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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Friday, Jan. 4, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 3                Email us
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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
Fuerza Pública officer checks the pockets of one young man at the Zapote fairgrounds
Police enforce laws with random searches at Zapote
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers are continuing their policy of random searches as a security measure at the Zapote fairgrounds.

The searches almost always target young men. The activities at the fair ground are an extension of what police officers do daily on the streets of the Central Valley.

The security ministry said Thursday that 32 persons had been detained at the Fiestas de San José carnival since Christmas, mostly as a result of searches.  Four of those persons were suspected fugitives, including one facing a sexual abuse allegation and another for failing to pay child support, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Raúl Rivera Bonilla, the San José regional police director, was quoted as saying that police officers were checking persons who were entering and leaving the fairgrounds.

As a result of the searches and other police activities, officers confiscated four knives, small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and crack, they reported.

Some 14 of the persons detained face drug allegations and three face allegations of crimes against property, officers said.
Fuerza Pública officers have the right to ask anyone for identification. Frequently the encounter also becomes a search of backpacks and pockets. Most expats in San José have seen two or more police causing a young man to empty his pockets for inspection. Even A.M. Costa Rica employees have undergone this treatment downtown.

There does not seem to be any probable cause for the searches except that the individual stopped by police officers is young, male and dressed informally.

These stops are not to be confused with efforts by police to shakedown individuals. In the past, police officers, mostly in the evening hours, would stop expats and search them with the goal of either taking money or exacting a bribe.

These clearly illegal practices appear to have been ended by a number of arrests of San José-based police officers, including some of the higher ups.

Out on the highways, Fuerza Pública officers maintain checkpoints where they routinely search cars and trucks.

One such checkpoint is in southern Costa Rica where such searches have turned up smuggled drugs. Police officials defend these actions and even have secured favorable rulings by the courts.


Unhappy bulls injure 169 and send 46 to hospitals
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

So far 169 amateur bullfighters have been treated by Cruz Roja personnel at the Zapote fairgrounds, the agency said Thursday. The bull baiting continues until Sunday.

The young men and women who risk their lives tormenting bulls inside the rondel or ring are called  toreros improvisados. Bulls have killed some in past years and in similar activities at other carnivals. A few of the injured were traditional bull riders who were thrown by the animals and suffered injuries from the fall or from the bull.

Most of the injured have suffered blows from the bulls or injured themselves trying to get out of the way, said the Cruz Roja.

The Cruz Roja said that 46 of those treated had to be taken to Hospital Calderón Guardia or the  Clínica Carlos Durán. The bull ring has a built-in clinic and a window into which injured bull baiting participants can be pushed on a stretcher.
Cruz
                        Roja
Cruz Roja photo
 Cruz Roja workers keep watch from the window
 of an emergency clinic that is built into the Zapote
 bull ring.


The rescue agency has 55 persons on duty at the fiesta de San José, the traditional Christmas carnival. The totals of the injured do not include some 94 persons outside the bull ring who have been treated for other medical problems, said the agency.

Some have been injured by the carnival rides, the Cruz Roja said.

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U.N. urges more investments
in world ecotourism projects

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations tourism agency Thursday said it welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution late last year which recognized ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.

The U.N. quoted Taleb Rifai, secretary general of its World Tourism Organization.

“The remarkable support that the resolution has received, from all regions and across the development spectrum, is a clear testimony that sustainable tourism has a vital role to play in a fairer and sustainable future for all,” he added.

The resolution, adopted Dec. 21 and entitled Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection, calls on U.N. member states to adopt policies that promote ecotourism, highlighting its “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger.” 

It further recognizes that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage.”

According to the World Tourism Organization, the resolution, presented by Morocco and sponsored by a record 105 delegations, draws on the recommendations contained in one of its reports, put together on the basis of responses from 48 member states, “which, in a notable departure from its normal practice, was welcomed by the U.N. General Assembly.”

In line with the UNWTO report’s recommendations, the resolution underscores the need for national tourism plans to account for market demand and local competitive advantages. 

It also encourages countries to promote investment in ecotourism, in accordance with their national legislation, including creating small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting cooperatives and facilitating access to finance through inclusive financial services such as microcredit initiatives for the poor, local and native communities, in areas of ecotourism potential and rural areas.

Last year, the World Tourism Organization said that despite global economic uncertainty, international tourism continued to grow in 2012, with the estimated number of tourists traveling that year reaching a record one billion.

Tourism accounted for 9 percent of global gross domestic product when totaling its direct, indirect and induced impact, according to the agency, which also noted that one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 percent of the total exports of the designated least developed countries depend on tourism.  
 
 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Children's museum offers chance for youngsters to be spies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de los Niños will host a two-week science and culture camp called “Spy Academy” aimed at providing youth with adventure and knowledge during the school break.

The young spies will have an opportunity to solve puzzles, find clues, participate in skill challenges and play water games.

"There will be knowledge and fun through activities that include the classic adventure rally,” said Eduardo Reyes, general coordinator of the children's museum camps.  “They will develop secret tactics, see some tactics to be a mini spy, and carry out secret missions through games.”

The camp will be from Jan. 14 to 18 and Jan. 21 to 25, and the museum is accepting enrollments now.  Children between ages 3 and a half  to 11 are eligible to attend.

Those younger than 6 can choose to stay half of the day from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. or the whole day until 4:30 p.m.

The cost is 30,000 colons for a week.
Spy Academy for the older children is an all day option and costs 48,000 colons.

Children from ages 9 to 11 will also be able to stay overnight at the museum for an extra 3,000 colons. Using a map, these young guests will go through a scavenger hunt that leads them to different stations in different areas of the museum.

The rest of the night will consists of children's movies, popcorn eating, marshmallows and camping.

"For two weeks, they may spend a night at the museum where it will not only be privileged access to the children's museum at night, but they will also participate in a strategy game designed exclusively for them,"said Reyes.

Parents wishing to enroll their child for the first week have until Jan. 11. For the second week have until Jan. 18.  They can personally enroll their child at the children's museum or can request the information from the e-mail campamento@museocr.org.

Parents can also call 2223-3470.


For Costa Rica, it's peace, palaver and maybe even pragmatism 
Other than the check for my rent, dating this column is the first time to write the year.  Writing the 20 still looks strange after so many years writing 19 before the last two numbers, but I’m happy to be doing it. And I will get used to the 13.

As we enter the New Year, my home country is in danger of becoming an armed camp beginning with the airports and probably ending with day care centers being protected by guards with guns.  Half the population will be armed.  War seems to have come home to the United States.

In my adopted country of Costa Rica, although violence has increased over the years, that is not the case.  I recall when I first came here, some 20 years ago, being surprised to see an armed guard outside some of the banks.  When I asked a Tico about this, he shrugged and said, “Don’t worry, the guns are not loaded.”  However, to enter some banks, it is necessary to pass through an x-ray door (or whatever they are called) or to open one’s purse or backpack, but so far, armed guards are not the norm.

Costa Rica has some new additions, thanks to the kindness of strangers in other countries.  Thanks to the Chinese we have the stadium and Chinatown.  Other countries have donated money for sun panels,  hydroelectric power and means to protect the environment.  Over the years so-called First World countries have come forth to offer goodies and help to this little country.  In a sense, it is the darling of the richer countries.  And, as I have said before, like the International House at San Jose State, where I once worked, Costa Rica has gained its reputation and admiration, not by its strength or size or possession of energy sources, but by being an example of peacefulness and taking care of their environment, as well as having happy people. While for other countries might makes right, for Costa Rica, it is peace and palaver and maybe even pragmatism. 

Not everyone who visits or thinks of making Costa Rica home, likes what they experience.  They are more willing to accept the downside of a militaristic country than the downside of a peaceful one. They would rather deal with aggressive/aggressive behavior than passive/aggressive behavior, which can manifest itself as “learned helplessness, procrastination, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible,” to quote a Wikipedia definition from the coiner
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

of the phrase, Col. William Menninger, who found the behavior among soldiers in World War II. It is easy to imagine aggressive aggressive behavior.

Meanwhile, other countries continue to donate and contribute, not without strings or an attitude.  Certainly that was true of China when it donated all those cars for the police with the caveat that they had to be Chinese-made cars and repaired with Chinese-made parts.  Many of them now sit without parts.

The United States has long been a major donator.  Recently the State Department has included Costa Rica in its list of countries that can apply for grants given by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  A survey of countries that have problems in human trafficking indicates to me that women and girls are overwhelmingly the victims and that there are other countries that are in greater need of this help.  As this paper has pointed out more than once, the State Department seems to ignore the fact that prostitution is not illegal in Costa Rica. The numerous tourists from the States do not suffer from that same ignorance.

It is not that I think that prostitution is a great idea, I think that women should not be arrested for choosing to prostitute their bodies for money; (we have never been arrested for prostituting our brains in mind-numbing jobs to make a living.)  If women are working in the oldest profession against their will, they should be rescued.

So there we have the beginnings of the New Year.  The American Congress did not allow the country to go over the cliff (in my mind’s eye I always thought of that phrase with the picture of John Boehner in a George Washington hat, captaining a boat shaped like the country going over Niagara Falls).

It didn’t happen.  But there are still financial rapids to maneuver, and the global village waits with bated breath.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

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Pilots, medical technicians and ground crew unload one of the 2013 emergency cases at Juan Santamaría airport.

mercy
              flight
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Ministry's air wing already made four mercy flights this year
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the security ministry's Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea is better known for searching for missing persons, drugs and crooks, pilots already have flown four mercy missions this year.

The air service made 247 such flights lasting 422 air hours in 2012, it reported Thursday.

The air service is called in for serious medical cases and to airlift accident victims.

This week pilots flew to Limón to airlift two 6-month-old
twins who were having respiratory problems.

They landed at the security ministry's base at Juan Santamaría airport and went by ambulance to the Hospital Nacional de Niños.

In another case, pilots and accompanying medical technicians airlifted a pregnant mother, 24, who was experiencing serious problems, said the agency.

At the end of the year, the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea provided aircraft to search for a 13-year-old swimmer who is lost and presumed dead off Playa Coyote. That is one of the typical missions for the air agency.


Scientist estimate that galaxy contains about a billion planets
By the California Institute of Technology news staff

Look up at the night sky and you'll see stars, sure. But you're also seeing planets, billions and billions of them. At least that's the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology that provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm.

The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32, planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority in the galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most planets form.

"There's at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy — just our galaxy," says John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech and coauthor of the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. "That's mind-boggling."

"It's a staggering number, if you think about it," adds Jonathan Swift, a post doctoral researcher at Caltech and lead author of the paper. "Basically there's one of these planets per star."

The planetary system in question, which was detected by the Kepler space telescope, contains five planets. The existence of two of those planets have already been confirmed by other astronomers. The Caltech team confirmed the remaining three then analyzed the five-planet system and compared it to other systems found by the Kepler mission.
The planets orbit a star that is an M dwarf — a type that accounts for about three-quarters of all stars in the Milky Way. The five planets, which are similar in size to Earth and orbit close to their star, are also typical of the class of planets that the telescope has discovered orbiting other M dwarfs, Swift says. Therefore, the majority of planets in the galaxy probably have characteristics comparable to those of the five planets.

While this particular system may not be unique, what does set it apart is its coincidental orientation: the orbits of the planets lie in a plane that's positioned such that Kepler views the system edge-on. Due to this rare orientation, each planet blocks Kepler -32's starlight as it passes between the star and the Kepler telescope.

By analyzing changes in the star's brightness, the astronomers were able to determine the planets' characteristics, such as their sizes and orbital periods. This orientation therefore provides an opportunity to study the system in great detail — and because the planets represent the vast majority of planets that are thought to populate the galaxy, the team says, the system also can help astronomers better understand planet formation in general.

One of the fundamental questions regarding the origin of planets is how many of them there are. Like the Caltech group, other teams of astronomers have estimated that there is roughly one planet per star, but this is the first time researchers have made such an estimate by studying M-dwarf systems, the most numerous population of planets known.

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U.S. State Department won't
support trip by Google exec


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday the time was not right for Google, Inc., Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and former diplomat Bill Richardson to travel to North Korea.
 
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Schmidt and Richardson would be traveling as private citizens, not representatives of the U.S. government.
 
"Frankly, we don't think the timing of this is particularly helpful," Ms. Nuland told reporters, citing Pyongyang's December launch of a long-range rocket. "They are well aware of our views."
 
​​A source familiar with the matter on Thursday confirmed a report that Schmidt planned to visit North Korea with Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and diplomatic troubleshooter.
 
Schmidt, a top figure in the U.S. technology industry and a key executive at the world's leading search engine company, could visit as early as this month, but it was unclear who he would meet or what his agenda is.
 
Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. North Korea is one of the world's most repressive states with Internet access limited largely to the most influential officials and media content rigidly controlled.
 
Ms. Nuland stressed that Schmidt and Richardson were not acting on behalf of the United States.
 
"They are private citizens ... traveling in an unofficial capacity," she said. "They are not going to be accompanied by any U.S. officials. They are not carrying any messages from us. They are private citizens and they are making their own decisions."
 
Wednesday, Google did not directly respond to a question about whether Schmidt was going to North Korea, although Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith's response suggested a visit would not be for company business.
 
"We do not comment on personal travel," said Smith when asked about the report Wednesday.
 
North Korea said its Dec. 12 rocket launch put a weather satellite in orbit, but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.


Kerry is being prepared
for confirmation hearings


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is working from home following her release from a New York hospital after doctors discovered a blood clot in her head.  With Mrs. Clinton expected to return to work next week,  Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is preparing for confirmation hearings to become the next secretary of State.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Clinton is raring to go following her release Wednesday from the hospital.

"She is talking to staff.  She is taking paper at home.  She sounds terrific.  She is looking forward to coming back to work next week," Ms. Nuland said.

Mrs. Clinton spent three nights at New York-Presbyterian Hospital receiving blood thinners to help dissolve a blood clot behind her right ear in a vein between her brain and skull.  Doctors say the clot did not result in a stroke or neurological damage, and they are confident she will make a full recovery.

Doctors have asked that Mrs. Clinton not travel internationally for a few weeks.  So, the most-traveled secretary of State in U.S. history may be done traveling as the top U.S. diplomat.  She is stepping down from the post, and President Barack Obama has already nominated Kerry to replace her.

Ms. Nuland says Kerry is being briefed ahead of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which the senator once headed.

"We have a well-practiced procedure for preparing new secretaries for confirmation hearings.  The senator was in the building yesterday.  He had a number of meetings with senior staff.  He received a huge pile of briefing materials," Ms. Nuland said.

Ms. Nuland says Kerry is expected back at the State Department on a regular basis beginning Friday.


Owner of Gulf oil rig
agrees to pay $1.5 billion

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The owner of the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and caused the worst spill in U.S. history will pay more than $1 billion in fines.

Under a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, Transocean Deepwater acknowledged Thursday that it was criminally negligent when it failed to investigate evidence that the underwater Deepwater Horizon well was not secure. It also pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Transocean will pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties. The money will be used to restore the Gulf region affected by the oil spill, including damaged bird and wildlife habitats.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Thursday's settlement is a significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and econometric deviation caused by the oil spill.

The oil rig off the Louisiana coast exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers. The blast caused millions of liters of oil to gush uncontrollably out of the underwater well for three months.

BP, which leased the well from Transocean, already has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 11 deaths and will pay $4.5 billion in criminal charges. A civil settlement is pending.
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This is the confiscated revolver and bullets.

Pistol-packing teens fire
on pursuing police officers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two teens who were acting suspiciously at a bus stop fled when police approached, and then they opened fire on officers.

The Fuerza Pública in Siquirres said officers later detained one of the suspects and found that he was carrying a .38-caliber revolver that had been reported stolen from a Pococí security company. He is 16, they said.

No police were injured in the one-sided shootout. The two young men fled into the hills when police approached, said the security ministry. The bus stop is on Ruta 32, the main Limón-San José highway at a section called Freehold.


Argentine president again
calls for return of Falklands


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

British Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected a call by Argentina’s president for Britain to give control of the Falkland Islands to Argentina. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner wrote an open letter to the British leader accusing his country of colonialism.

More than 30 years have passed since Britain and Argentina fought a 10-week war over the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, but their dispute continues.

In an open letter published as an advertisement in two British newspapers, Fernández accused Britain of having forcibly stripped the islands from Argentina in a blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism. She called for Britain to begin discussions over the islands’ sovereignty and said Britain had breached U.N. resolutions urging a negotiated resolution.

A spokesperson for Cameron, though, said he would do everything to protect the interests of the islanders.

The Falkland Islands government representative in London, Suki Cameron, said that Falkland islanders do not want to be part of Argentina.

“If they think that by writing letters like this it is going to bring us to talk to them, they have another think coming,” she said.

The islanders are due to vote in a March referendum on whether they want to remain part of Britain’s self-governing overseas territories.  They are expected to vote in favor of remaining part of Britain.

The Falkland Islands government called for the referendum. The vote has been rejected by Argentina, which says it considers the few thousand people living on the islands as an implanted British population.
 
Suki Cameron said the referendum will show the world how the islanders feel about their political status.

“It is important to show that we are an overseas territory by choice,” she said.

Argentina invaded the remote South Atlantic islands, which it calls the Malvinas, in 1982, but withdrew after 74 days. About 650 Argentinean and 255 British military personnel died in the conflict.








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Hundreds held in child porno case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. law enforcement officials announced Thursday that 245 people have been arrested in an international investigation of child pornography.

The director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, John Morton, said 123 victims of child sexual exploitation were identified in an operation designed to rescue victims and target individuals who own, trade or produce images of child pornography. 

Morton told reporters in Washington the victims were found in the United States and six other countries. He declined to provide details about which foreign countries were involved, saying only that some of the cases were in Mexico.

Morton said the results of the investigation were significant, but grim.

“Let me also say that these rescues highlight the depth and global nature of this problem.  I am deeply appreciative of the assistance we received from so many foreign and local law enforcement agencies in making them,” he said.

Morton said 44 children were rescued from their abusers while 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside their home or are now adults who were victimized as children.

He described the investigation as defending the defenseless. “The grim reality is that online child exploitation is a very real part of our modern lives.  It is going on throughout the world right now on a grand scale.  My friends, we have to attack child exploitation relentlessly and together,” he said.

Federal agents worked closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify individuals sexually abusing children and taking photos and videos of the acts.

The head of the center, John Ryan, said international cooperation is essential because the majority of the cases involve people overseas.

“We are now seeing over half of these reports having an international nexus, which means either the production of the content or the victims themselves have jurisdiction outside of the U.S. borders.”

Officials say increased use of the Internet has allowed much greater access to child pornography.

In 2012, a record 1,655 people suspected of being child predators were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, California, authorities were seeking an unidentified man and woman who appear in a child molestation photo series. Investigation has determined that the child pornography images were likely produced in the Los Angeles area about 11 years ago, said the U.S. Attorney's office there. Authorities said they hope the photos will prompt members of the public to provide information that will lead to arrests in this case.

A girl in the photo is estimated to have been about 13 years old, said the U.S. Attorney's Office.


New Congress convenes to face debt

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The new U.S. Congress will soon confront an issue that has plagued and paralyzed its predecessors: the country's runaway national debt. Congress remains politically divided, and its ability to find common ground will be put to the test once again.
 
Smiles abounded Thursday at the Capitol, where Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to new and returning senators.

​​Moments earlier, in a particularly poignant moment, Biden helped escort Sen. Mark Kirk to the chamber for the first time since the Illinois Republican suffered a major stroke last year.

But the pomp and ceremony of a new Congress’ first day could not hide raw feelings that linger after cliffhanger votes in both chambers this week to avert automatic tax hikes mandated by the so-called fiscal cliff.

Shortly after senators were sworn in, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, took to the Senate floor to administer a blunt reality check.

​​“In a couple of months, the president will ask us to raise the nation’s debt limit," he said. "We cannot agree to increase that borrowing limit without agreeing to reforms that lower the avalanche of spending that is creating this debt in the first place.”

McConnell flatly rejected President Barack Obama’s call for revenue increases as part of deficit reduction pacts in the coming year. And so, on the new Congress’ first day, partisan battle lines were drawn on the nation’s most pressing issue.

Many new senators already have drawn their own lines in the sand. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, campaigned and won on a pledge to safeguard America’s social safety net from budget cuts.

“To all the seniors who deserve to retire with the security they earned, we are going to make sure your Medicare and Social Security benefits are protected, and that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share,” she said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Repubican, said new lawmakers are joining a broken legislature. “We have, at a very accelerated pace, made some very unwise choices about how we do the people’s business. This has been the most dysfunctional Senate in history,” he said.

And yet, as a new Congress convenes, many lawmakers could not help but strike a hopeful and optimistic tone. Sen. Bob Corker, a Repubican, hailed a bipartisan effort to reform Senate rules and limit the use of procedural motions to block legislation. He said Congress has a chance to be productive for the American people.

“Look, making tough decisions sometimes creates drama, and hopefully we will act more like adults and make these decisions in advance and not at the last minute,” said Corker.

He added that a politically polarized Congress simply reflects a politically polarized electorate. “The country is divided," he said. "People do not realize that the Senate and the House really represent the views of the American people.”

Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, does not predict Congress will magically improve the way it does business. But he added that, at a minimum, gridlock cannot get any worse than it has been.

“There is no place to go but up. And many of us here are going to do all we can to make that happen,” he said.


Boehner manages to be re-elected

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

After a rough first term, with battles over federal taxes and spending cuts, Republican John Boehner, has been reelected as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Analysts say he will likely face more turbulence, with some members of his own party against him and any compromise with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats.

There were some tense moments during the long voice vote for the new speaker of the Republican-controlled House, where there were only two names on the ballot, Boehner, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, as no other Republican stepped forward to challenge their leader.

Some members shouted other names in protest, such as former secretary of State Colin Powell and outgoing Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West, a Republican.

When the votes were counted, despite 10 protest votes against him, Boehner defeated Ms. Pelosi, 220 to 192.  Pelosi congratulated Boehner, and called for Democrats and Republicans to work together.

"Speaker Boehner, I know all too well, that we will not always agree, but I hope with all my heart that we will find common ground," Ms. Pelosi said.

In a sign of likely clashes to come over cuts to social welfare programs supported by Democrats, Boehner indicated that his focus will remain on reducing the country's soaring national debt.

"Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs, and these are not separate problems," Boehner said.

In the recent fiscal cliff battle, Boehner faced dissension within Republican ranks and had to rely on Democratic votes to pass a bill this week intended to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

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