Vol. 3 Edition 98, Weekly Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007 Costa Rica, Central America
Arias renews commitment to Guanacaste
IMF candidate: Globalization should help all the people Former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the European Union choice to lead the
International Monetary Fund, said that the IMF should help every country benefit from globalization. (P. 21)
More growth for Latin America, Caribbean The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicted regional economies will
The President and his Cabinet offered reports of progress to Guanacaste’s people inside the building that will house the future Guanacaste Museum. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias thanked Guanacastecans for their show of affection and reiterated his government’s commitment to the province, during a special meeting of the President’s Cabinet that took place in the city of Liberia July 25 to
commemorate the 183th anniversary of the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya to Costa Rica. The President and his Cabinet offered reports of progress to Guanacaste’s people inside the building that will house the future Guanacaste
Museum. Before the Cabinet session, Arias attended the official July 25 celebration in the canton of Nicoya, where the local government made some requests related to road infrastructure and health. (P.10)
First tourism education congress takes place
Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz (L) visted Guanacaste last week. THER JOURNAL/Infocom
Taking advantage of his visit to Guanacaste, as the President’s Cabinet met in Liberia on July 25, Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz sat for dinner with members of the Guanacaste Business Chamber. At the dinner, Ruiz shared perspectives with the president and vice president of this chamber, Miguel Chacon and Roberto Quiros, about the work both entities conduct to propel development in the province and their positions
regarding the Central American FreeTradeAgreement (CAFTA) with the United States and the implications of the deal for Guanacaste, where many investors have established their businesses. For the chamber representatives, saying yes to the TLC (as CAFTA is known in Costa Rica) is a way of continuing to offer safety to investors, and that is vital for this province as it faces an accelerated process of investors settling here. (P. 4)
Workers process Tilapia fishes at the ‘’Aquafinca Saint Peter Fish’’, in the village El Borboton, 200 km North of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The predicted growth for this is country for 2007 is a 5.5%. AFP/ Elmer
Mystery over Jim Morrison’s death divides biographers Did Jim Morrison OD on a nightclub toilet or die of a druginduced heart attack in a bathtub at home? Thirty-six years after
the death in Paris of The Doors legend, biographers are locking horns over his final hours. (P. 29)
McLaren cleared over F1 spy case Formula One giants Ferrari said they were outraged that rivals McLaren had been cleared of any wrongdoing
WEEK IN BRIEF Ombudsman calls for reforms to immigration law.. State to cover all maternity leave costs if bill passes… HBSC begins banking in Costa Rica… 13 new companies begin investing in Costa Rica… Guanacaste small businesses receive support… Central Bank sets target inflation rate at 8 percent… Scotiabank and Interfin to merge in September… Costa Rica exported 15 percent more in first semester of 2007… Experts fear eruption of Turrialba Volcano… Bill seeks to standardize use of national symbols, anthem… Biologists convene to help save primates… on page 16.
grow five percent on average in 2007, followed by 4.6 percent growth in 2008. ( P.22)
AFP/ Jose Luis Roca
in the spying row which has rocked the sport and vowed to keep fighting the case. ( P. 31)
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
ALSO INSIDE… Editorial Art for celebrating Guanacaste Guanacaste province is full of traditions and the main contributor to Costa Rica’s national identity. With its dances, music, poetry, language and people, it shows itself as the face of the country’s identity. This fertile land has given birth to many great artists, composers that with their notes have touched the hearts of Guancastecans and Costa Ricans in general. (P. 6)
Business & Economy New flights help bring in more UK tourists Thanks to the implementation of a direct flight from London to Liberia, Costa Rica has begun a stepped up promotional effort in the United Kingdom that is already paying dividends. (P. 8)
Society New university campus will be built in Guanacaste The National University (UNA) will have open a new campus in the Chorotega Region, with the goal of serving Guanacaste’s growing needs in academic and professional training. (P. 12)
Culture Reflections on the Medieval Climatic Anomaly
From time to time I have written a contribution for The Journal that weaves a connection between my present work in the archaeology of California and my prior and ongoing interest in the archaeology of Greater Nicoya. This article is another such case. (P. 16)
Global Affairs IMF candidate: Globalization should help all the people Former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the European Union choice to lead the International Monetary Fund, said that the IMF should help every country benefit from globalization. (P. 21)
Americas US growth jumps to 3.4 percent The US economy ramped up to a 3.4 percent growth rate in the second quarter, the government said, but analysts said the pace may not be sustained over the rest of the year. In the first estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the period, the Commerce Department said growth picked up after a tepid 0.6 percent rate, revised downward from 0.7 percent, in the first quarter for the world’s biggest economy. P. 22)
Europe Let’s move quickly on EU treaty, says French PM French Prime Minister Francois Fillon urged Portuguese counterpart and European Union president Jose Socrates to take quick steps towards the adoption of a new European treaty. (P. 23)
Sports Vick merchandise pulled from shelves Nike and Reebok have suspended the sale of Michael Vick merchandise as the embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback prepares to face charges of illegal dogfighting. (P. 31)
Contents P. 4 . .........Lead Story P. 6 . .........Opinion P. 8 . .........Business & Economy P. 10 . ........Society P. 16...........Culture P. 18 . ........Week in brief P. 19 . ........Classifieds P. 20...........Global Affairs P. 22...........Americas
P. 23...........Europe P. 24...........NYT News P. 25...........NYT Business P. 26...........NYT Lifestyle P. 27...........NYT Commentary P. 28...........Health P. 29...........Entertainment P. 30...........Cartoon/Sudoku P. 31 . ........Sports
Costa Rica Basics Area: 51,000 km2 Population:4,075,261 (July 2006) Capital: San Jose Language:Spanish Time Zone:UTC/GMT-6 hours
EMERGENCY SERVICES 911 Fire 688 8918 Medical Alert (Ambulance) 670 0258 OIJ (Police Special Branch) 690 0128 Red Cross 666 0994 Hospital Liberia 666 0011 Hospital Nicoya 685 8400 Hospital San José 257 7922 Clinic (Coco) 670 0987 Clinic (Liberia) 666 1881 Hospital Quepos 777-0922 Hospital Puntarenas 663-0033
Transport Central Line San José 257 7214 221 9115 Central Line Liberia 666 0085 Interbus 670 0206 Pulmitan Liberia 666 0458 666 3818 Tica Bus 666 0371 Lost Credit Cards American Express 0 800 012 3211 Mastercard 0 800 011 0184 Visa 0 800 011 0030
Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country’s democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.
Costa Rica’s basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put into place. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country’s political stability and high education levels, and tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange. Low prices for coffee and bananas have hurt the agricultural sector. The government continues to grapple with its large internal and external deficits and sizable internal debt. The reduction of inflation remains a difficult problem because of rises in the price of imports, labor market rigidities, and fiscal deficits. The country also needs to reform its tax system and its pattern of public expenditure. Costa Rica is the only signatory to the U.S.Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that has not ratified it. CAFTA implementation would result in economic reforms and an improved investment climate. GDP (purchasing power parity) $45.67 billion (2005 est.) GDP (official exchange rate) $19.38 billion (2005 est.) GDP - real growth rate 5.9% (2005 est.) GDP - per capita (PPP) $11,400 (2005 est.) (Source: The CIA World Factbook)
Convertion tab 1 Mile = 1.61 Km 1 Km = 0.6214 Mile 1 m = 3.28 Feet 1 Yard = .914 m 1 Square meter = 10.76 Square feet 1 Square foot = 0.093 Square mmeter 1 Manzana = 0.698896 Hectares (6988.96 Sq. m) 1 Acre = 43,560 Square feet 1 Hectare = 10,000 Square meter 1 Inch = 2.54 cm 1 Acre = 0.405 Hectares (6,988.96 Sq. m) 1 Manzana = 1.73 Acres 1 Hectare = 2.47 Acres
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
‘Choosing CAFTA is reaffirming country’s Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz spoke about Guanacaste’s development and the benefits of the free trade agreement with the United States at a meeting with members of the Guanacaste Business Chamber. (Infocom) — Taking advantage of his visit to Guanacaste, as the President’s Cabinet met in Liberia on July 25, Foreign Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz sat for dinner with members of the Guanacaste Business Chamber. At the dinner, Ruiz shared perspectives with the president and vice president of this chamber, Miguel Chacon and Roberto Quiros, about the work both entities conduct to propel development in the province and their positions regarding the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States and the implications of the deal for Guanacaste, where many investors have established their businesses. For the chamber representatives, saying yes to the TLC (as CAFTA is known in Costa Rica) is a way of continuing to offer safety to investors, and that is vital for this province as it faces an accelerated process of investors settling here. Ruiz agreed that the climate of security for investors is the product of policies of openness that
Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz (L) shared perspectives with vice president of Guanacaste Business Chamber, Roberto Quiros (R), about the work both entities conduct to propel development in the province. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
the country has promoted, and the TLC without a doubt consolidates this climate even more. The minister also spoke about the importance that people receive objective information about the TLC, so that their questions are answered before they go to polls to decide the fate of the trade deal in the October referendum. According to Ruiz, it’s essential to under-
stand that the TLC is not an end in itself, but an invaluable tool to assure the population’s social mobility — that is, that Costa Ricans should realize that the opportunities the TLC makes possible are the opportunities which each individual ultimately needs to have a shot at a better quality of life in an integral way. He also indicated that the TLC is nothing but
the reaffirmation of openness policies the country has traditionally had, and which the government of President Oscar Arias has respected and been consistent with. “Costa Rica has always offered solid policies to attract investment and promote business growth, and the TLC is cohesive with this traditional position of the country,” Ruiz pointed out, adding that such openness has been achieved by offering investors an atmosphere of institutional and legal security — in his words, “a rule of the law” that has made Costa Rica’s institutionality respected and praised at the international level. “In the end, if Costa Rica rejects the TLC, that would mean the country is distancing itself from the path it has followed during its best periods of growth,” Ruiz said. Costa Rica has maintained an important growth rate even as it remains the only country that hasn’t ratified CAFTA, but Ruiz said this trend would only hold up as long as the country doesn’t become isolated from key trade deals with strategic markets. In the opinion of the Foreign Trade head, approving the TLC would create many formal jobs for Costa Ricans, which would benefit the delivery of services from the state to the people — formal jobs, for example, mean more social security contributions, which helps the Social Security System (Caja) improve the country’s health and welfare system. “It’s necessary that Costa Rica generate sources of formal employment for those 50,000 Ticos who join the labor force every year,” Ruiz concluded.
Living the ‘Guanacastequidad’! (Infocom) — Guanacaste is a province rich in culture, traditions, customs and uniquely Costa Rican landscapes — and that’s why it celebrated its significant contributions to Costa Rica’s identity through various activities paying homage to the “guanacastequidad” — the unique way of life in the province. Aware of the importance of rescuing those attributes that are particular to the province, the Ministry of Public Education (MEP) began implementing four years ago the program “Let’s Live the Guanacastequidad,” aimed at fomenting students’ interest and knowledge of different Guanacaste traditions. As part of that initiative, MEP designated July 24 as “Day of the Guanacastequidad” — a time to celebrate through festivals in the different cantons, all of which are organized by MEP’s Regional Offices located in Liberia, Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Cañas. This year’s “Guanacastequidad Festival” — the third ever held — was organized by the Liberia Regional Office, which put on a show featuring a parade full of traditional sights, which toured the city’s main streets and ended a the Hector Zuñiga Rovira Park. Floats, traditional dances, masquerades and oxcarts were all part of the festival. The parade included delegations from 37 schools from the province’s four regional offices. There were also representatives from public universities, MEP, the Red Cross and Integral Development Associations. MEP was supported by the Ministry of Culture and Youth’s (MCJ) Regional Culture Office and the National University for Distance Education (UNED) — which is turning 30 this
Vol 3 • Edition 98 Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007 Costa Rica, Central America
OUR TEAM MARKETING, SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Miguel Chacón-Vargas, General Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: +506 392-5500 Marta Araya, Marketing & Sales Manager E-mail: email@example.com Tel: +506 665-6202 NEWSROOM: Carlos Eduardo Vargas, Director - Editor E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Mauricio Espinoza, Copy editor DESIGN & PRODUCTION: Jorge Zeledón Gina Zeledón Tel: +506 250-6645 E-mail: email@example.com Guancastecans celebrated their traditions, customs and values during the “Day of the Guanacastequidad,” July 24, when many schools showed the best of their cultural repertoire. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
year and is also organizing a series of workshops and cultural exhibits. “This is a way to celebrate everything Guanacaste. We are highlighting our cultural contributions to Costa Rica, strengthening our identity so it doesn’t disappear,” explained Lydisabel Clachar, promoter of the “Let’s Live the Guanacastequidad” program at the Liberia Regional Office. The festival lasted three days, coinciding with the celebration of the Partido de Nicoya’s annexation to Costa Rica, July 25. Other ac-
tivities included cultural micro-business fair, mask-making and painting workshops, concerts, theater, book exhibits and a National Popular Culture Gallery exhibit. Maria Auxiliadora Obando, of the Liberia Regional Office, highlighted the need to “stick to the province’s realities” to offer better-quality education. “We need to love what’s ours, strengthen our identity and values. Our cultural heritage must be enriched. Let’s feel proud of being Guanacastecans,” she said.
THE JOURNAL ®
The Journal is a weekly English-language newspaper with headquarters in Liberia, Guanacaste. Infocom ® Infocom is part of Infocomunicaciones GMBH S.A. and provides the most of the Costa Rica and Central America news content. Edited & produced by Infocomunicaciones Gmbh S.A. and Suplex S.A. Liberia-Guanacaste Tel: +506 665-6203, +506 665-6202 Fax: +506 665-6204 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
EDITORIAL / OPINION
Art for celebrating Guanacaste Guanacaste province is full of traditions and the main contributor to Costa Rica’s national identity. With its dances, music, poetry, language and people, it shows itself as the face of the country’s identity. This fertile land has given birth to many great artists, composers that with their notes have touched the hearts of Guancastecans and Costa Ricans in general. What Costa Rican doesn’t feel a stronger sense of belonging to this land when he or she hears the songs “Amor de Temporada,” “Caballito Nicoyano,” “Luna Liberiana,” or “Punto Guanacasteco.” Hector Zuñiga, Jesus Bonilla and many others have left an artistic and folkloric legacy that has motivated and continues to motivate Costa Ricans to feel part of a collective. A country’s cultural expressions must serve that purpose: uniting, boosting the sense of belonging.
This country has a tradition of respecting cultural expressions and the voices of its people. Part of the national idiosyncrasy has been to use poetry, music and all sorts of cultural expressions in an environment of respect for one another and tolerance of each other. We have an array of cultural expressions for each occasion, and there’s a sense of being proper and not offensive when using them for different festivities. On July 25, such as solemn day for Guanacaste, when the province and all of Costa Rica celebrate its decision to voluntarily annex to Costa Rica, the most appropriate thing to do is to highlight what it means to be Guanacastecan and the province’s contributions to the whole country. And even though it is also a time to look at the past and the future, one must find the appropriate way to do so.
By Thomas L. Friedman Over dinner with friends in London the other night, the conversation drifted to global warming and whether anything was really being done to reverse it. One guest, Sameh El-Shahat, a furniture designer, heaped particular scorn on programs that enable people to offset their excessive carbon emissions by funding green projects elsewhere. “Who really checks that it’s being done?” he asked. And how much difference does
All that has been mentioned above has to do with the recent inappropriate situation President Oscar Arias was subjected to, when a poem with content somewhat disrespectful given his position and the nature of the celebration, was read in front of him. Trying to analyze whether or not what the author of this poem wrote is true would take many lines, and to be able to demonstrate or refute the validity of such statements may perhaps require the opinions of experts, economic indicators, population indexes, legal documents and more — and that’s why we won’t attempt to do so here. The point we want to make is that art and cultural expressions, and especially those shown at celebrations such as that of July 25, should seek to unite us and not divide us: congregation over separation.
There are probably other places and times, less solemn, when poetry of this type can be read. The difference in thoughts and opinions when it comes to making art should not be a reason for disrespecting those whose job is to lead the country. The author of the above mentioned poem said his purpose was to show those in public service Guanacaste’s reality. And an artist with a different perspective very well could have written a poem to “show Guanacaste’s reality” from his point of view. That would leave us with “two Guanacaste realities,” which is the same as saying, two different points of view. That is completely valid. However, we repeat, what we want to indicate is that that wasn’t the time nor the place to express such point of view.
Live bad, go green it really make? But then he hit on an ingenious idea: If people really want to generate money to plant trees or finance green power, why not have them offset their real sins, not just their carbon excesses? We started to play with his idea: Imagine if you could offset the whole Ten Commandments. No, really, think about it. Imagine if there were a Web site – I’d call it GreenSinai.com – where every time you thought you had violated one of the Ten Commandments, or you wanted
to violate one of them but did not want to feel guilty about it, you could buy carbon credits to offset your sins. The motto of Britain’s Conservative Party today is “Vote Blue, Go Green.” GreenSinai’s motto could be: “Live Bad, Go Green.” That would generate some income. Here’s how it would work: One day, you’re out in the backyard mowing the lawn and suddenly you covet your neighbor’s wife. Hey, it happens – that’s why “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is one of the Ten Commandments. No problem. You just go to GreenSinai.com and buy 100 trees in the Amazon or fund a project to capture methane from cow dung in India – and like magic you’re free and clear. Obviously there would be a sliding scale. Taking God’s name in vain or erecting an idol might cost you only a few solar water heaters for a Chinese village, whereas bearing false witness or stealing would cost you a pilot sugar ethanol plant in Louisiana. As for adultery, well, I think that’s where the big money could be made. My guess is that we could achieve a carbon-neutral world by 2020 if we just set up a system for people to offset their adultery by reversing deforestation of tropical rain forests or funding mega wind and solar power systems in China and India. OK, OK, more seriously, I raise this issue of carbon offsets because they’re symptomatic of the larger problem we face in confronting climate change: Everyone wants it to happen, but without pain or sacrifice. On balance, I think carbon-offsetting is a good thing – my family has purchased offsets – If for no other reason than it directs resources toward clean technologies that might not have been funded and, therefore, moves us down the innovation curve faster. But the danger, argues Michael Sandel, Harvard’s noted political philosopher, “is that
carbon offsets will become, at least for some, a painless mechanism to buy our way out of the more fundamental changes in habits, attitudes and way of life that are actually required to address the climate problem.” “If someone drives a Hummer and buys carbon offsets to salve his conscience, that is better than driving the Hummer and doing nothing,” added Sandel, author of “The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering.” “But it would be even better to trade in the Hummer for a hybrid. The risk is that carbon offsets will make Hummers seem respectable rather than irresponsible, and distract us, as a nation, from harder, bigger changes in our energy policy.” People often refer to the current climate buzz as “a green revolution,” but the very term revolution suggests a fundamental break with past habits, attitudes and public policies. Yet, when you suggest a carbon tax or a higher gasoline tax – initiatives that would redirect resources and change habits at the scale actually needed to impact global warming – what is the first thing you hear in Congress? “Impossible – you can’t use the T-word.” A revolution without sacrifice where everyone is a winner? There’s no such thing. Katherine Ellison wrote a wonderful piece on this topic for Salon.com in which she quoted Stephen Schneider, the Stanford University climatologist, as saying: “Volunteerism doesn’t work. It’s about as effective as voluntary speed limits. No cops, no judges: road carnage. No rules, no fines: greenhouse gases. We’re going to triple or quadruple the CO2 in the atmosphere with no policy. I don’t believe offsets are just a distraction. But we’ll have failed if that’s all we do.” There’s a saying at the Pentagon that “a vision without resources is a hallucination.” To my thinking, the green revolution today is still a hallucination.
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The views expressed in the commentaries do not necessarily reflect the views The Journal. The Journal publishes the ideas and opinions of individuals as expressed through letters to the editor or other commentaries but reserves the right to not print any submission as per the discretion of the newspaper.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
Duty-free shops to open at Liberia airport (Infocom) — Starting in October, tourists entering or leaving the country via the Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia will have the opportunity to buy duty-free products, as the Social Welfare Mixed Institute (IMAS) will open two new stores there. The initiative will become a reality thanks to an agreement signed between IMAS and the Civil Aviation Technical Council (CETAC), which is in charge of airport management, at the July 25 President’s Cabinet meeting held in Liberia to commemorate Guanacaste’s annexation to Costa Rica. The stores — the first of their kind at the airport — are just one of the mechanisms IMAS takes advantage of to finance programs aimed at assisting low-income families. According to IMAS estimates, the stores will generate some 500 million colones (nearly $1 million) in revenue from October to December of 2007, while annual revenue would be approximately 2 billion colones ($3.8 million). These funds will then be invested in housing projects or scholarships intended to reduce student dropout rates. According to Jose Antonio Li, IMAS executive president, the stores will open once all market studies aimed at determining which products would generate the most revenue are
Jose Antonio Li, executive president of IMAS, and Viviana Martin, CETAC president and Transportation Vice Minister, signed an agreement to open two duty-free shops at the Liberia airport, whose revenue will go to financing programs to assist the poor.
completed. “The appearance of the facilities and market demand are very important to consider. We need to sell products that have a very high rotation and good profit margins, so that we can maximize revenue to help families,” said Li, who added that items such as fine liquor and perfumes are among those expected to generate high profit margins. The state institution will also pay close attention to international regulations that prohibit the transport of certain products, so as to implement guidelines that will help avoid losses in sales. The shops, which will occupy a 112 square meter area inside the airport, will create 16 direct jobs and another 40 indirect positions for people of the region Li highlighted the way both institutions, IMAS and CETAC, put aside their differences to meet the goal of helping those Costa Ricans most at risk. “There were disagreements between both institutions that were jeopardizing this effort to assist poor families, as IMAS owed monies to CETAC since 1998, which prevented us from opening the stores,” Li said. “But we were able to work out the differences and we will have the stores finally open in October.”
New flights help bring in more UK tourists (Infocom) — Thanks to the implementation of a direct flight from London to Liberia, Costa Rica has begun a stepped up promotional effort in the United Kingdom that is already paying dividends. A marketing plan to sell Costa Rica as a top destination for British tourists, conducted mostly by English travel agencies, is doing the trick. According to tourism businesses and representatives from UK travel agencies, the arrival of English tourists in Costa Rica has practically doubled in the past few months. The growth became evident starting in May, when British airline First Choice launched its nonstop service from London to Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport. The flight, which arrives in Liberia every Monday and will continue to do so at least until August, motivated travel agencies to pitch Costa Rica to British travelers as an ideal vacation spot, complete with adventure destinations, tropical climate and lots of natural attractions. On average, English tourists visiting Costa Rica are spending two-three weeks here, investing some $6,000 per family, per week, according to Maria Barquero, outreach manager at Guanacaste’s Hotel Punta Islita. “The English are looking for destinations that offer them things different from what other places, such as the United States, usually offer. They want adventure and lots of nature,” said Richard Bexon, owner of the British travel agency Costa Rica Holiday, which markets tour packages in England from its San Jose office. “We serve customers from
The fligh of the British airline First Choice arrives in Liberia every Monday from London to Liberia’s Daniel Oduber International Airport.
all of Europe, but now they are 90 percent from the United Kingdom, as the interest has grown a lot since the flight from London became available.” The English businessman said that since May, the arrival of tourists from the UK — which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has grown 100 percent or even more. “Now there might be 100 tourists from the United Kingdom coming here in a bad month,
and up to 500 during the high season (counting only those brought by Costa Rica Holiday),” added Bexon, who hopes the growing interest among the English and Scottish to know Costa Rica will motivate other carriers, such as British Airways, to offer new direct flights to the country. Costa Rica Holiday promotes the country through the Internet and through tourism publications.
The company is also starting a new program in England, through its tour operators, that offers special packages to retirees who wish to spend the rest of their days in a quiet tropical country. Other agencies that promote Costa Rica in the United Kingdom are Thomas Cook and First Choice itself. Punta Islita’s Barquero said the number of British guests at her hotel has increased at least 50 percent since May. About a quarter of these visitors come here to celebrate their honeymoon, while half of them come to Costa Rica just for vacation, she indicated. In addition to the new nonstop flight, Barquero said another aspect that has helped Costa Rica become better known in the United Kingdom is the fact that the country received the World Travel and Tourism Council’s investment award — which was covered by two of England’s most important newspapers, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. “United Kingdom tourists like responsible and sustainable tourism a lot, and also like to become involved with the community. They can find all of that in Costa Rica,” Barquero said. According to a survey conducted by Costa Rica Holiday, some of the UK tourists’ favorite hotels are La Mansion Arenal, Punta Islita, Latitud 10, Peace Lodge, Aguila de Osa Inn, Lapa Rios, Grano de Oro, Four Seasons, Hotel Gaia and Makanda by the Sea. Overall tourist influx in Costa Rica is expected to grow 4 percent this year, thanks to the increase in flights from airlines such as Iberia and Delta, in addition to the arrival of new carriers such as Air Comet and Frontier.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Arias renews commitment to Guanacaste (Infocom) — Costa Rican President Oscar Arias thanked Guanacastecans for their show of affection and reiterated his government’s commitment to the province, during a special meeting of the President’s Cabinet that took place in the city of Liberia July 25 to commemorate the 183th anniversary of the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya to Costa Rica. The President and his Cabinet offered reports of progress to Guanacaste’s people inside the building that will house the future Guanacaste Museum. Before the Cabinet session, Arias attended the official July 25 celebration in the canton of Nicoya, where the local government made some requests related to road infrastructure and health. In Liberia, Mayor Carlos Marin took advantage of the occasion to make several requests, among them construction of a bridge above the Pan American Highway to help ease traffic jams; implementation of mechanisms to ensure the canton’s water supply availability and treatment of its wastewater; construction of an alternate route leading to the Daniel Oduber International Airport; and the creation of a forensic medicine center for the region. Meanwhile, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias said the Cabinet will take advantage of the special visit to unveil several road network projects recently completed and tour different parts of the province to see firsthand what their needs are. President Arias pointed out Guanacaste is not the same today as it was before, which makes it even more important to continue working hard to face the challenges the region
The President and his Cabinet offered reports of progress to Guanacaste’s people inside the building that will house the future Guanacaste Museum. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
is experience in the area of economic development. “I want to try to keep the promises we made while campaigning. That’s why were are improving the main roads leading to new hotels; more than $150 million have been invested in repairs to the PanAmerican Highway North,” said the President, who added advances in the social arena have also taken place. Arias indicated it is urgent to finalize the concession of the Liberia airport due to the growing foreign private investment here. “This airport is definitely of great importance to the country,” he said.
Guanacaste projects and initiatives
During the Cabinet meeting, several ministers and executive presidents of autonomous institutions spoke about the efforts that have been made to improve the quality of life of Guanacaste’s inhabitants. Transportation Minister Karla Gonzalez said the bidding documents are almost ready that will make it possible to pick a concessionaire to build Daniel Oduber’s new terminal — a process she pointed out “needs to be done quickly.” “We are going to reward the com-
pany that offers the fastest design and construction schedule. This is a very ambitious project, but very doable. We are now working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to get help preparing a Master Plan, as the next stage in the development of the airport is cargo operation,” Gonzalez said. Once the period for receiving bids closes, the project will be given in concession. The hope is that the new terminal will be finished by early 2009. Gonzalez also indicated that MOPT will continue working on the main highways of the province to improve the overall road network. Other projects include an agreement signed between the Social Welfare Mixed Institute (IMAS) and the Civil Aviation Technical Council (CETAC), which will allow the first to open two duty-free stores at the Liberia airport, with all proceeds going toward implementation of programs to help low-income families. Moreover, the Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) announced several projects that will benefit some of Guanacaste’s cantons. Housing Minister Fernando Zumbado said his office will continue providing home financing bonds throughout the province, as well as scholarships to students to help curtail dropout rates.
‘CAFTA is a tool to fight poverty’
President Arias also took advantage of the visit to defend the government’s position to support the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United
States, which he called “a tool for (Costa Rica) to get out of poverty.” During his speeches, Arias listed the accomplishments of his government during his first year in power, including providing financial assistance to poor families, beefing up public security, and increasing the amount of the pensions given to seniors and handicapped people. He said these accomplishments are proof that his administration’s goal is to benefit the country’s poor, and not the rich. “That’s why we have the credibility to promote the TLC (as the trade deal is known locally) as a key tool to fight poverty in Costa Rica. As I have said many times, the TLC is not made for the rich, because they don’t need our help. The TLC is made for the poor, those who have to count their change to be able to buy food, those who stop eating meat for a month because their income is not enough,” the President claimed. Likewise, Arias that the insults from his opponents “don’t matter” to him, as he is concerned with actions and not with words. “They can provide the insults; we will provide the results as our response,” he said. Arias finished his speech calling on all Guanacastecans to show up to vote “yes” in the upcoming Oct. 7 referendum that will decided the fate of CAFTA in Costa Rica. “If we truly want to be a just, equitable, prosperous and caring nation, then we better choose the tools that will allow us to be so. We better accept our responsibility to decided that is convenient to us,” he concluded.
New university campus will be built in Guanacaste (Infocom) — The National University (UNA) will have open a new campus in the Chorotega Region, with the goal of serving Guanacaste’s growing needs in academic and professional training. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias was the special guest at a groundbreaking ceremony last week, along with UNA Olman Segura. The campus will be located in Liberia, joining UNA’s Nicoya campus, which was established in 1973 and now has 1,200 students from different parts of the province. The campus will have 7,890 square meters of construction on 15 hectares. Investment for the first phase of the project is close to $4.7 million, which will include a 16-classroom module, library,
cafeteria, services area, security post, a park and landscaped areas, among others. Construction is expected to begin in 2008 and will last a year. The new campus will help strengthen projects that UNA already has planned for the Chorotega Region, including opening new majors and an interdisciplinary program for developing micro and small business in the area. Arias said he was very proud, as his life has always been connected to the growth of higher education by participating in the creation of two of the top universities in the country, UNA and the Costa Rican Technology Institute (ITCR). “Anyone we keep from accessing education we are condemning to poverty. To govern is to
choose, but also to educate,” said Arias, who added that the growth Guanacaste is experiencing requires high-quality professionals to help guide it. The President also indicated he hopes UNA will put emphasis on offering technology and engineering programs, with the goal of satisfying the current demand for professionals in the region. Segura said this new campus represents a way to honor the public university’s mission, which is to form quality professionals committed to society — who will contribute their knowledge to the province’s sustainable development. “For us, it’s a way of saying that we are present
in places that need us. We have a growing population in Guanacaste, made up of young people who need to be educated, who need sources of employment. On the other hand, we have a large number of companies and developments that need these young people and that need to change their ways of production to make it more sustainable through science and technology,” Segura explained. The rector added that UNA is already holding conversations with other state institutions in the province and the Guanacaste campus of EARTH University to coordinate action plans that will satisfactorily meet the needs of the country.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias was the special guest at a groundbreaking ceremony last week, along with UNA Olman Segura. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Classic puts Guanacaste on the links (Infocom) — Guanacaste was all golf recently, as the 5th Annual Guanacaste Classic Tournament, organized by Hacienda Pinilla and Reserva Conchal, put the province on the links. The competition, which attracted 120 local and foreign golfers, was held in two stages. The first took place at Hacienda Pinilla, where participants played with the team of their choice. The second stage moved to Reserva Conchal, where the finals were held and golfers were placed in groups according to the results of the
previous day. A total of 36 holes were played in two categories, gross and net. The winner in the gross category was Costa Rican golfer Alvaro Ortiz, who led the competition by accumulating a total of 135 strikes. Second and third were U.S. competitors Joseph Havarty, with 152 strikes, and Norman Warren, who finished with 155 strikes. “It’s always a pleasure to come to this tournamente and support Guanacaste’s golf,” said Ortiz, who in 2002 won the professional
category of the Guanacaste Classic. Ortiz added that he ample knowledge he has of the course helped win the competition. In the professional category, first place went to Albert Evers. Trailing him were Alejandro Duque and Christian Morera. The Guanacaste Classic has become of the most important tournaments of the region, drawing high-level players from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Belgium, Spain and Nicaragua. Throughout the competition, golfers had the opportunity to participate in a raffle handing
out juicy prizes courtesy of the sponsors if they made a hole in one. At the awards ceremony, the winner received their trophies — while all participants got different products courtesy of the sponsors. Five thousand dollars in prizes were also awarded to the top five golfers in the professional category. The Reserva Conchal course was designed by Robert Trent Jones II, faithful to the most classic tradition of the game. With a length of 6,953 yards from the golden tees, this par-71 course offers spacious fairways and multiple tee options.
Communities received donations from UNICEF
The second stage moved to Reserva Conchal, where the finals were held and golfers were placed in groups according to the results of the previous day. A total of 36 holes were played in two categories, gross and net. THE JOURNAL/Infocom
Rodolfo Osorio, UNICEF program officer, handed a donation of musical instruments to Silvia Delgado, president of the Pro-Children Development Association of the Liberia Canton. THE JOURNAL/ Infocom.
(Infocom) — Schools and children-protection associations from Liberia and Santa Cruz have been lent a helping had to continue their work stimulating interest in culture and making good use of leisure time among kids. More than 80 children and teenagers from low-income schools received a donation of musical instruments and traditional garments from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — a contribution intended to benefit not only school bands and dance groups, but also the entire communities through their Integral Development Associations. The instruments — among them marimbas, xylophones and guitars — were acquired thanks to the funds gathered through the “Los Niños Primero” (Children First) campaign, which took place between November 2006 and January 2007 with support from wholesaler PriceSmart. The $65,000 the campaign yielded will help finance different projects that UNICEF and other allied organizations will implement in Costa Rican communities. According to UNICEF, Costa Rican youths have few spaces available to play sports or become involved in cultural or healthy recreational activities, which may contribute to increasing levels of drug use and juvenile delinquency. In an effort to counteract this trend, UNICEF, together with the National Development Associations Directorate (DINADECO), is
supporting projects that provide sport and music supplies to low-income areas, in addition to sponsoring cultural festivals and the creation of spaces such as recreational parks and libraries. “These activities are part of the community intervention strategy for protecting children and adolescents, which began during the past government in an effort to establish a National Children Protection System (SNPI),” explained Rodolfo Osorio, UNICEF program officer. The national system is bringing together social sector institutions, community organizations and development associations with the aim of creating Children Protection Committees, whose establishment is stipulated within the country’s Children Code. Osorio said DINDECO’s help has been fundamental for strengthening SNPI’s community base and bring it closer to those communities. For example, while there were 30 committees four years ago, now there are nearly 400. “This means there are some 2,000 people volunteering their work for children, who previously were not doing so,” Osorio pointed out. In the case of Liberia, the donation of musical instruments was the first given by the project to an association exclusively dedicated to protecting children, the Pro-Children Development Association of the Liberia Canton.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Guanacaste’s roads to be fixed all year long (Infocom) — Due to the growth of tourism in the province and its constant agricultural production, the Ministry of Transportation and Public Infrastructure (MOPT) has decided to invest in a pilot plan that would provide Guanacaste with machinery and materials to fix roads on a permanent basis. As part of the plan, MOPT will set up roadwork stations at strategic points to increase its response
capabilities when highways — many of them in important tourist areas — need urgent repairs. The ministry is investing approximately $1.5 million in buying equipment such as dump trucks, excavators, loaders and graders, according to MOPT’s press office. The Comptroller General’s Office has already authorized MOPT to carry out a direct purchase for this project, which means the equipment contract
will be awarded in the next few weeks. MOPT will also invest some $700,000 in contracting the services of companies to repair outdated machinery still in operation throughout the country. According to the ministry, the roadwork stations will be established to help municipalities and other community groups improve the condition of the Chorotega region’s road network,
allowing for better coordination among the different sectors involved in this work. Among other things, the project involves studying the condition of current stations to decide if they meet today’s road maintenance needs, in addition to deploying human resources and equipment in priority areas, from where they can extend their work to serve other parts of the province.
AutoStar comes to Guanacaste with its top vehicle brands July is Guanacaste’s month. For those who take part of the deep-rooted traditions of this province, the warmth of its people, and the beauty of its beaches, volcanoes, rives and mountains, July increases their sense of belonging to the highest level of pride. The AutoStar Liberia store is coming to this province to join Guanacastecans, and July is the best month to do so.
transportation professionals, who will be able to provide better maintenance to their vehicles now because the dealership also features a parts store and a repair shop that specializes in the brands AutoStar sells — with personnel properly trained so that owners will have total peace of mind. Müller added that the company has, in San Jose, a regional training center for all of Central America, another reason for AutoStar customers to trust the company even more.
AutoStar Vehiculos S.A. — which distributes top brands such as Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Freightliner — has pointed its northstar toward this province, inserting itself in the development boom that characterizes Guanacaste in the current times. In July, AutoStar opened its Liberia dealership, where it’s implementing its total customer service philosophy.
Mr. Ivan Deliens, who is in charge of the new AutoStar dealership, said the decision to come to Liberia has been well thought about and that it will contribute to the province’s development and the satisfaction of its inhabitants. Deliens added that because there are many new foreign residents in Guanacaste who already know the reputation of AutoStar’s car brand names, the company will definitely work close with them as they seek out these products. Doing this from San Jose would have been more complicated, so the company decided to move closer to these customers.
A company like AutoStar, which distributes such renowned car names, must not be absent from a province where development is at its peak and which demands the presence of this kind of companies. Those who may think that AutoStar only sells automobiles are wrong. AutoStar has come here to develop close relationships with Guanacastecans, tourists and new residents of the province. This means the company doesn’t see individuals as car buyers only, and that’s where the relationship end. Not at all. AutoStar sees people who need service, and providing an integral solution is the reason for this company’s existence.
Present at the AutoStar Liberia’s inaugural ceremony were Bernd Müller (blue shirt), administrative director of the company for international German automaker Daimler Chrysler, who said opening the dealership in Liberia was imperative for AutoStar. To his left is Ivan Deliens, who will be in charge of the new store.
The development Guanacaste is experiencing has markedly improved the buying power of its inhabitants and brought prosperity to companies in the region. Foreigners also fall in love with the beauty and hospitality of this land and establish a residence here. It is natural now for these people to think about purchasing higher-quality vehicles such as the ones AutoStar offers.
This dealership expects to have an important role in Guanacaste’s car market, with a goal of placing 100-150 units the first year. “We are confident we will have good participation in the market the first year, and the growth will be exponential after that. Our goal is to be the leaders in vehicle distribution in Guanacaste, and our exclusive 4x4 models will help us do that,” Deliens pointed out. He indicated that the company also wants to be a player in Guanacaste’s development, promoting tourism, identifying itself with environmental causes, social outreach projects, and many more.
In addition, the province’s geography and road infrastructure make four-wheel-drive vehicles a hot item, and there’s no other dealership in the country that offers more 4x4 models as AutoStar. The opening of AutoStar’s Liberia store was characterized by the friendship and hospitality of a company that has learned how to interiorize those values, which are very distinctive of Costa Ricans in general and Guanacastecans in particular. Present at the inaugural ceremony were many members of the company’s service team, led by Bernd Müller, administrative director of AutoStar Vehiculos S.A. for German international carmaker Daimler Chrysler, who said
Deliens also spoke about the personalized service that characterizes this company, and said that the operation in Guanacaste will be based on the same foundation. “We not only want to sell cars, but also want to provide complete service. For example, if a foreigner wants to come here and spend three months and asks us for a vehicle with total maintenance ready for him when he arrives at the airport, then we’ll do it, And if he needs something else for his own convenience, we’ll do that too.”
upon deciding to expand outside of the Central Valley, the logical destination was Guanacaste, and here it is now.
For example, AutoStar has announced that next year it will form the “Club Jeep” for owners and lovers of this car make. The company will organize different activities, such as tours, to help expand the tourism industry. Other efforts would include cleaning up tourist sites, for instance.
Mr. Müller highlighted that AustoStar has arrived to cooperate with Guanacaste’s development, offering better conditions for travelers and
The Liberia store of AutoStar Vehiculos S.A. is located 7 km east of the Daniel Oduber International Airport, on the road to Liberia.
One of AutoStar’s strengths is the distribution of 4x4 vehicles such as Jeep, which are ideal for the Guanacaste region.
that this company is driven by a combination of German work philosophy and Costa Rican service and work values — all of which results in total satisfaction for those who come to AutoStar. This company has been in Costa Rica for the past four years, but only in San Jose, with stores in Curridabat and Escazu. And
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Reflections on the medieval climatic anomaly
By Frederick W. Lange
From time to time I have written a contribution for The Journal that weaves a connection between my present work in the archaeology of California and my prior and ongoing interest in the archaeology of Greater Nicoya. This article is another such case. Recently, I was reviewing some material for one of our projects here, when I came across information about the period known as the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA). A number of authors stated that this was a time of increased aridity that coincided with a pattern of population reduction and subsistence crises across much of western North America. Other articles noted that much less was known about parallel climatic changes in Central and South America. What caught my attention was the time period they addressed: the interval between 800 and 1,350 A.D., or from 1,200 to 650 years ago. This 550-year period was a time of major changes in Greater Nicoya. While we do not yet have good environmental data from Greater Nicoya, we can assess the archaeological record for possible clues. Here we focus primarily on data related to (a) the deterioration of long distance networks, (b) population decrease, (c) site and regional abandonments, and (d) occupational hiatuses. What is the data for Greater Nicoya? Does our knowledge of the MCA suggest new interpretations? The multitude of cultural changes in Greater Nicoya, many negative, reflect more widespread crises related to population/subsistence imbalances, drought-related environmental deterioration, and shortages of food and water in previously inhabitable locations. A few details:
(a) The deterioration of long distance networks
Archaeologically, we have demonstrated a decline in contact with southern Mesoamerica
Las Marias site, on the Bay of Salinas, shows signs that human activity took place there after the harsh, drought-plagued period known as Medieval Climatic Anomaly — unlike many other sites in Greater Nicoya. The reason may be that this site had easy access to Lake Nicaragua and the Sapoa River.
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during this interval. Heretofore this has been interpreted as a decrease in dependence on relationships with Mesoamerica and the growth of strong regional traditions in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Is it possible that a prolonged drought throughout Central America caused a breakdown in connections between Greater Nicoya and southern Mesoamerica? Greater Nicoya ceramics from the interval utilized generalized Mesoamerican symbols that many pre-Columbian art historians have characterized as representing indirect rather than direct contacts. Could these Greater Nicoya artisans have been cut off and were making up symbols from memory?
(b) Population decrease
Significant growth in coastal populations in Guanacaste has been demonstrated archaeologically from the beginning of the MCA. Earlier studies have concluded, not without challenges, that this was an expansion of resource use because of the growth of populations in the central highlands of Guanacaste. What about the alternate interpretation that as a prolonged drought reduced water sources and resource vegetation (and related fauna) in the interior, people moved to the coast to the less desirable but edible marine resources? Fresh water would have been available from the occasional coastal spring and in the nearby Tempisque and Sapoa rivers in Costa Rica and from Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua.
(c) Site and regional abandonment
Most sites on the Nicoya Peninsula and in the isthmus of Rivas were abandoned after 1,350 A.D. The only sites that continued to be occupied after this interval were those with easy access to Lake Nicaragua and the water of the Tempisque River. None of the more than 70 sites on the Bay of Culebra have indications of occupation after this interval, while Las Marias on the Bay of Salinas, with easy access to Lake Nicaragua and the Sapoa River, does. South of San Juan del Sur, preliminary excavations at the La Tortuga Farm also revealed no post MCA interval occupation, and such occupation is also lacking at sites on the isthmus of Rivas. However, Ometepe Island
has extensive post MCA-interval archaeological deposits.
(d) Occupational hiatuses
Was the Late Period depopulation in much of Guanacaste a site and regional abandonment or a drought-episode based on occupational hiatus? We can speculate that it may have been planned as an occupational hiatus because of drought, and then became a permanent abandonment as a result of the Spanish invasion. Perhaps the cruelest aspect of the MCA was the fluctuation between wet and dry periods, although both types of episodes lasted for multiple generations. During the MCA, there may have been as many as three major droughts and two definite wet periods. Why do I say this cycle of dry and wet was “cruel”? Precisely because during the wet periods the vegetation and animals prospered, surface water made more locations inhabitable, and there were more plants to cultivate, or gather and collect, and more animals to hunt. Population growth would have been relatively rapid. Then, the other part of the cycle, drought and resulting death by hunger because of reduced subsistence resources — or if not death, forced migration — would have resulted. Answers from the archaeological record are seldom obtained without asking the right questions. To date, the Medieval Climatic Anomaly has not been considered in terms of either cultural or environmental data during research in Greater Nicoya. Perhaps with the challenging possibilities, and exciting potential results, outlined above, this will change. Frederick W. Lange has a doctoral degree in anthropology, awarded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971. He is the author of the recently published book Before Guanacaste, a popular account of the first 10,000 years of this wonderful place. The books is available at Jaime Peligro Book Store in Tamarindo, the Café Britt Book Store at Peninsula de Papagayo, and in Libreria Internacional bookstores in San Jose.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
WEEK IN BRIEF
BUSINESS & ECONOMY Scotiabank and Interfin to merge in September (El Financiero) — Scotiabank and Interfin will merge in September, and the group will be known only as Scotiabank. The Canadian bank had announced its plans to acquire Interfin in June 2006. Through the merger, customers will be able to use any 40 offices both banks have in the country. Seven more will be added by the end of 2007. Scotiabank is also planning to expand to other Central American countries.
HBSC begins banking in Costa Rica (Inside Costa Rica) —Banex bank signs went down and were replaced by HSBC signs last week, as the British financial giant began operations in Costa Rica. HSBC is one of the largest banking and financial services organizations in the world, calling itself the “world’s local bank.” HSBC bought out Grupo Banistmo, owner of Banco Banex in Costa Rica, for $1.7 billion. HSBC Costa Rica is being headed by Sergio Ruiz, who said that the London-based bank came to Costa Rica to stay as part of its long-term plans to attract clients from all sectors of the market with diverse and new products. HSBC Costa Rica has plans to expand to 100 branches from the current 40 and add more employees to the 1,200-member staff it inherited from Banex — who have been trained in HSBC operations and high standards of customer service, according to HSBC operations manager David Duncan. HSBC joins Scotiabank in purchasing a local bank to get a foothold in Costa Rica. Scotiabank Costa Rica, part of the Canadian Bank
of Nova Scotia, last year purchased the largest private bank in Costa Rica, Interfin, and is currently in the process of converting the Interfin branches under the Scotiabank system. The changeover is expected to be completed by next month.
Guanacaste small businesses receive support (La Nacion) — Many Guanacaste small and medium businesses, especially in the tourism sector, will be able to modernize their operations by purchasing computer equipment thanks to an agreement signed by the Ministry of the Economy, Banco Popular and the Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (Caturgua), which will provide them with low-interest loans. The idea behind the project is that those companies will use the technology to sell their products and services to larger businesses operating in the province. The Ministry of the Economy also committed to creating Web sites for 30 businesses chosen by Caturgua, as well as to providing training in areas such as English language, preparation and presentation of rooms and cocktails, customer service, etc.
Central Bank sets target inflation rate at 8 percent (La Nacion) — The Costa Rican Central Bank has set a target inflation rate of 8 percent for 2007 and announced that in 2008 it hopes the rate will go down to 6 percent. Central Bank President Francisco de Paula Gutierrez said that according to some consumer indexes, inflation will be 9.52 percent by the end of the year. But another price index known as “subjacent” — which excludes
the prices of fuel and others — indicates 2007 will close at 6.88 percent. He added that current band exchange system will be kept, so that it can “consolidate” in the second half of this year.
Costa Rica exported 15 percent more in first semester of 2007 (El Financiero) — Costa Rican exports grew by 15 percent the first half of the year, according to data from the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Total sales reached $4.6 billion. The food industry showed the greatest growth, with 36 percent; agriculture and fishing grew the least, 9.1 percent. Computer chips exports grew by 21 percent. Exports from free-trade zones also grew in this
period, 18 percent, for a total of $2.4 billion.
13 new companies begin investing in Costa Rica (El Financiero) — The Costa Rican Development Initiatives Coalition (Cinde) announced that in the first half of 2007, 13 new companies have invested in Costa Rica in areas such as software development, automotive products manufacturing, engineering, financial services and architectural design, among others. These companies will help create 2,500 new jobs. Last year, 27 new companies established operations in the country, investing $412 million and generating 6,300 job
SOCIETY Experts fear eruption of Turrialba Volcano (Inside Costa Rica) — Due to Turrialba Volcano’s intense activity and its continued emission of gases and smoke, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) has decided to maintain the eastern Cartago province national park closed. The closure was confirmed last week by CNE official Reynaldo Carballo. The week before that, CNE had restricted visitor access to the park as the volcano had become very active during more than a month. Experts believe the volcano could erupt, spewing out gases and sediment, though most likely not lava. Turrialba last erupted in 1864 and 1866. Since 1996, the volcano’s activity has been low. However, this year Turrialba has shown increased activity, especially seismic, and also spewing out columns of gas and vapor.
Bill seeks to standardize use of national symbols, anthem (Inside Costa Rica) — A bill, proposed by a Colombian family who feels “Tico at heart,” seeks to set the record — and the musical notes and colors, mind you — straight when it comes
to using Costa Rica’s national anthem and other patriotic symbols, including the tricolor flag. The proposal, currently being debated by Congress, define how the Costa Rican national anthem should be sung and the exact colors to be used on the flag. Students in Costa Rican schools are taught the national anthem, but not everybody hits the notes the way its creators had intended. Moreover, there’s no agreement as to what shade of blue is the “correct” one for the flag. The bill has the support of several legislators.
Biologists convene to help save primates (La Nacion) — Costa Rica was the host of a meeting that gathered biologists from the United States, Mexico and Central America interested in finding solutions to the threats facing primates in the region due to global climate change. The scientists met last week at the University of Costa Rica’s Western campus in San Ramon. According to estimates by Costa Rican biologist Ronald Sanchez, the country’s primate population has gone from 220,000 12 years ago to little over 107,000 today. Information generated by the gathering will be shared with the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE).
POLITICS Ombudsman calls for reforms to immigration law
State to cover all maternity leave costs if bill passes
(Inside Costa Rica) —Ombudsman Daniel Soley is urging legislators for changes to the Immigration Law currently being debated to allow the country’s Immigration Service to refute “marriages of convenience.” Last month, Security Minister Fernando Berrocal Immigration Service director Mario Zamora presented a 180-page document before Congress’ Government and Administration Commission detailing plans for the reform of the existing immigration law. Soley is asking legislators to include an article in the reform so that Immigration, the Civil Registry and the Notaries National Office can oppose marriages of convenience or marriages by power of attorney. The change proposed by the Ombudsman would allow the government to have the power to set the requisites and mechanisms used to verify and assure immigration benefits derived from marriage are legitimate. Currently, marriage to a Costa Rican citizen allows a foreigner to apply for residency and citizenship without having to provide proof that the marriage is legitimate and couple is living together as husband and wife — or even know each other for that matter. Many pay lawyers and notary publics to perform such unions, and groups even pay homeless people and drug addicts to “marry” foreign nationals.
(Inside Costa Rica ) — To promote the hiring of more women in the workforce, the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) said it will cover 100 percent of the cost of maternity leave if legislators approved a bill presented by the Libertarian Movement (ML) Party. The proposal would take away the current responsibility of employers to cover half of the cost of maternity leave. The Caja covers the other half. In Costa Rica, maternity leave is a right of female workers who become pregnant while employed, to receive their salary for the month prior to and for three months after giving birth. According to ML legislator Mario Quiros, the sharing of the social responsibility between the employer and the Caja prejudices women looking for work, as an employer who hires a woman is “punished” if the employee becomes pregnant. The current situation, according to Quiros, makes it difficult for women to get job, backing his statement with the statistic that the unemployment rate for women in 2005 was 9.6 percent, while that of men was almost half of that at 5 percent. Quiros maintained that there will be no negative impact on the Caja if it were to assume 100 percent of the responsibility. “The cost to the Caja would be ¢4.15 billion colones ($7.9 million), or 0.2 percent of the annual budget of the Central Government,” he said.
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China’s new World Heritage site a fusion of east-west By John Saeki KAIPING, China (AFP) – The latest addition to China’s growing collection of World Heritage sites is a curious collection of fortified architectural anomalies built more than century ago by returning Chinese immigrants who chanced their fortunes abroad. Topped with Baroque curves, Greek columns and medieval domes, about 2,000 towers, or “diaolou,” stand in villages surrounding the city of Kaiping, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Guangzhou, the provincial capital of bustling southern Guangdong. The UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has just granted the towers World Heritage status and describes them as a flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. The diaolou show “the significant role of emigre Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America,” it said in a statement following a meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month to identify new World Heritage sites. The addition of the Kaiping towers brings to 35 the number of sites in China that have been granted World Heritage status, joining the Great Wall, the Forbidden City imperial palace in Beijing, and the 2,200-year-old terracotta warriors in the western city of Xian.
The Diaolou structures of Kaiping in southern China’s Guangdong province. The Kaiping diaolou and villages were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. AFP
Inclusion of the towers on the prestigious list is likely to spark a flood of tourists to Kaiping and ensure the preservation of the unique buildings. Today there are some 680,000 people living in the Kaiping region, known in the local dialect as Sei-yap, although the Kaiping Diaolou Research Centre counts another 750,000 people living in 67 countries as descendants of the area. The exodus began around 1840 when thousands of people from Sei-yap surged abroad to find fortune in the gold rushes and railroad booms that were tak-
ing place as far off as San Francisco and Ballarat, in southern Australia. “A lot of people went to do very minor jobs. They made very little money but they saved,” the research center’s Selia Tan Jinhua told a group of Hong Kong architects during a recent visit. In the US, Canada and Australia, Chinese immigrants were the subject of legislation, lasting well into the 20th century, barring them from property rights, residency and even marriage – and so they sent their money home. Many of the migrants who returned to Sei-yap built houses that not
only provided security but showed off new-found riches in their impoverished homeland, said Tan, adding that 80 percent of the emigrants never made it back. Of those who did return, she said: “They lost face abroad and wanted to come back to regain their dignity and social status.” As few local builders had any experience of travel outside Sei-yap, the end results, based on instructions from the owners who were themselves without any architectural knowledge, are an eclectic fusion of traditional forms and new tastes they had brought home. “Its architecture without architects,” said Chau Hing wah, one of the visiting architects. Security, even more than the display of wealth, would appear to have been their priority. The height of the towers protected against floods, their fortifications against bandits, invaders and warlords. They were fitted with rifle slots and cannon positions, and were armored with iron plates for shutters. The fortifications reflect the insecurity of a region that had been rocked throughout the 19th century by the Opium Wars with Britain; had cradled the revolutionary changes of the republican movement that overthrew Chinas last emperor in 1911; and had braced itself through ethnic strife, banditry and warlord power-grabbing through the 1920s and 1930s, only to be invaded by the Imperial Japanese army, which reached the area around 1939.
Fifty years after withstanding the last major offensives, the towers are still in good shape. When conservation projects were undertaken in 2001, the diaolou did not need any construction work, said Tan. “They are very strong.” The hard part was gaining access to the buildings that the government wanted to conserve, as permission from the owners was required first. “I think ownership was one of the most difficult things,” said Tan. Most of the buildings are communally owned by the extended families, Tan explained, and some of them are jointly claimed by more than 100 individuals scattered across the world. “We had to send delegations to America, Canada, Australia, other places to look for owners and sign contracts with them,” she said. Once signed by every living co-owner, the contracts gave the government access to the buildings for tourism and maintenance purposes, while guaranteeing continued private ownership for the owners. Following the success of the World Heritage bid, the main concern now is how to manage the expected hoards of tourists likely to flock to the area. “I think our management plan is the best in China right now,” said Tan, “but were not sure if the government can make it come true. “We could lose the character of this place, lose the spirit of this place. All this could be lost if we don’t do it very carefully,” she said.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
AU chief Konare unimpressed by Sarkozy speech PARIS (AFP) – The head of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, said he was disappointed with a speech by President Nicolas Sarkozy outlining France’s new Africa policy. “This speech was not the kind of break we were hoping for,” Konare told Radio France Internationale. “It was not fundamentally new, in fact it reminded us of another age, especially his comments about peasants which I did not
approve of.” As part of his speech in Dakar, Sarkozy said: “The African peasant only knows the eternal renewal of time, rhythmed by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. “In this imaginary world where everything starts over and over again, there is no place for human adventure or for the idea of progress,” the French president said.
Konare also took issue with Sarkozy’s comments urging Africa not to dwell on its colonial past. “Africa has been left behind largely because of it (colonialism), and that is a reality I am sure the president is aware of.... and which no one can deny,” Konare said. “It has nothing to do with repentance... I say so clearly: that is a page we will never rip out.”
While he agreed with Sarkozy’s appeal for young Africans to reject corruption, violence and nepotism, Konare said that “young people are aware of that and many of them have been fighting these things for a long time.” “I am certain that the president wants a clean break ... I believe that to help him make that change, he needs to get to know Africa better and we are ready to help him do so.”
IMF candidate: Globalization should help all the people By David Dieudonne WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the European Union choice to lead the International Monetary Fund, said that the IMF should help every country benefit from globalization. Strauss-Kahn, who met US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in a bid to cement his candidacy, told in an interview that the IMF needs to restore its credibility. The veteran French Socialist politician said the IMF is viewed in some quarters as having been an “instrument” of economic hardship and that it needs to work to change this perception. Strauss-Kahn, the only candidate declared to date to succeed managing director Rodrigo Rato at the Washington-based institution, spoke en route to a meeting with the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, an American. Following a flurry of consultations in the US capital, Strauss-Kahn will jet back to Europe and
then head to Africa for further meetings aimed at shoring up his candidacy. “The IMF should help all countries and people to benefit from globalization, not to suffer from it,” Strauss-Kahn said. Asked about possible IMF reform, StraussKahn replied: “Above all, it will be necessary to restore the credibility of the International Monetary Fund. It’s been seen as an instrument of economic hardship in many countries.” However, Strauss-Kahn judged it could take some years to overhaul the IMF and burnish its image. “It’s (reform) been addressed in a positive way, but it needs to be thought through more and there’s still a lot to do,” he said. Aside from its role in international economic and financial crises, the Fund, which is headquartered near the World Bank and the White House in central Washington, has also been criticized for not having a more open selection process for its leader.
Responding to such criticisms, StraussKahn said the process to select the next leader of the IMF should be as open and transparent as possible. In an unwritten agreement, Europe selects the head of the IMF and the United States chooses the president of the World Bank. Zoellick, who was the sole candidate to head the World Bank, took office earlier this month. “The board stated three weeks ago that it had begun an open selection process,” the French candidate said, adding “I believe this is absolutely correct.” He said that other potential candidates should not be excluded in running for the post and voiced hope that other candidates would emerge. “There is no reason why the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’between the United States and Europe should persist,” he said. “I’m not ruling out that there will be other candidates; so far, no one else has declared himself, but I hope others will emerge,” Strauss-Kahn said.
The IMF executive board launched on July 12 its search for a successor to Rato, who announced in late June he was resigning in late October, nearly two years before his term ends. Three Frenchmen have held the managing director’s job for more than 30 of the IMF’s 61 years. Strauss-Kahn said his meetings with US and IMF officials in Washington had gone well this week. “The meetings with the members of the board were, I think, very constructive. I was eager to hear their different hopes for the IMF and of the difficulties they are facing. “For my part, I think the talks were very fruitful,” Strauss-Kahn said. The French politician said he had a heavy schedule ahead which will involve visits to Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudia Arabia, South Africa and South Korea in a bid to boost his candidacy.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
More growth for Latin America, Caribbean SANTIAGO (AFP) — The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicted regional economies will grow five percent on average in 2007, followed by 4.6 percent growth in 2008. If the 2008 forecast holds out, it would mark six years of sustained economic growth for Latin America, its longest expansion in 27 years, said the ECLAC report: “Economic Study of Latin America and the Caribbean 2006-2007.” The five percent growth predicted for 2007 exceeds a December ECLAC forecast of 4.7 percent, and is boosted by “extraordinary development in the world economy that features widespread solid growth,” said the study. South American nations, above all, were benefiting from world price increases of raw materials and expanding exports, while Central America and the Caribbean benefited to a lesser degree, the study said. ECLAC Secretary General Jose Luis Machinea said the study
showed it is “possible to maintain cautious optimism for the near future.” He said Latin American economies “are going through a very favorable period featuring sustained growth, almost without exception, in every country in the region.” Fueling the regional boom is Brazil, the region’s largest economy, forecast to grow 4.5 percent in 2007 and 2008 after a sluggish 3.7 growth in 2006 and 2.9 percent in 2005, said the study. Other regional economies’ expected growth in 2007, in decreasing order of magnitude, include Panama (8.5 percent), Argentina and Dominican Republic (7.5 percent), Peru (7.3), Colombia and Venezuela (6.8), Chile and Costa Rica (6.0). Slower growth for 2007 was predicted for Honduras (5.5 percent), Uruguay (5.2), Guatemala (5.0), Brazil (4.5), El Salvador (4.5), Nicaragua (4.3), Bolivia (4.2), Paraguay (4.0), Ecuador and Haiti (3.5 percent).
Workers process Tilapia fishes at the ‘’Aquafinca Saint Peter Fish’’, in the village El Borboton, 200 km North of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The preditec growth for this is country for 2007 is a 5.5%. AFP/ Elmer Martinez
US growth jumps to 3.4 percent By Rob Lever WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US economy
ramped up to a 3.4 percent growth rate in the second quarter, the government said, but analysts said the pace may not be sustained over the rest
of the year. In the first estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) for the period, the Commerce Department said growth picked up after a tepid 0.6 percent rate, revised downward from 0.7 percent, in the first quarter for the world’s biggest economy. The 3.4 percent second-quarter rate was the strongest since the first quarter of 2006 and slightly ahead of the average Wall Street estimate of 3.2 percent. Avery Shenfeld, senior economist at CIBC World Markets, said that the US economy is “neither as weak as it looked in the first quarter nor as strong as it appeared in the second quarter. “If you put the first two quarters together, you’re looking at growth of around two percent, and that’s probably what the second half will look like.” “With energy prices high, the housing market reeling and the stock market uncertain, is there really a reason to think growth will accelerate sharply? Where will it come from?” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors. “I don’t see it, even if the Fed does.” The higher growth rate came from an improving global trade picture, including higher exports, while consumer spending cooled. Exports grew 6.4 percent while imports fell 2.6 percent, amid sharp declines in the US dollar. Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, remained a driver of the expansion, but was a lesser factor. Spending increased just 1.3 percent, the weakest since late 2005, compared with 3.7 percent in the first quarter. The housing slowdown was much less of a drag on the economy in the second quarter, as real residential fixed investment fell 9.3 percent, not as steep as the 16.3 percent drop in the first quarter. “The big risk now is what kind of impact we have from housing in the second half of this year,” noted Drew Matus, economist at Lehman Brothers. “Clearly the risks are that we get weaker housing than we were expecting ... we’re still on shaky ground in terms of growth of the US economy, but we’re not in danger of stalling.”
Inflation figures were mixed. The personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index linked to GDP showed a 4.3 percent pace of increase. But the “core” rate of inflation, preferred by the Federal Reserve, rose 1.4 percent in the second quarter, down sharply from the 2.4 percent rise in the prior quarter and the slowest pace since the second quarter of 2003. The estimate of GDP, or the market value of the nation’s output of goods and services, was 13.756 trillion dollars on an annualized basis. The Commerce Department also revised estimates for US economic growth in 2004-2006 that indicated slower growth than previously announced, with faster price growth over the same period. In 2006, revised GDP growth was 2.9 percent, down from the 3.3 percent original estimate, with every quarter in the year revised downward. Downward adjustments to private inventory growth and durable goods spending were the main factors in the revision. For 2005, GDP growth now stands at 3.1 percent, slightly below the 3.2 percent previously estimated. Growth in 2004 was revised down to a 3.6 percent rate from the previously reported 3.9 percent rate. For 2007, the Federal Reserve is estimating growth in a range of 2.25 to 2.5 percent averaged for the year. Most analysts say this will allow the central bank to hold its base interest rate steady at 5.25 percent, but some say a spreading of the housing crisis may create wider problems for the economy. Brian Bethune, economist at Global Insight, said he believes the Fed outlook is on target. “While consumption spending is expected to remain subdued, business fixed investment should continue to move ahead at good rates,” he said. Even with housing weak, he said “solid performance from investment and net exports are expected to keep the economy moving ahead in the range of 2.0 to 2.5 percent.” This pace, he said, is “a strong enough growth rate to sustain some momentum behind earnings” while “not putting too much pressure” on prices.
Spanish, French PMs salute anti-terror cooperation MADRID (AFP) — The prime ministers of Spain and France saluted the close cooperation between their two countries which has led to a series of arrests of suspected members of armed Basque separatist group. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero welcomed Francois Fillon to his official residence in Madrid for a working lunch on their first meeting since Fillon was appointed French prime minister in May. Speaking at a press conference before the meeting, Zapatero thanked “France and French police for the recent results in the fight against terrorism.” Following the lunch Zapatero added: “We can’t ask for more (from France) regarding cooperation which is very useful in combating terrorism,” saluting what he termed Paris’ unconditional and permanent support on the issue. Of the 18 suspected members of ETA who have been arrested since the armed group formally called off a ceasefire in June, 14 were detained in France. The logistics chief of ETA along with two other members were detained on Thursday in the southern French city of Rodez. Fillon said he believed ETA’s infrastructure had been “considerably reduced” in France as a result of such “decisive acts.”
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (R) smiles with his French counterpart François Fillon after a joint press conference at the Moncloa palace in Madrid. AFP /Pedro Armestre
ETA has killed more than 800 people in four decades of armed struggle to achieve independence for the Basque region of Spain.
Immigration was another topic which featured on the pair’s agenda and Zapatero urged closer cooperation on the issue on a pan-European
level. “We have a joint responsibility to deal with it,” the Spanish leader said.
Spain is traditionally a country of emigration and Zapatero admitted that immigration was a relatively “new phenomenon.” Nonetheless, in recent years thousands of mainly sub-Saharan Africans have tried to reach Spain either via the Gibraltar Strait separating the country from Morocco or, primarily, via the Canary Islands, which are the closest European landfall to west Africa. Some 31,200 immigrants arrived in the Spanish archipelago last year, more than tripling the previous annual record and overwhelming its authorities. Fillon urged greater harmonization of European asylum procedures while recognizing the continent required immigration to bolster its workforce. During a visit to Madrid at the end of May, new French President Nicolas Sarkozy indicated he was open to longstanding Spanish demands that new rail links be set up between France and Spain through the Pyrenees. Both leaders also reiterated their support for upgrading rail links between northeastern Spain and the south of France. “We have given very clear instructions to French officials in charge of the dossier so that decisions may be proposed” on the subject at a Paris bilateral summit scheduled for November.
Let’s move quickly on EU treaty, says French PM LISBON (AFP) — French Prime Minister Francois Fillon urged Portuguese counterpart and European Union president Jose Socrates to take quick steps towards the adoption of a new European treaty. “I reminded the Portuguese prime minister, and I believe we are in total agreement on this point, of the need to go quickly, because Europe must turn this page and resume its march forward with solid institutions,” he said. “The propositions which have been made by Portugal and by the Portuguese presidency suit us perfectly,” Fillon told a joint press conference in Lisbon alongside Socrates. Portugal, which holds the European Union
presidency until the end of the year, hopes to complete the new text of an EU treaty in time for a Lisbon summit in October. A two-year political malaise that has dogged the 27-member bloc since French and Dutch voters rejected its draft constitution in referendums. Socrates said that the next FrancoPortuguese summit would be held early next year and would focus on a wide range of maritime issue between the two countries. Earlier Fillon met Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and saluted the close cooperation between their two countries that had led the arrests of suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Political clashes shake Venezuela’s oil industry By Simon Romero CARACAS, Venezuela (The New York Times) — Venezuela’s national oil company is being shaken by claims of corruption and by internal dissent, indicating fissures within the institution largely responsible for financing President Hugo Chavez’s widening array of social welfare programs and foreign aid projects. The problems at the company, Petroleos de Venezuela, have been compounded by a rare acknowledgment by Rafael Ramirez, the energy minister and president of the company, that it cannot hire enough drilling rigs, raising concern over its ability to halt declines in oil production. “Our sovereignty is at risk if we allow Petroleos de Venezuela to remain in this situation,” Luis Tascon, a pro-Chavez lawmaker, said in a telephone interview. “We cannot allow this company to remain an indecipherable black box.” Tascon has summoned Ramirez to the National Assembly to respond to accusations of corruption against senior executives. Ramirez has emerged as a focus of criticism amid claims of illegal deals with oil-services companies on his watch. The attacks on him are viewed as part of a power struggle among Chavez’s supporters, with ideological loyalists clashing with the relatively less radical technocrats in charge of the strained oil industry. The tension within Petroleos de Venezuela follows other feuds within political institutions under Chavez’s control that began earlier this year when several political parties in his coalition resisted his move to gather supporters into a single Socialist party.
Venezuelan Minister of Energy & Petroleum Rafael Ramirez speaks during the ceremony on oil agreements in Caracas. Venezuela’s national oil company is being shaken by claims of corruption and by internal dissent, indicating fissures within the institution largely responsible for financing President Hugo Chavez’s widening array of social welfare programs and foreign aid projects. The problems at the company, Petroleos de Venezuela, have been compounded by a rare acknowledgment by Ramirez, that it cannot hire enough drilling rigs, raising concern over its ability to halt declines in oil production. PEDRO REY/AFP via The New York Times
The armed forces also experienced an internal uproar after General Raul Isaias Baduel delivered a speech as he prepared to step down as defense minister this month saying that Chavez’s Socialist-inspired transformation of
Venezuelan society should not be contaminated by Marxist orthodoxy. But the depth of problems within Petroleos de Venezuela, which is responsible for about half of total government revenues and three-quarters of Venezuelan export revenues, illustrates how the feuds within Chavez’s coalition may weaken his ability to carry out his plans. In comments that jolted global energy markets, Ramirez acknowledged that Petroleos de Venezuela had hired 40 percent fewer drilling rigs than its target for this year, in part because of new rules requiring contractors to donate 10 percent of the value of their contracts to social welfare projects. While difficulty finding drilling rigs is not limited to Venezuela at a time of growing exploration internationally, Petroleos de Venezuela is also grappling with internal labor disputes as the company is strained by plans to create an assemblage of new subsidiaries charged with activities like farming, shipbuilding and manufacturing. Speaking before the National Assembly, Luis Vierma, vice president of exploration and production at Petróleos de Venezuela, described the company as being in an “operational emergency.” A company spokesman did not respond to requests for interviews with Ramirez and Vierma. Venezuela, with some of the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East, officially claims to produce almost 3.1 million barrels of oil a day, but institutions
like the International Energy Agency in Paris put output at 2.37 million barrels a day, down about 230,000 from a year ago. Other energy analysts say output problems are potentially even more broadly troubling. The country’s oil exports fell 15 percent while overall production dropped 7 percent in the first quarter of this year, said Ramón Espinasa, a chief economist at Petroleos de Venezuela in the pre-Chavez era and now a respected consultant, citing both the difficulties with hiring rigs and a surge in domestic fuel consumption driven by subsidized prices. Combined with lower global oil prices during part of this year, Venezuela’s income from oil exports may decline by about 24 percent in 2007, to $45.6 billion, compared with $60.4 billion last year, by Espinasa’s estimate. Part of the strain on Petroleos de Venezuela relates to Chavez’s efforts to assert greater control over the oil industry this year, following decrees by the president enabling the takeover of oil projects from companies including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. That has raised fears that employees of those companies who have been critical of Chavez’s actions could be fired. A report in Tal Cual, an opposition daily newspaper, cited documents showing how Petroleos de Venezuela had evaluated the political sympathies of engineers at Sincor, a venture whose control was recently ceded to the government from Total of France and Statoil of Norway. Several engineers deemed disloyal to Chavez were fired, according to the report. With newer oil fields in the Orinoco Belt facing high production costs and technical challenges because the oil there is high in impurities, a smooth transition to government control is needed to keep production levels from falling. “We’re finishing a complex process,” Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, said in a telephone interview, referring to the nationalizations. Chavez is betting that new ventures with national oil companies from China, Iran, Vietnam and Belarus will allow Venezuela to lift production. Yet while production costs soar and uncertainty persists as to treatment of foreign investors, companies in most other countries have been hesitant to invest heavily in Venezuela. “The longer Venezuela’s new partners wait to negotiate with seriousness, the more vulnerable Chavez becomes,” said Roger Tissot, director for Latin America at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington. So far, Chavez has not publicly intervened in Petroleos de Venezuela. Instead, he seems to be placing his faith in a recent increase in oil prices. “Oil is going straight to $100; no one can stop it,” Chavez said during a visit to Nicaragua.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Dollar’s decline stuns Americans in Europe
By Mark Lander
HEIDELBERG, Germany (The New York Times) — A day after Michael Kingsley arrived in this romantic university town, he was in no mood to savor the cobblestone streets, the halftimbered houses or the flower-bedecked windows. Kingsley had left his camera battery and charger in a hotel room in London, and he knew that as an American tourist, buying replacements here was going to sting. The damage: $143. Back home in Virginia, he said, the same purchase would have set him back no more than $100. For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. The Kingsley family’s hotel room in London was $500 a night; five bite-sized chocolates at Harrods cost $10. “It’s OK,” said Kingsley, 59, with a resigned laugh. “I’ll just have to work a few extra years to pay off this vacation.” His wife, Laura, did her best to soothe him. “It’s just play money,” she said. By now, five summers after the dollar began its long swoon against the euro and the pound, American travelers are accustomed to $5 cups of coffee and triple-digit dinner checks in Europe’s great capitals. But the dollar’s latest plunge – to record lows of 72 cents to the euro and 48 pence to the pound – has led to disbelief at prices for many tourists. “Four-dollar Cokes; no, 4-euro Cokes,” said Kaelon Kroft, a custodian from California, when asked what price shocked him most in Paris. “We just paid 9.50 euros for a can of Coke at a cafe. At our hotel, the bar was serving a glass of Coke for 4 euros.” The Krofts and the Kingsleys both scaled back their European holidays to limit the pain of the currency pinch. But neither family seriously thought of canceling their vacation, and their glassis-half-full determination to make the best of things was echoed in interviews with American tourists from Ireland to Italy. It is also reflected in the tourism statistics in France, Germany, Spain and other countries, which show that the number of Americans visiting Europe has increased this year even as the value of the dollar has eroded. Travel experts say this speaks both to the resilience and rising affluence of American tourists, as well as to the perennial appeal of Europe as a destination. “Americans who visit Europe tend to be more-educated, with higher incomes, so they are less affected by the exchange rate,” said Joachim Scholz, a researcher at the German National Tourist Board. “Even backpackers have more money than they used to, if you look at the price of hostels.” That should be a relief to innkeepers and restaurateurs in Europe, since many currency experts say the dollar – pulled down by a cocktail of a persistent trade deficit with the rest of the world, a slower U.S. economy and an unexpectedly vig-
From left, Josh, Laura and Michael Kingsley, American tourists visiting Heidelberg, Germany. For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. Rolf Oeser/The New York Times
orous Europe – has not reached bottom against the euro. Ashraf Laidi, chief currency strategist at CMC Markets in New York, described the dollar’s decline as “pervasive.” He predicts it will trade at 70 cents to the euro by the end of 2007. The outlook for Americans in Britain is better: Laidi thinks the dollar is close to its low point against the pound. The weaker dollar has encouraged a European travel boom to the United States. And the currency changes are spurring a shift in trade, with U.S. exports to the rest of the world picking up even as European officials are becoming louder in their complaints that the cheaper dollar is undermining the global competitiveness of their manufacturers. To be sure, tourists are making some adjustments to their itineraries or their spending habits. In Ireland, a group of students from Virginia opted to skip a visit to the Waterford crystal factory, 160 kilometers, south of Dublin. They are also cutting back on casual purchases like snacks or coffee. “I have to be much more aware of looking at the price of everything,” said Erin Rogers, 21, still marveling at a $22 plate of Irish stew she ordered the previous evening. “I didn’t have a clear compass of just how weak the dollar was. It was a crash course in global economics.” The Krofts decided not to extend their stay in Paris, as they had hoped, because of the cost. Next year, Kristi Kroft said, their family of four would probably go to Hawaii or the Virgin Islands, where a dollar is worth 100 cents. Kingsley, a strategic planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had plotted a grand tour of Europe that would have taken him, his wife and their 33-year-old son, Josh, to London, Paris, Rome and Vienna, before ending up in Germany, to attend the wedding of a family friend. As the dollar wilted in recent weeks, Kingsley crossed off one city after an-
other, eventually leaving only London and Germany. “I would have loved to go to Vienna,” Laura Kingsley, his wife, said sadly. The currency squeeze is toughest on Americans who live in Europe and are paid in dollars. They suffer from erosion in their real income that, in many
cases, is not fully compensated by their employers. Jennifer Aquino, who lives in Madrid, Spain, and manages international alumni relations for Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, said she felt the pinch shopping for groceries, paying her rent or going out to dinner. “It’s scary,” Aquino said. “It makes you think twice about if you want to keep building a life in Europe.” Maddine Insalaco, who runs a landscape-painting workshop in Tuscany with her husband, Joe Vinson, said business had been crippled because their costs are in euros while their revenues are in dollars. “It’s a mom-and-pop operation,” she said. “We’re too small to hedge our risks in terms of foreign exchange.” Worse, most of their clients are American, and as the euro has spiked, enrollment has dwindled. The dollar has lost about half its value since they first started teaching more than a decade ago, but “we can’t increase our prices by 50 percent,” she said, “because we’d lose business.” Still, Insalaco and other Americans are philosophical about the vagaries of currency markets. For years, she said, the dollar reigned supreme; expatriates and tourists benefited from it. “When the dollar was strong, no one was complaining,” she said. “We cashed in then.”
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Victorian baths, unrepressed
By Alexa Brue (The New York Times) — Nancy Epstein’s master bathroom started with a 1930s Lalique chandelier. “I fell in love with this chandelier 12 years ago” at the Paul Stamati Gallery in Manhattan, she said recently. “Finally, five years ago, I said: ‘Kids, we’re not going on vacation this summer. Mom’s buying the chandelier.’ “ Once she owned it, she wasn’t sure where it should go, until her decorator suggested that it was the perfect size for the master bath. Most people would position such a rare Lalique chandelier, which cost roughly as much as a new Porsche 911 Carrera, in the most public room of the house, but Epstein, the founder and owner of Artistic Tile, which sells high-end tile and stone in its six New York-area showrooms, liked the bathroom idea: In the midst of her spare, monochromatic 1970s suburban house in New Jersey, the master bath would become her Art Deco oasis. The vanities took a year to assemble. Finally, after two years of renovation, the bathroom got its finishing touches this month. “The space is so warm,” said Epstein, whose voice takes on a lover’s tones when describing the floor pattern, inspired by the work of Victor Horta, a Belgian Art Nouveau architect. “It’s transporting. I feel like a movie star from the 1920s when I walk through the arches.” Increasingly, even in contemporary houses like Epstein’s, owners appear to be turning to the bathroom – particularly the master bathroom – as a place to return to the past. “It’s in the ether,” said Judith Miller, an English design writer who is working on a book on period bathrooms. “People are using antique porcelain tile and big bathtubs with rounded edges and chunky claw feet and putting them in the middle of
the room.” Sleek of reproductions and minimalism may faux antiques, and have held sway in not, he said, just bathroom design because the growth for years – long after of the reproduction interior design in market has taken a other parts of the large bite out of his house became more salvage business. varied and eclectic And like other sal– but there are, after vage dealers, he was all, “only so many quick to point out shades of white,” the environmental Miller said. benefits of reusing “Today’s bathexisting products. rooms are so saniOne of his regutized, pasteurized lar customers, Jean and contrived,” said Strahan, said she Evan Blum, the owntakes pleasure in er of the New York conserving those salvage company products. “I love givDemolition Depot, ing something a new who said that sales life,” she said, “and of certain vintage that something as bath hardware have beautiful as a China increased by about tub is being given 20 percent in the a new home rather last three years. than just being jackDemolition Depot hammered apart.” is providing fixtures Strahan has for the new West been a relative purVillage condominiist in the seven-year um tower designed restoration of six peby the artist Julian riod bathrooms (one Schnabel, whose still being finished) in “goal is to make the her Georgian revival bathrooms look like Nancy Epstein, the founder and owner of Artistic Tile, which sells house in New Jersey. they’ve always been high-end tile and stone in its six New York-area showrooms, in All the bathrooms there, since the early the master bathroom of her Tenafly, N.J., home. Finally, after were decorated us1900s,” Blum said. two years of renovation, the bathroom got its finishing touches ing vintage pieces recently. Michael Weschler/The New York Times “He’s using tankmade within a few type toilets from years of 1905, when said Colette Scanlon Ortiz, the 1905, the thick China tubs that design editor at This Old House the house was built. She said were popular through the ‘20s magazine. she is especially pleased with and pedestal sinks.” “There are so many more a set of sinks that are stamped Blum offered a simple finishes available,” she said. 1905. explanation for the trend: “It’s not just about plain old “I really loved the idea of a “People think back to their chrome. You can find antique museum-quality restoration,” grandmother’s bathroom, and brass, antique copper, polished said Strahan, a stay-at-home it was probably nicer than what nickel finishes.” At this year’s mother. “I love the idea that they grew up with.” Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in the sinks in each bathroom In addition to sales increas- Las Vegas, she said, “I noticed use hard pipe, not flexi-hose, es in some parts of the salvage lots of period accessories – towel that even the tiles are 100 business, the growing interest bars, soap dishes, vanity mir- years old.” in period bathrooms appears rors – so that people who like the She used 70,000 vintage to have led to – and been fed by period look can get a taste of it subway tiles in the bathrooms, – an increase in the production of without the expense and hassle along with tubs made of 10old-fashioned tubs, wash basins, of a whole renovation.” centimeter-thick porcelain, an tiles, faucets and fittings. Not surprisingly, views antique urinal and matching As a result of all this new differ on how much historical 100-year-old toilet bowls. The production, the period look has authenticity is enough. Blum, mahogany water tanks and become far easier to achieve, for example, takes a dim view toilet seats were made from
scratch, but the pulls are antiques that came stamped with the name of the English company that made them more than a century ago, Crapper. Others are more relaxed about the marriage of past and present. Epstein, of the Lalique chandelier and Art Nouveau floor, for example, had no interest in sacrificing latter-day luxuries. Her bathroom, for all its period detail, is fitted with motion detectors that turn on L.E.D. night lights, glass sinks illuminated from within and a television set -- as her husband insisted – in the toilet cubicle. And even in houses that would seem to be all about the past, it’s possible to create a period bathroom that isn’t mired in it. Ingrid Weiss, a real estate agent who lives on Belvedere Island in San Francisco Bay, has just finished a two-year renovation that included the gutting and enlargement of the master bathroom in the 1892 Queen Anne-style house that she and her husband bought in 1978. “It’s been the love of our lives and dear, dear friend,” she said of the house, which is considered a historic landmark on the island. Most of the bathroom – including the burnished metal soaking tub, the lavatory and fittings and the hardware – came from Waterworks, which makes reproductions of old pieces. Waterworks has done much to raise the profile of period bathroom design, especially with a 2003 advertising campaign for its Empire Tub, based on an 1880s design, which appeared in magazines like Architectural Digest and Elle Decor. “I love Victorian design,” Weiss said. “But I’m also very aware that the Victorians were into wretched excess: they didn’t know where to stop. “To me the beauty of Victorian design is in the woodwork, the crown moldings and the wainscoting. Toilets with chains that you pull: that was not my goal.”
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Birth without the bother? By Nicholas D. Kristof (The New York Times) — Earlier this year in Gujarat, India, I came across a most unusual kind of outsourcing: womb rental. Americans looking for a surrogate mother to bear a child can save a fortune and avoid regulations by paying an Indian woman $4,000 or $5,000 to carry their fetus. An embryo that has been created in vitro by the American parents is implanted in the Indian woman’s uterus, and she goes through the pregnancy and delivers the baby – and then hands it over to the Americans. Ultimately, that kind of surrogacy could be mixed with genetic screening of embryos – to eliminate babies of the “wrong” gender or with the “wrong” characteristics – to save busy couples the bother of pregnancy or the nuisance of chance. Yes, all this scares me, too. So some of the most monumental decisions we will face in the coming years will involve where to set limits making some genetic tinkering legal and some illegal. One of the crucial evolving technologies is PGD, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This allows a couple to test
embryos that have been created in vitro when they are roughly three days old. PGD is now used principally to test for serious genetic diseases, including Down syndrome and Tay-Sachs. But it could equally be used to test for milder risks. Five years ago, I tested my own DNA for 130 common genetic markers (a perk of journalism is the chance to test new technologies) and found that I have markers that give me slightly increased risk of blood clots, schizophrenia, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, I didn’t have many other common genetic risk factors, including those associated with colon cancer, melanoma or breast cancer. Everybody has some of these troublesome genetic predispositions. But in the future we could use PGD to screen out these kinds of genetic risks. Nonmedical screening would also be possible. Dr. Dean Hamer, a prominent geneticist, believes that the VMAT2 gene is the “God gene,” associated with spirituality. What if religious families prefer embryos with a genetic disposition for faith? Michael Sandel, the Harvard philosopher, begins his new book on genetics, “The Case Against Perfection,” with
the story of a deaf couple who sought a child who would be deaf as well. “Is it wrong to make a child deaf by design?” he asks, then refining the question: “Is there still something wrong with parents picking and choosing the kind of child they will have?” Yes, there is. Like Sandel, I worry that our scientific capabilities may surpass our wisdom. Look at the dog kingdom. All of today’s dogs descended from wolves, and in less than 15,000 years we ended up with Chihuahuas and Great Danes. We may do the same to our own descendants. As Liza Mundy notes in her fascinating new book, “Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World,” the main driving force in the new technologies is simply the profit motive. “What is at work in assisted reproduction,” she writes, “is often not science but business.” So where do we regulate? My vote is to allow genetic technologies aimed at combating disease or infertility, but to bar any effort that goes beyond the curative to enhance the germ line DNA of our offspring.
International womb rental troubles me but in the end would pass muster. It helps infertile American couples who might not otherwise be able to afford a baby, and the Indian women are thrilled with the chance to earn what for them are substantial sums, at less risk than with their other options. Likewise, I would tolerate egg trafficking, a booming industry that offers women money to have their eggs extracted. Infertile couples need eggs – and why shouldn’t the donors be paid? As for genetic screening, I would accept PGD to cull embryos at risk for medical problems, even those that strike only in old age like Alzheimer’s. And my vote is to allow parents to use PGD to choose the sex of a child in the United States, although I would feel differently in countries like China or India where the son preference could create a huge shortage of girls. What should cross the line into illegality is tinkering with the heritable DNA of humans to make them smarter, faster or more pious – or more deaf. That is playing God not just with a particular embryo but with our species, and we should ban it.
An unjustified privilege By Nicholas D. Kristof (The New York Times) — Earlier this year in Gujarat, India, I came across a most unusual kind of outsourcing: womb rental. Americans looking for a surrogate mother to bear a child can save a fortune and avoid regulations by paying an Indian woman $4,000 or $5,000 to carry their fetus. An embryo that has been created in vitro by the American parents is implanted in the Indian woman’s uterus, and she goes through the pregnancy and delivers the baby – and then hands it over to the Americans. Ultimately, that kind of surrogacy could be mixed with genetic screening of embryos – to eliminate babies of the “wrong” gender or with the “wrong” characteristics – to save busy couples the bother of pregnancy or the nuisance of chance. Yes, all this scares me, too. So some of the most monumental decisions we will face in the coming years will involve where to set limits making some genetic tinkering legal and some illegal. One of the crucial evolving technologies is PGD, or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This allows a couple to test embryos that have been created in vitro when they are roughly three days old. PGD is now used principally to test for serious genetic diseases, including Down syndrome and Tay-Sachs. But it could equally be used to test for milder risks. Five years ago, I tested my own DNA for 130 common genetic markers (a perk of journalism is the chance to test new technologies) and found that I have markers that give me slightly increased risk of blood clots, schizophrenia, Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, I didn’t have many other common genetic risk factors, including those associated with colon cancer, melanoma or breast cancer. Everybody has some of these trou-
blesome genetic predispositions. But in the future we could use PGD to screen out these kinds of genetic risks. Nonmedical screening would also be possible. Dr. Dean Hamer, a prominent geneticist, believes that the VMAT2 gene is the “God gene,” associated with spirituality. What if religious families prefer embryos with a genetic disposition for faith? Michael Sandel, the Harvard philosopher, begins his new book on genetics, “The Case Against Perfection,” with the story of a deaf couple who sought a child who would be deaf as well. “Is it wrong to make a child deaf by design?” he asks, then refining the question: “Is there still something wrong with parents picking and choosing the kind of child they will have?” Yes, there is. Like Sandel, I worry that our scientific capabilities may surpass our wisdom. Look at the dog kingdom. All of today’s dogs descended from wolves, and in less than 15,000 years we ended up with Chihuahuas and Great Danes. We may do the same to our own descendants. As Liza Mundy notes in her fascinating new book, “Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women and the World,” the main driving force in the new technologies is simply the profit motive. “What is at work in assisted reproduction,” she writes, “is often not science but business.” So where do we regulate? My vote is to allow genetic technologies aimed at combating disease or infertility, but to bar any effort that goes beyond the curative to enhance the germ line DNA of our offspring. International womb rental troubles me but in the end would pass muster. It helps infertile American couples who might not otherwise be able to afford a baby, and the Indian women are thrilled with the chance to earn what for them
are substantial sums, at less risk than with their other options. Likewise, I would tolerate egg trafficking, a booming industry that offers women money to have their eggs extracted. Infertile couples need eggs – and why shouldn’t the donors be paid? As for genetic screening, I would accept PGD to cull embryos at risk for medical problems, even those that strike only in old age like Alzheimer’s. And my
vote is to allow parents to use PGD to choose the sex of a child in the United States, although I would feel differently in countries like China or India where the son preference could create a huge shortage of girls. What should cross the line into illegality is tinkering with the heritable DNA of humans to make them smarter, faster or more pious – or more deaf. That is playing God not just with a particular embryo but with our species, and we
3 Vehicles in optimal conditions 3 Equipped with modern security satellite systems GPS and Cellular phones available
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Beijing increases rewards Japanese women crowned for food-quality informants again as world’s oldest BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing has dramatically increased rewards being offered to people who report illegal food practices, state media said, as the city deals with food-safety problems ahead of the 2008 Olympics. New regulations raise the top reward for informants to 50,000 yuan (6,600 dollars), from 10,000 yuan, and establish a system for anonymous reporting for people who might otherwise fear retribution, the China Daily newspaper said. “The new standards should encourage people to get involved in improving food standards,” Tang Wenhua, an official with the city’s food safety office, was quoted as saying. Under a previous system launched in 2004, informants had to show identification to claim rewards, which officials believe was a disincentive. China has taken steps recently to ease foreign and domestic concerns about mounting reports of dangerous Chinese-made goods, particularly food and drugs. In Beijing, in particular, officials are keen to ensure visitors to the Olympic Games in August 2008 do not fall ill from eating local foods. Round-the-clock guards will watch Olympic kitchens, food storage areas will come under video surveillance, food transport vehicles will be fitted with global positioning systems, and mice will be used to test athletes’ food. The previous informant system had seen 655 food safety violations reported since 2004
TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese women were the world’s longest-living people in 2006 for the 22nd consecutive year as their average lifespan extended to a record 85.81 years. Their longevity increased by 160 days from 2005 “as there was an improvement in what are considered the three major causes of deaths among the Japanese —cancer, heart disease and strokes,” a health ministry official said. “There also were fewer deaths from influenza among the elderly in 2006 compared with the previous year,” he said. Japanese women are believed to be longest-living people in the world, according to data divided by gender. Hong Kong women came second at 84.6 years, according to figures by individual governments and the United Nations. Swiss and Spanish women were tied for
A Chinese vendor prepares steaming pork buns on sale at a sidewalk stall in Beijing. China has taken steps recently to ease foreign and domestic concerns about mounting reports of dangerous Chinese-made goods, particularly food and drugs.
and rewards totaling 121,651 yuan paid out, the paper said. It said China would soon introduce new standards for edible cooking oils, which are used in the preparation of virtually all Chinese dishes, to tighten quality and improve manufacturing processes.
third at 83.9 years. Japanese men are also living longer, with average lifespans up 106 days to 79.00 years, the health ministry said. But Icelandic men, who live an average of 79.4 years, pushed Japanese men into second place. Hong Kong men were third, living 78.8 years on average. Japan, with its traditional healthy diet and high standard of medical care, has one of the oldest populations. But the longevity is also causing headaches for policymakers, who fear a future demographic crisis with a smaller pool of young people supporting a mass of elderly. Last month the government forecast that two in every five Japanese people will be 65 or older by 2055 if the trends of a low birthrate and high life-expectancy continue.
Circumcision could save millions from HIV infection SYDNEY (AFP) – Male circumcision could prevent millions of HIV infections every year and play a major role in controlling the virus’ spread in developing nations, a major AIDS conference was told. US researcher Richard Bailey called on health authorities to actively promote circumcision, saying the scientific evidence left no doubt that it could reduce HIV infection rates by up to 60 percent. Bailey, from the University of Illinois, said three studies in Africa had all confirmed a long-standing belief about the effectiveness of circumcision in reducing the risk of HIV infection. “The last two were actually stopped early because they showed such a high level of efficacy that it wouldn’t be ethical to continue the trial and withhold circumcision from the control group,” Bailey told reporters at the International AIDS Society conference in Sydney. He said universal circumcision could avert two million new infections and 300,000 deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over 10 years. Bailey said while health authorities would rush to implement a vaccine that was 60 percent effective, there was an element of squeamishness in some cultures about promoting male circumcision. “It’s been a really long haul because it’s the penis after all, so it’s not that easy to accept that kind of intervention,” he said.
“Circumcision is not just simply a medical procedure, it’s tied up in a complex web of cultural and religious practices and beliefs, so it’s not easy for politicians and ministries of health to very quickly come out in favor of circumcision in countries where it’s not traditionally practiced.” Bailey said leaders in developing nations needed to endorse circumcision because international health authorities would not impose it because they feared being seen as culturally insensitive. “But the time to act is right now,” he said. “Delaying the roll-out of circumcision could be causing more harm, not just because more people are getting infected with HIV than necessary but also people are going to unqualified practitioners.” The conference also heard that the practice, common in Africa, of women rinsing themselves with lemon juice after sex did not reduce the risk of HIV infection. Nigerian researcher Atiene Sagay said a study of more than 300 Nigerian prostitutes found that women douched to avoid infection but it was totally ineffective. “People suggested it could be a microbicide (but) we know much better than that now,” Sagay said. He said the practice was not an effective contraceptive measure either, as alkaline semen easily neutralized citric acid.
Poor diet in pregnancy can cause child obesity WELLINGTON, (AFP) — The diets of pregnant women may have an important role in determining whether their children will be obese later in life, a new study suggests. The study by New Zealand and British scientists indicates that children born to mothers who ate badly during pregnancy may be more likely to put on weight later in life. Scientists at the University of Auckland’s Liggins centre say the way the fetus adapts to the environment in the womb can determine how it reacts to food later in life. If the womb is low in nutrients, the fetus may predict food supplies will be low later in life and set its metabolism to store and conserve fat, the researchers led by Professor Peter Gluckman said in a statement. The study says if this early prediction
proves false and food —particularly food high in fat— is readily available, the child may be programmed for adult obesity and conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. “The study poses questions of fundamental importance that change the whole way we think about who we are,” Gluckman said. He said the study may be important in explaining why genetically similar individuals can have markedly different metabolisms later in life. “It changes the way we should think about tackling the obesity epidemic.” The study, based on tests on the metabolisms of rats, was done in collaboration with New Zealand’s National Research Centre for Growth and Development and the University of Southhampton in Britain.
Mystery over Jim Morrison’s death divides biographers By Claire Rosemberg PARIS (AFP) – Did Jim Morrison OD on a nightclub toilet or die of a drug-induced heart attack in a bathtub at home? Thirty-six years after the death in Paris of The Doors legend, biographers are locking horns over his final hours. The latest book on the life and times of the 1960s rock star, published this month in Paris, says Morrison was found slumped behind a locked toilet door on July 3 1971, in the Rock’n Roll Circus – a club that in its heyday rocked to the sounds of Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens, the Beach Boys and Eric Clapton. This version of the so-called Lizard King’s final hours has angered the author of another 2007 book on the singer-cum-poet-cum-filmmaker. “He is diminishing a great poet and songwriter,” US author Philip Steele said of Sam Bernett’s just-published “The End”. “He’s trashing him,” said Steele, whose biographical novel about Morrison, “City of Light”, was published in Germany last February. Not so, retorted Bernett, a writer and former journalist and nightclub operator who was then the 23-year-old manager of the Rock’n Roll Circus. “I’m not tarnishing anything, I’m simply telling the truth” he told. Bernett says in his book that on the night of July 2-3, 27-year-old Morrison turned up after midnight, binged on vodka and beer, bought a dose of heroine intended for his girlfriend and disappeared into the men’s room. When Bernett, the bouncer and the cloakroom attendant forced open the toilet door, “Jim Morrison is there, his head between his knees, his arms hanging,” Bernett writes. “I raised his head gently, holding him by the shoulders to stop him falling over. His face was grey, his eyes shut, there was blood under his nose, and whitish dribble like froth around his slightly open mouth and in his beard.” Among those who rushed to the scene were two dealers believed to have sold Morrison drugs and a doctor Bernett knew who was at the club that night. The dealers, unphased, decreed the singer was alive but faint. And when the doctor, who is unnamed in the book, pronounced him dead, probably of heart failure, the two took matters into their own hands, dragging the unconscious singer, with difficulty, out through a back door leading into an empty nightclub that backed onto the now defunct Rock’n Roll Circus, on Paris’ hip Left Bank. How they got Morrison back to his home – where they threw him in a hot bath in a failed attempt to revive him as his hysterical girlfriend looked on – Bernett does not know. Another witness, contacted by AFP, said
Morrison was exited from the club rolled up in a blanket. “He had a malaise in the toilets and I helped carry him,” said war photographer Patrice Chauvel, who, then aged 19, worked in the club. “I don’t know if he was dead. Maybe he died at home. They announced his death the next day, or perhaps the day after, I don’t remember.” “He was overweight, bearded, violent and a bit delirious. The boss wasn’t too pleased to have him as a customer as it was a very fashionable club.” Bernett recounts that the club owners then told him to let well alone and avoid calling in the police. So the police, when eventually called, registered him dead in his Paris flat, which before their arrival, Bernett says, had been cleared of drug evidence by dealer Count Jean de Breteuil – then with singer Marianne Faithfull. Morrison’s girlfriend Pamela Courson, who died four years later of a heroin overdose also aged 27, offered police conflicting accounts but said they had been to the cinema the previous night and she had found him in the tub in the morning. French filmmaker Agnes Varda, a friend of Morrison’s, was there to help. Steele, a rock musician named Phil Trainer at the time, who in 2005 received a Grammy nomination for his music in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”, panned Bernett’s book as drawing its facts largely from well-known biographers Stephen Davis and Danny Sugerman, while adding “scandal”. “This is making a scandal out of it,” he told. Steele, who met Morrison a couple of times, says he was suffering from writer’s block and was desperately ill, drinking, smoking and taking cocaine though he was asthmatic. “He would’ve died anyway,” said Steele, who disbelieves some of the details in Bernett’s book – that Morrison drank vodka rather than whisky, that he could be bundled out of the club without dozens of people noticing, that no witnesses are named... With no autopsy to stake out the truth, Steele believes the earlier official version of the death – that he may have been carried out of the club drunk but died at home after mistakenly taking a dose of his girlfriend’s heroin instead of sticking to cocaine as usual. “In my book, which is novelized, I elevate his bohemian personality,” he said. As for Bernett, he says he spoke out now because rumors had long swirled over the death scene, and the time had come to speak out. “For years people have been asking me what really happened. This is the truth.”
Spice Girls announce new tour dates in China, US, Canada LONDON (AFP) — The Spice Girls announced new dates in China, the United States and Canada as part of a six-continent, 14-night reunion tour. The British 1990s girl band, one of the most successful pop acts of all time, will now play in Shanghai in China, San Jose in California and Vancouver in Canada on the December 2007/January 2008 tour. They have shelved plans to kick off the shows in Los Angeles, the adopted home city of band member Victoria Beckham, whose footballer husband David joined the LA Galaxy team earlier this month. The first stop on the tour is now Vancouver on December 2. It will then go to San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, London, Cologne, Madrid, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and
Cape Town before ending at Buenos Aires on January 24, 2008. The Spice Girls sold over 50 million records worldwide and scored nine British number one singles, including “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life”. They announced they were reforming for a comeback tour last month but have denied the move is financially motivated. Some three million people have registered for a lottery for the chance to buy tickets, which promoters set up due to high demand. “We have just found out that we’ve had over three million ticket requests on the website. As our own VB (Victoria Beckham) would say, that is ‘major’!” the band said in a statement. Fans can also vote for the band to come to their hometown on the website.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Entertainment snapshots from all around the world!
GERMANY, Duesseldorf: Models display fashion of German sports equipment maker “Puma” during a show of the Igedo fashion fair in Duesseldorf, western Germany. More than 1,700 exhibitors from 51 countries presented their latest collections during the fair. AFP / michael gottschalk
BELARUS, Minsk : Artists create a sand sculpture (up), representing Jesus Christ, on a beach in Grodno, 270 kms (168 miles) west of Minsk. The group of artists create every year a giant sculpture of a famous character. AFP/ Alexey Gromov UNITED KINGDOM, London : British singer Lisa Mafia (left) arrives at the British Premiere of ‘The Simpsons Movie, at the Dome in London. Eighteen years after Homer’s first anguished ‘D’oh!’ and Bart’s first invitation to eat his shorts, America’s most dysfunctional cartoon family are heading to Hollywood. Initially appearing as an animated segment on comedian Tracey Ullman’s prime-time television show, “The Simpsons” then became a halfhour sitcom in its own right in 1988. AFP/ Max Nash
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
Sleeper issue in Hungary: the siesta BUDAPEST, (AFP) — Hungarian voters could soon decide on a sleeper issue: whether or not there should be a national siesta law. Hungary’s national electoral commission said that a request to hold a siesta referendum had received preliminary approval. A vote could be held on the issue in early 2008. “Do you agree that the parliament of the Republic of Hungary should create a law on the introduction of the siesta?” the proposed question reads. In giving its initial approval, the electoral commission said the question met form and content requirements. The person who proposed it, who was not identified, must now find 200,000 signatures to make the proposed referendum a reality. In Spain and Mexico, the cultural institution of the daily siesta has come under attack in recent years, with critics arguing that the midday work stoppage puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage in today’s global economy.
Bumbling Chinese bank robbers on trial for bizarre lottery heist BEIJING, (AFP) — Five Chinese men accused of stealing 51 million yuan (6.7 million dollars) and then buying lottery tickets in an attempt to win the money back went on trial recently, state media reported. Bank workers Ren Xiaofeng, 34, and Ma Xiangjing, 37, were charged with embezzling the Agricultural Bank of China in one of the most bizarre bank heists in history. Ren and Ma were vault managers at a branch in Handan city in the northern province of Hebei when they started taking money from the safe to play the state lottery in what state media called the country’s biggest bank robbery on record. The two thought that by buying millions of yuan in tickets they would eventually win back enough to replace the missing funds and allow them to leave their low-paid jobs for a life of luxury. They spent a total of 47 million yuan on lottery tickets in Handan, but failing to win, went on the lam in mid-April, only to be arrested by police days later.
Each column, row and box must contain each number from 1 to 9. There is only one solution, which will be published next week. Last week’s solution is shown here.
Could hospital cat be angel of death? NEW YORK, (AFP) — He is a two-year-old cat and looks innocent enough. But at the nursing home where he lives in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, Oscar has developed a reputation as an angel of death. Since being adopted as a kitten by staff at the advanced dementia unit of Providence’s Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Oscar has revealed a rather morbid tendency to pick which patient is going to die next. According to David Dosa, a geriatrician at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Oscar makes regular rounds, looking in on patients and giving them a quick sniff, before either moving on or settling down for a cuddle. So accurate have his predictions been, that as soon as the white and tabby harbinger of death curls up with one of the patients, staff immediately start summoning family and clergy to the soon-to-be deathbed. “His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families,” Dosa added.
Dosa did not offer any explanation for Oscar’s uncanny powers of prognostication, which patients were not yet believed to have spotted.
Norwegian Princess Maertha Louise says she is clairvoyant OSLO, (AFP) — Norwegian Princess Maertha Louise claims she is clairvoyant and intends to share her gifts in a newly created school for students who wish to “get in contact with (their) angels,” she said on the school website. On the website, the 35-year-old princess, keen on alternative therapies, explains how she already “as a small child” discovered that she had the gift of decoding the inner feelings of people she met. “I learnt how to systematize my impressions and to read other (people’s minds), and through the
horses I learnt to communicate with the animals on a deeper level,” she said. “It was while I was taking care of the horses that I got in contact with the angels. I have lately understood the value of this important gift and I wish to share it with other people, maybe with you,” she said. The Astarte school offers every student to get in contact with their angels, described as “forces that surround us and who are a resource and help in all the aspects of our lives,” through alternative therapies as hands-on treatment and healing. The tuition fees amount to 12,000 kroner per semester (approximately 1,500 euros, 2,100 dollars) and the program lasts for three years.
British addicts to get vouchers to help kick drugs LONDON, (AFP) — Drug addicts will be given shopping vouchers to help them give up
drugs, according to measures announced recently by a government health body. The measure affects 36,000 Britons aged over 16, who will be given between 70 and 150 pounds (105 and 225 euros, 145 and 310 dollars) on the condition that they seek out treatment programs and stay clean, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said. Those who abandon drug-taking may also receive financial incentives linked to consistent monitoring of their condition, to ensure they do not relapse. Addicts may receive vouchers or other incentives for taking vaccinations – about 30 percent of injecting drug users are Hepatitis B positive. The vouchers will be able to be used for goods and services, and will be worth a “couple of pounds” each. Overall, the measure will cost the government about 13.4 million pounds to implement, in addition to 2.5 to five million pounds per year for the vouchers and incentives scheme.
Aug. 1 - Aug. 7, 2007
McLaren cleared over F1 spy case PARIS (AFP) — Formula One giants Ferrari said they were outraged that rivals McLaren had been cleared of any wrongdoing in the spying row which has rocked the sport and vowed to keep fighting the case. An extraordinary hearing of the FIA’s 25-strong World Motor Sports Council ruled that there was no evidence the British team had benefited from the confidential Ferrari documents that were found in the possession of their chief designer. “Ferrari notes that McLarenMercedes has been found guilty by the FIA World Council,” said a statement from the Ferrari team referring to the fact that by being in possession of the files, McLaren were in breach of the sporting code. “It therefore finds it incomprehensible that violating the fundamental principle of sporting honesty does not have, as a logical and inevitable consequence, the application of a sanction. The statement went on: “Today’s decision legitimizes dishonest behavior in Formula One and sets a very bad precedent. “Ferrari feels this is highly prejudicial to the credibility of the sport. It will continue with the legal action already underway within the Italian criminal justice system and in the civil courts in England.” A relieved McLaren team boss Ron Dennis said on leaving the hearing at the FIA headquarters at Place de la Concorde here: “The punishment fits the crime.” If guilty McLaren, whose driver
If guilty McLaren, whose driver Lewis Hamilton leads the championship from teammate Fernando Alonso, had faced having points deducted. AFP/ José Luis Roca
Lewis Hamilton leads the championship from teammate Fernando Alonso, had faced having points deducted. “There is no doubt that the past 24 days have been challenging and the tremendous support we have received from our sponsor partners and the public has been much appreciated,” Dennis later told McLaren’s website. “Moving forward, McLaren wants to re-affirm our long-standing
commitment to honesty and integrity and restate that we believe we have acted correctly throughout.” Hamilton was adamant the ruling was right. “Whilst it’s only my first season in Formula 1 with the team, I already know and appreciate the commitment and dedication of the people there,” Hamilton said. “As a result I am pleased with
Vick merchandise pulled from shelves BEAVERTON (AFP) — Nike and Reebok have suspended the sale of Michael Vick merchandise as the embattled Atlanta Falcons quarterback prepares to face charges of illegal dogfighting. “Nike has suspended Michael Vick’s contract without pay, and will not sell any more Michael Vick product at Nike owned retail at this time,” a statement from the sports equipment manufacturing giant said. “As we’ve said before, Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. However, we do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen in the United States, therefore, we have not terminated our relationship.” Reebok later followed suit, suspending sale of Vick’s No. 7 Falcons jersey. “Reebok is as disturbed as everybody else about the allegations and did not feel there was any other choice but to suspend the sale of his jersey,” Reebok spokeswoman Denise Kaigler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Vick, who was arraigned in a Virginia court on and will face trial with three co-defendants starting November 26. He pleaded not guilty to charges involving competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines. The NFL and the Falcons have faced numerous calls to suspend Vick but both have so far said they are not prepared to take action at this stage.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick(R) arrives for arraignment in federal court. Vick and three associates were indicted earlier this month on charges related to their alleged role in an interstate dogfighting ring. AFP/ Jonathan Ernst
However, Vick has been told by the NFL not to attend Falcons training camp, as commissioner Roger Goodell probes whether Vick has violated the league’s personal conduct policy. “While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy,” Goodell said in a letter to Vick instructing him to stay away from training camp.
today’s decision and can’t wait for the rest of the season.” In clearing McLaren, the FIA added a warning that if in the future McLaren were found to have used the information passed to Mike Coughlan, their suspended designer, by a disaffected Ferrari employee then they risked being kicked out of the 2007 and 2008 season. An FIA statement said: “The WMSC was satisfied that McLaren
was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code. “However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way to interfere improperly with the FIA F1 championship. “We therefore impose no penalty.” The statement added: “But if it’s found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship we reserve the right to invite McLaren back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from the 2007 championship but also the 2008 championship.” The FIA said it would be summoning the two men at the centre of the affair, Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney and Coughlan, to their Paris HQ “to show reason why they should not be banned from international motorsport for a lengthy period”. The affair erupted after Coughlan was caught in possession of a 780-page Ferrari technical dossier following a search of his home by High Court-appointed officials. Dennis had always strenuously denied that anyone at McLaren other than Coughlan had set eyes on the dossier. Hamilton heads the drivers’ standings on 70 points, two clear of world champion Alonso, with Ferrari duo Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen in third and fourth with 59 and 52. McLaren also top the constructor standings, with 138 points, 27 clear of Ferrari.