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Vol. 3 • Edition 179 • Weekly • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009 • Costa Rica, Central America •

CERTIFICADA ISO 9001:2000

www.edica.co.cr

www.journalcr.com

global affairs

P. 20

Green investment solution to global crisis Investing one percent of global output into five key sectors could achieve a “Green New Deal” and drive the world’s recovery from the financial crisis, the United Nations said.

americas

P.21

Obama to address immigration reform in coming months

President Barack Obama will present plans for immigration reform this year, Hispanic lawmakers said after strategic talks at the White House.

sports

P.22

Bolt’s record will fall in Berlin, says Diack The men’s 100m world record set by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in Beijing last August - will be broken at August’s World Athletics Championships in Berlin, IAAF president Lamine Diack said.

entertainment

P.23

Salma Hayek back acting in Adam Sandler comedy Mexican actress Salma Hayek will return to movie screens in a comedy alongside Adam Sandler, after a break in which she was producing and acting for television, Hollywood media reported.

New Beachfront Model Villa Open Daily

(506) 2653-2028 t CrystalSandsCR.com

Business P. 8 Despite the fact that honey production has decreased, there are projects currently underway to ramp it up. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

CR seeks to increase domestic honey production Because of geography, climate and ecological features, Costa Rica has diverse and abundant bee populations. Some 95 genera and more than 650 species of bees have been identified in the country. Many of them are solitary, others show varied social patterns, and some constitute permanent colonies.

These characteristics have led to a long apicultural history in the country, with Costa Rica being a honey exporter to all of Central America up till the 1980s. However, once African bees were introduced, local honey production fell drastically.

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste 506.2670.2212

Today, there are some 35,000 hives registered in the country, belonging to about 2,000 producers countrywide. Local production is estimated at between 800,000 and 850,000 kilograms annually, varying according to weather conditions in the different production regions. With the goal of increasing the amount of honey produced here, institutions such as the National University (UNA) have implemented projects to learn about the biology of local honeybees and apply modern techniques for management of Africanized colonies in a more sustainable and economically feasible manner. .

www.pacifico-costarica.com


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Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Page two

ALSO INSIDE P. 6

Business & Economy

Costa Rica third in Berlin international tourism fair Costa Rica finished third in the Latin American category at the Berlin International Tourism Bourse (ITB), where 187 countries from around the world competed in 11 different categories.

P. 10

Society

Costa Rica resumes diplomatic relations with Cuba Almost a half a century after severing diplomatic relations with Cuba, Costa Rica has decided to reach out to the island and establish official ties once more, with local officials saying that conditions there have changed and that this is the right time to improve relations with the Caribbean nation.

P. 13

Beginning in 1969, and finishing (at least for the time being) in 1997, I took groups of students from North America and Europe to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for, in many cases, their first training as archaeologists.

Health

Green tea and mushrooms cut breast cancer risk Chinese women who ate mushrooms and drank green tea significantly cut their risk of breast cancer and the severity of the cancer in those who did develop it, an Australian researcher said.

P. 19

Europe

Swiss MP compares German minister to Gestapo A Swiss MP has compared Germany’s finance minister to the Nazi Gestapo police in an increasingly venomous row sparked by Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws, a German paper reported.

P. 20

Global Affairs

Diplomacy key to defusing row over ‘Blue Gold’ From South Asia and to the Middle East, from Australia to California, rivers and aquifers that cross boundaries have become potent sources of friction.

P. 21

Americas

Latin American remittances drop sharply Funds sent home by Latin American emigrants plunged by as much as 13 percent in January, signalling trouble ahead especially for countries in Central America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank said.

P. 22

SPORTS

FIFA reports ‘huge’ World Cup ticket demand FIFA said that ticket demand for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was booming but voiced caution about the impact of a prolonged economic crisis. “There are at least 28 matches of the 64 that are sold out. The demand is huge,” said FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke after a meeting of the executive committee.

P. 23

Day

High

ENTERTAINMENT

Fashion robot to hit Japan catwalk Japanese researchers showed off a robot that will soon strut her stuff down a Tokyo catwalk.The girlie-faced humanoid with slightly oversized eyes, a tiny nose and shoulder-length hair boasts 42 motion motors programmed to mimic the movements of flesh-and-blood fashion models.

Low

High

Information for Pacific Coast

Low

01:14 / 7.39 ft

07:18 / 1.09 ft

13:37 / 7.86 ft

19:44 / 0.92 ft

Wed 25

01:56 / 7.84 ft

07:57 / 0.64 ft

14:15 / 8.43 ft

20:22 / 0.34 ft

Thu 26

02:35 / 8.25 ft

08:34 / 0.24 ft

14:51 / 8.93 ft

21:00 / -0.15 ft

Fri 27

03:12 / 8.55 ft

09:10 / -0.07 ft

15:27 / 9.31 ft

21:37 / -0.50 ft

Sat 28

03:49 / 8.73 ft

09:46 / -0.27 ft

16:04 / 9.53 ft

22:15 / -0.67 ft

Sun 29

04:28 / 8.76 ft

10:25 / -0.30 ft

16:43 / 9.55 ft

22:55 / -0.64 ft

Mon 30

05:08 / 8.63 ft

11:05 / -0.17 ft

17:24 / 9.36 ft

23:38 / -0.43 ft

Costa Rica Basics

Contents P.04 Lead Story P.06 Business & Economy P.10 Society P.13 Culture P.14 Week In Brief

BEAUTIFUL LAND FOR SALE

High

Tue 24

culture

Student training opportunities in Greater Nicoya prehistory: Geology

P. 18

Costa rica tides chart

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

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 179 Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009 Costa Rica, Central America

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lead story

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Guanacaste cattle producers get together to promote beef consumption

now average production is 150 kilograms per hectare, and officials hope to increase these levels in the coming moths.

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Production (MAG), in coordination with the Federation of Chambers of Guanacaste Cattlemen and the Cattle Promotion Corporation (CORFOGA), will hold an activity next March 29 at the Chamber’s hall in Liberia’s Barrio El Capulin with the goal of promoting the consumption of beef.

According to Gilberto Lopez Lara, coordinator of MAG’s cattle ranching network, producers will receive during the activity a manual of recommendations for sustainable management of cattle production in the Chorotega (Guanacaste) region. The manual offers technological information for the region, which is expected to contribute to the improvement of this important economic activity in the province and the quality of life of many Guanacaste families. The event will also include talks about myths surrounding the consumption of beef products and the benefits of this type of meat, to encourage their consumption. Aware that no other economic activity in the region distributes so much income among so many families as cattle ranching, MAG seeks to raise the production levels through a more technologically based production system. According to Juan Bautista Mendez Cruz, a MAG official in Hojancha, in the Choro-

Recently, Agriculture Minister Javier Flores Galarza visited Guanacaste to exchange experiences with producers and deliver some 30 million colones (around $54,000) to Nicoya cattle ranchers to help them carry out more environmentally friendly practices that would also boost their income.

Ernesto Enrique Cavaria, president of the Nicoya Chamber of Cattle Ranchers, said these funds will allow them to usher a new production concept, much more friendly with the environment — where the protection of natural resources present in the farms (particularly water) is key, preventing cattle from stomping on springs and reducing the cutting of trees alongside streams. Agriculture continues to be one of the main economic activities in Guanacaste, reason for which the government is supporting it. TJ/InfoWebPress

tega region cattle ranching generates some 6 million colones ($10,900) per family on an annual basis.

Mendez Cruz also said that in the region there are some 377,000 hectares dedicated to cattle ranching, involving some 7,000 families. The average size of each farm is 57 hect-

ares per producer, with 81 percent of them being run by small and medium producers.

The number of cattle heads in the region is around 330,000, of which 70 percent are for meat production, 22 percent for mixed uses (meat and milk), and 8 percent for dairy production. Mendez Cruz estimates that right

The program also calls for better management and production practices such as planting of improved forages and forages for bailing, establishment of paddocks, infrastructure remodeling, protection of water sources and reforestation of pastures. All of this would allow producers to increase the number of heads on their land, improve the quality of the cattle, increase production and reproduction rates, and better manage their herds.

Infant mortality rates down; Guanacaste has highest fertility rates in the country

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) –The reduction in infant mortality rates that took place in Costa Rica 2008 — setting the mark at 8.95 deaths per each 1,000 births before the age of one — in unprecedented in the history of the country since records have been kept. The new rate represented a drop of 1.10 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 2007, with 673 infants dying in 2008 out of 75,187 births, according to data released by the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC). The study indicated that last year, the province of Limon (Caribbean) had the highest infant mortality rate in the country, while Heredia (at 7.56 deaths per 1,000 births) was the province with the lowest death rate in the country. Cartago, which in 2007 held the lowest rate in this category, fell to second in 2008 with 7.64 deaths per 1,000 births.

from 2.1 children to 1.97 children at the end of that period.

Meanwhile, the mortality rate of pregnant mothers in 2008 went back to levels seen in the 2002-2006 period, reaching 3.33 deaths per every 1,000 births. While in 2007 14 women died during childbirth, the number grew to 25 last year — an increase from 1.19 to 3.33 deaths per 1,000 births. The main causes of pregnant women’s deaths are circulation system diseases (responsible for 24 percent of the fatalities), while other illnesses that complicated pregnancies and labor were blamed for 16 percent of the deaths. In the case of neonatal fatalities — those occurring during the first 28 days after birth — they represented 73.1 percent of all infant deaths in 2008, that is, 6.54 deaths per 1,000 births, which is also lower by 0.69 deaths than in 2007. The INEC report also provided data on

Despite the low fertility rates seen globally in the country, the numbers vary considerably from province to province. Guanacaste now has the highest fertility rate, with 2.79 children per each woman, while San Jose exhibited a rate lower than the national average, with only 1.73 children per each woman.

In 2008, Guanacaste was the province with the most births in the country. Most of them occur at Liberia’s Enrique Baltodano Hospital. TJ/ InfoWebPress

fertility rates for 2008, which have stabilized at around two children per woman. For the five-year period of 2003-2007, rates went

Life expectancy numbers were also released as part of this report, and Costa Rica was again fared very well in this key health and quality of life indicator, with a life expectancy at birth of 79.2 years — similar to, and sometimes higher than, that of developed nations.

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6

Business

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Costa Rica third in Berlin international tourism fair

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Costa Rica finished third in the Latin American category at the Berlin International Tourism Bourse (ITB), where 187 countries from around the world competed in 11 different categories.

Costa Rica managed to overcome even regional tourism giants such as Mexico and Brazil, thanks to a 250-meter display that simulated the entrance to a tropical forest featuring a canopy zip line, vegetation, trees and animals representative of the country’s rich biodiversity. “This is third price in the past year that Costa Rica displays have received at international fairs, and it’s certainly a just recognition of the effort our country is making to promote itself even better,” Tourism Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides said.

ITB’s 43 rd edition gathered some 11,098 exhibitors from all over the planet. Also taking place concurrently to the fair was the

tination Marketing & Management Services, Hotel Ramada Plaza Herradura, and Hotel and Club Punta Leona.

largest congress of tourism professionals in Europe. All in all, 30 companies involved in Costa Rica’s tourism industry participated in the fair, which was held March 11-15 in Messe, Berlin, Germany.

One of the most relevant topics discussed this year at the fair was business travel in a time of financial crisis and globalized economy, a new challenged faced by the tourism industry — especially when Costa Rica receives approximately 270,000 European tourists every year, of whom 43,000 come from Germany.

Representatives of car rental companies, hotels, tour operators and other firms displayed their products and service at the fair with the goal of attracting more European tourists to Costa Rica’s many destinations.

ITB estimated some 180,000 visitors came this year to the fair, which is considered one of the largest of this industry worldwide.

“It’s very significant to have such a large number of associates participating in this event,” said Gonzalo Vargas, president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR). “Any attempt to attract more European tourists is very valuable right now, when the local tourism sector needs new sources of income and more promotion.”

Costa Rica exhibited its natural attractions at this tourism fair in Germany, the European country with the most visitors coming here. Photo ITB

Among the Costa Rican firms attending the ITB were Europcar, Hola Rent a Car, Adobe Rent a Car, Costa Rican Trails, Horizontes Nature Tour, Discovery Travels, Nature Air, Aventuras Tierra Verde, CRT Des-

“In addition to the experience of participating in an event of such importance, this fair is a place to learn about new trends, concepts and cooperation options among countries,” Vargas pointed out. This time, Costa Rica exhibited its products and services at 27 different booths that sought to show the diversity of natural attractions the country has to offer.

Costa Rica and Panama seek to expand trade opportunities (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – In early March, 11 business in the Costa Rican food sector participated in the “Food Industry Exporters Mission to Panama,” whose goal was to boost negotiation between these companies and their Panamanian counterparts, taking advantage of the recently signed free trade agreement between the neighboring countries. Emmanuel Hess, general manager of the Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER), said that “this type of trade missions and fairs help increase exports by small and medium businesses. In addition, it’s important to highlight the economic growth that the Panamanian market has experienced and the increase in our exports to this market, which in 2008 grew by 28 percent.”

Attending the event was a representative of the Panamanian Food Safety Authority (AUPSA), which gave Costa Rican exporters an informational talk about technical requirements they must meet for their products to be accepted into Panamanian territory. To date, there have been reports of closings among businesses producing juice concentrates, juices, snacks and drinks especially prepared for hotels in Costa Rica.

The mission also included a seminar titled “Knowing the Panamanian Market through the Food Sector in the Framework of the Free Trade Agreement.” Participating in this seminar was Leroy Sheffer, chief of international trade negotiations with Panama’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, who covered topics related to his country’s imports in the food industry and guidelines governing this sector of the economy. The activity’s goals were to open up spaces to identify trade opportunities among business owners, in an effort to learn more about existing possibilities and new business models that could emerge. Also present at the seminar was Laura Rodriguez, director of Costa Rica’s Office for Application of Foreign Trade Agreements.

“This event is part of the information process that the Ministry of Foreign Trade is implementing regarding the free trade deal our countries have signed,” Rodriguez said. “This is being done with the main objective of helping production sectors take advantage of existing opportunities. In the specific case of the trade deal with Panama, it is very attractive for the food industry because the conditions that were negotiated are very fa-

Costa Rica’s proximity to Panama and the free trade agreement both countries recently signed makes the neighbor to the south a natural commercial partner. Photo Panama Tourism Authority

vorable to this sector.”

Following the food industry mission, trade fair Expocomer took place in Panama. Some 12 Costa Rican companies and more than 2,500 businesses from 35 countries convened at the event.

Expocomer is a multi-sector fair geared toward the construction, food, technology, services and textile industries, and which typically provides many opportunities to Costa Rican firms.


8

business

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Two new bills being drafted to face economic crisis

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The Treasury Ministry will submit this week two new bills to the Legislative Assembly with the goal of financing expenses included in the country’s budget: one to cover legal and constitutional obligations and the other to increase the cap on foreign currency indebting. The first bill will include a nonpermanent clause in Law 8131 (Law for Financial Administration and Public Budgets), which would allow the financing of ongoing expenses through debt. This clause would suspend, for two years, the effects of article 6 of this law, which prohibits such type of financing.

The expenses that need to be financed have to do mostly with meeting basic individual guarantees and human rights in the face of extraordinary social, economic and political

China to invest 65 mln in Costa Rica science park

SAN JOSE (AFP) - China will invest 65 million U.S. dollars toward a science and technology park in Costa Rica, in a deal with

effect, the percentage authorized for government debt through bonds in foreign currency would decrease to 35 percent; 30 percent on the fourth year; 25 percent on the fifth; and 20 percent on the sixth year, thus going back to the original level established in Law 7671.

circumstances brought about by the current global recession.

“It’s the responsibility of the Executive Branch to make sure that citizens receive and have access to the services they are entitled to, such as health, education and employment; avoid an increase in poverty rates; recognize pensions; pay salaries on time; and invest in infrastructure,” said Treasury Minister Guillermo Zuñiga. “That’s why we have considered the option of using debt to help cover such public expenses.” The second bill would include, too, a nonpermanent clause to the law that authorizes the issuing of government bonds for the international market, Law. No. 7671, so that the limit on internal debt in foreign currencies can go from 20 percent to 40 percent. This same clause would establish that starting on the third year after this bill goes into

private companies and four state universities, a news report said. The park would be the latest multi-million dollar cooperation project since Costa Rica became the first country in the region to establish diplomatic ties with China on June 1, 2007. “We’ve reached a deal ... the idea is a development zone with research and production to attract investments,” said Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan, according to La Nacion daily.

Treasury Minister Guillermo Zuñiga also said tax revenue has decreased in the first few months of 2009

“Considering the current juncture and in the midst of the international financial crisis, the government must have the ability to choose, depending on the cost and risk, what currency to become indebted in, and for that reason the 20 percent limit for internal debt in dollars becomes an important obstacle to the Treasury Ministry’s desire to deal with this crisis successfully, without causing an impact on local interest rates or in the cost of servicing the country’s debt,” Zuñiga said. “This is a temporary measure and we are asking the Legislative Assembly to expand it for two years.”

Costa Rica plans to begin work on the park this year but is still seeking a suitable site, minister for competivity Jorge Woodbridge said in the same newspaper. The park will have four areas of investigation: biotechnology, mechanical equipment design, information technology and nanotechnology, with joint financing from the government, private companies and the universities, Woodbridge said. Last week President Oscar Arias laid the first stone of a new 74-million-dollar nation-

al stadium to be built by China in San Jose. Part of China’s incentives for Costa Rica’s recognition also came from its enormous foreign exchange reserves with an offer to buy 300 million dollars in bonds. It is also currently negotiating a free trade deal with San Jose. Both Taiwan – a democratic self-ruled island that Beijing considers part of its territory awaiting reunification – and China have been accused of using so-called “dollar diplomacy” to get nations to ally with them.

CR seeks to increase domestic honey production (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Because of geography, climate and ecological features, Costa Rica has diverse and abundant bee populations. Some 95 genera and more than 650 species of bees have been identified in the country. Many of them are solitary, others show varied social patterns, and some constitute permanent colonies. These characteristics have led to a long apicultural history in the country, with Costa Rica being a honey exporter to all of Central America up till the 1980s. However, once African bees were introduced, local honey production fell drastically.

Today, there are some 35,000 hives registered in the country, belonging to about 2,000 producers countrywide. Local production is estimated at between 800,000 and 850,000 kilograms annually, varying according to weather conditions in the different production regions. With the goal of increasing the amount of honey produced here, institutions such as the National University (UNA) have implemented projects to learn about the biology of local honeybees and apply modern techniques for management of Africanized colonies in a more sustainable and economically feasible manner.

Costa Rica has six honey packing companies. Local honey consumption has been on the upswing, with Ticos consuming approximately 400 grams (little less than one pound) per person a year. The local food industry utilizes a lot of the domestic production, which

Despite the fact that honey production has decreased, there are projects currently underway to ramp it up. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

leads to the need to import honey. Some companies use honey as the raw material for various food products, while others use it as an ingredient in cereals. Organic honey is another niche that Costa Rican producers are investing in to compete in the current market. Apiculture, however, is not only important for production of honey. It is also key to pollination for other agricultural industries, such as production of melons, chayote squash and floriculture.


10

society

U.S. VP Biden to visit Costa Rica later this month

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Costa Rica resumes diplomatic relations with Cuba

At the Guanacaste’s Golden Mile

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Guayacån Real, with everything you need: • Located in the GOLDEN MILE, Biden was also mentioned as a possible Democratic Party candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. AFP/

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Costa Rica on March 28-29, as part of a Latin American tour.

Before traveling to Costa Rica, Biden will be in Chile to meet with President Michelle Bachelet and attend the Progressive Leaders Summit taking place in the South American nation. Taking advantage of Biden’s first visit to the isthmus, all Central American presidents will convene in San Jose to express their concerns and requests so they are made known to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Another goal of Biden’s trip will be to consult with regional leaders about the Summit of the Americas, will is scheduled for April 17-19. Joseph Robinette “Joe� Biden, Jr., born Nov. 20, 1942, became the 47th Vice President of the United States last Jan. 20. He was a U.S. Senator from Delaware from 1973 until his resignation to become Vice President. An attorney since 1969, Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history. He was re-elected to the Senate six times, and was the fourth most senior senator at the time of his resignation. During his time in the Senate, he was president of the Judiciary Committee and later led the Foreign Relations Committee. A native of Scranton, Penn., Biden is the son of Joseph R. Biden and Catherine Eugenia Finnegan. He was the first of four sib-

lings in an Irish Catholic family originally from Northern Ireland. Biden spent the first years of his life in the suburbs of New Castle, Del., graduating from Archmere Academy in Claymont, Del., in 1961, and from the University of Delaware in 1965. He later attended the Syracuse University College of Law, graduated in 1968, and was admitted to the Delaware Bar Association in 1969. En 1987, Biden announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency Wilmington, Del. By then he had earned much recognition from progressive groups as president of the Senate Judiciary Committee that rejected the nomination of ultraconservative Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.

His candidacy, however, dissipated after being accused of plagiarism in a campaign speech. Additionally, in February 2008, right before the New Hampshire primary, Biden was hospitalized due to two brain aneurysms, which left him out of the Senate for seven months and prevented him from continuing his presidential bid. Biden was also mentioned as a possible Democratic Party candidate for the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. On Aug. 3, 2008, Biden was announced as Barack Obama’s running mate for the U.S. presidential elections, competing in that post against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate.

Biden’s agenda in Costa Rica has not yet been released due to security reasons.

Here, President Oscar Arias sings the decree reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Photo Casa Presidencial

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Almost a half a century after severing diplomatic relations with Cuba, Costa Rica has decided to reach out to the island and establish official ties once more, with local officials saying that conditions there have changed and that this is the right time to improve relations with the Caribbean nation. Costa Rica and Cuba had ended diplomatic ties during the Cold War, at a time when the Central American nation expressed ideological clashes with the continent’s socialist regimes. Now, both governments have announced they will be appointing ambassadors in the coming weeks.

“Right now, as the oldest democracy in Latin America, as a small republic of peace, we are extending our hand to the Cuban people, we are sending through air and sea an olive branch, so that we can start anew the good work of building friendship,� Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said when making the announcement. During the past five decades, there were only consulates in both countries to carry out migration paperwork.

“Costa Rican diplomacy cannot be measured by the countries it excludes, by the governments it doesn’t recognize, by the peoples it ignores. Ours must be a diplomacy that is capable of blazing trails and lay down bridges, capable of approaching others and practice by example,� Arias added. “We want to be recognized abroad by our friend-

ship and not as an enemy, by our disposition to help and not by our inflexibility. That’s why I have come here to announce, as in other times during this administration, a foreign policy decision whose time has come.� Costa Rica and Cuba broke off diplomatic ties on Sept. 10, 1961, when then-President Mario Echandi signed Executive Decree No. 2, ending relations with the Communist regime.

“Today, when the world is different from what it is was in those days, we must be capable of adjusting to new realities,� Arias continued. “That’s why I will sign an executive decree through which diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba will be restored. This is a move that I have considered carefully and responsibly. It’s a step I’m adopting convinced that times change, and that Costa Rica has to change along with them. This is a step that gives coherence to our foreign policy. And above all, it is a step that demonstrated faith in the destiny of humanity, and trust in the hope that nations will renew themselves and seek new ways forward.�

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Despite the President’s position, some opposition to his move has already surfaced. For example, while in the Legislative Assembly representatives of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), the Citizen Action Party (PAC) and the Broad Movement all supported the decision, the Libertarian Movement (ML) Party expressed its concern about the measure.

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12

society

Bike trail in Guanacaste enters in final phase of construction

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Santa Cruz joins fight against dengue (InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – Under the slogan of “No more dengue!” more than 300 volunteers got together March 22 in an effort to go house by house in the communities of Barrio Santa Cecilia and Las Tulitas in Santa Cruz, and in the Esparza (Puntarenas) towns of Villa Nueva and Cambalache, to collect solid waste and encourage neighbors to clean up their yards and common areas as a preventative measure to fight against dengue fever.

Thanks to the construction of bike trails, bicycle travel will be safer in Guanacaste. TJ/InfoWebPress

(InfoWebPress – www.journalcr.com) – The bike trail project between the communities of 27 de Abril and Paraiso in Guanacaste has entered its final phase of construction, as well as the country’s first urban bike trail — a 900-meter path located alongside Circunvalacion beltway in San Jose, which is being constructed thanks to resources provided by the FIA Foundation through the Automobile Club of Costa Rica.

The overall bike trail initiative includes three additional routes in the areas of Esparza and Chacarita (Puntarenas province) and in Limon (Caribbean). The project is being managed by the National Roadways Council (CONAVI) in an effort to boost safety on the country’s roads, accommodating their three main users: drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. One bike trail runs between El Roble and Chacarita, a 3.38-kilometer path that will cost $1 million. The second trail in Puntarenas will connect Esparza’s Police Station to the Enis Lookout, a 2.12-kilometer tract also costing around $1 million. Meanwhile, the bike trail in Limon — connecting Moin Port to Aleman Pier — will measure 6.8 kilometers and represent an investment of $2 million. In addition to the 27 de Abril-Paraiso route, other bike trails planned for Guanacaste include Liberia-Cañas (47 kilometers); 27 de Abril- Rio Seco (alongside a new road to be built there); and Junquillal-Avellanas.

Bike trails are seen as an attractive transportation alternative considering the increase in fuel prices. They would also help protect bicycles by giving them safer riding alternatives to high-traffic, dangerous highways. Bike trials would guarantee riders have a risk-free transportation system, but construction of each kilometer costs around $100,000 — reason for which the government is looking for various financing channels to build this infrastructure. “Our commitment is to make roads a safe place for all user, and we are fulfilling this promise by starting these three bike trails (the ones in Puntarenas in Limon) and bringing the other two (Guanacaste and San Jose) to their final construction phases,” Transportation Minister Karla Gonzalez said. “Thanks to these efforts, our infrastructure will be inclusive not only for those who have vehicles, but for those who daily means of transportation is a bicycle.”

Road crews are currently installing mile markers along the bike trails in Guanacaste and San Jose, in addition to protective walls and horizontal and vertical signage. They are also doing drainage work and building curbs.

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

The “Sweeps against Dengue” initiative began in 2006 and was conducted again in 2008, providing excellent results that are reflected in the decrease in the number of dengue cases registered in areas where these clean-up efforts have been organized. That’s why the sweeps are being conducted again this year.

The goal of this initiative is to educate people about dengue prevention and clean areas of debris that can hold water and turn into mosquito breeding grounds. The program also promotes citizen participation and citizen responsibility in adequately managing solid waste. Dengue is transmitted by a virus carried by certain mosquitos. Dr. Jorge Garces, of the Ministry of Health, reminded citizens that they shouldn’t “let their guard down at this time of the year, because mosquitoes are always looking for ecological niches to establish themselves.” The communities that were selected for the program this year are all at high risk for the disease and presented, during 2008, a high number of reported dengue cases. In Santa Cruz, for example, there were 174 dengue cases last year. Benefiting from the operation this year in Santa Cruz were the communities of Santa Cecilia and Las Tulitas, with the sweep’s op-

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erations center being the municipal garage. It is estimated that some 1,500 houses were visited, reaching approximately 5,500 people. The waste collected included No. 1 and 2 plastic, plastic bags, aluminum, glass, juice boxes, cardboard, metal cans, tires, and other non-recyclable waste.

All recyclable materials collected during the sweep (plastics, aluminum, glass, juice boxes, cardboard and metal) went to the Women’s Recycling Cooperative of Carrillo (COOMUREC) and also to the recycling center operated by drink-maker Florida Bebidas in Nicoya. The rest of the junk was collected by municipal garbage trucks and disposed of at the Liberia landfill. Joining the effort were several organizations, both public and private, including the Ministry of Health, the Municipality of Santa Cruz, the Red Cross, the Ministry of Education, and the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS).

Businesses collaborating in the sweep included brewer Cerveceria Costa Rica, construction company Holcim, Punto Rojo and Riteve. Community groups also lent a hand, such as the Buenos Aires Development Association, the Santa Cecilia Centro Development Association, the Santa Cruz High School, Universidad Latina, and the World Vision Childhood Program. Before the beginning of the sweep, volunteers were instructed in adequate solid waste handling and recovery of recyclable materials and correct separation. They were also given information that they could share with residents. The sweeps in Santa Cruz and Esparza were the seventh and eighth this year, of the more than 15 that will take place throughout the country.

“The places where this bike trail project is starting are those where there’s already a culture of use of the bicycle (flat, coastal regions), where children, teenagers and adults travel to school and work sharing the road with trucks and automobiles,” Gonzalez added.

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Student training opportunities in Greater Nicoya prehistory: Geology By Frederick W. Lange

Beginning in 1969, and finishing (at least for the time being) in 1997, I took groups of students from North America and Europe to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for, in many cases, their first training as archaeologists.

Many knew nothing about archaeology other than what they read in National Geographic, and then subsequently watched on television on Nova, the National Geographic Channel, the History Channel, and others. The Harrison Ford quartet of Raiders flicks and Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft Tomb Raider films have also attracted millions of viewers and caused dramatic increases in university enrollments in introductory courses. My challenge, therefore, was to help my students to avoid the trauma of getting too far along in their academic careers before they discovered what archaeology was really all about: field camps with no electricity, no running water, no nearby communities, lots of flies and mosquitoes and the occasionally scorpion or snake, and all of this they or their parents paid money for three to five months. It was more like boot camp!

I not only taught them about field techniques and how to record data, but also the interdisciplinary nature of archaeology and the natural connections between field archaeology and geology, zoology, botany, and laboratory studies such as chemistry and physics. The Santa Cruz community went out on the streets in force to fight the spread of dengue. Photo Angelith Picado

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I also tried to give them a “taste” for the entire sequence of activities carried out by a professional archaeologist. We discussed the research design, then began to execute it with survey and field excavation, then we

processed the artifacts (pottery sherds, stone cutting and grinding tools, animal bones, marine shells, human skeletons, and bits of fired clay that indicated the prehistoric peoples had lived in houses made of cane with clay or wattle stuck over it). We did laboratory work during the hot middle part of the day and at night (remember, there were no discoteques or TV). Students learned how to identify and classify the different categories of artifacts. Finally, individually or together, they wrote reports on their research. Some of these reports were eventually published in professional journals or became the basis for master’s theses or doctoral dissertations.

Our geological efforts in Greater Nicoya have focused on two main objectives: (1) to identify the clays and rocks in the local landscape that were utilized by the prehistoric peoples; and (2) to identify foreign clays and rocks that were imported into Greater Nicoya by prehistoric peoples, either as raw materials or finished artifacts. Many readers may not think of clay as a subject of geological study, and yet, clay is formed from the erosion, mixing, and re-deposit of rock materials from the landscape. Clay. Our research indicated clear distinctions between the clays from the Isthmus of Rivas in Nicaragua and the Tempisque River Valley and coastal valleys of the Nicoya Peninsula. The clays from the Tempisque Valley become finer and finer grained as the river flows from the Central Volcanic Range (the heavier grained materials settle out farther up stream) and have a high degree of volcanic material in them. The clays from the Isthmus of Rivas have such a high iron content that

cally and regionally available metamorphic rocks such as jasper and chalcedony.

A group of students process geological samples at Playa Panama, in the Bay of Culebra area, Guanacaste.

just a few broken pieces of pottery (sherds or shards in the lingo of archaeologists) in your purse or pocket will set off the airport security alarms.

Obsidian. Various surveys helped us to conclude that there are no geological outcrops of obsidian (black volcanic glass used for cutting tools) in either Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Obsidian is formed under volcanic conditions, it is true, but the right kind of volcanism does not occur in Greater Nicoya to be able to produce obsidian. We established that through trade the nearest sources were on the Honduran/Nicaraguan border and in Guatemala. Most obsidian was traded into Greater Nicoya already formed into knives, scrapers, or projectiles, probably to reduce the bulk and weight that had to be transported. We determined that while heavy grinding stones were made from local igneous rocks, that finer grained rocks used to make projectile points and wood and hide-working tools from local stone were manufactured from lo-

Jade. Despite never-ending rumors, there is no jade source on the Santa Elena Peninsula in Guanacaste, or anywhere else in Greater Nicoya. We, and others, have conducted detailed surveys that clearly demonstrate the lack of local sources. The nearest source is in the Motagua Valley of Guatemala some 600 kilometers, or 400 miles, away. The presence of Maya and Olmec jades in Costa Rica has usually been interpreted as evidence of trade, or conquest, between the locals and strong groups farther north. However, there are also those scholars who think that Maya and Olmec jade were transported into Costa Rica as raw material. While this is an interesting idea, the fact that all jade is found in cemetery contexts argues against the raw material idea.

These three examples demonstrate the advantage of collaboration between archaeology and other disciplines, such as geology. Dr. Frederick W. Lange has a doctoral degree in anthropology, awarded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971. He is the author of 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 is: hormiga_1999@yahoo.com.


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Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

week in brief

Politics

Business & Economy

National emergency commission boss quits

Radio stations, bars will have to pay to play music

(Inside Costa Rica) — The president of the Comisión National Emergency Commission (CNE), Daniel Gallardo, resigned his post last week, citing health and personal reasons. The resignation is effective as of April 13, allowing the government to find a replacement. Gallardo said his doctors have advised him to rest. The CNE is the frontline resource for those affected by national and man-made disasters. However, it has come under fire from various sectors, both public and private, for its handling (or mis-handling) of the Cinchona earthquake relief efforts. The earthquake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale occurred last Jan. 8 in the north central part of the country, leaving 19 deaths and thousands homeless. Hundreds are still living in shelters and rebuilding of the affected area has been very slow.

Nicaragua’s decision to remove visa entry requirements worries Costa Rica (Inside Costa Rica) — The decision by Nicaragua to allow entry to any and all visitors, without requiring a visa, is worrying Costa Rica’s foreign minister, Bruno Stagno. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega made the announcement last week while visiting Catarina, in the southwest region of Nicaragua. The announcement by Ortega opens the Nicaraguan border to any person wishing to visit Nicaragua for tourism purposes, without first obtaining a visa from the Nicaraguan consulate in the country of origin. Stagno’s concern is that many will use Nicaragua to enter Costa Rica illegally. Not requiring any type of visa to enter Nicaragua, Costa Rica fears that international trafficking organizations can now easily move people to Costa Rica and other countries, like the United States.

(La Republica) — Costa Rica’s music industry is seeking to have radio stations pay for the music they play, which according to radio stations would hurt them immensely, even forcing them to close down. Two such radio stations have been sued for playing music without playing for intellectual rights. Fonotica, which represents the music industry including record companies such as Sony Music, Universal Music, Dideca, NMI, DDM, is seeking to have stations pay 3 percent of their gross revenue a month. In addition to radio stations, Fonotica seeks to have bars, restaurants, discotheques, sports arenas, and even weddings and private parties pay fees when playing its music.

November. The program will cost $1 million. The first stage of the program will consist of the analysis of studies about Costa Rica made by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) and other institutions.

Group seeks class-action lawsuit due to high interest rates

(La Prensa Libre) — The Free Consumers Association (ACL) is seeking to file a class-action lawsuit against banking officials due to what they consider an indiscriminate increase in the credit rates paid by nearly 136,000 customers of the National Bank System. According to the group’s lawyer, Adriana Rojas Rivero, in many cases the rates have doubled, threatening the stability of Costa Rican families, who now have to set aside a large percentage of their income to paying on their loans. Rojas Rivero said an article in the consumer protection law allows associations to file this kind of lawsuits to defend their associations. Last week, the Basic Passive Rate (TBP), which affects most interest rates for lending in the country, jumped to 12.25 percent, the highest in almost

Officials to create ‘brand’ for Costa Rican tourism (La Nacion) — The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) announced they will implement a plant to create a “brand” for all products and services offered by the local tourism industry. The “country brand” seal process in its initial stages and could unveiled next

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(Inside Costa Rica) — Public employees will get the entire Holy Week holiday off, the government announced last week following a session of the President’s Cabinet. This reverses the trend seen in the past three years, when holidays for public employees were reduced to three. Last year, as with the previous two years, government employees were required to work from Monday to Wednesday during Holy Week, having only Good Thursday and Good Friday, both mandatory holidays, off.

Photocopying of educational material upheld as legal

Fiscal deficit continues to go up

(La Prensa Libre) — Costa Rica’s fiscal deficit so far this year has reached 96.5 billion colones (around $175 million) due to a reduction in tax revenue by 2.8 percent in January and February compared to the same period last year. The ongoing economic crisis that is affecting most of the world is behind the increase in the deficit. The biggest tax revenue reduction has been seen in the customs sector (imports), reaching 21.4 percent.

Public employees get entire Holy Week off

Society 50-year prison sentences are constitutional: Court

(Inside Costa Rica) — Prison sentences of 50 years were suspended temporarily while Constitutional Court heard an appeal by Alexander Vargas Rojas, an inmate held at La Reforma maximum security prison, arguing against articles 51 and 76 of the Penal Code. Vargas, who was sentenced to 173 years in prison for a triple murder on Nov. 22, 1995, argued the “alleged violations in the legislative reform of the articles and the perpetuity and the amount of degrading punishment of 50 years imprisonment.” Vargas also argued that although inmates have the opportunity to educate themselves, including earning a professional degree, the length of the sentence does not allow the right to exercise the profession. But the Court rejected the arguments made by Vargas and confirmed the sentence, reactivating cases that were in suspension during the filing of the complaint. In Costa Rica, even though courts hand down sentences of 100 years or more, the maximum to be served is 50 years.

Traditional ‘lagarteada’ in Ortega de Santa Cruz to be allowed this year (La Nacion) — During this year’s Holy Week, the residents of Ortega in Santa Cruz will be allowed to continue their centennial tradition of the “lagarteada,” or crocodile hunt, as the Constitutional Court rejected a writ of protection that sought to ban it. As part of this tradition, people on Good Friday capture a live crocodile, exhibit it in the community for a day, and then release it. The reason behind the writ was that this reptile species (Crocodylus acutus) is endangered, and the country’s laws prohibit hunting animals that face extinction. However, the Court took into consideration the cultural importance of this folk tradition and the fact that the animal is not killed. So this year, people in Ortega will once again look for a crocodile in the Tempisque River to continue their unique tradition.

(Inside Costa Rica) — Photocopying textbooks and other educational materials is a way of life for university students in Costa Rica. The practice not only saves students money, but also permits them to obtain educational material that in many cases is impossible to access. But this practice came into question with the introduction of a new Intellectual Property Law. However, a government commission on intellectual property last week said that textbooks, for example, can be photocopied as long as it is for educational purposes and not for any commercial or lucrative purpose. Costa Rica has recently signed a series of international treaties that recognize the exclusive rights of authors of works that represent international standards. With clarifications such as the one regarding photocopying of textbooks, the Commission hopes to clear up the doubts and concerns expressed by different sectors about the scope of the rules on copyright and the ability to make reproductions of works for educational purposes.

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Health Ministry issues cautions for swimmers during Easter holiday

(Inside Costa Rica) — The Holy Week or Easter holiday is around the corner, and visitors to the beaches of Flamingo, Samara, Nosara, Avellanas or Punta El Madero, in Guanacaste, can be assured that the water there is clean for swimming, according to the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA). The AyA also assured travelers that the waters of Pochote, Santa Teresa, Mantas, Tambor, Puntarenas and Manuel Antonio are all safe. On the Caribban side, the waters of Limon, Cahuita, Bonita and Puerto Vargas are all safe to dunk in to beat the heat. Other beaches, said Darner Mora of AyA’s Water Laboratory, either show levels of contamination not suitable for swimming or have dangerous currents. For example, beaches Palo Seco, in Parrita, have excellent water quality, but the currents are too dangerous for safe swimming.

Costa Rica’s bubble gas samples to be analyzed in Italy (Inside Costa Rica) — A group of experts have found more bubbles coming out of the ocean water near the coast of Golfito following last week’s series of strong earthquakes in the area. Experts say they have found two types of gases emanating from cracks in the ocean floor — methane and hydrogen sulfide — which will be studied by the National University (UNA) in Heredia,and the Università degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy. The study will attempt to identify their origin. Samples were taken by experts with the Vulcanology and Seismology Service (OVSICORI). So far, the emanating gases do not pose a threat to human or marine life. Experts also detected that the shallow waters of the Golfo Dulce in Golfito are about two degrees Celsius higher than the surrounding waters and that although hydrogen sulfide gas is toxic, the gas contained in the bubbles does not pose a health risk.

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science & technology

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Big drop in Caribbean reef Second Life finding new life fish linked to coral loss SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Linden Lab chief executive Mark Kingdon shakes his head when he sees news stories heralding the demise of former Internet darling Second Life.

CHICAGO (AFP) – The number of fish living in Caribbean reefs has dropped significantly since 1995, after decades of stability, and is likely due to a significant loss of coral, a study found.

Reporters that rushed into Second Life to cover cyber-events and portrayed the online fantasy realm a science fiction future come true have been pulling up stakes and tearing down the community they had embraced.

Researchers examined data from 48 different studies of 318 reefs across the Caribbean from 1955 to 2007.

Well-known Silicon Valley gossip website Vallywag even started a death watch for Second Life.

They found that fish density grew from 1955 to 1985, when it began to decline slightly. The significant losses began in 1995, when density fell across the region by 2.7 to six percent per year. “We were most surprised to discover that this decrease is evident for both large-bodied species targeted by fisheries as well as smallbodied species that are not fished,” said lead author Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Canada. “This suggests that overfishing is probably not the only cause.”

Paddack and her colleagues point to an 80 percent reduction in coral cover since the mid 1970’s and drastic changes in coral reef habitats over the past 30 years as the most likely culprit. These changes are a result of a number of factors, including a rise in pollution from coastal development, warming ocean temperatures, coral diseases, and overfishing which led to the decline of many fish species important to keeping the reefs free of algae.

“All of these factors are stressing the reefs and making them less able to recover from disturbances such as hurricanes, which also seem to be occurring more frequently,” Paddack said.

Researchers examined data from 48 different studies of 318 reefs across the Caribbean from 1955 to 2007. www.webshot.com

The delayed response to loss of coral implies a “degradation debt.” Paddack said her study, which involved a very large team of scientists from around the globe, should serve as a call to action.

“If we want to have coral reefs in our future, we must ensure that we reduce damage to these ecosystems,” she said.

“On a personal level, this may mean not buying wild-caught aquarium fish and corals, not eating reef fish species that are declining, taking care not to anchor on reefs, and reducing our carbon emissions to help control climate change. “But importantly, we need to let lawmakers and resource managers know that we care about these ecosystems and we need to push for changes in how they are managed.”

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

Fossil puzzle reveals a new monster predator

CHICAGO (AFP) – The fossils of a monster predator with a circular jaw and a pair of claws on its head has been discovered in the old collections of the Smithsonian museum in Washington, researchers said last week.

Fragments of the creature were unearthed in 1912 in Canada’s 505 million-year-old Burgess Shale site but researchers initially thought they were part of a crustacean-like animal. It was not until researchers discovered more complete specimens in the 1990’s that they realized fossils previously classified as jellyfish, sea cucumbers and other anthropods were actually pieces of an entirely new beast.

Hurdia victoria has a segmented body covered with gills and a huge three-part carapace, or shell, that projects out from the front of its head, according to the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

“This structure is unlike anything seen in other fossil or living arthropods,” said lead author Allison Daley, who has been studying the fossils for three years as part of her doctoral thesis at Uppsala University in Sweden. “The use of the large carapace extending from the front of its head is a mystery. In many animals, a shell or carapace is used

to protect the soft-parts of the body, as you would see in a crab or lobster, but this structure in Hurdia is empty and does not cover or protect the rest of the body. We can only guess at what its function might have been.” The specimen discovered in the Smithsonian’s collection was classified as an anthropod in the 1980’s and then as an unusual specimen of the predator Anomalocaris.

But Daley and a team of researchers from Canada, Britain and the United States were able to reclassify it after studying several hundred specimens recovered from the Burgess Shale.

Hurdia and Anomalocaris are both early offshoots of the evolutionary lineage that led to arthropods, a large modern group that contains spiders, crustaceans, insects, millipedes and centipedes. The fossils reveal details of the origins of important features that define the modern arthropods such as their limbs and head structures. The Hurdia specimens reveal exquisite details of its gills, some of the best preserved in the fossil record. “Most of the body is covered in the gills, which were probably necessary to provide oxygen to such a large, actively swimming animal,” Daley said.

“You read those stories; as CEO I have to shake my head,” said Mark Kingdon, who last year ago took over for founder Philip Rosedale as chief executive of San Francisco-based Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. “The reality is that Second Life continues to grow; every second someone joins. Second Life is hopping.”

The number of “active users” at Second Life has grown 25 percent since September of last year, while the amount of time and money spent in the virtual world has climbed by similar percentages, according to Kingdon. Linden Lab thinks the drubbing of its image is a rebound from the incredible hype it got during infancy.

“We are not called the darling anymore like Facebook or Twitter, but we are continuing to motor on at incredible levels,” Kingdon said. “Time will tell the story. We are a profitable business and we are growing.”

Technology-loving “early adopters” flocked to Second Life, where they socialized in the forms of animated characters called “avatars” controlled by computer keystrokes and mouse clicks. Second Life was accused of painting a misleading picture by touting the overall number of people that opened accounts without accounting for the fact that many people didn’t stick around to homestead.

The number of people that have joined the virtual world since it was created in 1999 eclipsed 15 million last year. The average number of people logged on to Second Life at any given time is about 70,000, according to Linden Lab. Residents spent about 41.5 million hours total in Second Life in January, as opposed to the 28.3 million hours users spent in the virtual world the same month in 2008, according to Linden.

Voice capabilities were added last year so people can talk in-world instead of typing conversations. “The array of things people do in Second Life has blossomed,” Kingdon said. “One thing that has popped out as a killer application is business meetings.”

Technology firms with workers spread around the world are increasingly using Second Life as an economical forum for meetings.

There are more than 15,000 merchants in Second Life selling snippets of computer code that become clothing, hair, art work or other items for avatars.

“There is something about that feeling of presence,” said Karen Keeter, marketing director for digital convergence at IBM, which uses Second Life for gatherings.

“Being able to see yourself as this avatar standing there next to other people is just a feeling of immersion you don’t get with other alternatives.”

IBM’s campus in Second Life features a picnic area with hammocks; a sculpture garden, and cafe for avatars to slip off and chat over faux coffee. “People love that,” Keeter said. “We create these environments that are like the lunch room. We get people there a half-hour early and the whole point is to mingle.” IBM is working with Linden to build a private conference area protected by a software “fire wall” for meetings focused on sensitive information best not discussed on the “public grid.” Kingdon downplays what he refers to as “an empty storefront syndrome” at Second Life.

An array of businesses that rushed in to sell virtual or real-world goods have abandoned the virtual world, leaving behind vacant faux buildings. “Merchants in Second Life are doing well,” Kingdon said. “We just bought two commerce sites last month because we see selling and buying of virtual good in Second Life is booming.”

More than 1.3 million U.S. dollars worth of transactions reportedly take place daily in Second Life, where the currency is the Linden dollar.

There are more than 15,000 merchants in Second Life selling snippets of computer code that become clothing, hair, art work or other items for avatars. People spent 360 million dollars (US) in Second Life last year, according to Linden.

Schools continue to use Second Life for online classrooms and bands perform on inworld stages, albeit to sometimes meager audiences. Linden is making avatar tools easier and “reworking the user experience,” according to Kingdon.

“We have hired a world-class-team to lead the changes,” Kingdon said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet. A lot of work is going to be done in the next 9 to 12 months.”

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Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

health

Spinal cord stimulation could help treat Parkinson’s disease

CHICAGO (AFP) – A small device implanted on the spinal cord could one day offer a better way to treat Parkinson’s disease, according to a study showing success in trials on mice and rats. “This work addresses an important need because people living with Parkinson’s disease face a difficult reality – (the drug) L-Dopa will eventually stop managing the symptoms,” said lead author Romulo Fuentes of Duke University Medical Center.

“Patients are left with few options for treatment, including electrical stimulation of the brain, which is appropriate for only a subset of patients.”

Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder which primarily affects people over the age of 50 and can lead to such severe trembling, stiffness and loss of balance that patients have trouble walking, talking or performing basic tasks.

The device applies electrical stimulation

safe and effective over the long term in primates and then humans, virtually every patient could be eligible for this treatment in the near future,” said senior author Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University Medical Center.

to the spinal cord’s dorsal column, which is a main pathway for carrying tactile information from the body to the brain.

When it was turned on, the slow, stiff movements of mice and rats depleted of dopamine in order to mimic the effects of Parkinson’s were replaced with the active behavior of healthy animals.

The device will likely mirror similar spinal cord stimulator technology currently used to treat chronic pain if it is approved for use on Parkinson’s patients, Nicolelis said.

Improved movement was typically observed within 3.35 seconds, the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science found.

Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder which primarily affects people over the age of 50 and can lead to such severe trembling, stiffness and loss of balance that patients have trouble walking, talking or performing basic tasks.

The stimulation also reduced the low-frequency seizures often seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease and observed in the dopamine-depleted mice and rats.

The researchers tested mice at rats with varying levels of stimulation and doses of dopamine replacement drugs to determine the most effective pairing. The animals were 26 times more active when the device was used without additional

medication. When coupled with medication, only two doses were needed to produce movement compared to five doses when the medication was used by itself. “If we can demonstrate that the device is

Small leads are implanted over the spinal cord and then connected to a small, portable generator capable of producing mild electrical currents.

The generator used in the trial period is external but would be implanted below the skin for permanent treatment. The Duke team is currently working with neuroscientists in Brazil to test the procedure on primates, and with researchers in Switzerland to translate the findings into clinical practice.

Condom is ‘essential’ part of Green tea and mushrooms AIDS prevention: UNAIDS cut breast cancer risk

GENEVA (AFP) – The UN programme against HIV/AIDS said that condoms were an essential and effective component in preventing the disease, the day after Pope Benedict XVI claimed they aggravated the tragedy.

“With more than 7,400 new infections each day, the world cannot stop the AIDS epidemic without stopping new HIV infections,” UNAIDS said. “Condoms are an essential part of combination prevention,” it added, advocating a range of social, behavioural and medical measures.

“There is no single magic bullet for HIV prevention,” the Geneva-based agency said, without making a direct reference to the pope’s comments. At the beginning of his first visit as pontiff to AIDS-ravaged Africa, the pope said the disease was a tragedy “that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.”

The solution lies in a “spiritual and human awakening” and “friendship for those who suffer,” Benedict XVI added as he embarked on a trip to Cameroon and Angola. UNAIDS noted that increases in prevention and treatment were beginning to produce results, including in some of the most

affected nations in Africa.

Condom use is growing for “young people with multiple partners” in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, it added. UNAIDS also advocated access to information about HIV infection, treatment, harm reduction measures, being faithful, “waiting longer to become sexually active”, reducing the number of multiple or concurrent partAt the beginning of his first visit as pontiff to AIDS-ravaged Africa, the pope said the disease was a tragedy “that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.” AFP

ners, male circumcision, and reducing the stigma surrounding the disease.

Countries could tailor the right mix of preventive measures to tackle their epidemic “just as the right combination and proportions of drugs for antiretroviral treatment is now saving millions of lives,” the agency concluded. The Vatican sought to downplay Pope Benedict XVI’s comments, saying he was merely stating traditional Catholic Church doctrine.

SYDNEY (AFP) – Chinese women who ate mushrooms and drank green tea significantly cut their risk of breast cancer and the severity of the cancer in those who did develop it, an Australian researcher said.

Min Zhang, from the University of Western Australia, studied the diets of 2,018 women from the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou – half of whom had breast cancer – between July 2004 and September 2005.

While breast cancer was the most common type of cancer for women worldwide, Min said the rate in China was four to five times lower than that typically found in developed countries. “We concluded that higher dietary intake of mushrooms decreased breast cancer risk in pre- and post-menopausal Chinese women, and an additional decreased risk of breast cancer from the joint effect of mushrooms and green tea was observed,” Min told AFP.

“The risk of breast cancer significantly declined with the highest intake of dietary mushrooms,” she said, adding that fresh and dried mushrooms were equally effective.

Eating as little as 10 grams, or less than one button mushroom daily, would have a beneficial effect, Min found, with the women

who consumed the most fresh mushrooms around two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who did not eat mushrooms. In addition to lowering the cancer risk, green tea and mushrooms also cut the malignancy of any cancer which did form, Min found.

The fact that the combination of green tea and mushrooms was more effective than just mushrooms alone could partially explain the lower incidence of breast cancer amongst Chinese women, she said.

“To our knowledge, this is the first human study to evaluate the joint effect of mushrooms and green tea on breast cancer,” she said. “Our findings, if confirmed consistently in other research, have potential implications for protection against breast cancer development using an inexpensive dietary intervention.”

The study was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Cancer, and is one in a series of Asian studies by Min and her team on the anti-carcinogenic effects of phytochemicals.

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19

europe

EU fails to commit to climate change aid

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A European Union summit refused to put a figure on aid for developing nations to cut greenhouse gases, waiting to see what United States and others have to offer.

name a figure now, he said, adding that such a decision would be made some time between June and the Copenhagen conference, he added.

However no figure was agreed at a twoday summit that ended Friday, with the EU not keen to show its hand before the United States, China and others had indicated their proposals.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on the fundamental role of the United States and the need to find out the intentions of President Barack Obama, they said.

The European Commission had mooted 30 billion euros.

Pressure is mounting ahead of global climate change talks to be held in Copenhagen in December.

“We have, before taking a formal decision on our side, to ask other developed countries also to come with us (so that) the United sates, Japan and many other contributors also signal what will be their position,” said European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso. It would be “premature” for Europe to

the financial and economic crises and did not commit a single cent of the money Europe must contribute to international efforts to deal with global warming,” complained Friends of the Earth.

That position was expressed by several of the leaders behind closed doors, according to sources.

There was also no agreement at the summit on how to divide the costs, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk admitted after a debate with his European counterparts.

Tusk, whose country relies heavily on coal-fired power stations, said “the simplistic mechanism of ‘the polluter pays’ is unacceptable.”

The EU leaders stressed that “the European Union remains committed to playing a leading role in bringing about a global and comprehensive climate agreement in Copen-

Swiss MP compares German minister to Gestapo

“Poor countries will not agree to a new treaty unless they have assurances from the developed world,” it added in an argument also voiced by Action Aid and Oxfam.

The EU leaders stressed that “the European Union remains committed to playing a leading role in bringing about a global and comprehensive climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. AFP /ERIC FEFERBERG

hagen in December 2009.

The European leaders’ message was slammed by environmental groups.

The EU leaders “spent most of their time discussing multi-billion euro responses to

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union has reassured Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium that they will not figure on an international blacklist of tax havens to be drawn up at next month’s key Group of 20 summit.

“It’s the way he presents himself: uncompromising, disrespectful and haughty,” the MP added.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the EU presidency, said at a summit of the bloc: “There are countries – Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and non-EU members – who unanimously accepted the OECD conditions and therefore they won’t be on the list any more.”

Switzerland, a non-EU member, was told it had also escaped the threat of inclusion on the list by agreeing last week to ease its longcherished banking secrecy.

“In Germany, the Gestapo was also an elite,” deputy Thomas Mueller said in an interview with mass-circulation Bild, adding that the minister – Peer Steinbrueck – “reminded him” of the official Nazi secret police force.

The conservative Swiss from the Christian Democrat party said his remarks were intended as an attack on Steinbrueck personally and that he wanted to encourage him to visit Switzerland in an attempt to “understand our country.”

Tensions between the two politicians, initially triggered by a tax row between Switzerland and Germany, have escalated since Mueller said in the Swiss parliament Wednesday that Steinbrueck was like a figure from the Nazi era.

Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws became the focal point of a heated debate after Germany and France pushed for a list of tax havens to be drawn up ahead of a summit of G20 leaders next month.

Yesterday Steinbrueck told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that as a result of the spat he was receiving threatening letters from Switzerland and was being called “a

The front page of Swiss newspapers ‘Tages Anzeiger’ (L) and ‘Blick’ are pictured in Geneva. A row between Switzerland and Germany over tax havens took a venomous turn after Nazi accusations were made against German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck. During a Swiss parliamentary debate on banking secrecy, Christian Democrat parliamentarian Thomas Mueller compared Steinbrueck to a figure of the Nazi era. AFP/ FABRICE COFFRINI

Nazi henchman.”

Swiss noses were put out of joint after Steinbrueck made a Wild West analogy days ago that was interpreted in Switzerland as likening them to “Indians” frightened by the threat of the “cavalry.” But Berlin was at pains to play down the row Friday, with Steinbrueck’s spokesman Thorsten Albig telling reporters: “We are relaxed.”

Albig added that Steinbrueck would welcome a visit from Swiss President and Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz to discuss the matter.

“We would accept and welcome any requests for talks on this issue,” he said at a regular news briefing.

“After more than one year of discussions, European leaders have once again put on hold decisions that could stimulate a global climate deal,” said WWF

Claude Turmes a Green member of the European parliament from Luxembourg, denounced the summit’s “timidity.” EU nations have committed to ambitious environmental goals by 2020 that aim to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent, make 20 percent energy efficiencies and increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 20 percent of the total.

Relieved EU nations escape tax haven blacklist

BERLIN (AFP) – A Swiss MP has compared Germany’s finance minister to the Nazi Gestapo police in an increasingly venomous row sparked by Switzerland’s banking secrecy laws, a German paper reported.

“He reminds me of the old generation of Germans, who 60 years ago went through the streets with leather coats, boots and armbands,” he said, before being rapped by his colleagues and the speaker of the lower chamber.

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Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

EU countries were meeting in Brussels to try to agree a position for a G20 summit in London on April 2, including calls for G20 nations to fight tax evasion and ensure greater cooperation from tax havens.

Europe, led by Germany and France, are using the global financial crisis to step up their offensive on tax havens, which they accuse of allowing banks to hide losses and hedge funds to evade regulation.

Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria have banking laws similar to those in non-EU members Liechtenstein and Switzerland. They have been reluctant to embrace EU rules on sharing account details with fellow European tax authorities, fearing that doing so will lead to a loss of lucrative banking business. But the three EU nations recently fell into line, agreeing to comply with the rules on the exchange of tax information set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD). “All those countries which have opted for the OECD standards, and which put the procedure in place by completing the necessary

agreements to do so, are not in my opinion in serious danger of being on the blacklist,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said.

Germany’s efforts to pressure Switzerland over tax havens has seen emotions run high, with outspoken German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck compared to a Nazi by one Swiss lawmaker. The outburst came after Steinbrueck had made comments that were interpreted in Switzerland as likening the Swiss to cowed “Indians.” “The cavalry in Fort Yuma doesn’t always have to ride out. Sometimes it is sufficient just for the Indians to know that they are there,” Steinbrueck was quoted as saying.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said France and Germany – two of the EU nations who are members of the G20 – had weighed in to ensure that his country and their EU counterparts would not be on the blacklist. French President “Nicolas Sarkozy and (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel let it be known that France and Germany would not agree to Luxembourg, Austria or Belgium being put on a tax haven list,” Juncker told journalists. A Swiss newspaper reported this week that the OECD has identified 46 countries and territories for making “insufficient progress” in meeting standards on tax cooperation, in a pre-G20 summit list supplied to Britain. But the Tages Anzeiger reported that Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong had managed to avoid being categorised as “tax havens” by the OECD and would instead fall under the heading of financial centres.

Countries such as Liberia, Monaco and a host of Caribbean and Pacific islands would be classed as tax havens, the report said.


20

global affairs

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Green investment solution Diplomacy key to defusing to global crisis row over ‘Blue Gold’

NAIROBI (AFP) – Investing one percent of global output into five key sectors could achieve a “Green New Deal” and drive the world’s recovery from the financial crisis, the United Nations said. In a policy brief launched ahead of next month’s crucial G20 meeting in London, the UN’s environment program (UNEP) said 750 billion dollars of green investments could cure the world’s ailing economy. “The report fleshes out the multiple economic, environmental and social benefits of investing a significant amount of the three trillion dollars worth of stimulus packages in five areas,” UNEP said in a statement. The keys sectors are energy efficiency in buildings, renewable energies such as wind and solar, sustainable transport such as hybrid vehicles and high-speed rail, protection of ecological infrastructure such as freshwaters and forests, and sustainable agriculture. “The G20 meeting needs to be a milestone in terms of focusing investments that address the crises of today and those emerging from climate change, natural resource scarcity and lack of decent employment for close to two billion unemployed or underemployed people over the coming decade,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said. Steiner, who is also UN under secretarygeneral, cited the example of energy use in buildings, arguing it could be cut by 80 percent using existing technologies.

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

Latin American remittances Obama to address immigration reform in coming months drop sharply WASHINGTON (AFP) – Funds sent home by Latin American emigrants plunged by as much as 13 percent in January, signalling trouble ahead especially for countries in Central America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank said.

Latin America received 69.2 billion dollars last year in remittances from workers abroad, but the flow of funds declined significantly in the fourth quarter, said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, who predicted that 2009 will see the first decline in a decade. “While it is too soon to project how much remittances could decline in 2009, it is bad news for millions of people in our region who depend on these flows to cover basic necessities,” Moreno told reporters.

Innovation of solar energy in one exmple of green investment.

He said additional investments in the sector had the potential to reinvigorate the industry and create 3.5 million “green jobs” in the United States and Europe alone. In what it has termed the great recession, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the global economy could shrink in 2009 for the first time in 60 years. As countries launch billion-dollar packages to rescue their economies, Steiner said the time was ideal to operate a shift towards a greener global economy. “The large scale stimulus investments planned over the coming months and the next two to four years represent a once in a life time opportunity to make a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient society – this opportunity must not be lost,” he said.

“The outlook is more complex, because there are more factors in play,” he said. Conflicts also occur at the scale of large national river basins – multistate Indian rivers such as the Cauvery and the Krishna – or transnational river basins, such as the Jordan and the Nile.

ISTANBUL (AFP) – From South Asia and to the Middle East, from Australia to California, rivers and aquifers that cross boundaries have become potent sources of friction. Farmers squabble with city dwellers over irrigation rights while countries in river basins complain about pollution or water theft from upstream, as their neighbours build dams to siphon off flow from the watershed.

“Conflicts about water can occur at all scales,” the UN warned.

“Local-level conflicts are commonplace in irrigation systems, where farmers vie for limited resources,” it said in a massive document, the third World Water Development Report. “Conflicts also occur at the scale of large national river basins – multistate Indian rivers such as the Cauvery and the Krishna – or transnational river basins, such as the Jordan and the Nile.”

“Water wars” for the time belong in the realm of conjecture.

In more than half a century, there have been only 37 cross-border disputes about water that have led to some form of violence, while some 200 treaties on water-sharing have been negotiated and signed. Some of these initiatives have worked well.

They include the 1960 Indo-Pakistani treaty on sharing the water of the Indus, which has survived two wars between the two neighbours; the Mekong Committee, which has functioned since 1957 and swapped data throughout the Vietnam War; and the Nile Basin Initiative, launched in 1999 gathering all 10 riparian, or river-bank, states along the world’s longest river. But there are also treaties that remain a dead letter, especially in Africa, which has nearly a quarter of the world’s cross-border river basins.

The risk of bloodshed over the stuff of life is a scenario taken seriously by many specialists. Global warming may already be causing changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns, affecting river flow and groundwater recharge, and amplifying water shortages in countries

that are already under stress, say scientists.

One of the feared trigger points is the Middle East, where Israel’s policies of drawing water from the River Jordan and coastal aquifers are bitterly resented in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a message to the World Water Forum that began on Sunday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas accused Israel of flouting international law. Palestinians had four times less water per capita than Israelis living in Israel, a consumption level that fell far below the World Health Organization’s guidelines for minimum daily access to water, he said. “Palestinians should not be forced to wait until a peace agreement is reached before (they are) allowed (their) rightful share of the transboundary water resources,” he said.

Flavia Loures, senior programme officer for international law and policy on freshwater at the World Wildlife Fund, said governments urgently needed to set in place better mechanisms for resolving water disputes. “We really need a stable cooperation now, before we come to the point where, due to climate change, competition for water resources becomes much stronger,” she said.

Loures said a solution could be found in a UN pact that was signed in 1997 by more than 100 countries – China, Turkey and Burundi demurred.

The accord, called the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, requires parties to pledge “equitable and reasonable” use of water resources that straddle an international boundary. But only 16 countries have ratified the convention so far, and 35 are needed before it becomes international law. France this month announced its intention to ratify. Loures said it was possible that the convention could become international law in 2011. A European diplomat, though, said some countries, notably China, which have a river watershed, baulked at the convention.

“They fear it will entail interference in their internal affairs,” he said.

21

americas

“The world faces its worst crisis in decades. Unemployment is rising in the industrialized countries. And the climate toward immigration has become inhospitable,” Moreno added. Remittances have climbed each year for the past decade with 2008 slightly surpassing 2007, which came to 68.6 million.

According to preliminary data, some

countries experienced declines of as much as 13 percent in January compared to the same month last year, Moreno said.

He said the situation could be critical for Central America and the Caribbean, where remittances account for up to 20 percent of the gross domestic product of countries in those regions.

Moreno said sectors of the industrialized countries that employ immigrants – construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants – have been hit hard by the global financial crisis. The drop in the value of some Latin American currencies, like the Mexican peso or Brazilian real, could cushion the blow somewhat, the bank said. But Andean countries, which benefit heavily from remittances from workers in Spain, have been hurt by the drop in value of the Euro.

In 2008, the country that received the most in remittances was Mexico with 25.1 billion dollars, followed by Brazil with 7.2 billion, Colombia with 4.8 billion, Guatemala with 4.3 billion, El Salvador with 3.8 billion, the Dominican Republic with 3.1 billion, Peru 2.96 billion, Ecuador 2.8 billion and Honduras 2.7 billion.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will present plans for immigration reform this year, Hispanic lawmakers said Wednesday after strategic talks at the White House. Obama “was clear and eloquent and determinate to let us know that we are all together in the route of comprehensive immigration reform,” Democratic lawmaker Luis Gutierrez told reporters after the discussion between the president and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). “We believe that we are moving forward this year, we are going to work with the president,” added CHC leader Nydia Velazquez. Obama will convene a public forum on the issue “probably in two months,” according to New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. The White House said in a statement that the meeting was “robust and strategic” and that Obama will work with CHC members to address immigration reform “in both the short and long term.” Two legislative measures to reform immigration failed to gain traction in Congress in 2006 and 2007, as lawmakers grappled with the task of addressing the 12 million undocumented would-be immigrants in the United States. In the meeting CHC members made “ab-

The White House said in a statement that the meeting was “robust and strategic” and that Obama will work with CHC members to address immigration reform “in both the short and long term.” AFP/

solutely clear that this is the civil rights issue of our community and that we will all be judged on how we act on this issue,” added Gutierrez.

Cuba slams ‘tiny gesture,’ calls for end to U.S. embargo HAVANA (AFP) – Recent changes to U.S. laws easing certain trade restrictions with Cuba are a “tiny gesture,” a top Havana official said, calling on a full lifting of the crippling 47-year-old embargo on the communist island. A measure to loosen some restrictions on commerce with Cuba and ease travel rules for Cubans living in the United States was included in a 410-billion-dollar “omnibus” budget package approved March 10 by the U.S. Senate. But Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Ricardo Guerrero downplayed the measures as “a tiny gesture.” “The key is the blockade,” he told reporters in the first official reaction from the Cuban government on the new trade rules.

The changes were “selective and unjust,” added Guerrero. “Although it seems the measures were flexible, we expect a bigger gesture ... a gesture (in response to) the proposal for dialog with our President (Raul Castro).” Early this year, Castro offered direct talks “without intermediaries” with Obama. The trade changes appeared to loosen a handful of restrictions on commerce with Cuba, but even U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has acknowledged they would have a negligible practical impact. The financially-strapped island would still be required to pay “cash in advance” for U.S. imports, in line with current practice, Geithner said in a letter to lawmakers after the bill was passed.

“Treasury believes that this change will likely have no influence on current financing rules.” The bill also eased some restrictions on food and medicine sales to Cuba, allowed Cuban-Americans to spend up to 179 dollars per day on the island and granted expatriates the right to annual visits to the island. Cuba imports 80 percent of its food, mainly from the United States, whose food sales to the island reached a record 700 million dollars in 2008, according to official figures. President Barack Obama has said he supports easing travel to Cuba and cash remittances from Cuban-Americans in the United States, but has thus far resisted calls to lift the entire decades-old U.S. embargo. At a business conference in Miami that

examined ways to promote a new bilateral relationship between the United States and Cuba, speakers said a development of tourism links between the historic foes would shift an entrenched dynamic. “Once you can allow thousands and thousands Americans to go there, it just totally breaks down the psychological barriers,” said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development. McAuliff, whose non-profit organization supports efforts for reconciliation between the United States and Cuba, said Congress “has to open the door, and I think they’re going to do that.” The only country you can’t travel is to Cuba,” noted Daniel Waltz, a legal expert on international trade who has lobbied the U.S. Congress to lift the Cuba embargo.

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22

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

SPORTS

Yao Ming, Olympic stars top FIFA reports ‘huge’ World Forbes China celebrity list Cup ticket demand BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese sports stars have outshone entertainers to top the annual Forbes magazine list of China’s most successful celebrities.

GENEVA (AFP) – FIFA said that ticket demand for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was booming but voiced caution about the impact of a prolonged economic crisis.

Basketballer Yao Ming, superstar center for the NBA Houston Rockets, topped the list for the sixth consecutive year based on his Olympic performance and lucrative endorsement deals with Visa and McDonald’s, Forbes said in its announcement.

“There are at least 28 matches of the 64 that are sold out. The demand is huge,” said FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke after a meeting of the executive committee.

Some 800,000 ticket requests had been made since tickets were made available for sale online on February 20, he added. The strongest demand came from the United States and England.

Besides leading China’s national basketball side to a top eight finish at last year’s Beijing Olympics, Yao was the country’s flag bearer at the Games.

Most of the stadiums in South Africa will be ready for a hand-over by June this year and the Confederations Cup.

The annual China celebrity list, which began in 2003, factors in earnings and media appeal through an “exposure index” to decide the nation’s most successful stars.

But Cape Town’s stadium will only be ready in February 2010, while Confederations Cup ticket sales were much slower, the executive committee was told.

Actress Zhang Ziyi was the only nonOlympian to make the list’s top five, coming in behind Yao based on her recent role in the Chen Kaige film “Forever Enthralled”.

Zhang’s romance with Israeli media mogul Vivi Nevo, documented with paparazzi photos in the popular press, helped her move up from last year’s fifth place, Forbes said. Yao’s Olympic teammate Yi Jianlian, who plays for the NBA New Jersey Nets, moved up one place from last year to number three, while Olympic gold medal-winning women’s diver Guo Jingjing was fourth, it said. Guo’s high-profile romance with the grandson of late Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok and her deals with Coca-Cola and Avon pushed her up from 24th last year.

Former world record holder in the 110 metre hurdles Liu Xiang dropped from two to five following his spectacular withdrawal

Valcke said major World Cup sponsors showed no sign of reconsidering despite fears about the impact of corporate cost-cutting on sports sponsorship. Basketballer Yao Ming, superstar center for the NBA Houston Rockets, topped the list for the sixth consecutive year.

from an Olympic preliminary race.

Liu, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, has retained his endorsements with Nike and CocaCola and recent surgery has kept him in the news, but his star power is waning due to his shocking Olympics failure, Forbes said. Movie stars rounded out the top 10 with action star Jet Li at six followed by actresses Zhao Wei, Fan Bingbing, Zhou Xun and Li Bingbing.

FIFA has so far weathered the financial turmoil due to the sale of broadcasting rights for the 2010 World Cup and marketing rights and the way its accountants played the money markets, which altogether accounted for 85 percent of its revenues last year.

The governing body reported an increase in its annual financial result in 2008 to 184 million dollars - compared to 49 million dollars the previous year. The governing body’s equity also grew for the fifth consecutive year and already exceeds its target for the end of 2010.

FIFA’s stock of cash reached 902 million dollars in 2008, against 643 million dollars in 2007, according to its financial report. But that cash stock was “particularly vital in times of crisis, and all the more so in the current financial crisis,” according to the report.

Finance chief Markus Kattner voiced caution since 95 percent of FIFA’s revenues over its four-year financial period - 2007 to 2010 - depend on a successful World Cup. “The financial and economic crisis is not yet over,” he commented.

Many countries are not forecasting an economic recovery until late this year or next year and unemployment is rising.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted that the game was feeling the pinch even if the governing body was in a “rather comfortable situation”. “Football will also be affected and has been affected, particularly when it comes to sponsorship,” Blatter said.

Bolt’s record will fall in Berlin, says Diack BERLIN (AFP) – The men’s 100m world record - set by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in Beijing last August - will be broken at August’s World Athletics Championships in Berlin, IAAF president Lamine Diack said.

Bolt’s time of 9.69secs will fall at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, predicts Diack, when the world’s fastest men gather in Germany’s capital this summer.

“The superb blue track will help, Bolt is not now as far ahead of the others as he was in Beijing.

“We will carry out 1000 drugs tests, 300 for more than in Beijing,” said Diack.

And Diack has promised the IAAF will do everything in their power to make sure the world championships are free of doping.

“And for the first time at a world championships we will test for the growth-hormone HGH.”

“It will be a high-class final.”

23

entertainment

Fashion robot to hit Japan catwalk Salma Hayek back acting in Adam Sandler comedy TSUKUBA (AFP) - Japanese researchers showed off a robot that will soon strut her stuff down a Tokyo catwalk.

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Mexican actress Salma Hayek will return to movie screens in a comedy alongside Adam Sandler, after a break in which she was producing and acting for television, Hollywood media reported.

The girlie-faced humanoid with slightly oversized eyes, a tiny nose and shoulderlength hair boasts 42 motion motors programmed to mimic the movements of fleshand-blood fashion models. “Hello everybody, I am cybernetic human HRP-4C,” said the futuristic fashionista, opening her media premiere at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology outside Tokyo. The fashion-bot is 158 centimetres (five foot two inches) tall, the average height of young Japanese women, but weighs in at a waif-like 43 kilograms (95 pounds) – including batteries.

Hamming it up before photographers and television crews, the seductive cyborg struck poses, flashed smiles and pouted sulkily according to commands transmitted wirelessly from journalists via bluetooth devices.

The performance fell short of flawless when she occasionally mixed up her facial expressions – a mistake the inventors put down to a case of the nerves as a hail of camera shutters confused her sound recognition sensors. She has a slightly manga-inspired human face but a silver metallic body.

“If we had made the robot too similar to a real human, it would have been uncanny,” said one of the inventors, humanoid research leader Shuji Kajita. “We have deliberately leaned toward an anime style.” The institute said the robot “has been developed mainly for use in the entertainment industry” but is not for sale at the moment. “We unveiled this to attract attention in society,” said Junji Ito, a senior official at the institute, who said he saw the HRP-4C as a

Japan’s government sponsored research laboratory AIST unveils its new humanoid robot “”HRP-4C”, a 158cm in tall and weighing 43kg, which shows expression of surprise on her face during a demonstration which enables it to make human like motion at the AIST laboratory in Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture, suburban Tokyo. AFP / Yoshikazu TSUNO

stepping stone toward creating a humanoid industry. “It’s important that people feel good about humanoids and want to work with them,” he said. “We shifted from a dry mechanical image to a very human image.” The preview was a warm-up for the robot’s appearance at a Tokyo fashion show on March 23.

Like her real-life counterparts, HRP-4C commands a hefty price – the institute said developing and building her cost more than 200 million yen (two million dollars).

Hayek joins funnyman Sandler and his fellow former “Saturday Night Live” stars Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade in a comedy about best friends from high school who reunite 30 years later, according to Variety. The 42-year-old star of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” and “Traffic” has been devoting time to producing the U.S. TV series “Ugly Betty” and guest-starring in the Golden Globe-winning “30 Rock.”

Sandler co-wrote the new project and his “Happy Gilmore” director Dennis Dugan is onboard, said the Hollywood press. It will start shooting in the coming months, ready for release in 2010. Hayek wed French businessman FrancoisHenri Pinault last month in Paris. The couple have an infant daughter together. She became famous after starring in a telenovela in her native Mexico when she was 22 years old, before moving to Hollywood. Hayek has also starred in the action flicks “Desperado” and “Wild Wild West” and ap-

Hirohisa Hirukawa, another researcher, said the institute hoped to commercialise the humanoid in future. The core model would retail at around 200,000 dollars – not including the cost of her outer shell or whatever designer labels she may be wearing.

Affleck, Costner to star in recession-themed flick

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Hollywood heavyweights Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones have starring roles in the first major movie about the current economic crisis, industry daily Variety reported.

Bolt’s time of 9.69secs will fall at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, predicts Diack, when the world’s fastest men gather in Germany’s capital this summer.

“Whoever wants to win 100 meters in Berlin will have to run under 9.69seconds,” International Association of Athletics Federations president Diack told German tabloid Bild, five months before the competition begins.

Edition 179 • Mar 24 - Mar 30, 2009

“In addition, there will be 2000 during training.

“The Company Men” deals with the financial and emotional drama of a high-flying executive who gets downsized.

The movie, set for release in 2010, is to be filmed in Boston, Massachusetts and directed by John Wells, who was the executive producer of the long-running US television series “The West Wing,” according to Variety.

Affleck, Costner and Jones are all Academy Award winners. Affleck, who won an Oscar for the script of “Good Will Hunting,” which he wrote in in 1997 with his friend and fellow actor Matt Damon, plays a corporate golden boy who struggles after being sacked.

Costner, who earned two golden statuettes for his 1990 film “Dances with Wolves,” plays his brother-in-law. Jones, who earned an Oscar in 1994 for his role in “The Fugitive,” plays an executive at the firm.

Affleck, who won an Oscar for the script of “Good Will Hunting,” which he wrote in in 1997 with his friend and fellow actor Matt Damon, plays a corporate golden boy who struggles after being sacked.

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

The 42-year-old star of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” and “Traffic” has been devoting time to producing the U.S. TV series “Ugly Betty” and guest-starring in the Golden Globewinning “30 Rock.”

peared in “Dogma.” Her role as the eccentric Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in the film “Frida” earned Hayek a best actress nomination at the 2003 Oscars.


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Welcome to Pacifico in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. A short 20 minute drive from the international airport in Liberia with direct flights from the U.S. This gated, guarded resort community is as exotic as the natural beauty that surrounds it and includes a private Beach Club with restaurant & bar, Health Club & Spa, Retail Village, Auto Mercado grocery, and many more amenities. Brought to you by The Jack Parker Corporation, a renowned U.S. developer of luxury hotels & upscale communities for over 60 years. Pacifico. Built to the highest U.S. standards and offering the incomparable Costa Rican lifestyle.

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Live Music at

Retail Village

now serving brunch...1st Sunday of each month

Champagne Brunch at Pacifico Beach Club Restaurant & Bar 10:00 am until 3:00 pm

2008: December 7th 2009: January 4th, February 1st, March 1st, April 5th & May 3rd

Robb & Stucky Interiors Design Studio; Coffee House/ Congo Arts; ArtFlower; Wappa Boutique; Fusion; Swiss Travel/Adobe Rent-a-Car; Pacifico Post Office/UPS Store

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Join us at the PACIFICO Retail Village every Saturday December through March from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

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The Journal Edition # 179  

The Journal Edition # 179

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