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These stories were published Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 258
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Asian tsunami similar to 1992 Nicaraguan wave
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The disastrous tidal wave that killed up to 60,000 in India and southeast Asia has Costa Ricans nervous. A similar tsunami hit the coast of neighboring Nicaragua in 1992 and killed 170 persons.

Both the Asian waves and those that hit Nicaragua have their origins in undersea earthquakes. The Coco and the Caribe tectonic plates meet a few miles offshore in the Pacific. The pressure between the plates is responsible for much of the country’s well-known seismic activity.

Over the entire area satellites and earth stations await signs of a 6 or greater magnitude quake at sea. Such an event triggers warnings in Costa Rica and generates an additional warning from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Costa Rican officials say they will increase by five the number of warning stations in the next years as a result of the disaster in Asia. The government of Germany will be helping, as will the Universidad de Costa Rica. The devices will be placed on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.

The Nicaraguan quake hit at 7:15 p.m. local time Sept. 1, 1992. Some 45 minutes later waves of from 4 meters (13 feet) to 10 meters (32.5) crashed into the coast. The damage was so bad that the United Nations said the coastal areas suffered negative long-term economic and social effects. The Costa Rican Coast south to Playas del Coco and Octal also experienced the waves, but the height did not exceed two meters (6.5 feet), scientists said later.

Nicaragua has erected a memorial at El Transito where the highest waves were recorded. The community is about the midpoint on the country's Pacific coast.

Scientists have catalogued some 50 tsunamis in Central America since 1539. They occur on both coasts, although more take place on the pacific side. One even was recorded in 1844 within Lake Nicaragua. The most recent was a small tsunami Jan. 13, 2001 on the coast of El Salvador.

The quake that spawned the deadly Nicaraguan wave was a sneaky one. Although the magnitude is estimated at 7.6, it did not deliver a sharp shock. All the damage caused in Nicaragua came from the tidal waves and not the quake, said Wilfried Strauch in a study of Central American quakes citing a 1997 list by Enrique Molina.

The speed with which the waves reached land also suggests that even the most efficient early warning system would still leave many  unprepared.

In Costa Rica, some 22,000 persons live in Puntarenas, a 10-km. spit of sand which is, at best, two to three meters above sea level. That’s 6.5 to 9.75 feet. A 30-foot wave would wipe out the city.

Photo courtesy Instituto Nicaragüense
de Estudios Territoriales
Monument to victims in El Transito

Graphic by the Observatorio Vulcanológico y   Sismológico de Costa Rica 
  The green Caribe plate clashes with the
  pink Coco plate in this rendering of 
  subsurface tectonic activity.

However, an academic, Nicolás Chen-Apuy Cabalceta, concluded in a study of the area that islands in the Gulf of Nicoya and the Nicoya Peninsula itself would offer protection to Puntarenas.  The town is most vulnerable to waves generated to the southwest near Colombia. The area was hit by a small tsunami in 1952. One hit Dominical in 1941.

The subject is a current one among scientists. A University of Costa Rica professor gave a seminar in October using a simulation of a tsunami hitting Puntarenas.

On the Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero, the tourist mecca, also occupies a sand bar of minimal altitude. Down the Pacific coast intensive construction is taking place. Costa Rica restricts construction on the first 200 meters (650 feet) of beach above high tide.

Experts recommend concrete reinforced construction to avoid major damage. They warn that each wave is different, and some even arrive slowly and cause little damage. 

For long-term solutions they advise transplanting populations to higher grounds, as was done with survivors in El Transito after the Nicaraguan tidal wave.


 

Graphic courtesy Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales
As the depth of the ocean water lessens, the speed of the wave is reduced, too, but the height increases proportionally.
 
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Terrorist massacre rachets
up conflict in Honduras

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bloody massacre of bus passengers Thursday in Honduras represents a new level of violence associated with criminal gangs in that country.

President Ricardo Maduro said Tuesday that a violent gang is responsible for the attack that left 28 persons dead. Police blamed the Salvatrucha for the attack and arrested one man who was a presumed member.

The significance of the attack is that hostile elements inside Honduras are trying to effect political change by using terror. The gangs are said to be unhappy with the hard line the Maduro government has taken against crime. That description is based on the contents of a note the three killers left on the bus after the attack.

Criminal street gangs which are common in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are reported to be recruiting to the south. Police officials in Costa Rica have held a number of seminars on the maras or gangs.

In addition, they have taken a hard line against certain locally organized gangs, mainly in Pavas.

Maduro ordered army troops into the street to protect key structures after the attack. The militarization of everyday life is similar to what has happened in Colombia.

In that country, too, terror tactics have become an art form with bombings, assassinations and kidnappings. U.S. and Colombian officials say that one-time rebels have simply become international drug dealers and that a war once fought for political aims is now being fought to protect the drug business.

Gunmen opened fire on the public bus as it traveled through San Pedro Sula. The bus was full of shoppers on their way home with Christmas gifts, children and workers headed home from their jobs. 

The gunmen simply riddled the bus with bullets, some from automatic weapons. 
 

Limón area woman
found floating in sea

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workmen found the body of a 23-year-old Limón area woman Tuesday. She was floating in the sea.

Investigators identified her as Grettel Brawon Briones, the wife of a fisherman at Playa de Piuta. The woman had been shot twice in the back of the neck and once in the side of the head. 

Her husband said that he arrived home from fishing to find his wife missing and the house showing signs of a search. The woman leaves two children, 2 and 4.

Meanwhile, in San Antonio de Escazú, the body of Rafael  Ángel Salas Miranda, 44, was found about 7 a.m. Tuesday just 100 meters from the Escuela Benjamín Núñez. He suffred a blow on the head, either from an attack or from a fall, investigators said. An autopsy will attempt to determine the manner and cause of death.
 
 

No break for A.M. Costa Rica 

The news does not stop, and our readers come first. 

So A.M. Costa Rica will publish every day this week. Christmas and New Year’s are the two days a year 
that this newspaper does not publish. But this year the 
two holidays fall on Saturday, a day when A.M. Costa Rica does not publish. 

We also are aware that persons all over the world rely on us for breaking news, such as the early Christmas Day 
earthquake last year.
 
 
A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.

James J. Brodell........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas...associate editor

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     A.M. Costa Rica                           Consultantes Río Colo.
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Pot 
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Light showers Tuesday provided the fixings for this afternoon rainbow in the hills north of San José. The photo was taken near Parque la Paz in the southern part of the city.
 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas

 
Alzheimer's memory loss is blamed on tiny protein
By the Northwestern University news service

EVANSTON, Ill. — Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a molecular mechanism — a tiny protein attacking nerve cells — that could explain why the brain damage in early Alzheimer’s disease results in memory loss and not other symptoms such as loss of balance or tremors.

The research team, led by William L. Klein, professor of neurobiology and physiology, found that toxic proteins, called "amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligands" from the brain tissue of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease specifically attack and disrupt synapses, the nerve cell sites responsible for information processing and memory formation.

These results, which show that only particular neurons and synapses are targeted by the neurotoxins, were published in the Journal of Neuroscience. An understanding of how these proteins disrupt synapses without killing neurons could lead to the development of new therapeutic drugs capable of reversing memory loss in patients who are treated early, in addition to preventing or delaying the disease.

"Memory starts at synapses, so it was probable that Alzheimer’s disease would be a synapse failure," said Klein. 

Why is the damage so specific to memory? It seems that the proteins bind to some synapses and not others, a very specific attack, said Klein. 

Last year Klein and his colleagues were the first to discover and report the presence of the amyloid protein in humans. They found up to 70 times more of the toxic proteins in the brain tissue of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease compared to that of normal individuals.

In the current study, the research team used both protein obtained from human brain tissue and some synthesized in the laboratory. Experiments showed that regardless of origin the substance showed the same pattern of binding to synapses on specific neurons. 

The clinical data strongly support a recent theory in which the protein accumulates at the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease and blocks memory function by a process predicted to be reversible.


 
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