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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 245                        Email us
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Envoy from Iran makings rounds with Latin friends
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A top Iranian diplomat is making the rounds of friendly countries in Latin America in what U.S. observers believe is another effort to establish more influence in the area and solidify supply lines.

The diplomat is Ali Asghar Khaji, the deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs. His trip was announced by the Fars News Agency in Iran, which said he would visit Bolivia, Cuba, and Uruguay.

The deputy foreign minister was in Bolivia last week. He met with Bolivian President Evo Morales and held a press conference Friday. Among other comments, the Iranian said that aid from his country to Bolivia was more than $1.2 billion since relations were established in 2007.

The Iranian diplomat also said that there would be additional contacts by experts from his country with the goal of training Bolivian law enforcement officers in anti-drug strategies.

The visit comes while an Iranian proxy, the Hamas terrorist group, celebrates 25 years of existence in the Gaza Strip. The deputy foreign minister is believed to be counting on friendly Latin countries to counter the trade blockades that many nations have placed on Iran due to its nuclear program. So the visit is wrapped up in Mideast politics, too.

The Iranian news service noted that Bolivia and Cuba are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, known as ALBA. This is a union of eight Latin American states that has been stitched together by Venezuela President Hugo Chávez to counter U.S. influence in the area.

The influential Middle East Quarterly said that Iran is believed to be extracting uranium from 11 different sites in Bolivia. Most First World nations are trying to prevent Iran from successfully building an atomic bomb because such a weapon probably would be used against Israel with major world consequences. The main theme of the Hamas celebrations in the Gaza Strip is the elimination of Israel.

Hamas political chief Khaled Meshel said in a speech that Israel is not legitimate. The celebration came after Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israel and the Israelis retaliated with bombs. Some 15 persons died in Gaza, and so did eight Israelis, according to BBC news service reports. The Israelis say the rockets were smuggled in from Iran.

U.S. officials have long expressed concern that
Ali Asghar Khaji                 Evo Morales   

Iran was developing bases in Latin America for eventual attacks on U.S. soil.

The Middle East Quarterly noted that U.S. officials attribute to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps the unsuccessful plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington with the use of gunmen from the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has visited Latin America, including Nicaragua. That was the country where rumors surfaced in September that another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, was setting up a training camp. That report came from Israeli news media and was never validated.

Nevertheless, the U. S. House of Representatives  passed unanimously a resolution demanding that the U.S. government thwart Iran's attempts to establish relationships with countries in the Western Hemisphere. In House debate, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat from New York, said that Hezbollah has 80 operatives in Latin America and is active in 15 American cities.

In the bill, numerous countries are named as having publicly expressed a willingness to help Iran evade economic sanctions, including Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In La Paz, the Iranian deputy foreign minster noted that visits by officials from his country generate criticism in the United States. He characterized his visit as one of peace and friendship.

Iran may be about to suffer a setback because Venezuelan President Chávez, the strongest Latin supporter, is back in Cuba for another cancer operation. Iran is reported to have some $20 billion in annual trade with Venezuela that might be jeopardized with a change in the leadership. If Chávez is unable to serve, a new presidential election could be called within 30 days.

Before leaving to Cuba for his operation, Chávez designated Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor, but Maduro has no where near the charisma as Chávez, and he is not as strong an election candidate.

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Rounded flag marks epicenter of Sunday morning quake.

Two sections of country see
a flurry of moderate quakes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend saw flurries of earthquakes in two areas.

The first was north of San José. There was one event at 3:20 a.m. reported by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica at Universidad Nacional in Heredia to be three kilometers northeast of Bajo la Hondura de Moravia. The magnitude was listed as 3.4. The Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica at the Universidad de Costa Rica said 3.8, as did the Red Sismológica Nacional at the same university.

That quake followed one at 10:57 Saturday night that was listed at 3.2 magnitude by the Red.

The estimated locations of the epicenters appear to be within Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo.

The second location where quakes placed was in the vicinity of  San Vito de Coto Brus near the border with Panamá.

The Red Sismológica Nacional said that one there at 8:09 a.m. had a magnitude of 4.0, one at 8:13 a.m. had a magnitude of 3.6 and that one at 8:20 a.m. registered 3.2. Another at 4:58 p.m. had a magnitude of 3.1, said the Red.

The Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica generally agreed on the magnitudes.

Our readers' opinions
Jacó is ready for big party
if Flamingo doesn't want it

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

If Flamingo Beach is tired of hosting a big New Year's party, why go where you are unwanted?  Jacó Beach is more than capable of  hosting the biggest party this country can throw.  We have excellent infrastructure with a 25-meter wide paved main street and five paved access roads off the Costanera, many good restaurants and lots of hotels in all quality and price ranges.  Be forewarned, the prices here are higher than San José and rooms fill up fast so you will need reservations.

Last year I spent my first New Year's Eve in Jacó after 20 years alternating between San José and Guanacaste's beaches.  Except for the spectacular 2000 New Year's firework show and concert on Avenida Secunda in San José, I have never seen such a good firework show as in Jacó. Every single beachfront hotel and condominium had its own firework display. So at midnight, the beach was full of revilers who were treated to a spectacular two-kilometer-long show.  The hooligans and come huevos should note however that our efficient and effective police force has been doubled in numbers and will be augmented by reinforcements for the holidays so malcriados will be put down quickly.

Thomas Ghormley H.
Playa Jacó, Puntarenas

To understand currency trends,
look beyond government

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

George Chapogas is right on mark in all said.  The currency war is in full engagement, and Costa Rica is really powerless but to match the money creation and inflation of others, to the adverse affect of its own people.   I would only add (and it is quite possible George understands this), to look further beyond the governments and look carefully at who controls governments.  If your reading this — well, with all respect because I've been there — you need wake up. Pura vida. 
Albert Lusk
San Isidro, Heredia

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 245
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Judiciary taking over data base that can restrict expat travel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial will put into service next month a computer system that contains the names of those who cannot leave the country.

The so called impedimento de salida is a judicial hold that keeps persons involved in court cases from leaving Costa Rica. It also is used by the courts to keep persons here who owe child support, called a pension alimentaria. The judiciary is supposed to be debugging the program and verifying names this month.

The obligation to do so has been delegated to the various regional judicial offices.

The new system is called Sistema de Obligados Alimentarios y Penal. It replaces a system that was under the control of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Although the names of persons who are barred from leaving the country will be on the data base, the Poder Judicial did not say that the public would have access. It said that a system has been set up to allow access to court and immigration workers.

Typically those who cannot leave the country find out when they try to do so. There is no obligation by the Poder Judicial to notify persons who have been restricted, although many know
from the type of court case in which they are involved.

This system of restriction has been used by lawyers to apply pressure to those they are bringing into court. A Florida lawyer says in a court case there that lawyers here used the system to keep him from leaving on a honeymoon and says the barrier to leaving was really an attempt to extort him.

A lawyer tried without success to restrict the movements of A.M. Costa Rica editors as a preliminary to a criminal libel case. A judge did not agree, and eventually the entire case was dismissed.

There have been some horror stories about the current system. In one case a man was barred from leaving for Panamá by land because of a 20-year-old case. He had to return to San José and spend time having his name removed from the list. This is one reason the Poder Judicial is asking court offices to verify the names on the list.

Expats who are the father of a child here or have been named by a pregnant woman as the likely father may find their names on the list if there is a child support case in the courts. In order to have their name removed from the list, a man designated as a father in a judicial proceeding has to post a large amount of money in order to be able to travel abroad. The amount may be many months of future child support.

Four persons held as suspects in underage prostitution ring
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial police arrested four persons Friday, three siblings and a taxi driver whom they suspect of running a prostitution ring offering minors as young as 10 years old.

Although the ring was based in La Carpio, agents said they believe that those involved in the ring sent youngsters out to  solicit business on the south side of downtown San José, according to a bulletin from the Judicial Investigating Organization.

A judicial spokesperson said Friday that police had rescued four underage women from the ring, and said that these women received minimum pay but did not specify how much that was.

Judicial officials identified the three siblings in custody as Blanca, Hellen and Edwin Hernández. They are in their 20s. 

The 32-year-old taxi driver was identified only by the last name of Bejarano.

Police began investigating several months ago after they were tipped off about the ring.

The bulletin said that the trio recruited underage women between the ages of 10 and 17 in the slum of La Carpio in La Uruca. It added that agents believe that the three persons preyed on vulnerable young women, deceived them and forced them to live in their house with them.

Investigators said that these women were rented to clients at any and all times of the day as customers were recruited.
Officials said that these are classic tactics used in these situations. They said that keeping the girls in the house while intimidating them and threatening them and their families with physical harm keeps the girls both submissive and dependent on their captors.

The report said that the the operators of the prostitution ring looked for clients along Avenidas 14 and 16 in San José, offering prices between 25,000 and 50,000 colons.  The three
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
A member of the Hernández family is led to prosecutors.

suspects were arrested at their home in La Carpio in a raid there Friday morning.

The taxi driver Bejarano was arrested that same morning at his home in Barrio el Pilar in Guadalupe. Agents said that he is suspected of being the exclusive driver for the ring and knowingly took young women to the homes of clients.

The area in the south side of San José is well known for sex trafficking activities, particularly at night.

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Howler monkey study outlines problems in human research
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Did different species of early humans interbreed and produce offspring of mixed ancestry?

Recent genetic studies suggest that Neanderthals may have bred with anatomically modern humans tens of thousands of years ago in the Middle East, contributing to the modern human gene pool. But the findings are not universally accepted, and the fossil record has not helped to clarify the role of interbreeding, which is also known as hybridization.

Now a University of Michigan-led study of interbreeding between two species of modern-day howler monkeys in Mexico is shedding light on why it’s so difficult to confirm instances of hybridization among primates – including early humans – by relying on fossil remains.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is based on analyses of genetic and morphological data collected from live-captured monkeys over the past decade. Morphology is the branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of animals and plants.

The two primate species in the study, mantled howler monkeys and black howler monkeys, diverged about 3 million years ago and differ in many respects, including behavior, appearance and the number of chromosomes they possess. Each occupies a unique geographical distribution except for the state of Tabasco in southeastern Mexico, where they coexist and interbreed in what’s known as a hybrid zone.

The researchers found that individuals of mixed ancestry who share most of their genome with one of the two species are physically indistinguishable from the pure individuals of that species.

“The implications of these results are that physical features are not always reliable for identifying individuals of hybrid ancestry. Therefore, it is possible that hybridization has been underestimated in the human fossil record,” said Liliana Cortés-Ortiz, an evolutionary biologist and primatologist and an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Museum of Zoology.

First author of the paper is Mary Kelaita, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Department of Anthropology. The howler monkey study was part of Ms. Kelaita’s doctoral dissertation work.

For years, anthropologists have attempted to infer hybridization among human ancestral species based on the fossil record, which represents only a snapshot in prehistory, and have concluded that hybridization is extremely rare, according to Ms. Kelaita and Ms. Cortés-Ortiz. Given the utility of living primate models for understanding human evolution, the howler monkey study “suggests that the lack of strong evidence for hybridization in the fossil record does not negate the role it could have played in shaping early human lineage diversity,” Ms. Kelaita said.

The authors conclude that the process of hybridization (defined as the production of offspring through the interbreeding between individuals of genetically distinct populations), the factors governing the expression of morphology in hybrid individuals, and the extent of reproductive isolation between
howler monkey
2003 file photo by Carol Phillips
Howler is photographed at Playa Potrero

species should be given further consideration in future research projects.

In their study, Ms. Kelaita and Ms. Cortés-Ortiz analyzed different types of genetic markers, from both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, to trace the ancestry of each howler monkey they studied. The use of molecular markers made it possible to approximate the relative genetic contributions of the parental species to each hybrid.

A total of 128 hybrid individuals were detected. Ms. Kelaita and Ms. Cortés-Ortiz found that most were likely the product of several generations of hybridization or of mating between hybrids and pure individuals.

Subsequently, they performed statistical analyses on body measurements and found a large amount of morphological variation in individuals of mixed ancestry. However, when individuals were classified according to the amount of their genome they shared with each parental species, it became clear that individuals of mixed ancestry that shared most of their genome with one of the species were physically indistinguishable from the pure individuals of that species. Even individuals that were more intermediate in their genetic composition were not completely intermediate in their appearance.

The study is the first to assess genetic ancestry of primate hybrids inhabiting a natural hybrid zone using molecular data to explain morphological variation.

Between 1998 and 2008, the researchers sampled the 135 adult howler monkeys from Tabasco, Mexico, along with 76 others from Veracruz, Campeche, Chiapas and Quintana Roo states in Mexico and Peten in Guatemala. The field team collected blood, hair and morphometric measurements from the anesthetized animals before releasing them in the same locations.

The animals were weighed, and 16 body-part measurements were made.

Howler monkeys are among the largest of New World monkeys, with male mantled howlers weighing up to 22 pounds. Fourteen species of howler monkeys are currently recognized. They are native to Central and South American forests, in addition to southeastern Mexico.

Judicial agents say that an angry motorist ran down four persons
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 15-year-old died and three other persons suffered serious injuries in San Francisco de Cartago Saturday night as the victims of an angry motorist, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Agents said that the situation began when a man was arguing
with a person in a street. The man became angry and got in the car and began the vehicle and then drove up on the sidewalk where the 15-year-old was walking with a friend. After they were struck down the car continued further and struck two other persons on a sidewalk, said agents.

Other persons in the area were able to detain the driver until police arrived, said judicial agents.

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Obama and top Republican
in first face-to-face meeting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama met with the U.S. Congress’ top Republican Sunday in search of a deficit-reduction package that would prevent substantial spending cuts and tax increases from going into effect on Jan. 1.

The Republican is  House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

Sunday’s meeting at the White House marked the first face-to-face debt discussions between Obama and Boehner in nearly a month.  After their first encounter, the White House and Boehner made opening bids on a debt-reduction package that would avert the so-called fiscal cliff.  Each side rejected the other’s offer as unacceptable, a stance that lawmakers voiced on U.S. television only hours before the Obama-Boehner meeting.

“Unfortunately, what we see out of the president is my way or the highway," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling. Appearing on ABC’s "This Week" program, Hensarling, a Republican, said the stumbling block to a deal is Obama’s insistence on higher tax rates.

“No Republican wants to vote for a tax-rate increase," he said.

But some Republicans say they would accept higher taxes on the wealthy in return for reforms to programs that provide health care and income for retirees.  Sen. Tom Coburn also appeared on "This Week." “Will I accept a tax increase as part of a deal to actually solve our problems?  Yes," he said.

Coburn insists tax hikes alone will not solve America’s trillion-dollar annual federal deficit. But just as many Republicans dislike tax hikes, many Democrats are reluctant to reform programs relied on by retirees, as well as the poor and vulnerable.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, said it is unjust to ask middle- and lower-income Americans to bear the burden of deficit reduction after a decade of rising income inequality between the wealthy and everyone else. “And now we are being asked to go back to the same people who have endured this crisis, and ask them to pay up again.  No," he said.

President Obama has urged Congress to extend existing tax breaks for all income under $250,000 a year, an idea that has the backing of Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat.

“At the end of this year, if the House of Representatives does not pass the middle-class tax cut, we are going to see middle-class families across this country paying at least $2,200 more in taxes they cannot afford," he said.

If lawmakers do not reach a debt agreement, federal taxes will rise for all income groups, and domestic and military spending will be cut across the board beginning Jan. 1.  Economists believe an austerity jolt of that magnitude could send the U.S. economy back into recession.

Venezuela's Chávez returns
to Cuba for new operation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is returning to Cuba for more surgery, after a recurrence of cancer led him to name his vice president as his chosen successor should the disease force him from office.

Chávez, who was re-elected in October, acknowledged the seriousness of his situation in a televised address late Saturday.  He said Vice President Nicolas Maduro would take over if he is incapacitated and urged supporters to vote for Maduro if an election were held.

The South American leader said his Cuban medical team told him it is absolutely necessary that he undergo the new operation.

More than 1,000 supporters of the 58-year-old Chavez gathered Sunday in downtown Caracas to show solidarity, while lawmakers unanimously agreed to grant him permission to leave the country for treatment.  

While lacking the president's charisma, Maduro is popular among Chávez supporters because of his close ties to the president.  The 50-year-old former bus driver and trade unionist has been foreign minister since 2006 and was named vice president in October.

Chávez, who just returned from Cuba early Friday, said tests had found a return of some malignant cells in the same area where tumors were previously removed.  He said his doctors had recommended he have the surgery right away, but that he had told them he wanted to return to Venezuela first.

The socialist leader has undergone two operations in Cuba to remove tumors from his pelvic region.  He has also had chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  The president has never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer.

President Chavez is scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10.  He has been in office for nearly 14 years, since 1999.  His departure from office would trigger an election within 30 days.

U.S. Supreme Court to weigh
two same-sex marriage cases

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The ability of same-sex U.S. couples to legally marry and whether the federal government must recognize those unions could be decided now that the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear two landmark cases on gay marriage.

One case concerns the constitutionality of a voter referendum banning homosexual marriage in California. The other concerns the constitutionality of a federal law that excludes same-sex couples from receiving government benefits.

Same-sex couples are getting marriage licenses in Washington state, where voters approved gay marriage in November. But their unions are not federally-recognized.  That could change, thanks to Edie Windsor, who contested federal taxes she was charged on property she inherited from her wife after 42 years together.

"I look forward to the day when the federal government will recognize the marriages of all Americans.  And I am hoping that will happen during my lifetime," she said.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after lower courts declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.  Critics of the law include U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

“Same-sex couples live their lives like all marriage couples.  They share financial expenses; they raise children together; they care for each other in good times and in bad," she said.

Congressionally-appointed attorneys will defend the law before the Supreme Court.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 245
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Transatlantic race organizers
decide to finish in Brazil

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Transat Jacques Vabre announced officialy Saturday that next year the ocean-going racing sailboats will go to the coastal port of Itajai in Brasil,

Costa Rican tourist officials hoped the race would again end in Limón as it did in November 2009 and in 2011.

As usual the starting point will be Le Havre, France. Sailors will have to travel 5,395 nautical miles to Brazil, and the victory is based on the construction of the boat, the course selected by the crew, the weather and luck.

There are three classes of sailboats in the race, 40 or 60 foot monohulls and 50-foot multihulls, and three victors at the end. This is the 20th anniversary of the race, which takes place every two years.

The original race was designed to follow the route taken by coffee boats that sailed from Brazil to France.

Tourism officials promoted the race heavily in 2009 and 2011, and tourism operators all along the Caribbean coast benefited from the influx.

New shelter for children
ready to go into service

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a new shelter for children in Grecia. The Patronato Nacional de la Infancia has reached agreement with a local organization to operate the facility for five years.

The structure has five dormitories and other facilities to care for up to 15 youngsters. The Patronato is the child welfare agency.

The local Asociación Manos Unidas de Grecia received 132 million colons, about $264,000 from the Junta de Protección Social de San José to build the shelter. The Junta runs the national lottery.

Latin American police
will convene here next year

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will host leaders of 18 countries in Latin America, said Juan José Andrade Morales Sunday. He is director general of the Fuerza Pública.

The annual meeting of the group called Ameripol will be in the last half of the year with exact dates yet to be determined. This will be the sixth annual meeting of the group.

The decision to meet in Costa Rica came at the organization's last gathering in the Dominican Republic.

Christmas show in Dominical

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dominical residents can enjoy "A Christmas Carol Extravaganza" playing at Hotel Roca Verde tonight at 7 o'clock and also Wednesday and Thursday at the same time. Tickets are available at the Uvita Information Center at 2743-8889, said an announcement.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 245
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Keira Knightley plays the doomed Karenina

Holiday movie offerings range
from classic to fables to fantasy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Lights, Camera, Action. Hollywood often puts out its best work to celebrate the holidays and to prepare the stage for the Oscars. From action-packed thrillers, to rich classics and larger-than-life fables, these films transport audiences for a few hours into far away and fantastical worlds.

Director Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," based on the Tolstoy novel, is a quintessential holiday production. It offers rich costumes, enchanting music, and stellar actors.

“The rules of a period film have been completely broken. 'Anna Karenina' is a story that has been done a lot. What is the point in doing a safe adaptation?” asks Keira Knightley, who plays the doomed Karenina.

She is a married woman of social stature who falls in love with cavalry officer Count Vronsky. Their affair goes against the grain of a seemingly virtuous society, and Anna pays the consequences.

In his film, Wright emphasizes the pretense of 19th century Russian aristocracy. He stages Anna Karenina’s world in a controlled space that is lavish, but claustrophobic, and tragic.

"Life of Pi," about survival and faith, is more upbeat. It's also adapted from a book, and it requires a willing suspension of disbelief. For the shots in the boat, the production team created a digital tiger. Oscar winning director Ang Lee enchants the audience with his other-worldly cinematography.

Those who like an intelligent plot have hailed "Argo," a spy drama. Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, undertakes to smuggle six American diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.

The film is directed by Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who also stars as Mendez. It's based on a true story that is so unbelievable it feels like fiction.

"The Hobbit," also coming out this holiday season, is a fantasy. With this prequel, director Peter Jackson promises a spectacle for the millions of fans of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and J.R.R. Tolkien's novel.
The holiday films will be capped by the musical "Les Miserables," directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper. Unlike "Anna Karenina," Hooper's adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic is traditional and sticks close to the book.

The famous cast, including Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, doesn't skip a note of the original score. The film, about brotherly love and redemption, reflects the holiday spirit. 

These movies and more not only have the ingredients for a lucrative season at the box office. They also raise the curtain on January's Academy Award nominations.

Climate conference in Doha ends
pretty much with the status quo

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nearly 200 countries that took part in United Nations climate talks in Doha have agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol through 2020. The 1997 agreement, which requires industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, had been set to expire on Dec. 31.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the conference.  But Ban's spokesperson says the secretary general believes "far more needs to be done."  A U.N. statement said Ban calls on governments, businesses, civil society and citizens to accelerate action on the ground in order to limit the rise in global temperature to the international target of 2 degrees C.

Jennifer Morgan, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Washington-based research center World Resources Institute, agreed that nations must do more.  She said the agreement reached Saturday is "far from what is needed" to tackle the problem.

"There was really no additional ambition that came in to the conference," said Morgan.  "There were a few important announcements by the Dominican Republic and Lebanon of their plans to reduce emissions, but none of the big countries did."

Negotiations will now move forward on a new legally-binding agreement that applies to all countries. The aim is to adopt the treaty by 2015. It would take effect in 2020 as a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.

Although the progress made in Doha was less than hoped, Ms. Morgan said the 12-day conference turned a new page in the climate talks, streamlining the discussions from several tracks of negotiations into one. She said it sets the stage for more ambitious commitments in the future.

"Although these negotiations are very disappointing in a way, I think it's important to point to where the change needs to occur, and I can say that if certain large countries, whether that be the U.S. or Europe or China or Japan, were to change their stance towards these negotiations, they would happen a lot faster, and I'm pretty sure there would be much more ambition," she said.

The conference was due to end Friday, but it was extended into Saturday because delegates remained divided over how to stop climate change and how to pay for it.

Developing countries were pushing to extend the Kyoto Protocol. They also called for firm commitments from developed nations to boost aid for them to $100 billion annually by 2020, a general pledge that was made three years ago.  But rich nations, including the United States, have not been willing to commit to specific funding targets.

The United States has never ratified the Kyoto agreement. Other countries opting out of the extension include Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia. The abstentions mean the second phase of the protocol will only cover developed nations that are responsible for 15 percent or less of global emissions.

A spate of scientific reports released during the two-week meeting provided compelling new evidence that the Earth's climate is warming.  They also predicted dire consequences — from rising sea levels to more severe droughts, floods and storms — unless action is taken to reduce climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Food allergies linked to pest killers

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Food allergies are on the rise globally, and a new report says the culprit could be increasing worldwide exposure to dichlorophenols, chemicals used in agricultural pest-killers and in the chlorine used to disinfect drinking water. 
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies to foods such as milk, wheat, peanuts, soy and shellfish shot up 18 percent in the United States between 1997 and 2007.
Other studies have shown that environmental pollution is on the rise. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York suggest there is a link between the two trends.
They analyzed health data from the 2005-2006 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which more than 10,000 Americans took part. The researchers identified more than 2,500 individuals with measurable levels of dichlorophenols — chemicals found in pesticides and chlorinated water — in their urine. The study team, led by allergist and immunologist Elina Jerschow, narrowed their sample down to 2,200. Out of this group, Ms. Jerschow says, 411 of the subjects had some sort of food allergy.
“People who had high levels of dichlorophenols were about 80 percent more likely to have allergic sensitization to foods than people who had low levels of dichlorophenols in the urine," she said.
The team found that more than a thousand of the participants had an environmental allergy that was not linked to the chemicals.

Useful links
Foreign Embassies
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Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
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