Monday, August 31, 2009

Parents of student missing in Costa Rica may hire private eye

Steve Miller Reporting
WBBM Newsradio 780

Chicago (WBBM) - As the search for a Chicago man missing in Costa Rica nears the three-week mark, the family is preparing to hire a private investigator.

This is the day 28-year-old David Gimelfarb was to resume classes at Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago.

His friend Christine Shaw says David's parents are about to take a new step in their search for their only child, who disappeared August 11 in Costa Rica.

"David's parents are looking into hiring a private investigator. They're starting from a list that was given to them by the U.S embassy in Costa Rica."

David Gimelfarb's parents have been in Costa Rica since the week David disappeared.

The Red Cross had been among the first on the scene at the national park where Gimelfarb had stopped to go hiking. Red Cross rescue workers had numbered more than 100.

Yesterday, the Red Cross pulled out of the search.

"It feels like the search is kind of moved to sort of a different level, which is a little bit scary."

Shaw says the Gimelfarbs want an investigator to go back over the path their son took from Chicago to Costa Rica - then into the park that day, August 11.

Shaw says she still believes David could be alive.

"We're not giving up hope yet," she says.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Red Cross suspending search for student missing in Costa Rica

Steve Miller Reporting

Chicago (WBBM) - The search for a missing doctoral student from Chicago is marking a sad milestone today in Costa Rica: The Red Cross is ending its rescue efforts, at least temporarily.

On Tuesday, it will be three weeks since the disappearance of 28-year-old David Gimelfarb, a Chicago doctoral student who hasn't been seen since he left for a hike in a national park in Costa Rica.

His parents left their home in the Chicago suburbs to travel to Costa Rica - and that's where they've been since August 13 - searching - waiting for news.

Rescue crews have come and gone. Since the beginning, the Red Cross has been searching.

Now, on the Facebook page dedicated to finding David Gimelfarb, there is an update which says: "It was heartbreaking to talk with David's mom...; the involvement of Red Cross is concluding."

Sunday is expected to be the final day for the Red Cross.

The Facebook site indicated that David Gimelfarb's parents have hired people in Costa Rica to continue the search.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Costa Rica reissuing tickets for Mexico game due to counterfeit fears

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rican football officials are reissuing tickets for next month's critical World Cup qualifying match against Mexico, fearing the market is flooded with counterfeit tickets.

The Sept. 5 match is crucial to determining which team reaches next year's World Cup in South Africa. Costa Rica leads CONCACAF qualifying with 12 points, but the United States and Honduras are right behind with 10 and Mexico has 9. The top three automatically advance.

"We have received information about counterfeited tickets," the Costa Rican Football Federation said on Wednesday. "The rumour is pretty solid, which is why we made the decision."

Fans will be able to trade in old tickets for new ones from Thursday at Saprissa Stadium, where the match will be played. Holders of duplicate tickets will face questioning from police and judicial investigators.

A few days ago the newspaper Diario Extra reported counterfeit tickets were on sale, some for more than the official prices.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Results of the AH1N1 vaccine testing in Costa Rica to be ready In three weeks

(Inside Costa Rica) - A week ago 784 Costa Ricans aged from three to sixty-four years of age began AH1N1 vaccine trials that is also being done in the United States and Mexico in the search for a vaccine against the AH1N1 flu virus.

The Costa Rican results of a possible vaccine against the virus are expected within a month.

The trials in Costa Rica are being conducted by the Swiss pharmaceutical, Novartis in the capital, San Jose.

Novartis is one of six international firms conducting trials in search for an AH1N1 vaccine.

Depending on the trials results, a vaccine could start to be marketed as early as the end of September or early October.

The final decision on the vaccination will be up to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Team searches Costa Rica park for missing U.S hiker

San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - The Red Cross says a search team of 30 people is still hunting for a U.S. student who disappeared two weeks ago while hiking in a mountainous park in Costa Rica.

Red Cross official Carlos Gutierrez says the searchers have been combing the Rincon de la Vieja national park looking for 28-year-old David Gimelfarb, a doctoral student in psychology in Chicago.

Gutierrez said Monday that Gimelfarb entered the park Aug. 11 and park rangers began searching for him that day after his car was the only one left in the parking lot.

U.S. Embassy official Eugene Santoro says two Black Hawk helicopters and their crews from a U.S. military base in Honduras helped in the search last week but there are no plans for them to return.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Miss Universe 2009 swimsuit beauties

Miss Universe contestants Jessica Umana, Miss Costa Rica 2009; Michelle Rouillard, Miss Colombia 2009, and Nicosia Lawson, Miss Cayman Islands 2009, pose for the photographer ahead of the Miss Universe 2009 pageant at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. (Photo: Reuters)

Friday, August 21, 2009

US Treasury sanctions alleged FARC contact and his companies

By Sarah N. Lynch
DOW JONES Newswires

Washington -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday it has sanctioned Jose Cayetano Melo Perilla for assisting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with narcotics trafficking.

Treasury said Melo Perilla, a Colombian national who resides in Costa Rica, is a drug trafficker and financial contact for the FARC's 27th front.

The Treasury's office of foreign assets control also additionally named four entities that are controlled or directed by Melo Perilla: Carillanca Colombia Y Cia S en CS, a Colombian company dedicated to hydroponic agriculture; Carillanca SA, a Costa Rican company involved in tomato cultivation; Carillanca C.A., a Venezuela-based real estate and construction company; and Parqueadero De La 25- 13, a commercial parking lot in Bogota, Colombia.

The Treasury said Thursday's announcement marks the tenth set of designations under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act since 2004. The act allows the U.S. government to freeze assets that Melo Perilla and other designees have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits them from doing business with the U.S.

"Although recent actions by the Colombian government have undercut FARC significantly, it continues to be the leading trafficker of narcotics out of Colombia," said Adam J. Szubin, the director of the department's foreign assets control office.

FARC was designated as a global terrorist by the U.S. in 2001 and as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cruz Azul beat Saprissa 2-0 in Mexico City

Mexico's Cruz Azul midfielder Adrian Cortes (R) battles for the ball with Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa defender Yader Balladares during their CONCACAF Champions Cup soccer match at the Azul stadium in Mexico City August 19, 2009. Cruz Azul won the match 2-0.
(REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Picture of the day

Jessica Umana, Miss Costa Rica 2009, competes in the swimsuit segment of the Miss Universe 2009 presentation show at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas, August 15, 2009. Picture taken August 15, 2009. REUTERS/Miss Universe Organization L.P.,LLLP/Handout

Woman describes crocodile moment as 'like being in Jaws'

Maria Sherring, a holidaymaker who was caught on camera the moment a crocodile launched itself at her head in Costa Rica, said it was "like being in a Jaws film."

By Nick Britten

Mrs Sherring was on boat trip with her family when her tour guide lured the giant animal closer with a stick.

The 40-year-old was snapping away with her camera as the crocodile approached, but then, jaws gaping, it leapt out of the water and lunged at her.

After staring into its open mouth for a split second, the family watched as the crocodile sank back into the muddy water and slid away.

The remarkable moment was captured by another tourist who was on another boat crocodile spotting from across the Tempisque River.

Mrs Sherring, 40, from Christchurch, Dorset, saw the photo but thought nothing of it until she spotted her picture splashed across newspapers around the world.

She said: "When I saw the picture had made it into the papers I was stunned. My first thought was disbelief that I was in a national paper.

"I saw it on the TV and even in a magazine I picked up at the doctor's surgery.

"It originally said I was German. Now I don't mean any offence to Germans, but I am proudly British.

"At least I've got a great holiday snap to show people."

She said her experience was "exhilarating" and within seconds the family were laughing about it.

Mrs Sherring, a manager for a local hospital trust, said: "The tour guide was brilliant but absolutely crazy. He started sharpening this wooden stick, skewered a piece of chicken on the end and the next thing we knew, this crocodile started coming towards us.

"I had never seen one before, so it was really fantastic to be there. Once we realised what was happening we were excited.

"It did get very close to the boat indeed and it looked like a real monster, but we quickly got used to it as the guide started teasing it.

"The croc had jumped up to catch the stick about six times and there was no more chicken left, so the guide tied a white plastic bag on the end of it and tried again.

"This time, he tapped it on the side of the boat and the croc just jumped straight towards me.

"I screamed and jumped back - it's not every day you have a crocodile that close up. "It was like being in a Jaws film with these teeth coming towards me.

"But a moment later we were all laughing about it. We realised I wasn't really in any real danger, but it was a shock."

She added: "My mother was frantic with worry that I was nearly eaten, but of course it didn't look that serious from where I was sitting.

"I was exhilarated, but not exactly close to death. That croc was a seasoned pro and I think he made the most of his photo opportunity."

Paul Stodolny, 29, from Toronto, Canada, who took the photo, said: "I was thrilled to get the photo, it really was a once-in-a lifetime shot."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Costa Rican leader Arias recovers from swine flu

San Jose, Costa Rica, (Reuters) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has recovered from a bout of H1N1 swine flu and will return to his normal routine on Tuesday, his office said on Monday.

"He's not coming to work today but will come tomorrow," Manuel Morales, a spokesman for the Costa Rican presidency, said.

Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, has been working from his home since contracting a mild case of the swine flu more than a week ago.

The Costa Rican president, 68, was the first head of state known to be infected with the H1N1 virus, which has spread around the world since April and could eventually affect 2 billion people, according to global health authorities.

Arias had been considered a higher-risk case because he also suffers from asthma. While most cases of H1N1 worldwide have not been serious, people with other illnesses may be more likely to suffer severe effects from the virus.

Last month, Arias brokered talks to try to resolve the political crisis in Honduras, where a de facto government unrecognized by most of the world has been holding power since the army ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a June 28 coup.

Negotiations broke down three weeks ago over whether the interim leadership would let Zelaya return to power.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Search under way for missing student in Costa Rica

(picture provided by WLS-Chicago)Chicago (WLS) - A Chicago doctoral student was missing in Costa Rica Saturday night.

David Gimelfarb was supposed to start class at the Adler School of Professional Psychology Monday, but he disappeared after going on a hike in a Costa Rican national park last Tuesday.

Fifty Red Cross volunteers have been searching for him at the Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

"Unfortunately, this is a really dense, forested area," said family friend Benjamin Dias. "So, it is really hard to cover much ground."

"We're working closely with the family to confirm any information we can and we'll be working with them to extend any assistance we can while they work to reunite with their son. He is a member of our student body, and we are very worried about him," said Jo Beth Cup of the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

Gimelfarb is a Highland Park, Ill. resident. His parents have flown to Costa Rica to join the search.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Costa Rica A/H1N1 flu deaths raise to 29

San Jose, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) - The Costa Rican Health authorities confirmed Friday one new death from A/H1N1 influenza, raising the country's death toll to 29, the highest in Central America.

The patient, a 49-year-old rural woman, died Tuesday of a lung infection. The health authorities are also investigating Monday's death of a 26-year-old man.

Costa Rica has reported a total of 856 H1N1 patients, including President Oscar Arias. Among them, 91 have been hospitalized.

Arias remains isolated at home. "The epidemic does not discriminate. I am subject to the same recommendations the health authorities have for all the people," he said in a statement.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Costa Rica's Arias works from home with swine flu

(REUTERS/FILE PHOTO/Juan Carlos Ulate)San Jose, Costa Rica, (Reuters) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias received treatment at home for the H1N1 swine flu virus on Wednesday, and officials said his symptoms were mild and he could recover by next week.

Health ministry doctors tested people who have been in recent contact with the president, including members of his Cabinet, Arias' office said, a day after announcing he was ill with a mild case of the virus.

The 68-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner is the first head of state known to have contracted swine flu, which has spread around the world since April and could eventually affect 2 billion people.

Arias was being treated with the antiviral Tamiflu for symptoms like body aches and a sore throat, but was working on his computer and answering the telephone, presidential spokeswoman Lisbeth Barbosa said.

"He will probably be back to a full schedule next Monday," she said.

Swine flu was declared a pandemic on June 11 and has killed more than 800 people worldwide. The World Health Organization stopped trying to get a precise count of flu cases.

Arias is considered a high-risk case because he also suffers from asthma. He began feeling sick over the weekend and was tested for H1N1 on Monday.

Vice Health Minister Ana Morice on Wednesday afternoon told Costa Rican television that Arias no longer had a fever and was mainly suffering from a sore throat.

Last month, Arias brokered talks to resolve the political crisis in Honduras, where a de facto government unrecognized by most of the world has been holding power since the army ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a June 28 coup.

Negotiations broke down two weeks ago over whether the interim leadership would let Zelaya return to power. Arias' illness is unlikely to affect the situation.

(Reporting by John McPhaul; Editing by Will Dunham)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Costa Rican president has swine flu

(REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)By John McPhaul

San Jose (Reuters) - Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is suffering from the H1N1 virus, making him the first head of state known to have contracted swine flu.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Arias, 68, has a mild case of the virus which he tested positive for on on Tuesday after feeling unwell at the weekend, the government said.

Arias, who suffers from asthma, is at home and plans to do some work from there.

"Apart from the fever and a sore throat, I feel well and in good shape to carry out my work by telecommuting. I expect to return to all my duties on Monday," he said in a statement.

The H1N1 flu outbreak, declared a pandemic on June 11, has spread around the world since emerging in April and could eventually affect 2 billion people, according to estimates by the U.N. World Health Organization.

While the vast majority of swine flu cases have not been serious, infected people who have other medical conditions are most susceptible to complications.

"The tests ... show that there is no other complication," Information Minister Mayi Antillon said.

Some of the president's duties have been given to Cabinet ministers for the moment.

Last month, Arias brokered talks to try to end a political crisis in Honduras after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup on June 28.

Negotiations broke down two weeks ago over whether Zelaya can return to power and Arias' illness is unlikely to affect the situation in Honduras.

Doctors ordered Arias last year to stop talking for a month due to a vocal chord ailment. He communicated by writing and typing.

Arias won the Nobel prize in 1987 for a peace plan to end Central American civil wars and guerrilla conflicts.

He first served as president from 1986-90 and was re-elected in 2006 on a promise to end corruption and take the small country into a Central American free trade pact with the United States.

Arias broke Costa Rica's decades-old diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2007 to establish ties with rival Beijing, saying his country could no longer ignore China's growing power in the world.

(Writing by Alistair Bell, editing by Anthony Boadle).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Woman gives birth to twins before dying from the AH1N1 flu

Deaths in Costa Rica climb to 27

(Inside Costa Rica) - Health Minister, Maria Luisa Avila, confirmed Friday two more deaths from the AH1N1 flu virus, bringing the total to 27.

Numbers 26 and 27 are a man, whose personal information was not released and 25-year-old woman, who had been pregnant with twins.

Doctors had performed a cesarean section on the woman last week when the woman's condition got worse. Avila said the twin babies are doing fine.

"The young woman had been in hospital for some time, the pregnancy being a high risk condition. We were able to save the babies, but unfortunately not her", said Avila.

The good news is that the number of reported cases seems to be dropping.

Health officials say that the number of people in hospitals last week was 129, dropping to 119 at the beginning of this week and yesterday only 95 (17 of which are in intensive care and 78 in isolation).

Of the 4.630 cases reported, only 798 cases of infection were confirmed and another 984, of which 18 are children, are pending analysis

Friday, August 07, 2009

Flu virus medicine to be free in Costa Rica

By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

There may be a long line to get it, but Costa Rica is doling out free anti-viral medicine to counter the A(H1N1) flu virus, which has so far claimed 25 lives in Costa Rica.

The medicine was donated by the Pan American Health Organization, and it will be distributed by the Costa Rican Social Security system as well as by private hospitals and clinics.

Because the medication is considered a “public good,” it will be distributed to people at no cost and following established guidelines,” according to a statement from the Health Ministry.

The medication – known as oseltamivir – was first administered to laboratory-confirmed cases and their contacts, but now people are being treated without waiting for laboratory results to confirm the virus.

The Health Ministry said people with influenza-like illness, who have high risk factors, should receive anti-viral treatment and that the medication should be taken within the first 72 hours of infection.

Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila further recommended against indiscriminate use of oseltamivir, as it could cause people to become resistant to the virus and also could disrupt the day-to-day operations of medical clinics.

Avila recommended that people follow instructions of medical personnel and not distribute, sell or donate the medication to other people.

President Oscar Arias urged residents “not to let our guard down.” He said the medication should be distributed to pregnant women first, as they are at higher risk of further medical complications from the flu strain.

Since the virus first entered Costa Rica in late April, at least 25 people have died of complications resulting from the flu. An additional 755 have been confirmed to be carrying the virus.

Of those who died, roughly 36 percent suffered from a lung condition, 40 percent were obese and 20 percent had high blood pressure.

The virus continues to affect young people predominantly. Sixty percent of the confirmed cases in the Central American region have been children younger than 20 years old.

Pregnant women are also highly susceptible “due to the physical changes (they) undergo in their condition,” read the statement.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oracle expands operations in Costa Rica

(Photo:La Nacion)By Adam Williams
Tico Times Staff

President Oscar Arias cut the ribbon Tuesday at the inauguration of the new offices of Oracle, one of the world's largest business software companies.

The ceremony took place at the new 3,000-square meter office complex in Santa Ana, located in the Forum II free-trade zone. Oracle has invested over $100 million in its Costa Rica expansion.

“We are thankful Oracle has chosen to expand their operations in Costa Rica,” Arias said at the ceremony. “It gives us one more sign that our efforts and sacrifices are continuing in the right direction, in the direction of development and modernity.”

Arias indicated that further economic stimulation, such as the investment of Oracle, will help alleviate the effects of the economic crisis. Oracle, which is based in California, will employ 230 people at the new location. Oracle's other Costa Rican offices are located in downtown San Jose.

Eric Brenner, the vice president of industries for Oracle in Latin America, explained that the reason for the expansion is the ease of doing business in Costa Rica. Brenner said the cooperative demeanor of the people and the country's established social and legal systems encouraged Oracle to commit to the expansion.

“Costa Rica has provided us with the conditions to offer a world class service,” said Brenner.

Oracle currently provides software for several Costa Rican organizations, including the University of Costa Rica, the National Biodiversity Institute, the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute, as well as many others.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Meeting for Honduras held in Costa Rica

Ibero-American General Secretary Enrique Iglesias speaks during a press conference at the residence of Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias in San Jose August 3, 2009. Iglesias met with President Arias, Spanish Vice President Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega and OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza to discuss the political crisis in Honduras. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Undeterred by flu warning, Catholics march to Cartago

(Photo:Mario Rojas/La Nacion)By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

The flu couldn't keep thousands of people from marching from San Jose eastward to the old capital of Cartago this weekend.

Despite the Health Ministry's call for people to refrain from making the journey and the Catholic Church's closure of the Cartago basilic, Costa Ricans filled the streets on a pilgrimage that's drawn walkers for more than 227 years. Depending on where they begin their journey, Ticos walk from several hours to several days at this time of year to pay homage to a statuette of the Virgen de los Angeles, the patron saint of Costa Rica, on Aug. 2.

As presidential candidate Laura Chinchilla recently told the daily La Nacion, “Costa Ricans' faith is stronger than the pandemic.”

But for those who didn't want to take the risk – at a time when the A(H1N1) flu virus is at its height – a group of software developers created a virtual Romeria (holy pilgrimage) at http://www.romeriavirtual.com/.

“The Romeria has been something that has gone on for many years. People are accustomed to marching,” said Esteban Cairol, a creator of the Web site and a spokesman for the Archdiocese. “When we heard the Romeria might be suspended, we started to think of ideas of a secure way people could still participate and in which they would get that sense of a community.”

As of Sunday evening, 12,590 people had gone on their site and uploaded a picture of themselves to one of the marchers walking across their computer screen. Some chose characters who walked on their knees, some danced across the screen doing the moonwalk and most everyone added personal messages to their character.

According the latest numbers from the Health Ministry, 22 people have died in Costa Rica of medical complications resulting from the A(H1N1) virus. The ministry has confirmed roughly 718 cases nationwide.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

High phase of AH1N1 pandemic in Costa Rica not over yet

(Inside Costa Rica) - Costa Rican health officials had expected that the number of AH1N1 cases would begin to drop on Friday after for weeks of increasing infections and deaths. But, such is not the case.

The Health Ministry had predicted that by the end of July the pandemic situation would ease, but now are saying that it will linger on for at least another two weeks before any signs of improvement begin to appear.

The Health Minister, Maria Luisa Avila, to combat the rise in confirmed infections which now stands at 718 and 22 deaths, extended the mid-year school vacation another week and cancelled the traditional 200 year plus "romeria" (walk to Cartago) which was to have been held today and tomorrow.

"The projections are updated daily and every day we are learning that what occurs in the mornings changes in the afternoons", said ministra Avila.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Costa Rica, Mexico sign new cooperation agreement

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)San Jose (Xinhua) - Costa Rica on Friday hailed the strengthening of commercial ties with Mexico after a cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries.

The agreement, signed on Thursday by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was on an official visit to Coast Rica, and his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias in San Jose, covers cooperation in such areas as education, science and tourism.

The agreement would give a fresh boost to bilateral exchanges after the 1995 free trade agreement, said Costa Rican Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz.

The free trade agreement has helped strengthen bilateral ties over the past 14 years and both countries now deem it necessary to expand their cooperation to other areas, Ruiz said.

"We consider it an opportunity to pick up the best practices that have been done since the signature of the first treaty and to update the ruling frame of our relations with Mexico," Ruiz added.

According to the Foreign Trade Ministry, two-way trade has tripled over the last 10 years, rising from 411 million U.S. dollars in 1998 to 1.193 billion dollars last year.

Mexico is the main importer of Costa Rican products including palm oil, almonds, meat, batteries and metal parts.

The ministry said Mexico has now become an important source of foreign investment in the past five years with $271 million, which accounts for 4 percent of the country's total investment inflows.

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