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Vol. 3 • Edition 183 • Weekly • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009 • Costa Rica, Central America •


global affairs

P. 20

G7 says economic activity to pick up this year

The Group of Seven major economies said that they expected global economic activity to begin to recover later this year after the worst global slump in decades.



Al Gore backs U.S. climate change bill

A bill to curb greenhouse gases is “one of the most important pieces of legislation” ever before the U.S. Congress, Nobel laureate and champion of the environment, Al Gore, said.



Howard is pure magic as he is named defensive player of year

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was named the National Basketball Association’s Defensive Player of the Year last week. The 23-year-old became the youngest player to win the award, after a season that saw him become just the fifth player to lead the league in both blocks and rebounds in the same campaign.



No evidence against father in ‘Slumdog’ adoption row Indian police said they had not found any evidence so far to substantiate claims that the father of “Slumdog Millionaire” child actress Rubina Qureshi tried to sell her for adoption.

New Beachfront Model Villa Open Daily

(506) 2653-2028 t

Turrialba is trying to sweeten up its economy with something more than the large amounts of sugar it produces. Tourism is a good alternative for the picturesque valley, and the Turrialba Volcano is one of its main attractions. Photo by Sylvia Guardia M.

Turrialba seeks to be premiere mountain tourism destination The Caribbean slope canton of Turrialba (eastern Cartago province) is trying to take advantage of its many tourist attractions, including a volcano, a lush agricultural valley, water adventure sports and archaelogical sites. For that purpose, the Turrialba Tourism Chamber (Catur) is organizing a promotional event June 19-21 to show tour operators and the rest of the national tourism industry the scenic beauty of the region and its main destinations. As part of the promotional effort, there will be a Rural Community Tourism Fair and a Green Fair taking place in Turrialba on the above dates, geared toward increasing the number of days visitors spend in the can-

Playas del Coco, Guanacaste 506.2670.2212

ton — although visitation to the area has increased by 10-15 percent in the past two years and tourism businesses there have seen a boost in revenue. One of Turrialba’s main destinations is the Guayabo Archaeological Monument — a 232-hectare park that encompasses two rivers (Guayabo and Lajas) and a pre-Columbian aqueduct that is more than 2,000 years old and is still operating. In addition to the aqueduct, the Guayabo settlement has stone roads and a ceremonial center. It is believed that the ancient culture that populated the area was unique in the Americas regarding sacred rites and water management.


Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Page two


Business & Economy

Tax revenue continues to decline

Costa rica tides chart Day




Information for Pacific Coast



Tue 28

04:52 / 8.87 ft

10:49 / -0.07 ft

17:07 / 9.51 ft

Wed 29

05:40 / 8.73 ft

11:39 / 0.19 ft

17:58 / 9.12 ft

Thu 30

00:12 / -0.22 ft

06:34 / 8.50 ft

12:35 / 0.55 ft

18:53 / 8.62 ft

Fri 01

01:07 / 0.21 ft

07:32 / 8.25 ft

13:36 / 0.92 ft

19:56 / 8.13 ft

Humanitarian Allied Forces conduct emergency drills

Sat 02

02:08 / 0.62 ft

08:37 / 8.08 ft

14:45 / 1.18 ft

21:04 / 7.75 ft

Representatives from the National Emergency Commission (CNE) and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica have announced their collaboration to conduct a regional exercise known as Humanitarian Allied Forces (FA-HUM), taking place April 16-29.

Sun 03

03:14 / 0.92 ft

09:45 / 8.07 ft

15:57 / 1.24 ft

22:14 / 7.60 ft

Mon 04

04:21 / 1.04 ft

10:50 / 8.23 ft

17:07 / 1.07 ft

23:21 / 7.65 ft

The Central Bank’s balance sheet shows a 4.5 percent reduction in tax revenue during the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.

P. 10

P. 14



Guanacaste blooms with culture in April and May The last few days of April and the upcoming month of May, Guanacaste will have a full agenda of cultural events. Among them is the International Dance Week, which will be held April 28-May 2. The activity will have the presence of regional and national art groups, in addition to some invited companies from Nicaragua.

P. 18


Pain relievers do not prevent Alzheimer’s Anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibupofren (Advil, Motril) and naproxen (Aleve) may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s but do not prevent it, a medical study said.

P. 19


EU to propose caps on executives’, bankers’ bonuses The European Commission will propose this week to set caps on bankers’ and corporate executives’ bonuses after the financial crisis exposed excesses, according to draft documents obtained by AFP.

P. 20

Global Affairs

OPEC chief plays down possible output cut OPEC chief Abdalla Salem El-Badri does not expect the oil cartel to cut production at a key meeting next month, Dow Jones Newswires reported last Friday.

P. 21


Latin American banks look to mobiles to battle crisis Latin American banks are to brainstorm ways to boost access to their products through the use of cellphones and computers in a series of conferences over the next few weeks.

P. 22


Roddick aiming to be king of Queen’s with 5th win Newly-married Andy Roddick is backing himself for a record-breaking fifth title at Queen’s that he hopes will provide a platform for a successful assault on the Wimbledon crown.

P. 23


Travolta visits Argentina to buy land U.S actor John Travolta traveled to Argentina hoping to buy land, according to local media reports. Travolta arrived in the country with his family still mourning the death of his 16-year-old-son, Jett, who died in the Bahamas of a seizure in January.

Costa Rica Basics

Contents P.04 Lead Story P.06 Business & Economy P.10 Society P.14 Culture P.15 Science And Tech. P.16 Week In Brief

23:22 / -0.56 ft

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 183 Apr 28 - May 4, 2009 Costa Rica, Central America

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lead story

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Guanacastecans tops in longevity and happiness

satisfaction in life.� The study makes special mention of Cuba and Costa Rica, which sport the best statistics in school enrollment and health among their populations — which might relate to these two countries’ happiness levels and the number of years their populations live.

(InfoWebPress – – Guanacastecans now have an added reason to feel proud. According to a Happiness Index developed by the NEF English Association, in conjunction with the nongovernmental organization Friends of the Earth, people living in this province live longer, happier lives than all other Costa Ricans.

Regarding the Happiness Index, Costa Rica actually ranked third worldwide, behind Vanuatu (Oceania) and Colombia. Trailing Costa Rica are Dominica, Panama, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Last on the list is Zimbabwe.

At the Guanacaste’s Golden Mile

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It’s important to highlight that many Latin American countries, and particularly in Central America, appear at the top of the ranking. Seven of the top 10 nations are Latin American, and two are from the Caribbean (Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). Vanuatu is the only nation not from the Western Hemisphere among the top 10.

The study found that Guanacastecans, particularly those living in Nicoya, live the longest lives in the country. This claims has been confirmed by Luis Rosero, a researcher with the University of Costa Rica (UCR), who said that in Guanacaste it’s common to see many people living above 90 years of age. What’s now left to know are the reasons behind such longevity, but speculations include the climate, the tranquility of the region, the local lifestyle and the exposure of inhabitants to natural habitats. According to demographic projections by the Central American Population Center (CCP), this year Costa Rica will have 937 people 100 years or older, most of them born in Guanacaste.


Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Nic Marks, one of the authors of the Happiness Index, said the goal of this study is to emphasize that good living should not be connected to high consumption level. For Marks, the study revealed how “we can achieve long and happy lives for all as long as we respect the environment.� The lifestyle, diet and environment seem to be key factors contributing to Guanacastecans being the Costa Ricans who live the longest. Photo Carla Vargas

The study points out that this ranking doesn’t take into consideration quality of life or wealth of the participants, but the index seeks to measure the ecological efficacy

that generates human wellbeing. It compares countries based on three different indicators: life expectancy, ecological footprint as well as wellbeing of the people or “subjective

Although it’s not on the study’s conclusions, it seems that there is a direct relation between a person’s happiness and the number of years he or she lives. In Costa Rica, every year the number of people living longer increases due to improvements in health indexes, which is also causing an increase in the median age of the population.

Guayacån Real, with everything you need: • Located in the GOLDEN MILE, Guanacaste’s best commercial site between Liberia’s International Airport and the intersection to

Guanacaste families from benefit from coastal-strip law exemption (InfoWebPress – – Several families who make a living out of natural resources present within the restricted Land Maritime Zone (ZMT) coastal strip could benefit from a bill that will be introduced in Congress for consideration during ordinary legislative sessions.

The announcement was made by legislator Jose Merino del Rio, who is part of a group of Congress members leading the initiative — which would allow families from coastal areas in Limon (Caribbean) and Guanacaste and Puntarenas (Pacific) to continue living within the ZMT (whose laws restrict various form of development, construction or economic activity on the beach and nearby land) and use resources there for their subsistence. Specifically, the bill would grant exemptions to fishermen and other citizens who participate in a turtle egg management program in collaboration with several universities.

“The idea is that they would be guaranteed the permanent right (to live there) and engage in economic activities that also help protect nature,� Merino del Rio explained. A total of 35,000 people have been living

Papagayo, where all tourists and investors travel • All technology and communications services available

for several years on coastal communities affected by the ZMT, and the resources in those areas are their only form of sustenance. The bill requesting an exemption for these families was drafted mostly by 33 communities, following a popular assembly that was held in Nicoya.

• Provides you with the opportunity to shape the space to your needs • 24/7 services and strategic facilities.

A group of legislators embraced the text, studying it and improving upon it. They later sent it to President Oscar Arias, asking him to stop the planned removal of those families and wait until the bill is introduced in Congress and discussed, so that those families are given an option to continue living there. Despite the legislators’ petition, recently the Comptroller General reprimanded the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) after finding weaknesses in the internal control of the ZMTs.

The Comptroller’s study consisted of evaluating the surveillance function of ICT on topics related to the ZMT, which have taken on greater relevance due to the impact increased tourism and real estate development on the country’s coast could have on those fragile areas and increased scrutiny from the local media.

• Video security system

Don’t miss your opportunity to be successful. If the bill is approved, people who have erected their houses within the restricted ZMT coastal strip won’t be forced to leave. Photo Luis Castrillo

In general, the outcome of the study signaled weaknesses in ICT’s internal control system, its processes and macro-processes, as well as with municipalities in their role as providers of key documents. There is also a need to strengthen relations between the players in the concession of development rights within the ZMT and to establish effective communication channels between

institutions that would allow for better coordination.

In the past, the government has even ordered the demolition of infrastructure built inside the ZMT in Guanacaste and which violated applicable laws. Other related actions have included expropriation of properties owned within what are now national parks or protected areas.


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Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Beef, fish products boosted exports in first quarter of 2009 (InfoWebPress – – The livestock and fishing sectors have managed to increase exports during the first quarter of 2009, jumping 3.5 percent compared to the first quarter of last year. Such a boost came from sales of fish fillets (6.7 percent), beef (16.4 percent), shrimp (35 percent), and dairy products in various forms (powdered or concentrated milk exports grew by 26.8 percent, while non-concentrated milk sales skyrocketed by 60.5 percent).

Despite the good news in these two sectors, overall the Costa Rican agricultural sector has been affected by adverse weather phenomena — including the flooding in the Caribbean region, which destroyed hundreds of hectares or bananas and plantains, lowering the supply of these crops. The agricultural industry exported $539.2 million between January and March of this year, or 8.3 percent less than during the same period in 2008. The main crops that saw a reduction in sales overseas include bananas and coffee, the first to the tune of 9.3 percent and the latter seeing exports slashed by 23.2 percent. However, other commodity crops such as pineapples and melons fell only slightly — 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. The food industry has also been exposed

to the slowdown in the global economy, selling $33.3 million less during the first quarter, for 14.5 percent loss. Overall, this industry exported $219.6 million from January to March of 2009. Despite the downward trend, some food products have actually fared well in exports: fruit purees and pastes (5.9 percent increase); bakery products such as cookies (2.7 percent gain); candy (9.3 percent boost); and animal feed (11 percent increase).

But the industry most affected by the global recession in Costa Rica is manufacturing, for a loss of 18.4 percent in export value.

Within this sector, electronic components for microprocessors (the main product in this industry) suffered a slowdown of more than 20 percent. Meanwhile, textiles have been affected by a decrease in orders, causing a drop in foreign sales to the tune of 23.9 percent. Another product that has been drastically affected is medical implants, a line that fell by nearly 62 percent. However, other products in the health industry have posted important gains, including infusion and transfusion equipments (4 percent) and medications (8 percent). Products such as glass containers for packaging

Fish exports actually grew during the first quarter of 2009, amid many other goods whose sales abroad tanked. Photo Luis Castrillo

and insecticides (27 percent and 10 percent, respectively) also grew during this period.

The U.S. market (including Puerto Rico) bought less in Costa Rican goods during the first few months of this year, contracting by 14.4 percent, or $131 million compared to

the first quarter of 2008.

There were also some good news in Costa Rican exports to the United States, including gains in infusion and transfusion equipment, tires, melons, fish fillets, fruit purees and pastes, and others.

Tax revenue continues to decline

(InfoWebPress – – The Central Bank’s balance sheet shows a 4.5 percent reduction in tax revenue during the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.

The global economic recession, which has led to an important slowdown in the local economy, is thus having a severe impact on the country’s revenue streams.

Regarding the behavior of key revenue items, officials highlighted income from “other revenue sources,” which actually grew by 4.9 percent, while income from internal sales tax also increased by 3.5 percent, with the same being true regarding internal spending (2.3 percent boost). In contrast, income tax revenue fell by 3.3 percent and income collected from customs offices (imports) decreased by a whopping 15.2 percent by March 2009, compared with the first quarter of last year. According to Treasury Ministry figures,

total government expenditures went up by 21.64 percent, mainly fueled by salary hikes paid early this year — including hikes for central government employees, other increases given to central government workers and school teachers, and the payment of schoolexpense bonuses to workers. Additionally, the funds budgeted for pension payments grew by 19.9 percent this period compared to the same period in 2008; monies going to the Higher Education Fund (FEES) jumped by 44.8 percent; while “other government expenses” also grew by 33.2 percent.

lection — by incorporating more payers and better managing public debt — continue to pay dividends,” Treasury Minister Guillermo Zuñiga said. Some of the data released showed that taxes collected through customs offices fell sharply in July 2008 and again in March 2009. Customs taxes or tariffs are the most important source of revenue for the country, representing 38 percent of current income.

A bit of positive news came from the fact that interest payments for central government debt dropped by 8.7 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The payment of school bonuses represented a third of government expenses for salary increases in the public sector. Photo Katherine Francella D.

“Even though we are in a complicated situation because of revenue collection, and

the fact that in March we paid a little over 75 billion colones ($136 million) in interests, as a result of maturation of some of the debt, we can see this month (March) that the actions taken in the past to improve tax col-

Comparing month by month, the deficit growth rate for March was lower than for January and February.

For example, between August 2007 and July 2008, revenue from imports reached almost 999 billion colones ($1.81 billion). But in the past year, tariff payments went down to almost 899 billion colones — a 10 percent decrease. Zuñiga explained that the drop in tariff payments is due to a sharp decrease in imported goods, a direct result of the global recession.



Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

First round of Costa Rica-Singapore trade deal talks begins allow Costa Rica to create a clear framework for commercial exchanges with this successful southeast Asian economy and gain new opportunities for Costa Rican products — as well as interesting spaces to exchange experiences in some areas where Singapore is renowned worldwide.

(InfoWebPress – – Last April 20, the negotiation teams from Costa Rica and Singapore meet in the Asian nation’s capital to begin the first round of negotiations toward a free trade agreement between the two countries. During the first day of talks, the market access, customs procedures, and the trade obstacles and services teams met. The entire round of talks lasted until April 22.

Meanwhile, Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz underscored the importance of this negotiation process, calling it an opportunity for Costa Rica to reach one of its main foreign trade policy objectives in the current administration — get closer to the Asian continent in matters of commerce.

Chief negotiators Fernando Ocampo (Costa Rica) and Lay Lin Tan (Singapore) met before the plenary session with the goal of defining the agenda for the next few days. Attending the plenary session were Costa Rica’s Ambassador to Singapore, Juan Fernando Cordero, and the Costa Rican Council Minister, Javier Escalante — as well as representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Customs Division, who traveled with the rest of the delegation. Cordero highlighted the similarities between Costa Rica and Singapore and the potential and opportunities that a trade agreement represents for both countries, particularly for Costa Rica. That’s why he invited both negotiating teams to do their best efforts to consolidate this process. Ocampo indicated that this first round of negotiations will be of a conceptual nature,

The first part of the negotiations included aconceptual exchange regarding the various topics that the bilateral trade deal covers. Photo Melissa Salazar

aimed at defining general aspects of the agreement, work structure, negotiation agenda, and possible dates for following rounds. The two teams presented their respective vi-

sions, interests and preliminary objectives during this first exchange.

The chief negotiator also said that having a free trade agreement with Singapore would

Such work began last year, when negotiations for a free trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China kicked off — a process which just had its second round of negotiations last week in Shanghai — and when Costa Rica was accepted as observer in the Small and Medium Businesses Working Group of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, which is based in Singapore. “Having a privileged relation with Singapore also offers the enormous advantage of positioning Costa Rica in a continent that has been little explored by us so far, and which has very high levels of growth and potential,” Ruiz said.

Bill in Congress seeks to transform duty-free zone laws (InfoWebPress – – The Executive Branch sent to the Legislative Assembly a bill to reform the Duty-Free Zone System (Bill No. 7210), which seeks to adjust and modify five articles of the current legislation. The reform seeks several objectives, such as adjusting the current law to match World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations to eliminate the link between exempting income taxes and the level of exports; maintaining attractive conditions for production investment; and promoting a higher level of productive linkages and the establishment of investment in areas of the country with less development. Currently, duty-free zones in Costa Rica generate more than 53,000 direct jobs with salaries reaching more than 229 billion colones ($416 million), and with contributions to the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS) of more than 59 billion colones ($107 million) and 45 billion colones ($81.8

million) in other benefits. These companies also help create some 100,000 indirect jobs.

The duty-free zone system has played a key role in the country’s development and the growth of Costa Rican exports. Currently, 247 companies are active in these industrial parks, which in 2008 generated 52 percent of all Costa Rican exports. Almost 1,200 products are exported from duty-free zones to 106 different countries. According to a recent study by the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER), every dollar of tax exemption (income, tariff and sales taxes) given to companies in duty-free zones generates $6.4 in salaries, benefit contributions, individual income taxes, national expenditures and others.

Additionally, the contribution of duty-free zones to areas with lower socioeconomic development has generated greater linkages to local businesses, employment generation, social benefits, infrastructure improvements

Intel is the largest company located in the country’s duty-free zones, but it has suffered due to the global recession. Photo Intel

and institutional strengthening.

Conforming to WTO standards, beginning on 2015 countries won’t no longer be able to keep incentives based on current criteria, particularly those exemptions tied to export performance. “Making our duty-free zone system comply with WTO requirements is necessary

so we can maintain the foreign investment that is already in the country and attract new capital,” said Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz. “The latter topic is indispensable because in the past few years, despite operating within the current system, it has been very difficult to attract companies in the manufacturing sector due to the high level of competition around the world for attracting investments. This situation is due to the fact that we are currently competing against countries such as China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Ireland, Vietnam and others, which remain very competitive in attracting foreign investment.” Moreover, another goal of reforming the current law is to strengthen the connection between these companies and the local industries, in addition to promoting investment in less-developed parts of the country more vigorously.



Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Printed version

Paving of Tilaran-Libano route 35% complete Now that all dirt has been moved and foundation materials and drainage pipes have been installed along the 9.2 kilometers of the Libano-Tilaran road in Tilaran canton, officials estimate that progress on this paving project is at approximately 35 percent now.

Back Cover.

The project includes a budget of 2.4 billion colones ($4.36 million), which will turn the dirt road into a two-lane asphalt highway. The original road has been expanded for that purpose.


The project will allow residents of the area and visitors to move around more quickly and safely and during the entire year, as inclement weather can make the current road impassable. The works entail compaction of the dirt road, placing a gravel foundation of 25 centimeters, a concrete foundation of 20 centimeters, and an asphalt layer seven centimeters thick. Finally, the new road will be properly outfitted with horizontal and vertical signage.

Officials are also considering replacing some large concrete drainage pipes with bridges. Construction on this project began last December, and officials expect that paving will be taking place in about two months, with the entire project ready by July. In other road improvement projects around Guanacaste, crews have finished putting a new asphalt layer and making other improvements to two sections of highway between the Pan American Highway North and the Puntarenas district of Guacimal (on the way to Monteverde). All in all, this project included 18.9 kilometers and had a total cost of 2.1 billion colones ($3.8 million). This road has been outfitted with all horizontal and vertical signage, in addition to metal guardrails around dangerous curves and bridges. Additionally, soil was removed

It is expected that these works will be finished by mid-year, thus facilitating access to tourist hotspots in the area.

around the road to widen shoulders and reduce risks at some sharp curves. The project was also divided into two sections. The first included 12 kilometers between the Pan American Highway North intersection and Los Angeles de Guacimal, where there was only a stabilized base road that served as foundation to the new asphalt layer, which was then installed in addition to new drainage and other works that should

last at least 10 years.

The second section, 6.9 kilometers long, is between Los Angeles and Guacimal. There, the old gravel road was outfitted with drainage and covered with two asphalt lanes (in some parts of this road there was only one lane before). Part of the effort also entailed recovering some land to be able to properly expand the road. This project, too, is expected to have a 10-year useful lifespan.

Back in 2007, the Santa Elena-Monteverde (15.2 kilometers) section of this route had been paved, for an investment of 1.090 billion colones ($1.98 million at the current exchange rate).

Other road-improvement initiatives are underway in Guanacaste, whether for gravel roads or paved highways, including the Carrillo-Lajas route, which will cost 4.2 billion colones ($7.6 million) to complete.

Humanitarian Allied Forces conduct emergency drills

tions will be coordinated for the FA-HUM exercise from San Jose, including the initiative’s search and rescue operation drills. These drills encompass search, rescue, transportation of wounded individuals and evacuation of affected people.

(InfoWebPress – – Representatives from the National Emergency Commission (CNE) and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica have announced their collaboration to conduct a regional exercise known as Humanitarian Allied Forces (FAHUM), taking place April 16-29.

In addition the above-mentioned drills, there were medical attention exercises. The main operations center, located in San Jose, possesses a sophisticated communications system that would allow for resource coordination for the exercise. CNE representatives, U.S. South Command personnel, and New Mexico National Guard personnel play key roles in managing communications at the operations center. The other two operations center are in Quepos and Parrita.

FA-HUM simulates in the region the humanitarian assistance response that the U.S. government offers following a natural disaster. This drill takes place simultaneously in four countries: Antigua, Grenada, Honduras and Costa Rica. Costa Ricans, Panamanians and personnel with the U.S. Department of Defense will work together during the execution of this large training effort geared toward mitigating disasters. The drills are being held in Quepos and Parrita (Central Pacific). Even though this initiative is a drill, the country will benefit in very practical terms from the medical and dental care that will be given to some 1,000 people during five days at 10 communities of the region. Total cost of the regional drill will be over $10 million, of which $1.7 million will cover the cost of the exercise in Costa Rica. On board two C-17 type airplanes, the United States sent to Costa Rica three Black Hawk helicopters valued at $45,000 and personnel who will support the drill on the Cen-

Residents of these two coastal communities will receive medical attention in areas such as internal medicine, gynecology, optometry, dentistry and pediatrics.

The drills conducted by military personnel included medical attention to inhabitants of the areas where the emergency response exercises are taking place. Photo U.S. Embassy

tral Pacific region. In broad terms, FA-HUM is a regional exercise for attention to disasters, designed to test and improve the capabilities of local responses to emergencies.

U.S. Ambassador to San Jose, Peter Cianchette, and Costa Rican Security Minister, Janina del Vecchio, obtained first-hand information about the way the joint opera-

Parrita and Quepos (the latter is below sea level) were chosen for this drill because they are typically the victims of flooding during the rainy season. The Black Hawk helicopters will help to carry out simulated transport of affected individuals, which would be critical during a real emergency.

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real estate

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009


real estate

If you wish to move to Costa Rica you don’t need to pay more for the best

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• Location Avicennia Condominium is located 300 meters south and 300 meters east of the Intersection to Playa Conchal, in Belen de Carrillo, Guanacaste.

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Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Guanacaste blooms with Sustainable development center culture in April and May unveils 2009 projects in Nicoya

(InfoWebPress – – The last few days of April and the upcoming month of May, Guanacaste will have a full agenda of cultural events. Among them is the International Dance Week, which will be held April 28-May 2. The activity will have the presence of regional and national art groups, in addition to some invited companies from Nicaragua.

This is the ninth year the International Dance Week will be held in Guanacaste. The event includes several activities around the art of movement that allow students, dancers, choreographers and dance directors from all over the province plus guests from parts of the country, promoting closer ties in the dance community. There will be functions, workshops, conversations and other activities. Guest performer this year will be dancer Mimi Gonzalez, who has spent 30 years dancing at the professional level as founder and permanent member of the National Dance Company, also representing the country overseas. She has visited various communities in the province teaching dance workshops and offering performances herself.

The Dance Week is organized by the dance department at Liberia’s Felipe Perez Arts High School, with support from the Guanacaste Regional Culture Office of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, the National Distance Learning University (UNED), and the Guanacaste campus of the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Another event, which began in early April, is the so-called “Peñas Culturales,” which are night meetings to share music, stories, poetry, theater, dance and other artistic presentations. The “Peñas” are spaces that allow local as well as regional and national artists to express themselves, thus strengthening the production and consumption of culture and identityaffirming efforts in Guanacaste. This, in turn, helps reinforce the communities’ values and

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Arctic discovery provides ‘missing link’ for seals

OTTAWA (AFP) - Scientists in Canada have found a “missing link” in the early evolution of seals from land mammals to the marine carnivores we see today.

Paleontologists working in Canada’s remote north have discovered a skeleton in an ancient Arctic lake bed that has given them a glance of the animal’s land-to-sea transition, which had been difficult to study because of a lack of fossil evidence. The find offers the “first glimpse into the earliest stages of this important evolutionary transition,” lead researcher Natalia Rybczynski said.

It has also helped the team refute the prevailing theory that seals evolved on North America’s northwest shores, and suggests that their large eyes were adapted to hunt in dark Arctic winters, not low light deep sea diving.

Guanacaste’s traditions came to life during the event, which included cultural activities such as dance and folkloric expressions. Photo Vera Beatriz Vargas

“It changes our thinking about how and where the evolution of this animal took place,” Rybczynski, a paleontologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, told AFP.

cultural diversity. Another goal of this event is to show the province’s cultural products and the local cultural promoters’ production and promotion capabilities. So far, there have been “Peñas” organized in Liberia’s Central Park, the Filadelfia parochial hall and the ??????? Public Library. The series will conclude on April 29 at the Nicoya Park’s kiosk starting at 7 p.m. with the presentation of the Peña Caleidoscopio. In addition to these activities, the Proartes fund for scenic arts has begun the process of receiving proposals for funding. Proposal submission will end on May 8. Artists can submit proposals at San Jose’s Melico Salazar Popular Theater, second floor, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Another cultural activity, the inauguration of the Nandayure Culture House, was held last April 17. The Culture House is located in Nandayure’s Central Park, right below the kiosk. The inauguration was attended by culture groups from the canton, government and municipal representatives, community leaders and others interested in opening up spaces for arts and culture in Nandayure. Another effort that took place in April was a meeting to organize an association aimed at rescuing and protecting popular culture in Guanacaste.

“We knew that pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses) came from a terrestrial ancestor, but we had no idea how that landto-sea transition occurred,” or where, she explained. CEMEDE seeks to generate knowledge about environmental, economic, social, cultural and political aspects of communities, regions and nations located in the Mesoamerican dry tropics. Photo CEMEDE

(InfoWebPress – – With participation of officials from the central and Chorotega campuses of the National University (UNA), students and members of the general public, the Mesoamerican Sustainable Development Center (CEMEDEUNA) last April 15 unveiled its research and extension projects for 2009 and launched its new Web site and graphic image.

During his presentation, David Morales Hidalgo, director of CEMEDE, explained that the “Mesoamerican Dry Pacific region is one with high economic, environmental, social and cultural contrasts, which possesses great potential for development; however, paradoxically, most of the region is mired in poverty. It’s hard to speak about sustainable development when basic needs are so deficient, when the population has problems accessing drinking water, education, health services, food and others.” CEMEDE has proposed for this year a series of projects and initiatives, which would allow to foment sustainable development in the region related to issues such as the strengthening of food security, management of water resources, sustainable production, development self-management capacities, search of new production options, global climate change, and many others. Additionally, center officials announced efforts to consolidate the peninsular observatory in Nicoya, which will allow for periodic monitoring of environmental, tourism, eco-

nomic and other variables in the region. Such monitoring, Morales said, “will be very useful to local governments, public and private institutions in the region, and it will provide a lot of information for UNA’s academic programs.” Most of the initiatives proposed for this year operate at the local level, which obeys to one of CEMEDE’s internal policies that seeks to give more emphasis to local issues — trying to generate the experience, capacities and technology that would later permit to transfer achievements to other areas of the Mesoamerican region.

In order to implement most of the programs proposed for 2009, CEMED has sought out alliances with other academic units at UNA and other public universities and it has searched for funding provided by the National Council of Rectors — including FEES funds for regional development, FIDA funds, FUNDER funds, and it has also benefited from external funds from the Agricultural Development Program (PFAS) managed by FIACORI (an office of the Ministry of Agriculture) and other resources from the Florida Foundation and the Inter-American Institute on Global Change (IAI). As part of CEMEDE’s ongoing transformation, the center has also changed its visual image. Initially, CEMEDE used its name with a special typography and the color green to accentuate its environmental vocation.


science & technology

people -- and in homage to Charles Darwin.

“If it was in the high Arctic, then we also have to consider the Arctic and the conditions there as contributing to its evolution.”

It had a body resembling that of an otter with the head of a seal, with legs, a long tail and webbed feet adapted for swimming, according to Canadian and US researchers.

The fossil skeleton, thought to be 20 to 24 million years old, was found in 2007 during an expedition to a meteor impact crater that once formed a lake on Devon Island, Nunavut.

It was “the least specialized for swimming” of its known peers, a study to appear in the April 23 edition of the journal Nature said.

Past expeditions to the crater had uncovered remains of rabbits, freshwater fish, a bird, a shrew, a rhinoceros and a small hoofed mammal that once lived in the then cool temperate clime.

Researchers believe the light conditions for the seal ancestor would have been similar to today with 24-hour darkness for part of the year and 24-hour daylight for most of the remainder.

Rybczynski’s team happened upon the exact spot of the seal ancestor’s bones after their all-terrain vehicle ran out of fuel, Rybczynski said. Within two days they had dug up 65 percent of the skeleton while waiting for fuel. “There’s always an element of chance in paleontology,” Rybczynski quipped.

The so-called “walking seal” was named “Puijila darwini,” meaning young sea mammal in Inuktitut -- the language of the Inuit

This undated handout courtesy of Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Canada shows an artists rendition of a “walking seal” named “Puijila darwini,” meaning young sea mammal in Inuktitut – the language of the Inuit people – and in homage to Charles Darwin. Scientists in Canada have found a “missing link” in the early evolution of seals from land mammals to the marine carnivores we see today. Paleontologists working in Canada’s remote north have discovered a skeleton in an ancient Arctic lake bed that has given them a glance of the animal’s land-to-sea transition, which had been difficult to study because of a lack of fossil evidence. AFP/Canadian Museum of Nature

“The presence of enlarged, probably webbed feet, robust forelimbs and an unspecialized tail suggests that Puijila swam quadrupedally using its webbed fore and hind feet for propulsion,” said the study.

“It was almost certainly not specialized for swimming under water using simultaneous pelvic paddling,” like modern seals that oscillate their hind feet side to side or their fore flippers in a movement akin to flying. It predominantly lived and hunted in freshwater lakes that would freeze over in the winter.

But early populations may also have frequented marine shore environments more than their counterparts based further south, because a warmer Arctic Ocean would have remained open when access to lakes was restricted by ice cover.

Scientists complete genome Colossal new space oddity sequence of cows Himiko baffles scientists WASHINGTON (AFP) – Researchers have decoded the genome sequence of cows, which could lead to production of betterquality milk and beef, and shed new light on bovine and human health.

“The domestic cattle genome sequence opens another window into our own genome,” said the acting director of the National Institutes of Health, Raynard Kington.

The genome of the domestic cow (Bos taurus) contains about 22,000 separate genes, 80 percent of which are identical to human genes.

Genomic data can be used to develop better strategies for treating and preventing diseases that affect cattle, some of which – such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease – can also be transmitted to people.

It took 300 scientists based in 25 countries six years to unlock the sequence, according to the results published last week in Science magazine.

The researchers also found that the way chromosomes are organized in humans is closer to the pattern found in cows than in rats or mice – animals widely used in laboratories for studying human illnesses and treatments.

The “Bovine Genome Sequencing Project” was carried out on Hereford cows, which originated in Britain, but are now found all over the world. The medium-sized cows are usually russet-brown in color and primarily used in beef production.

“The cattle industry is extremely important for U.S. agriculture with more than 94 million cattle in the United States valued at 49 billion dollars,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Understanding the cattle genome and having the sequence will allow researchers to understand the genetic basis for disease in domestic cattle and could result in healthier production of meat and milk while reducing producers’ dependence on antibiotics,” he added. The 35-million-dollar study was led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the US Agricultural Research Service.

“By comparing the human genome to the genomes of many different species, such as the domestic cattle, we can gain a clearer view of how the human genome works in health and in disease.”

In addition, information from the sequencing “will be a valuable resource and will transform how dairy and beef cattle are bred,” said Richard Gibbs, at Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston.

“Genetic tools are already being developed and proving useful to the dairy industry and we predict they will be applied to improve the beef industry. “We hope the information will also be used to come up with innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of cattle, such as greenhouse gases released by herds,” he added.

The USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) contributed about 10 million dollars for the project. That came in addition to the 25 million dollars contributed to the project by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the US National Institutes of Health.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Astronomers announced the discovery of a massive and mysterious gas blob of the type that can be precursors to galaxies, which they dubbed Himiko. The data used in identifying the megablob came from a suite of telescopes. Scientists said the object, which they named Himiko for the legendary Japanese queen, existed when our universe was only about 800 million years old. Our universe, borne of the Big Bang as the theory goes, is an estimated 13.7 billion years old.

Himiko, a ball of gas, stretches for 55,000 light years, a record for that early era. The enormous length is comparable to the radius of our Milky Way’s disk.

Still, astronomers remain uncertain about Himiko’s nature. Even with a blizzard of data from the best telescopes in the world, they are not entirely certain about what the blob is. The image of Himiko, one of the remotest heavenly bodies ever found by scientists, is blurry, so astronomers have not been able to get a handle on its phsyical makeup.

Among the many possibilities, astronomers believe it could be ionized gas powered by a tremendous back hold; or it could be a pre-galaxy with a great gas buildup. Himiko could have been borne of the dramatic collision of two young galaxies, by a mega-wind resultingg from an intensive star formation, or may be one giant galaxy, with the mass of some 40 billion suns.

“The farther out we look into space, the farther we go back in time,” said author Masami Ouchi of the Carnegie Institution for

This handout image courtesy of the Carnegie Institution For Science shows the Himiko object, in a composite and in false color. The thick horizontal bar at the lower right corner presents a size of 10 thousand light years. This image is created by M. Ouchi et al., which is the reproduction of Figure 2 in the article of The Astrophysical Journal May 2009 - 10 v696 issue. AFP

Science, a private research center, who led a team of researchers from Japan, Britain and the United States. “I am very surprised by this discovery,” Ouchi said.

“I have never imagined that such a large object could exist at this early stage of the universe’s history,” he added. Astronomers previously had identified extended gas blobs of a similar type seen at a distance when our universe was two to three billion years old.


week in brief

Politics Peru, Costa Rica heighten alert for possible swine flu outbreak (Xinhua News) — Peru and Costa Rica last Friday reinforced their epidemic vigilance measures following a deadly swine flu outbreak in Mexico. In Peru, health services intensified vigilance actions for all the people traveling from Mexico and the United States in an effort to detect symptoms of the flu. Although there has not been any similar case registered in Peru, the alert state will continue as a preventive measure, Peruvian health authorities said. Meanwhile in Costa Rica, Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila told Xinhua on Friday that her country had declared a sanitary alert across the country. Like Peru, there has not been any case of flu infection reported in Costa Rica, but Avila said the situation in Mexico are “worrying.” According to Avila, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock also took actions by observing the swine in the country, and the migratory authorities were requested to strengthen vigilance measures at the airports. All passengers from Mexico will receive check.

PLN candidates still ahead in Costa Rica (Angus Reid Global Monitor) — Laura Chinchilla of the National Liberation Party (PLN) remains ahead of her rivals in the early stages of Costa Rica’s presidential race, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. Thirtysix percent of respondents would support the former vice-president in the 2010 election. Former Economy Minister Otton Solis of the Citizens Action Party (PAC) is second with 29 percent, followed by former president Rafael Angel Calderon of the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) with 8 percent, and Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement (ML) with 7 percent. A second scenario shows San Jose Mayor Johnny Araya Monge of the PLN in first place with 35 percent, followed by Solis with 26 percent, Calderon with 8 per cent, and Guevara with 7 percent. The next presidential election in Costa Rica is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2010.

Business & Economy AmCham against elimination of ‘bank secret’

(La Prensa Libre) — The Costa RicanAmerican Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) expressed its opposition to Costa Rica’s plans to eliminate the so-called “bank secret,” which the country promised in order

to be removed from a list of tax-evasion havens recently released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The AmCham also criticized OECD for blacklisting Costa Rica and seeking to alter the country’s constitutional and legal system.

ICE Expanding Work Force By 6.000

(Inside Costa Rica) — The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) plans to hire some 6,000 more people in the coming years, expanding its employee base from 24,000 to 30,000, said ICE’s president, Pedro Pablo Quiros, in an announcement last week. Quiros said that the additional employees will be required by the state agency to develop a number of projects being planned, including the expansion of the 3G cellular telephone network, which alone will require some 800 new personnel. The new generation of cellular service will be maintained by ICE employees, rather than being outsourced, according to Quiros. The construction of the 3G network was awared to the Chinese company Huawei Technologies, which is under contract to deliver the network by the end of the year. Another project of great importance to the institution is the construction of the hydroelectric generation station El Diquis, located in the Southern Zone. That project alone will require 3,500 workers and is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

Marina projects face hurdles due to credit crunch

(La Republica) — Of a total of 16 marina projects proposed in Costa Rica, only two have come to fruition (Los Sueños y Papagayo), and even those are being affected by the credit crunch resulting from the global recession. “The crisis affects everyone, but we are implementing and business plan and our goal is to reach 30 percent occupancy within a year; so far we have reached 14 percent,” said Roberto Kopper, manager of Marina Papagayo in Guanacaste. Other marina projects that have not yet begun operating have taken alternative measures, such as asking permission to begin working with the minimum requirements set forth by the government’s marina commission (Cimat). For example, Marina Pez Vela, which has completed its first phase, is asking for permission to begin offering services. Total investment needed by this project for full operation is estimated at $50 million.

CEMEX fires 50% of employees, shuts down 5 plants in Costa Rica

(Inside Costa Rica) — The economic crisis that has hit the construction industry in Costa

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Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Rica is the main reason behind the firing of 125 employees by Mexican-based cement company CEMEX. The firing represents 50 percent of the firm’s total staff here. In addition, it shut down five plants across the country. “The next three to six months will be very complicated, as projects come to an end and nothing new is on the horizon,” said Carlos Gonzalez, general manager of the CEMEX. CEMEX, according to Gonzalez, has invested some $160 million in Costa Rica over the last 10 years. The general manager said that the company will continue to invest, but only about $2 million for this year. CEMEX has seen the demand for cement drop 20 percent and for concrete 30 percent, as the construction of large projects like hotels, commercial centers, especially in the North Pacific region, has slowed down.

Central America and EU resume trade deal talks

(La Nacion) — Central and the European Union reached an agreement last week to resume negotiations for their association agreement, which they said could be finalized by July, at least in its technical phase. Negotiations were temporarily halted on April 1, when Nicaragua quit the process and the Europeans suspended the seventh negotiation round, which was taking place in Honduras. Nicaragua, however, has since rejoined the talks.

Arias signs hydroelectric water concessions

(Inside Costa Rica) — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has signed into law a bill that creates a hydroelectric water concessions framework, the presidential website reported. The new framework also allows an extension to the concession for the same period as long as all ministry requirements are complied with. The legislation guarantees private participation in power generation and gives the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAET), the legal authority to award concessions for up to 25 years, according to the government. “It is an important and positive sign for Costa Rica’s power sector. This law resolves the ambiguity or ‘legal void’ in the awarding of hydro concessions,” the executive director of the country’s Energy Producers Association (Acope), Mario Alvarado, told BNAmericas. The country’s energy generation, transmission and distribution is dominated by state power company ICE, which is also the only company authorized to purchase and export power.

Fishermen on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast embrace ecotourism

(EFE) — Young men on the Osa Peninsula and in Golfito, on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, are slowly shifting from traditional fishing activities to exploring the opportunities offered by ecotourism, thanks to a project sponsored by the Neotropica Foundation. The program consists in giving classes to students between 17 and 32 so “they can become tourist guides, but can also start their own businesses,” the project’s training coordinator, Sebastian Salazar, told EFE. “The idea is to educate these young people and give them the tools to develop and offer high-quality activities to tourists who come to the area,” Salazar said. The course “has given special attention to ethical questions, as well as to the preservation of the environment,” Salazar said. For the coordinator, “the main thing is that young people acquire knowledge about the environment, the countryside, the trees and in that way become leaders in the area, compiling information, designing tours and pointing out places and points of interest.” The program has already graduated its first 20 local guides, but expects to have many more for next year.

Society Ombudsman denounces impunity in sexual harassment cases (Al Dia) — The Ombudsman’s Office has complained that 40 percent of the sexual harassment cases at public institutions in Costa Rica go unpunished thanks to deficiencies in the current legislation. This, the citizendefense entity said, makes many victims opt to drop their cases as they feel powerless. The Ombudsman’s Office report on the matter indicated that even when harassers are found guilty, the punishments are not severe enough: in 34 percent of the cases, the defendants were suspended from work between one and seven days; 11 percent of those found guilty were reprimanded verbally or in writing or their cases were simply filed; and in only 15 of the cases the accused were terminated from their jobs.

Costa Rican coffee recognized again in U.S.

(Al Dia) — Gourmet coffee from the Santa Anita farm in Costa Rica placed fourth in the Rainforest Alliance Cupping 2009, which was held in Long Beach, Calif., and New York City. The competition recognized coffees produced in harmony with the environment and farms that cared for their workers. Other Costa Rican farms that also stood out include Rincon Socola Espíritu Santo Estate Coffee. Costa Rica finished third overall among nations. Guatemala finished first.

1,417 dengue cases in first quarter of 2009 (La Prensa Libre) — Some 1,417 cases of dengue fever were reported at state-run hospitals during the first quarter of 2009, most of them in Puntarenas (739). Guanacaste reported 109 cases. Last year, almost 9,000 individuals contracted the mosquito-borne disease.

FBI domestic terror suspect could be hiding in Costa Rica (Inside Costa Rica) — The FBI expanded its list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” last week to include domestic “terrorism” for the first time, adding a U.S. citizen wanted for bombings of two corporate offices in California in 2003. Daniel Andreas San Diego, 31, a fugitive animal rights activist, was put on the list because the FBI hopes the public will provide tips leading to his arrest, said Michael Heimbach, assistant FBI director for counterterrorism. San Diego, who the FBI believes may be hiding out in Costa Rica, is sharing a roster that includes Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as well as the list’s only other American, Adam Gadahn, an Al-Qaeda propagandist. San Diego was indicted in July 2004 with possession of an explosive device and “maliciously” damaging and attempting to damage property with explosives.

Authorities warn of dangerous propane gas without smell

(Inside Costa Rica) — LPG or propane gas is commonly used in the kitchens of homes and restaurants in Costa Rica. The gas has an odor added to it so it can be noticed in the case of a leak. However, authorities have found a quantity of the gas without the traditional odour, which makes it risky. The state’s pubic services regulator (Aresep) said that a delay shipment of ethylmercaptan, the odor added to the gas, has meant the gas was sold without it. “It is imperative that the institution (Recope) acquires the product prior to its exhaustion” said the Ombudsman’s Office in a statement last week, as it warned residents and businesses to be prepared to avoid any accidents.



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Swine flu outbreak raises pandemic fears

PARIS (AFP) - An outbreak of deadly swine flu in Mexico and the United States has raised the specter of a new virus against which much of humanity would have little or no immunity. About 950 cases and 60 suspect deaths have been reported in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States seven people have been infected. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that the infection of humans with an influenza ‘A’ virus of animal origins is a concern “because of the risk, albeit small, that this could represent the appearance of viruses with pandemic potential.” First identified in 1930, swine flu is a common and sometimes fatal respiratory disease in pigs caused by type A influenza virus. The disease does not normally spread to humans, though infections are sporadically recorded, especially among people who have been directly exposed to pigs. The recent cases in Mexico and the United States, however, appear to have spread through human contact. From December 2005 through February 2009, only 12 cases of swine influenza were reported in the United States. In 1988 a pregnant woman died after contact with sick pigs. In 1976, swine flu at an U.S. military base at Fort Dix, New Jersey killed one soldier. Four were hospitalised with pneumonia. At first, experts feared the strain was related to the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed millions, but the strain never spread beyond the base. Swine and human H1N1 viruses are not the same, which means that seasonal flu vaccines for humans will not work against the animal variant. The WHO has identified swine influenza as a potential source of human flu pandemics, which occur roughly every two or three decades. The last true pandemic – “Hong Kong flu” – occurred more than 40 years ago. In the past, swine flu has rarely been fatal

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Pain relievers do not prevent Alzheimer’s

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibupofren (Advil, Motril) and naproxen (Aleve) may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s but do not prevent it, a medical study said.

for humans. But scientists fear that a new virus mixing animals strains – from birds, pigs or both – with existing human strains could create a superbug that could sweep the globe and kill millions, as happened nearly a century ago. Swine flu symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people who have contracted the virus report runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The disease is not transmitted by eating properly cooked pork, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cooking to an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit) kills swine virus, as it does other bacteria and viruses. Worries about a flu pandemic have focused in recent years on the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed around 250 people since 2003, mainly in Southeast Asia, according to the WHO.

The study involved 2,736 subjects with an average age of 75 who did not suffer dementia when enrolled. Followed over a period of 12 years, the group included 351 heavy users of ibuprofen or naproxen prior to enrollment, and 107 who became heavy users during the study. At the end of the research, 476 patients had developed Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. Researchers determined that heavy NSAIDs users had 66 percent greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia than those with little or no NSAID use. “A key difference between this study and most of those done earlier is that our participants were older,” said study author John Breitner, of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Washington in Seattle.

“It has been argued for some time that NSAID use delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. It would follow that studies looking at younger people who use NSAIDs would show fewer cases of Alzheimer’s, while in groups of older people there might be more

“I will decide to do so if I consider that I will have the right conditions to carry out the projects I believe in,” he said, adding that he was concentrating on dealing with the economic crisis.

With the aging of populations, this figure is projected to increase rapidly over the next 20 years.

cases, including those that would have occurred earlier if they had not been delayed,” he added. “This is one interpretation of the results, but other explanations are possible,” Breitner cautioned, adding that further research was needed to understand why NSAIDs increased the risk of dementia.

Characterized by forgetfulness, agitation and dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by a massive loss of cells in several regions of the brain, driven by a buildup of plaques of amyloid protein. The disease occurs most frequently in old age.

An estimated 37 million people worldwide, including 5.3 million in the United States, live with dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease causing the majority of cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). With the aging of populations, this figure is projected to increase rapidly over the next 20 years.

Fertility doctor says he’s on Spain allows embryo selection the brink of cloning human to screen for cancer genes MADRID (AFP) – Health authorities in Spain said they had authorized the genetic screening of pre-implantation embryos to ensure they do not carry genes that might cause cancer. Spain’s National Commission for Assisted Human Reproduction allowed the process for two specific cases for women undergoing fertility treatment. One of them involved screening for a gene that causes breast cancer and other for thyroid cancer. Any daughter born with the BRCA 1 gene has an 80 per cent risk of developing breast cancer and a 60 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer -- as well as a 50 percent risk of passing on the anomaly to their own children. “It is an historic day in the world of health,” said secretary of state for health, Jose Martinez Olmos. He said the two de-

cisions “bring hope” for the families faced with “major health problems.” He told private radio Cadena Ser that such decisions would be made on a “case by case” basis. The procedure is still relatively rare in the world but has been used to screen embryos for breast cancer in Britain, the United States and Belgium. In January, a mother in Britain became the first woman in the country to have a baby selected free of a gene which causes breast cancer. Spain’s Socialist government has already angered the Roman Catholic Church with proposals to liberalise the abortion law. In October, Catholic bishops also condemned the genetic selection of an embryo in a bid to cure a child of a crippling inherited blood disorder.

LONDON (AFP) – A U.S.-based fertility doctor claimed to have cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women in an interview published last week. Panayiotis Zavos told Britain’s Independent newspaper that although none of the women had had a viable pregnancy as a result, the first cloned baby could now be born within a couple of years. “There is absolutely no doubt about it... the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way that it will not happen,” he said, quoted by the paper. “If we intensify our efforts, we can have a cloned baby within a year or two, but I don’t know whether we can intensify our efforts to that extent.” Zavos’s work is widely condemned by mainstream fertility experts, who question whether the technique, which also raises complex ethical questions, is safe. Although other scientists have created human cloned embryos in test tubes to extract

PARIS (AFP) – European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said he has the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to stay in his post, as he took a swipe at France’s left-wing opposition.

In an interview published Friday in the Portuguese weekly Sol, Barroso said he had not definitely decided whether to run again.

The new research, published in the April 22 online issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has shown the opposite effect, with NSAIDs increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s by 66 percent.

stem cells for research, Zavos has broken a taboo by actually putting them inside women’s wombs. He said he has also produced cloned embryos of three dead people, including a 10year-old girl called Cady who died in a car crash in the United Sates. The child’s blood cells were frozen and sent to Zavos. The doctor, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Cyprus, is thought to have carried out the procedures in a secret laboratory somewhere in the Middle East to escape the U.S. ban on cloning. He uses the same technique as was used to clone Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. The procedures were recorded by a documentary maker and will be shown on the Discovery Channel in Britain later Wednesday. In 2004, Zavos claimed to have implanted the first human cloned embryo into a woman’s uterus although scientists then expressed scepticism over a lack of proof about his findings.



EU’s Barroso says he has Sarkozy’s support to stay

The 53-year-old Portuguese conservative’s mandate expires in October, but he is expected to seek a second five-year term despite the European Union’s struggle to reform and criticism of his response to the financial crisis.

Earlier studies indicated that such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin, could protect against Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease linked to inflammation in the brain.

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Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

Barroso is backed by EU heavyweights Britain and Germany, but Sarkozy has called

it,” he said, when asked if France backed him, adding that the attacks on him in France have come from opposition figures.

for a decision on the presidency to be delayed until after Ireland’s second referendum on the Lisbon treaty, due later this year.

“There are French politicians, for domestic reasons, who have decided to be in opposition, and they’ve attacked me personally, which is truly unpleasant,” he complained.

The European Union has been in political limbo since French and Dutch voters rejected its first draft constitution in 2005. Last year, the blueprint’s slimmed-down successor, the Lisbon Treaty, was rejected by voters in Ireland.

Campaigning ahead of June elections for the European Parliament, French Socialists have accused the Portuguese right-winger of being too wedded to free-market ideas to respond to the financial crisis.

If Irish voters back Lisbon in the repeat referencum, decision-making would be streamlined in the 27-member bloc. But if they again reject it, further turmoil beckons, political analysts say.

France’s reluctance to rush into a decision on the president’s post had been interpreted in some quarters as lukewarm support for Barroso, but the incumbent told Europe 1 radio that he had no reason to doubt Sarkozy. “President Sarkozy has said it several times publicly and privately. I have no doubts about

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso attends a joint news conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev (not in photo) during a summit entitled “Natural Gas for Europe. AFP/ DIMITAR DILKOFF

But Barroso demanded to know why, in that case, other European left-wing leaders such as Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown still supported him. He told Sol: “After the elections I will gauge if the conditions I require have been met. Unlike what is often said, these decisions are taken at the last minute.”

EU to propose caps on Spanish unemployment soars executives’, bankers’ bonuses past 17 percent BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission will propose this week to set caps on bankers’ and corporate executives’ bonuses after the financial crisis exposed excesses, according to draft documents obtained by AFP.

In proposals, the European Union’s executive arm lamented that corporate remuneration has become too complex, focused on rewarding achievements in the short term, and in some cases simply too rich. To rectify the problem, the commission said in a first proposal that “companies should set limits” on corporate fat cats’ bonuses, which should be tied to long-term performance criteria. It also recommended capping golden parachutes, urging such one-off parting pay-offs to be limited in general to no more than two years of wages and said they should be conditional on performance targets.

Executives would also not be able to receive such pay-offs when they resign on their own account.

After the recent public outrage over bankers’ huge bonuses before the crisis, the commission’s second proposal aims to clamp down on the risk-taking bonus culture of the financial sector. It too recommends that bonuses should be “based on longer term performance,” suggesting that “the actual payment of bonuses

is spread over the business cycle of the company.”

It said that such performance pay-offs and bonus pools should also be adjusted to reflect the risks that a company is exposed to.

The commission said that financial companies should not be contractually obliged to pay employees bonuses and should have the right to suspend them if the group gets into trouble. The commission wants the caps on both executives’ and bankers’ pay by the end of the year. In 2004, the European Commission issued recommendations for tougher salary controls but found little support from member states, apart from the Netherlands. However, since the current crisis broke out, support for action to rein in executive bonuses has been building up both within Europe and elsewhere.

In October 2008, EU finance ministers reserved the right to dismiss executives of failing banks that get state bailouts, without their golden parachutes.

More generally, the ministers adopted recommendations that would allow governments to limit golden parachutes even at companies that do not get state bailouts, particularly in the financial sector.

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MADRID (AFP) – The number of unemployed in Spain almost doubled in the past 12 months to more than four million, with the jobless rate soaring to 17.36 percent, the highest in the EU, official data showed last week. The rate went from 13.91 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 17.36 percent in the first quarter of this year, or an additional 802,800 jobless, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said in a statement. “The total number of unemployed is at 4.01 million, with a rise of 1.836 million in the last 12 months,” it said. In comparison, unemployment in the 27nation European Union was 7.9 percent in February. It is the highest rate in Spain since the fourth quarter of 1998, when it was 17.99 percent, while the number of unemployed is the most since at least 1976, when such data was first recorded. Finance Minister Elena Salgado conceded that the figures were “worse than we expected.” She said the reducing unemployment was a “challenge” and a “priority” for the government. “The fiscal stimulus measures that the government has adopted are bearing fruit,” said Salgado, who replaced former EU commissioner Pedro Solbes in the post less than three weeks ago. “We will do everything possible to reduce these unemployment numbers, of course guaranting unemployment benefits for every


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person in this situation.” The figures released Friday are far worse than predictions by the Socialist government at the start of the year, which projected an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent for 2009. The central bank early this month forecast the rate would reach 17.1 percent in 2009 and 19.4 percent in 2010. The Spanish economy entered its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008 as the global financial crisis accelerated a downturn that was already underway in its once-buoyant property sector. The International Monetary Fund said Spain will see full two years of recession, with the economy contracting 3.0 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2010 and unemployment hitting 19.3 percent next year. The unemployment rate was far higher among Spain’s vast numbers of immigrants, 28.39 percent of whom were unemployed in the first quarter, compared to 15.24 percent for Spaniards, the INE said. The number of registered foreign residents in Spain shot up from 500,000 in 1996 to 5.2 million currently, mainly from Latin America, eastern Europe and north Africa, out of a total population of 46 million. Many came to work in Spain’s booming construction industry, which collapsed abruptly last year. With employers now shedding workers at a rapid pace, the low-skilled jobs typically occupied by immigrants have been hit hardest.


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global affairs

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

UN development goals more G7 says economic activity elusive amid finance crisis to pick up this year WASHINGTON (AFP) - The World Bank and International Monetary Fund said in a report that the UN Millennium Development Goals were becoming harder to meet due to global economic crisis, particularly in Africa. “The prospect of reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, already a cause for serious concern, now looks even more distant,” the multilateral agencies wrote. The eight development goals – which the international community agreed to try to reach at a UN summit in 2000 – are aimed at reducing poverty directly or indirectly. But, according to the report, many are trending worse, not better. Worldwide the goal of reducing by half (between 1990-2015) the number of people living below the extreme poverty threshold (income of 1-1.25 dollars a day) and of those going hungry started off well but look potentially threatened by current conditions.

“Before the onset of the food crisis in 2007, there were about 850 million chronically hungry people in the developing world. This number rose to 960 million in 2008

and is expected to climb past one billion in 2009,” the World Bank and IMF stressed. Sub-Saharan Africa was the biggest concern, on health goals.

The region has a mortality rate for children under five of 146 per 1,000 while the goal set was 61 per 1,000; nine maternal deaths per 1,000 births, though the goal is 2.3 per 1,000; while the battles against AIDS, malaria and other illnesses have not made great new strides. “Sub-Saharan Africa lags on all goals,” the report said while “South Asia lags on most human development goals.” “Strong economic growth in developing countries in the past decade had put the goals for poverty reduction within reach at a global level, but the triple punch of the food, fuel and financial crises creates new risks,” the report said.

Now, “the world needs a strong, coordinated response to preserve the promise of MDGs, very much in the spirit of the international cooperation that gave birth to them,” it stressed.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Group of Seven major economies said that they expected global economic activity to begin to recover later this year after the worst global slump in decades.

As part of efforts to tackle the crisis, the G7 said they would continue to provide and increase resources for the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral institutions to ensure they could help restore global financial stability.

“We will take whatever actions are necessary to accelerate the return to trend growth (rates) while preserving long-term fiscal sustainability,” the G7 said, apparently referring to concerns that governments are taking on too much debt to fund economic stimulus programs.

They also agreed to continue, “as needed, to restore lending, provide liquidity support, inject capital into financial institutions, protect savings and deposits and address impaired assets.” The current crisis was “the deepest and most widespread economic downturn and financial stress witnessed in decades,” the G7 said, saying they “have acted resolutely to support growth and restore confidence in the financial system and the flow of credit.” The crisis was sparked by a credit boom based on the U.S. subprime or higher risk home loan market which collapsed in mid2007 as weaker borrowers could not keep up payments when the economy began to slow. Many banks were heavily exposed and in order to limit their losses, cut lending, setting off a chain reaction through the U.S. and then global financial systems which saw

OPEC chief plays down possible output cut VIENNA (AFP) – OPEC chief Abdalla Salem El-Badri does not expect the oil cartel to cut production at a key meeting next month, Dow Jones Newswires reported last Friday. Despite signs of even weaker crude demand and swelling oil inventory in big energy consuming nations, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries first needed to fully implement an agreement announced in December to remove 4.2 million barrels a day from world markets, El-Badri said in an interview.

“We need to take all that off the market before we can talk about new cuts,” El-Badri said.

UNITED STATES, Washington : French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (2L) gives a press conference following the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in with European Central Bank Governing Council member Christian Noyer (L). AFP/ Nicholas KAMM

many lenders and other companies fail for want of cash.

The resulting credit crunch plunged the global economy into the worst recession in more than 60 years, with the IMF expecting a contraction of 1.3 percent this year and growth of just 1.9 percent in 2010. The G7 agreed on the need to avoid new barriers to trade or investment and welcomed China’s continued commitment to a flexible exchange rate system which should help promote more “balanced growth in China and the world economy.” The United States has long complained that its domestic market has been far too open to countries, such as China, which have largely built their economy around export industries, with domestic consumption secondary. Additionally, the G7 “reaffirmed our shared interst in a strong and stable international financial system,” with volatility and disorderly foreign exchange moves harmful and so to be monitored closely.

Part of the U.S. complaint against countries such as China is that they keep their currencies artificially weak so as to boost exports.



Al Gore backs U.S. climate Despite smiles, U.S. empire change bill is still ‘alive:’ Chavez

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A bill to curb greenhouse gases is “one of the most important pieces of legislation” ever before the U.S. Congress, Nobel laureate and champion of the environment, Al Gore, said. “Passage of this legislation will restore America’s leadership of the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis,” said Gore, the former U.S. vice president who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on combating global warming.

“Recent data suggest that the pace of decline in our economies has slowed and some signs of stabilization are emerging,” a G7 statement said. “Economic activity should begin to recover later this year amid a continued weak outlook and downside risks persist.” The G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – said they were “committed to act together to restore jobs and growth and to prevent a crisis of this magnitude from occurring again.”

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

“It is truly a moral imperative,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Congress is examining a draft bill for clean energy development that aims to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent from their 2005 levels by 2020, and boost reliance on renewable sources of energy. Gore, a former lawmaker in both houses of Congress, said the legislation would simultaneously address three major challenges facing the United States: climate change, the economic crisis and national security threats.

“Our country cannot afford more of the status quo, more gasoline price instability, more job losses, more outsourcing of factories, and more years of sending two billion dollars every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil.” The draft bill is set to pass the House of Representatives thanks to a wide Democratic majority there, but its future remains uncertain in the Senate.

Gore said the bill was as important as the civil rights legislation passed by Congress in the 1960s giving African-Americans the right to vote, and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s for rebuilding Europe after World War II. But Republicans and some Democrats

Gore said the bill was as important as the civil rights legislation passed by Congress in the 1960s giving African-Americans the right to vote, and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s for rebuilding Europe after World War II. AFP/

from coal- or oil-producing states warn of potentially catastrophic economic impacts from setting limits on emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Republican House Minority leader John Boehner said Gore “deserves another Oscar for his testimony today on the Democrats’ plans for a massive national energy tax on every American,” referring to Gore’s Academy Award for his documentary on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.” “As Mr. Gore spoke to the television cameras in the Committee chamber, news reports indicate that behind the scenes, Democrats are wheeling and dealing, trying to buy votes for this disastrous bill with your taxpayer dollars,” Boehner said in a statement. The White House and the Democratic majority in Congress want the bill completed by the end of the year, with President Barack Obama planning to travel to Copenhagen for a major UN climate change conference in December.

CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that despite his warm, smiling greetings with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Americas summit, the U.S. empire is still “alive and kicking.” At the gathering of regional leaders last weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, one of the biggest stories was the friendly handshake between fierce U.S. critic Chavez and Obama. “The hand, yes. The smile, yes. But make no mistake, the empire is still there, alive and kicking,” Chavez said at a public event here. “I hope that, for the good of his race, Obama is the last imperialist president of the United States.” Chavez said the book he gave Obama – “The Open Veins of Latin America,” about the region’s colonial past and exploitation by the world’s big powers – was in response to what Obama said in Trinidad; that he came to talk about the future, not the past. At the summit, Chavez – who maintained tense relations with the United States during the tenure of Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush – gave the impression he was seeking reconciliation with Washington, while Obama said he was open to talks with Cuba. Earlier this week, the United States wel-

Latin American banks look to mobiles to battle crisis SAO PAULO (AFP) – Latin American banks are to brainstorm ways to boost access to their products through the use of cellphones and computers in a series of conferences over the next few weeks. The seminars are aimed at countering the downturn on their industry wrought by the global financial crisis, the Brazilian Federation of Banks, at the heart of the initiative, said. The first of the conferences will be held April 29 in Mexico, with others following in

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, Port-of-Spain : (FILES) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) gives a book, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano to U.S. President Barack Obama (L) during a multilateral meeting to begin during the Summit of the Americas at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, Trinidad. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON

comed Venezuela’s move to restore full diplomatic ties between the two countries – broken in September – by returning its ambassador to Washington. “We’re looking at it. We think it’s a positive idea,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia in May, the federation said. “In 2014 there will be 14.6 billion cellphones and 2.8 billion personal computers in the world, all connected to the Internet,” it predicted. In Brazil alone – Latin America’s biggest economy – 152 million cellphones were already activated, it said. Worldwide there were 3.55 billion cellphones, it added. The federation said such technology was of “fundamental importance” and forecast that “mobile payments” in which cellphone accounts would be used for small purchases were on their way.

The G7 statement concluded with the need to boost financial sector regulation, “to include all systemically important institutions, markets and instruments” so as to avoid a repeat of the crisis. Nevertheless, he did not want to pre-empt discussions at the meeting in OPEC’s Vienna headquarters on May 28, he insisted.

The cartel’s 12 ministers “can come together and not hesitate to take action,” ElBadri said.

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OPEC has reduced its oil production target by an overall 4.2 million barrels per day since September to 24.84 million bpd, the lowest since just after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In its April monthly bulletin, the cartel revised down its estimate for world crude demand this year and predicted that a “devasting contraction” in consumption would keep prices under pressure in the months ahead.

Earlier this week, Iran’s Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari said Tehran would back a cut in OPEC’s oil production at the May meeting if the crude market is oversupplied.

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Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

I won’t abandon McLaren, Roddick aiming to be king says Hamilton of Queen’s with 5th win

SAKHIR (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton insisted that he will not quit McLaren despite the controversy over Formula One’s ‘liar-gate’ scandal which could reach a dramatic conclusion this week. Asked about rhis week’s meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council to hear the case which has been raging since the Australian Grand Prix, world champion Hamilton said it was at the back of his mind. “I am not thinking about it. We have a goal, we have a target and we are working towards it without distractions. I’m enjoying myself – and I don’t abandon my team when things get tough,” said Hamilton, reacting to reports that he had lost the support of members of his team because he had allegedly considered leaving McLaren in the wake of the crisis.

“We’ve had bad and good times together and I’m happy where I am. We’ve got a long way to go and hopefully I’ve got a long, long time here. The great thing is that the guys are still very enthusiastic and working harder than ever. They seem better than they ever have been.” His affirmation of loyalty to McLaren and the team’s work ethic came on the same day that new team chief Martin Whitmarsh confirmed he had written to the FIA to apologise for the affair.

The team will be at the hearing in Paris and it is likely that only after that - rather than Sunday’s race - will Hamilton truly know if his title defence is on track or not. If the FIA dish out a major sanction to the team it could affect his position through a points deduction or worse. Two years ago, the team was fined for its part in the ‘spy-gate’ scandal and stripped of all its points in the constructors’ championship. This year’s turn of events has already cost long-serving team manager Dave Ryan his job.

Meanwhile, Hamilton insists a successful defence of his title remains a realistic target for him and the McLaren-Mercedes team this season.

Despite trailing Jenson Button of Brawn GP by 17 points, following a controversial and disappointing start to the season, Hamilton believes he can recover and hang on to his crown. The 23-year-old Englishman, who last season became the youngest champion in F1 history, said: “It’s still on I think, but the other guys are a bit ahead now, quite a bit ahead. But there are 14 races to go and anything can happen. “So, yes, I am still optimistic and I believe that if we carry on doing the best job we can, we can catch up. It not, then we can only do our best and if it is not enough then we will have to focus on next season.”

It will clearly be vital for Hamilton to control Button’s advantage in this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix and keep him within ‘catching distance’ when the F1 circus returns to Europe in two weeks’ time for the Spanish Grand Prix. In Friday practice, Hamilton said he felt he had found some improvement in his MP4-24 car, despite there being no additional revised parts being added following last weekend’s use of a revised front win, floor and diffuser in Shanghai. He said: “It does feel a bit better here, but we’ve not brought any updates. We’re working with the set-up, at refining and finetuning it -- and it does feel better. We don’t know what the others are doing but we feel happier with our performance. “Of course, it’s very tight. We don’t know what fuel everybody’s on, but we are definitely improving. But there are other guys who are a bit faster than us.”

LONDON (AFP) – Newly-married Andy Roddick is backing himself for a recordbreaking fifth title at Queen’s that he hopes will provide a platform for a successful assault on the Wimbledon crown.

“I’m excited about my prospects this year,” the 26-yera-old said after confirming his participation in the June 8-14 warm-up for Wimbledon.

Roddick’s form and fitness has improved since he began working with the respected coach Larry Stefanki, who helped him to reach the Australian Open semi-finals in January. Stefanki said: “I think he’s as capable as anyone to win on the grass, and I’m talking Wimbledon.

The world number five was a winner at Queen’s in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 as well as reaching two Wimbledon finals in 2004 and 2005.

“If he can serve with the variety that he’s serving right now, put himself in a position to move into the court more, play on the baseline on the return of serve and attack a lot more, I think the window of opportunity is very big for him at Wimbledon.” Also in the field at Queen’s are defending champion Rafael Nadal, who dethroned Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year, and Scotland’s Andy Murray.

Howard is pure magic as he is named defensive player of year ORLANDO (AFP) – Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was named the National Basketball Association’s Defensive Player of the Year last week.

The 23-year-old became the youngest player to win the award, after a season that saw him become just the fifth player to lead the league in both blocks and rebounds in the same campaign.

Howard received 542 points, including 105 first-place votes from a panel of 119 sports reporters and broadcasters. Cleveland superstar LeBron James was second with 148 points and Miami’s Dwyane Wade was third with 90 points.

Howard led the Magic to 59 wins in the regular season, one shy of the club’s best set in 1995-96. He averaged 13.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this season.

The only other players to lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks in the same regular season were Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace.

LONDON (AFP) – The finances of Britain’s top music stars, including Elton John, Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams, have been badly hit by the recession, figures from the Sunday Times Rich List showed.

MUMBAI (AFP) – Indian police said they had not found any evidence so far to substantiate claims that the father of “Slumdog Millionaire” child actress Rubina Qureshi tried to sell her for adoption. “We have not registered a case against Rubina Qureshi’s father and are still continuing with investigations,” senior police officer Nisar Tamboli was quoted as saying by the domestic Press Trust of India news agency.

Troubled singer Amy Winehouse, pictured in recent weeks taking it easy on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, saw her fortune halve from 10 million pounds last year to five million this.

Her record company is still waiting for her to record a follow-up to her award-winning 2006 album “Back To Black” as she battles problems in her personal life. Ian Coxon, the list’s editor, said that performers who relied on their investments to generate wealth had been the worse hit.

“Robbie Williams is run as a business and there’s been a profit fall in 2007, so that’s had a knock-on effect and he’s not been doing so much recently,” Coxon said. “He’s never quite fulfilled the promise

The honour is another achievement in a remarkable season for Howard.

He won Olympic gold as the center of the U.S. men’s team at Beijing, passed Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest NBA player to reach the 5,000-rebound mark and became an All-Star for the third time. The Magic trail the Philadelphia 76ers 1-0 in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

The News of World alleged that Qureshi demanded 20 million rupees (400,000 dollars, 310,000 euros) for Rubina during a meeting with an undercover newspaper reporter posing as a wealthy Arab sheikh.

John’s personal fortune fell 26 percent in the last year, from 238 million pounds to 175 million (250 million dollars, 200 million euros) in 2009. AFP/

He allegedly complained that the family had not made any money out of the Oscarwinning film, in which Rubina plays the younger version of one of the central characters, Latika, and were still living in poverty in Mumbai’s slums. Qureshi accepts that he met the “sheikh” at a hotel in the city but denies agreeing to sell his daughter.

that he had a few years ago. The ones where there’s no change are the Beckhams, who although their property value has gone down, they’re earning so fast there’s no change.” Footballer David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria, have seen their fortune remain steady at 125 million pounds, according to the list.

Cowabunga! Ninja Turtles back on big screen

The new movie, scheduled for release in 2011, is to focus on the origins of the sewerdwelling superheroes and would be shot as UNITED STATES, Orlando: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic receives the Defensive Player of the Year Award prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. AFP/

Police opened an investigation into whether Rafiq Qureshi tried to sell his nine-yearold daughter after a report this weekend in a British tabloid newspaper.

Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams lost 25 million and now has 80 million pounds, Welsh crooner Tom Jones’s wealth dropped 24 percent to 130 million pounds and Cliff Richard’s fell by a fifth to 40 million pounds.

LOS ANGELES, April 23, 2009 (AFP) Pizza-munching crimefighters the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are to return to the big screen for a fifth film based on the popular comic books, Daily Variety reported.

“To be the defensive player of the year at 23 is remarkable,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “To be a great defensive player usually comes later in a career. And he still has so much room for improvement.”

Howard is five months younger than Alvin Robertson, who was 23 years and nine months old when he won the award with San Antonio in the 1985-86 season.

Elton John, Paul McCartney No evidence against father finances hit by downturn in ‘Slumdog’ adoption row

Former Beatle McCartney has also reportedly seen his fortune fall by 60 million to 440 million pounds in the past 12 months due to falling property and share values.

And he believes he is ready to challenge the world’s best once more on grass.



John’s personal fortune fell 26 percent in the last year, from 238 million pounds to 175 million (250 million dollars, 200 million euros) in 2009, according to a preview of the list of Britain’s 1,000 wealthiest people.

The world number five, who married swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker recently, was a winner at Queen’s in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 as well as reaching two Wimbledon finals in 2004 and 2005.

“Last year I was going in to Wimbledon a little under-prepared. I hadn’t really played a whole lot (because of injury) and to be honest I haven’t played my best tennis at Wimbledon over the last couple of years. This year I’m playing better and moving a little bit better so I’m really excited.”

Edition 182 • Apr 28 - May 4, 2009

a live action feature, in contrast to 2007’s “TMNT”, which relied on computer-generated imagery.

Following their comic-book debut in 1984, the Ninja Turtles spawned a lucrative film franchise, the first four movies grossing more than 310 million dollars at the North American box office.

Travolta visits Argentina to buy land BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – U.S actor John Travolta traveled to Argentina hoping to buy land, according to local media reports. Travolta arrived in the country with his family still mourning the death of his 16year-old-son, Jett, who died in the Bahamas of a seizure in January.

Staying at a luxurious Buenos Aires hotel, local media reported the two-time Oscarnominated actor is looking to buy land in this vast Latin American nation.

If true, the “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction” star will join Italian businessman Luciano Benetton, former CNN founder Ted Turner and fellow actor Tommy Lee Jones – who owns 25 hectares in a polo retreat in the Argentine pampas. Travolta, who landed last Tuesday in Buenos Aires on a private jet, has not given interviews since the death of his son, but has communicated with fans through his official website.

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INDIA, Mumbai : Slumdog Millionaire child actor Rubina Ali Qureshi plays in the Behrampada slums in Mumbai. The father of “Slumdog Millionaire” child actress Rubina Ali has denied trying to sell his daughter, after a British newspaper claimed he was willing to put her up for adoption at a price. AFP/Sajjad HUSSAIN

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The Journal Edition # 183  

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