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Costa Rican creates plasma rocket to pick up space trash

LIBERIA, Costa Rica — Franklin Chang Diaz has great aspirations for his rocket: a mail-carrier for outer space, a garbage truck for orbital debris and, the ultimate goal, a shuttle to Mars. The Costa Rica-born physicist speaks nonchalantly about the day humankind will have moved entirely to outer space, while our precious Earth becomes “a protected park.”

Honduran accord falls apart

After speaking too soon, perhaps, the U.S. State Department appeared at a loss for words today as the much touted Honduran accord — which high ranking U.S. officials helped broker — broke apart once again.

China and Costa Rica move toward free trade agreement

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Jorge Vilarrasa's grandfather left Spain 50 years ago to start a wood production company. His business became a regional leader recognized for its forest conservation practices and eco-friendly plywood. 

 "During our best times we were producing 2,000 cubic meters per month and we employed 400 people," boasted Vilarrasa, the company's president. Those days are over.

The race for carbon neutrality

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Long heralded as a tiny country with a tenacious commitment to bettering the environment, Costa Rica now intends to win the greenest of honors: to become the first country to go entirely carbon neutral by 2021. From the northern Caribbean canals of Tortuguero to the lush southwest Osa Peninsula, going green has long been the mantra. The country's national tourism campaign slogan is "Costa Rica, no artificial ingredients." Nearly all the electricity consumed by Ticos is renewable, with as much as 80 percent generated by hydroelectric power

Court sentences former president to five years in prison over kickbacks

Costa Rica’s right wing is reeling after a San Jose court sentenced the former president, Rafael Angel Calderon, to five years in prison for accepting kickbacks and arranging other unlawful payments from a Finnish medical firm, in the country’s first corruption trial against a previous head of state. Calderon, who led the country from 1990 to 1994, was found guilty Monday of receiving some $520,000 from a loan intended for medical equipment for the Costa Rica’s public hospitals. Calderon says he’s innocent and that the money was a consulting fee.

Stem cell tourism in Central America

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Dr. Orlando Morales is something of a celebrity at Costa Rica’s University of Medical Science, sauntering through the halls in his white lab coat. On a recent walk, students and faculty greeted him with “Feliz cumpleanos, doctor.” He just turned 68. With the excitement of a young doctor fresh out of medical school, Morales’ eyes light up when he observes the petri dishes that harvest “celulas madre,” or stem cells, from mice.

Carter to help on Honduras

When the going gets tough, the tough get the world's most decorated peacemakers. At least, that seems to be the case with Honduras, whose de facto leaders have agreed to welcome a delegation composed of the likes of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Costa Rica's current President Oscar Arias. Both men are proud bearers of a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace deals between bitter violent foes; Carter at Camp David in 1978 for the Middle East, and Arias in the following decade in Central America.

What's not happening in Honduras?

It's a lot easier to tell what is not happening in the Honduras crisis than what is. Since deposed President Manuel Zelaya's surprise return Monday, he has remained holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Brazil handing Zelaya over to the de facto Honduran authorities? Not happening. De facto President Roberto Micheletti ordering armed forces to barge into the embassy and arrest Zelaya? Not happening.

Central America marks independence

This week Central America marks 188 years of independence from Spain, in a celebration that in some ways got bogged down in politics. For one, the passing of the “Antorcha de la Libertad” (Liberty Torch) became yet another event to salt the wounds of the two-and-a-half-month-old Honduran coup. Every year the torch is carried from country to country as a symbol of the region’s break-away from the grip of Spanish King Ferdinand VII, and of its renewed civismo or civic sentiment.

Preparing for the Big One

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Eugenia Baltodano does what she can to eke out a living growing enough rice, beans and corn to feed herself and her 12 children. But making ends meet isn't Baltodano's only concern. She's also worried about her village's ability to withstand what scientists have been warning about for years: the Big One. "People are afraid, but at the same time, they just don't believe it will ever happen," she said.
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