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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 244                        Email us
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little child
Enjoying the show!


Extravaganza
for ailing kids

The tree lighting at the  Hospital de Niños always is exciting, but Thursday night staffers pulled out all the stops with fairy tale characters, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, clowns and a dazzling performance to bring  happiness to the young patients.

Our story is


Hospital tree
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Believe it or not, this tree has 25,000 lights!


Seniors' free and cut-rate bus rides causes grumbling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers excel in giving away the money of other people. At Christmas the law states that employees must receive one-twelfth extra of what they earned in the previous year.

At restaurants, the legislature has added arbitrarily 10 percent for table service regardless of how competent the waiter has been.

Lawmakers also ordered free or cut-rate rides for senior citizens on public buses, and the Sala IV chimed in by ruling that seniors can ride the trains for free.

Some bus drivers are not happy with the edicts, and either as individuals or as an extension of their company's policy they are giving some seniors a hard time.

The nation's price regulating agency said that some 38 complaints were aired at hearings where bus company officials sought rate hikes this year.

The agency went so far as to restate the rules Thursday, perhaps in anticipation of the holiday season.

There are 311,000 persons in the country 65 or older, said the Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios
Públicos. Under the rules that were outlined each has the right to a free bus ride of up to 25 kilometers (about 15.5 miles).

That ruling is the result of law no. 7935 which specifically gives seniors the right to free urban transportation and a 30 percent discount on marine or air passage. The price regulating authority has followed this up with a resolution setting the 25 kilometer figure. On trips from 26 to 50  kilometers, seniors are supposed to receive a 25 percent discount. On longer trips the discount is 50 percent, said the authority.

The Sala IV ruling about the trains was in 2010.

Since the government is not covering the cost of the senior discounts, presumably the bus line owners take this into consideration when they request rates, and other passengers end up paying for the free and discounted rides for seniors.

Typically a senior presents a cédula that shows age when boarding a bus. Some bus drivers in the past have objected not to the free ride but to the delay in checking ages.

The price regulating authority said that a group of seniors made a collective complaint about a bus line in Tibás, and that as a result the bus line issued warnings to drivers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 244
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Our reader's opinion
Governments debase currency
while the people must pay

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Abdul Mohamed makes some correct points concerning the luxury home tax that will slowly ensnare almost every home, much like the USA's alternative minimum tax. He and others are simply wrong about the ability to tax the rich. A tax of any sort extracts money from the private economy and sends it through the colander of the state leaving much behind in its dirty hands.

The rest then used for all the purposes demanded of it. The primary costs are government employees and economic "rights," labor law, health law, education law etc. Since no social democracy spends less than it takes in, and nor will that ever occur because there is no end to need, this must be paid for with debt which then debases currency so the debt can be rolled over and over and over ad infinitum while growing and consuming an ever growing value of the worlds currencies.

There is currently a world war being fought with currency devaluation as nations attempt to prop up employment and exports with devalued currency to lessen the burden of their debt by paying it off with lessor valued currency. The Tico currency bands have held the colon firm to the dollar, but that ignores the Obama administration's purposeful currency debasement as M1 money supply has nearly doubled since 2010.

The point is, no group, rich or poor, can avoid paying for that. No one country will pay more or less. Even the conservative Swiss and Swedes are being punished. Everyone pays because of this social-caused debt and its rising, unfunded social liability. Everyone will continue to pay more and more and more.

How do we pay you ask? Through everything we use money for. Even with amazing advances in productivity, ask yourself why televisions and computers cost less and less while quality improves and improves, but health care and education cost more and more while quality declines.

The smallest economic unit is not the state, or a village, it is the family. Until all rights and responsibility, with it's hard consequences and great rewards, are returned to the family, the currency war will continue.

The last time an American president engaged in this foolishness 1939 was the result. F.A. Hayek wrote at that time in his book "The Fatal Conceit, " “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” 

The only unfair economic practices we need concern ourselves with are those of governments. The rich do not create poverty. The rich do not have your money. Governments do. Now I am sure I will see a flood of refutation. However, not by people with their eyes open to reality.
George Chapogas
Playas del Coco

Businesswoman at two fairs
will show their products


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two business fairs in San José this weekend will be dedicated specifically to showcasing the products of female entrepreneurs.

One will be in Parque Central and the other will be in the Antigua Aduana. Both fairs will be free and open to the public.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio will host the fifth annual Feria Nacional de Mujeres Empresarias in addition to the other business fair it is holding in Limón this weekend.

The ministry's fair will have booths for nearly 150 woman-led businesses at Antigua Aduana on Calle 23 in east San José. According to a ministry press release, these products will come from businesses from all across the country and include everything from clothes to food products.

Also hosting this fair is the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, the Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje and the Consejo Nacional de Cooperativas.

Women with booths at the fair will also be offered classes workshops and lectures to help them improve their businesses.

The Antigua Aduana will be open for this fair from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, tomorrow and Sunday.

Additionally, San José's municipal government will hold its third annual Christmas fair, Mujeres Emprendedoras que quieren salir adelante, this weekend in Parque Central. The title means "businesswomen who want to get ahead."

This fair is organized by the municipality's Oficina de la Mujer and the Comisión Permanente de la Condición de la Mujer with sponsorship from Banco Popular, said a press release.

The release said that businesses will offer product samples and organizers have planned various recreational activities for people who come to the fair. This fair will run from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. today and tomorrow.

 
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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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 244
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Advanced \Design
International Baptist Church

Flamingo party
 
The crowd

Flamingo trash
File photos supplied by Flamingo residents
The trash
Flamingo residents battling to prevent another massive party
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Residents and business owners in Playa Flamingo are calling on municipal officials for help in stopping an annual New Year's party that is expected to bring in more than 5,000 people for seven days.

Residents say that the young Tico partiers from San José besiege the town consecutive nights until dawn, leave garbage, refuse and vomit in their wake and ruin the most lucrative week of the year.

Ulrik Oldenberg, owner of a hotel and condominium building in Playa Flamingo, said that one business hosts the party each year. The event has been growing into the thousands, lasting for days and normally clogging the only thoroughfare in and out of town with drunk teenagers, he said.

“Everybody has the right to operate, but this party inconveniences the whole town,” said Oldenberg. “It’s benefiting one business and damaging all of the others… it’s an unruly mob.”

Some community members are especially vehement since they learned from the municipality that the party has been granted a five-day permit this year.

Residents have met with the municipal council which said that the mayor has the power to revoke the permit.

The community is waiting for the mayor to make a decision, but residents have threatened to take the case to the Sala IV constitutional court if the mayor does not cancel the party.

For Oldenberg and most people complaining about the event, the problem stems from the location of the party, which takes place at a bar called Amberes.  This bar is located at the beginning of the main street in town, which is also the only path for cars to enter and exit the peninsula on which the town sits.

For more than 25 years, a bar called Amberes has been hosting a New Year's party that usually attracted between 200 and 300.

Oldenberg said that in recent years when the bar has been leased to party organizations in San José, the crowd has swelled into the thousands with thousands of cars as well. He added that the bar is far too small to fit all of these new people, many of whom are underage anyway, so the vast majority of the crowd drinks outside.

He said that the bar and party planners do not put portable
bathrooms, garbage cans or any necessities for large events, which results in partiers throwing trash, urinating, defecating and vomiting wherever they can.

“It’s us and the community cleaning up afterwards,” said Oldenberg.

Oldenberg said that the party planner last year was Life Productions. Repeated calls to Life Productions and Amberes went unanswered.

With thousands of people and cars at this point in the road, Oldenberg said that no one can enter or leave while this party is going on, which drastically cuts down on the most lucrative week for the community.

Oldenberg said that he averaged $800 per day in net profit during that week last year where he used to average $3,000 per day.

Additionally, hotel owners report that guests have promised not to come back to Playa Flamingo because the party blockades tourists and residents alike in town and noisily continues until dawn.

“We have people paying premium rates for hotels that week,” said Oldenberg.

Community members also said that the crowd is too rowdy to disperse. Four years ago, a local police chief wrote a statement saying that his unit risked personal harm if they went up to view the party permits, they said.

This year police expect between 5,000 and 7,000 partiers, according to Oldenberg, adding that local police have requested 50 Fuerza Pública officers to augment the permanent 12 and that the regional police chief requests 300 to 400 riot police to control the crowd.

Additionally, Oldenberg said that one woman was killed in town last year when she was hit by a drunk driver from this party.

“You can’t compromise on something like that,” said Oldenberg.

Oldenberg and others have investigated the policy of renting property outside of town, but none of the owners wanted to assume the liability for the party. So, Oldenberg was elected by residents to get the municipality to cancel the party altogether,

If the mayor does not cancel the event, community members have hired a lawyer and collected $5,000 so far to appeal to the Sala IV to cancel the party.


Buses are smoother, but strolling in the city is the best yet
Times change, and so do we.  Riding through the city the other day, on my way to keep an appointment with my dentist in Guadalupe, I was aware, as I waited to get on the bus, that today it is young women who are letting me in line or giving me their seat on the bus.  20 years ago it was the young and not so young men who offered me their seats.  In this case, I think it is I who have changed, not the times.

I also noted that more and more of the busy throughways, usually the avenidas that buses and taxis take to cross the city, are getting a new face of cement to replace the old asphalt.  The rides are much smoother, and there are fewer potholes in the city.  The only drawback is that some of the drivers are cowboys, and the ride becomes almost as exciting as a roller coaster.

Just the other day I was remembering the young woman I used to see so often when I was walking downtown.  She always was dressed and made up as if she were going to work and she walked with purpose. I wondered what had happened to her.  Then this week, as I was about to cross Avenida 3 to catch the bus, there she was, also waiting.  Less than two feet tall, she was standing on her sandaled hands as she waited for the light to change.  Her face is thinner, and her hair is dyed black and is longer, (mine is white and shorter) and she was not wearing a hat. We both have aged, but I know my life has been easier. She has legs, but they are tiny and almost like frog legs barely peeping out of her skirt.  I always marveled that she got around so well and with absolutely no help from anyone.  But I was totally blown away one day when the bus I was on stopped at a bus stop and she boarded completely under her own steam.  I and others have often complained at the height of the steps of buses.  She climbs on using her arms.  She is my antidote for self-pity.

I asked a taxista if he had ever seen her.  He replied he had, and that she had been featured on TV and he thought the government had given her a house to live in.  I hope so.

Christmas is coming to town with great fanfare.  I am not a Christmas person, but I am happy for the people who
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


celebrate the season with parades, crèches and happy Christmas songs.  I am busy getting done all the business that needs to be done before everything – stores, banks, anything governmental – closes down.  Once so many have gone to the beach, it is my favorite time to be downtown.

Over the holiday I hope to stroll the pedestrian walk in the newly opened Calle Chino.  I am sure many of their stores will be open, and I want to see the changes in the street that used to be El Paseo de los Estudiantes, one of my favorite haunts when I lived on the east side. I did my banking, my grocery shopping and my lunching out on that street, or, on special occasions, I had lunch at Tin Jo on Calle Once (11th Street), right around the corner but in keeping with the Asian motif. China paid for much of this mini Chinatown, which is a symbol of the friendship between that country and Costa Rica.

I hope not to be one of the statistics in the gift that the U.S. made to Costa Rica this week. The government of the U.S. has donated $500,000 in computers and training to track crime in different parts of the country so that the police can more efficiently combat and prevent it.  I guess the Police have started in their own ranks because eight police officers were sentenced to a total of 108 years in prison for stealing narcotics from the traffickers they were arresting. I also read that there is twice as much crime in the Jacó area per capita as in San José.

All in all, it is becoming apparent that I want to live in the city again, closer to the places I like to walk.  It is nice where I am, but I am a city girl and I miss being able to walk outside and being there.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 244
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Medical
                vacation promo

clown does his thing
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
A clown from Hospisonrisas, a special troupe that works with hospital patients, does his magic act.
A symbol of hope illuminates dazzling hospital extravaganza
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas came early to the Hospital de Niños as children and families flooded the courtyard and streets to partake in the 49th annual tree illumination.

This event, which always happens in early December, is only the beginning, said Rodolfo Hernández Gómez, hospital director.

“We will have Christmas at the hospital every day of the month,” he said. 

Children, many with various illnesses, were given special seating in front of a stage that housed live performances. Disabilities, visible scars and oxygen tanks did not stop the young from smiling, waving hands in the air and singing along to popular songs.

Those who could join the crowd participated from balconies alongside doctors and nurses.

The youth were called champions by the various musical performers who also thanked them for continuing to fight and also thanked the hospital for improving the quality of each child’s life.

Professional hospital payasos or clowns from Hospisonrisas kept the crowd of young people engaged with tricks and theater. They are also trained in medicine, psychology, social work and art.

When the sky was dark, the crowd counted down to 10 and was dazzled by the hospital tree, which was decorated with 25,000 lights.

“The tree is a symbol of hope,” said Hernández. 

The celebration is important because of the happiness it brings to the patients and the value it has in the Christmas season, he continued.

After the tree ceremony, the party continued with a Christmas tale musical acted out by various children's book characters such as "Alice in Wonderland’s" The Hatter, Belle and Beast from "Beauty and the Beast," Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Aladdin.

Santa and Mrs. Claus also made guest appearance, taking pictures with guests, waving from the balcony and doing a Santa Claus is coming to Town musical dance.

Costa Rican and tourist guests who could not fit into the hospital property, watched the show from the streets via projection screens, while vendors sold light toys and other trinkets.  This turned the spectacle into a show for all.

furry guy
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Child has encounter with Puss in Boots of fairy tale fame.


santa
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Hospital Director Hernández at left is joined by Santa, Mrs. Claus, a chipmunk and others.


overview
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
The stage was set up in front of the hospital and the live tree with 25,000 lights.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 244
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High
                  season

Medical
                vacations in Costa Rica

Old bones in a museum
may be oldest dinosaur

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bones that have been languishing in obscurity for nearly 80 years at a London museum may actually belong to the oldest known dinosaur.

Scientists say they believe the bones uncovered in Tanzania in the 1930s are the fossilized remains of a dinosaur that roamed the Earth about 245 million years ago, at least 10 million years earlier than the previously oldest known dinosaur.

Researchers at London's Natural History Museum last examined the bones in the 1950s and were unable to identify them, concluding that they came from a mystery animal.

But contemporary researchers say the London bones are similar to others at a South African museum. After closer examination with modern technology, the scientists concluded they are dinosaur remains.

They believe the dinosaur was the size of a large dog and lived on a so-called supercontinent called Pangaea, which included parts of modern-day Africa, Antarctica, Australia and South America.


Duchess of Cambridge leaves
hospital after spending 4 days


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The pregnant wife of Britain's Prince William has left a hospital in central London after four days of treatment for severe morning sickness.

William and his wife, Catherine, known formally as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, emerged from London's King Edward VII Hospital Thursday. St. James Palace has announced that the royal couple will stay at their London residence while Catherine continues to recuperate.

On Wednesday, a pair of Australian radio hosts called the hospital, pretending to be members of the royal family. They tricked a nurse into giving them private information about Catherine's condition, which caused a public outcry. The Sydney radio station has apologized for its actions, and the hospital has launched an investigation into the breach of security.

St. James Palace announced on Monday that the royal couple are expecting, after the 30-year-old Catherine was admitted to the hospital. William, who is second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles, married the former Kate Middleton in April 2011, in a Westminster Abbey ceremony that drew a worldwide audience of some two billion people. Their first child will be third in the line of succession.


Obama pays a house call
to promote his budget plan


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama visited a family’s home near Washington Thursday as part of his campaign to persuade Congress to pass his economic plan.
 
Obama paid a visit to Tiffany and Richard Santana, who responded to his call asking Americans to use social media to express support for his fiscal plan.
 
Americans will face substantial tax increases and government budget cuts on Jan. 1 if Congress does not pass and the president does not sign legislation to reduce the nation’s debt.
 
​​Obama said failure to enact fiscal legislation would cost a typical American family, such as the Santanas, $2,000 a year in higher taxes.
 
“An increase of $2,000 or so for her and her husband, in this household, would actually mean $4,000 that was lost.  And a couple of thousand dollars means a couple months rent," he said.
 
The president said higher taxes for families across the country would cause a ripple effect throughout the U.S. economy.
 
“That translates into $200 billion of less consumer spending next year.  And that is bad for businesses, large and small.  It is bad for our economy.  It means less folks are being hired.  And we could be back in a downward spiral instead of the kind of virtuous cycle that we want to see," he said.
 
​​Wednesday the president and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, discussed the issue in a telephone call.
 
Democrats and Republicans agree that more revenue must be raised to help reduce the national debt, which stands at more than $16 trillion.  But Republicans oppose the president’s proposal to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to close the gap.
 
Obama has been making his case to the public, hoping that Americans will pressure Republicans in Congress to accept the president's plan.


Eurozone economic future
described as contracting


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Central Bank says the economic fortunes of the 17-nation euro currency bloc are likely to continue to decline next year and not advance again until late in 2013 and into 2014.

Bank president Mario Draghi gave his assessment of the eurozone economy Thursday after the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of three-quarters of a percent.

"The economic weakness in the euro area is expected to extend into next year . . . ," he said.  "Later in 2013, economic activity should gradually recover, as global demand strengthens and our accommodative monetary policy stance and significantly improved financial market confidence work their way through to the economy."

The central bank said the eurozone economy is likely to contract about one-half of 1 percent this year, and possibly another three-tenths of a percent in 2013, before returning to growth of about 1.2 percent in 2014.

The eurozone has struggled to boost its economy in the wake of the three-year governmental debt crisis. Unemployment has risen to 11.7 percent throughout the region, the highest level since the currency bloc was formed in 1999.

Debt-ridden Greece reported that its jobless rate hit 26 percent in September, more than 7 percentage points higher than a year ago.

Great Britain is not part of the eurozone, but it also is facing a weak economy. Its central bank, the Bank of England, on Thursday also left its key lending rate unchanged -- at one-half of 1 percent.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 244
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Poder Judicial photo
These are some of the 5,000 gifts workers in the Poder Judicial collected for youngsters of the Obras del Espíritu Santo. The children come from low-income families. The gifts were delivered Thursday.

 
Man who tried to help friend
dies from robber's bullets

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 21-year-old man died outside of a bar on Paseo Colón early Thursday while he was trying to foil an armed robbery, judicial agents said.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the man was Ronald de Jesús González Bolaños.

According to the report, González was with friends at around 2 a.m. Thursday morning at a bar called Club Vertigo, located in Edificio Colón one block east of Parque Sabana.

The report said that González went outside to take a phone call with some friends, and while they were outside a man with a gun drove up and tried to rob one of his friends.

González tried to stop the robbery and ended up struggling with the robber, the report said, but the robber broke free and shot González twice in the chest before escaping in his vehicle.

Agents said that González died on scene.


Zapote man held in thefts
from 200 pay phones


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police arrested a man Thursday morning who they suspect stole from more than 200 different pay phones in the San José area costing service providers 38 million colons.

That translates to about $76,000 of losses that police suspect were caused by this man by dismantling parts of these pay phones and taking coins from the change box.

A judicial spokesperson clarified that only a fraction of this amount is what the man actually stole, because it includes costs to send someone to repair the phones and other costs.

That spokesperson also confirmed that the detained man is Jorge Vargas Noguera, 34.

According to a judicial bulletin, the suspect is accused of standing at a pay phone while pretending to make a call while he really unscrewed the door to the change box and took money out of it.

Police began this investigation in August and have connected Vargas to at least 30 complaints involving over 200 different phones, the bulletin said.

Officials said that police arrested the man in Zapote Thursday morning at his home where they also found 3 million colons (about $6,000), cell phones and tools that may have been used to open the pay phones.







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Tobacco seems to boost hangovers

By the Brown University news service

People who like to smoke when they drink may be at greater risk of suffering a hangover the next morning

For anyone who has ever had too much to drink, that day-after combination of headache, nausea and fatigue may be a familiar feeling. But some drinkers appear hangover-resistant: about one-quarter of people who drink enough to spur a hangover in most individuals don't actually develop one.

No one is sure why that is. But the new study suggests that smoking could be one factor that boosts the hangover odds.  The study is in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Researchers found that college students were more likely to report hangover symptoms after a heavy drinking episode if they smoked more heavily on the day they drank. And it wasn't simply because they smoked more when they drank more.

"At the same number of drinks, people who smoke more that day are more likely to have a hangover and have more intense hangovers," said researcher Damaris J. Rohsenow of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Her team controlled for some other factors as well, such as whether students reported drug use in the past year. And smoking, itself, was linked to an increased risk of hangover compared with not smoking at all.

That raises the likelihood that there is some direct effect of tobacco smoking on hangovers, Ms. Rohsenow said.

The "how" isn't fully clear. But other research has shown that nicotine receptors in the brain are involved in the subjective response to drinking, Ms. Rohsenow said. For example, smoking and drinking at the same time boosts the release of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical.

So the fact that nicotine and alcohol are connected in the brain may explain why smoking is tied to hangover.

The findings are based on a Web survey of 113 college students who recorded their drinking and smoking habits, and any hangover symptoms, every day for eight weeks. Overall, when students drank heavily — the equivalent of five or six cans of beer in about an hour — those who'd smoked more on that same day had higher odds of suffering a hangover the next morning and suffered more when they did.

That leaves the question of "So what?" Hangovers may make a drinker feel bad, but is there any more harm than that?

There is evidence that a hangover affects attention and reaction time in the short term, Ms. Rohsenow said. So it might be unwise to drive or work in safety sensitive occupations with a hangover, for instance. No one is sure yet whether hangovers may signal some type of damage to the brain, but smoking is already known from other studies to aggravate the ill effects on the brain caused by years of heavy drinking.

Ms. Rohsenow said these findings suggest that if smokers are going to indulge in heavy alcohol use, it would be wise to at least cut down on cigarettes.


Eat less and live longer, study says

By the University of California, San Francisco. news service

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have identified a novel mechanism by which a type of low-carb, low-calorie diet — called a ketogenic diet — could delay the effects of aging. This fundamental discovery reveals how such a diet could slow the aging process and may one day allow scientists to better treat or prevent age-related diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many forms of cancer.

As the aging population continues to grow, age-related illnesses have become increasingly common. Already in the United States, nearly one in six people are over the age of 65. Heart disease continues to be the nation’s number one killer, with cancer and Alzheimer’s close behind. Such diseases place tremendous strain on patients, families and our healthcare system. But today, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Senior Investigator Eric Verdin have identified the role that a chemical compound in the human body plays in the aging process and which may be key to new therapies for treating or preventing a variety of age-related diseases.

In the latest issue of the journal Science, now available online, Verdin, a physician, and his team examined the role of the compound β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), a so-called ketone body that is produced during a prolonged low-calorie or ketogenic diet. While ketone bodies such as βOHB can be toxic when present at very high concentrations in people with diseases such as Type I diabetes, Verdin and colleagues found that at lower concentrations, βOHB helps protect cells from oxidative stress — which occurs as certain molecules build to toxic levels in the body and contributes to the aging process.

“Over the years, studies have found that restricting calories slows aging and increases longevity — however the mechanism of this effect has remained elusive” Verdin said. He directs the Center for HIV & Aging at Gladstone and is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. “Here, we find that βOHB — the body’s major source of energy during exercise or fasting — blocks a class of enzymes that would otherwise promote oxidative stress, thus protecting cells from aging.”

Oxidative stress occurs as cells use oxygen to produce energy, but this activity also releases other potentially toxic molecules, known as free radicals. As cells age, they become less effective in clearing these free radicals — leading to cell damage, oxidative stress and the effects of aging.

However, Verdin and his team found that βOHB might actually help delay this process. In a series of laboratory experiments — first in human cells in a dish and then in tissues taken from mice — the team monitored the biochemical changes that occur when βOHB is administered during a chronic calorie-restricted diet. The researchers found that calorie restriction spurs βOHB production.


Hackers derail U.N. Internet conference

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Hackers successfully attacked a Web site Wednesday and caused a network outage at a  major U. N. technology conference where experts have gathered to discuss how to facilitate international information and communication services.

The U.N. agency involved blamed criminal gangs.

According to conference organizers, responsibility for the disruption has been claimed by cyber criminal groups, in response to claims that the World Conference on International Communications, which is being held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is trying to restrict freedom online.

These claims have been repeatedly denied by the conference’s organizing body, the International Telecommunications Union.

“It is ironic that the very people who claim to be fighting for a free Internet are preventing those around the world trying to follow the event online from getting access. Do they believe in one rule for them, and one for everyone else?” said Hamadoun Touré, the Telecommunications Union's secretary general.

The hacking attack prevented delegates, about 2,000 conference participants and the media from accessing some online working documents that were being considered by the meeting.

The 11-day conference – which is slated to run until next Friday – brings an estimated 2,000 delegates from 193 nations together to review the current International Telecommunications Regulations, which functions as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability.

German Embassy to offer concert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The German Embassy will present a free Christmas concert Sunday for the fifth year.

The El Café Chorale will be presenting such favorites at the  "Hallelujah Chorus" from "The Messiah" by Handel as well as traditional songs in Latin and German.

The event will be following a 6 p.m. Roman Catholic Mass at the Iglesia Mercedes in Grecia, said the embassy in a release.

Ernst Martens, the German ambassador, said that the concert was a way to share with Costa Ricans and the German community his country's customs and traditions. The concert also is designed to thank those who helped the embassy with its projects this year, he added.

The El Cafe Chorale is part of the Fundación Instituto Costarricense Pro-Música Coral and has been performing since 1994.
Useful links
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Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
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