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Published Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 14
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Five Costa Rican men and women slashed to death
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Three women and two young men died at the hands of a killer in Liberia, and another young woman barely survived, judicial agents said today.

The scene was in Barrio La Victoria, and most if not all of the dead were believed to be university students.

The survivor was undergoing an operation at the Liberia hospital. She suffered a slashed throat.

The killer tied up most of the victims, presumably before executing them. Judicial agents said they have no motive yet for the crime, which probably happened this morning before 6:41 a.m. when local police received the alert.

Some were still alive when Cruz Roja aid workers arrived.

The dead had had their throats cut.

All of the dead were believed to be Costa Ricans, and some of them lived in the dwelling where the crime took place.

Teatro Nacional curtains may get long-needed fixup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fans of the Teatro Nacional may not realize that the 38 curtains hanging there are original. They were brought to Costa Rica from Italy and France in 1897.

The curtains are in pretty good shape for their age, but restoration is needed, said theater officials. Two Spanish restoration experts are in the country to do an evaluation, but their first comment was that the country should propose the entire theater for listing on the United Nationals material heritage list.

The report on restoration will not be ready until late next month, but this is an expensive undertaking, said theater officials.

Each of the linen curtains is about 10 by 12 meters or about 33 by nearly 40 feet.

The experts already have told officials that to restore one curtain of this size will take 10 persons working full time for a year.

Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud 
Section of the theater's main curtain

The experts are Carmen Pérez García and Juan Pérez Miralles.

Fred Herrera, director of the Teatro Nacional, called the curtains national treasures. Most have been in storage since 1980.

Based on the comments of the restorers, officials at the theater and the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud said they will consider seeking U.N. recognition for the entire structure.

More post inaugural marches planned by expats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Watch parties and more marching are expected Saturday following the inaugural ceremony placing president-elect Donald Trump in the White House.

There will be live streaming of a Saturday women’s rally happening at Washington D.C. The party will go from 9 a.m. to noon at the Little Theatre Group building in Escazú.

Space and seating is limited, however, and organizers urged anyone interested to reserve your seats today. Reservations can be made HERE!

Another watch party will happen at 9 a.m. Saturday with a complimentary breakfast bar to go along with watching the Washington protest. The party in Grecia will be at the Másq’Sabor building about two doors down from the local post office. Seating is also limited and costs 4,000 colons at minimum to participate.

Reservations need to be made by noon today to Sheron Bloom by email.

In San José, a march is scheduled for 10 a.m. beginning at the Correos de Costa Rica building downtown. The march will parade to Parque Central and come down Avenida Central to the Plaza de la Cultura. Organizers insist the march will not be using anti-Trump slogans and political parties cannot display banners.

A protest will happen in Monteverde. Anyone interested is encouraged to bring their own sign with long handle and positive message on any social justice issue, said organizers.

The signs will be planted in the ground.

A women’s rights march is also going to happen in Cahuita at 1 p.m. at Playa Negra in front of the gym. Organizers said this is an inclusive march and all are welcome to attend in solidarity with supporting the march’s goals, organizers said.

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U.S. ambassador to stay a bit longer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The sheriff will not come to escort S. Fitzgerald Haney and his family from the U.S. ambassador's residence Friday at noon. The ambassador said Wednesday that he had received permission to stay on the job. He did not say for how long.

Last Jan. 5, U.S. newspapers reported that the Donald Trump team had told politically appointed ambassadors that they had to leave their jobs when the president-elect is inaugurated Friday. That presented a problem for the Haneys because their four children are in a private school that is on the U.S. schedule.

Other U.S. ambassadors already have left their posts and returned to the United States, but the Haneys were making plans to rent a home here and stay at least through the end of the school year.

The ambassador spent the week making the rounds of the various Spanish-language media outlets. He is fluent in Spanish, a rarity for a U.S. ambassador here.

He made his announcement about staying a bit longer at what was to be a final press conference. The U.S. Embassy staff later confirmed the statement with few details.

Haney would have been replaced no matter who won the U.S. presidential elections. Hillary Clinton would have appointed a key fundraiser or political ally to the choice Costa Rican position. That is traditional for all presidents. But also traditional is that politically appointed ambassadors usually can stay in their post until a replacement is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, although many leave earlier to seek a job in private business.

Suspect said he was not the killer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a wave of anger from the Monday morning murder of a Chinese-Costa Rican store clerk at La Teresa de Guápiles de Pococí, a suspect gave himself up within the day of the killing.

There is only one problem: the 22-year old man did not actually give himself up for the murder. It appears that the suspect involved in the attempted robbery and subsequent killing has a prior record with the Judicial Investigating Organization. Judicial officials have had an outstanding charge still waiting for its day in court for alleged drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, the suspect was allowed to go free. The only catch was that he needed to appear for his day in court. That day came and went, but the man did not show up.

Now, the suspect turned himself in at judicial offices in Goicoechea for the drug trafficking charge. While he admits involvement in the attempted robbery, he blamed the killing on his partner-in-crime. A security video of the suspect with his unmasked face was obtained by investigators.

He remains detained by judicial agents for the outstanding drug charge. The investigation continues in search of his partner and in closing this murder case that sparked an angry, but peaceful protest through the streets of the capital Tuesday.

Chinese-Costa Ricans came out by the hundreds to protest what some called the last straw in lawlessness. The protest by these residents was unusual. Some complained that law enforcement does not vigorously investigate crimes against Chinese-Costa Ricans. They said that happened after the Monday morning murder of Oscar Liang, the grocery clerk.

Supreme court to stream sessions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Corte Suprema de Justicia will now be broadcasting its sessions live using an online streaming platform.

The platform and mobile phone app being used in this case is Livestream, a video streaming platform founded in 2007. The judiciary seeks to promote itself as more open and transparent with this latest tactic in adherence to a law mandating the court sessions be freely accessible to the public. That mandate can be found under Article 58 of the judiciary law.

The exceptions to public access to the courts occur when the court closes its chambers for proceedings that fall under certain conditions related to the law. Since 2012, the supreme court agreed on the direct transmission of sessions by means of the Internet.

This augments an interesting development globally in the relationship between judicial bodies and the use of technology in the courtroom. By comparison, the U. S. Supreme Court does not allow any broadcasting of its proceedings within its chambers.

TV crews and other video-oriented members of the public are welcome to record outside the courtroom, but the court has been very strict in the use of technology over the years. The closest image anyone can expect to be published from a Supreme Court case while it is in session is an artist’s drawing. Audio recording was not allowed until 1955 and, prior to 2010, recordings of one term were not available until the next term began. Transcripts were not published on the web until 2006.

Highway to Heredia being closed again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Road closings are expected next week between Jardines del Recuerdo in Heredia and Pozuelo in La Uruca, according to the public works ministry.

Ruta 3 at Pozuelo is scheduled to close from 10 p.m. Tuesday until 4 a.m. in the morning of Jan. 28. It will also close Feb. 5 and 6 at those same hours, officials from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said.

Ministry representatives said those at Pozuelo will have to take the General Cañas highway during those hours. Using the highway may mean also using the Río Virilla Bridge. The only difference would be that the bridge will be reduced to one lane due to the current construction project.

The public works ministry did say that it will be in service for commuters during the closings in either direction minus a few lanes. Traffic is not anticipated to be heavy during those hours.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 14
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Here is something very typical for you to drink. We dare you.
By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Chan is, at once, one of the easiest and hardest drinks to find in Costa Rica for any brave drink tasters. It also could be among the healthiest, natural drinks too.

The drink is supposed to be found or offered at every hole-in-the-wall soda in Costa Rica. The first investigations for the elusive drink turned up nothing. Several different sodas or other comida típica places did not have it. The only recommendations initially were to go on an adventure into the backcountry or try the Mercado Central in San José.

To save the money for another bus trip, a reporter tried the Mercado Central and sure enough, at the Soda Tapia, the ladies working behind the counter had a batch of chan ready for a wary reporter to drink. It did not look appetizing. In fact, it resembled something that looked like some kid’s science experiment rather than a refresquería at the market.

Chan is the name for the seeds in the drink and the plant of the same name. The plant is part of the Lamiaceae, colloquially called the mint, family. It is native to Central America with a chan drink most prominently found in Costa Rica and El Salvador. The seeds are almost identical to chia seeds in the United States and Mexico.

The process to make chan is easy since it only requires the seeds, some water, and then some patience. The seeds are soaked in water for a time and fermented until they hydrate. When that occurs, a slimy, jello-like coating forms around the seeds and it is ready to drink. Although, it is not necessarily drunk so much as slurped.

The flavor has the fleeting aftertaste of green tea and the whole thing is mixed in with crushed ice. The texture will feel different, a cross between jello and ice. Once the drinker is past that initial reaction, it seems similar to an iced tea shake. Some people may add sugar or lemon.

For 1,000 colons at Soda Tapia, the drink is cheap and can be found in some grocery stores among the herb selection. Chan is an acquired taste and probably not recommended for those with weak stomachs or who have been consuming a lot of

A.M. Costa Rica/Conor Golden
The typical drink is the right kind of seedy.

alcohol just prior to ordering. Even so, the drink is alleged to have health benefits.

According to information from the National Institutes of Health, the chan plant, or Hyptis suaveolens, is used as a traditional remedy for treating inflammation and infection of the stomach along with preventing stomach ulcers.

In another study released by the health institute, chan also provides a good supply of almost all the essential amino acids for different age groups. It also is a good source of magnesium. The drink may not sit well in some people’s stomachs, but it seems to do the body good to drink now and again.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 14
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Hurricane damage to water systems estimated to be about $2.6 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state water company has estimated damages from Hurricane Otto at $2.6 million. The agency said 23 water lines need to be rebuilt.

The company, Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, said that the damage was to facilities of the local water companies, the acueductos comunales. The state firm said that some 56 water systems were found to be affected by the passage of the hurricane and that 47,8997 customers also were affected.

Immediately after the hurricane passed Nov. 26, the state firm was supplying clean water to residents of the affected areas and its work crews began emergency repairs.

A more detailed accounting two weeks later showed that the real damage was to 134 waters systems and 134,343 customers, the agency said. The canton of Upala had the most damage with 19 major water lines destroyed or damaged.

Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados photo
Work crew tackles a busted water supply line.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 13
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Obama fields questions
at final news conference

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

At his final news conference as president Wednesday, Barack Obama sought to reassure those Americans anxious about the change of administrations after eight years with him in charge.

White House reporters questioned Obama about his controversial action to shorten the prison term of former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, and other topics. The president fielded those easily, but took his time answering the final query, about how he discussed the results of the U.S. election with his two teenaged daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Obama said Malia and Sasha were disappointed by Republican Donald Trump's defeat of his preferred candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton, just as he and first lady Michelle were, but that he is proud of them because they are resilient, patriotic and not cynical.

The president admitted his public persona, calm and cheerful, is not quite the way he feels when behind closed doors.

“I curse more than I do in public, and sometimes I get mad and frustrated, like everybody else does," he said. "But at my core, I think we’re going to be okay. We just have to fight for it, we have to work for it, and not take it for granted, and I know that you will help us do that.”

With that, Obama thanked the members of White House press corps, waved, turned and left the Brady Briefing Room, packed to overflowing with reporters. Striking a quiet and at times wistful tone, the president said having reporters in the White House had made him a better president, and that a free press is essential to democracy.

To the journalists, he said: "You're not supposed to be sycophants. You're supposed to be skeptics. You're supposed to ask tough questions."

That appeared to be a follow-up to intense discussions among reporters about rumored plans by Trump aides to move the White House press corps out of their current quarters close to the president's Oval Office, to another location farther away, possibly in a different building.

The first question to Obama Wednesday was about his commutation of the 35-year prison sentence handed down to Chelsea Manning for leaking classified military documents.

Manning already has served a longer sentence than others convicted of similar crimes, and has accepted responsibility for her actions, Obama said.

The transgender former Army private has already endured a tough time in prison, he noted, so shortening the prison term meant that justice was served. Manning is now due to be released in May, by which time she will have been behind bars for seven years.

Obama said he saw no contradiction between granting clemency to Manning while he denounces Russia's computer hacking of the U.S. presidential campaign, including the alleged theft of emails that embarrassed Democratic Party officials.

He also dismissed a promise by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks that its founder, Julian Assange, would agree to face charges in the U.S. in return for Manning's release.

Obama said he has tried to persuade Russia to reduce nuclear stockpiles, but Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has been reluctant to discuss that issue, so he hopes his successor will be able to make progress on nuclear disarmament.

Turning to the larger question of what role the United States plays in the world, the president said the sanctions that were brought against Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region were a good example of the vital role America plays. He also urged the incoming administration to continue to prevent big countries from bullying smaller countries.

Overall, Obama said the transition between his administration and the Trump team has been cordial. He added that he has advised the president-elect to gather a team of well-qualified advisers around him.

On another controversial topic, Obama said he decided to end the so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy for Cuban immigrants because it no longer made sense, given the increasing engagement between the United States and Cuba. The administration ended the arrangement last week under which Cuban emigres would be allowed into the U.S. if they reached the mainland after fleeing their homeland, but not if they were picked up at sea before reaching the United States.

At 55, Obama is younger than many U.S. presidents as they leave office. He has been somewhat vague about his post-presidency plans, although it likely includes writing a memoir and political attempts to help Democrats eventually regain political clout in Washington, where Republicans now control both houses of Congress. He said he is looking forward to spending time with his wife and daughters and being quiet, adding he has heard himself talk too darn much.

George H.W. Bush placed
in intensive care in Texas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been moved to an intensive care unit at a Houston, Texas, hospital and is resting comfortably following a procedure to protect and clear his airway, according to family spokesman Jim McGrath. The spokesman also said Bush is stable and will remain in intensive care for observation.

McGrath also said Bush's wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, was admitted to the same hospital on Wednesday as a precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing.

The 41st U.S. president was admitted on Saturday for shortness of breath. McGrath said the 92-year-old Bush experienced an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia and that the procedure that Bush underwent required sedation.

At his final news conference Wednesday, outgoing President Barack Obama said the White House has been in touch with the Bush family. Of George and Barbara Bush, Obama said, "They have not only dedicated their lives to this country, they have been a constant source of friendship and good counsel for me and Michelle over the years." Obama also said, "They are as fine a couple as we know, and so we want to send our prayers and our love to them. Really good people.”

George H.W. Bush has a form of Parkinson's disease and uses a motorized scooter or wheelchair to move about. He was hospitalized twice in 2014, once for pneumonia and again for shortness of breath. Bush also was hospitalized in the northeastern state of Maine in 2015 after breaking a bone in his neck at his summer home.

He served as vice president during Ronald Reagan's two terms as president before serving as president from 1989 to 1993.

The elder Bush is the father of former President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

2016 was hottest year,
NASA and NOAA say

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

It's official. 2016 is the newest warmest year on record, according to officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.

The information gathered by the two organizations found that for eight consecutive months, January to August, the globe experienced record warm heat.

In a press release and teleconference, the two agencies said with this as a catalyst, the 2016 globally averaged surface temperature ended as the highest since record-keeping began in 1880.

On average, the mean global temperature was .99 degrees Celsius above the 20th century mean, just barely beating out 2015, the previous record holder.

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said NASA's Gavin Schmidt. “We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

He added, most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.

A few other key findings:

- Sea surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Averaged land surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Arctic sea ice extent for the year was 3.92 million square miles, the smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.
- Antarctic sea ice extent for the year was 4.31 million square miles, the second smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.

That's a lot of records. But among all those high temperatures, the most surprising are the huge temperature jumps recorded in the Arctic. According to the NASA data, temperatures in the Arctic averaged as much as 4 degrees Celsius higher than normal, by far the biggest change recorded across the globe.

Among other things, the new data shows that the Arctic Ocean is warming at a rate two to three times faster than the rest of the planet, according to NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt.

He referred to the world's oceans as kind of a heating savings account since the waters are absorbing most of the excess heat that humans are pumping into the atmosphere.

And while some members of the incoming Trump administration have called human-impacted climate change into question, the researchers were clear about one thing: this warming is on us.

"Pretty much all the rises you’re seeing here," Arndt said, "are the result of human activities."

The team said they will continue to provide their assessments to the American people.

"Our mission" Arndt noted, "is to describe the state of the climate and our methods on how we got there."

The researchers say it is likely the average global temperature will stay at least 1 degree above average from now on. Climate scientists say we are on track to hit an average of 2 degrees Celsius above average sometime this century.

U.S. life expectancy drops
by a month, the CDC says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

For decades, U.S. life expectancy has been rising. In 1950, most Americans could expect to celebrate their 68th birthday. In 2014, most Americans could expect to celebrate their 78th, and live at least another 10 months beyond that. But in 2015 life expectancy dipped by a month, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also known as the CDC.

The last time the CDC saw a decline was in 1993 due to the AIDS epidemic in the United States. It also declined in 1990, during a particularly lethal flu epidemic. Tom Frieden, who heads the agency, says this drop could be the start of a trend.

The CDC report didn't say what caused the slight decrease in life expectancy, but obesity may be a cause. Statistics show that two out of three adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

The risk for heart disease and stroke increase with age, but heart disease is largely preventable. Following a healthy lifestyle, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control, coupled with regular exercise, and of course, not smoking, can prevent heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke.

A healthy lifestyle also reduces the risk of diabetes, another top killer. Frieden said there's still another factor in the decline in life expectancy, deaths from opiate overdose.

CDC data show deaths from prescription opioids quadrupled in less than 20 years. More than 183,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids since 1999. Addiction to prescription opioids has caused people to turn to cheaper narcotics like heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. The CDC reports heroin use has more than doubled in the past decade and with that a huge spike in heroin-related deaths.

Death rates among Americans also increased for chronic lower lung disease, accidental injuries, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, kidney disease and suicide.

Research explores robots
as new option for trucking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The 3.5 million Americans who drive trucks for a living may face growing competition for jobs as technology improves and self-driving or autonomous trucks that don't need human operators become more common.

Researchers say a similar wave of automation and robotics displaced most of the 5 million people who lost manufacturing jobs over the past few years. Frustration and fear from that drastic change helped spark an angry movement that upended U.S. politics.

Some experts say it will be years before a significant number of robot trucks are on the roads, as engineers and scientists work on technical, regulatory, and safety concerns while seeking public acceptance of this evolving technology.

But others point out that autonomous trucks already operate in mines, while robotic cars run races up mountains. Automotive and computer firms are working to improve the sensors and processors needed for the task.

"We are not that far from the ultimate vision of a completely self-driving car," said Chan Lieu, a former official of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Researchers say the same economic pressures that boosted automation in factories also promote robot truckers, who are likely to be less expensive than human drivers. Robots don't need breaks, join unions, ask for raises, demand overtime pay, file lawsuits, or show up with a hangover.

Many Americans say they are worried about the safety of robotic vehicles, but government statistics show 94 percent of road accidents are due to human error. That is causing some worries for the insurance industry, which is trying to figure out how to adjust premiums for an unprecedented, but probably safer, future.

In the meantime, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen expects companies will continue to use more robots. She urges governments and companies to do more to help displaced humans.

"Most economists and policymakers recognize that it's important to provide ways for workers who were harmed by these kinds of developments to be retrained for jobs so that they can succeed in the economy," she said.

Surprisingly, at a time when lost jobs are a major economic and political issue, many high-paying technical positions go unfilled.

Economist Ken Simonson of the Associated General Contractors of America says companies can't find plumbers, electricians, pipefitters and others.

"We are going to continue to see a lot of industries struggling to find already qualified workers or to bring new entrants up to the skill level that they need to get things done," he said.

For many people, apprenticeships offer a way to learn the new kinds of skills that help people find and keep jobs in a workplace of growing technical complexity. Newport News Shipbuilding has been teaching apprentices for nearly a century, and has a strong record of employing the program's graduates.

But researcher David Wiczer of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis says other programs have mixed results.

"Every time you take someone from one occupation to another, the level of risk magnifies,” he said. “It's much safer to switch one employer from the other and do the same thing you've been doing."

In a TEDx talk, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor says American workers made a big shift from agriculture to manufacturing in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But workers in this latest economic transition may be in for a bumpy ride, as scholars say previous major changes were wrenching and took many years.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 14
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Desamparados getting new municipal hall

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de Desamparados is planning a new municipal complex that will include parking, a theater, a bank office, a pharmacy and an artists market.

The municipality signed an agreement Wednesday with the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoría Municipal for design work. The institute promised a design that would consider renewable technologies that are climate friendly.

The site will be where the municipal building is now. The block contains a library, a small parking low, a former lockup, the municipal theater and a former educational building that was the first in the canton. The design is supposed to integrate these historical elements and provide more space for the library and the theater.

The current municipal building is 50 years old and is overcrowded with 200 employees, the announcement of the contract said.

Ruiz honored as top male soccer player

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz and U.S. player Alex Morgan, have been named the male and female players of the year by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

In an equally-weighted vote among member association women’s and men’s national team coaches/captains, media and fans, Ms. Morgan captured the award for the second time, while this is the first honor for Ruiz.

Ruiz enjoyed a successful 2016 campaign with club and country.  The 31-year-old was key in Sporting Lisbon's run to a runner-up spot in the 2015/16 Portuguese Primeira Liga and a berth in the Champions League.  He also helped Costa Rica to a first-place finish in Group B in the fourth round of  qualifying for the 2018 World  Cup, scoring in a 3-0 win over Jamaica, and played in all three of the Ticos' games in the Copa America Centenario.

Ms. Morgan, recipient of the inaugural confederation award for the region's top female player in 2013, finished level with Carli Lloyd as the USA's joint-top scorer in 2016 on 17 goals, including five in the Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship and two in the Women's Olympic Football Tournament.  She also netted four goals in 15 games for the Orlando Pride of the National Women's Soccer League.

Surf tourney to be at Playa Dominical

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Surfers hope to catch some waves at Playa Dominical in Puntarenas for the 17th annual opener of the summer surf season in Costa Rica.

The Circuito Nacional Kölbi will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. in front of the Tortilla Flats restaurant with organizers expecting surfers to participate in six rounds of events. The prize for this event is the HOOKD Cup, which organizers say is the most important surfing championship in the country. The event is expected to close around 5 p.m. before picking back up the next day during the same times.

The Federación de Surf is beginning the Olympic cycle in preparation for the Tokyo games in 2020 and also the preliminary qualifying rounds for the World Cup hosted by France. This particular competition in Dominical offers federation members to gather a list of athletes for the preliminary rounds. The last day to enter for the HOOKD Cup will be Friday at Tortilla Flats between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
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Three face sentencing in U.S. FBAR case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with special reports

 The U.S. government likes to publicize criminal actions against taxpayers in advance of the normal U.S. income tax filing deadline of April 15.

Wednesday, three men from Orange County, California, received the honor. The trio pleaded guilty today to willfully failing to report their foreign bank accounts in Switzerland and Israel, the Justice Department announced. The case involves reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, known as FBARs, a document many U.S. expats in Costa Rica should file with their taxes.

The men are Dan Farhad Kalili, 55, of Irvine, California; his brother, David Ramin Kalili, 52, of Newport Coast; and his brother-in-law, David Shahrokh Azarian, 67, also of Newport Coast. They admitted that they willfully failed to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts with the Internal Revenue Service regarding secret bank accounts in Switzerland and in Israel that each maintained and controlled, many for well over a decade. These secret accounts held assets that reached into the millions of dollars.

“The days of being able to safely hide income and assets offshore and evade U.S. tax have come to an end,” said Caroline D. Ciraolo, principal deputy assistant attorney general. “The United States and foreign jurisdictions are sharing information and working together to ensure that citizens around the world are paying their fair share. The guilty pleas entered today are yet another example of what awaits U.S. taxpayers who continue to flout the law.”

U. S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford scheduled sentencing for April 24. The three defendants each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison, a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties, said the Justice Department. In addition, each defendant agreed to pay a civil penalty for willfully failing to file the documents. Dan Kalili agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2,674,329, David Kalili agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,325,121 and Azarian agreed to pay a civil penalty of $951,607, the Justice Department said.