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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 6                Email us
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Palmares festival begins today with fireworks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who have not had their fill of carnival food, megabars and young men and women taunting a fighting bull will be happy to know that the Fiestas de Palmares starts today.

This is the carnival that is second only to the Zapote Christmas event.

Tonight the opening features a 6 p.m. parade of faroles or street lanterns on the fairgrounds and fireworks at 8 p.m.

The carnival runs until Jan 21, and big attractions include the tope or horse parade Thursday at noon and a Festival Latino Sunday at 3 p.m.

The event is the production of the Asociación Cívica Palmareña.

In all there are 15 separate bull baiting events. Prices for spectators range from 2,000 colons to 8,000 depending on the day, but seniors get in free Sunday night, Jan. 13, Monday, Jan. 14,  Wednesday, Jan. 16 and Jan. 21 in the afternoon.

A full program is HERE!

Palmares is just off the InterAmerican highway,

Ruta 1, west of the Central Valley. The carnival is
free but the special events like watching the bulls
and the Latin festival have separate admission charges.

Naturally there will be the usual complement of police, and traffic officers will be trying to snag drunks on the road home. The transport ministry is making some changes to the Bernardo Soto highway to improve traffic flow during peak times. The traffic police said that up to 150 officers will be on duty checking drivers not only for alcohol but also for proof that they have paid the road circulation tax, the marchamo.

Each year traffic police harvest many drunks. Those who plan to drink at the festival probably should avail themselves of public transportation. Many groups and organizations charter small buses to visit the fairgrounds.

One of the principal activities there is the megabars that feature live music and dancers.

Despite campaign, some youngsters suffered burns
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In December 2012, the Hospital Nacional de Niños treated 42 children for different types of burns.  Of these children, 29 required hospitalizations, said Director Rodolfo Hernández Gómez.

According to Hernández, the majority of the burns came from spilled hot liquids such as milk and coffee.

With the season of fireworks and celebrations upon the country, there was a worry about children being burned from the explosives. 

The hospital, along with the Cruz Roja, fire department and security ministry, set out a campaign again last year to educate parents and children about the proper use of fireworks.
The slogan for the endeavor was, “Zero burned, zero suffering, zero pain, zero deaths.”  Unfortunately, the chant was not completely fulfilled as nine children were treated last year for firework burns.  Six of these cases happened last month, said Hernández.

The big firework day, New Year's eve, ended with two young boys going to the hospital.  One burned his hand and the other his body, the physician said.

Although this number is relatively low, the hospital director said it is an increase from last year.  In December 2011, the hospital only saw three cases of firework burns, and there were only six cases for the whole year.

Still the number of liquid burns is what has more troubling numbers, and it is the goal to decrease these types of accidents this year, he said.

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Our readers' opinion
American can't remember
those senseless conflicts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Americans seem to have dementia (short-term memory loss) and Alzheimer's (long-term memory loss) regarding the senseless wars we continue to have.  First Vietnam, then the backing of the contras against the idea of communism spreading throughout Central America.  

Years later we move on to the boogie man known as Saddam Hussein, who was supposedly a direct threat to the United States with weapons of mass destruction.   Move on to get the boogie man Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in a no-win situation. 

We obviously didn't learn the lesson Russia did many years before in their war with Afghanistan.  Oh that's right, we backed Osama Bin Laden and his Mujahideen faction in Afghanistan during that war.  Now it is the boogie man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's future weapons of mass destruction. 

When is the general public going to get their memory back and realize this is all about either control of oil or funding the military industrial complex corporations in the United States.  Stop pissing our tax dollars away on wars that are not necessary and start using so much of wasted defense budget money on better causes for the American public.  Maybe we need to address the problem of lack of memory and fund a huge project so people will remember how senseless these wars are.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Republican party losing
power and influence in U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While I suppose that Mr. Frank Kaiser's imagery of the president of the United States running his country over a cliff with "his foot on the Constitution" was amusing to him and other conservatives, it's just more of the same, baseless character assassination that has been directed at Obama since his first election run in 2008 when Sarah Palin and her tea party shock troops attempted to brand him as a friend of terrorists, a socialist and a Kenyan Muslim.

Humor takes the pain away from uncomfortable situations, so I hope Mr. Kaiser is resting more easily now. Unfortunately, the United States of America isn't, and as opinion polls have clearly demonstrated, a majority of the American public blames the Republican Party and its policies most for the chaos and dysfunction. Mr. Kaiser would have to be living under a stone sphere to not know this.

The legislative "solution" to the fiscal cliff challenge was most definitely a kick-the-can-down-de-road proposition rather than an authentic occasion for partisan back-slapping. Both sides failed miserably to address the nasty and pressing business at hand. So why did the GOP take such a thorough trouncing in the polls?

I choose to believe that it's because there are so many other subjects that the extreme conservatives who now control the Republican Party just will not deal with rationally, let alone courageously: reproductive rights, gay rights, contraception, global warming, the theory of evolution, outsourcing, foreign policy, gun control, Harry Potter.....with them it's all raw emotion and self righteous indignation combined with a pseudo patriotic militancy and a dash of religious zeal. Cooperation and compromise are deadly sins punishable by excommunication from the party, and obstruction is the order of the day.

The good news is that the militant intransigence of their policies has not been a catalyst for the accumulation of more power and influence by the conservative extremists who make up only about 10 percent of the U.S. population. Instead, it has led to an erosion in both the public perception and the political power of the GOP. Their electoral humiliation on 11/6/12 and their recent hard times in public opinion polls are a harbinger of things to come.

The party of the angry old, heavily armed, southern white guys is on its way down, and it will continue to bleed relevance as the electoral demographic shifts in the U.S.. I think the GOP will become more desperate and dangerous in the coming months and years, and I'm very much afraid that democracy, compassion and common sense in the political arena will take a terrible pounding in the process. But in the long run, the social regressives/repressives and the middle-class-bashing cheerleaders for billionaire conservative contributors will find themselves disempowered and returned to the societal fringes from whence they came and where they belong. It can't come soon enough for America.
Dean Barbour
Manuel Antonio
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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 6
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Home invasion triggered chain of events that left two cops dead
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A home invasion was the crime that began the chain of events that left two policemen and a suspect dead in Cariari de Pococí Monday night.

The two police officers Carlos Eulogio Jimenez Pérez, 32, and Jesús Peraza Garro, 50, had been alerted by a report of the home invasion. They were on motorcycles.

By the time police became involved, the home invaders had unloaded a flat-screen television and a sound system that they had stolen after threatening and tying up the occupant of the home.

The crooks then continued to drive the vehicle they had stolen from the homeowner.

That was when they had their first encounter with the two police officers, and a firefight erupted, said the Judicial Investigating Organization, which identified a crook killed in the exchange as Henry Elizondo Valverde, 20. He was shot in the head.

The remaining crooks then used the stolen vehicle to run down the two officers, judicial agents said. After hitting the police officers, the vehicle ran into a ditch and the occupants fled on foot.

Tuesday Police detained Carlos Alberto Avila Sancho, 43, who they found in a local park. They also found the stolen items in a nearby home late Monday.

Agents also detained two brothers, identified by the last names of Chavarría Rojas. But they were set free later due to lack of evidence.

Peraza, who lived in Guácimo, left two children. He had 13 years in the police force.  Jiménez lived with his wife in El Cairo, Siquirres. He joined the force in July 2009. Both men will be buried today after separate funerals.
Jesús Peraza Garro
Carlos Eulogio Jimenez Pérez

stolen vehilce
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Púbica photo

This is the vehicle that killed the two officers.

Now it is fake bank Web pages showing up on search engines
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Internet crooks have a new tool in their crooked arsenal. Judicial investigators said that somehow crooks have managed to post false pages on search engines.

That is why some local bank customers who search for their bank via a search engine might end up with a fake site where their password and other data will be stolen.

Banks have made great strides in security in the last few years. Now there are several systems that customers must use to verify their identity twice.
Still, judicial investigators said that in the last month more than 40 bank customers have fallen victim to fake Web pages on usually reliable search engines.

The agency is urging bank customers not to use search engines to obtain a link to their bank.

An average of 500,000 colons have been lost to crooks in each fake transaction, agents said. That's about $1,000.

The judicial investigating agency has a Sección de Delitos Informáticos that tries to solve online theft crimes.

National museum plans vacation workshops for kids and adults
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Museo Nacional will provide different free summer workshops for children and adults that include scrapbooking, drawing, origami and board games from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1.  The workshops will have both morning and afternoon sessions.

Although the activities are free, some such as making scrapbooks, decorating creative boxes, and recreating Quitirrisí traditions will require patrons to pay for materials.  Other activities will require persons to bring materials from home.
Participants do not have to make a reservation for the workshops, but it is suggested that interested persons contact the museum a day in advance of the desired workshop to make sure there is space available, said museum spokespersons.

Also, participants can attend as many workshops as they wish, they said. 

Those who want more information can call 2257-1433, ext. 144, or email  The entire workshop schedule can be found HERE!

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Judicial agents harvest the crop of marijuana that was found at a home in Cóbano.

marijuana harvest
Judicial Investigating Organization photo

Judicial agents put damper on marijuana growing in Cóbano
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A family in Cóbano on the Nicoya peninsula has been haled into court over 33 marijuana plants that they appear to have been raising at their home. The plants range from a mere five centimeters to three meters, more than nine feet, said agents.
Agents raided the home last week and destroyed the plants. Agents attributed the agricultural activities to a man, 42, a woman, 35 and a boy, 16.

Agents said they have been investigating the case since December.

Young people can learn about Plaza de la Cultura in workshop
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As children continue with their summer vacation, the Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica are offering what they are calling, “the perfect combination to enjoy the vacation.”

The invitation is to participate in two separate exhibits.  The first, "Los Secretos de la Plaza," is an opportunity for children ages 8 to 11 years old to learn about the building as well as the country's coins and bills, art and archaeology. 

The second, "El Pasado Me Inspira," gives teenagers ages 12 to
17 years old the ability to learn about the pre-Columbian history of Costa Rica.

“Our pre-Columbian past is not a thing of the past. We continue to see this reflected in the adornments of our body,” said a release.

The plaza secrets workshop will be held Jan. 28, 29 and 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs 9,000 colons.  The "inspired by the past" workshop will be Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and costs 6,000 colons. Persons can reserve a spot at 2243-4224. 

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It's official: Chávez won't
show up to take oath

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan officials say ailing President Hugo Chávez will miss Thursday's inauguration for a third term, and will remain in Cuba for cancer treatment.

National assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello read a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, saying doctors recommend that Chávez not head home. Cabello said the president will be sworn in by the Supreme Court at a later date.

The opposition in Venezuela argues that the president's inability to take the oath of office on the constitutionally mandated day of Jan. 10 legally requires him to step down. But some legal experts insist the constitution allows the Supreme Court to swear in the president without mentioning a specific date.

The government has called on Chávez supporters to take to the streets Thursday as part of a massive show of support

Chávez has not been seen in public for almost a month. His exact condition and what kind of cancer he has is unclear.

Venezuela's information minister said Monday that Chávez has a lung infection connected to his cancer treatment and that his condition is stable.

Chinese Web site owner
held in software piracy case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Chinese national has pleaded guilty to charges related to selling illegally copied American software worth more than $100 million.  U.S. officials say it is one of the most significant cases of copyright infringement ever uncovered by law enforcement authorities. 
U.S. officials say 36-year-old Xiang Li of Chengdu, China, operated a Web site to distribute pirated software.
According to statements and court documents Li's website, Crack99, advertised thousands of stolen software titles and sold them at well below market prices to customers in the United States and 60 other countries.
Software is considered cracked when its digital license files and access control features have been disabled or bypassed.
John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spoke about the case Tuesday.
"This is organized crime pure and simple.  Hackers are literally stealing sophisticated U.S. software, cracking the codes and selling it on the street through criminal middle men like Mr. Li.  American jobs, innovation and sensitive technology are lost in the process.  This harms our country in a very, real, real way," he said.
Officials say Li sold about 550 software titles to at least 325 purchasers.
The products were owned by 200 different manufacturers.  They are used in a wide range of applications including defense, engineering, space exploration and manufacturing.  Most were high-end commercial products that normally sell for more than $100,000.
More than one-third of the unlawful purchases were made by individuals in the United States, including small business owners, government contractors, students, inventors and engineers.
Some of the largest American customers held important engineering positions with government agencies and contractors.
For example, Li sold software worth more than $1.2 million to Cosburn Wedderburn, who was then a NASA engineer working at the space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Wedderburn has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and is awaiting sentencing.
Again, Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
"Sophisticated software development depends on intellectual property protection.  Innovation depends on people playing by the rules.  We cannot expect American companies to invest millions of dollars to develop new products if those same products are stolen and counterfeit the very next day," he said.
In 2010 and 2011, undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security purchased pirated software from Li's Web site.
In June 2011, Li agreed to travel to the Pacific island of Saipan, an American territory, to deliver pirated software to undercover agents posing as U.S. businessmen.  Li was arrested there and transported to the eastern United States, where he remains in custody.
He originally was charged with more than 40 criminal counts, but has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit copyright violations and wire fraud.
Li faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Sentencing is scheduled for May 3.

Judge cuts likely penalty
for WikiLeaks analyst

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A military judge has reduced the possible sentence for a U.S. Army analyst accused of leaking classified documents to the WikiLeaks Web site.

Judge Denise Lind ruled Tuesday that the potential sentence for Army Private First Class Bradley Manning would be reduced by 112 days because of his treatment at a military jail after his arrest.

Manning has been in custody since mid-2010.  For part of that time, authorities kept Manning under a suicide watch, confining him to a windowless cell 23 hours a day, sometimes without clothing.

The judge ruled at a pretrial hearing that that type of punishment was "more rigorous than necessary" and that the conditions "became excessive in relation to legitimate government interests."  She said, however, that the punishment did not warrant the defense's call to drop all charges.

Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy," which carries a maximum life sentence.  His trial is set to begin March 6.

The leaked diplomatic cables and military reports, published by WikiLeaks starting in July 2010, infuriated the international community, often providing blunt and unflattering U.S. views of world leaders' private and public lives.

U.S. officials say WikiLeaks' publication of the stolen documents put American lives in danger, threatened national security and undermined U.S. efforts to work with other countries.
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Chilly weather and winds
combine to give shivers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Chilly weather and high winds are giving Costa Ricans the shivers.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that winds again today could hit 70 kph, about 43 mph.

And the overnight low ranges from 12 C. (about 54 F.) in Cartago to 17 C (about 63 F) in the rest of the Central Valley. Of course the temperatures will be much warmer on the coasts.

The weather institute said that gusts of 70 kph had been measured Tuesday in Guanacaste. The cause is a high pressure area in the north.

The weather institute also warned of possible damage to electrical lines and problems with small aircraft.

The winds will be keeping away and rain, and today is likely to be like Tuesday: Clear with some puffy white clouds.

Driver's license offices
to have expanded hours

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dirección de Educación Vial said it will keep driver license offices open longer starting today. The hours will be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The change in hours affects all 11 driver license offices in the country, including the main one in La Uruca.

The expanded hours will continue until Feb. 15, said the agency.

The change in hours is in response to a flood of individuals at the offices seeking to renew their licenses. Some reported that they spent all day at the La Uruca facility just waiting in line.

Official newspaper will end
publication on newsprint

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's official newspaper will stop printing on paper June 30.

The publication is La Gaceta where government agencies publish decrees, proposed laws and laws. This also is where trademarks and other private legal notices appear.

The Imprenta Nacional expects to save a lot of money with the change but promises there will not be layoffs.

The La Gaceta comes out each day and is a thick book.

La Gaceta has had an online, searchable edition for years, and once tried to charge for subscriptions. The Sala IV constitutional court said that the daily government newspaper must be open and free to all citizens.

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A.M. Costa Rica
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Hagel, if confirmed, faces tough chores

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

If he’s confirmed, Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s pick to be the new defense secretary, will immediately have to deal with cutting the U.S. defense budget by $487 billion or more and the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan.
The decisions will be tough, but for the 66-year-old Republican former senator from the U.S. state of Nebraska, they will be a natural fit. 

​​Hagel has spoken out against shedding the blood of U.S. soldiers in conflicts with unclear goals. He supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq by voting to authorize the use of military force at the start of the war, but later opposed sending more U.S. troops in what was known as the surge.
He also has spoken in favor of cutting waste at the Pentagon, telling The Financial Times in 2011 the Defense Department was bloated and needed to be pared down after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As one who fought on the front lines in Vietnam, Hagel would bring an added dose of reality to the job of defense chief. He enlisted as an infantryman and was wounded twice. To this day, bits of shrapnel are still lodged in his chest and he has burns on his face and arms. Awarded two Purple Heart medals for his valor, he brings added respect from the troops he will command if confirmed. It will be the first time a former enlisted soldier becomes secretary of defense.
Some say his first-hand experience of the horrors of war has fostered in him a more cautious attitude on engaging in armed conflict.
In announcing Hagel’s nomination at a White House press conference Monday, Obama said the former Nebraska senator is a patriot who understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed is “something we do only when absolutely necessary.”
Standing next to Obama after the announcement of his nomination, Hagel said he is grateful for the chance to work to strengthen the United States and its allies, but also to advance global freedom, decency, and help build “a better world for all mankind.”
Hagel has pledged to offer honest counsel to the president at a time when the United States is withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan ahead of a deadline at the end of next year. 

Hagel, a Republican, is known in Washington for his blunt talk and independent positions. They have included splitting with his party in opposing the Iraq war and his criticism of Washington’s handling of the war in Afghanistan, where half of the territory remains under the control of insurgents more than a decade after American troops landed in the country.
With much of the Afghanistan exit strategy still undecided, there is much room for him to influence the president on the withdrawal of troops.
“It certainly is of relevance that Senator Hagel has been relatively skeptical of the Afghanistan mission and you would have to assume that he’d be a voice joining that of Vice President Biden arguing in favor of perhaps a little faster drawdown,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington.
Few expect Hagel to keep his frustrations about Afghanistan quiet if he is confirmed as defense secretary. Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council, worked closely with Hagel while the former senator served as chairman at the Washington research group. He said Hagel will not waste time before assessing what the U.S. should be doing at this stage in Afghanistan.
“The one thing you know will happen is he will ask the tough questions,” said Kempe.
“He’ll say, ‘what are we negotiating with the Afghans, for what purpose? What is the regional context?  How much do we need to leave behind and for what purpose in the regional context?’”

Hagel faces a battle for confirmation at the U.S. Senate by those who accuse him of being less supportive of Israel and not so tough on Iran.
In past remarks, Hagel has spoken of what he described as an intimidating Jewish lobby and been against unilateral sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, raising questions of whether he would be less supportive of an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran.
The confirmation of White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan as the new CIA chief is expected to be less contentious, although he was the architect of the U.S. drone program to kill suspected terrorists. 
Analyst O’Hanlon said Brennan likely will be judged more on his efforts to eliminate al-Qaida leaders before they attack U.S. interests again. “I don’t expect any trouble with his confirmation on those grounds.”

Mental health efforts lack support

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Most people with mental illness do not commit violent crimes. But acts of mass violence by apparently deranged young men have focused public attention in the United States on how hard it can be to identify and diagnose people with serious mental illnesses and to get them effective treatment before they do harm to themselves or others.

Eric Parks and his mother Ginger Smith have shared a long battle with mental illness. Parks has bi-polar disorder. His first psychotic episode happened when he was 19. 

"I don’t remember much of it. It was just a bad situation. I didn’t feel very good, that’s for sure," Parks said.

"And that was the beginning, the continuation of years of miserable times for Eric and difficult times for the family," Ms. Smith said.

Mental illness can prevent people from thinking rationally. Unless they have professional help, people with severe mental illness cannot stick to a schedule, and they stop taking the medications that can keep them grounded.
Parks' mother tried but failed to have her son hospitalized.

Many hospitals in the U.S. do not treat psychiatric patients. Those that do, often release patients after brief stays without the support of a mental health professional to ensure a stable transition. Discharged patients sometimes lack the money to buy their medicines or to pay for follow-up psychiatric services.

Parks ended up homeless, starving and without medication.
"I wasn’t willing to receive treatment. I wasn’t at a point where I was willing to admit that I had a mental illness or I had to take any medications or anything like that," Parks said. 

Improvements in the nation's mental health care system are sorely needed, according to Wayne Lindstrom. He heads Mental Health America, an advocacy group.

"We have a mental health system, and we also have a physical medicine system.  And they have not been integrated, typically. And they need to be, desperately, because so many of the problems that children and adults present with cross broad spectrums  aren’t separated from the neck up or down," Lindstrom said.

Parks now lives in a private home where the staff manages his medications and helps him structure his day. But such care is costly, and there are no public or private programs to help pay for it. Most families exhaust their savings. Ms. Smith sold her home so she could afford to keep her son there. Parks is now well enough that he has begun looking for a job. 

"I’d like to eventually get back out on my own and maybe have an apartment and live independently," Parks said.
Parks will need the services of a group home for several more years. Still, Ms. Smith points to her son’s accomplishments and bristles at the way people with mental illness are portrayed by public officials and the media.

"If we can shift the perspective to greater understanding and knowledge, and the resources to back it up, we will be taking a great step forward to some of the things that our families live with and many others know very well," Smith said. 

Instead, funding for these programs has been cut sharply in recent years.

Eurozone unemployment at record

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 17-nation eurozone has started 2013 on a grim note, with new statistics showing November unemployment at an all-time high. 

There is optimism the worst of the eurozone crisis is over, but the latest figures published by the European Union's statistical service offers a dose of reality.

​Eurostat's November figures show unemployment in the eurozone currency union climbing to a record 11.8 percent — up 0.1 percent from October, and more than a percentage point from a year ago.

Roughly 19 million people living in the currency union are out of work, two million more than a year ago. Unemployment is highest in two of Europe's most indebted economies, Spain and Greece, with more than a quarter of their populations out of work.

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