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Published Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 2
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Scammers seem to be planning a new wave of ads
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those Nigerian scammers are starting the new year with a replay of the iPhone fraud.

Expats need to be aware because English-language newspapers have published advertising submitted by these crooks in the past.

The current bunch do not appear to be very slick. The request for adverting information bordered on the illiterate in English, and the email provided traces to one listed as belonging to scammers in an Aug 16, 2011, A.M. Costa Rica news story.

At that time, a reporter identified the Nigerian scammers from a full-page advertisement placed in The Tico Times. Scammers pay for the advertising with a cloned or stolen credit card. A telephone number associated with the advertising is a British land line which Nigerian scammers have been known to use.

Although the emailer did not mention the type of advertising that would be placed, similar ads linked to the same email accounts offer cut-rate iPhone 6 devices. The ads offer excellent prices, as well they could because the scammers have no plans to return any money collected or deliver any iPhones.

Similar advertising has shown up in such diverse locations as Southern California, Qatar and the Canary islands.

When they are not selling iPhones, the scammers are offering jobs in a way that appears to be an advanced fee fraud. Applicants are asked to send money for visas, police checks and other administrative costs.

Business must be good because the scammer

Scammer ad
Attractive ad is designed to lure the unwary.

who wrote Monday sought a price for a six-month, half-page ad.

Nigerian scammer has become a characterization of internet scammers everywhere. But in this case, the scammers really are from that African country, according to the 2011 news story.

An IP number associated with the scammers led directly to Lagos, the country's capital city. The British telephone number is believed to be one of those devices that forwards a call.

To the credit of The Tico Times, once A.M. Costa Rica disclosed the scam advertising the newspaper quickly published a story of its own identifying the scammers.

The scammers seem to have taken vacations. There was a flurry of their ads elsewhere in 2014. But there was nothing in the last two years. Until now.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Dental Services Costa Rica

Dr Oscar Vargas specialist in prosthodontics
Where Science and Art meet!

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Dial toll FREE from USA or Canada:  1.800.901.0114
CR local phone:  +506-2274-3231
Cell: +506-8302-5877



Dr. Gray
Dr. Lucinda Gray
California Licensed
International Practice

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US (310) 827-4241
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Insurance professionals

The Garrett Insurance Group
-Brokerage fully licensed by the
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Residency experts


A full service immigration agency
U.S. and San José offices

There are four primary ways to apply for legal residency in Costa Rica:
    Retiree (Pensionado):  For those with a pension or other retirement income.
    Legal Resident (Rentista): For those with guaranteed non-salary income or savings.
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Getting and authenticating documents can be a chore. We know how to do it. Experienced with many nationalities. Up-to-date on Costa Rica's evolving immigration law.
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P. O. Box 86352, Los Angeles, CA 90086
U.S. Phone: (323) 255-6116
U.S.  Fax (323) 344-1620
Phone in Costa Rica: ( 506 ) 2226=0755  (En español )



U.S. Income Tax Services
Marlene B. Summers, Tax Accountant
Licensed by the I.R.S.
Ms. Summers
Marlene B. Summers
U.S. citizens, plan now for your tax year. Let me help you pay only the tax  you must!
Take advantage of the foreign earned income exclusion.
If your filing is not up-to-date, the Streamlined Filing Procedure can be used to mitigate penalties.   Including  disclosure of foreign corporations to avoid future problems. 

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Reporting foreign financial assets: FBAR and foreign corporations.
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Business consulting to facilitate working in Costa Rica.

Telephone 8305-3149 or 2256-8620

Fine art restoration and conservation

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Real estate agents and services


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Tour desk

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Colinas del
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* 20 minutes to the Liberia International Airport
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In Costa Rica contact Jeffrey Sandi Murray:
In the USA and Canada contact Jim Day: or call 517-484-3675 
Click Here:
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
The continuous construction on the platina bridge

Another closing planned for Virilla bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Construction crews will be closing two lanes on the four-lane Río Virilla bridge at 10 p.m. Wednesday for seven hours. But this time the lanes being closed are westbound.

That means expats with early flights Thursday morning might have trouble reaching Juan Santamaría airport. Road officials plan to detour westbound traffic through Heredia. Another option would be the Caldera Highway, Ruta 2.

The closing is a routine event as workmen widen the bridge to three lanes in each direction, the same width as the highway. The closings are not very routine for motorists who are caught in traffic jams on the General Cañas autopista.

The worst was before Christmas when workmen closed the eastbound lanes all days. Traffic backed up for hours, and some bus passengers had to hike seven kilometers to San José. Some were on crutches and others carried heavy luggage.

There is less traffic at night, but the route through Heredia is not well marked. The Policía de Tránsito will begin the detour at the Juan Pablo II bridge in La Uruca. The route is north over yet another bridge under construction into Heredia and points west.

Highway officials have not said how long periodic closings will continue. Nor have they explained why they do not just open a lane on the other side of the bridge to traffic going the other direction.

The span is nicknamed the platina bridge because a steel plate has been used to cover a damaged expansion joint. The efforts to fix the bridge used to be humorous until a tourist motorist killed a workman and the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes tried unsuccessfully for years to make repairs.

Finally officials built a bridge under the bridge to make the span stable. Then the decision was made to add lanes.

Recovering plates or car allowed now

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Motorists who had their vehicle plates snatched or vehicle impounded by police during the holidays were out of luck. The location where they could recover the plates or vehicle was closed for the holidays from Dec. 23 until Monday.

The location is the Departamento de Atención Servicio al Usuario in La Uruca.

The vacation is an annual event, and those who have had their vehicles impounded for a traffic violation also could not recover it due to vacation. In addition, the Consejo de Seguridad Vial is charging storage fees daily during the vacation and towing charges for confiscating the vehicle in the first place.

To recover the plates or the vehicle, the motorist must pay the traffic fine, towing charges and storage fees.

Those who wish to challenge the traffic ticket have 10 days to do so because they were unable to do so over the vacation, the Consejo said.

Court info is available in smartphones

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican judiciary is offering its new smartphone app in its attempt to be more accessible with information and to provide users faster services from the court system.

Available to download on any iPhone or Android device, the Poder Judicial’s app offers certain services from criminal record requests to browsing through the judiciary’s files, officials said. The goal is to speed up the process of receiving certain services and cut out a lot of paperwork and time by sending it directly to the user, according to officials. The app also represents an attempt by the judiciary to improve the image of the justice system in being more accessible and transparent.

Aside from court records, users can access jurisprudence from the supreme court and locate by map the local offices of the Poder Judicial. The app gives information like: how to remove a body from the judiciary’s morgue, filing a theft complaint, applying for a paternity test, or report a missing person.

There is no charge to downloading the app, but it is only offered in Spanish. Anyone interested can search “Poder Judicial de Costa Rica” on the Apple App Store for iPhone users or on Google Play for Android users.

Bribe offers lead to two arrests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Fronteras reported two cases in which Nicaraguan travelers are accused of offering bribes.

In one case, a woman on a bus included 10,000 colons in her passport when asked for the document by a police officer, officials reported.

In another case, a man with what appeared to be a fake residency document is accused of offering police 40,000 colons at the Liberia station.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 2
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Is it possible that the Christmas vacation has not ended yet?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica remains on an informal vacation, and even the bulls and fiesta in Zapote are continuing through Sunday.

Traffic in the capital was unusually light Monday, supposedly the first normal work day after Christmas. One taxi driver commented on the situation:

“They can’t drive because they all forgot to pay their marchamo.”

In fact, thousands of motorists lined up Monday to pay the marchamo, the road tax, and they had to pay a fine, too, in order to get that sticker that goes in the front windshield.

The deadline was Saturday.

Perhaps the day was one of slow withdrawal from the holidays. Lawmakers still were on vacation. Most of the ministries seemed to be working with a skeleton crew.

Perhaps the most work was being done at Casa Presidencial where staffers for the last week have been churning out news releases saying the country is much better today thanks to the Luis Guillermo Solís administration.

Writers working for private firms were having their troubles dredging up news. The television stations engaged in extensive coverage of the bull baiting at Zapote and the Rose Parade.

Over at CR Hoy, reporter Pablo Rojas dug up the U.S. human trafficking report that was released last June and mixed it with a report of the conviction of  David Strecker, known as Cuba Dave. Never mind that Strecker was not accused of any illegalities mentioned in the U.S. report. He is in prison because his website, which he may not control, publicized factual reports about his sex exploits, mostly in other countries. Still the news story will have a high readership.

And those parasitic English-language news sites that steal news stories from the Spanish press and then translate them and publish them will slavishly pick up the tale.

Police issue warning for vacationers along the Puntarenas tourists spots
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police are advising tourists to stay alert when they visit the province of Puntarenas in the upcoming months.

To avoid being victims of crime, the Fuerza Pública continues to beef up operations near the beaches and resorts through the first months of 2017 as the tourist season continues. This means checkpoints at roads. It also means patrols around commercial areas, automatic tellers, beaches, and high population areas, according to officials.
The police insist that tourists must also maintain their own vigilance especially with their belongings.

This also means following police advice given at tourist centers and the bus terminals. Already, police have confiscated firearms and drugs, but also have made several arrests of persons with outstanding warrants in Puntarenas.

The province extends from the central canton of the same name south to the border with Panamá and includes many of the country's popular beach locations.

Hotel header
Palermo 900

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 2
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Seven proteins from zika found in lab tests to cause cell damage
By the University of Maryland School of Medicine
news staff

Until it burst onto the scene earlier this year, zika was an obscure, little-known virus. As a result, scientists know little about how it works. Over the past year, they have learned that it can cause a range of dangerous health problems, including birth defects such as microcephaly and neurological problems such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. But they don’t know which zika protein or proteins are causing harm, or exactly how these proteins cause damage.

Now, a new study by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has for the first time identified seven key proteins in the virus that may be the culprits behind this damage. The study is the first comprehensive description of the zika virus genome. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The mechanism of this virus has been a real mystery,” said the lead researcher on the study, Richard Zhao, a professor of pathology. “These results give us crucial insight into how zika affects cells. We now have some really valuable clues for future research.”

Zika virus has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world, mostly in the Americas. In the United States and its territories, more than 38,000 zika cases have been reported so far, most of them in Puerto Rico. There are no vaccines or treatments to prevent or treat the symptoms of zika infection.

To test the virus, Zhao used fission yeast, a species that in recent years has become a relatively common way to test how pathogens affect cells. Fission yeast was originally used to make beer, particularly in Africa, where it originated. Its species name is Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Pombe means beer in Swahili. Over decades, fission yeast has been used by many scientists to find out mechanisms and behavior of cells.

Zhao is a pioneer in using the fission yeast model to study HIV, as well as the yellow barley dwarf virus, a plant pathogen that causes billions of dollars in crop damage every year throughout the world. So he was very familiar with the fission yeast model. “With zika we are in a race against time,” he says. “I asked myself what I can do to help. I have this unique way of dissecting the genome. So I started on this.”

For the experiment, Zhao and his colleagues separated each of the virus’s 14 proteins and small peptides from the overall virus. He then exposed yeast cells to each of the 14 proteins, to see how the cells responded. Seven of the 14 proteins harmed or damaged the yeast cells in some way, inhibiting their growth, damaging them or killing them.

Zhao and his colleagues will continue to work on zika. The next step is to understand more about how these seven proteins work in humans. It may be that some of them are more damaging than others, or perhaps all of them work in concert to cause harm. Zhao is now beginning research on how the virus interacts with rat and human cells, in collaboration with one of the study’s co-authors.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

HIdden Garden graphic
Put Costa Rica on your walls
The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is the perfect place to find quality Costa Rican and international art for your home or office.  With over 60 artists and 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we have been your source for fine art since 2010.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever. Located just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport (towards the beaches).

Visit our Web site at:
Contact us by email:  
Find us on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Twitter,
Moon Travel Guides & Frommer's

Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tel.  8386-6872 / 2667-0592; U.S. telephone 702-953-7073
International shipping available.

Georgre Lundquist header

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

George Lundquist

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Contact us: 
Dial toll FREE from USA or Canada:  1.800.901.0114
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Cells:  +506-8380-5919  and +506-8302-5877

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When you visit Costa Rica, you'll want to discover what you need to know to  make the right choice about moving to this tropical paradise.  Our familiarization tours have won hard-earned credentials that prove general excellence and the right focus.  These are the only retirement tours that are licensed and approved by the Costa Rican government and tourism institute  (ICT). In 2006 we were featured on the NBC Today Show and World News.  In 2010, we won the  prestigious Latin America-Asia Travel Excellence Award for the Best and Most Unique Tour in Latin America.

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Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for  your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.We are offering homes for every budget and every need. Please visit our Web page at or contact us at or call at (506) 2654-5442

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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2016 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. 
Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

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Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 2
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Axiom new ad

Chicago needs federal help
on crime, Trump contends

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump said Monday that the mayor of crime-ridden Chicago, former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, ought to seek federal law enforcement help if he can't control the soaring murder rate in the country's third biggest city.

Trump, in a Twitter comment, said, “Chicago murder rate is record-setting — 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016,” more than two slayings a day.

“If Mayor can't do it he must ask for federal help!” Trump said.

The Chicago murder toll, often the result of gang turf wars and drug disputes in impoverished neighborhoods, was the city's highest in 20 years and eclipsed the combined total of New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest American cities.

Emanuel, a Trump political opponent, served early on as President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff. Emanuel left Washington in 2010 to run the first of his two successful campaigns to be mayor of Chicago, with its 2.7 million residents.

Despite his past attacks on Trump, Emanuel, like other big-city mayors, has met with the president-elect ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. During their December meeting, Emanuel urged Trump to reconsider his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, one of the hallmarks of the real estate billionaire's upset win for the presidency.

Obama plans farewell address
in former Chicago hometown

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will deliver a farewell address next week, reflecting on the successes during his White House tenure and offering his thoughts on where the country heads as president-elect Donald Trump assumes power Jan. 20.

In an email to supporters Monday, Obama said the Jan. 10 speech in his former hometown of Chicago is "a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here."

The 55-year-old president said, "Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding -- our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better."

His speech will follow a longstanding tradition for U.S. presidents, started by George Washington in 1796, of addressing the nation as they leave office.

Obama returned to Washington Monday from his annual Christmas vacation in the island state of Hawaii, where he spent much of his youth. In his last two and a half weeks in office, aides say Obama is likely to grant more clemencies to imprisoned drug offenders whose sentences he thinks were too harsh and possibly issue more executive orders to try to lock in policies he favors and that Trump opposes.

While Obama, a Democrat, has sought to ease the Republican Trump's transition to power in a one face-to-face meeting and several phone calls, he also has taken actions that have frustrated the incoming president. Obama has issued new orders to block ocean oil drilling off U.S. shorelines, declared new national park monuments and further emptied out the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at its naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama also for the first time ordered his United Nations ambassador to allow a Security Council resolution to pass that criticized Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and imposed sanctions on Russia for Moscow's computer hacking during the U.S. presidential campaign, with both actions in direct conflict with Trump.

When he becomes a private citizen, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are moving to a Washington home not far from the White House and plan to stay there until their younger daughter Sasha finishes high school in 2019. He is the first president in nearly a century to stay in Washington after leaving office.

Trump aide downplays idea
of Russian hacking disclosure

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer is tamping down expectations president-elect Donald Trump will soon disclose new information about the U.S. intelligence claims that Russia hacked into computers of Trump's opponents and released damaging information to help him win.

"It's not a question of necessarily revealing," Spicer told CNN Monday. "He’s going to talk about his conclusions and where he thinks things stand. He’s not going to reveal anything that was privileged or was shared with him classified. I think he can share with people his conclusions of the report and his understanding of the situation and make sure people understand there’s a lot of questions out there."

Trump told reporters New Year's Eve that he knows more than has been disclosed publicly about the allegations of Moscow interference in the election and that "you'll find out Tuesday or Wednesday."

The president-elect has cast doubt on U.S. intelligence conclusions that Moscow hacked into computers of Trump's political opponents and allowed release of the information through WikiLeaks to damage the chances of Trump's opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. The intelligence finding led President Barack Obama to impose sanctions last week on Russian spy agencies and officials, and expel 35 diplomats he said were spies. The envoys and their families arrived Monday in Moscow.

"We are going to actually get all the information, get briefed and then make a decision" on how to react to Obama's sanctions against Moscow, Spicer said. Trump has often praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, offering a decidedly friendlier view of him than most U.S. political figures.

In another interview Sunday, Spicer suggested Obama's expulsion of the Russians and the shutdown of two of their compounds in the United States may have been disproportionate to the hacking operation.

"One of the questions that we have is why the magnitude of this?" Spicer told ABC. "I mean you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down, the question is, is that response in proportion to the actions taken? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but you have to think about that."

Trump said at his New Year's Eve party that he wants U.S. intelligence sources to be certain, "because it's a pretty serious charge, and I want them to be sure."

He said it would be "unfair" to make the allegation against Moscow if there was any uncertainty.

Trump, now 18 days from assuming power as the 45th U.S. president, said, "I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation."

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC that Trump is alone in questioning the U.S. intelligence about Russian hacking involvement.

“If he’s going to have any credibility as president, he needs to stop talking this way," Schiff said. "This is the overwhelming judgment of the intelligence community and, frankly, all of the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, Democrats and Republicans. None of us have any question about this. The only one who does, apparently, is Donald Trump.”

Obama and Democrats plan
to devise health care strategy

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama will meet with Democrats in Congress Wednesday to discuss ways to protect his signature health care law, which Republicans have threatened to repeal.

The president and Democratic lawmakers hope to devise a strategy to delay the Republican-controlled House and Senate from repealing much of the Affordable Care Act without providing a replacement plan.

House Republicans in Congress have voted numerous times to repeal all or parts of the law. The efforts were not taken up by the Senate.

While campaigning, president-elect Donald Trump vowed to gut the bill, and Republicans have indicated that their first act in 2017 will be a vote in Congress to begin dismantling the health care law that has provided coverage to millions of Americans.

Democrats, left stunned by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's loss in the November general election, are now trying to organize a counterattack to preserve the law.

Democrats also hope to devise a plan to pre-empt bigger health care changes to Medicare and Medicaid that Republicans have suggested.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law by Obama on March 23, 2010. It was among the most significant expansions of the social safety net since Medicare and Medicaid were created 50 years ago.

It was passed during Obama's first term, when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, although most lawmakers admitted they never read the law.

Among the more popular parts of the law are measures that help people pay for their insurance coverage, allow parents to buy insurance for their children up to age 26, and ban denial of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Other measures are not as popular, such as a fine against people who do not buy coverage.

After the election, Obama and Trump met at the White House, where Trump said Obama made a plea to save the health care act.

Trump admitted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he wanted to keep some parts of the law, including the ability of parents to insure their adult children and the ban on denying coverage.

But the law was designed so the expenses of the popular coverage items were balanced by the cost of less popular items. For example, the pre-existing condition protections are balanced by the law's mandate to get coverage, which tries to ensure that healthy people sign up and keep premiums from increasing.

Tourism ethics will be topic
at international conference

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Coinciding with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development to be celebrated throughout 2017, the third International Congress on Ethics and Tourism will be held in Poland, April 27 and 28. Organized by the World Tourism Organization in collaboration with the European Commission and the Government of Poland, the event will focus on the shared responsibility in promoting a more sustainable tourism sector.

The congress is scheduled to discuss the global sustainability agenda, particularly issues of governance and corporate social responsibility, responsible consumption patterns, universal accessibility as well as effective management models for natural and cultural resources.

On the agenda are also inclusive tourism practices that contribute to socio-economic empowerment of local communities and individuals and spread the benefits of tourism development, notably to women, youth, native people and persons with disabilities. The congress will further highlight the competitive advantages of investing in a more inclusive and diverse tourism sector, the World Tourism Organization said.

“With more than 1.2 billion international tourists crossing international borders in one single year and the prospects of continuous growth, it is crucial that we manage growth in an ethical and responsible manner” said World Tourism Organization Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. “The tourism sector needs to build equitable partnerships and adopt effective national policies and sustainable business strategies in all areas of development.”

“I have gladly accepted the decision of the World Tourism Organization to choose Poland as a host for the third edition of the International Congress on Ethics and Tourism” said Witold Bańka, Polish minister of sport and tourism. “Poland is actively channeling efforts to implement ethical standards among the tourism organizations in their everyday business. I am confident, that the great atmosphere of Krakow, one of the most beautiful sites in Europe will foster thoughtful discussions and yield positive results of the Congress.”

The event will include the signing ceremony of the Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism by a group of companies and trade associations with sound social responsibility policies and strategies.

About the ‘Enhancing the Understanding of European Tourism’ Project.

The project aims to improve the socio-economic knowledge of the tourism sector, enhance the understanding of European tourism and contribute towards economic growth, job creation, thus improving the competitiveness of the sector in Europe.

Afghan woman pilot seeks
to remain in United States

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Afghanistan's first female fixed wing pilot in the country's air force awaits a response to her asylum request to the United States, which she filed last month after receiving threats from Taliban insurgents, according to her lawyer.

"Her reason for seeking asylum in the United States is she's in fear that if she were to go back to Afghanistan that she would be persecuted," Kimberley Motley, the lawyer, said. "She has a tremendous amount of worry about the Taliban insurgents who have put out death threats against her and, frankly, now she's concerned with the government who has also issued a statement through the ministry of defense that if she is to return, she will be prosecuted for desertion."

The pilot, Niloofar Rahmani, 25, says she has received threats telling her to leave the military from the same insurgent faction that attempted to assassinate Malala Yousefzai in Pakistan.

Since she has filed for asylum in the United States, a move criticized by many Afghans, the Afghan ministry of defense has released a statement saying that there are no threats against Rahmani.

"I'm very disappointed,” Ms. Motley said. “I know Niloofar is, as well, at the very visceral, negative response that she has received from many people within Afghanistan about her decision to protect her life and to protect herself. She's been ridiculed in Afghanistan. She's been threatened by Afghan governmental officials, and many people are just frankly attacking her character and saying she straight-out lied."

Ms. Motley said the accusations are criminal, because defamation is illegal in Afghanistan.

But the public response to her claim has largely aligned with that of the government. Ms. Rahmani gained popularity when she first enlisted in 2013, providing hope for women throughout the country who wish to break into careers usually reserved for men. But since filing her claim after completing an 18-month training program in the United States, many social media users said she wasted Afghan money and deserves to be charged with desertion.

The Afghan military also has criticized her decision, saying that any military officer should understand and accept the risks that come with the job, and that the threat to women is no greater than the threat to men.

"When an officer complains of insecurity and is afraid of security threats, then what should ordinary people do?" said Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesperson for the ministry of defense. "She has made an excuse for herself, but we have hundreds of educated women and female civil right activists who work and it is safe for them."

Ms. Rahmani was a recipient of the U.S. State Department's "Women of Courage" award in 2015.

Bus contained 18 illegals

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in San Ramón stopped a small bus and found 18 illegal immigrants inside, they reported Monday.

The officers said nine were minors. The man in charge was identified as a human trafficker who was bringing the Nicaraguans from that country for 175,000 colons each, officers said. That is about $320 a head.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 2
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
China dumps U.S. bonds to protect yuan

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China recently lost its position as the biggest holder of U.S. Treasury securities to Japan. Chinese authorities sacrificed the coveted position, which has significant financial and diplomatic value, because they are engaged in the bigger battle of protecting the value of the yuan from falling rapidly.

The battle will intensify in 2017 because the yuan is expected to come under severe pressure during the Donald Trump presidency, analysts say.

The country's holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds, notes and bills fell by $41.3 billion to $1.115 trillion in October, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. This was the fifth consecutive monthly drop of Chinese holdings. The amounts of Beijing's sell-offs in November and December will be available next month, but analysts said China continued to reduce its holdings through these months.

The sell-off has been prompted by the need to raise funds for defending the yuan, the value of which has been pushed down mainly by capital flight and a strengthening dollar.

An official in China's state administration of foreign exchange said the reduction in holdings of U.S. Treasury securities was driven by market conditions and was not a strategic move.

"The cutting is not strategic," the official said. "All countries take the U.S. Treasury securities as an important target for their foreign exchange reserve investment, and China is no exception."

A strong drop in the yuan's value may signal that Chinese authorities are losing control over the economy.

The Chinese currency dropped nearly 7 percent against the dollar in 2016.

Ma Jun, chief economist of China's central bank, said the country was confident of keeping the yuan basically stable at a reasonable equilibrium level. The yuan's slide has been significant, from 6.77 to a dollar in November to 6.94 by December's end.

There are strong signs it will slide further if Trump implements his promises about high infrastructure spending, which will further strengthen the dollar. Add that to the potential danger that Trump will make good on his election promise to declare China a currency manipulator.

Big Valparaiso blaze takes 100 homes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A large wildfire in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso has torched about 100 houses, injured at least 19 people and forced some 400 people to evacuate their homes.

Officials said the fire broke out Monday afternoon in the Laguna Verde area and spread rapidly through wooden buildings.

Firefighters and other emergency workers worked in the hills to combat the fire, with the help of water-filled airplanes and helicopters.

Firefighting efforts are hampered by winds of up to 30 kph, dry conditions and high temperatures. Emergency workers must also contend with numerous ravines, narrow roads and the scarcity of water mains.

A drought in central Chile has caused a record number of forest fires in the last year, dealing a blow to the country's key forestry industry. In 2014, a much larger fire in Valparaiso killed 13 people and burned about 2,000 homes.

Valparaiso is Chile's second largest urban district with a population of 285,000. The picturesque colonial city is home to Chile's national congress and is a U.N. world heritage site.
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Package delivery is a big part of postal work

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regular mail may be headed to the dead letter office, but Correos de Costa Rica said it is bringing in money with package deliveries, including items  purchased through the internet. This service now is 34 percent of the agency’s business, it said Monday.

In 2016 more than 45,000 customers received delivery of more than a million packages, said the mail service.  That was an increase over 2015.

Correos also has become the agency that delivers new passports and residency documents for expats. The local post office is where documents certified by the Registro Nacional can be obtained, the agency noted. They also are available online.

The postal service said it brought in about 19 billion colons in 2016, some $35 million.