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(506) 2223-1327        Published Monday, Dec. 29, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 257       E-mail us
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zapote montage
Scenes at dusk in Zapote and a youngster trying to fly.
zapote overvie2w
Lengthy lines or filas mark entrance to the Tico-style bullfights.
A.M. Costa Rica Photos by Saray Ramírez Vindas
closed down bar
One of the bars that was closed down Sunday
child on ride
Sara Cabrera enjoys a ride

Fiesta goers have to be smart shoppers if they eat
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who goes hungry to the Fiestas de San José better bring money. Although kids rides and some other services are inexpensive, purveyors of food do not seem to have been filled with holiday spirit.

A quick lunch for an adult and child cost 12,000 colons Sunday, thanks, in part, to some creative math by the waitress. That's about $22.

Meanwhile, inspectors for the Ministerio de Salud gave mixed reviews. They confiscated several hundred pounds earlier in the weekend from some of the many food booths due to what they said was fecal contamination. Repeat offenders could be closed down.

In general, the Zapote fairgrounds and food vendors appeared to be clean and well-ordered, as was the rest of the festival, which runs through Jan. 4.

The dining experience was a letdown. Employees seemed to encourage rapid eating, even going so far as to say so. Beer and soda came in plastic cups. (It's 1,500 colons for a 12-ounce soft drink, about $2.22) It's a rule to eliminate dangerous glass, a waitress
said of the plastic. And prices quoted for various plates are not fixed, as a review of the final check showed.

In addition to targeting irresponsible food handlers, health inspectors also were closing down bars, some because of excess noise. The operator of one closed establishment declined to say why, but earlier in the week, the reason was blaring music.

Trash was picked up and receptacles were many. The temporary bathrooms were clean and cost just 300 colons, about 55 U.S. cents, despite the captive patronage. Children's rides cost just 500 colons, about 92 cents, but they were short to maximize the occupancy.

One small roller coaster operator powered children around the tiny track just twice.

There was a heavy concentration of police, both Fuerza Pública and Policía Municipal, and long lines to enter the arena where individuals, despite presumed normal intelligence, cavort with  1,500-pound fighting bulls. In just the first day, Christmas, the Cruz Roja said that 47 of these bull fighters were treated and six were hospitalized.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 257

Costa Rica Expertise
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crack haul
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública photo

 This is the haul police made in Los Diques, Cartago,
 Saturday when they arrested a suspected crack cocaine
 dealer. The man also carried a revolver and nearly
 600,000 colons in cash.



Woman playing Santa
dies from knife slashes


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jealousy got the best of a man in Boca San Carlos about 6 a.m. Sunday, according to investigators. The man, recently separated from his female companion of six years, objected to her going across the Río San Juan to Nicaragua to distribute toys to some young members of her family. The conversation got heated as the 6:30 a.m departure time for a passenger boat drew near.

The man pulled out a knife and began to slash at the woman, said police. They identified her as Aideé Ortiz Espinoza, 26. She died from multiple knife wounds, they said.

The man awaited police in a nearby home, they said. He was identified by the last names of Hernández Álvarez. Police said they recovered the knife.


Slot machines always win
and can spot bogus bills


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Who has never thought about getting revenge on a casino slot machine by using fake money? And who has not figured out that casinos probably have some protection against this scam? Well, the Fuerza Pública said that one man took a chance and got himself arrested early Saturday at the Fiesta Casino in Alajuela.

A police summary identified him as Johan Inncoken  Fontana. The Fuerza Pública reported that they were alerted by the casino management that someone had put four false 10,000-colon bills (about $18.50 each) in a slot machine. They said they found 13 other fake bills on the suspect.

Health agency targeting
neglected Latin diseases


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With more than 210 million poor people bearing the burden of neglected diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization, the Inter-American Development Bank, and partner agencies are setting up a trust fund to control and eliminate these "forgotten" diseases.

Intestinal worm infections, river blindness, leprosy, Chagas disease and schistosomiasis all have an enormous negative impact on developing countries in terms of disease burden, reducing worker productivity and hampering the intellectual and cognitive development of children, said the Pan American Health Organization. The economic impact of these neglected diseases is estimated to be as great as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and they are serious obstacles to socioeconomic development and quality of life at all levels in endemic countries, the Washington-based agency said.

However, tools and cost-effective technologies already exist to control and even eliminate many of them, experts at a recent meeting said. Participants at the meeting came from six countries and they discussed the details of a Latin American and Caribbean trust fund for the prevention, control and elimination of neglected and other infectious diseases.

This group of diseases is the most common cause of infection in some 200 million people in the Americas, including tens of millions of cases of intestinal parasitosis, almost 10 million infected with Chagas’ disease.  Other diseases in this group are lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, helminthic infections transmitted by contact with soil, and human rabies transmitted by dogs.

The health effects of these neglected diseases vary but include anemia, blindness, malnutrition and impaired childhood growth and development, damage to internal organs, permanent long-term physical disability and premature death. Although low-cost, effective interventions are available, the majority of affected people do not have access to them, said the Pan American Health Organization.

Dr. Peter Hotez, coordinator of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, pointed out that international agencies tend to focus on poverty reduction in Africa and Asia, and forget that more than 100 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean live on less than $2 a day.  The neglected diseases, he said, constitute a "perfect storm against the potential for life and development," and while they may not kill people, they severely limit the physical and intellectual potential of millions of children.
 
The Pan American Health Organization and partner agencies are already planning detailed epidemiological mapping of these diseases to establish baselines for elimination efforts. Analyses show that some areas have overlapping incidence of several neglected diseases at the same time, and that soil-transmitted helminths, or intestinal worms, are likely to be present in all countries of the region, the agency said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 257


These bold robbers do not even wait for nightfall
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The day was perfect as we drove from the western side of Desamparados to San José. There is just wispy high clouds in the sky even though the dashboard clock in the taxi said 4:10 p.m.

Along the street in the commercial district, shoppers were out in force. The day was Saturday, the second day after Christmas, and the stores promised big sales. Some pedestrians were returning from the Desamparados carnival and changing buses in the center of the cantón.

But what was that shabbily dressed man doing throwing away a wallet? And why was that little girl crying nearby and trying to get the wallet back?

Could this be a robbery? And who would be low enough to rob a girl about 7?

"At least give me some money back so we can get back home," screamed the girl's father without success.

I called to the men and used the Spanish verb for robbery: Le robaron!  They turned, and the taller of the men, the one who discarded the wallet, turned with anger in his eyes and began lurching for the taxi. His hand went to his waist. A gun, we thought. We were moving slowly in heavy traffic, and the best we could do was roll up the windows and lock the door.

But the taxi driver saw a Fuerza Pública patrol car headed the other way. Braving a fender-bender or
robber

worse, he popped the clutch and executed a sharp U-turn to put his vehicle alongside the police car.

We pointed out the robbers. Later we found out that there were three, but one suspect got away. The police took some convincing, but then they swooped down on the robbers and arrested two. No gun in the waistband. It was a knife. Police officers also found folded money taken from the father.

The victims fled. We last saw the criminal pair in handcuffs, and we hoped that they would at least spend a night in a cell. That's a small punishment for robbing a 7 year old and her dad.

But without a formal complaint from victims they likely are out on the street again, perhaps ready for another first-person encounter with crime in the view of an A.M. Costa Rica staffer.



But what do the horses get to drink at the Tope Nacional?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Time was when the Tope Nacional was part of the carnival parade that terminated at Plaza Víquez and the holiday fiesta.

The tope, the annual horse parade, managed to continue even as the fiesta moved to Zapote and the annual carnival expired three years ago, perhaps due to too much bare skin.

What they lack in direction, the riders and spectators make up in beer drinking.  In fact, the tope has become the city's largest open air drinking spree. The horse parade Friday gave a lot of business leaders, politicians and office workers a reason to dress up in western garb. And it created a bonanza for those homeless men who dig aluminum from trash cans.

In all, more than 5,000 riders participated. Nobody counted the beer cans, but there were many more empties than riders. Some spectators brought case-plus coolers.

It did not hurt that the day was bright and sunny with a wind that whipped up a thirst.

Despite the brews, there were few problems. The Cruz Rojas said it treated 19, and two persons had to be hospitalized.
tope 2008
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Rider awaits friends at turn in the parade route

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 257


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Christmas shopping report suggests plenty of belt tightening
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. retailers are slashing prices in a desperate bid to make money, while new data on industrial production is sparking concerns about one of Asia's leading economies.

Stores in the United States opened early Friday, offering discounts of as much as 70 percent in hopes of salvaging a disappointing holiday shopping season.

U.S. stores depend on sales in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday Thursday, Dec. 25, to make a profit for the year. But the research firm ShopperTrak says customer visits to retail stores before Christmas dropped 24 percent compared to last year. Another survey by MasterCard's Spending Pulse finds retail sales plunged by as much as 4 percent.

There are also signs sliding demand is taking a toll on Japan's export-driven economy.

Japan says industrial output plunged more than 8 percent in November from the previous month, the largest drop on record, prompting some economists to warn the industrial production is "falling off a cliff."

Japan's ministry of economy, trade and industry says
decreases in production of transportation equipment, general machinery and electronics parts contributed to the overall decline.

Economists in the United States, the world's largest economy, warn the global recession is forcing Americans to limit spending to products they really need. As a result, an industry trade group, the International Council of Shopping Centers, says retailers could experience the worst holiday shopping season in 40 years.

Comscore, a company that tracks Internet sales, says consumers also appear to be spending less money online.

Despite an economic meltdown that has battered the global economy, Palestinian leaders say the Christmas holiday is giving one town a significant boost.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born, officials say hotels were booked and that more than one million tourists will have visited the town by the end of the year — the best showing in nearly a decade.

Meanwhile, Russia's ruble hit a three-year low against the dollar, after officials devalued the currency for the 11th time in the past two months.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 257




A.M. Costa Rica

users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics
A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.



Global warming linked
to high tropical clouds


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The frequency of extremely high clouds in earth's tropics — the type associated with severe storms and rainfall — is increasing as a result of global warming, according to a study by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

In a presentation to the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Hartmut Aumann, a Jet Propulsion senior scientist, outlined the results of a study based on five years of data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrument on Aqua spacecraft of the National Aeronautics and Space Admininstration. The data were used to observe certain types of tropical clouds linked with severe storms, torrential rain and hail. The instrument typically detects about 6,000 of these clouds each day.

Aumann and his team found a strong correlation between the frequency of these clouds and seasonal variations in the average sea surface temperature of the tropical oceans.

For every degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average ocean surface temperature, the team observed a 45-percent increase in the frequency of the very high clouds. At the present rate of global warming of  0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, the team inferred the frequency of these storms can be expected to increase by 6 percent per decade.

Climate modelers have long speculated that the frequency and intensity of severe storms may or may not increase with global warming. Aumann said results of the study will help improve their models.

"Clouds and rain have been the weakest link in climate prediction," said Aumann. "The interaction between the daytime warming of the sea surface under clear-sky conditions and increases in the formation of low clouds, high clouds and, ultimately, rain is very complicated. The high clouds in our observations—typically at altitudes of 20 kilometers (12 miles) and higher — present the greatest difficulties for current climate models, which aren't able to resolve cloud structures smaller than about 250 kilometers (155 miles) in size."

Aumann said the results of his study, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, are consistent with another study by Frank Wentz and colleagues in 2005. That study found an increase in the global rain rate of 1.5 percent per decade over 18 years, a value that is about five times higher than the value estimated by climate models that were used in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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