Costa Rica’s Franklin Chang 100 Hour Plasma Engine Goal

Costa Rica News – Franklin Chang’s company intends to operate its plasma engine for 100 continuous hours.

It is in its third year of a contract with NASA, which granted it $9 million to achieve the goal by next year.

The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Motor (VASIMR) will ideally be operated at a power of 100 Kilowatts for the 100 hours by 2018.

It is so far been operating at that power for periods of ten minutes.

The US space agency is interested in advancing human exploration in space as well as spacecraft operations.

The VASIMR is an alternative kind of engine that could be able to conduct a probe or ship to the desired direction in space.

This engine is essential in order for humans to explore deep space which can not be achieved with the chemical engines of today. There is an extraordinary team executing the development.

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The Costa Rica Medical Marketplace

Costa Rica News By Galya Gerstman – I often joke to outsiders that in Costa Rica, it would appear that traffic regulations are not obligatory, but merely suggestions, judging by what I see on the roads. I have since found that this flexible attitude toward what would normally be considered serious matters seems to extend to other areas as well. I will give you a case in point.

I have a friend, let’s call her Maria, who is a lawyer. Her specialty is contract negotiations, and so I must assume that she is a pretty deft negotiator. Why am I telling you this? Be patient.

Well, Maria went for her yearly mammogram and the doctor discovered a mass. That’s not a very funny intro, but what is funny is all that transpired after. She then went to an oncologist who sent her off to do an MRI and a biopsy. There’s something else you should know about Maria: she’s one of those tree-hugger types. You know, vegetarian (except when it comes to The Cheesecake Factory’s Shrimp Scampi), makes herself a tea when she has a headache instead of taking aspirin, didn’t let her kids watch TV till they were, like, in high school, etc. So she wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea of putting her body through these tests. Moreover, she told the oncologist, she had had the same mass 2 years ago and a biopsy at the time had shown a negative result. He was not convinced.

“That was a fine needle aspiration,” he explained, “and those are at best 60% accurate.” This was news to my friend, as well as to the doctor who had sent her for the first biopsy and the one who had performed it, she surmised. But the present doctor’s convincing demeanor forestalled her protests. “The core biopsy, on the other hand, gives us a bigger sample, and thus more accuracy.” Bigger sample meaning bigger needle? She gulped.

So first she endured the MRI, in which she was encapsulated in a big metal tube and told not to move an inch—for thirty whole minutes—while the machine banged out noise like your sixteen-year-old’s garage band. Even with the noise-obstructing headphones, she still heard the clanking and whirring, as if the Wizard of Oz’s tin man were doing a Zumba class. But the worst was not being able to move for thirty whole minutes. She was sure she would suddenly sneeze or have one of those spaz attacks where your whole body shudders, and have to repeat the process again.  And did I mention the price? Eight hundred dollars. Private medicine, of course. Otherwise she’d probably have had to wait two years for the Costa Rican Social Security to fit her in. But anyway, she was in luck. They were having a sale! I didn’t know medical procedures could be marked down (was it a slow season?) but indeed, for all that month, there was a sale on MRIs, so she only had to fork over five hundred.

After that she had the core biopsy, wherein the doctor and nurse had to give her five mammograms until they found the spot to gouge. “Isn’t all that radiation from the mammograms dangerous?” she worried. The nurse assured her it was less than the radiation one is exposed to on a transatlantic flight. Maria hadn’t known about radiation on planes. Now she had yet another thing to worry about next time she flew to Madrid. Finally, they inserted a little titanium coil there after they were done, so that for her next mammogram they wouldn’t have so much trouble finding that damned spot again.

The diagnosis: Lobular Carcinoma In Situ. Well, like any self-respecting internet surfer, my friend quickly discovered that this is the most inoffensive type of tumor you can have. “In Situ” means it’s “in place”, in other words, not spreading. The Cancer.org site began thusly: “[Blah blah blah] but it differs from DCIS in that it’s not a pre-cancer. The main difference is that LCIS cannot become an invasive cancer, even if it isn’t treated.” And furthermore: “Since LCIS is not a true cancer or pre-cancer, often no treatment is recommended.” My friend was, as one might expect, overjoyed.

Until she went back to her friendly neighborhood oncologist. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to come out,” he corrected her. In fact, the MRI seemed to show some very small but nonetheless suspicious masses that it would be best to remove, he advised. Moreover, he suggested removing the original mass as well as ten centimeters around it, and also injecting a substance the day before to see if it had spread to the lymph nodes or was capable of spreading to them and if so, he would take out part of the underarm as well. The man was nothing if not thorough!

Maria left his office shrunken with fright. If she had been traumatized by the MRI which was not even invasive, and the core biopsy which was only a very thick needle, she was positively quaking at the thought of surgery and its aftermath. For though the doctor had told her it was a simple procedure (for him) (she hoped to God), and that she wouldn’t even have to spend the night in the hospital, he also mentioned in passing radiation and possible chemotherapy treatments afterwards. Having seen the effects of chemo on various people before they died anyway, my friend was understandably frightened.

She decided to get a second opinion. The second oncologist she consulted was equally lauded for being a specialist. Nonetheless, after hearing stories of acquaintances’ radical double mastectomies, my friend was in a bad state. By the time Maria sat down in front of the new doctor, she was like the cowardly lion (again from the Wizard of Oz! My childhood exposure to culture was limited)—shaking and stuttering. And, doing the lion one better, hyperventilating to boot.

But this doctor gave her good news. MRIs are very detailed, true, she said. But with so many little dots and spots, it’s easy to mistake something benign for a tumor. As for the main tumor, the LCIS, however, she was of much the same opinion as the first doctor: surgery, radiation and possibly chemo. She even agreed with the armpit removal.

By now Maria had calmed down a bit, and regained some of her lawyerly wherewithal.  “Look,” she complained. “I’m hardly a B-cup as it is. You take out 10 centimeters [4 inches!], and I’ll look like an empty hot water bottle!”

“Well, I don’t think we have to take out 10 centimeters,” the doctor agreed. “I’m sure we can get away with 1 centimeter.”

“Now that’s more like it,” my friend began. “That, I can live with, no pun intended. But what’s this about removing my armpit?”

“I wouldn’t necessarily have to remove it. You get a substance injected into the area which will cling to the parts that are susceptible to be invaded by the tumor.”

“But you said the tumor was non-infiltrated. Not spreading.”

“Yes.”

“So why test for seeing if it would move toward the lymph nodes?”

“Well, that’s the usual treatment.”

“But—“

“But okay. Never mind. There’s very little probability of it spreading, you’re right.”

“Good.”

“We’ll just perform the surgery and then you’ll either do the post-operative treatments—“

“You’re talking about chemotherapy, aren’t you?”

“Well, that’s sometimes warranted…” My friend made a face. “…but as your tumor is really not a cancer, I guess we can skip that.”

Maria’s face brightened. “Great! Whew! I was really scared of that!”

“OK, then, fine. No chemo. Just radiation.”

“Uh, radiation?”

“Yes, either you do something like ten post-operative treatments for about an hour each time over the course of several weeks, or I give you one strong and concentrated blast right over the area after I’ve opened you up and removed the tumor. Your choice, but I would recommend the concentrated blast, since it’s a one-time thing.”

“Well, doctor, I really don’t like the sound of either. I mean, doesn’t radiation itself cause cancer?”

“Well, yes, but sometimes it’s necessary to remove any remaining cancer.”

“But you said it’s not invasive cancer. You said it’s not even considered cancer.”

“True, but in the future it could develop…”

“I really, really don’t want to have radiation.”

“Well, okay, then. I guess you have a point. Since it’s not spreading, I suppose we can forego the radiation. I guess you can get away with just taking an estrogen-blocker.”

“Um, you’re referring to Tamoxifen, right?”

“Yes, that’s one type.”

“Well, doctor, I read that that drug can cause endometrial cancer.”

“In very rare cases.”

“I’m not a betting woman.”

“Well, there is a new type of estrogen-blocker…”

“Look, doctor. Now, I know you might think I’m one of those crazy all-natural types, but I’ve been doing a lot of research into alternative medicine. I’ve read about all kinds of different treatments that, although not approved by the FDA (and everyone knows those guys are in the pockets of the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies),” my friend said to her doctor, straight-faced, “have cured lots of people!”

“Such as?”

“Oh, there’s just loads. Intravenous vitamin C treatments, vitamin B-17 which is extracted from apricot kernels, selenium pills, the Budwig protocol which is a mixture of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil…” Seeing the doctor’s face, she found it prudent to leave out the coffee enemas.

“I have never heard of most of what you just mentioned,” the doctor responded, stone-faced, “except for the intravenous vitamin C which is a beauty treatment.” A beauty treatment? Who’d be crazy enough to spend a half hour with a throbbing needle in his or her vein? Wait, what? If people are willing to go through surgery or have needles stuck between their eyes for purely aesthetic reasons, then why not intravenous vitamin C?

“Okay, look, doctor,” my friend made her pitch. “If, as you say, what I have is a non-cancer, and if, as you yourself said, it hasn’t changed since the first biopsy two years ago, let’s do this: give me six months to do some of the treatments I’m telling you about, and if in six months it hasn’t changed, then I’ll do what you say and go under the knife.”

The doctor sighed. “Fine. If that’s what you want. But not six months. Three.”

“Three, fine. Three is okay.”

“All right then. After three months from now, you’ll get a mammogram… Now what?”

“How about just an ultrasound? You know there’s new research saying that mammograms might actually cause cancer—“

“All right! Ultrasound instead of mammogram!”

In fact, my friend was already scheming to postpone the surgery indefinitely if the tumor didn’t change, at the price of an ultrasound every three months, if need be.

It would seem that in Costa Rica, you can bargain over anything.

From QCostaRica

Gas Price Reduction Coming in January for Costa Rica

Costa Rica News – We will likely ring in the new year with a reduction in the price of super and regular gas.

The liter of super will go from ¢628 to ¢601 and regular from ¢605 to ¢593. This is due to a reduction request by the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (Recope).

The reduction is due to a decrease in the international price of imported fuels, corresponding to the average period of 30 days between when Recope acquires fuels abroad and the time when price adjustments are made to consumers for those purchases.

The request was made to the Public Services Regulatory Authority (Aresep). Aresep has 15 days to make a decision on the matter. It is expected to be approved without any problems.

The adjustment would then be made the day after it is published in La Gaceta. However, the newspaper will be closed the last week of December, so it will be delayed until the first week of January.

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel – In the middle of January, my wife and I and two other couples made a 12-day trip to Costa Rica, following by a few months the billions of North American birds that migrated south for the winter.

Waiting to pick up our rental van near the San José airport, we saw some birds flitting in a few nearby trees. And our first birds of the trip were …

Chestnut-sided warblers, Tennessee warblers and a bright male Baltimore oriole. Not the exotic tropical species we were expecting!

Those were the first of many neotropical migrants we would see on our trip. We tend to think of chestnut-sided warblers and Baltimore orioles as “our” birds. But they spend less of the year in North America than in tropical areas. We get them on loan for the breeding season.

We spent our first night at the Hotel Bougainvillea, north of the airport. Its 10 acres of gardens were delightful for a prebreakfast bird walk. Clay-colored thrushes, the national bird of Costa Rica, were common. Other highlights were Lesson’s motmots, crimson-ringed parakeets and some old friends, three yellow warblers.

Then we went to La Selva Biological Station in northeastern Costa Rica, a center of rain forest research. We took advantage of the extensive trail system there for a glorious three days.

Neotropical migrants included broad-winged hawks, house wrens, wood thrushes, abundant chestnut-sided warblers and summer tanagers.

Toucans were abundant, loud and easy to see. We found three species: yellow-fronted toucan, keel-billed toucan and collared aracari. We saw small flocks of great green macaws in flight several times and once had the delight of watching two perched macaws through a spotting scope. Fewer than 300 of this species exist today.

Bronze-tailed plumeleteers, rufous-tailed mummingbirds and steely-vented hummingbirds were the most common hummers. We also had great looks at a rufous-tailed jacamar. This woodpecker relative has a long, thin bill for capturing insects on the wing. It looks like a giant hummingbird!

We had the pleasure of seeing a number of green ibis. They are so different from the glossy ibis that nest along the southern Maine coast. Glossies are rather quiet birds, sedately probing in the mud with their long decurved bills. Green ibis like to perch in treetops and are extremely vocal, giving an accelerating hooting call. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

Numerous species of tanagers delighted us, each more gaudy and spectacular than the last. But sometimes an understated appearance can be the most beautiful. For me, that applies to the snowy cotingas we saw: white (male) or light gray (female) feathering with a dark eye and bill. Stunning birds!

We had long looks at a perched rufous motmot. Another beautiful bird with subtle coloration.

Birds of prey included a semiplumbeous hawk, a gray-headed kite and a laughing falcon, whose call really does sound like a person laughing.

On our final afternoon at La Selva, we took a boat tour of the Rio Sarapiquí. Great yellowlegs, spotted sandpipers, great blue herons and little blue herons were foraging on the banks.

Most of the swallows wheeling overhead were familiar northern rough-winged swallows. Some were southern rough-winged swallows, with their gray rumps, and a few mangrove swallows with blue-green upper parts were mixed in.

Our guide spied a well-hidden green kingfisher, only 7.5 inches in length. A delightful imp! We also had a good view of the much larger Amazon kingfisher.

We had a brief view of a soaring bird that came back for a good look. It was a king vulture. We knew it was a particularly good sighting because our tour guide was so excited to see it.

BY HERB WILSON, Portland Press Herald

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at

whwilson@colby.edu

Airbnb Experiences Launches Adventure Tour Platform in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Travel – Airbnb launches a new platform, specifically designed for tourists coming to Costa Rica.

It’s called Airbnb Experiences and allows someone to sign up, search for, and hire a tourist service.

This can be a guide or an activity. The site has 50 different recreational services.

The price range is from ¢9,000 to ¢100,000 per person. The services are in various parts of the country.

Each host is authorized by Airbnb. Airbnb’s Shawn Sullivan, director of Public Policies of Central America and the Caribbean, confirmed that the people offering services are accredited by the company.

Options allow visitors to experience Costa Rica in a new way, hand in hand with locals who want to share passions, favorite spots, even family recipes. There are gastronomic tours, surf lessons, and much more.

Human Progress Is a Chimera

The progressive media in the United States is still stuck in ‘we’re making progress’ mode, even though the Trump train keeps rolling over them. Will they ever realize they’ve helped lay the tracks?

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall cited Steven Pinker, the pollyannaish Harvard professor and fountainhead of denial for intellectuals everywhere, no less than six times in the last six paragraphs of his ludicrously unreflective column, “Liberals Need to Take Their Fingers Out of Their Ears.”
 
Here’s one of Edsall’s extended quotes of Pinker, after which he expires, “Pinker is optimistic about the future. I hope he is right.”
 
“Progress always must fight headwinds. Human nature doesn’t change, and the appeal of regressive impulses is perennial. The forces of liberalism, modernity, cosmopolitanism, the open society, and Enlightenment values always have to push against our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance. We can even recognize these instincts in ourselves, even in Trump’s cavalier remarks about the rule of law.”
 
That’s bad philosophy, worse cultural commentary, and an abysmally poor prescription for the human crisis.
 
“We can even recognize these instincts in ourselves.” Yes “we,” the benefactors of the Enlightenment’s ecologically destructive and economically lopsided legacy. The royal “we” in this case is the aristocracy that denies it is an aristocracy. That’s how American progressives helped breed Steve Bannon.
 
When you start from the premise that “human nature doesn’t change,” you can be sure that the false optimist in question is but a sheep in wolves clothing. Let’s be done with obtuse academics, and start thinking for ourselves.
 
Begin at the beginning. It’s probably true that human nature (as ill defined as it is) hasn’t changed for as long as people have used the phrase. But that begs the question; it’s not a premise chiseled in the broken blocks of the Parthenon.
 
What is human nature? Pinker tells us from his perch at Harvard: “our innate tribalism, authoritarianism, and thirst for vengeance.” Undeniably these are strong tendencies in humans, but why equate them, much less assume they are immutable?
 
Tribalism is as old as man, and identifying with particular groups served the survival of the species for tens of thousands of years. Only in the 20th century did it become completely dysfunctional. Authoritarianism however, is a modern reaction to self-generated disorder, probably no older than civilization itself.
 
As to the “thirst for vengeance,” it may be the one atavistic constant, individually and collectively. But why take it as unchangeable? The sludges of grudges are lifetimes and centuries old, but they can and must be shoveled out.
 
No such possibility and responsibility exists for Pinker and his progressive followers. Progress is the upward arc of humankind. Their only concession is that it may not be “linear.” The only thing that intellectual and technological Delphic Oracles, in their idolization of external change, accept as fixed is human nature.
 
Apologists like Pinker refuse to examine human nature. If it is unalterable, as they believe, then logically humankind’s psychological and spiritual condition must gradually worsen, rather than gradually improve as they profess.
 
Paul Krugman is another aggressive proponent of the core belief in progress. Krugman insufferably insists that the problem in America is a combination of “asymmetric polarization” from Republicans, and the mainstream media “bending over backwards to say undeserved nice things about Republicans and take undeserved swipes at Democrats.”
 
In other words, dear friends and countrymen, the problem is not with the American people, it’s with those damned Republicans and their MSM enablers. (Krugman, like all elites, refuses to acknowledge that he IS the mainstream media.)
 
It’s true the media’s outmoded notion of  “balanced” reporting is making things worse, but so is Krugman’s obsessive finger pointing. The American body politic as whole gave rise to Trump’s authoritarianism. Seeing and sticking with the truth is the real antidote.
 
Instead, Krugman doubles down in his denial of the deadness at the core of the American politic: “Trying to pretend that the Republican and Democratic are the same isn’t just foolish, it’s deeply destructive. Indeed, it’s one important reason Donald Trump sits in the White House.”
 
No. Without drawing an equivalency, the rot runs a lot deeper than the Republican Party. Democrats aren’t a different species of Americans much less humans, and they share responsibility for Trump sitting in the White House. Not because of policies and politics, which Krugman is fixated on, but because Democrats keep denying the rot at the core of America.
 
Human progress is a chimera; the more we advance technologically the more we regress inwardly. So-called human nature can and must change, beginning and ending within.
 
Martin LeFevre

Costa Rica Fishing Groups Reject Proposed Marine Reserve

Costa Rica News – Eight sport-fishing associations and two fishing clubs represented by FECOP, the sport-fishing advocacy group in Costa Rica, voted unanimously against the Alvaro Ulgalde Marine Reserve even though its promoters claim sport-fishing will be allowed in the proposed law sent to the Costa Rica’s Congress.

FECOP has asked the government to reject the bill, which would create the nearly 2,390-square-mile reserve.
“We (FECOP) are very much in favor of marine conservation and management of marine resources but we like it done correctly,” said Carlos Cavero, the FECOP President.

The group sent a press release citing several reasons why it cannot support the bill, which are listed below:

• There wasn’t a complete technical study done consulting with Costa Ricans who would be affected, as required the law.

  • The area is larger than all other marine protected areas and encompasses areas already under protection. Proper analysis to make that change has not been completed, according to the group.

• There is no management plan or budget for proper control for an area that size effectively, which would make it only a “paper reserve.” Proponents are urging passage of the law with the management plan developed afterwards.

• The new law would change control of the area to another government agency, one that has not been so favorable to sport-fishing interests in the past.

• The proponents of this bill have used the FECOP name without authorization, making it appear that FECOP supported the bill and would be involved with management of the reserve. The affiliation continued even after FECOP requested it to stop.

• There are already procedures in place to create management areas. In 2015, 35 activities with 190 participants had workshops to create a Marine Area of Responsible Fishing. FECOP supports this procedure, which offers protection without changing control to another government agency.

The FECOP listed its accomplishments at the end of the press release:

• Stopped the exportation of sailfish from the country in 2009

• Sponsored the Tuna Decree, which protected 120,000 square miles of territorial waters from tuna purse seiners in 2014

• Backed by scientific data, FECOP lobbied the government to reduce purse seine licenses from 43 to 13 in 2017, saving 25 metric ton of marlin that would have been bycatch as well as other pelagic species and marine mammals.

For more information about FECOP or the proposed law, contact info@fecop.org or visit the organization’s website.

By FECOP, Sport Fishing Mag