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(506) 2223-1327                    Published Friday, Jan. 18, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 13                Email us
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Business leaders favor tax on money leaving country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Business leaders came out with their own proposals Thursday to protect the nation's economy from speculative investments.

The proposals were in response to those by President Laura Chinchilla, who called the influx of speculative capital an economic weapon of mass destruction.

The proposals Thursday include an exit tax on dollars from 5 to 25 percent and encouraging an effort by the Dirección General de Tributación to tax interest generated here by speculative deposits.

Investors in colons can make from 10 to 12 percent, depending on how they deposit their money. So the rates have attracted millions from First World economies where the rate may be 2 percent or less.

Wednesday the central government said it has been in contact with the Banco Central to discuss methods to reduce capital inflow. A presidential decree would seek to reduce the interest rate. The use of state funds was suggested as a way to reduce the current interest rate.

The issue is of high importance to expats living in Costa Rica because many receive their income from abroad. Many also have large amounts of money in Costa Rica banks.

The proposals Thursday came from the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado and the Cámara de Exportadores.

The last thing that the business community and exports want is for the Banco Central to remove its
support of the dollar. They fear that with large amounts of dollars entering the country the amount of colons they will be able to get for dollars will drop significantly. Most export sales are paid in dollars but the local costs are in colons. The two entities said they want a floor maintained of 500 colons to the dollar.

Jaime Molina, president of the business chamber said the issue was one of preserving jobs here.

The new proposals also call for a reduction of the colon interest rate by the government exerting moral pressure and by establishing a reasonable inflation goal. The entities also called for action by the  Ministerio de Hacienda to use government money to reduce the interest rate.

These ideas are similar to those voiced by President Chinchilla Wednesday. Except the president never specifically mentioned a surcharge or a tax on money sent out of the country. The idea was implied, however.

Also proposed was some type of surcharge on money entering the country. That idea is sure to get the notice of expats, because experts say that separating so-called speculative capital from other money is difficult.

Ie the past, the central government has proposed surcharges of financial transactions at automatic tellers, but these did not become law.

The business chamber noted that the proposal of speculative capital and its consequences is not unique to Costa Rica. In fact, many Latin countries are facing the same problems, and some have prohibited the transfer of large amounts of cash abroad.


Experts offer to help stadium with power advice
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Operators of the new national stadium, a gift from the People's Republic, are struggling.

The latest problem is electrical. The Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos has offered to inspect the public facility after there was an outage. But the colegio said that stadium staffers were running the lights and other electrical devices off a backup generator.
The stadium was designed to take its power from the national electric grid and not from an emergency generator, said the colegio. The statement suggested that more attention needs to be paid to maintenance and upkeep.

There was no time given for a possible inspection. The stadium already is in trouble with the health ministry for noise pollution. That is having a serious effect on the neighbors. The stadium is in Sabana Oeste at the northwest corner of Parque La Sabana.

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


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Children's museum promoting
family unity with inflatables

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Families who visit the Museo de los Niños today will be surprised to find not just the normal exhibits, but a plethora of inflatables in the form of large water slides, bounce houses, basketball games, baseball games and a bungee run. There will also be go karts available for friendly family races.  

In the past, these activities were only for children, but this year the museum expanded the event so everyone in the family can join the fun, said Catalina Hernández of the museum.

The theme behind the project is family unity, she said.

According to the museum, the water slides reach up to 6 meters in height.  Some other games are Rockem, where two children stand on a platform and have to avoid falling before the other while they are trying to push each other off.  Another is the Bungee run where a person wears a suit attached to a cable and tries to run as far as they can, stretching the cable as far as they can before it jerks them back.

The go karts at the museum are powered by foot pedals, and persons can race.

To enjoy these attractions, patrons must pay an additional fee to the admission.  The regular museum cost is 800 colons for children and 1,100 colons for adults.  The inflatables are an extra 500 colons per person, and the go karts are 1,000 colons per person.  

These extras are available from today until Feb. 2 at the special museum hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

The end of the summer season, will be celebrated with a holiday closure called “Campeonato de Personajes 2013.”  Puppet Characters Museíto and Museita will host the carnival style event which begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m. Feb. 3.

"It has been a tradition for 10 years and this 2013 we want to celebrate 10 years of laughs and share the fun and colorful characters that always accompany us giving us the power to entertain so many children and adults," said Ms. Hernández. “We will also have many prizes from our sponsors to give the day of the activity.”

Patrons will just have to pay the regular entrance price of the museum for this event.


Hospital pharmacy woes
cited by Caja union


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The union that represents hospital workers cited what it called  grave problems with medicines at Hospital San Juan de Dios in San José.

The union, the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social, said that outpatients who need the medicines have been standing in line for hours.

The union blames a series of budget cuts that since December have reduced the staffing at the hospital pharmacy. A statement said that there is no overtime and that no professionals are being contracted.

The union promises some form of action if the situation could not be straightened out.


Our reader's opinion
Three cheers for Registro
a great customer service


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Often we read complaints about the government and how slow things take to be completed.  I want to pass along my experience at the Registry Nacional.
 
I have been legally deaf for the past 15 years and wear "maxed out" hearing aids in my ears.  Today, I went to exchange my license plates, and while I speak Spanish, I am limited as to what I understand. 

The first young woman to process my information realized I had a problem and found another woman who spoke English.  She walked me through the process but it did not end there.  She led me to another who took my information. Then I was taken to a window to pay 15,600 colons.  She then told me to sit because I needed to wait 35 minutes while they located my new plates. 

There were 15 Ticos waiting when I took my seat.  I did not have time to start up my Kindle when a young man came out looking for me with my new plates in hand.  I still had to wait a few minutes while he filed the information in his computer.  Finally, he explained the sticker I needed to place in the front window and sent me on my way.
 
Applauso!  Applauso!  It was an amazing experience.
 
Ken Beedle
Cartago 

 
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.
Click a story for the summary












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Report on democracy suggest big changes for the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A committee of six long-time politicians has come out with 97 recommendations designed to improve democracy in Costa Rica. The group also identified what it said were 32 problems with the structure and legislation of the country.

A controversial one already has been leaked to the public. The group suggested increasing the number of legislators from the current 57 to 75 or 87 to compensation for the increase in population.

Another proposal is that lawmakers be able to serve consecutive terms. Now they must leave office after one four-year term but can serve again later.

President Laura Chinchilla set up the committee last May after the Estado de Nación report outlined what it said were problems with democracy here. The public's low opinion of lawmakers and politicians in general also was a factor in creating the committee.

One of the proposals is to eliminate filibusters in the Asamblea Legislativa. Another allows the president to present priority bills to the legislature, who would then have to take a vote within three months.

Among those on the committee is Francisco Antonio Pacheco, a former president of the legislature.

Ms. Chinchilla said Thursday that members of her administration would be working to turn the recommendations into solid legislative bills.

Ms. Chinchilla was frustrated in trying to get a major tax package passed. It eventually was derailed by the Sala IV constitutional court, which did not address the specifics of the bill but rather the way the legislature handled it. Some of the suggestions released Thursday pertain to the courts.

The panel suggested a new court other than the Sala IV constitutional court to hear routine constitutional appeals and habeas corpus cases. This would allow the constitutional court to concentrate on issues of conflicts between the governmental branches and matters of liberties and fundamental rights. The panel also suggested eliminating a lawmaker's right to get an opinion on a bill from the court while the legislative process still is going on.

In addition, the panel suggested that in certain cases a constitutional court appeal should not freeze the issue until a decision is rendered.

The panel also urged the use of oral arguments in all court proceedings. This approach is being introduced gradually.

The committee said in its report that it labored for six months with more than 40 meetings with many lasting more than four hours.

The proposed reforms are inspired by the idea to permit the functioning of democracy of the majority, facilitating the exercise of the authority that the public has placed in officials, said the panel. That is why the panel said that legislative filibuster must be ended or at least not rewarded. Filibuster is the way that a minority can halt the legislative process by lengthy speeches.

A lot of the suggestions are technical and relate to the rules of the legislature or to the budget.

But the panel also tried to give more power to the executive .
Notables
                  report
 Report cover features a graphic of Monumento Nacional
 that depicts the Central American states in the persona of
 women driving out filibusterer Williams Walker, who tried
 to take over the region.


branch. At the same time it would vest certain executive powers in the legislature

For example, the panel called for the minister of the Presidencia, basically the president's chief of staff, to be confirmed by the legislature. And lawmakers also could fire the person in this job along with all the government ministers by a two-thirds vote.

In turn, the president would be given the power to dissolve the legislature and order new elections if it appeared to be ineffective. The president also would be allowed to appear at the legislature and lobby for executive proposals.

The proposals also suggested that the president could stand for re-election to consecutive terms.

The proposals also would speed up expropriation of land for government purposes and streamline electronically government contracting. Some contracts already are offered online. The panel also said that fighting corruption was necessary as was fighting poverty.

Municipalities were not spared suggestions. The panel called for streamlining local procedures.

It also called for joint efforts to eliminate prison over population and suggested that the public should be able to recall the president or lawmakers.

Other members of the panel were Constantino Urcuyo Fournier, an academic and former lawmaker; Fabián Volio Echeverría, a former minister of Justicia;  Vladimir de la Cruz, a former ambassador and presidential candidate;  Manrique Jiménez, a former replacement magistrate; and Rudolfo Piza, former executive president of the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social.

Not all the members agreed with each recommendation, but the report allows the members of the panel to reject or suggest alternatives to recommendations. President Chinchilla's made a point that the document is available for anyone who seeks it online. It is HERE!


Shame on Dr. Oz for speaking incorrectly about marijuana
 Dr. Oz is a successful heart surgeon and has a wildly popular talk show with audience participation on ABC in the United States.  I have watched his show and generally agree with what he advises, especially since he recommends treatments using herbs and spices, as well as prescription drugs.

My admiration for Dr. Oz dropped considerably when I heard him say, on the CNN Piers Morgan show that “marijuana is as addictive as cigarettes.”  His comment stunned me. After saying that the side effects of using marijuana medically are experiencing a high and getting the munchies, he then said that we all should be able to live in the one reality we have.

I am also an admirer of Dr. Andrew Weil, and have been since I read his first book, “The Natural Mind,” which he wrote after visiting tribal societies in South America studying their various uses of mind altering plants and rituals.

As a student of anthropology, I was reading about cultural universals, customs or behaviors that occur in every culture in the world.  After reading his book, I became interested in the use of mind altering methods in various cultures.  Whether it is alcohol, cactus, mushrooms, poppies, the coca leaf, marijuana, fermented whatever, or pharmaceuticals, it seems that every culture has something that can change one’s perception of reality, if only for a short time.  Even animals find something that affects their brains.  And they know what they are doing. 

When you think about it, satisfying any one of our basic needs changes our perception of reality. 

My indignation with Dr. Oz is that he seems to have been seduced to follow the official (and pharmaceutical) line about marijuana.  This approach upsets me mainly because it is dishonest and has led to incorporating pot into a corruptive, life ruining, dangerous, fruitless and very profitable to all parties involved, war on drugs.

I believe, if practiced by consenting adults, that ingesting marijuana, like prostitution, is a victimless “crime.” Both lead to easy arrests compared to chasing a mugger or taking on a house invader. Pot does not make a person aggressive. 

As has been said, alcohol lowers our inhibitions, marijuana lowers our defenses. 

Unlike sins, the definition of what is a crime changes among cultures, countries and in time.  (Probably sins do, too, but I have enough on my plate right now.)   In the 18th century cannabis indica was used by medical doctors in many countries for a number of medical problems, from labor pains to asthma.  The history of the criminalization of marijuana includes some evidence that growing or using it was criminalized in the U.S. (in the late 1930’s) spurred by the
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart


smoke'em if you
                  got 'em
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Smoke 'em if you got 'em

desire to destroy the hemp industry by companies making synthetic rope.  

This topic has come to my fore, both because of Dr. Oz’s unsubstantiated declarations and reading in the paper that an expat was arrested in Costa Rica for growing marijuana, and our intrepid, but understaffed, police force managed to cuff some people at a festival because they possessed some pot.  Then Thursday I heard on the news that a gentleman living in Leisure World (in Florida) was arrested for growing marijuana.  The police confiscated what they figured would produced twenty-one pounds of pot and according to their estimate, “worth $94,000 on the street.” According to my math that comes to $280 an ounce. Somebody has to be kidding.  That is the price of truffles which are a lot more difficult to harvest.

Only the human race can figure out a way to make a weed more expensive than truffles or caviar or saffron. Well, maybe not saffron. I realize that just as with other growing things, pot can be doctored and genetically altered.  So today’s pot may be more potent, maybe even made as addictive as some pain pills. But even so, while it is easy to overdose on alcohol and some drugs, overdoses from inhaling pot are rare, deaths even rarer.     

I am sorry to say that the conference to reevaluate the war on drugs in Central America never materialized because some countries actually boycotted the meeting.  Did I mention that this particular war is profitable to everyone involved in it?  Except, of course the consumer.

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GLASS
Creative possibilities in glass
on display at Alajuela museum


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Centro Cultural e Histórico José Figueres Ferrer located in San Ramón de Alajuela will exhibit a collection of works designed to show the creative possibilities of glass.

The theme Formas de la transparencia: las posibilidades emocionales del vidrio takes 25 glass works of Costa Rican artist Celita Ulate.  The works are both two and three-dimensional and are representations of the different states of mind a person goes through daily, said the cultural center.

"Given the quality of transparency and fragility of this medium, expressing emotions in glass enriches the artistic task,” said Ms. Ulate.  “This is very similar to the emotional states that we all experience in life, we feel fragile and the emotion shows in us, although we want to hide them.”

Ms. Ulate has showcased her work in galleries across Costa Rica, such as the Museo de Arte Costarricense, the Galería Nacional and the Museo de los Niños.  She also has exhibited internationally in Lithuania and Oregon, United States.

Centro Cultural e Historico José Figueres is located on the north side of the Parroquia de San Ramón, Alajuela.

The exhibition will be available until Jan. 30, from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entrance is free.

Glass
This is one of the works that will be on display


Design museum is in search of some young superheros
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo is filling the last few weeks of the month with interactive learning activities for youth in the form of three workshops.

The workshops are set up as laboratories where those involved can explore, discuss and learn about the possibilities in contemporary art, said spokespersons.

The first series is called the search for superheroes, and young patrons will be challenged to channel their inner hero while exploring heroic myths associated with the world's inventions.  Guests will create their own stories and use recyclable materials such as paper and cardboard to depict their ideas, the course description said.  

This workshop will be Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Space is limited to 12 children ages 9 to 12.  The cost is 4,000 colons.

The second workshop choice is geared toward those younger in the age range of 6 to 9.  Twelve such children will have the ability to partake in Coleccionistas de la historia Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. These youth will build their own artist album that contains things that
represent their trip to the museum and their personal interpretation of the museum's art. 

Participants will draw, paint and collage pictures of things they like and things that are important to them for the album pages.  Cost of the class is 6,000 colons.

The final workshop is called Naturalmente Artificial,  and those involved can chose to participate either Tuesday or Thursday.  Using the museums video exhibits, 12 young persons ages 5 to 8 will learn about different inventions.  They will then create a plant out of organic and artificial materials.  Teachers will next task the participants with drawing an abstract image based on the ideas of the day.

The idea is to reflect upon the diversity of the the environment and the balance between nature and humans, said spokespersons.

"Naturally artificial" is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and costs 2,000 colons.

Each workshop requires the child participant to wear comfortable clothes and to bring a snack.  Those who wish to register can e-mail educacion@madc.cr or call 2223-6012 or 2222-3489 and speak to Antonieta Sibaja. More information on the workshops can be found at www.madc.cr.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 13
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Advice columnist 'Dear Abby'
dies in Minnesota at 94

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Long-time American newspaper columnist Pauline Friedman Phillips, who for decades wrote the syndicated advice column "Dear Abby," has died. She was 94.

Phillips' publicist said she died Wednesday in Minnesota after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Ms. Phillips' column -- seen by millions of readers -- competed for decades with another widely circulated advice column, "Ann Landers," authored by Phillips' twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer.

"Abby" appeared in 1,000 newspapers, as far away as Brazil and Thailand. It addressed queries ranging from marriage and relationships to illness, aging, sex, dying and equal rights.

The first Dear Abby column appeared in 1956, and Ms. Phillips continued writing the advice feature until 2000, when she and daughter Jeanne began sharing the byline.

Jeanne Phillips took over the column full time in 2002 when the family announced that Pauline Phillips had Alzheimer's.

In 2003, Ms. Phillips' family and an anonymous donor gave $10 million to the Mayo Clinic medical center to boost Alzheimer's research.


U.S. economy showing signs
that a recovery is underway


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two new reports are signaling that the sluggish U.S. economy is on the upswing.
 
The government said Thursday that the number of jobless workers making initial claims for unemployment assistance last week fell to the lowest point in five years. Meanwhile, U.S. builders started construction on more new homes than at any point since mid-2008.
 
The senior economist at one of the country's biggest banks, James Glassman of JPMorgan Chase, said that "it's pretty good news that the recovery is waking up."

The U.S. Labor Department said 335,000 unemployed workers sought government aid, down 37,000 from the week before. Seasonal hiring trends may have contributed to the sharp drop, but the American labor market has been steadily, if slowly, improving.
 
Analysts say the drop in the number of new claims may be an indication that employers are laying off fewer workers, while not necessarily embarking on robust hiring of more workers.
 
The government's Commerce Department said builders started new home construction in December at an annual pace of 954,000 houses, a jump of more than 12 percent over November.
 
For all of 2012, the housing industry, one of the hardest hit during the 2009 recession, started work on 780,000 new houses. That figure is still only about half of what economists consider to be a healthy market, but it was the most since 2008.
 
Glassman said the weekly jobless claims can be volatile, but that the housing construction expansion "is not an aberration, because builders cleaned up the glut of houses built in the last decade, rates are extremely attractive, and the job market is starting to improve for recent college grads, the 25-34-year-olds who tend to drive the net need for living space."
 
He said that despite "all the complaints and anxiety about the economy" in the past year, "our two most credit-sensitive sectors, autos and housing, came roaring back. And I mean roaring." 


Inauguration on a holiday
is also a time for service


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected in Washington to witness President Barack Obama's second inauguration. The president will be publicly sworn in Monday, the national holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..  The inauguration's events begin with a national day of service Saturday honoring the legacy of the late civil rights leader. President Obama is asking people to participate in projects that serve their communities.

Stephanie Garlick is fighting hunger. She's volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, doing what she can to help the less fortunate. 

"There is so much depression, and so many people are struggling with hard economic times and other issues, and giving of yourself just a little bit of time helping other people really lifts your spirit," M. Garlick said.

She is one of 18,000 volunteers who give their time so the organization can distribute food to 500,000 children, seniors and families with single parents. Volunteers help save the agency more than $2 million in operating costs a year.

"We work with people every single day of the week whether it is sorting of food that comes in donations that is where we work with most of our volunteers," said. Matt Crawford, who directs the volunteers.

Before he was assassinated in 1968, King was leading what he called the Poor People's Campaign, an effort to alleviate poverty and hunger across the country.

"I thank President Obama for his call, and we join proudly in that call. But we absolutely need individuals and civil society to join in the fight because it's a big problem and really when we all pull together that is when we are most likely to be able to end hunger," said Nancy Roman, president of the Capital Area Food Bank.

Members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority are doing what they can to help people and communities in need. For the last century the 260,000 member public service sorority and the nation's largest African American women's organization has been involved in countless service projects. Francine Blake from Ohio says community service is a lifetime commitment for this sorority.

"We serve the community not just on the local level, not just on the national level, but on the international level. We have now given scholarships to millions of young ladies to go to school and also young men," Ms. Blake said.

The sorority will be serving others on the MLK holiday. 

Public service organizations hope a national day of service will encourage more people to volunteer in community projects throughout the year.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page


San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 13
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Man, 35, is held in scam
linked to student exchanges

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 35-year-old man who used to work at a firm involved in student exchanges is in custody. Judicial agents said that he tricked students into giving him money on the promise of getting them positions in the United States and France.

The man was detained in Guápiles Thursday. Agents said there are 30 complaints involved in the case. They range from Guápiles, Tres Rios and San José.

Would be exchange students were asked to pay from 3,000 to $5,000, said agents.


Two women airlifted
from remote villages


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Using its new helicopter, the security ministry's servicio de Vigilancia Aérea airlifted two women from a remote area near Chirripó to the Hospital William Allen in Turrialba.

The patients were in the native communities of Xina Qitha and Xinoli. One woman had given birth more than two weeks ago but was having complications. The second woman was eight months pregnant and needed special care, said the ministry.

The flight took two hours. Many of the remote native communities are several days walk from a road.


Juvenile held in murder
of man in Osa peninsula

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents have detained a juvenile in the October 2011 machete murder of a Drake, Osa man.

The Poder Judicial said that the juvenile has been ordered to three months of provisional detention while the case is investigated.

The dead man is Mario Urbina Ruiz. The Poder Judicial said that Urbina was in discussion with a juvenile and that the discussion elevated into a dispute. The Poder Judicial said that Urbina hit the juvenile with a leather belt and that the minor sought out a machete and used it on Ubina.











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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 13
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Boeing Dreamliner
Boeing photo
This is the first Dreamliner received by United Airlines. The delivery was in September at Everett, Washington.

Some air travelers sidetracked
by groundings of Dreamliner

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

International airlines have suspended their entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners as regulators investigate a fire risk linked to a recent series of battery problems.

The world's 50 Dreamliners were grounded indefinitely Wednesday and Thursday, forcing their carriers to rearrange dozens of flights, and prompting some to call for compensation from the U.S. aerospace giant.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL have kept their 24 Dreamliners on the ground since Wednesday, after an ANA 787 on a domestic flight made an emergency landing due to an overheated battery that leaked a flammable fluid. Nine days earlier, a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 parked in Boston.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered United Airlines to suspend flights by its six Dreamliners until the fire risk is resolved. The action sparked similar action by the other 787 operators: Air India, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Chile-based LAN Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines.

Peter Goelz, a Washington-based public relations specialist for major airlines, said he expects the global 787 fleet to be grounded for at least one or two weeks while investigators try to figure out why the jet's lithium-ion batteries are overheating.

Speaking to AlHurra television, O'Neill and Associates executive Goelz said the main impact will be on Japanese carriers' transoceanic flights to the United States and Europe.

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia said cancellations of routes such as Tokyo to Boston will force some travelers to transit through hubs, a detour that the long-haul Dreamliner was meant to avoid.

"If the grounding persists for more than a few weeks, you will see more older aircraft come back into the mix," said Aboulafia, an executive at the Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group Corp.

Two Dreamliner carriers intend to ask Boeing to compensate them for the groundings.

Indian Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told television network NDTV that New Delhi will seek reimbursement for state-owned Air India, which operates six of the jets. Also Thursday, LOT Polish Airlines deputy chief Tomasz Balcerzak said Poland's main carrier will file for compensation.

Airlines' contracts with aircraft builders such as Boeing are confidential, but they typically include guarantees of compensation in cases of mechanical flaws.

Aboulafia said delays in delivering 787s also have forced Boeing to pay billions of dollars in penalties to customers in the past few years. He said:

"There is no doubt that there is tension. But if Boeing works with the airlines to fix the problems, all will be forgiven and the Dreamliner will enter service as planned."

In a statement released Wednesday, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney expressed deep regret for the inconvenience caused to airlines and passengers. He also said Boeing is confident in the Dreamliner's overall integrity and promised to take every necessary step to ensure safety and return the jet to service.

Boeing is under contract to deliver another 798 Dreamliners to various airlines in the coming years. In a boost for the aircraft maker, several customers reaffirmed their orders on Wednesday, including Australia's Qantas, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Mike Mecham, senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, said he is not surprised by the expressions of support.

"If you go back four years, when Boeing's manufacturing program started to fall behind schedule, it simply did not lose customers," he said. "Some dropped 787 orders for financial reasons because there was an economic downturn. But they remained confident in the airplane."

Mecham also said teething problems with new commercial planes are seen as relatively normal.

"Obviously if you have hot batteries and you are getting (burning) smells in cabins, then that is a pretty significant teething problem. But, people are accustomed to difficulties with new, complex aircraft. So I think airlines have a pretty high tolerance level."

Boeing hopes to speed up its production of Dreamliners to 10 per month by the end of this year, from a rate of five per month last November. Aboulafia said the probable need to modify the jet makes that target unlikely. 



Organic farming land increasing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

More land around the world is being dedicated to organic farming. The Worldwatch Institute says since 1999 there’s been a more than three-fold increase to 37 million hectares. That's about 91 million acres.

“Organic farming is farming without chemical inputs, like pesticides and fertilizers. Instead of using those inputs it uses a variety of natural techniques, like rotating crops and applying compost to fields – and growing crops that will return nutrients to the soil naturally instead of via chemicals,” said Worldwatch researcher Laura Reynolds, who co-authored a new report on the growth of organic agriculture.

She said it has a range of public health and environmental benefits.

“It delivers fewer pesticides and chemicals to what we eat and to the farmers growing the food. It also delivers a range of economic benefits to farmers growing organically because they found they can get a much higher price if their food is certified organic,” she said.

Last year, Stanford University researchers said that they “did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives.” They based their findings on a review of previous studies on the subject.

Ms. Reynolds said, “I agree that it won’t change the nutritional content of certain foods, probably cereals. That’s not the entire point of growing organically. If you look at chemicals and toxic elements in the food, there’s definitely a huge difference. So, if you’re getting all of your nutrients, but you’re also eating chemicals, then you sort of want to know the whole story. I found that that report looked at a very small element of organic food.”

Worldwatch says the Oceania region has most of the certified organic agricultural land – more than 12 million hectares spread over Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations. Europe is next with 10 million hectares, followed by Latin America with 8.4 million. Asia has about three million hectares devoted to organic farming and Africa about one million.

The study says the United States has “lagged behind other countries in adopting sustainable farming methods.” However, sales of organic foods in the U.S. are rising rapidly, amounting to $31.5 billion in 2011.

In order to be certified organic, farmers must keep strict records of how they grow their crops. There’s a lot of red tape or bureaucracy involved and it can be an expensive process.
Useful links
Foreign Embassies
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Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
after hours call
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