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Vol. 3 • Edition 177 • Weekly • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009 • Costa Rica, Central America •

CERTIFICADA ISO 9001:2000

www.edica.co.cr

www.journalcr.com

global affairs

P. 20

IMF calls for stimulus measures in 2010 as crisis digs in The International Monetary Fund called for governments to take further stimulus measures to counter a severe global economic slump it sees extending into 2010. (P. 20)

americas

P.21

Raul Castro clears out Fidel’s cabinet, installs his own Cuban President Raul Castro replaced several members of his cabinet on Monday, putting his stamp on the government a year after assuming power from his older brother Fidel. (P.21)

sports

P.22

Honda sells its team to Brawn Japanese automaker Honda announced it had sold its Formula One team to former principal Ross Brawn, rescuing it from collapse and allowing it to compete in the upcoming world championship. (P. 22)

entertainment

P.23

Gloria Estefan announces final tour Cuban-American pop diva Gloria Estefan said that an upcoming tour of Latin American will be her last. (P.23)

New Beachfront Model Villa Open Daily

(506) 2653-2028 t CrystalSandsCR.com

The investment of resources in the park is expected to promote conservation of species endemic to the region, such as monkeys. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

Manuel Antonio National Park seeks to improve services to tourists The Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos (Central Pacific) is in need of a series of improvements that would allow it to not only offer better services to visitors but also to remediate several sanitary deficiencies that have plaguing the popular beach destination for years.

Despite being one of the most visited natural reserves in the country by both foreigners and national tourists, the park has only received minimal investment by the Ministry of the Environment, which manages the facility. The most serious problems afflicting the park are re-

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste 506.2670.2212

lated to wastewater treatment, the condition of toilets in the area and potential dengue breeding grounds found in the protected area. There’s also a garbage dump inside the park and abandoned water wells. All of this may have led to the pollution of an estuary that visitors must cross to reach the national park, and which has been in the news recently. Because of this situation, the Ministry of Health was forced to close down some facilities within Manuel Antonio, and gave the Ministry of the Environment an ultimatum to solve all of these issues no later than June 27. Otherwise, health authorities would deny access to the entire park. (P. 4)

www.pacifico-costarica.com


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Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Page two

ALSO INSIDE P. 6

Business & Economy

Canada becoming attractive export market The Canadian market is looking like an important alternative market for Costa Rican exports due to the reduction in sales to the United States — Costa Rica’s main export market.

P. 10

Society

Training offered in Liberia to prevent forest fires

As part of their preparation to deal with forest fires, firefighting brigades recently took part in a second exercise conducted at the Horizontes Forest Experimental Station in Liberia.

P. 14

Costa rica tides chart Day

High

Starting physical exercise after 50 beneficial

Europe

Germany approves law to limit foreign takeovers

The German parliament gave final backing to a law allowing the state to prevent certain foreign investors from acquiring more than 25 percent of the voting rights in companies deemed strategic.

Global Affairs

OPEC rubbishes IEA on oil prices

OPEC snapped back at the International Energy Agency (IEA) on over its assessment that oil prices of around 40 dollars a barrel would be good for the global economy.

P. 21

Americas

Latin America has ‘some room’ to counter crisis: S & P

Latin America has “some room” to hit back at the global economic crisis with stimulus and other counter-cylical policies, but the region remains vulnerable to varying degrees, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said.

P. 22

SPORTS

Technology aims to end heat strokes in American football

American football players may be able to avoid heat strokes by wearing helmets with specially made technology, an Austrian company that worked on the project said.

P. 23

High

01:54 / 8.77 ft

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Wed 11

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Thu 12

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Fri 13

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Sat 14

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Sun 15

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06:17 / 8.07 ft

Mon 16

12:14 / 0.60 ft

18:34 / 8.45 ft

Costa Rica Basics

Contents P.04 Lead Story P.06 Business & Economy P.10 Society P.14 Culture P.16 Week In Brief

Area:  Population: Capital:  Language:  Time Zone:

P.18 Health P.19 Europe P.20 Global Affairs P.21 Americas P.22 Sports P.23 Entertainment

51,000 km2 4,509,290 (Nov 2008) San Jose Spanish UTC/GMT-6 hours

Health

Taking up regular physical exercise after the age of 50 is as beneficial for men as quitting smoking, a Swedish study of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed.

P. 20

Low

BEAUTIFUL LAND FOR SALE

culture

As an example of how much we can learn from one single artifact, or “object” as some people call them, I have selected a “trophy head” that was made in Guanacaste sometime between 1,700 and 2,300 years ago. The trophy head is of a type called “Guinea Incised,” meaning that the principal mode of decoration was incising the clay after the head was fired in a kiln, and because some of the earliest examples of this kind of ceramic were excavated from the La Guinea cemetery by French archaeologist Claude F. Baudez, some 50 years ago.

P. 19

High

Tue 10

A trophy head full of information

P. 18

Low

Information for Pacific Coast

ENTERTAINMENT

King of Pop Jackson to play ‘final curtain’ concerts Pop megastar Michael Jackson is to stage a series of “final curtain” concerts in London in July, his first major shows for over a decade, he announced in typically eccentric style.

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

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 177 Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009 Costa Rica, Central America

OUR TEAM

Marta Araya, Marketing & Sales Manager E-mail: marta.araya@journalcr.com / sales@journalcr.com classified@journalcr.com Tel: 905-JOURNAL (5687625) Carlos Eduardo Vargas (*), Editors Board Member E-mail: editors@journalcr.com Design & Production: The Journal Design Team E-mail: design@journalcr.com SALES: sales@journalcr.com / classified@journalcr.com NEWS: news@journalcr.com INFO: info@journalcr.com

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: info@journalcr.com www.journalcr.com

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4

lead story

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Guanacaste airports improve infrastructure as demand increases

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Several airports in Guanacaste province, including Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport and the airports in Nicoya and Nosara, are benefiting from infrastructure improvements that would help them respond to a growing demand in services and the increase in tourist visitation in the region.

Since last year, four Guanacaste area airports and two international airports in other parts of the country have benefited from expansion and remodeling projects — including new concrete slabs, runway painting, perimeter fences and land-equipment platforms, among others.

Total investment in these works is 9.329 billion colones ($16.9 million). Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport was the facility that received the most investment, with some 3.387 billion colones ($6.1 million) that went toward construction of 34,500 square meters in platforms to increase from seven to 11 the parking areas for aircraft at the facility.

Last March 6, the Civil Aviation Technical Council and the General Civil Aviation Division gave construction company Quebradores El Pedregal a contract to make improvements to the Nicoya airport, for an investment of 810 million colones ($1.47 million). The works are expected to take 72 days.

At the Nicoyan aerodrome, crews will lay down a new asphalt runway with dimensions of 18 meters wide and 963 meters long. Also built will be two platform areas for aircraft 17 x 50 meters each on either end of the runway. The works will include layers of select materials, sub-foundation, foundation and asphalt.

The new runway and platforms will be adequately marked and a new fence will be installed where required, with the existing fence being repaired where needed so that the entire facility is enclosed. Also part of the improvements will be the elimination of any obstacles in security areas, and trees in the

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5

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

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Other works conducted at the Liberia airport included construction of a lighting system and a land-equipment platform. Some 310 million colones were allocated to repair cracks, potholes and improve runway shoulders. The Nosara airport in Guanacaste now has a new asphalt layer and new runway paint.Photo courtesy of Fitsroy Villalobos

surroundings of the airport will be pruned.

The contract encompasses the execution of all tasks included in the project’s blueprints and technical specifications, including all

materials, equipment, tools, fuel, lubricants, energy, transportation, labor, services and anything else needed to execute the project in its totality.

Finally, last Feb. 20 saw the completion of the last project on Guanacaste airports, as the 1,000-meter Nosara runway was repaired. Other improvements made there included the installation of a perimeter fence and new paint was applied to the runway. Investment in this beach airport was 561 million colones ($1 million).

Manuel Antonio National Park seeks to improve services to tourists (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The Manuel Antonio National Park in Quepos (Central Pacific) is in need of a series of improvements that would allow it to not only offer better services to visitors but also to remediate several sanitary deficiencies that have plaguing the popular beach destination for years. Despite being one of the most visited natural reserves in the country by both foreigners and national tourists, the park has only received minimal investment by the Ministry of the Environment, which manages the facility. The most serious problems afflicting the park are related to wastewater treatment, the condition of toilets in the area and potential dengue breeding grounds found in the protected area. There’s also a garbage dump inside the park and abandoned water wells. All of this may have led to the pollution of an estuary that visitors must cross to reach the national park, and which has been in the news recently. Because of this situation, the Ministry of Health was forced to close down some fa-

cilities within Manuel Antonio, and gave the Ministry of the Environment an ultimatum to solve all of these issues no later than June 27. Otherwise, health authorities would deny access to the entire park.

include trees such as guacimo colorado, pilon, el cedro maria, guapinol blanco, sura, guapinol negro (an endangered species), lechoso, cenízaro and ceiba.

The park’s mangrove forest covers approximately 18 hectares and is composed of three species: red mangrove, white mangrove and black mangrove. Beach vegetation features the manzanillo tree, which produces a milky substance and poisonous fruit, almendro, roble sabana and coco.

It is estimated that some 120 million colones ($218,000) will be invested in the park, including improvements in wastewater treatment, eradication of pollution sources, and construction of new services for visitors. It is expected that Manuel Antonio will benefit from a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for $19 million, which is intended to support tourism in protected areas around the country. The loan’s terms are very beneficial for Costa Rica, due to the payment conveniences it offers. This protected areas tourism program represents a total investment of $25 million, wit the other $6 million coming from matching funds provided by the Costa Rican government and municipalities (local governments will contribute $1,045,000 to the project). The loan is to be repaid in 20 years, with a five-year grace period. The Manuel Antonio National Park is lo-

The investment of resources in the park is expected to promote conservation of species endemic to the region, such as monkeys. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

cated in Puntarenas province, 7 kilometers south of the city of Quepos between Damas and Matapalo. It was established in November 1972, encompassing 1,983 land hectares and 55,000 hectares of ocean. This park protects patches of primary forest, secondary forests, mangrove, beach vegetation, marine ecosystems, islands and a lagoon. Representatives of the local flora

Among the most popular animals in the park are raccoons, coatis, guatuzas, two-toed sloths, white face monkeys, several species of cats and squirrel monkeys — a mammal endemic in Manuel Antonio and which faces extinction due to the destruction of its habitat and its utilization as a pet. It’s common to find in this area bird species such as toucanets, pelicans, guacos, fisher falcons and the chirin coca. The park also houses many iguanas, lizards, snakes and insects. In terms of marine fauna, representative species include morey eels, manta rays, sea stars and angel fish.

Introducing Crystal Sands – The Finest Address in Guanacaste The luxury Villas at Crystal Sands in Langosta, Guanacaste, are establishing a new precedent for luxurious living in Costa Rica. Situated on a golden beach just outside of dynamic Tamarindo, Crystal Sands has just released 20 exclusive two- and three-bedroom residences for those who love Costa Rica’s wild side but want to live surrounded by modern luxuries and comforts. Whether you walk right out of your door for some of the world’s finest surfing, explore the miles of beaches, or sit on your terrace and watch an amazing Costa Rican sunset, Crystal Sands lets you do it in style.

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For more information contact us at (506) 2653-2028 or CrystalSandsCR.com


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Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Business

outside the box

Canada becoming attractive export market (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The Canadian market is looking like an important alternative market for Costa Rican exports due to the reduction in sales to the United States — Costa Rica’s main export market.

Participating in the event were Itzamn Huelat, director of the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter’s (PROCOMER) office in Canada, and Michael Saumur, manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Saumur gave a presentation regarding regulations and requirements for exporting organic, fresh and processed agricultural products to Canada. Also part of the presentation was information about various opportunities for exporting food and agricultural products such as ornamental plants and flowers to this market. The seminar was one of several efforts conducted by foreign trade officials to offer alternatives to local exporters in the face of the current global recession, by diversifying markets. Some of the key Costa Rican exports to Canada include ornamental plants, tires, pineapples and textiles. Costa Rica and Canada signed a free trade agreement on April 23, 2001, in the capital city of Ottawa. The trade deal — Costa Rica Law No. 8300 of Sept. 10, 2002 — went into effect on Nov. 7, 2002. The trade agreement fits within Costa Rica’s general trade policy, which calls for

Javier Segura M. General Manager-DCL Realty Consultants javier.segura@dcl.cr http://www.dcl.cr Has been very interesting to watch the American People’s reaction regarding the two major measures taken by the Obama Administration in order to face the current crisis; we are talking about the Stimulus Plan, and the Housing Plan.

Exports to Canada grew by 9.7 percent during January, which demonstrates the dynamic nature of this market. Due to this situation, a seminar entitled “Getting to Know the Canadian Market” was recently organized to inform local exporters about key opportunities in that North American nation.

The Right Direction

Exports to Canada grew by 9.7 percent during January, which demonstrates the dynamic nature of this market.

facilitating, promoting and consolidating the country’s integration to the world economy. Costa Rica has carried a trade deficit with Canada in the past few years, but this has been shrinking since 2005, going from $49.2 million to $36.2 million that year. The main Canadian imports into Costa Rica are raw materials, which local production sectors need for their activities and which Costa Rica doesn’t produce. A study about the impact of Costa Rica’s trade deals has revealed encouraging results for local businesses. Costa Rica had been trying for several years in the late 1990s to grow closer to the Canadian market. In late 2000, then-President Miguel Angel Rodriguez visited Canada, starting a process of information exchange between the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Canadian officials. A series of assessments and consultations also took place to see the viability of a free trade deal between the two nations. A Costa Rica-Canada Chamber of Commerce even operated for awhile, which organized several trade missions to different Canadian provinces, but it ceased existing approximately four years ago.

Both measures are highly expensive, and involves many, many issues (mostly the Stimulus), many sectors are involved, and it is more than logic that almost everybody have something to complain about it. The polls results released yesterday are very interesting: two thirds of the American people do not like the measures, but two thirds of the American people support the measures. And how these two multimillion efforts affect us? Well, simply; they can be the foundation that restores the faith in the real estate markets (so important for us). Let me explain myself. Investors and individuals alike are very concerned, afraid I would say, about the future. They are deeply worried about the houses prices downfall; maybe just a minority are having problems facing foreclosures for their primary homes, a bigger number may be having problems with the mortgages of their second or vacation homes, or similar investments, but all of them are affected by the current prices of their assets, there are many people who are underwater; and the problem is that the only way to get out of that situation without losing your investment is to wait for the market to grow again. Obviously, before any “rebound” it is necessary to stop the falling prices spiral; and the only way is to stop the foreclosures. And that is the only intention of the Housing Plan; yes it will help families (like 9 million), but the real effect and the final goal is to stop the foreclosures. Of course, in the process many people will be affected positively, and many people will feel offended by the measures (mostly those who are not in trouble). A very interesting by-product of this measure is that millions of families will have a little more available income to spend; which takes us to

the other, and more polemic, measure: The Stimulus Plan. Someone said in TV “This is 1/3 tax cuts, 1/3 stimulus, and 1/3 pork”, he may be right, there is a lot of “simple expenses” in that bill, but here I have to agree with Mr. Obama, I mean, come on, What do you think that “Stimulus” means?... is spending, that is all. I know that many people says that only the infrastructure, and energy research, is stimulus; but let’s take a second and see just one of the points rightfully called as “pork”. The bill includes $20 Million for the promotion of breast-feeding; I have to admit that it sounds very little like economy stimulating, no?; well, it is. Those $20 Million are going to be spent in salaries of non-profit organizations that promote such a healthy issue, and from them to advertising agencies that are going to design the promotional campaigns, and from them to the media that will broadcast such campaigns. Thus, you do not have to dine several fish soups to realize that the functionaries of those non-profit organizations will not lose their jobs, as well as some designers in the advertising agencies, and maybe some cameraman in the media. Keeping jobs stimulates the economy too! Now, if those persons that will not lose their income, additionally, are helped by the Housing Plan, and will not lose their homes… that is a real change in their lives; compared to a month ago, when they were more than afraid to lose their income AND their roof. Now it looks more like back on track, no? Prevent the job loses, create more jobs, and keep the people at their homes is the key to have a more confident consuming population; that is what will make markets rebound. From there, to the reactivation of the housing market, and the real estate market worldwide, it is just a step. As my brother says: “Economy Javier, it’s always a mob psychology issue, always”, and confidence is the name of this mob psychology game. Have a Nice Week


8

business

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Help for exporters continues in Guanacaste

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The Creating Exporters program continues its activities this month in Guanacaste. Between January and February, the program was implemented in La Cruz and Nandayure, and this month it will move to Santa Cruz (March 20) before landing in Nicoya on Aug. 22. The program consists in training sessions about how to draft internationalization multisector strategies for producers. The Creating Exporters program is directed toward small and medium businesses that wish to sell their goods abroad. The initiative helps guide companies in their preparations to begin exporting, as part of a gradual process that takes place over eight training sessions covering various management areas involved in selling internationally. Entrepreneurs also learn how to develop an exporting plan as well as trade information needed to validate their products in the international market and identify new business opportunities. Contents of the training program include: an introduction to the process of exporting and change management; how to identify opportunities in the international market; preparing and adapting a product for export; export logistics; financial management of an exporting company; internationals sales and purchases and payment methods; and negotiation techniques. Those interested in learning more about the Creating Exporters program in Guanacaste can call 2666-9090 or e-mail jluna@ procomer.com.

This initiative comes to complement other efforts that have recently taken place in the province to train small businesses. For example, last November and December, several training workshops were offered to 1,200 individuals who are currently involved in aspects of the hotel services industry (the last of the workshops took place in Santa Cruz and Liberia. Involved in this effort are the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels (CCH), the National Learning Institute’s (INA) Hotel Management and Tourism Division, the National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR), the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals (ACOPROT), the Costa Rican Small Hotels Network, and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT). Café Britt, together with the Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) and INA, has also offered a series of training sessions for local artisans. One of the project’s objectives was to prepare artisans so they can export their goods and train them on the required paperwork.

Café Britt personnel shared their knowledge and experience in the exporting arena, particularly with regards to what tourists want when they are buying crafts and how Guanacaste artisans can focus their small businesses better. Many other training activities are always taking place in Guanacaste in the tourism field, directed mainly toward improving English-language and customer service skills of the area’s workforce.



Guanacaste exporters have benefited from four different training sessions this year. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salazar.

CR tech companies seek opportunities in Asia (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – A trade mission that included five Costa Rican technology firms traveled in late February to India to participate in the 2009 Indiasoft international fair. Representatives from the Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER) and the Chamber of Information Technology and Communication (CAMTIC) accompanied the local businesses in their trip. This was Costa Rica’s largest and most structured delegation ever to attend the important tech fair, since in past years firms have traveled to Indiasoft but on an individual basis.

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

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

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

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

A group of Costa Rican tech companies seek to expand their businesses in India. Photo courtesy of Indiasoft 2009.

The trade mission sough new business opportunities in the technology market, include niches such as mobile phone applications that are becoming increasingly relevant as Costa Rica begins to liberalize its telecommunications market.

looking into possible partnerships to work with companies whose business activities must be executed through “nearshoring” or sub-contracting in countries that are located closer to their customers.

“This type of activities and trade missions allow us to generate contacts and opportunities” for technology companies, Mora added.

The Singaporian officials met with National Planning and Economic Minister Roberto Gallardo and with Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz, as a way of learning more about Costa Rica’s efforts to advance its IT industry and evaluating what can be done to improve and strengthen this sector.

CAMTIC President Alexander Mora, who joined the trade mission, said participating in this fair is important because “the future of Costa Rica’s IT and communications sector is international, since the local market is small.”

Representatives of the Singapore government shared the experiences of this small but highly competitive Asian country and said they are studying the possibility of collaborating in the creation of an Information and Communication Technology Development Plan for Costa Rica, in the long term.

According to Mora, the Costa Rican technology sector is generating interest and curiosity internationally, as it has managed to make for itself “a reputation of being competitive, dynamic and innovative.” Additionally, Costa Rican is seen abroad as a regional point of contact and respectable competitor, in spite of being a small country.

Singapore is a worldwide success story in technology development, reason for which the Costa Rican government thanked this nation for its interest in helping develop the local tech industry.

The fair was an opportunity to identify market niches for Costa Rican tech firms as well as to bring products and services into the local and regional markets. CAMTIC is also

Costa Rica and Singapore are also getting ready to begin negotiating a free trade agreement.


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society

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Training offered in Liberia to prevent forest fires

last year included Guanacate, with exception of Las Juntas de Abangares and Tilaran; the Central Pacific; the Los Santos region; and the North Huetar Region (Upala and Los Chiles canton), where a drought extended the dry season in that Nicaragua border region.

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – As part of their preparation to deal with forest fires, firefighting brigades recently took part in a second exercise conducted at the Horizontes Forest Experimental Station in Liberia.

Right now, Costa Rica has 912 firefighters to deal with forest fires.

These exercises seek to integrated forest fire brigades and contribute to the protection of natural resources in vulnerable areas such as Guanacaste.

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Thanks to prevention actions that have been taken place recently, the area and ecosystems affected by forest fires have been reduced in the past few years.

During the dry season, the risk of forest fires in protected areas and urban region brush grows, due to high summer temperatures and, in many cases, because of lit cigarette butts thrown at the side of roads. In other cases, the fires are set intentionally.

Regarding forest fires, in 2008 there were 51 events of this kind, for a total affected

GuayacĂĄn Real

The Firefighters Corps director, Hector Chaves Leon, asked citizens to avoid making fires for burning grassland or trash, as they could lead to large forest fires that could jeopardize people’s lives.

The three-day training was attended by professionals with the National Firefighters Corps, the Police Force and the Ministry of the Environment, among others, who shared their abilities and knowledge. Each brigade has its own personal protection equipment, equipment and tools to engage in various drills.

During this time of the year, firefighter units respond to some 42 daily fires in empty lots, for a total of 1,092 so far this year. In 2008, officials responded to some 4,918 fires of this kind, plus 2,109 at trash-dumping sites.

At the Guanacaste’s Golden Mile

Better firefighter training has led to a reduction in forest fires in Guanacaste. However, last week there was one in the Tamarindo area caused by people burning trash. Photo courtesy of ComunicaciĂłn Corporativa

area of 23,416 hectares. The year before the damage was bigger, with 80 forest fires taking place and 27,572 hectares being burned

— accounting for a 36 percent reduction in the number of fires between 2007 and 2008.

The main regions affected by forest fires

Together with the Ministry of the Environment and other institutions that are part of the National Forest Fire Commission (CONIFOR), the National Insurance Institute (INS) is currently implementing a campaign to inform the public about ways to prevent forest fires. In addition to distributing educational materials, the campaign also offers talks at schools and communities. Additionally, the firefighting stations located in Guanacaste, the Southern Zone and others in high-risk areas have been provided with special equipment and new technologies to combat forest fires.

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Who can access financial and technical assistance that the Europeans will provide as part of its upcoming association agreement with Central America and how to do it are the main topics of five workshops and informational sessions that that will be conducted throughout the country.

Also presented at the workshops will be information regarding the Environmental Security Program for Coastal and Marine Communities in the Pacific Region, which includes Santa Cruz. This program’s goal is improve the development levels of the country’s coastal and insular regions by incorporating elements of citizen security and production alternatives, at the same involving the issues of the environment and gender equality. This initiative also seeks to reinforce the community police program in the towns chosen as part of this effort; create a marine security program directed toward the residents of those communities; and draft an environmental education program for those living in participating communities for protection of their natural resources. The workshops were announced last March 2 by representatives of institutions handling negotiation of the association agreement. Costa Rican and European Union officials also talked about cooperation being the third component of the agreement (which also includes a free trade deal), and the importance that civil society and the production sector learn about its benefits. Participants in the event listened to presentations by the Minister and Vice Minister

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EU association agreement workshop for civil society to be held in Liberia

The workshops will be held in Liberia, San Carlos, Limon, Perez Zeledon and Puntarenas during March and April, in days that are yet to be announced.

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Planning Vice Minister Carla Morales talks about projects that are being considered to take advantage of cooperation funds provided by the European Union as part of the Central America-EU association agreement. Photo MIDEPLAN

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of National Planning and Economic Policy, Roberto Gallardo and Carla Morales; the Costa Rican Ambassador to the EU, Roberto Echandi; the EU’s foreign relations director for Latin America, Stefano Sannino; and the EU delegation chief in Costa Rica, Cristina Martins, among others.

Costa Rica is expected to receive 34 million euros in assistance as part of the association agreement through 2013. These funds will be used for five large projects, which are being determined. How the monies will be allocated and who can access them is what the workshops seek to determine, offering citizens information and allowing to ask questions about the process.

The Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN) is participating in this negotiation because it is manager of international assistance coming into Costa Rica. It is assisted in this process by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Chancellor’s Office, which handle the association agreement’s trade and political components, respectively.

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12

society

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Liberia’s public library receives donation of musical instruments A study of the country’s cultural sector indicates that most activities are concentrated in the Central Valley, as MCJD institutions don’t have the resources to extend their coverage outside of this region while the promotion and support of cultural and artistic activities at the community level has been rather weak.

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Liberia’s public library has benefitted from a donation from the cooperation program of the U.S. Embassy, thanks to which users of two public libraries and students with the National Music Education System (SINEM) will enjoy new audiovisual equipment and musical instruments.

The study also points out that there hasn’t been enough support for small and medium businesses dedicated to cultural and artistic activities, despite the fact that such industries offer good potential in the country.

In addition to the Liberia library, benefiting from the donation was also the library at Zaragoza in Palmares. It is estimated that the Liberia library annually serves 22,000 people, while the one in Zaragoza has some 45,000 users — among them elementary and secondary school students. Each of the libraries received 68 audiovisual items, a 42inch plasma TV and a DVD player to support the institutions’ film projects.

The U.S. Embassy delivered the items through the Ministry of Culture and Youth (MCJD). Also donated were a piano, microphones, a stereo, chairs, music stands, speakers, plus additional TV sets, DVD players and movies to support other libraries and cultural programs around the country. The donation of musical instruments will benefit children and teenagers who study at the Pavas Music School in San Jose, which is part of SINEM, as well as students and general public who take advantage of the services provided by public schools.

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Peter Cianchette and Culture Minister Maria Elena Carballo are shown here with a group of students at the Pavas Music School, which received part of a donation of instruments. Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy

The total value of the donation is $9,000, which will support the National Development Plan’s culture component that seeks to democratize access to arts. The culture component of that plan operates with a limited

budget, which impacts its ability to elevate the quality of artistic production throughout the country and the output from key cultural institutions that operate under guidance from MCJD.

Other results of the study indicate that cultural diversity and artistic offerings have not been incorporated into Costa Rica’s international image, thus missing a good opportunity to strengthen the positioning of this sector abroad and failing to attract investment for development of a type of tourism based on culture, in addition to the country’s strong environmental and adventure tourism. In this regard, the U.S. Embassy’s donation is important to promote the cultural industry in the country. Finally, study authors consider that the arts sector has great potential, not exploited so far, for putting cultural and biological diversity in the Costa Rican imaginary and incorporating marine culture as part of the country’s identity.

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Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Costa Rica seeks to become film destination (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Who Costa Rica’s natural resources, many facilities and its proximity to the world’s film Mecca, Hollywood, make the country a potential destination for cinematic production.

year. Promoters of the film are planning to show it at various and festivals and cinemas around the world. Planned are two large screenings in India and Costa Rica. The producers are in negotiations to show the movie in Peru, Panama, the United States and Mexico, Sharan said.

Recently, action film star Steven Seagal visited the country with plans to establish a local film production company. Less investment in the film industry and the need to cut costs during recession times are some of the reasons Seagal is considering to set up shop in Costa Rica.

The cast includes U.S. actor Bristol Pomeroy (lead role), who has worked with Viswanath in the past. The supporting role will be played by Sharan himself.

Meanwhile, Indian director and producer Biju Viswanath, who directed movies such as Deja Vu and A Voyage, will be filming an action and suspense flick at various locations throughout the country in April. The movie, titled Cloud Forest and produced by Jacqshar Films, will see to show a different, more complete image of Costa Rica and open the doors so that other renowned directors consider the country for their projects. The film tells the two hours in the life of a criminal who is on the run along with several people close to him, and who take refuge in a forest. In the midst of the escape effort, the man starts recalling all the illegal acts he committed in the past—such as when he killed a person for the first time.

The film will offer opportunities to foment Costa Rican talent and will offer important roles to local actors.

In recent months, Guanacaste beaches such as Tamarindo, Avellanas, Roca Bruja and Playa Grande were featured in a TV production by Italian network RAI, which was watched by some 10 million people. Photo courtesy of Luis Castrillo

Some of the places to be used during shooting of the film include Bosque de la Hoja, in Heredia, the Orosi River and some San Jose locations such as the National Children’s Museum and the Rotonda de la Bandera (Flag Roundabout), according to Prabhakar

Sharan, owner of Jacqshar Films.

Postproduction of the film would take place during May and June at studios in the United States and India, meaning it would be shown in theaters around the middle of this

In recent months, Guanacaste beaches such as Tamarindo, Avellanas, Roca Bruja and Playa Grande were featured in a TV production by Italian network RAI, which was watched by some 10 million people. RAI videographers and actors with the reality show “The Perfect Wave” were in Tamarindo shooting an episode of this series, in which local surfer Federico Pilurzu took part. Moreover, a crew from German network ZDF was also in Tamarindo filming a movie that will be shown in Europe, although its content and plot are still unknown.

Investment plan would improve road infrastructure

Even though the IDB loan has not yet been approved, work has already been taking place on Guanacaste’s roads, taking advantage of the dry season underway.

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The country’s embattled road infrastructure would receive a much-needed $1 billion investment package if a financing bill currently being studied by the Legislative Assembly’s Treasury Affairs Commission is approved.

Starting in late February, crews have been painting lines on 1,200 kilometers of national roads in the province, including sections such as Limonal-Tempisque River, LiberiaSanta Cruz; La Irma-Las Juntas de Abangares, Cañas-Bebedero, Huacas-Flamingo, Comunidad-Sardinal; Belen-Villa Real, Santa Cruz-Arado, and Huacas-Playa Grande, among others.

Treasury Minister Guillermo Zuñiga, along with his public credit director, Juan Carlos Pacheco, testified before legislators about the objectives of Bill No. 17219 — Cooperation Agreement for Financing Investment Projects (CR-X1007) between the Republic of Costa Rica and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will focus on transportation infrastructure.

In the meantime, another loan, this time from the Central American Economic Integration Bank (BCIE) and for $170 million, is pending approval to be used to expand the Pan-American Highway North to four lanes between Cañas and Liberia. For now, the bidding results for this project have been appealed, so a new bid will have to go out in mid-March.

Zuñiga this is an “umbrella operation,” because at the moment when Congress approves the bill, the IDB would get a signal that the country is interested in borrowing $850 million for the transportation development initiative, which would be matched by Costa Rica for about $150 million.

“Of course this operation is very opportune, as it comes to us at a moment when there’s no money in the world available for this kind of things, at a moment when there’s an economic slowdown,” the Treasury Minister said.

Zuñiga said it’s urgent for the country to spend these resources in port infrastructure,

Roads such as this one in Santa Cruz will be repaired in an effort to allow for higher visitation of tourists to the region. Photo Fitsroy Villalobos

access roads, community roads and local and national highways. “We all need to be clear that this type of investment pays for itself, has a long-term

nature and, additionally, goes hand in hand with improving the quality of life of the population and the country’s systemic competitiveness,” Zuñiga explained.

It is expected that the 50-kilometer road project will be ready in about 15 months following approval of a winning bid — although plans call for the project to be done in two phases so two different companies can be involved in its completion.

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14

Society / Culture

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

A trophy head full of information By Frederick W. Lange Why do archaeologists excavate “things” from archaeological sites? Very simply: to learn about the lives of the peoples who lived in Greater Nicoya before the Spanish invasion decimated the native populations. As an example of how much we can learn from one single artifact, or “object” as some people call them, I have selected a “trophy head” that was made in Guanacaste sometime between 1,700 and 2,300 years ago. The trophy head is of a type called “Guinea Incised,” meaning that the principal mode of decoration was incising the clay after the head was fired in a kiln, and because some of the earliest examples of this kind of ceramic were excavated from the La Guinea cemetery by French archaeologist Claude F. Baudez, some 50 years ago.

Trophy Heads. There have been many interpretations of trophy heads, from the possibility that they were trophies of war against enemies, relics of ancestors (perhaps similar to the bone collections in the religious catacombs in many places in Europe and European South America), an attempt to destroy the soul of your enemy by separating the head from the body, and so on. In the New World, trophy heads are more common in South America than in Mesoamerica and the presence of this style of trophy head in Greater Nicoya indicates contacts with South American people during the time period they were made. Although the jungles of Brazil are probably too far away to have been in contact with Greater Nicoya, we can at least speculate that these Guinea Incised heads may be the prehistoric precursors of the much later shrunken head cults. Stylistic Similarities. Very similar pots, made about the same time as the Guinea Incised heads, have been found on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and there the type has been named “Zoila Red.” They too are decorated with incisions after having been fired. The Caribbean coast may have been the point of entry for introducing this form and manner of decoration to Greater Nicoya. Using the natural pathways between the volcanoes in Guanacaste, the Caribbean coast is only a three-days’ walk from Greater Nicoya and there is substantial archaeological evidence of interaction between the two areas. Inter-Regional Contacts. If you look closely at some of the examples of Guinea Incised ceramics (including the trophy head illustrated here), you will notice faint yellowish colored lines that have almost disappeared. These lines are referred to as “negative painting” (similar to tie-dying and batik technique decoration) and represent the technology transfer of the “Usulutan” decoration

Guinea Incised ceramics (such as the trophy head illustrated here) have shown that 2,000 years ago what is now Greater Nicoya participated in an extensive network of ceramic technology and symbolism that extended to the north, south and east.

technique from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to Greater Nicoya. Of greatest interest here is that the southern Mesoamerican decoration technique was not applied to a Mesoamerican shaped ceramic vessel, but to a South American derived form (the trophy head). Thus far, our examination of this Guinea Incised trophy head has shown that 2,000 years ago what is now Greater Nicoya participated in an extensive network of ceramic technology and symbolism that extended to the north, south, and east. Dental practices. This Guinea Incised head also shows a dental treatment that was typical more of Mesoamerica than South America: dental filing. As painful as it may have been, we know of many cultures worldwide where filed teeth are considered to greatly enhance the beauty of the owner. This also adds another element to our consideration of north-south and east-west networking: here we have a fundamentally southern Mesoamerican dental treatment on an individual portrayed in what is more typically a South American form. In closing, let’s revisit the question of exactly who were these people whose heads

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were represented? A hot-off-the-press paper that I noticed while writing this article shows some insights: the article deals with trophy head ceramic vessels from the Nazca Valley of Peru (you may know Nazca better as the location of the large, pebble-bordered and cleared figures in the coastal Peruvian desert that have excited everyone from von Daniken to more level-headed visitors). Although the figures get most of the press, the Nazca culture also left cities and cemeteries with individuals buried with skulls as offering and grave goods. Originally interpreted as war trophies, more recent research of the skulls have shown that the individuals were probably from the same Nazca area (although the researchers did not rule out local warfare). This brought me back to an incident many years ago when I was living in Costa Rica and was working for the National Museum. A huaquero (pot-hunter/grave-robber) came into the museum one day to show us a pair of objects (he had hopes of selling them, of course). The first item out of the box was a Guinea Incised trophy head not unlike the one illustrated with this article. The other one was a human skull with the same details, and especially filed teeth, that could be seen on the ceramic skull. It was almost certain that

the pot represented a real individual. The museum was continually trying to dissuade pot-hunting by not buying things from pothunters, and we politely ushered the man out with many thanks for coming to see us. But we definitely lost a chance to study the two together. No such pairing of a ceramic and real skull has ever been found in a scientific excavation. But some day… To invoke the archaeologist’s favorite admonition: More work needs to be done!

Dr. Frederick W. Lange has a doctoral degree in anthropology, awarded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971. He is the author of the recently published book Before Guanacaste, a popular account of the first 10,000 years of this wonderful place. BG is available at the Jaime Peligro Book Store in Tamarindo, the Café Britt Book Store at Peninsula de Papagayo, and in Libreria Internacional bookstores in San Jose and throughout Costa Rica. Fred’s e-mail address is hormiga_1999@yahoo.com

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Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

week in brief

Politics Three vie for opposition party candidacy

The competition for the presidential candidacy at the main opposition force, the Citizen Action Party (PAC), is heating up, with three individuals announcing their aspirations to represent the group at the 2010 presidential elections. Party leader and founder Otton Solis will run again, this time against her former vice presidential candidate, economist Epsy Campbell, and businessman Roman Macaya, one of the main leaders of the resistance movement against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). This will be the first time the new party will have an internal election for presidential candidate, since in the past two countrywide elections (2002 and 2006), Solis represented the party unopposed.

China to strengthen friendly ties with Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) — China is willing to continuously push forward its friendly relations with Costa Rica, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said last week. Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, made the remarks while meeting with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The two countries reached broad consensuses on a number of key issues when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Costa Rica last year, said Wang, adding Hu’s visit pointed out the way for further development of bilateral friendly ties. China and Costa Rica have carried out fruitful cooperation in politics, economy, education, culture and finance since they forged diplomatic ties in 2007. Bilateral cooperation brought tangible benefits to the two peoples, said Wang. The Chinese side also expressed appreciation to Costa Rica for its understanding and support over issues relating to Taiwan and Tibet. Wang said the CPC is ready to strengthen exchanges with the National Liberation Party (PLN) led by Arias, so as to continue strengthening the political and social foundation for China-Costa Rica friendly ties. Arias said his country is willing to join hands with China in pushing forward the China-Costa Rica friendly ties and mutually beneficial cooperation.

Business & Economy Costa Rica seeks to promote conference tourism

(La Nacion) — With the goal of mitigating the effects of the economic crisis on the

country’s tourism industry, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) announced it will promote the country as a destination for conferences. According to Tourism Minister Carlos Benavides, this type of tourism does not depend on the United States and is the least affected by the global recession. Most conference visitors come here from Central America (46 percent), other Latin American countries (17 percent), and the United States (9 percent). Additionally, Benavides said, conference goes spend on average five times more than other tourists — some $110 per day on average 11-day stays.

Bar sales down due to tougher drunk driving law and economic crisis

(Inside Costa Rica) — Bar owners and the Cervecera Costa Rica brewer have shown concern over the drop in sales of alcohol due to the tougher drinking and driving sanctions recently enacted here and the economic crisis. Gisela Sanchez, director of corporate Relations for Cerveceria Costa Rica, said that “people, to avoid going to jail if caught drinking and driving, in addition to the economic situation, are drinking less.” The situation has led to layoffs of 136 brewer employees due to slow sales. Claudio Aguilar, manager of the National Liquor Factory (FANAL), said there has been a change in habits, with consumption of liquor in bars dropping, but with sales of spirits increasing at stores and supermarkets.

JetBlue to begin service to Costa Rica March 26

(Inside Costa Rica) — JetBlue has announced regular service to Costa Rica from Florida, beginning on March 26. The airline says it will begin flying regular daily round trips between Orlando and San Jose. The airline will be using its 100-seat Embraer E190 jets on the route and will offer connecting service to San Jose from 14 cities, including New York, Boston, Washington and Austin, Texas. Costa Rica will be the ninth country served by JetBlue, continuing the airline’s push into Latin America.

San Jose will be JetBlue’s 22nd nonstop route from Orlando.

Costa Ricans using less petroleum (ACAN-EFE) — The government’s plan to reduce Costa Rica’s use of petroleum is being successful, with February showing a reduction of 14 percent in use compared to the same last year. According to official

figures, the reduction had mostly to do with lower use of fossil fuels for electricity generation, as the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) required 67 percent less diesel to fuel thermal plants. Auto fuel consumption also decreased, including 7.9 percent in gasoline. Last year, Costa Rica spent $2.15 billion importing crude oil.

Costa Rica leads tourism in Latin America

(Inside Costa Rica) — Switzerland, Austria and Germany have the most attractive environments for developing the travel and tourism industry, according to the third annual Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum. Costa Rica ranked 42nd, the highest ranking of any Latin American country in the report. Costa Rica ranked 44th last year. For 2009, Costa Rica earned a score of 4.42, putting it ahead of Mexico (51) in tourism infrastructure, education and training within the travel and tourism industry. Costa Rica is ahead of its neighbours Panama (55), Guatemala (70), Honduras (83), El Salvador (94) and Nicaragua (103). The country gets excellent marks for its natural resources (ranked 6th), with several World Heritage sites, a high percentage of nationally protected areas, and its very diverse fauna. Given the importance of the natural environment for the county’s tourism industry, it is notable that it ranks a high 27th overall for environmental sustainability, an area of measurable improvement since last year. However, safety and security remains a concern (72nd). Further, although its tourism infrastructure is well developed (33rd), with a strong presence of major car rental companies and abundant hotel rooms, ground transport infrastructure requires significant upgrading (103rd), particularly roads and ports, making travel in the country somewhat difficult.

San Jose Airport expansion en route to be completed

(Inside Costa Rica) — Houston Airport System (HAS) announced last week that it has secured the required financing to complete the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) International Airport from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. HAS says the financing packaged will inject $40 million for the completion of phases one and two of the San Jose airport. The financing approval complies with the requirement by the Comptroller’s General, which had asked HAS to have it in place before it would be authorized to begin the work. Transportation Minister Karla Gonzalez said that the construction company in charge of work at Juan Santamaria, EDICA, has begun mobilizing equipment to the airport in anticipation of all the approvals. The Minister added that the some 300 jobs will be created as part of the expansion project.

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(La Nacion) — Facebook, the most popular social networking site on the Internet, has attracted nearly 100,000 Costa Ricans who maintain updated profiles there and share information with their friends. A little over half of registered users here are women (54 percent). Ticos represent only 0.06 percent of Facebook’s 175 million worldwide users.

Ticos are ‘Blue Pill’ champions

Monday - Saturday from 5:00pm - 7:00pm Sports Sunday

(Inside Costa Rica) — Costa Ricans are champions in the consumption of the little “blue pill,” according to the manufacturer of Viagra, Pfizer Inc. According to the company, Costa Rica had the largest increase in sales in the region between November 2007 and No-

vember 2008. The company says that Ticos consumed 149,264 pills, some 51,043 more than their Panamanian brothers and 116,037 more than men in Guatemala. Pfizer says the sale of Viagra in Costa Rica has been in an upward spiral since 2006 when it sold only 131,900 pills. Experts say that the higher consumption of the blue pill in Costa Rica is due to a more informed public and doctors.

Corcovado National Park gets GPS technology (La Nacion) — Park rangers with the Corcovado National Park in the southern Pacific coast now have GPS technology that will help them protect this jewel of Costa Rican nature, which harbors 2.5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. The technology will allow park personnel to more easily detect and document the area’s rugged geography and the thousands of species of flora and fauna living there. GPS devices will help rangers, for example, document the exact sighting of endangered species such as jaguars and peccaries. Officials expect the technology will also help them in their constant struggle against poachers and illegal fishermen in the region.

Nicaragua claims full sovereignty over San Juan River

(Inside Costa Rica) — Earlier last week, Costa Rica made its oral presentations before the justices of the International Court of Justice (World Court) at The Hague regarding the dispute with Nicaragua over navigational rights in the San Juan River that divides both nations. The dispute goes back some time when Costa Rican police officers were denied access to the river while being armed; Costa Rica claims Nicaraguan authorities have impeded access to schools, medical and commerce and demanded payment from Costa Ricans. While San Juan belongs to Nicaragua, Costa Rica has had navigational rights in the river since 1858 after the Cañas-Jerez treaty was signed by both countries. The Nicaraguan ambassador to Holland, Carlos Jose Argüello, told the justices that Nicaragua has sovereignty over the river, which means having “great empire and domain” over the waters of the San Juan. Nicaragua argues that Costa Rica’s claim of having the right to commerce does not mean tours and tourism, but rather, is limited to goods and merchandise, excluding the transport of people. Nicaragua further argues that Costa Rica is not looking for the court to interpret the meaning of treaty, but to revise it, which is not the funtcion of the court.

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Costa Rica adopts anti-terrorism law

(Inside Costa Rica) — A new anti-terrorism law was signed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias last week, giving Costa Rican authorities more ammunition to fight organized crime in the country. The new law establishes an office for the attention of crime victims, through which victims and witnesses can receive support that includes psychological treatments, surveillance and relocation. The office can also assist in finding a new job or provide private police escort, depending on the existing threat. The protection measures are evaluated every six months. The law allows witnesses and victims to provide judicial officials, in absolute confidence, all the details of the crime and the assailants that will help in the investigation to bring the criminals to justice. The new law defines terrorism as a crime and also allows for aiding and abetting criminals, including the financing of terrorist groups, with a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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18

health

Cellphones may spread superbugs in hospitals PARIS (AFP) – Cell phones belonging to hospital staff were found to be tainted with bacteria – including the drug-resistant MRSA superbug – and may be a source of hospitalacquired infections, according to study.

“In a convenient and easy environment, the human mind and body get used to setting the hurdle low,” he warned. “Our final conclusion is that riding motorcycles can lead to smart ageing.”

Nearly 35 percent carried two types of bacteria, and more than 11 percent carried three or more different species of bugs, the study found.

“These mobile phones could act as a reservoir of infection which may facilitate patient-to-patient transmission of bacteria in a hospital setting,” the authors warned.

Several strains of drug-resistant bacteria are generally harmless to healthy people but can become lethal to hospital patients in weakened conditions. The bacteria slip into open wounds and through catheters or ventilator tubes, typically causing pneumonia or bloodstream infections. The researchers noted that more studies were needed to confirm their findings, which were based on a relatively small sampling.

But they called for commonsense mea-

Kawashima is the designer of “Brain Training” software, which incorporates quizzes and other games and is available on the Nintendo DS game console under the name “Brain Age” in North America. The researchers noted that more studies were needed to confirm their findings, which were based on a relatively small sampling. www. sxc.hu

sures to help reduce the risk of contamination, especially frequent cleaning of phones with alcohol-based disinfectants or the use of anti-microbial materials. Banning phone use in hospital settings is probably not practical, they concluded, because the devices are often used for work in emergencies.

A self-professed motorcycle fan, 49-yearold Kawashima cited a new study conducted jointly by Yamaha and Tohoku University, for which he works. One experiment involved 22 men, all in their 40s and 50s, who held motorcycle licences but had not taken a ride for at least a decade. They were randomly split into two groups – one asked to resume riding motorcycles in everyday life for two months, and another that kept using bicycles or cars.

The riders also said they made fewer mistakes at work and felt happier. www.sxc.hu

“The group that rode motorbikes posted higher marks in cognitive function tests,” Kawashima said.

In one test, which required the men to remember a set of numbers in reverse order, the riders’ scores jumped by more than 50 percent in two months, while the non-riders’ marks deteriorated slightly, he said. The riders also said they made fewer mistakes at work and felt happier.

“Mental care is a very big issue in modern society,” said Kawashima. “I think we made an interesting stir here as data showed you can improve your mental condition simply by using motorbikes to commute.”

The study was published in BioMed Central’s Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials.

In the United States, where national statistics are available, MRSA is the cause of more than 60 percent of all hospital infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA in 2005 infected 94,000 people and killed 19,000 in the United States.

www.journalcr.com

Starting physical exercise after 50 beneficial

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Taking up regular physical exercise after the age of 50 is as beneficial for men as quitting smoking, a Swedish study of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed.

It showed that starting to exercise after the age of 50 was as beneficial as giving up smoking, but it had to be a regular regimen for five to 10 years for the positive effects to be observed.

“Increased physical activity in middle age is eventually followed by a reduction in mortality to the same level as seen among men with constantly high physical activity,” the study said.

19

europe

Euro membership would Spain says housing sales drop nearly 33 percent in 2008 boost Baltics MADRID (AFP) – Home sales in Spain dropped by 32.6 percent in 2008 from the previous year to 564,464 units, the housing ministry said, as a real estate boom that had fueled a decade of growth collapsed.

PARIS (AFP) – Fast-track eurozone membership for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would boost their credit ratings by removing the risk of a balance of payments crisis, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said.

Sales of existing homes suffered most, plummeting 45.6 percent last year compared to 2007 to a total of 231,038 transactions, it said in a statement. Spain’s economy, the fifth-largest in Europe, entered into recession at the end of last year as the global financial crisis hastened a correction that was already underway in the contruction sector, the driver of its growth.

“If there were any indication from the European Commission or the European Central Bank of greater appetite for an acceleration of EMU membership that would clearly have a positive impact on the sovereign ratings,” he said.

Last week, EU leaders opened the door for the first time to the possibility of fast-track membership of the eurozone for nations in Central and Eastern Europe but ruled out a relaxation of the stringent rules for adopting the currency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after an EU summit in Brussels that the bloc “could consider” accelerating the candidacy process and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that “the debate is open.” “We have to accelerate the process of joining the eurozone,” Hungarian Prime Minister

The slump in the building sector has spread to other areas, pushing the unemployment rate to 13.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the highest level in the 27-nation European Union. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would boost their credit ratings by removing the risk of a balance of payments crisis.

BERLIN (AFP) – The German parliament gave final backing to a law allowing the state to prevent certain foreign investors from acquiring more than 25 percent of the voting rights in companies deemed strategic .

The economy ministry will be able to oppose such acquisitions if they are seen to represent a threat to “public order and security,” according to a text of the legislation, approved Friday by the upper house, or Bundesrat.

The legislation does not affect investors

from Germany’s 26 partners in the European Union as well as those from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

When the text of the law was adopted by the cabinet last August, the economy minister at the time, Michael Glos, said the legislation would be applied “with maximum restraint,” noting that it was rare for foreign investors to take a stake of more that 25 percent in German businesses. The law originated in 2007 in response to the growing clout wielded by powerful sovereign wealth funds in China, Russia and some oil-powered Arab states.

Sales of existing homes suffered most, plummeting 45.6 percent last year.

The plunge in housing sales also led to a 3.2 percent drop in house prices in 2008, according to government statistics. But some sector specialists put the fall in prices last year at up to 8.8 percent.

Berlusconi upbeat on economic outlook

Ferenc Gyurcsany told journalists ahead of the summit, adding that candidates should not have to wait two years before joining the bloc.

Germany approves law to limit foreign takeovers

The lower house, the Bundestag, approved the law on February 13.

Men who began exercising after the age of 50 had the same life expectancy after 10 years as men who had always exercised, the researchers from Uppsala University said.

The study surveyed 2,205 men at age 50 in 1970 and divided into four groups (sedentary or low, medium or high physical activity levels). They were followed up at ages 60, 70, 77 and 82.

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

“It’s pretty clear that if any of the three Baltics were in the eurozone at this point their ratings would be several notches higher,” credit analyst Frank Gill told reporters in a telephone briefing.

“The driver’s brain gets activated by riding motorbikes” in part because it requires heightened alertness, Ryuta Kawashima said after his research team and Yamaha Motor conducted a string of experiments involving middle-aged men.

Ninety-five percent of the mobile phones were contaminated with at least one type of bacteria, with the potential to cause illness ranging from minor skin irritations to deadly disease.

Only 10 percent of staff regularly cleaned their phones, even if most followed hygiene guidelines for hand washing, the study noted.

Motorcycles help keep you young: software expert TOKYO (AFP) - Riding motorcycles helps keep drivers young by invigorating their brains, the scientist behind popular “Brain Training” computer software said, citing a new scientific study.

Researchers from the Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey led by Fatma Ulger tested the phones and dominant hands of 200 doctors and nurses working in hospital operating rooms and intensive care units.

Most worring, one in eight of the handsets showed methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a virulent strain that has emerged as a major health threat in hospitals around the world.

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

ROME (AFP) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi struck a note of optimism on the global financial crisis, accusing the media of exaggerating its extent. “The media continue to describe the crisis as something tragic, (which) goes against everyone’s interests,” Berlusconi told a news conference. “It’s exaggerated, because the crisis is heavy but not tragic.” The crisis “exists but is described in the media with too much drama,” he said.

“Losses on the stock market are due only to a handful of shares,” he asserted after a cabinet meeting that gave the go-ahead to a public works program. Berlusconi also said Europe had done more than any other region to address the crisis.

The Italian economy contracted 1.0 percent in 2008, its worst showing since 1975.

The central bank predicted that the economy would likely shrink by 2.6 percent this year, revising downward its earlier estimate of a 2.0 percent slide.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi pauses during a press conference at Chigi palace in Rome. The chief of the Italian government, Berlusconi displayed his optimism despite the world economic crisis, estimating that the media exaggerated by describing it as a “tragedy”. AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI

The deadline for each edition is the Wednesday preceding publication. Men who began exercising after the age of 50 had the same life expectancy after 10 years as men who had always exercised, the researchers from Uppsala University said.www.sxc.hu

“This reduction is comparable with that associated with smoking cessation,” it added.

The study noted that around half of middle aged men in Western countries do not exercise regularly.

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20

global affairs

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

IMF calls for stimulus measures in 2010 as crisis digs in WASHINGTON (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund called for governments to take further stimulus measures to counter a severe global economic slump it sees extending into 2010. “Given the anticipated weakness in the global economy over the next two years, consideration should be given to providing fiscal stimulus that goes beyond the measures already announced,” the IMF said in a report. Since last October, the IMF has urged governments to inject public money into their economies to stimulate growth as a weapon against a global slowdown that appears increasingly likely to endure for a while. “It is essential in our view that public sector authorities play their appropriate role in preventing a collapse of confidence in the private sector that might lead to a vicious downward spiral,” the Washington-based institution said. “Fiscal authorities have acted globally, but so far the stimulus packages outside the United States have largely been front-loaded by concentrating spending in 2009, with much less to come in 2010,” the IMF said in the report. The United States in February launched a staggering 787-billion-dollar stimulus package in which nearly half the spending is budgeted for the country’s fiscal 2010, which starts on October 1. “If there is enough fiscal space to do so without endangering the sustainability of government debt, consideration should probably be given to additional fiscal stimulus packages,” the IMF said.

The report, titled “The Case for Global Fiscal Stimulus,” was published as part of preparations for the summit of the Group of 20 developed and developing countries in London on April 2. The summit is a follow-up to the emergency G20 summit in November in Washington aimed at battling the accelerating global financial crisis and intensifying economic deterioration. “Given the likelihood that the economic weakness will continue into 2010, there should be less concern that the expenditures will only be put into place once the economy has begun to recover,” the 185-nation institution said. In January, the IMF published economic forecasts revised sharply lower that showed the global economy growing at a mere 0.5 percent annual pace this year and 3.0 percent in 2010. The hard-hit advanced economies were forecast to contract 1.7 percent this year before a recovery to a 3.0 percent growth rate. But IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned that the numbers would be revised lower again in April. The IMF recalled that not all countries have the same scope for taking such measures. Carlo Cottarelli, the director of IMF fiscal affairs department, emphasized that governments’ first consideration should be on the state of their economy and their growth prospects when considering a fiscal stimulus. “Countries with lower debt, and especially countries that are paying a low interest rate

Last week, China failed to announce new stimulus actions after a build-up of reports that it would. AFP

on their debt, have relatively more room to expand their fiscal policy,” he said at a news conference. Asked which countries the IMF views as best-positioned to launch new stimulus, Cottarelli declined to comment.

Last weekm, financial markets around the world staged steep sell-offs in large part because investors were disappointed that China failed to announce new stimulus actions after a build-up of reports that it would. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in an address to parliament gave details of a 585-billiondollar, two-year stimulus plan announced last year but did not mention new stimulus spending. And in Europe, the situation is mixed, ranging from countries that have already taken stimulus action to those which are thinking about it or not in a position to do so. For the IMF, it was “particularly important for fiscal policy to take on an increased share of the burden during the period in which the financial sector is recovering and is not yet able or willing to extend credit to households and businesses to the extent that it normally does.”

OPEC rubbishes IEA on oil prices VIENNA (AFP) – OPEC snapped back at the International Energy Agency (IEA) on over its assessment that oil prices of around 40 dollars a barrel would be good for the global economy. “The IEA has said that the world would get a trillion-dollar economic stimulus if oil prices stay at around 40 dollars a barrel through 2009,” the head of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, said in a statement. “The moderation of prices since last summer’s extreme certainly offers some shortterm relief to consumers. However, if the current low price environment persists, this short-term relief may not translate into longterm gain,” El-Badri argued. “We all want to see the global economy back on its feet as quickly as possible,” the cartel chief insisted. But “oil prices need to be at levels to help sustain economic growth by supporting longer-term energy industry investments across the board. Low oil prices inevitably mean less investment,” he said. On Friday, New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April, was at 44.71 dollars a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April stood at 44.33 dollars, way below the record highs of around 147 dollars seen last July. Saudi Arabia, the leading producer in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has estimated that a price of around 75

dollars would be “fair.” Even the IEA, which represents industrialised oil-consuming countries, had recognised that a lack of investment now by OPEC “threatens a supply crunch around 2013, and a price surge,” El-Badri said. IEA’s position was therefore “confusing and misleading: whilst asking for prices to remain at 40 dollars, it also wants investments to be made that are not economically viable at these prices. It is a short-sighted view,” the OPEC chief said. “OPEC remains committed to ensuring a stable, sound and sustainable oil industry, and upholding its investment plans when it makes business sense.” El-Badri also took issue with the IEA’s admonition to the oil cartel to “watch carefully the market and make proper decisions” before cutting supply. “OPEC always makes informed decisions,” the oil chief retorted. “They are taken following careful analysis of all the various inputs, and in the interest of market stability. And this will be the case when OPEC meets again on March 15.” OPEC will convene next weekend for a one-day meeting in Vienna to discuss whether a cut in output could help boost prices. The cartel has repeatedly cut production since September, and OPEC minsters have signalled a further cutback on March 15.

Record number of women parliamentarians in 2008

Asia, where access to women was 17.8 percent, registered “the slowest rate of progress in terms of women’s access to parliament over the past 15 years.” The Pacific Island states showed the lowest number of women being elected to parliament last year – just four percent. Arab states posted nine percent in the four parliamentary renewals that took place in 2008. Latin America registered strong gains last year, with women taking over a quarter seats in the 12 chambers that were renewed. In Europe, women were elected to one in five seats on offer in the 19 chambers that were renewed. In Africa, Rwanda shone with more than 56 percent of women members elected to its lower house. The IPU, set up in 1889, is the international organisation of parliaments of sovereign states and one of its key aims is to promote representative democracy worldwide.

GENEVA (AFP) – Women held a record 18.3 percent of all parliamentary seats worldwide in 2008, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said. The number of 8,094 women lawmakers is a 60 percent increase since 1995, when they held just over one in 10 seats, it said. The trend is uneven with Asian, Arab states and Pacific Island states all showing lower proportions of women in parliament than the global average. “It is unfortunate that we are not seeing progress being made across all parliaments of the world... more needs to be done in those countries where women are largely absent from decision-making bodies,” said TheoBen Gurira, president of the IPU.

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

21

americas

Raul Castro clears out Fidel’s cabinet, installs his own

HAVANA (AFP) – Cuban President Raul Castro replaced several members of his cabinet on Monday, putting his stamp on the government a year after assuming power from his older brother Fidel.

In a sign that he is emerging from the shadow of the former president and revolutionary icon, Raul Castro, 77, fired foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque and moved cabinet chief Carlos Lage, two long-time lieutenants in the previous administration. In making his first major cabinet shuffle since assuming power one year ago, the Cuban leader cited the need for greater efficiency and a consolidation of the country’s unwieldy bureaucracy, saying the shakeup would lead to “a more compact and functional structure.” The move most notably replaces 44-yearold Perez Roque, Havana’s chief diplomat since May 1999, with vice minister Bruno Rodriguez. A former journalist for Cuba’s state-run press, Rodriguez was once Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The Mexican-born Rodriguez had been a key player in developing relations with other Latin American countries and was involved in developing ties with the European Union, commentators said. Perez Roque was seen as close to Fidel, acting as his chief of staff for a decade.

Lage, 57, retains his post as one of Cuba’s vice presidents of the Council of State, but has been replaced by General Jose Amado

tional communism.

Ricardo Guerra as cabinet chief.

He has been much more dynamic in the area of foreign relations, meeting up to a dozen leaders from around the world during his first year in office, including several from an increasingly left-leaning Latin America.

Both Lage and Perez Roque had been seen as possible successors to Fidel Castro before the aging leader passed the reins of power to his brother. The shuffle affects about 10 cabinet positions, including Cuba’s commerce, farming, fishing and interior ministries.

According to Julia Sweig, Director of Latin America Studies at the New-York based Council on Foreign Relations, the move may be important beyond personnel shifts, and could herald further political and economic reforms. Since his inaugural address Raul Castro has stressed the need to reduce the government in tandem with making it more efficient, Sweig told AFP, as if “one was a precursor to the other.”

“It may involve the government getting out of the way a little,” said Sweig, who recently returned from a trip to Cuba. “They may go back to the system that existed before 1968, when small businesses were allowed to function.”

While she described the personnel shift as significant, Sweig pointed out that Lage would remain at the heart of government, as a vice president of the Council of State: “He is in a very powerful position – it may simple be a step toward giving him space, he remains an extremely senior member of the Cuban government.” While the shakeup allows Raul Castro to

He has strengthened relations and trade ties not only with Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador, but Cuba’s communist allies China and Russia.

Cuban Vice-President Esteban Lazo (R) talks with the new Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez (L) and Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca (2nd L), in Havana in the State Council. AFP/Adalberto Roque

put his imprint on the government, Cuba’s bureaucracy still bears the hallmarks of Fidel’s decades-long rule, even though the former Cuban leader, 82, has remained out of the public eye since undergoing surgery three years ago.

Fidel Castro’s presence remains strongly felt throughout Cuba. He remains the titular head of the Cuban Communist Party, and his lengthy written commentaries have been a regular feature of the Cuban press since he left power. Until now Raul Castro treaded gingerly while trying to fill his brother’s outsized shoes during his first year in office, instituting reforms at the margins of Cuba’s institu-

And he has further consolidated its ties with its two closest friends in the region, Bolivia and Venezuela, which also has become a major financial backer. One area that remains little changed is the domain of human rights, observers said. A report days ago by the U.S. State Department found in fact that respect for human rights and basic freedoms deteriorated in during the year that Raul Castro was formally elected the new leader of the communist-run island.

Although the report found that Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants were more likely to suffer rights abuses under Raul, he has instituted several cautious economic reforms, including provisions allowing private contractors back into Cuba’s transport sector. Raul Castro also has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only accessible to foreigners – if they can afford such luxuries at the average monthly salary equivalent of about 17 dollars.

Latin America has ‘some room’ to counter crisis: S & P

SAO PAULO (AFP) – Latin America has “some room” to hit back at the global economic crisis with stimulus and other countercylical policies, but the region remains vulnerable to varying degrees, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said. In a telephone conference with analysts and journalists, economists with the agency said the region overall would suffer, with economic growth slowing to 0.7 percent this year from 4.5 percent in 2008.

But Latin America should avoid a recession, unlike in the United States and other major economies. Sharp drops in commodity prices, industrial production, exports and financing

through global capital markets “means a real hit on the external side for the region,” said S & P’s chief economist for Latin America and the agency’s sovereign ratings director, Lisa Schineller.

The situation has “put a stop – a full stop in some cases – to robust domestic economic growth” for several countries, she said, noting “the worst regional performance since 2000.” Those faring best were Chile, Peru and Brazil, with robust foreign reserves and stable monetary policy, she and other experts said. Mexico, closely tied to the U.S. economy, Venezuela, which depends almost complete-

ly on oil exports, and Argentina were in more problematic straits, they said.

Nevertheless, Latin America generally was positioned to weather the current crisis better than the one that originated in the region early this decade.

Counter-cyclical policies could “attentuate this hit to growth, but won’t reverse it,” Schineller said. Chile “stands out” for the financial cushion it has built up allowing it to make such anticrisis moves, while Peru “has some room” and Brazil “has less room,” she said. Sebastian Briozzo, a credit analyst for the agency based in Buenos Aires, said Argen-

tina had limited options in coming up with counter-cyclical moves “because the government has no access to financing whatsoever, and we’re not only talking about international financing but also local financing.”

The agency economists predicted a “modest” recovery for Latin America in 2010, but it was dependent on the U.S. economy turning around and commodity prices rising. Mexico’s economy was forecast to shrink to around two percent this year, Brazil to “a little over one percent”, Venezuela 1.5 percent, and Peru “to five percent from 10 percent last year.”

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22

SPORTS

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese automaker Honda announced it had sold its Formula One team to former principal Ross Brawn, rescuing it from collapse and allowing it to compete in the upcoming world championship. Brawn immediately said he would keep experienced drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, banking on their racing knowhow to make up for lost time ahead of the F1 season opener March 29 in Melbourne.

But he dropped Bruno Senna, nephew of F1 legend Ayrton Senna. The deal saves the Honda team from falling victim to the global economic crisis which has seen big companies slash costs where they can to stay afloat. Honda and Brawn did not disclose the cost of the deal but said the company had sold all shares of its Honda Racing F1 Team to him.

“As a result of this sale, the team ownership has transferred to Mr Brawn, who plans to have the new team compete for this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship,” Honda said in a statement. Hiroshi Oshima, the managing officer of

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Honda sells its team to Brawn Honda’s motor sports, said in the statement that the company was “grateful” for the decision by Brawn. The new owners said the outfit – now called the Brawn GP Formula One Team – had agreed a partnership with British-based Mercedez-Benz High Performance Engines to supply its 2.4-litre engine.

Brawn GP acknowledged in its statement that “the past few months have been extremely challenging,” and that Friday’s announcement “is the very pleasing conclusion to the strenuous efforts that have been made to secure its future.” Brawn said the huge experience of Button and Barrichello, who have started 423 races in total between them, would be invaluable after the lost winter. “The vast experience and knowledge that both drivers bring to our team will prove invaluable as we aim to get up to speed in the shortest possible time to be ready for the first race of the season,” he said.

Barrichello is the most experienced driver in Formula One history, having raced in 271 Grand Prix, winning nine.

him to have the proof that I’m ready for Formula One. I respect his opinion, but I think it’s a very straightforward way of looking at things.”

Honda had in December announced it was exiting Formula One in a bid to cut costs during the economic downturn, which has ravaged Japanese exports to the United States, Europe and other markets.

Honda and Brawn did not disclose the cost of the deal but said the company had sold all shares of its Honda Racing F1 Team to him.

The decision has left 2009 plans in limbo for Barrichello’s Brazilian compatriot Senna. “It seems that Ross (Brawn) has made his decision,” Senna told autosport.com.

“It looks like he’s based it on the security of the team – it’s much easier for him to take Rubens because he’s worked with him for a long time. “Ross was happy with my testing at the end of last year, but it just wasn’t enough for

The move sparked new calls for the glamour sport to slash its mind-boggling budgets, and prompted Toyota to hurry out a statement pledging its continued commitment to the championship.

In December, Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru cars, said it would withdraw from the world rally championship, followed by an announcement in January by major motorcycle maker Kawasaki that it was pulling out of the MotoGP. Honda has also said it will scale down its motorcycle racing activities to cope with the economic crisis, notably skipping this year’s Suzuka Eight Hours endurance championship.

Dodgers finally welcome back Ramirez GLENDALE (AFP) – “Manny’s back,” Dodgers owner Frank McCourt declared as the team formally announced they had at last inked the star slugger to a two-year deal. “Manny’s back. So we are very, very happy to report that and to welcome him to our new spring training facility in Glendale,” McCourt said. The light mood marked a change from the contentious contract negotiations between Ramirez’s agent Scott Boras and the Dodg-

ers’ front office that dragged on for months.

Boras and the Dodgers finally agreed to terms on Wednesday morning.

“This started 141 days ago,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “I feel like I spent Thanksgiving with Scott, Christmas with Scott, New Year’s Eve with Scott, Ground Hog’s Day with Scott.”

“But we got it done, and I want to thank him and his group for their perseverance and patience with us.”

Ramirez will reportedly receive 25 million dollars in the first year of the contract and has the ability to opt out of the second year, which would pay him 20 million dollars.

“I’m baaack,” Ramirez declared with a smile. “It’s better late than never. Everything happens for a good reason. I am here for a good reason, and now I’m here and I’m just going to go and give all I got.” Ramirez, 36, hit .396 with 17 home runs and batted in 53 runs in 53 games with the

Dodgers after being obtained from Boston at the trade deadline last year. He helped the Dodgers reach the National League finals and for the complete season with both Boston and the Dodgers batted .332 with 37 homers and 121 runs batted in over 153 games.

Ramirez will play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Technology aims to end heat strokes in American football

VIENNA (AFP) – American football players may be able to avoid heat strokes by wearing helmets with specially made technology, an Austrian company that worked on the project said.

“The coaching staff is notified once the first signs of overheating appear and can intervene immediately,” Peter Linke, vice president of the company, said in a statement.

The project was developed by U.S. company Hothead Sports.

LONDON (AFP) – Pop megastar Michael Jackson is to stage a series of “final curtain” concerts in London in July, his first major shows for over a decade, he announced in typically eccentric style.

“It is an end to something that began many years ago, in 1975, and it is a dream to be able to do it in Latin America,” the Grammywinning singer said. After a career spanning more than two decades and 90 million albums sold, Estefan said she would take her greatest hits tour to South America for the first time.

“I’ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear,” the 50-year-old told hundreds of screaming fans gathered for the eagerlyawaited announcement at the O2 concert venue, which is fast earning a reputation for grand comeback gigs. “This is the final curtain call and I’ll see you in July,” said Jackson, wearing sunglasses and a black jacket with silver sequins to a near-hysterical crowd waving signs reading “Michael We Love You” and “King of Pop.”

Jackson’s brief appearance, in which he seemed highly emotional and at a loss for words, was punctuated by salutes to the crowd, pauses, and expressions of love for his fans. “I love you, I really do. I love you so much. From the bottom of my heart,” he gushed, totally ignoring an autocue which had been set up at a podium for him to speak. His appearance was preceded by a short video compilation of past performances of his hits, heavy on shots of weeping and screaming fans, especially when he performed his famous moonwalk. In real life Jackson didn’t show any of his old moves. But fans who had queued for hours to see their idol for a couple of minutes were bowled over, despite the brief appearance. “I was expecting a bit more but... I’ve queued up for five hours for him to say about 10 words,” said Caroline Shove, 29. But asked whether she would be buying tickets, she said: “Absolutely, it won’t stop me.” It was unclear whether Jackson’s reference to a “final curtain” meant there would be no concerts after the London shows.

“Michael Jackson is a perfectionist so it’s going to be amazing. He’ll try a lot of new things,” Phillips said. Tickets will be on sale from 0700 GMT on March 13, ranging from 50 pounds to 75 pounds each (up to 100 dollars, 85 euros). American football players may be able to avoid heat strokes by wearing helmets with specially made technology

MIAMI (AFP) – Cuban-American pop diva Gloria Estefan said that an upcoming tour of Latin American will be her last.

Four years after his infamous child abuse trial, the creator of “Thriller” and “Billy Jean” confirmed he will play 10 gigs at the giant O2 arena from July 8 – and declared they will be a “final curtain.”

An AEG statement said Jackson would perform “with a band of the highest calibre, (a) state-of-the-art stage show and incredible surprise support acts”.

If temperatures surpass limits set for each player, an alarm will sound.

23

entertainment

King of Pop Jackson to play Gloria Estefan announces ‘final curtain’ concerts final tour

“These will be the last shows in London. Whether he will go on from here around the world... this will be his last tour,” Randy Phillips of promoter AEG told the BBC. “All he’s agreed to are the London shows at this point.”

Helmets using radio frequency technology will transmit information on body temperature in real time to a handheld computer on the sidelines, Identec Solutions said.

A report from the University of North Carolina in the United States published last month showed 39 players, including two professionals, died from heat strokes between 1995 and 2008.

Edition 177 • Mar 10 - Mar 16, 2009

Reports suggest the “King of Pop” could make tens of millions of dollars from the residency-style string of London concerts, helping pay legal bills and debts amassed since

“These will be the last concerts I do, after I want to focus on my daughter, who is going to high school and continue working in other areas,” she said.

UNITED KINGDOM, London : U.S. popstar Michael Jackson addresses a press conference at the O2 arena in London. Pop megastar Michael Jackson announced he will play a series of comeback concerts in London in July, his first major shows for over a decade. Four years after his infamous child abuse trial, the 50-year-old eccentric singer confirmed he will play 10 gigs at the giant London O2 arena starting on July 8. AFP PHOTO/Carl de Souza

he was acquitted in his abuse trial in 2005. If they are successful, the London concerts would be a spectacular return for the man who dominated the pop world in the 1980s but has virtually vanished from public view since his trial.

“We have eight restaurants, three hotels; I am working on a third book and on films,” she said. A household name in both the Spanish- and English- speaking worlds, her hits “Conga,” “1,2,3,” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” are still played around the world.

Estefan is to kick off her “Latin America Tour” on April 9 in Uruguay, with dates in Chile, Argentina and Peru before her final curtain call scheduled for April 23 in Ecuador.

Dates my also be added in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and other Central

The O2, formerly the much-maligned Millennium Dome, has transformed itself into a leading concert venue, notably hosting a comeback gig by legendary rockers Led Zeppelin and a 21-night residency by Prince in 2007. Jackson is reportedly close to completing his first new album since 2001, and has collaborated with a younger generation of stars like rapper Kanye West. But he has been dogged by rumours of ill health and bookmakers William Hill were Wednesday offering 5-1 odds that he would not turn up on the first night. However, the Daily Mirror tabloid reported that Jackson had passed 50 health tests set by insurers to prove he was fit enough to perform. Jackson last performed in Britain at the 2006 World Music Awards, where he sang a few lines of “We Are The World”. His last official tour was the 1996-7 HIStory World Tour, although he has played one-off gigs since. The singer became a phenomenally successful star, first with the Jackson Five alongside his brothers and then as a solo artist. But Jackson’s career hit trouble in 1993 when a 13-year-old boy made sex abuse allegations against him and prosecutors and police launched an investigation. A year later, Jackson reached an out-ofcourt settlement with the boy’s family, paying out 23.3 million dollars and the criminal case was dramatically stopped. Jackson says he now regrets the payment.

Each column, row and box must contain each number from 1 to 9. There is only one solution, wich is shown here.

Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan speaks during a press conference announcing her Latin American Tour at the Viceroy Hotel in Miami, Florida. Estefan said that this tour will be her last so that she can dedicate more time to family and business. AFP/JUAN CASTRO

American countries, she said.

With 24 albums, Estefan has won seven Grammys, two of which were for her latest, Spanish-language, disc “90 Millas” – or 90 Miles, a homage to her native Cuba which lies at that distance from the tip of the Florida Keys.

Estefan has long been a vocal supporter of democracy for Cuba, which has been under communist control for the last 50 years.


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The Journal Edition # 177  

The Journal Edition # 177

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