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Analysis of school shooting fails to suggest remedies
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vice President Joe Biden has the job of presenting proposals to reduce school violence in the United States. An analysis of one of the most notorious massacres shows that there is no policy change that would be very successful.

The April 20, 1999, killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, has been studied in detail, and the events are well known personally to A.M. Costa Rica editors. The killings by two students of 13 persons and the wounding of 24 fail to suggest any effective remedy.

The case also is instructive for Costa Rican officials.

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association just suggested in the wake of a similar series of killing at Newtown, Connecticut, that armed guards be placed at all schools. His organization opposes any efforts at gun control.

Another shooting HERE!

An armed resource officer was on duty at Columbine when Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, began their rampage. The officer, a sheriff's deputy, was Neil Gardner, who was outside on the school campus when he was alerted by a custodian that shooting was taking place. Although he engaged one of the youngsters in a short firefight, there were no injuries.

Later investigation showed that the two gunmen, who committed suicide that day, broke a number of firearms laws. They illegally purchased guns while they were under age. They cut down some weapons into sawed-off shotguns so they could be hidden. Two of their friends were convicted later of providing some of the weapons.

The Barack Obama administration seeks to reinstitute what is called an assault weapon prohibition. The measure would prohibit the sale of semi-automatic rifles similar to AK-47s and AR-15s. Such a weapon was involved in the Connecticut shooting.

However, Harris and Klebold did their killings with easily available, although customized, shotguns, a 9-mm. carbine and a handgun.

The U.S. administration also wants to limit what they call high-capacity magazines for weapons. The Columbine killers had plenty of time to reload. The 9-mm. weapon had a 10-shot magazine but was fired 96 times because Harris brought 13 magazines into the school, according to an analysis by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Klebold had a 9-mm. handgun with three magazines, including one that could hold 52 bullets. He fired 55 times, said the FBI.
In fact, the two killers really planned to do much more damage than firearms would cause. They had brought propane bombs into the school cafeteria. They were similar to the tanks many Costa Ricans have in their homes for cooking. Had the tanks gone off as planned, much of the school would have been demolished.  The pair also used and ignited many homemade pipe bombs. All of the bombs were illegal. The April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City terrorist bombing that killed 168 persons, including children, was the result of a fertilizer-cleaning solvent concoction.

Harris and Klebold were no strangers to the law. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department tried to

hide the fact that one investigator filled out an   affidavit for a search warrant for the Klebold residence a year before the Columbine massacre. But for some reason the officer did not file the document and make the search. Had he done so, he probably would have found much of the weapons and material that ended up being used at Columbine.

A Web page on America Online operated by Harris with the help of Klebold generated the effort toward a search warrant because some parents were concerned by what they perceived as threats. The pair maintained the site also to host players of a video game Harris had invented.

Violent video games also are being considered as a trigger for some school violence although the actual impact is hard to evaluate.

Harris had been in the care of a psychiatrist and was on mood altering drugs. Biden's committee also is looking at mental health as it related to violence.

Both teens had been caught the year before after they stole computers and tools from a parked van. Harris was forced to write a letter of apology to the van owner, although his diary discovered after the killings said he faked his contrition.

A new factor being reported today is that one of Klebold's elementary school teachers said after the killings that he was always a disruptive youth even when very young and that she expected that he would do bad things. Harris was the son of a retired U.S. Air Force pilot.

There also is some dispute whether Harris and Klebold were objects of bullying at the school or were bullies themselves.

Despite reports at the time, the pair did not seem to have an anti-Christian motive in the shootings. They killed indiscriminately and at times sent away would-be victims instead of killing them.

Although the reason for the Harris and Klebold rampage is still not clear, school shootings in Costa
Rica have been more specific. There have been no massacres, but a school director and students have been murdered inside school properties.

Michael Hernández, 16, a student in the Colegio Venecia in that town near Matina north and west of Limón, was gunned down in May 2003. The Judicial Investigating Organization said the killer, a 15-year-old had a simmering dispute with the victim.

Nancy María Chaverri Jiménez was the school director or principal at the private Colegio Montebello in Heredia. A 17-year-old student took his father's pistol to school to shoot the women in her office over previous discipline issues, said agents at the time. In response, the education ministry issued orders to resume searching the backpacks students bring to school, but they said they had no authority to impose this rule on private schools. The shooting was July 1, 2010, and the woman died later in Hospital México.

July 18, 2011, 17-year-old Juan Pablo Salazar Calderón was gunned down at his desk at the Colegio Técnico Profesional Ricardo Castro Beer in Orotina. The killer, just short of 18 years himself, shot himself fatally after killing Salazar.

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Our reader's opinion
Republicans can only blame
themselves for voting outcome

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Plumley had better get his head out of the Jacó sand, wake up, and smell the coffee.  Yes, Romney was a weak candidate -- that’s why he lost the election!   However, it was not because the conservatives stayed home, as Plumley asserts, but because those with any real acumen crossed the proverbial aisle and voted for Obama. 

Mr. Barbour was correct in his analysis:

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.

How can a president lead the people if he is clueless about the demographics and requisites of his constituency? It was the Republicans themselves who bombed their own sinking ship, with totally out of touch remarks about the 47 percent, ending funding for planned parenthood, and other careless utterances designed to stir up emotion.  They succeeded, but  their short-sightedness and flippant attitudes produced the antithesis of their desired outcome.

Republicans were, and continue to be, out of touch with the problems facing the citizenry.  They are more concerned with fattening their own wallets and remaining exempt from paying their fair share of the tax burden.

Plumley has it wrong:  the American electorate was not dumbed-down this year, as it was when it elected and then re-elected Obama’s ineffectual predecessor, whose egocentric policies and economic ineptitude, together with that of his supporters, got us into this mess in the first place.

The Democrats did not humiliate the Republicans this election. The Republicans managed that feat all on their own!

Darlene Mokrycki

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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Raids reveal that there is another highway corruption case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigative raids revealed the existence of another highway scandal Thursday.

The case is not supposed to be related with the long-running investigation of Ruta 1856, the new roadway along the south side of the Río San Juan in northern Costa Rica.

Agents, directed by the anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Carlos Cubillo, make four visits Thursday.

One was at a home in San Isidro de Heredia. One was at a business in San Joaquín de Flores. Another was at a lawyer's office in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. The fourth was at the officers of the Consejo Nacional de Vilida, the road agency.
The Poder Judicial said that the subject of the investigation is an engineer with the last name of Núñez. He worked with the Consejo and had the responsibility of verifying the completion of contracts related to maintenance of the nation's road network, said the Poder Judicial.

At the Consejo agents gathered documents from several departments.

The allegation that generated the probe is that Núñez used his former job to benefit a company related to his family and for another engineer named González, said the Poder Judicial.

The company involved was incorrectly listed in a registry of firms eligible to obtain road maintenance contracts, according to the allegation, the Poder Judicial said.

Trio detained in the north were transporting fake new bills
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For a Salvadoran man who frequents the northern part of the country, December is usually the month he is arrested.

He was detained for fraud in December 2011 and again in 2012, said the Fuerza Pública. This time he managed to stay free until January.

He was detained Thursday as one of several persons involved in the transportation of fake banknotes. Police did not say why the man still is at liberty, although they did say he was well known to them. The 49-year-old man has the last names of Martínez Argueta, and he was detained by the Policia de Fronteras, said police.

Two residents of Limón also were detained.

The banknotes that were found hidden in the vehicle are copies of the new issues. There were 5,000-, 10,000- and 20,000-colon notes. The total was 700,000, about $1,400.

Officers suggested that despite the security devices imbedded in new banknotes, they had trouble determining if the money was authentic. They said they had to contact prosecutors.
fake bills
Ministerio de Gobernación. Policía y Seguridad Pública photo
These are some of the confiscated banknotes.

Officers said that residents of the area around Los Chiles tipped them off to the presence of the Salvadoran.

The arrest raises the possibility that excellent copies of the new banknotes are making the rounds. Usually fake notes range from crude efforts made with copy machines to nearly perfect banknotes imported from abroad, usually Colombia. Although many copying machines and inkjet printers are designed to reject making copies of U.S. currency, Costa Rican money is not protected that way.

The creative process is impeded by a stabbing lower back pain
Yesterday, out of the blue I was hit with a stabbing lower back pain.  It doubled me over, and by late afternoon I was lying in bed wondering what could have happened.  I called two of my favorite people, one a wise woman and the other a very smart cardiologist.  It seemed I had a choice between a torn artery or a kidney stone.  I opted for the kidney stone because there is a possibility that I can handle it myself (me and my smart cells).  I try to avoid hospitals because I think they are dangerous places, and even doctors, who can lead you into dangerous places.

But what to write about?  I was going to write about the local casinos, but I was in too much pain to revisit them.  It is said that the best places for inspiration or creative thinking are the bed, the bath and the bus.  I spent a lot of time in bed yesterday with no particularly creative thoughts coming, and there is no way I can climb aboard a bus, although I have had some fine ideas looking out the window or at other passengers.  And unfortunately, I haven’t had a bathtub in 20 years.  (Just as well, because at this moment I am in greater danger of drowning myself than coming up with anything inspirational.)

My dear friend Ellen has always loved to take long baths, and she has written three novels and countless articles and is now doing research and writing about global health, specifically right now, non-communicable illnesses.

We have been having an ongoing disagreement over the past months.  I said that the life expectancy of Americans is going to be shorter for our children than for us and that we will not live as long as our parents. Actually, I predicted that anyone born after 1930 was not going to live as long as those born before that date.  And as some readers will recall I have harped on the fact that we are not as healthy as we once were.  Now I see that the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine have published the results of a long-term study that confirms my own dismal predictions.  I was off by five years on my prediction of longevity, and I did not take into account the fact that accidents and violent deaths would figure so strongly, even though I have questioned whether the supposition that early humans lived “short brutish lives” took into account accidents and infant mortality.  We have assumed they were not as healthy as today’s people.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Some people confuse life span with life expectancy. Life span is the greatest number of years a human can expect to live. (Somewhat less than what the Bible claims.) Life expectancy is based on the statistical prediction of the average length of time people in a designated group are expected to live.

I have often mentioned that I belong to the small is beautiful crowd.  When it comes to countries, small countries are easier to govern and regulate than large countries.  One law passed by the Legislature applies to the entire population, even in different cantons or regions.  Therefore, Costa Rica has been able to make laws affecting the health of their people throughout the country. 

I am grateful to them for the no smoking in any building law (including casinos) that went into effect last year.  I also approve of their recent law that requires every resident (although not citizens) to belong to the national health insurance system known as the Caja.  You can’t have a decent health care system without enough money to cover the cost. Of course, it is another matter to get people to obey the laws.  Someone recently said that the national pastime in Greece was avoiding paying taxes. 

I think that in Costa Rica it is second only to fútbol.

The editors and longevity researchers who write about the Blue Zones in the world (i.e. places where the people are the healthiest and live the longest), found the Nicoya Peninsula  in little Costa Rica and only one, the community of Loma Linda, California, in the United States.  Most of the other Blue Zones were in other small countries or islands.

If my kidney is harboring a stone, I hope it remembers that small is beautiful.

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The avenue of the dead in Teotihuacan, México, passes in front of the many  famous pyramids. The city was abandoned long before the Spanish arrived, and archaeologists still have many questions about the culture that built the city, which is not far from the Federal District.

boulevard of the dead
Hector García photo via Servicio de Información y Noticias Cientificas

Teotihuacan nobles got a post mortem beauty treatment
By the Servicio de Información y Noticias Cientificas

In collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, a team of Spanish researchers has analyzed for the first time remains of cosmetics in the graves of pre-Columbian civilizations on the American continent. In the case of the Teotihuacans, these cosmetics were used as part of the after-death ritual to honor their city’s most important people.

A research team from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the University of Valencia has studied various funerary samples found in urns in the Teotihuacan archaeological site that date from between 200 and 500 AD.

The scientists have been researching wall paintings in Mexico and Guatemala since 2006. Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, this project came about after contact on various occasions with other researchers in the area, namely at the national university, who wanted to know the composition and function of the cosmetics found in pots.

“The conclusion that we have reached, given the structure of the pigments found, is that they are remains of cosmetics that were used in rituals following burial. At that time it was common to periodically practice a kind of remembrance worship of the deceased high nobility,” said María Teresa Domenech Carbo, director of the University Institute of Heritage Restoration of the Polytechnic University of Valencia and lead author of the study.

In these rituals the high priest of the city would conduct a ceremony in the dwelling of the most noble of citizens. The reason for this is that unlike today where graves are located in central places, in those days the deceased were buried underneath the floor of their homes.

“The priest would go to the home and would pay homage to the deceased with the family present. Cosmetics were used by the priest carrying out the ceremony and formed a part of the ritual. The remains of carbonaceous particles lead to the belief that aromatic material were burnt, with the priest painting parts of the body with those pigments. In addition, it is probable that the body was removed and redecorated too", explains Ms. Domenech.
Furthermore, the researchers outline that although one could think that these materials in the urns belonged to the deceased in life and were put in the grave to accompany their owner into the new life, as in the case of the Egyptians, the fact that the make-up did not contain any organic vehicle that allows make-up to stick to the face or body leads to the belief that they had more of a symbolic nature.

“It is not very frequent to find cosmetic products in archaeological excavations in America. These are the first on this continent to be analyzed in a serious and systematic way,” ensures the researcher. In Europe and Africa, mainly in countries such as Italy and Egypt, the analysis of cosmetic products is more common.

Teotihuacan is one of the most important and most visited archaeological sites in Mexico thanks to its close location to Mexico City and its spectacular great pyramids. The culture has a close association with the Mayans to the south.

As well as providing more knowledge on the funerary rituals of this millennium-old culture, the cosmetic remains found help researchers to identify the social relevance of the buried individuals and they prove the existence of fluid commerce between the different areas of Mexico.

The scientists found material coming from the surroundings of Teotihuacan, such as pulverized volcanic rock pigments and other clay-like types typical of the area’s geology.

Nonetheless, some remains, such as those mica and other rock particles, are not native to the surroundings and were probably imported from different parts of Mexico. This, in turn, confirms the existence of trade. “No surprise since this city dominated the entire Mesoamerican region and it has been shown that fluid trade existed in certain southern areas,” said the researcher.

In addition, the appearance of these remains with the body of the deceased indicates their social status. “Unless the person was very important to this civilization they were not buried with cosmetic products. The deceased would have had to hold an important position in society, such as that of a king, a prince or a high noble,” said the expert.

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Early influenza season hits
major United States cities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States is in the grip of a widespread flu outbreak, with crises in Chicago and Boston.  An estimated  36,000 people die of flu in the United States each year and it kills some 500,000 people annually around the world.  Doctors say it is an unusually early and busy flu season in the U.S.
Massachusetts is one of 41 U.S. states now reporting widespread cases of influenza. Tom Memino is the mayor of Boston, the state's biggest city.
“I’m declaring a public health emergency in the city of Boston.  The latest reports show an increasingly tough flu season," he said.
A hospital in eastern Pennsylvania set up a special tent outside the emergency room to deal with the wave of flu patients.
Several hospitals in Chicago have had to turn patients away and send them to other hospitals in the area.
Marc Siegel, of George Washington University Hospital in Washington, says seasonal influenza is an international phenomenon. It usually breaks out in the coldest season of the year. 
"It generally moves through Eastern Europe, then to Western Europe and then kind of spreads westward to the United States.  Now with international travel, we often see it spread everywhere much quicker," he said.
Siegel. a physician, describes the typical symptoms of flu. "So influenza generally gives you a muscle ache, headache, high fevers.  It can be associated with a sore throat, runny nose, cough, but any number of other viruses can give you similar symptoms that might not be quite as severe," he said.
Doctors say if flu symptoms are severe, such as shortness of breath, patients should see a doctor.  And they recommend a flu vaccination as the best protection against the illness.
Doctors warn that small children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to serious complications from the flu.
A 6-year-old girl from Dallas died just hours after her grandparents took her to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms and she was seen and released. 
Veleta Johnson is her grandmother. “They looked down her throat, checked her ears, vitals were all good, said she had the flu and told me what to do to make sure she felt better," she said.
Doctors say they do not know if this unusually early flu season has peaked yet, or if this year’s outbreak will get worse.

California student shoots
classmate with shotgun

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun opened fire in a California classroom Thursday, critically wounding one of his classmates.

Police say a teacher and administrator at the high school in the town of Taft, about 200 kilometers north of Los Angeles, convinced the student to put down his weapon, allowing other students to leave the classroom.

The shooting came less than a month after 20 children and six adults were killed at a Connecticut elementary school in a mass shooting that prompted an intense debate over gun control.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading a task force on reducing the violence, held a tense meeting Thursday with a representative of the powerful U.S. gun lobby, the National Rifle Association,

Following the talks, the NRA issued a toughly worded statement saying Biden was more interested in doing away with gun rights than protecting school children. The White House did not comment on the statement.

Earlier Thursday, Biden said he will deliver his policy recommendations to the president by Tuesday, and that they will likely include background checks for all gun buyers and a limit on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Many say the proposal will also include the renewal of a ban on high-powered assault weapons, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004.

The vice president has already met with hunting associations, victim support groups, movie-makers, and mental health and law enforcement professionals as part of what the White House says is an effort to reach consensus on a set of recommendations.

President Barack Obama expects to announce his plans to deal with gun violence shortly after beginning his second term in office. He is expected to seek congressional approval for the proposals, but may also try to get some of the objectives done through executive orders.

Killer whales trapped by ice
in eastern Hudson Bay

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A northern Canada community is seeking help in freeing about a dozen killer whales or orcas trapped under a vast stretch of sea ice in the eastern Hudson Bay.

Locals in the village of Inukjuak in the Canadian province of Quebec say the mammals have gathered around a single hole in the ice, slightly bigger than a pickup truck, in a desperate bid to get oxygen.

Mayor Peter Inukpuk urged the Canadian government on Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to crack open the ice and help them find open water. 
The Canadian government is sending a team of experts Thursday to investigate whether and how the whales can be saved.

A hunter first spotted the pod of about a dozen trapped whales at the hole on Tuesday.
Inukpuk said he believes the recent sudden drop in temperature caught the Orcas off guard, leaving them boxed in under the ice.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 8
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Third escapee captured
at home in Barranca

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents and Fuerza Pública officers Thursday afternoon detained the third of four prisoners who broke out of the El Roble de Puntarenas prison Wednesday night.

He is Rafael Salomón Cascante Díaz, 24, who was serving a sentence of 14 years and six months for crimes including aggravated robbery, said the Fuerza Pública.

Four men managed to escape Wednesday about 8 p.m. They stabbed a guard at the main gate to do so. Two were quickly captured by prison guards and the Fuerza Pública.

Cascante was found holed up at a home in Barranca de Puntarenas.

Agents and police still are seeking Randy Quirós Quirós, 20, who is the fourth escapee. He also is a robber and was serving three years and six months, officials said.

State petroleum firm's union
threatens strike over pay

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union of workers at the nation's petroleum monopoly are threatening a strike if a Sala IV strips them of extra pay. The Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros Químicos y Afines issued the statement Thursday.

That was a day after the Contraloria General de la República said it had filed a constitutional court action against two aspects of the pay the monopoly gives its workers.

One item the union seeks to defend is a 24-year limit to what employees are paid when they leave the company, perhaps to retire. That means the workers get two years pay, one month for each year of service. Most government workers get far less than that.

The Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. is the government agency that imports petroleum and gasoline. Since it can pass on its expenses to the motoring public, it has no reason to be frugal.

The employees also benefit from a series of extra pays that can be hundreds of dollars a year.

The statement by Gilbert Brown, the general secretary of the union, said that employees were prepared to go into the streets to defend their salaries. It also said that the government should not seek to solve the fiscal crisis on the backs of the workers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 8
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Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

'Lincoln' captures 12 Oscar nominations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Steven Spielberg epic drama "Lincoln" leads the nominees for the Academy Awards, Hollywood's top honors, which are also known as the Oscars.  Nominees were announced in Los Angeles and the story of the Civil War U.S. president garnered 12 nominations, including for best picture.
"Lincoln" earned Spielberg a nomination for best director, and Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the 16th American president, another for best actor.  Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones earned nominations for their supporting roles, and playwright Tony Kushner for his adapted screenplay.

President Abraham Lincoln was determined to enact the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which when ratified by the states, would end slavery in the
Oscar Nominees
for Best Picture

    * "Amour"
    * "Argo"
    * "Beasts Of The
           Southern Wild"
    * "Django Unchained"
    * "Les Miserables"
    * "Life Of Pi"
    * "Lincoln"
    * "Silver Linings
    * "Zero Dark Thirty"
country.  In one scene, Secretary of State William Seward, played by David Strathairn, tries to dissuade him from the political battle.

Seward: “Imagine the possibilities peace will bring.  Why tarnish your invaluable luster with a battle in the House ?  It's a rat's nest in there.  It's the same gang of talentless hicks and hacks who rejected the amendment 10 months ago.  We'll lose.”
Lincoln: “I like our chances now.”

"Life of Pi," a fantasy about a young Indian man stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, earned
11 nominations, including one for director Ang Lee.  The film will also compete for best picture.

Other top Oscar contenders include "Les Miserables," a film based on the popular stage musical of the same name; "Argo," a film about the effort to rescue U.S. diplomats caught in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian revolution; and "Zero Dark Thirty," about the hunt for terrorist Osama bin Laden.
"Silver Linings Playbook," about a Philadelphia family and a son's efforts to cope with bipolar disorder, earned Oscar nominations for Bradley Cooper as best actor, Jennifer Lawrence as best actress, and Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver for their supporting roles.

​​This year's nominees for best actress include the oldest-ever nominated in the category, 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for the French-language film "Amour."  It also includes the youngest, 0-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, who stars in the fantasy drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild."
The actor, producer and singer who will host this year's award show, Seth MacFarlane, helped announce the nominees at an early morning news event.
Nine films will compete for best picture this year, including "Django Unchained," the Quentin Tarantino tale of slavery and retribution in the American South before the Civil War.

​​Best foreign-language film nominees include "Amour" from Austria, which will also compete for best picture; and "Kon-Tiki" from Norway, 'No" from Chile, "A Royal Affair" from Denmark and "War Witch" from Canada.
The Oscars will be presented Feb. 24 in a ceremony broadcast around the world from Hollywood.

Report says 
Domestic worker plight is grim

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study finds more than 52 million people around the world, mainly women, are employed as domestic workers and most lack legal protections. The report is the first research of its kind conducted by the International Labor Organization, and is a follow-up to the adoption of the organization's Domestic Workers Convention in June 2011.

The International Labor Organization reports most domestic workers experience poor working conditions and do not have adequate legal safeguards. Deputy-Director General Sandra Polaski said domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and other violations of their human rights at work.

"Live-in domestic workers in particular are often exposed to physical, mental or sexual abuse and harassment and to restrictions on their freedom of movement. Migrant domestic workers face additional vulnerabilities to exploitation and abuse," she said.

The report focuses on three aspects of working conditions for domestic workers. They include working time, minimum wage coverage and in-kind payments, and maternity protection. Legislation in most countries falls short of the necessary protections.

The report finds that only 10 percent of all domestic workers are covered by general labor legislation to the same extent as other workers.  More than one quarter are completely excluded from national labor legislation.

It says more than half of all domestic workers have no legal limitation on their working hours and about 45 percent have no right to weekly rest periods or paid annual leave. It notes that slightly more than half of all domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage and more than a third of women domestic workers have no maternity protection.

Official statistics show Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean are the regions with the greatest number of domestic workers.  The report says 7.5 percent of women globally perform domestic work. In the Middle East, it notes that one in three female wage earners is a domestic worker.

The International Labor Organization said it considers the estimates in the report conservative. It says official national statistics don't capture the full picture. Organization working condition specialist Martin Oetz said this is particularly the case for Africa where statistics show about 5.2 million domestic workers are employed throughout the region. He said the actual number is believed to be much higher.

"This is often to do with the fact that domestic work and the services performed by domestic workers are not really perceived as work in an employment relationship, but other forms of arrangements," said Oetz. "This is why official data can be expected to underestimate or undercount domestic workers in Africa. But Africa is also a region where domestic work is widespread and very common."

Of all the regions globally, the study notes Asia and the Middle East have the weakest protections for domestic workers. International Labor Organization officials say there is room, though, for optimism. They say the momentum created by the new Domestic Workers Convention already has started to translate into concrete action and results in many countries.

They contend that reforms on domestic work have been achieved or are pending adoption in 13 countries. They include Austria, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam and Zambia.

Supporters celebrate without Chávez

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez celebrated outside the presidential palace in Caracas, in a show of solidarity for the leader who remains too ill to attend his swearing-in.

Chávez's inauguration for a new term was planned for Thursday, but the leader remains in Cuba, where he is recovering from cancer surgery.

A massive street celebration replaced what would have been the swearing-in ceremony.

​​Several Latin American presidents, including Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, were attending the celebration.
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