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Vol. 3 • Edition 174 • Weekly • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009 • Costa Rica, Central America •


global affairs

P. 20

Economic crisis picture wins World Press Photo award



American Anthony Suau won the World Press Photo award for a picture of a home being seized in the U.S. sub-prime crisis while Agence France-Presse took two first prizes for work during Kenya’s turmoil last year.


U.S. intelligence czar warns about Venezuela



Venezuela serves as a bridge for Iran’s influence in Latin America and continues to harbor leftist rebels from Colombia, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the U.S. Senate.


Jordan tops Hall of Fame finalists National Basketball Association icon Michael Jordan, arguably the league’s greatest player of all-time, headlined the list of 16 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame announced last Friday.



Hollywood still misrepresenting blacks: U.S. film-maker Burnett


Though Charles Burnett is recognized as a top black independent U.S. film-maker, he continues to face funding problems in a country where the movie industry, he says, still misrepresents African-Americans.

New Beachfront Model Villa Open Daily

(506) 2653-2028 t

Skimboarding requires great skill by those who practice it, as they face the incoming waves. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

Skimboarding becoming popular in Guanacaste Skimboarding is beginning to attract followers in the province of Guanacaste, particularly in the Playas del Coco area. Skimboarding, or skimming, is an aquatic sport that requires great skill by those who practice it. It is done on the side of the beach with a board, whether made of wood or different types of fiber, which has to go past the belly button area but not the chest. This sport was first practiced 70 years ago in Laguna Beach, Calif., although it was very different from to-

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste 506.2670.2212

day’s version, having undergone quite a bit of evolution. Its difference from surfing mainly has to do with the type of boards used. Skimboards don’t have skegs (fins on the bottom of the board), which makes them less stable and require much more practice to be able to control them. This same characteristic, however, gives the skimboards great maneuverability and the possibility of doing many things that would be impossible with a surfboard.


Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Page two


Business & Economy

Costa Rica to negotiate free trade deal with Singapore Costa Rica is seeking to expand commercial opportunities with Far East countries, and an important step in that plan is the first round of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with the island microstate of Singapore. The meeting will take place April 20-22 in the southeast Asian nation.

P. 10


Transit stints to continue in Guanacaste during summer

Even though school officially started this Feb. 16, Transit Police stints on the Pan American Highway North in Guanacaste will continue throughout the dry season, when the province’s beaches attract the highest number of national and international tourists.

P. 14

Going back to 1996, we also made a collection from sites that were around the shore of the lake. Local stone materials as well as obsidian that would have had to have been traded from Guatemala or Honduras since there are no geological sources of obsidian in Nicaragua. Ceramics ranging in date from 2300 years ago to 800 years ago were surface collected from the sites showing that the Lake Moyua region had been occupied, although perhaps not permanently, for a very long time. Ceramics that we found indicated, along with the obsidian mentioned above, contacts with El Salvador and Honduras.


Passive smoking linked to dementia

Exposure to second-hand smoke boosts the risk of dementia and other cognitive problems, even among people who have never smoked, the largest study of its kind reported.

P. 19


European car sales in 20-year slump

European new cars sales slumped in January to the lowest level for twenty years, trade data showed last week, boosting the argument of countries such as France which wants to help the ailing sector.

P. 20

Global Affairs

Japan signs pact lending 100 billions dlrs to IMF

Japan signed an agreement on terms of its commitment to lend up to 100 billion dollars to the International Monetary Fund to provide financial lifelines to crisis-hit emerging countries.

P. 21


‘Buy American’ clause could lead to trade war: CEA

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) warned on Friday that “Buy American” provisions in the economic stimulus bill could make the United States vulnerable to a trade war. (P.21)

P. 22





P. 23


Australia’s Hollywood stars dig deep for fire relief

Australian actor Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, have donated 500,000 Australian dollars (327,000 U.S.) to victims of the bushfires which killed 181 people.



02:12 / 1.30 ft

08:29 / 6.92 ft

14:21 / 1.83 ft

20:51 / 7.45 ft

Wed 18

03:09 / 1.80 ft

09:31 / 6.43 ft

15:20 / 2.39 ft

21:53 / 7.00 ft

Thu 19

04:17 / 2.08 ft

10:42 / 6.22 ft

16:32 / 2.68 ft

23:01 / 6.83 ft

Fri 20

05:28 / 2.06 ft

11:52 / 6.36 ft

17:46 / 2.61 ft

Sat 21

00:06 / 6.94 ft

06:29 / 1.79 ft

12:50 / 6.74 ft

18:47 / 2.25 ft

Sun 22

01:01 / 7.26 ft

07:19 / 1.39 ft

13:37 / 7.25 ft

19:36 / 1.74 ft

Mon 23

01:48 / 7.67 ft

07:59 / 0.95 ft

14:17 / 7.79 ft

20:18 / 1.19 ft

P.04 Lead Story P.06 Business & Economy P.10 Society P.16 Week In Brief P.18 Health

On-Site Property Management 1 to 4 Bedroom Luxury Residences

Flamingo Marina Basin Starting at $306k

Titled Beachfront Living

Costa Rica Basics


Area:  Population: Capital:  Language:  Time Zone:

P.19 Europe P.20 Global Affairs P.21 Americas P.22 Sports P.23 Entertainment

51,000 km2 4,075,261 (July 2006) San Jose Spanish UTC/GMT-6 hours

Useful Numbers Emergencies EMERGENCY SERVICES Fire Medical Alert (Ambulance) OIJ (Police Special Branch) Red Cross Hospital Liberia Hospital Nicoya Hospital San José Clinic (Coco) Clinic (Liberia) Emergency Medical Service Santa Monica Radialogy Center

911 2688-8918 2670-0258 2690-0128 2666-0994 2666-0011 2685-8400 2257-7922 2670-0987 2666-1881 8380 41 25 24 hrs. 2665-0704

Transport Central Line San José Central Line Liberia Interbus Pulmitan Liberia Tica Bus

2257-7214 2221-9115 2666-0085 2283-5573 Fax: 2283-7655 2666-0458 2666-3818 2666-0371

Lost credit cards American Express Mastercard Visa

0 800 012 3211 0 800 011 0184 0 800 011 0030

Schumacher ‘fine’ after motorcycle accident

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher said Thursday he was fine as he nursed cuts and bruises at home after escaping serious injury during a motorcycle accident while testing in Spain.


Information for Pacific Coast

Tue 17


Lakes That Come and Go in Greater Nicoya and California

P. 18

Costa rica tides chart

Emergency Medical Service Toll Free 800-EMS2000

Air and ground ambulance - Doctor - Paramedic

Call center 8380-4125 • 24hrs Quepos - Jaco - Cobano - Tamarindo Huacas - Sardinal - Liberia

Vol 3 • Edition 174 Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009 Costa Rica, Central America


Marta Araya, Marketing & Sales Manager E-mail: / Tel: 905-JOURNAL (5687625) Carlos Eduardo Vargas (*), Editors Board Member E-mail: Design & Production: The Journal Design Team E-mail: SALES: / NEWS: INFO:

The Journal®

The Journal is a weekly english-language newspaper with headquarters in Carrillo, Guanacaste. Suplex S.A.

Infocom® Infocom is a media service and provides the most of the Costa Rica and Central America news content. (*) Representing Edition-Production Company. THE JOURNAL Tel: 905 JOURNAL 905 5687625 (No additional cost) E-mail:

Brokers Welcome

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CR: 506/2653-6204


lead story

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Tourism industry faces 2009 with optimism South America.

(InfoWebPress – – Despite the slight reduction in the number of foreign visitors coming to Costa Rica in recent months, the local tourism sector sees this year as an opportunity to move forward despite adverse global economic conditions.

According to Vargas, just as the government is undertaking efforts to keep tourists coming to Costa Rica, “it’s important that businesses adopt several measures that would help them get through these rough waters safe, and why not, even better off than before.”

The National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) has encouraged all its affiliates and the tourism industry in general to adopt measures that would allow them get out of the current crisis untouched and even winners. For CANATUR officials, times such as this demand a spirit of courage and innovation, because economic crises make people rethink spending in activities such as leisure in favor of saving. Gonzalo Vargas, president of CANATUR, explained that the current juncture offers few alternatives. “Either we stay in our current state, loaded with worries, or focus our energies on designing strategies that would permit us to get through the storm without drownings,” he said. The United States, one of the key countries affected by the global financial crisis, supplied in 2007 54 percent of the tourists coming to Costa Rica. That’s why it is expected that citizens of this nation will be careful when spending now. In fact, CANATUR conducted a survey at the end of last year among its affiliates to get an idea about the impact the U.S. recession was already having on them during the last months of 2008. The results were not encouraging: less hotel occupancy, a reduction in tours and car rentals, and more. Additionally, the crisis had also reached European economies, which contribute 17 percent of the tourists choosing

The document aims to become the legal and technical tool used to reach the goals of territorial organization that the government hopes will lead to balanced economic, social and environmental development within the regulated Land Maritime Zone (ZMT) and surrounding areas.

The manual’s drafting is based on articles 17 and 18 of the Land Maritime Zone Law Rulebook. It includes a series of graphic elements (maps, blueprints and diagrams) that define land uses and viability systems, complemented with various written documents (diagnostics, ordinances and rulebooks)


President Oscar Arias has also sent a message of encouragement to the tourism sector.

Despite the current economic slowdown, Costa Rica’s tourism industry is optimistic about the current year.

Costa Rican for their vacations. Germany, for example, announced that its economy was in recession as early as December 2008. Facing such grim scenario, CANATUR is trying to rally the tourism sector to take urgent, but not desperate, actions that would allow businesses to cope with the economic slowdown through innovation, trying to minimize impact. Vargas believes the government must promote the country as a destination that possesses the three most sough-after qualities by tourists: being an exotic, accessible and

affordable destination. In fact, Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides announced a $20,000 campaign reinforcing such selling points. According to a marketing study conducted in the United States, tourists want greener and cheaper trips, and nearly 75 percent of these travelers would like to visit a national park. CANATUR added that it’s necessary to invest in attracting tourists from other countries that so far haven’t been seriously considered, especially in Europe —such as Russia, France and Switzerland — and others in

“In order to protect the country’s tourism industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of people in areas outside (of the capital city), we are taking to Congress the General Tourism Law and the Rural Tourism Law bills, which will build on the Law for Strengthening the Costa Rican Tourism Industry passed last year,” Arias said during the recent inauguration of a hotel in Guanacaste. “These three bills together represent the most important reform that the tourism sector has undergone in the past 10 years. In addition to this, we will continue to promote our country as a destination through the promotion and marketing plan that we have been supporting since last June, inside and outside our borders.” Added the President:

“The situation we are facing is difficult. But our strength is greater. There is no defeat written in the books if we act with faith and hope, if we manage to see beyond the present circumstances. You are standing here as proof of that, opening a new hotel that, in the midst of this crisis, will generate employment and opportunities for Guanacaste.”


Manual for costal-area regulatory plans unveiled

(InfoWebPress – – The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has unveiled a manual for drafting of regulatory plans on coastal areas — based on the National Tourism Plan 2002-2014, which established that the country’s tourism development will continue to be built on the factors and elements that have historically helped the positioning and recognition of the “Costa Rica tourism brand.”


Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

The plans will also establish guidelines regarding control of the tourism space, facilities and services and will contribute to managing investments, conservation of natural resources and promotion for increasing tourist visitation.

that are to be the foundation for establishing criteria and standards on urbanization, buildings, community facilities and public services in the ZMT. The contents of the manual also deal with strategies for implementing programs, projects and other activities, both coming from private initiatives and from public investment that would result on sustainable development on the country’s coasts. The goal of coastal-area regulatory plans is to generate a planning tool by which the development policies of the National Tourism Development Plan will be implemented. These plans also seek to support the goals and objectives of the various land use and tourism development plans around the country, addressing social and tourism attraction specificities so that each region can maximize the benefits of its tourism industry. The regulatory plans will endeavor to apply strategies included in the land use plans; firm up a program of needs related to infrastructure, based on expectations from users

The regulatory plans project seeks to organize development on the country’s coast, so that human activities and the environment can coexist in harmony. Photo couurtesy of Luis Castrillo/SPG

and control requirements stipulated by each municipal administration; and guarantee, through policies and proposals, the attention of the local inhabitants’ needs, putting them in balance against other components of the plan.

Coastal-are regulatory plans will also establish development criteria that would, at the same time, achieve conservation of the environment and take advantage of the recreational resources present in popular coastal destinations. They will, moreover, allow for the incorporation of public organizations and state institutions in a defined mechanism aimed at maximizing the use of economic and human resources.

Finally, the regulatory plans seek to promote strategies for attracting investments and provide officials involved in the management of these areas with legal and technical tools to do a better job — all based on compliance with Law 6043 and its rulebook.

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Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009


Costa Rica to negotiate free trade deal with Singapore

(InfoWebPress – – Costa Rica is seeking to expand commercial opportunities with Far East countries, and an important step in that plan is the first round of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with the island microstate of Singapore. The meeting will take place April 20-22 in the southeast Asian nation. Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz was very pleased with the recent announcement made by President Oscar Arias, following his meeting with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Le Hsien Loong, about the initiation of preliminary studies to engage in bilateral discussions on a free trade deal between both countries. “This is another step in the direction Costa Rica has taken to get closer to Asian region countries, which are the most dynamic right now, and it also reflects our nation’s interest to join the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, which is based in Singapore,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz added that Singapore is an example to be followed due to its advancements in science and technology, education, health and global competitiveness. In 2007, the small nation had an economic growth rate of 7.7 percent; its per capita income was above $30,000; its unemployment rate was below 2.3 percent; 96 percent of its population 15 years and older is literate; and 59 percent of people between 25 and 34 years of age there have received technical or university education, according to official data from Singapore’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Singapore has an economy based on the development of services for investment, finances, communication and port warehousing and distribution systems (70 percent). It also boasts an important industrial sector (the other 30 percent of its economy) composed of port infrastructure, construction, communications, and high-tech manufacturing oriented toward the biomedical, chemical and pharmaceutical fields. “This clearly tells us that a free trade agreement with Singapore would come to strengthen the commercial ties we already have and, above all, would encourage coinvestment and technology transfer in areas that Costa Rica has been promoting for more than a decade, such as medical services and high-tech electronic components,” Minister Ruiz explained.

The chief negotiator for this free trade deal, Fernando Ocampo, indicated that this first round of negotiations will be of a conceptual nature, aimed at defining general aspects of the agreement, work structure and negotiation agenda. Before the negotiations kick off, an information and consultation process will be held via a March 17 workshop whose goal is to inform citizens about negotiation perspectives, as well as to provide information about the results of similar trade deals Singapore has signed with other trade partners in Latin America.

outside the box

Crisis Changes Everything Javier Segura M. General Manager-DCL Realty Consultants


Last week I’ve talked about how different is the business environment in U.S. now, compared than six months before. How there is happening a confrontation between the Corporate America and Main Street. Along the week, I have gathered more information about the crisis effects that has surprised me; and today, I would want to talk about that this week.

    


First, and foremost; there is a consensus out there about that this is the deepest economic crisis that we have faced in long, long time. More over, knowing does not help; because a lot of market players do not know how to react to the landslide of events, and terrible news, that come up every day. Some people say that there is nothing we can do; some of them say that we need to change drastically our government ways; and so on and so forth.

No matter that, there are markets that have dramatically changed, so far. Some of them, that you may be interested on, are:

  

      

   

Real Estate Brokerage Market. Oh my Lord, this is another world, really. At the local level, during the last years, the number of Real Estate Brokers have increased significantly; and that is just the “official” number of brokers, not mentioning the “gypsy brokers” (Months ago, in towns like Tamarindo and Jacó, even the waiters “represented” properties). However, and as a result of this crisis, just in 2009, I have received information about an increasing number of Realtors that have retired from the business; or have been retired, as you want to say it. By the other hand, and in big leagues level, several of the most prominent Real Estate Brokerage companies are in the middle of the change from the traditional commission business to the fee based services. This change, requires investment, time, and creativity

in high doses; which means that this reorientation is not for everybody; but it seems that this could be, perfectly, the future of the real estate business. Maybe next month we can talk about this interesting business more in deep. But basically, the structure of the Real Estate Business, not just the names, is changing more than dramatically; and those changes are occurring in a faster way than we can expect, even in crisis times.

International Private Financing Market. We have been talking about this market in the last weeks. So, just for summarizing the changes occurred in this market, I will tell you that the time when the developers chose the best lender for them is over; now the lenders are the ones that choose the borrowers that they want; the time when you could get $10 MM or $20 MM without making any investment is gone, now you have to invest between $20 K to $50 K, in order to get that loan. At least the interest rates and general terms are still very accessible to the borrowers. There are many other examples about how the crisis have changed the markets; Industries like construction, tourism, airlines, etc, have suffered greatly worldwide.

But not everything is about bad news; the amazing velocity with this crisis have spread around the world, and the diversity of industries involved, is bringing another light for those who are suffering these rough times. There is almost a consensus around the estimated duration of the crisis; most of the players are expecting that by the end of this year the recovery process will be visible, and by end of 2010 the world economy will be in clear growth, again. Only the time will tell, if the efforts made by governments, persons, and companies around the world will be fruitful; the only clear here is that, with the exception of some lawmakers from the GOP in U.S., everybody appears to be clear in the direction that we have to work toward. Have a nice week



Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Selection criteria for tourism plans being considered (InfoWebPress – – Officials with the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET) testified before the Legislative Assembly’s Tourism Permanent Commission with the goal of explaining the selection criteria that will be used for choosing protected areas where tourism projects will be implemented. Congress is considering a bill (No. 17.128) that would authorize getting a $19 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that would be used to finance a tourism development program within protected areas. According to Lesvia Sevilla Estrada, coordinator of the program, Costa Rica has 167 wildlife protected areas (ASPs), of which 39 are being visited by MINAET, according to existing laws and decrees.

Sevilla Estrada said that when this program was beginning to be conceived, an environmental economist was hired to select a series of indicators that would be applied for coming up with selection criteria and subcriteria — based on multiple analyses and special software.

“It’s important to point out that this selection was made based on serious criteria, according to the characteristics of these wildlife areas,” said the program coordinator, adding details about the selection process and assigning of resources to municipalities where the chosen ASPs are located.

Guiselle Mendez Vega, who is also involved with the program, said that any municipality that would benefit from these funds must have within its jurisdiction a wildlife protected area. However, legislator Marvin Rojas Rodriguez he wasn’t convinced by the explanations given by Sevilla Estrada and Mendez

The loan currently being studied by Congress will be utilized to develop tourism infrastructure in conservation areas. Photo courtesy of INCAFO

Vega, since out of the 10 tourism development projects selected, only three have had their respective study done.

“The biggest concern is that this program wants to invest in 10 national parks and only three of them have had the study done,” Rojas said. “The other concern I have is regarding the way the Comptroller General’s Office is questioning the administration of MINAET.”

The Congressman warned that if MINAET and the National Parks System do not inform the Legislative Assembly about corrective

actions for the adequate use of the loan’s funds, legislators will not approve the bill.

Rojas and fellow legislator Luis Antonio Barrantes Castro (both members of the tourism commission) asked for detailed information about the use of funds coming from the IDB loan. The legislators said they were concerned because they haven’t seen any details of the proposed development projects in the chosen wildlife areas — a situation they said makes them uncomfortable “It has been said that MINAET won’t have details about those projects ready un-

til April,” Rojas said. “I believe we won’t be able to approve this bill if we are not about we are voting on and how (these funds) will be invested.” Barrantes added:

“I don’t have any problem approving loans as long as we know how the resources are going to be invested. We just got done approving a $65 million loan for the victims of the (January) earthquake, and the government is going to be use those funds at its discretion. We are hoping the loan won’t be used for political interests.”

Costa Rica negotiates $500 million contingency loan with World Bank

(InfoWebPress – – With the goal of having contingency resources to be able to deal with the effects the current economic crisis could have, Costa Rica and the World Bank are negotiating a $500 million whose terms may be determined during a visit to the country from the international entity’s vice president, Pamela Cox, to the country. The announcement was made by Treasury Ministry Guillermo Zuñiga and Cox following a lunch with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias, and the director of the World Bank’s Central America division, Larua Frigenti.

These funds are part of the $3 billion the World Bank will provide to Central America this year to confront the global economic recession, which is affecting the region as an “external force” and not because of bad domestic macroeconomic policies, according to Cox. The international financial body will be offering these funds as a contingency measure, since isthmus nations are very dependent on trade with the United States, whose economy is facing its worst conditions since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

from the World Bank for projects in health, education and the environment. More recently, Congress passed another loan to deal with the effects of the January earthquake. Another credit is currently being considered for infrastructure investments targeted at the Caribbean city and port of Limon.

In addition to reviewing current programs between Costa Rica and the World Bank and analyzing the current state of the local and international economies, the meeting served as a forum to refer to the $500 million loan. Costa Rican officials also thanked the World Bank for its various financial assistance programs, particularly those dealing with emergency relief.

During the meeting with Cox, Zuñiga highlighted the World Bank’s commitment to the topic of climate change.

In referring to this latest loan, Minister Zuñiga explained that negotiations began in October 2008 during the World Bank’s meeting in Washington D.C., reason for which details have been worked out quite well by now. Cox expressed the World Bank is willing to negotiate such a credit, which could be approved as early as April of this year.

Regarding the loan’s terms, the Treasury Minister said that even though they haven’t been defined just yet, they could be very similar to those associated with emergency loans the World Bank has made to Costa Rica — that is, with very favorable interest rates and with an option of contingency disbursements. Currently, Costa Rica has several loans

Costa Rican Treasury Minister Guillermo Zuñiga and World Bank Vice President Pamela Cox announced a possible loan to help the local economy weather the current economic crisis. Photo courtesy of Teasury Minister.

“The financial support for natural disasters that has already been approved is part of the efforts related to climate change,” the Treasury Minister explained. “The Bank’s mission includes this topic, and we are also going to have a meeting with the Competitiveness Council to work on the draft of a proposal about strategies the country could follow to improve its system competitiveness. We are not only working on contingency issues surrounding the economic crisis, but also continue to think in the medium term about Costa Rica’s socio-economic development, for which we have had great support from the World Bank.”



Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Environment ‘sweeps’ coming to Guanacaste in April and August (InfoWebPress – – The increasing pollution of rivers throughout Costa Rica will be one of the main concerns addressed by the Environmental Court this year, and that’s why this entity will dedicate two of its “environmental sweeps,� or inspections, to detect violations in this area. Lino Chaves, president of the Ministry of the Environment’s (MINAET) administrative tribunal, said the first “sweep� will take place in March, focusing on the pineapple plantations in the Caribbean region — where a number of complaints have been filed due to alleged cases of creek and river contamination, among other infractions.

Additionally, the Environmental Court has scheduled another inspection in June related to river pollution in San Jose’s metropolitan area, where several Pacific watershed rivers become highly contaminated. To reinforce these efforts, the court this year has added a new judge, Jose Luis Vargas — who until last December was director of human environment for the Ministry of Health and who has broad experience in issues of wastewater, pollution of tributaries, and atmospheric pollution. Inspections on coastal regions will continue throughout 2009, with three scheduled for the Pacific and one for the Caribbean. Guanacaste’s Nicoya Peninsula will be inspected in April, while the cantons of Filadelfia and Carrillo will be visited during August. Another “sweep� will take place in Limon (Caribbean) in October, with the final

inspection scheduled for December in the southern Pacific areas of Drake Bay and the Dulce Gulf (cantons of Osa and Golfito). “We hope that these environmental sweeps will contribute to the country’s progress in solving serious problems such as river pollution and disorganized development on the coasts,� said Yamilette Mata, one of the tribunal’s judges. “We believe Costa Rica is capable of bringing order to these two areas.�

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Only in 2008, the Environmental Court opened a total of 461 new cases, according to a year-end report prepared by this entity. This represents a 50 percent increase in the number of complains processed by the court compared to 2007, when 303 cases were entered into the system.

Moreover, the number of adjudications completed during 2008 was much higher (a total of 1,055), as the court moved to resolve or continue cases that were pending from previous years.

Included in these are some of the most important cases in early 2008, such as the environmental damaged caused to Guanacaste’s Palo Verde National Park by government agriculture and irrigation agencies; the wastewater pollution case against Cooperativa Dos Pinos dairy; the case against Hotel Allegro Papagayo in Guanacaste; and the case against Quimicos Holanda chemical company due to a fire that polluted groundwater at its Limon plant in 2006.

p r e m i u m h om e l i f e s t y l e

Officials with the Environmental Court will be in Guanacaste this year again as they perform their “environmental sweeps� to detect any irregularities. Photo courtesy of TAA

Nearly half the complaints the court hears are related to deforestation and damage to water resources, while the other 50 percent has to do with illegal earth moving (particu-

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Transit stints to continue in Guanacaste during summer

(InfoWebPress – – Even though school officially started this Feb. 16, Transit Police stints on the Pan American Highway North in Guanacaste will continue throughout the dry season, when the province’s beaches attract the highest number of national and international tourists.

During the second weekend in February, officials focused on controlling and regulating routes that led to popular beaches and recreational sites in the Central Valley. Inspectors help regulate vehicular traffic, especially as vacationers return to the San Jose region from the coast, to make traffic flow a little faster. The police has allocated 250 officers for this work on national routes, in addition to another 130 for special stints and night surveillance, both in the capital city and in other important population centers.

According to transit authorities, the number of vehicles on certain highways increases significantly during this time of the year — including the roads leading to the Panama and Nicaragua borders, the highway between the Manolo’s Bridge in San Jose and Orotina in western Alajuela province, the LiberiaNicoya route, San Jose-Limon (Braulio Carrillo Highway), and the Pan American Highway South section between Cartago and Perez Zeledon. Officers have been enforcing the new Transit Law, trying to detect individuals driving under the influence of alcohol, at high speed or with more passengers than legally permitted. The officers are also checking that cars have all of their papers up to date and are in good mechanical and electrical conditions.

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Statistics are showing a reduction in the number of tickets issued for driving with a prohibited blood-alcohol level. Transit Police officials believe such a reduction is due to the tougher sanctions included in the new

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Road safety stints will continue during the dry season, as police endeavors to apply the new, tougher Transit Law. Photo courtesy of MOPT

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legislation and its enforcement on the roads.

However, the highways continue to be a death trap for many. Last month finished with a tally of 34 deaths on the country’s roadways, 12 more than during January 2008 (a 54 percent increase). Most of the accidents were due to pedestrians not being careful on the roads. Other fatalities were caused by excessive speed, invading opposite lanes, drunk driving and mechanical problems. Other accidents have resulted from drivers falling asleep, lack of driving skills, and improper passing. Transit Police officers have decided to reinforce stints on the main vacation routes this summer season, particularly on highways leading to Pacific coast beaches. The new Transit Law calls for hiring 400 new Transit police officers throughout the country — although these officers won’t be on the road anytime soon as they must first undergo a selection process. The Law has also allocated resources to give Transit Police stations new patrol cars.


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Society / Culture

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Lakes That Come and Go in Greater Nicoya and California

ton Sea is desert, and that of Lake Moyua is dry tropical forest. Parenthetically, and probably because they were both large bodies of water, they were on major migratory avian flyways.

Frederick W. Lange¹ From time to time, I write an article for The Journal that ties together my previous research in Greater Nicoya (northwestern Pacific Costa Rica and Pacific Nicaragua) with my present research in southern California. A few days ago, as I was working on a report for a project in Imperial County, the following words triggered this contribution:

When the Salton and Moyua basins were filled, large freshwater lakes were formed that supported rich plant and animal resources, and attracted Native American populations to their margins. This is referred to as a “pull” effect, in that a new richness of resources attracts habitation to previously uninhabited areas with news resources. When the lakes evaporated, an opposite effect, or “push” would have forced human inhabitants to go elsewhere and to become, in many cases the populations that inhabited the shores of the Colorado River, the surrounding mountains, and the adjacent inland valleys in the California case and the nearby Sebaco Valley and Managua Basin in the Moyua case.

The low central basin of the Colorado Desert, much of which lies below sea level, holds the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea Atlas (published by ESRI in Redlands, California) states that “The Salton Sea Basin lies at the intersection of two great deserts, the Mojave to the north, and the Sonoran to the south and west….During the last 1,300 years, water filled the Salton Basin more often than not.” The basin filled periodically in the past when the Colorado River shifted its course near its mouth and flowed north into the basin instead of south into the Gulf of California.

This summary reminded me of a preliminary survey that I made in 1983 of the archaeology of Lake Moyua, some 70 kilometers northeast of Managua, Nicaragua. This site consists of two islands: Isla Honda and Isla Seca (Moyua) both of which are located in Lake Moyua, an hour’s drive north of Managua. To reach the island in 1983, we hired a boat and a boat-man to ferry us across a wide, shallow lake. Later, during the summer of 1996, the University of Colorado Archaeological Field School under my direction conducted a more systematic surface survey and artifact collection from the Moyua site. This project was initiated so that we could make a more detailed study of the ceramic and stone artifacts from the sites on the island. This time, we could walk to the two islands across a dry lake bed. On a subsequent visit in the

early 2000s, the basin had once again filled with water. I never could get a satisfactory explanation for why the Moyua basin had a cycle of filling and emptying.

Going back to 1996, we also made a collection from sites that were around the shore of the lake. Local stone materials as well as obsidian that would have had to have been traded from Guatemala or Honduras since there are no geological sources of obsidian in Nicaragua. Ceramics ranging in date from 2300 years ago to 800 years ago were surface collected from the sites showing that the Lake Moyua region had been occupied, although perhaps not permanently, for a very

long time. Ceramics that we found indicated, along with the obsidian mentioned above, contacts with El Salvador and Honduras. The Salton Sea seems not to have had as long a history as Lake Moyua and our current knowledge is limited to three cycles of filling and emptying between 800 and 300 years ago. Whether there were earlier events is undetermined. The advancing and receding shore lines are lined with fish-traps, small villages, and temporary campsites. Both lakes, therefore, were cyclically filled and emptied and occupied prehistorically. The environmental setting of the Sal-

This short history of the Salton Sea and Lake Moyua clearly demonstrate the scientific benefit of cooperation among disciplines, and the comparative study of similar natural/cultural patterns in different parts of the world. ¹Fred Lange earned his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1971). He is the author of “Before Guanacaste”(2006), a popular account of the first 10,000 years of the province. BG is available in Libreria Internacional bookstores throughout Costa Rica, at the Jaime Peligro book store in Tamarindo, and in the Cafe Britt store at Peninsula de Papagayo. His e-mail is hormiga_1999@yahoo. com

U.S. volunteers to teach English in Guanacaste

(InfoWebPress – – Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and U.S. Ambassador to San Jose Peter Cianchette welcomed the first five American volunteers — from Kent State University in Ohio — who have come to the country to teach English in various communities of Guanacaste province. The volunteers are certified instructors who arrived in Costa Rica on Jan. 30 as part of a public-private joint initiative called Mul-

tilingual Costa Rica, which aims to improve language skills of the entire population. Also involved in the initiative are the ALIARSE Foundation (a promoter of public-private alliances for development), the Cleveland Foundation, the CR-USA Foundation, and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica.

The volunteers will complete training in methodology, pedagogy and culture in San Carlos before traveling to the communities of El Coco, Sardinal, Guardia, Belen and

Cartagena, teaching there alongside instructors with the Ministry of Education (MEP).

Multilingual Costa Rica was created as a public-interest initiative last March 11 through an executive decree signed by Arias. Work related to this effort has been executed by the President’s Office through an executive director, with support from institutions such as MEP, the National Learning Institute (INA), public and private universities, and supporting entities such as the Foreing Trade Ministry, the Ministry of Competitiveness and Regulatory Improvement, the Costa Rican Investment and Development Board (CINDE), and the Century XXI Strategy project. The initiative is supported by many other organizations. The project’s main goal is to create a population with improved communication competencies that would generate greater personal and professional development, thus increasing opportunities for access to information and better-paying jobs. According to Marta Blanco, executive director of Costa Rica Multilingual, the international English volunteer program seeks to provide training in all regions of the country and hopes to have 300 foreign language instructors within five years. “The gift these volunteers are giving to Costa Rica will provide a platform so that we can reach the level of excellence we need and meet the ambitious goals that we have set as a country,” Blanco explained.

The English instructors visited several Guanacaste communities to teach students of the region. Photo courtesy of Casa Presidencial.

The idea of using volunteers to maximize resources is not new, Blanco said, “but if a good idea is not turned into action, its benefits will never be tangible.” Multilingual Costa Rica’s goal is that all high-school graduates will have an intermediate-to-high English-language skill level by 2017.

As part of the education goals contained in the Jorge Manuel Dengo National Development Plan 2006-2010, the government is seeking to “establish a curricular method that will strengthen the quality and relevancy of the country’s education as a way of creating the necessary human capabilities to compete and join the global economy based on productivity, ingenuity, knowledge and skill.”

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Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

week in brief Intel said it will remain in Costa Rica

Politics Ruling party race now down to 3 candidates

(Inside Costa Rica) — Carlos Francisco Echeverria officially dropped out of the nomination race for the 2010 presidential candidate from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN). With the bowing out of Echeverria, three candidates will now seek the nomination and share equally the cost of the convention on June 7, 2009. Former Costa Rican V ice President Laura Chinchilla is still the favorite even though former San Jose Mayor Johnny Araya is 11 points up on her in the latest public opinion poll. Former Security Minister Fernando Berrocal, the third candidate in the race, will have be an uphill battle all the way as only 2 percent of those polled would choose him.

Budget crunch forces CR embassy closings (La Nacion) — Costa Rica has decided to close embassies in Bolivia, Uruguay and the Czech Republic, in addition to consulates in Chicago and Puerto Rico, due to budget reductions. The Chancellor’s Office said the move is part of the Shield Plan recently unveiled by President Oscar Arias to deal with the local and global economic crisis, directing human and financial resources for investment in Costa Rica. The Arias administration has opened up new embassies, particularly in Asia (China and Singapore), and a diplomatic office in Egypt is also in the plans.

Business & Economy Central Bank reports economy shrinking; raises interest rates

(Inside Costa Rica) — The Central Bank informed last week that the Costa Rican economy during the last quarter of 2008 showed the greatest decrease of the last almost 20 years. In December, the monthly economic activity index (IMAE) registered the largest drop with respect to the same period a year earlier, since the index was put into place in 1991. In October 2008, the IMAE index fell 0.8 percent with respect to October 2007. In November 2008 the index fell 2.23 percent with respect to November 2007, and in December 2008, the index fell a record 3.14 percent with respect to December 2007. Treasury Ministry Guillermo Zuñiga said he sees a “very fast” deceleration in the economy but does not yet date call it a recession, though he doesn’t see positively the possibility that the IMAE index will rebound in January 2009. To make matters worse, interest rates took a big jump as the Central Bank increased its Basic Passive Rate by 0.75 percentage points, setting at 12 percent. This rate affects most lending in the country.

(GlobalPost) — Computer chip giant Intel started the year off like several other bigname companies: taking stock, crunching numbers and, ultimately, scheduling painful cutbacks to cope with the global downturn. In January, amid plummeting computer demand, California-based Intel announced as many as 6,000 layoffs and five plant closures by year’s end. That made some Costa Ricans gasp — but so far, the 10-year-old Intel plant here has been spared. According to Karla Blanco, Intel Costa Rica’s corporate affairs manager, “there has been no notice about reducing (staff here).” But the spate of downsizing has raised questions about what would happen if Intel were to pull the plug in Costa Rica. When Intel arrived in 1998, the economy went from relying on cash crops such as coffee and bananas to relying on cash chips made by a leading manufacturer. Now, Intel’s processors make up a whopping 20 percent of Costa Rican exports. “Hopefully, that won’t happen,” said Julio Acosta, senior advisor of business consulting firm Infinitum and former managing director of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency (CINDE), contemplating a possible closure of the Intel plant. In addition to vanishing export revenue and gross domestic product contributions of between 3 percent and 5 percent, he stressed the importance of the company’s specialized personnel, which according to Blanco is at least 95 percent Costa Rican. The company employs 3,200-staff on a 52-hectare assembly and test operation located in the northwestern outskirts of the capital.

Risk-rating firm warns about high inflation and dollarization in CR (La Nacion) — The effects of high inflation and dollarization in Costa Rica were highlighted as two concerns by international risk-analysis firm Fitch Ratins as it revised the country’s rating. Costa Rica finished 2008 with a 13.9 percent inflation rate, with a Central Bank goal this year of 9 percent. Meanwhile, data indicate that 59 percent of all deposits in the country are in dollars, while a little over half of loans are issued in U.S. currency. “Costa Rica’s large current account deficit and fragile liquidity position leave the country vulnerable to shocks, particularly in the absence of a stronger monetary and exchange rate policy framework,” Fitch Ratings indicated. “In spite of improved regulation and reduced offshore activities, Costa Rica’s financial system remains comparatively weak due to high and increasing financial dollarization and lower capital adequacy. In this context, economic slowdown and continued currency pressure could weaken the financial system, potentially leading to contingent liabilities for the sovereign in light of considerable state participation in the banking system.” However, Fitch kept the country’s rating at “BB” for long-term debt and “BB+” for country ceiling.

Continental increases flights to Costa Rica

(La Republica) — U.S. carrier Continental Airlines informed it will increase flights to Costa Rica’s both international airports, Juan Santamaria in San Jose and Daniel Oduber in Liberia, beginning in March. Continental will now flight on Saturdays from Newark to San Jose at 11:55 a.m., leaving San Jose at 4:05 p.m. Also on Saturdays, there will be a flight between Houston and Liberia, leaving the United States at 11:29 a.m. and returning from Costa Rica at 2:40 p.m. “Thanks to the strong promotion of Costa Rica in international markets, there’s now a need to increase the frequency of our flights to this destination,” said Carlos Granados, sales manager for Continental in Costa Rica.

Society Court upholds drunk driving law

(Inside Costa Rica) — The Constitutional Court has upheld the sanctions contained in the new Transit Law against drunk and reckless drivers, saying the provisions in the law passed last Dec. 23 do not infringe on the principles of proportionality and prejudice. On Jan. 22, Judge David Hernandez deferred the first “drunk driving” trial under the new law to the Constitutional Court, saying that he felt there were serious errors of constitutionality in the new legislation. One of the points in question by Hernandez was that right of a driver to have a blood test within 30 minutes of being stopped by a traffic officer and charged with drunk driving. Transportation Minister Karla Gonzalez expressed satisfaction with the court ruling and considered it a victory for the hard work that she and many others have put into the making of the law, which gets tough on drunk and reckless drivers. The Transit Police never gave up on applying the drunk and reckless driving provisions in the law even though the application of such provisions hung in the air. Now, all trials that had been suspended, waiting on the court decision, will continue.

Steven Seagal wants to bring Hollywood to Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) — Action movie star Steven Seagal told Costa Rican President Oscar Arias last week that he wants to help the Costa Rica build a filmmaking industry to put its dramatic landscapes to use. Seagal, known for his martial arts roles of the 1980s and ‘90s, met Arias in San Jose and offered to use his Hollywood connections to help Costa Rica get started in movie-making. “Costa Rica has everything — both rain forest and dry climate. What it lacks is an infrastructure to make movies,” Seagal told a news conference. Seagal said he had a positive conversation with Arias but did not elaborate on the size of any investment he planned or give a timeframe for his project. Apart from a handful of small-budget independent producers, Central America’s film industry is almost nonexistent. Actor and director Mel Gibson, who has a vacation home on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, had his production team scout the country’s jungles for his 2006 epic “Apocalypto” about the decline of the Mayan civilization, but ended up shooting it in more-accessible Mexico.

Law toughening up on crime finally approved


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(La Prensa Libre) — Following almost a year of debate in the Legislative Assembly, changes to the legal system have been passed that would toughen up the fight on crime. Tools in this bill include a victim and witness protection program, which is considered by judicial authorities as key because many times trials couldn’t go on because witnesses recanted after being intimidated or hurt. The bill also includes new crimes, such as human trafficking.

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009


Costa Rica to join Earth Hour

(Inside Costa Rica) — In a couple of weeks, the lights in San Jose’s Plaza de la Democracia will go dark, in a blackout to save the environment, as San Jose is one of 377 cities already signed to for Earth Hour 2009. At 8.30pm on March 28, people around the world will turn their lights off for one hour – Earth Hour, with as many as one billion people in more than 1,000 cities joining together in a global effort to show that its possible to take action on global warming. Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, with 2.2 million homes and businesses turning their lights off for one hour. Only a year later this event had become a global sustainability movement with up to 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Over 64 countries and territories are participating in Earth Hour 2009. This number grows every day as people realize how such a simple act can have such a profound result in affecting change, the organizers said. For more information on Earth hour and map of the cities already committed, go to: http://

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50,000 new cell phone lines now available

(LA Nacion) — On Monday the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began distributing 50,000 new GSM cell phone lines — part of the 300,000 lines it announced earlier this year. The new lines will be given to people on ICE’s waiting list and can be activated at ICE agencies or at authorized businesses.

ICE assures no blackouts for this summer

(Inside Costa Rica) — The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) assured that it has scrapped its plans for blackouts this summer. The statement came after ICE’s president, Pedro Pablo Quiros, met with Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias. “(Blackouts) are only a remote possibility”, said Quiros. The question of blackouts this summer public services regulator Aresep rejected ICE’s rate increase, prompting ICE officials to make public their blackout contingency plans. ICE was seeking a 40 percent rate hike, while the Aresep approved only a 15 percent increase, which ICE is appealing. Quiros said that he is positive that the Aresep will approve a “reasonable” increase — a hike he said is vital for the institution to meet its financial demands for providing power to the country.

Pollinating birds won’t cross cleared land — Study

(Inside Costa Rica) — Scientists from Oregon State University have glued tiny transmitters to hummingbirds in Costa Rica to figure out why plant pollination by birds and insects is crashing around the world. They found that even when it meant a much longer trip, the hermit hummingbirds kept to the forest, rather than cross land cleared for farms. The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters and shed light on a long-standing issue in ecology: the fragmentation of ecosystems by roads and development. The scientists said the findings suggest that isolated patches of forest may ultimately result in species decline, because birds that normally spread pollen won’t cross developed land to visit them.

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1 million students go back to school (Inside Costa Rica) — Almost a million students went back to school on Monday as the 2009 public school year kicked off. All around the country, parents were busy buying last minutes items like uniforms, books and pencils, to ready their children for another school year. However, there will some exceptions to the Feb. 16 start day, including those living in the areas of Limon that have been affected by recent floods and those in the community of Cinchona, which was devastated by the Jan. 8 earthquake, who will begin their school year on March 2.

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Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Passive smoking linked to dementia

PARIS (AFP) – Exposure to second-hand smoke boosts the risk of dementia and other cognitive problems, even among people who have never smoked, the largest study of its kind reported.

PARIS (AFP) – Researchers have made the first steps towards devising a urine test for detecting prostate cancer, according to a paper released by the British journal Nature.

Ill effects on non-smokers of constant exposure to tobacco smoke include an increased risk of lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and death, earlier research has shown.

A chemical fingerprint called sarcosine can be found in high levels in the urine of men with aggressive cancer of the prostate, providing a potential biomarker of the disease.

As for the impact on brain function, active smoking has been found to impair the mind but the evidence for passive smoking has until now been sketchy.

Concentrations of sarcosine were high in 79 percent of samples with metastatic prostate cancer and in 42 percent of the samples of early-stage cancer, the team found.

Using new methods in the largest clinical trial to date, a team led by Cambridge University professor David Llewellyn found that even people who had never smoked but kept constant company with smokers performed less well in cognitive tests.

The investigation focussed on nearly 5,000 adults over the age of 50 who were former smokers or who had never smoked. The volunteers were divided into four groups according to their exposure to passive smoking. This was determined by saliva samples, which were tested for a by-product of nicotine called cotinine.

Cotinine lingers in the saliva for about 25 days. The higher the levels of cotinine, the higher the exposure to recent second-hand smoke.

The volunteers then took neuro-psychological tests that assessed brain function and cognitive abilities, focusing on memory and the ability to work with numbers and words.

As for the impact on brain function, active smoking has been found to impair the mind but the evidence for passive smoking has until now been sketchy.

Using the lowest cotinine group as a benchmark, the researchers found a clear and progressively stronger link between impairment in brain function and exposure to second-hand smoke.

In the most-exposed group, the risk of cognitive impairment was 44 percent higher than the benchmark group. Factors such as age and medical condition, including a history of heart disease, that could have skewed the outcome were all taken into account. “A similar pattern of associations was ob-

served for never smokers and former smokers,” said the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). “Given the ongoing international policy debate on exposure to second-hand smoke, this is a topic of major public health significance.”

Governments in North America, Australia and Europe have progressively enacted “smoke-free” legislation for the workplaces, bars, restaurants and other public places over the last 15 years.

Maternal obesity boosts risk of birth defects WASHINGTON (AFP) – Obese pregnant women are slightly more at risk of having babies with birth defects, according to an analysis of several studies published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). While the absolute risk increase is likely to be small, congenital anomalies linked to maternal obesity include, “a neural tube defect (nearly twice the odds), including spina bifida (more than twice the odds),” the authors of the analysis said.

Other defects include “cleft palate and cleft lip and palate; anorectal atresia (abnormality of the anus/rectum); hydrocephaly (abnormal enlargement of the ventricles of the brain due to accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid); and a limb reduction anomaly,” the authors said in the report dated February 11. “The risk of gastroschisis (abdominal wall defect) among obese mothers was significantly reduced,” they added.

Some three percent of U.S. births are affected by “a structural anomaly with 0.68 per 1,000 births being affected by a neural

Urine test for prostate cancer clears hurdle

tube defect and 2.25 per 1,000 births being affected by a serious heart anomaly,” the report said.

“This has health implications, particularly given the continued rise in the prevalence of obesity in many countries,” the authors said. In the United States, one-third of women aged 15 and over are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 in 2004, the study said.

Congenital anomalies are a leading cause of stillbirth and infant death, accounting for one in five infant deaths in the United States, and are important contributors to preterm birth and childhood illnesses, according to background information in the article.

While the absolute risk increase is likely to be small, congenital anomalies linked to maternal obesity include, “a neural tube defect (nearly twice the odds), including spina bifida (more than twice the odds),” the authors of the analysis said.

The telltale metabolite is a better indicator of advancing disease than a standard blood test, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) assay, according to the research, headed by Arul Chinnaiyan of the University of Michigan, Medical School. The findings have to be confirmed and calibrated independently before the urine test is accepted as a diagnostic tool.

The discovery of sarcosine could also open up new pathways for attacking the disease.

By simply adding sarcosine to cultures, the scientists turned benign prostate cells into malignant ones, which suggests the molecule plays an important role in unleashing invasive tumours. Prostate cancer is the sixth most common form of malign tumours among men, after cancer of the lung, stomach, liver, colo-rectum and oesophagus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

AIDS funds head fears impact of economic crisis OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) – The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said he was concerned about the impact the economic crisis would have on efforts to combat the diseases. “I’m afraid of the impact the financial crisis will have, first of all on the rich countries which will find it difficult to provide resources but also the impact on poor countries as the crisis will touch them too,” said Michel Kazatchkine.

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009



European car sales in 20-year slump and jobs.

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European new cars sales slumped in January to the lowest level for twenty years, trade data showed last week, boosting the argument of countries such as France which wants to help the ailing sector.

National bailouts of their auto sectors are high on Europe’s agenda, both from those eager to implement them and those warning against the threats of protectionism.

The European Commission warned France that its plan to bailout struggling French car makers must not have “negative collateral effects” on other EU nations.

Sales fell by 27 percent in January from the figure in January last year, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced plans to lend PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault three billion euros (3.9 billion dollars) each and other measures in exchange for a promise not to shut French plants or sack French workers.

The annual sales plunge was even worse than the 25.8 percent recorded in December and 17.8 percent fall in November with new car registrations totalling 958,517 cars, the lowest level for two decades, ACEA said.

“All markets (contributed) negatively to the results,” it said in a statement which underscores distress in the European industry, badly hit by the U.S.-born economic crisis which has left Europe in recession. The European Union has formally fallen into recession, according to official figures Friday, with GDP plunging by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 followng a 0.2 percent drip in the previous quarter. Last Thursday, the Eurostat data agency reported that factories and refineries in EU had cut production at the fastest rate on record last month, and for 2008 as a whole. Earlier last week, European car makers urged EU nations to step up and coordinate action to help their industry through the economic crisis with auto production set to slide further as the year progresses.

“The measures that the EU has agreed upon so far are insufficient to meet the needs of our industry,” said Carlos Ghosn, president of the European auto industry’s ACEA trade association.

The scheme has riled several EU nations, not least the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

FRANCE, Marckolsheim : Cars are lined up on a parking of French car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen in Markolsheim, eastern France. France will lend six billion euros (7.7 billion dollars) to carmakers Renault and Peugeot-Citroen in exchange for a promise to halt job losses and rein in executive bonuses, reports said. AFP/FREDERICK FLORIN

The falling demand is having a serious effect on a sector which employs 2.2 million people throughout Europe directly and 10 million indirectly. Sales at Europe’s leading auto maker Volkswagen fell by 15 percent in January.

It has put around two-thirds of its German workforce on shorter hours as it slashes production to cope with the fall in demand.

General Motors Europe, a unit of ailing U.S. giant GM, on Monday agreed with staff

representatives on a plan to reduce the number of hours worked.

Late last month Sergio Marchionne, chief executive at Italy’s Fiat, said he expects 2009 to be the company’s toughest year to date, and warned that the country’s auto sector could shed 60,000 jobs unless the state comes to the rescue. The ACEA said that auto production fell by 20 percent in the last quarter of 2008, and it expects output to decline this year by at least 15 percent, putting pressure on costs

The Czech Republic is home to a number of foreign-owned car plants, including one by France’s PSA Citroen Peugeot, which announced plans on Wednesday to cut 11,000 jobs worldwide in 2009. New car registrations in Europe have now dropped for nine straight months, mirroring the effects of the credit crunch.

With the exception of France (-7.9 percent), all markets faced a double-digit downturn. German sales were down by over 14 percent, Britain’s remaining auto industry registered over 30 percent fewer cars, Italy was down 32 percent and Spain a whopping 41.6 percent.

The ACEA logs new car registrations in 28 countries – the 27 EU member states, minus Cyprus and Malta, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Germany preparing bank nationalisation law BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s coalition government and lawmakers have agreed on several points of a future law to regulate the nationalisation of banks, a government spokesman said. A draft should be presented to the cabinet this week that sets limits on the expropriation of shares held by private investors. A source close the the matter said expropriation would only be applied as a last resort.

Hypo Real Estate, a specialist in property lending that has survived only through the infusion of some 100 billion euros (129 billion dollars) in direct aid and loan guarantees, is expected to be the first German bank nationalised. It would be the first such nationalisation since the German federal republic was formed following World War II.

The government fears an HRE bankruptcy could have a devastating effect in Germany, possibly even in Europe, similar to that

caused by the bankruptcy of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in September.

“Everything must be done to avoid a German-style Lehman Brothers,” a parliamentary source told AFP.

German authorities are currently in talks with private shareholders to determine the price at which Berlin would acquire outstanding HRE stock. Last Thursday, the U.S. investor JC Flowers met in the German capital with officials

and talks on the share price continued Friday, the first source said.

A government source said the U.S. fund was prepared in principle to sell its stake but had not made clear on what conditions it would agree to the transaction.

Social democratic Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck backs the idea of an expropriation of HRE shares, while conservatives of the CDU and CSU parties say it would damage the tradition of private shareholding in Germany.

“I am very concerned,” he added.

Kazatchkine was accompanying French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who was making her first trip as a goodwill ambassador for the Global Fund to the west African nation of Burkina Faso.

Based in Geneva, the Global Fund oversees hundreds of programs in 136 countries through public-private partnerships that have raised more than 11 billion dollars (8.5 billion euros). Kazatchkine said the Global Fund was already facing a shortfall of five million dollars for its 2008-2010 programs.

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global affairs

Economic crisis picture wins World Press Photo award THE HAGUE (AFP) – American Anthony Suau won the World Press Photo award for a picture of a home being seized in the U.S. sub-prime crisis while Agence France-Presse took two first prizes for work during Kenya’s turmoil last year.

AFP’s Chiba Yasuyoshi won the People In The News award for a photo of inter-tribal conflict in western Kenya, while Walter Astrada won the Spot News first prize for a photo illustrating post-electoral violence in the African nation.

Suau’s black and white image taken for Time magazine shows an armed sheriff moving through a home in Cleveland, Ohio, in March 2008 following the eviction for mortgage foreclosure.

The officer has to ensure the inhabitants have moved out and left no weapons behind. “The strength of the picture is in its opposites,” said jury chairman MaryAnne Golon.

“It’s a double entendre. It looks like a classic conflict photograph, but it is simply the eviction of people from a house following foreclosure. Now war in in its classic sense is coming into people’s houses because they can’t pay their mortgages.”

“It is a very ambiguous image,” said fel-

The picture shows an armed officer of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department moving through a home in Cleveland, Ohio, following eviction as a result of mortgage foreclosure. Officers have to ensure that the house is clear of weapons, and that the residents have moved out.

low juror Akinbode Akinbiyi. “You have to go into it to find out what it is. Then over the world people will be thinking ‘this is what is happening to all of us.’”

Prizes were given to 64 photographers of 27 nationalities in 10 theme categories. On top of the two first prizes, AFP’s Olivier Laban-Mattei won third prize in general news for an image of the aftermath of the cyclone in Myanmar.

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Japan signs pact lending 100 billions dlrs to IMF

ROME (AFP) – Japan signed an agreement on terms of its commitment to lend up to 100 billion dollars to the International Monetary Fund to provide financial lifelines to crisis-hit emerging countries. The agreement was signed in Rome on the sidelines of a Group of Seven finance leaders’ meeting largely aimed at addressing global financial turmoil that has led to a sharp economic slowdown. “This loan is important not only for the IMF but also for all countries in need of help because of the crisis,” IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn told reporters at the signing in Rome. “This loan is the biggest loan in the history of mankind,” he said, signing alongside Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa. Strauss-Kahn said: “This commitment is the single-largest supplemental financing contribution by an IMF member country ever, and it clearly demonstrates Japan’s leadership and continuing commitment to a multilateral approach to global economic and financial challenges.”

Strauss-Kahn said he hoped other countries would join Japan in providing support to the 185-nation institution. He told reporters after the signing that the fund had enough money at present but in the future he hoped to double its funds as more countries would need its help in the economic crisis. The IMF has awarded aid to several countries including Ukraine and Hungary. “Owing to the bad figures we have on the economic side, I’m expecting a second wave of countries coming and knocking on the door,” he said. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso had announced in November last year that Japan was prepared to provide supplemental funding to the IMF to help contain the current global crisis. At almost 980 billion dollars, Japan has the second largest foreign exchange reserves in the world after China. Tokyo is the second-largest donor after Washington to many global institutions, including the IMF.

OPEC sees world oil demand shrinking in 2009

VIENNA (AFP) – OPEC trimmed its forecasts for global oil demand, forecasting that demand would shrink by 0.67 percent in 2009 because of “economic depression” in industrialized countries. “World oil demand continues its steep decline from last year and is expected to follow this strong negative pattern at least for the first three quarters of the year,” the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries wrote in its February report. Oil demand in industrialised or so-called OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries “is experiencing a steep decline resulting from the region’s economic depression,” the cartel said. As a result, OPEC adjusted its forecast for world demand growth, predicting that demand would contract by 0.58 million barrels per day (bpd) or 0.67 percent in 2009. In its previous monthly bulletin released in January, OPEC had signalled a contraction of 0.18 million bpd for 2009. The cartel also revised its estimate for world oil demand last year, calculating that demand shrank by 0.22 percent or 0.19 million bpd to an average 85.7 million bpd in 2008. Previously, the estimate had been for a contraction of 0.06 percent or 0.05 million

bpd. “U.S. oil demand is considered the major factor behind the vanishing growth in oil demand in 2008,” the report said. “North America alone shaved 1.2 million bpd from world oil demand last year. For the whole OECD region, the decline reached 1.6 million bpd. This was more than enough to offset all the oil demand growth from other regions in the world.” The current persistent overhang in inventories posed a major challenge for the markets, OPEC continued. “The high and growing stock levels – particularly for crude oil – are likely to continue to disrupt the overall stability of the market. Their impact will become even more pronounced with the onset of low seasonal demand as well as the upcoming refinery maintenance period,” it said. The current state of the market under prevailing supply and demand uncertainties, combined with the deepening economic crisis worldwide, highlights the necessity and importance of OPEC’s actions to stabilise the market, including most recently the decision taken at Oran.” At a meeting in Oran, Algeria on December 17, OPEC agreed to cut output by 2.2 million barrels per day.

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009



U.S. intelligence czar warns about Venezuela

ence in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Venezuela serves as a bridge for Iran’s influence in Latin America and continues to harbor leftist rebels from Colombia, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the U.S. Senate.

Blair said China also was reaching out to Latin America, where it has sold weapons, mostly to Venezuela.

Blair warned not only about Venezuela, but also its fellow leftist allies Cuba and Bolivia, and about the growing drug problem in Mexico and FARC rebel strength in Colombia, in an annual assessment of global threats to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In Mexico, where 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States comes from, the US intelligence chief said the growing violence of drug cartels “impede Mexico City’s ability to govern parts of its territory,” Blair said.

A thorn in the U.S. side since President Hugo Chavez first took office 10 years ago, Venezuela took center stage in Blair’s assessment of Latin America.

US-Venezuelan relations took a turn for the worse in September when they expelled their respective ambassadors, and following complaints that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were provided sanctuary in Venezuela.

“We assess Chavez is likely to maintain his decade-long ties to FARC by providing them safe haven because of his ideological affinity to the group and his interest in influencing Colombian politics,” Blair said. The intelligence czar said the ChavezFARC links made public after turning up in the computer files of a rebel commander killed by Colombian troops in Ecuador in March, “forced Chavez, at least rhetorically, to improve relations with Bogota.”

Blair, who took office two weeks ago, warned that “Venezuela also is serving as a bridge to help Iran build relations with other Latin American countries” through its embassies and cultural centers. Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been strengthening bilateral economic and military relations, “although the two countries are still struggling to overcome bureaucratic and linguistic obstacles to implementing accords,” he added. Chavez and Ahmadinejad have met on

He also noted U.S. concerns that Mexican drug cartels “have shown their willingness and capacity to strike Mexican government officials, its leadership and the military.” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testifies before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Blair gave a brief evaluation of current and future security challenges facing the United States before taking questions from senators about Iran, Pakistan and a variety of other subjects. AFP/Chip Somodevilla

several occasions, most recently November 2007 in Tehran.

Blair also warned that Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia backed by Syria and Iran that US considers a terrorist organization, has gained a foothold in Latin America thanks to Venezuela, which denies any links to the group. “Chavez’s growing ties to Iran, coupled with Venezuela’s lax financial laws and border controls, and widespread corruption have created a permissive environment for Hezbollah to exploit,” he said. Blair reminded lawmakers that in June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelans as supporters of terrorism for reportedly providing logistical and financial support to Hezbollah members.

In Cuba, Blair said, President Raul Castro “will continue to deny elements of civil society and pro-democracy dissidents the exercise of free expression,” and to support “authoritarian populist governments in Latin America ... seeking to undermine U.S. influence across the region.” In Colombia, FARC are still carrying out terrorist attacks across the country and “its chances for surviving as a viable insurgent force over the next several years will be aided by a still-cohesive leadership structure, substantial drug revenues, and cross border sanctuaries in Venezuela and Ecuador.”

In Bolivia, Blair said, threats against U.S. citizens have diminished, but President Evo Morales “consistently has accused official US organizations – the U.S. Embassy, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and USAID (US Agency for International Development) – of conspiring against him.” Blair urged greater U.S. engagement in Latin America.

“To maintain our political and economic influence in the region, the United States will be called upon to help the region’s governments address their growing security problems and to deliver greater market access.”

‘Buy American’ clause could lead to trade war: CEA WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) warned on Friday that “Buy American” provisions in the economic stimulus bill could make the United States vulnerable to a trade war. “The ‘Buy American’ provisions in the stimulus bill will signal to our trading partners around the world that the United States is returning to the bad old days of protectionism and economic nationalism,” CEA president Gary Shapiro said in a statement.

“Rather than stimulate the American economy, these provisions will lead to retaliation from abroad and cost precious jobs in the United States,” said the head of the association representing some 2,200 electronics companies. “The promise that the ‘Buy American’ provisions keep with the letter of World Trade Organization commitments is a meaningless gesture -- it contradicts recent statements by both President (Barack) Obama and G-20 leaders to avoid protectionism, which exacerbate the global economic crisis,” Shapiro said. “If we close our borders to international trade and artificially prop up our own industries, we deepen the global recession and further make ourselves vulnerable to a trade war,” he added.

The U.S. House of Representatives last Friday passed a 787-billion-dollar stimulus package and the Senate was poised to follow suit. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those expressing concern on Friday over provisions in the bill that would require the use of US iron, steel and manufactured goods in public works projects funded by the bill.

He also said Hezbollah maintained a pres-

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IMF chief says rich world in ‘deep’ recession

ROME (AFP) – International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Friday that advanced economies were in a “serious” and “deep recession,” ahead of crisis talks with G7 finance ministers. “The world economy is close to recession. The advanced countries are in deep reces-

sion,” he told AFP.

“We don’t see any signal for the time being showing that 2009 could be better than we expect,” he told reporters earlier, but declined to qualify the worldwide economic crisis as a depression.

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Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Jordan tops Hall of Fame finalists

PHOENIX (AFP) - National Basketball Association icon Michael Jordan, arguably the league’s greatest player of all-time, headlined the list of 16 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame announced last Friday. Two-time NBA champion David Robinson and all-time assists leader John Stockton were among the other finalists. The Hall of Fame class will be announced on April 6 at the NCAA collegiate Final Four in Detroit, Michigan. Finalists need a minimum of 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Jordan might well garner all 24 votes, and for good reason. A six-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, the Chicago Bulls star dominated the sport, becoming a global icon in the process. He led the league in scoring an NBA record-tying seven straight seasons and 10 times overall. “His Airness” retired with the NBA’s highest scoring average (30.1 points per game). Jordan led the Bulls to three straight NBA titles, then retired following the death of his father in 1993. He made a brief foray into minor league baseball before returning to

Chicago in 1995. In 1996, Jordan led the Bulls to an NBArecord 72 wins and the first of three straight championships (1996-98). A two-time Olympic gold medal winner and member of the original “Dream Team” in 1992, Jordan retired again in 1999. He made a second comeback two years later with the Washington Wizards - a team in which he had part ownership. Jordan, who also was named to the AllNBA first-team defense nine times, averaged 21.2 points in two seasons with the Wizards before hanging it up for good. Jordan has career averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He is currently the general manager of the Charlotte Bobcats. Robinson, a two-time NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs, is regarded as one of the best centers in league history. A 10-time All-Star and league MVP, “The Admiral” also was part of the original “Dream Team.” The imposing seven-footer averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 14 seasons with the Spurs.

Schumacher ‘fine’ after motorcycle accident

“I am not perhaps as articulate as usual, but all checks show that everything is ok.” False reports in the Spanish media on Wednesday, citing sources at the track, had claimed the 40-year-old had multiple injuries and was left unconscious after the accident.

BERLIN (AFP) – Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher said Thursday he was fine as he nursed cuts and bruises at home after escaping serious injury during a motorcycle accident while testing in Spain. Schumacher was taken to hopsital after a crash at the race track in the Spanish city of Cartagena on Wednesday, but was later discharged and flew home to his family who live near Lake Geneva. “Thanks for the many ‘Get Well Soon’ wishes, but I am fine today,” Schumacher wrote on his website last Thursday.

But Schumacher’s spokeswoman Sabine Kehm told German sports agency SID her client took no more than a heavy tumble and may have been briefly knocked unconscious after his head hit the tarmac. Schumacher has been involved in motorcyle racing since he retired from Formula One at the end of the 2006 season and has competed in the German Motorcycle Championships (IDM). This is the first time he has been injured while racing.

Jordan has career averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He is currently the general manager of the Charlotte Bobcats.

“On behalf of all the nominees, I say thank you,” said Robinson, who was on hand for the announcement. “We understand the

honor that is involved with being one of the finalists. We know that everyone doesn’t get in, but we say thank you and we are very honored to be nominated.” Stockton, a 10-time All-Star, is the league’s career assists leader with 3,265. The former Utah Jazz point guard was a “Dream Team” teammate of Jordan and Robinson in the 1992 Barcelona Games. Stockton averaged 13.1 points and 10.5 assists in 19 seasons with the Jazz. Also nominated by the North American Committee were Golden State Warriors head coach Don Nelson, former Warriors forward and current Golden State general manager Chris Mullin and the late Dennis Johnson, who won three NBA titles - one with Seattle and two with the Boston Celtics. Former New York Knicks forward Bernard King and and former Bulls guard and current Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan - the longest tenured coach in professional sports thanks to his 21 years at the helm of the Jazz, were also nomiated. The international finalists are former Soviet Union coach Vladimir Kondrashin and former Brazilian star Pereira Maciel.

Rodriguez could face ban for doping admission NEW YORK (AFP) – Alex Rodriguez could face suspension after his admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 through 2003, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig told USA Today. The newspaper reported that Selig was considering the move even though there was no anti-doping test program in the sport while baseball’s highest-paid star was a dope cheat. “It was against the law, so I would have to think about that,” Selig said. “It’s very hard. I’ve got to think about all that kind of stuff.” Rodriguez, a New York Yankees star third baseman, would be the first player to serve a ban without testing positive during the doping test programme years, meaning the sport’s players union is likely to challenge any such move. “I would be surprised if there was an attempt to do it,” said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Human growth hormone and steroids were only put on the banned substance list by Major League Baseball just before the 2004 season, after the time frame of Rodriguez’s admission of cheating during his time with the Texas Rangers. But Selig said he sent a memo to all clubs in 1997 emphasizing that possessing steroids without a prescription was illegal. Selig made a longer statement Thursday regarding Rodriguez without hinting at a punishment, noting the time frame.

“I’m saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez. While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there’s no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game,” Selig said. “What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation.” Selig praised Major League Baseball’s current doping plan, formulated in 2004 and toughened several times since under pressure from U.S. lawmakers. “It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity,” Selig said. “We are very proud of the enormous progress we have made, and it is important to note that the recent revelations are at least five years old and a residue of pre-program behavior. “But we will not rest or relax our efforts until the use of these illegal drugs are gone from baseball.” Rodriguez confessed taking steroids to ESPN on Monday, two days after Sports Illustrated reported that “A-Rod” was among 104 players who tested positive for steroids in a 2003 survey testing that was to remain anonymous. Federal investigators uncovered the samples and the identifying link documents during searches for evidence in other steroid cases, opening the door for the revelation of what was to be only a pilot program.

Edition 174 • Feb 17 - Feb 23, 2009

Hollywood still misrepresenting blacks: U.S. film-maker Burnett MANOSQUE (AFP) – Though Charles Burnett is recognized as a top black independent U.S. film-maker, he continues to face funding problems in a country where the movie industry, he says, still misrepresents African-Americans.

“It was a time when you had the civil rights movement, people were fighting for their space in history. They wanted to see black people presented as human beings. “Most of us came into film with that purpose, to tell our own stories and counter the sort of negative images that Hollywood has produced,” said Burnett, who was one of a few privileged blacks in the 1960s who had access to a college education. “Killer of Sheep” was screened at communities, churches and colleges before reaching Europe where it scooped a prize at the 1981 Berlin film festival. More years went by before the 2007 release of a restored copy by Milestone Films, aided by directors Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorcese. Four of his films were screened at the Manosque festival, all human-scaled tales of African-American life. “My Brother’s Wedding” (1983) is a comedy-drama about a young man on the verge of adulthood torn between his brother and his petty criminal friend. The movie was made thanks to a grant following “Killer of Sheep”. “To Sleep with Anger”, released in 1990, was shot on a bigger budget due to the presence of actor Danny Glover and was shown at Cannes’ Critics’ Week. After a screening of that movie, he said, “a lady said to me ‘I didn’t know black people had washing machines’, and I said ‘I beg your pardon’ and then someone else said

MELBOURNE (AFP) – Australian actor Nicole Kidman and her husband, country singer Keith Urban, have donated 500,000 Australian dollars (327,000 U.S.) to victims of the bushfires which killed 181 people.

“Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban led the way, personally donating 500,000 dollars to the Red Cross via the ‘Australia Unites’ telethon,” it said on its website.

“The Aussie supercouple were joined by other Hollywood stars Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Rachel Griffiths and Simon Baker who sent recorded messages of support from the U.S.”

“Killer of Sheep”, shot in 1977 with a cast of non-professional actors on a budget of less than 10,000 dollars, depicts the life of an LA slaughterhouse worker, his marriage, family and neighbours, sleepless nights, and alienating job.

“Because it was a student film, it wasn’t supposed to be theatrically released,” said Burnett.

Australia’s Hollywood stars dig deep for fire relief Australian Hollywood stars and sports legends joined forces late Thursday to help raise funds through a telethon which generated pledges of more than 20 million dollars for the fire relief effort, the Nine television network said.

In France as guest of honour of the Manosque film festival in the Alps, the 64year-old director recounted in an interview how it took 30 years for his first movie to be distributed countrywide.

Described by some as one of the finest films in U.S. history, in 1990 it was selected to the National film registry of the Library of Congress but waited three decades before being shown in theatres across the United States.



Actor Anthony LaPaglia and his wife Gia Carides donated 50,000 dollars, it said, while Canadian singer Michael Buble also gave 50,000 dollars. Charles Burnett is a MacArthur Awardwinning American filmmaker. His most original work concentrates on the lives of the African-American middle-class, who were seldom treated in films. AFP / ANNECHRISTINE POUJOULAT

More than 5,000 people were made homeless and almost 2,000 homes were destroyed when the worst fires in the country’s history tore through towns in southeastern Victoria state last week.

‘Where are the drugs, you know?’”. His 2003 film “Warming by the Devil’s Fire” is a bluesy tale exploring his own past between Mississipi where he was born in 1944, and Los Angeles where he grew up in the ghetto of Watts. “Good films are hard to make. It’s hard to get financing for. It’s difficult everywhere to be an independent film-maker, in the States, in France, in Argentina”, said Burnett, who has been struggling for years to find funding for an adaptation of a Chester Himes story. Asked whether Hollywood movies still offered a distorted image of the life of U.S. blacks, Burnett said: “For the most part yes.” “You have perhaps a lot more actors and a lot of new directors who are black and people of colour. But they’re still telling stories that Hollywood wants made.” Like millions of other African-Americans, the film-maker welcomed Barack Obama’s election as “a good step” while adding that “America has a long way to go.” “It has changed people, it has changed little kids particularly,” he said. “These black kids got motivated and before they weren’t so interested in achievement.” “At the same time, there’s like 2.5 million people in prisons in the States and a huge proportion of that are black people. A huge proportion of homeless people too are blacks.”

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Kidman and husband Keith Urban personally donated 500,000 dollars.

A Red Cross spokeswoman said almost 66 million dollars had been raised for the relief fund through public donations, but “many millions more” had been pledged through the telethon and corporate and government donations.




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The Journal Edition # 174  

The Journal Edition # 174