted on Mexican Web sites and reported in major U.S. newspapers. 

The Post says the leaked diplomatic cables reveal the U.S. is conducting urban-combat and counterinsurgency instruction in Mexico. 

The newspaper reports that Mexican security analysts, U.S. officials and former military commanders have said the marines are "recipients of an unequaled level of cooperation" with American military and anti-narcotic agencies.

The cables released by Wikileaks reveal how the U.S., through its embassy in Mexico City and its consulates along the border, delivers intelligence from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to Mexican marines about the location of drug bosses.

The information has allowed the marines to capture and often kill drug kingpins in what are sometimes spectacular urban shootouts.

Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war since President Felipe Calderón took office in late 2006 and began cracking down on the cartels.

Judicial offices to close

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judicial offices will be closed Friday to celebrate the  Día del servidor judicial. The day is Wednesday but the Consejo Superior del Poder Judicial. moved the observance to Friday so judicial workers would get a three-day weekend.
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Haitian  cholera mortality
continues to show decline

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization reports the number of cholera cases continues to grow in Haiti, but a smaller proportion of people are now dying from the disease. Latest official figures put the number of deaths at nearly 1,900 and more than 84,000 cases.

When the epidemic erupted in Haiti in October, the proportion of hospitalized patients dying of cholera was as high as 9 percent. Latest reports from Haiti's Ministry of Health finds that figure is down to 3.5 percent.

But, this is no reason to cheer. The World Health Organization reports all 10 of Haiti's provinces now are affected to some degree. Also, it says cholera figures significantly underestimate the true toll of the epidemic because of gaps in case reporting.

Eric Laroche, assistant director-general of World Health's Health Action in Crises, has just returned from Haiti. He says it is difficult to know precisely how the epidemic is evolving. He says it is likely to peak in some places in a few weeks, while it may take months to peak in other places.

"We are using a planning figure of 400,000 cases over the first 12 months of the outbreak,' Laroche said. "And, half of these cases, which means 200,000 will be happening in the first three months of the outbreak. We think it is important to investigate into how this outbreak started and what strain of the cholera is spreading in the country."

U.N. and non-governmental agencies have come in for criticism regarding their tardy and lackluster response to the epidemic. Laroche agrees there have been problems and says the World Health Organization and others are looking at what might have been done differently or better.

At the same time, he says it is important to keep focused on the major task of saving lives and making sure the sick are treated.

"This disease, as I said, needs a very high level of assistance in terms of staff assistance-not only doctors, but particularly nurses, particularly the simple agents who are going to wash the beds and clean the places and put the chlorine in proper places," said Laroche.

Laroche says there is a need for 350 doctors, 2,000 nurses, 2,200 support staff and 30,000 community-based workers. In addition, he says it is important to do more awareness campaigns in the communities so people know how they can avoid infection if possible.

He says there also is a need for more access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation. He says every community should have a re-hydration center to quickly treat people with cholera.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 240

A guest editorial
Persecution of Wikileaks is a challenge to freedom of speech

By Reporters Without Borders*

Reporters Without Borders condemns the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure being directed at, the Web site dedicated to the U.S. diplomatic cables. The organization is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Earlier this week, after the publishing of several hundred of the
250,000 cables it says it has in its possession, WikiLeaks had to move its site from its servers in Sweden to servers in the United States controlled by online retailer Amazon. Amazon quickly came under pressure to stop hosting WikiLeaks from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and its chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, in particular.

After being ousted from Amazon, WikiLeaks found a refuge for part of its content with the French Internet company OVH. But French digital economy minister Eric Besson Saturday said the French government was looking at ways to ban hosting of the site. WikiLeaks was also recently dropped by its domain name provider EveryDNS. Meanwhile, several countries well
Wikileaks logo
known for their disregard of freedom of expression and information, including Thailand and China, have blocked access to

This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a Web site dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on
Reporters without borders logo

freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a Web site should be closed.

Meanwhile, two Republican senators, John Ensign and Scott Brown, and an independent Lieberman, have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to publish the names of U.S. military and intelligence agency informants. This could facilitate future prosecutions against WikiLeaks and its founder. But a criminal investigation is already under way and many U.S. politicians are calling vociferously for Assange’s arrest.

Reporters Without Borders can only condemn this determination to hound Assange and reiterates its conviction that WikiLeaks has a right under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to publish these documents and is even playing a useful role by making them available to journalists and the greater public.

We stress that any restriction on the freedom to disseminate this body of documents will affect the entire press, which has given detailed coverage to the information made available by WikiLeaks, with five leading international newspapers actively cooperating in preparing it for publication.

Reporters Without Borders would also like to stress that it has always defended online freedom and the principle of “Net neutrality,” according to which Internet Service Providers and hosting companies should play no role in choosing the content that is placed online

*Reporters Without Borders is a Paris-based media advocacy group.

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