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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 244          E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
About us

A.M. Costa Rica/Jesse Froehling
Passengers from the cruise ship Pacific Explorer check out beach at Drake Bay Thursday.
Yellow fever was blamed for last big die-off
By  Jesse Froehling
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

DRAKE BAY — The last time massive deaths took the lives on monkeys in the Osa Peninsula, the cause was yellow fever, said the expert in charge of the current investigation.

He is Eduardo Carrillo, a Universidad Nacional biologist with expertise in Parque Nacional Corcovado. He said the last big epidemic was in the 1950s. But yellow fever does not infect birds, which are suffering during the current epidemic, he noted. So that may not be the cause unless there are two separate epidemics.

Yellow fever can be contracted by humans, and the mortality rate among those not inoculated is 40 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for disease control. The cause is a virus that is passed in the bite of a mosquito.

Carrillo, reached at his Heredia office, said that perhaps half the monkeys at the park have died. He is the first official to confirm the massive die-off, although residents of the area suspected as much.

Carrillo said that if the deaths are not caused by yellow fever, the problem could be lack of food or a different ailment. Blood tests that are being processed will tell.

Officials closed the park Saturday to all but
authorized humans, but the illness of birds and monkeys seems to be universal 
Little effect seen on tourism

throughout the Osa Peninsula and not just confined to the park.

Costa Rica does not require a yellow fever shot for tourists to enter the country. The Centers for Disease Control said that the basic precaution is to avoid mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, several South American countries have closed their borders to poultry products from Colombia because several cases of non-lethals bird flu have been detected there.

This is the flu variety that does not even kill chickens, but it is related to the deadly H5N1 that has surfaced in Asia. Central American officials worry that the deadly flu could be brought to the area by migratory birds.

Although they have not mentioned it, researchers certainly will be looking for the presence of the West Nile virus, which came to the United States only in 1999. Cases already have been reported in South America and in nearly all U.S. States, El Salvador and Belize.

The West Nile virus can devastate wild populations and can affect at least 290 bird species and at least 30 types of animals, including humans, according to the National Audubon Society, Inc. It, too, is spread by mosquitoes.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 244

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Effects on Osa tourism
not apparent yet

By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

DRAKE BAY — The deaths of numerous animals and birds in Parque Nacional Corcovado became public at the beginning of the high season, but a sampling of hotels in this area report no room cancellations or early exits by people who came to visit the park.

It may just be too early yet. No one has left yet, but the park has only been closed a few days, said Herbert Michaud, owner of Drake Bay Wilderness Resort. The closure order was issued Saturday.

Pedro Garro of Aguila de Osa Inn expressed similar sentiments. The park closure hasn't been a big problem, he said.  The high season is still just starting, and he hasn’t had any guests cancel or leave early yet, he said.

In fact, only one hotel in the area, at El Mirador Cabinas, confirmed it has lost people as a result of the closure of the park.  Three of the guests left early when told they would not be able to enter the park, and five more canceled their reservations when confronted with the same news, said Isis Vargas, a worker.

But people may be leaving uncounted.  For example, Ellen Wisse and her brother Geert, both Dutch, as well as their friend Herwig Collaert from Belgium were planning on spending a few more nights at a hotel here.  Instead, they were to leave leaving this morning, she said.

"I guess we'll just go to the Caribbean, Collaert said.  Hotel and tour operators are hopeful that the slew of other activities available in the picturesque town will keep people from going the way of these tourists. There are a lot of water activities in the area as well as hiking outside the park.

Tracy Stice of the Drake Bay Rainforest Chalet said that after a night tour, she talked with her guests and although they were disappointed in the park’s closure, they all said that they were going to stay anyway. This may have had to do with an alert sent out by the Fundación Corcovado to all the hotels in the town.

Federico Solorzano of the foundation said that the alert explained the situation to the owners and guests.  However, according to him, it explained the situation but did not aim to frighten them about the threat that no one seems to want to acknowledge, namely that an as-yet unknown ailment may be killing the animals in the park.

Thursday the Pacific Explorer cruise ship stopped in Drake Bay and tourists were ferried to shore.  Carisa Carnes, a crew member, said that although it is unfortunate that the park is closed, the guests on the boat were able to snorkel around a small island, Granito del Oro, in the park.

The island is very small and inhabited only by birds, she said.  But there are no toucans, which appear to be affected heavily by whatever is killing birds and bigger animals.

The massive deaths of the four species of monkeys in the park and of birds has been going on since October, but no reason has yet been advanced even though experts from the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro, the Universidad Nacional in Heredia and health and environmental officials are at work on the puzzle.

Even when the order to close the park was issued, there was no public mention of the decision, perhaps in an effort to avoid hurting tourism. The first newspaper mention appeared in A.M. Costa Rica Tuesday afternoon, and the first mention in Spanish was in La Nación Thursday.

Some tour operators sought information from A.M. Costa Rica Thursday because they had been contacted by customers from the United States who heard about the news. The government of Costa Rica has yet to issue an official announcement.

Researchers are awaiting results of tests on blood and tissue samples, which have been sent to the United States and elsewhere.

The chief researcher on the case said perhaps half the monkeys in the 44,000 hectare (110,000 acre) park may have died.

Internet blog tracks
deforestation on Pacific

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A local wildlife fund has set up an Internet site designed to defend the environment in the Pacific coast area of Manuel Antonio.

The organization is The Fund for Costa Rica, and the individual in charge is Matthew Cook. The Internet site is called the Manual Antonio Environmental Defense Blog, and the posting there chronicles actions to stop deforestation. The site is in English.

A Tuesday posting reports that a forestry engineer came upon a landowner illegally clearing the undergrowth on his property. The engineer contacted the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, which immediately filed charges against the landowner, said the report.

"For too long the protection of Costa Rica's biodiversity had been seen as a preoccupation of only the radical envionmentalists, and this is a grave error," said Cook in an e-mail announcing the blog. "For the good of Costa Rica and its economic development, the biodiversity ought to be seen as a necessary and priority component for the touristic development of the country."

Cook said his organization is waging a war without truce to reverse the deforestation of the Manual Antonio area.

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Third news page

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 244

A little planned obsolescence, and good-bye floppies
This week suddenly I was alone.  My houseguests of the past six weeks were gone — Sandy, elsewhere for a while and the Hanos back to the States.  I didn’t know whether to luxuriate in my newly found lonely splendor or to be lonely in my newly empty nest.  As it turned out I didn’t have much time to explore either experience. 

My daughter managed to talk me into doing something no one else has managed to do: sign up for a cable connection for online communication.  Actually, she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse in the guise of a Christmas gift.  It seemed a good time to do this since my phone connection has broken beyond repair leaving me with no connection at all.  So I called Amnet.  After spending an hour or so with a nice young man signing contracts and making arrangements for the installation, I tidied up my office for my new equipment. 

A couple of days later two technicians appeared.  I, for one, will be happy when they decide to name the streets and number the buildings.  The technicians, like about six other people to whom I have given directions, got lost.  Cellular phones are wonderful inventions, if only for people in cars who are lost — or in trouble. 

Once here, the technicians examined the premises and started pulling in a cable onto the balcony of one bedroom with the plan of winding it around the room
and then into the office.  I suggested that perhaps bringing the cable in from the balcony off the office might be a better idea.  They dismissed this suggestion

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

until later I saw them drilling a hole in the window frame in the office and asked about it.  It was shorter bringing it from the balcony off the office, they explained.   I nodded, with what I hoped was a look that said, “Good thought, guys.”  I like to encourage installers of all types.

After nearly two hours all was set to download the program that would put me not only back on line, but back on line with greater alacrity.  That is when we ran into our first hurdle, and a big one.  My little Sony has only a floppy disk attachment.  It does not have a CD.  I wouldn’t know what to do with a CD.  I like floppy disks and have no desire to move on.  Their program is not on floppies, only on a CD.

In other words, you must discard your older (but still very serviceable) computer for a newer one in order to take advantage of the new inventions constantly coming down the Pike.  

Being fully aware that these two young men had nothing to do with it, I launched into my tirade against the planned obsolescence of the electronic age.  Instead of adapting these new inventions to present computers, they redesign computers to fit the improvements.  This is not a particular problem with most of those things, but computers are so expensive – and so nonbiodegradable!   Every time you have to buy a new computer it is like having to empty out a four-drawer file of all the stuff in it – and put it back in order. 

The upshot was that I must go in search of a “tarjeta de red.”  If I can find one to fit my Sony, they may be able to download their program.  So off I went in search of a computer accessory store in my new neighborhood.  They all are in my old neighborhood — at least one in every block.  That is at least three bus rides away. 

So, as of this moment, I am still totally off line and happy I have no company because I am not in a very good mood.

A prescription for a good steak: Just visit CIMA
When Jo Stuart was captive in Hospital CIMA, she complained bitterly to me that the food was awful. I was surprised because the food in their cafeteria had always been so much better than I expected from an institutional kitchen, clearly better than anything I ate in the San Francisco hospitals where I practiced for 32 years.

The most likely source of Jo’s discontent was our medical training. We were taught all types of formulae restricting texture, taste and esthetics from food in the name of better care. Never were we taught that pureed, tasteless goop made patients suspect that the doctor thought that they were sicker than they had been told, and in need of an invalid’s alimentation. It also deprived patients of the sense of wellbeing that a nice meal brings, often the only anticipated highlight of a boring day in bed.

In all fairness to her doctor at CIMA (whom I met and thought was outstanding), her doctors at Hospital México and Clinica Biblica apparently also concluded that her condition dictated a traditional  bland, low salt, soft diet. Imagine Jello, soups thickened with flour rather than cream and lacking salt, overcooked rice, dry toast, rubbery scrambled eggs and purees that look like baby food. Poor Jo lost 12 pounds, but returned to good health despite near starvation from unappetizing (she called it inedible) food.
The disconnect for me came when I received three different unsolicited opinions over six months describing great steaks at CIMA. All three raved about juicy and tender features second to none in the Central Valley. One also said that the mushroom sauce was good. I had had decent lunchtime soups and salads and standard breakfasts there in the past, but never a steak  

It is tough work, but someone has to do it, so I headed off to an institutional cafeteria with more than a modicum of skepticism to eat a steak for the public good. Woe is I (yes, believe it or not, “I” is grammatically correct) – another preconception gone wrong. The steak was tender, juicy and delicious. The mushroom sauce was flavorful.
Cima’s menu has four steak offerings, all tenderloins, with a choice of sauces or served as fajita with a starter small soup or salad and sides of veggies and rice or potatoes for ¢ 3700-3900. My salad starter was grated carrot and tomato wedges on lettuce which I dressed myself with tabletop oil and vinegar. It arrived with two dinner rolls, a peel-back packet of butter and a glass of ice water. About 10 minutes later, the steak appeared as I had ordered. Decorative mashed potatoes had been piped through the fluted end of a pastry bag. The overly soft zucchini and yellow summer squash pieces were bright green and yellow and properly seasoned. The tenderloin was not a bunkhouse slab, but was sufficiently filling. Dried dill surrounded the food.
Hardly a location for romance, there are no candles, soft lights or music.

But small globe vases are filled with fresh flowers and a green tablecloth under the paper placemats. The noise level is reasonable, and the service professional. A glass display case is bountiful with cakes, pies and assorted other desserts.
The rest of the menu is impressive for a small cafeteria. It is 14 small pages long. Breakfast is served from 7 to 10 a.m. The choices occupy four pages and include everything from omelets, pancakes, French toast, cereal, fruit salad, fresh juices, eggs prepared any way, ham, sausage, bacon, gallo pinto, bagels and croissants. Only the full Tico breakfast for ¢ 1,200 is more than ¢ 1,000. The other breakfasts averaged about ¢ 800.
Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


Fast foods are served  from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and include hot dogs with fries (¢ 750), cheese or ham burritos with fries (¢ 1,500), burgers with fries
(¢ 2,200-2,400 with bacon or cheese), different kinds of empanadas (¢ 650), muffins (¢ 350) and sandwiches that range from bagel and cream cheese (¢ 550) to plain ham & cheese (¢ 1,700), to a three layered club
(¢ 2,600).
Lunch and dinner are served from noon to 8 p.m. All the main dishes include a small soup or salad, rice or potatoes and cooked vegetables. The fish choices are tilapia grilled or fried with four different sauces
(¢ 3,150-3,400). Chicken breasts also come grilled or fried with a choice of sauces plus a fajita option
 (¢ 3,150-3,400). There are nine pasta dishes including spaghetti, ravioli and fettuccini (¢ 1,850-2,500), six salads (¢ 1,600-2,900) and the soup of the day (¢900) or homemade chicken soup (¢ 1,000). There is also a kid’s menu.
Desserts range from jello (¢ 300) to chocolate cake ala mode (¢ 1,100). In between are pies made from seasonal fruits, apple, coconut custard and lemon meringue. To drink, teas are ¢ 350 and cappuccino
¢ 750 with soft drinks and fruit drinks in between.
**-***, $-$$$, remarkable for a hospital cafeteria.
The country’s newest public hospital, in Alajuela, by contrast, has a large auditorium but no cafeteria at all. There are fruit, soft drink and peanut vendors on the sidewalk out front, a soda 50 meters down the road and a cafeteria in Mas X Menos at the far end of the connected parking lot across the street. Clinica Biblica has only a coffee and sandwich shop in the hospital,  plus an organic soda in the outpatient consultation building across the street and no in-house cafeteria. My dear friend Bill got home Thanksgiving Day after successful surgery (hooray!) and tells me that the patient food at Clinica Biblica is quite good. His doctor apparently didn’t order a taste-free diet.
Do you have any institutional food pearls or poisons to share?
Joan and I visited the national cancer hospital in Hanoi about a dozen years ago. Families had to provide sheets, pillow cases, pillows, blankets, towels and all the food and drink for the patients. They did the laundry as well. For the duration of the lengthy Tet (new year) holiday, the patients were sent home no matter where they were in their treatment and the hospital closed. But, they did have ceiling sprinklers. In the same year, a large hospital in Tiblisi, Georgia, (the former Soviet Union) provided neither bedding nor food, didn’t have sprinklers and mopped the floors with kerosene.
Addendum to the Mangiamo review: The location was inadvertently omitted. It is on the Belén to Santa Ana road in a center called Via Lindora, across the road from India Imports. An e-mail from Jackie said thanks for the tip. She (?he) was disappointed several months ago but delighted with a recent return visit.

A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

Home Calendar Place a 
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 244

Open wide!!

Saturday is the Festival de la Luz, and all over the Central Valley floats (called carrosas in Spanish) are taking shape for the parade.

In the workshop of the Municipalidad de San José, the float has a pre-Columbian theme with giant replicas of gold ornaments from the Museo de Oro.  But the big ones are sculpted from Styrofoam,

At right, Guillermo Matamoros Bolivar, a municipal worker, applies paint to the teeth of a mythical figure from Indian legends.  Some 30 persons are racing the clock. The city's float is 19 meters long, 62 feet.

The parade starts in La Sabana at 6 and works its way up through Avenida 2.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

Engineers and architects agitate for more money for terrible highways
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of engineers and architects wants to haul the Ministerio de Hacienda into court because of its lack of support for the construction and maintenance of highways.

The group is the Programa de Competitividad y Eficiencia en la Construcción, which lashed the ministry and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

The real reason the roads are in such bad shape are not the hurricanes but the incapacity of the consejo, said a statement from the group. Some sections of road have not been maintained for three years, it said. And the consejo takes a year to award a bid, it said.

The ministry gets the blame for failing to provide the funds necessary to do the job, the group said. The coalition includes the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros  y Arquitectos and the Cámara de la Construcción,

This year the ministry guaranteed the necessary resources to the road council knowing full well that it did not have the capacity to do the job, said the coalition.
The coalition also wants the ministry to follow a constitutional court order to provide money collected for roads to the consejo for use in repair and construction. Such funds are from tolls and fuel taxes, but the ministry has been using the money for other purposes.

Meanwhile, the consejo began to do some repairs Thursday on the Interamerican Norte Highway and the stretch between Atenas and Caldera.

The road council has promised to repair 644 kms. of highway through the Costa Rican "summer" that runs until May. That's about 400 miles.

Nearly everyone agrees that Costa Rican roads are in terrible shape and will be a surprise for tourists who come here in the high season.

In fact, many of the highways are dangerous to drive due to large potholes and eroded sides, and many, even in the Central Valley, have no lines showing the various lanes.

A number of accidents have been credited to drivers swerving to avoid large pits.

Castro courting nations
of Caribbean community

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban President Fidel Castro and the leaders of Caribbean nations were meeting Thursday in Barbados, at a session meant to strengthen relations between the Communist island nation and its Caribbean neighbors.

The leaders are expected to discuss cooperation on health care issues, such as Cuba's offer of free eye operations to needy patients in the region. A draft declaration prepared for the summit that includes language calling for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

Castro also was expected to lay a wreath at a memorial to victims of a Cubana Airlines flight that was bombed in 1976 as it took off from Barbados. The prime suspect in the bombing is Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile and former operative for the U.S. Central Intelligence Service.

Colombian bus accident kills 18

By the A.M. Costa rica wire services

A bus accident in central Colombia has killed at least 18 people. A government official in Caldas State said the bus plunged off a cliff Wednesday, falling 300 meters into a ravine. The accident left at least seven people injured.

Jo Stuart
About us

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