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Published, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 20
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Plan to put convicts into community service advances
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers have advanced a measure that would put an estimated 2,000 convicts at work in the community on what are being called useful projects.

The measure, a revision of the penal code, won approval Thursday from the Comisión Permanente Especial de Seguridad y Narcotráfico.

The measure supplements existing law by giving specific details on how such work by convicts can be accomplished.

Lawmaker Marco Vinicio Redondo Quirós said that the measure, if passed by the full  

legislature, would provide an alternative for those who are in conflict with the law. He said a lot of people commit crimes because they have no other way to live and this effort would give them that.

Legislative staffers estimated that about 2,000 prisoners would qualify for community service.

They all would have sentences of five years or less and be in jail for crimes that do not involve violence or weapons.

The Ministerio de Justicia y Paz would be in charge of the program. The ministry also supervises the agency that runs the prisons. The prisoners mainly would be allowed to work for public agencies.

Raids target two metro area prostitution outlets
By Conor Golden
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Raids at locations for prostitution in San José and in Barrio Dent led to the arrest of two individuals Thursday.

In San José, the well-known expat destination New Fantasy was shut down for 24-hours following a police raid by municipal police and judicial agents. The site is on the north side of Avenida 9 between calles 7 and 9.

A municipal police official said that eight women and 20 men were in the establishment at the time of the raid.

Around 30 judicial agents and municipal police officers were involved.

One person, identified as the owner of New Fantasy, was detained by authorities on suspicion of trafficking persons, according to Lt. Marco Colve García of the municipal police. The man will need to present his case to judicial authorities today, the lieutenant said.

In addition to the single arrest, a security guard had his firearm confiscated by authorities. The lieutenant said this was because the guard had no permit to carry the weapon.

New Fantasy was to be closed for 24-hours on police orders. Officers present at the scene appeared jovial and noted to a reporter that this was a typical and routine raid.

Municipality workers shut the Barrio Amón building down back in August 2008, because the building did not have emergency exits, needed updates in its electrical system, and a ramp and wheelchair accessible bathroom. At the time, municipal police said they were also

New Fantasy
A.M. Costa Rica/Conor Golden
New Fantasy entrance is plastered with seals.

doing so because of the prostitution activity.

The second raid was in Barrio Dent, part of the Montes de Oca canton adjacent to San José. There judicial agents said that they detained a 60-year-old man on suspicion of pimping.

Agents said that the man operated a pensión, a type of hospitality operation, where women offered their services in exchange for money. Agents said the man collected half of what was paid. Agents said an interlude of an hour with one of the women cost from 18,000 colons, about $33, to $50 with the higher rate for foreigners.

The judicial agency has a special unit for sex trafficking. Periodically agents crack down on one or more of the many prostitution locations in the metro area. While prostitution is not prosecuted, pimping remains a crime.

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Tourists rescued after wind capsizes  kayak

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Posted at 10:50 a.m. Friday

The Costa Rican coast guard rescued two North American tourists traveling in a kayak off Playa Flamingo around noon Thursday.

The pair were traveling in a kayak with sails, but strong winds caused it to capsize off Playa Flamingo in Bahía Potrero, according to a report. The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas said that the two kayakers attempted to board a smaller kayak, but failed. The crew of a patrol boat sighted the tourists and rescued them.

The rescued persons were brought ashore to the Guardacostas station at Flamingo in Guanacaste. There was no report of serious injury. Both men are in their early to mid-50s, said the Guardacostas.

Playa Flamingo is on the northern Pacific coast.

Our readers’ opinions

Our once-civilized society has changed

Dear A.M. Cost Rica:

Today, I was quite amused reading the self-proclaimed Patriot from Atenas call to arms.

The drum beating for impeachment of a President who has served less than one week  appears to be based in preconceived beliefs or maybe just a personal loss.

I can only imagine what public reaction would been eight years ago, if someone, would have called for the same of our now departed ex-president by referring to him by the color of  his hair and his position of court jester?

To make matters worse, there was a pointed reference toward physical violence directed at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the president. Was she serious or just listening to too many Madonna lyrics? Hopefully, it was just MTV overload.

Let's pray that whatever replaces Obamacare has comprehensive coverage
for anger management syndrome. Obviously it is needed in our transformed society.

I request that all who contact Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as requested by the Patriot, add that important issue before somebody takes the suggestion literally.

I must agree that our once-civilized society has been fundamentally changed over the past eight years. Hopefully, we will return to that society in the next eight.

During ex-president Obamas' first 60 days in office, he was quoted :
“Elections have consequences.” It’s the political way for winners to tell losers:  “Tough luck, you lost. Get over it.”

His words continue to ring loudly.
Bill Rowe
San Jose

A big surprise for window breakers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Window breaking on vehicles?  A so-called court system that is a joke?  There is an answer.

Many years ago I heard a story of some guys in northern Virginia who decided to pick up where the laughable court system left off.

After one of the group had his pickup truck broken into at Tysons Corner shopping center in Fairfax, Virginia, a protocol for applied therapy to benefit utes at risk was arranged.

A large copperhead snake was retrieved from the park at Great Falls, Virginia, and was put into a good-size, gift-wrapped box that had a nice bow on it.

The box was left on the front seat of the pickup truck, and the doors were even left unlocked so that the thieves wouldn't have to break a window to get in.

When the group returned to the vehicle why, lo and behold, the box was gone.

After this technique was successfully employed at several malls thefts went way down. Needless to say it never made the evening news. Nobody wants the public to be able to effectively deal with free-range Democrats on their own.  Why, that would take business away from the courts, bar associations and armies of public defender attorneys.  Not to mention outraging do gooder journalists that want everybody else to have to put up with liberal media darlings.

Don't you just love a story with a happy ending?

Hopefully Costa Rica has a few old fashioned rednecks that society can count upon.
Jim Harrison
El Paso, Texas

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 20
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Trip to the Alajuela airport now can be called ordeal by bus
By Gabriela Vega Barrantes
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The trip from San José to Alajuela, usually 30 to 40 minutes or less, is now at least two hours of sweaty stop and go.

A newspaper staffer spent four hours on buses to make a meeting in Alajuela and return to the downtown office Thursday. She had to stand part of the way. The packed bus had no air conditioning, she reported.

The journey on the Tuasa bus was the same as a tourist might take on the way to Juan Santamaría airport.

The price is now 1,050 colons instead of the usual 500 colons.

The General Cañas highway is reduced to one lane in either direction at the Río Virilla because of construction. This Alajuela-based bus uses the alternate route through Heredia, called Ruta 3.

Usually the Alajuela-bound buses zip down the three-laned autopista, but not for the next five or six weeks at least.

The trip goes through La Uruca and into Heredia Centro

A.M. Costa Rica graphic

over another bridge that is under construction. Eventually the bus passes through Rio Segundo to Juan Santamaria airport.

Of course, the train could be another option.  Some of the cars are ancient, and the trip doubled down on the hot and sweaty. There also are long waits both heading into San José from Alajuela and in leaving the capital at the end of the work day.

For those who ride the bus during rush hours, the ordeal might be three to four hours because traffic has been jammed motionless for long periods this week, the first that bridge travel has been restricted.

Chili cook-off organizers decide to let things cool off for a year
By Thomas Ropp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you were looking for a hot and spicy time this weekend, you probably aren’t going to find it in Atenas. What would have been the 10th annual Atenas Chili Cook-Off Sunday is now a non-event, at least for this year.

Apparently the organizers decided to give it a break several months ago, but word really never got out.

What did get out were rumors that the event was taking a sabbatical due to infighting among its organizers. But committee members say that is not the case.

“It’s not that everyone got angry at each other and gave up,” said organizer Bonnie Fluke. “We’re just too tired to do one this year.”

Another organizer, Mary Cook agrees:

“We needed a break. This event is a lot of work. Eight months of planning go into it. After last year we’re exhausted.”

Organizers insisted that the crux of the problem is that the event got too big too fast. The first event was organized by Tom and Kay Costello, former owners of Kay’s Gringo Postres. It was held at their tiny restaurant in Atenas and made $200.

Last year’s cook-off attracted thousands from all over the world and was held on the grounds of the spacious Sabana Larga Park just west of Atenas. It raised $12,000 for the event’s sole charity, Hogar de Vida, which provides care for at-risk children in Costa Rica.

The cook off features unusual chili recipes sampled and rated by the public. The cook-off has also spiked in popularity due to other attractions such as a beer garden, a rodeo, fair vendors, bingo, live music, dancing and addition cuisines.

But there were telltale signs that things were starting to unravel last year due to understaffing. It’s unknown how much money was lost due to confusion over where visitors were supposed to pay when they walked into the event because the volunteers assigned that job never showed up.

Another organizer, Bill Cook, husband of Mary Cook, said 130 volunteers were supposed to help out but only 75 made an appearance.

“So all of us were doing two or three jobs,” Cook said, adding that the event needs more community involvement.

“The expats living in Atenas are very lazy,” said Mrs. Cook. “They don’t want to give up any of their valuable retirement time.”

Cook said the event is now in the process of reorganization and restaffing, which will include more participation by local

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Phil Phillips of Atenas won last year’s Chili Cook Off with his Marine Corp League chili.

businesses who will provide products and bilingual volunteers.

Ms. Fluke said organizers also intend to spread the proceeds around to help the local fire department, and Cruz Roja and to teach more children how to swim due to the high rate of drownings in the area. 

Hogar de Vida founder Tim Stromstad said he thinks it was a very wise decision for the chili cook-off to take a break, even though his organization will not receive funding from the event this year.

“There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” Stromstad said. “There was a lack of volunteers but also lack of leadership in the promotional area.”

Stromstad said he is not bitter because Hogar de Vida, which he founded in 1995, is not dependent on donations from the Atenas Chili Cook-Off.

“Their donations are certainly appreciated and allow us to buy extras,” Stromstad said.

The event last year helped with the purchase of a tractor for a garden, which helps feed the children nutritional food. A past event also helped pay half of a security fence.

Organizers vow for a better (although not necessarily bigger) Atenas Chili Cook-Off in 2018.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 20
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Police nab trio for lumbering in area devastated by hurricane
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When Hurricane Otto roared across the top of Costa Rica Nov. 26, it left millions of downed trees.

Some of the trees are very valuable, but government officials are working hard to keep them from being harvested.

The Casa Presidencial issued an elaborate decree in late December that required even landowners to get permits if they sought to lumber more than 15 downed trees.

The Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación said this week that 102 persons had sought permits mostly in the northern zone around hard-hit Upala.

Fuerza Pública officers said they detained two minors and an adult near Puerto Lindo for cutting illegally some trees. Workers form the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía estimated that the trio had about 1 million colons of sawed timber when they were detained. The wood came from the giant Manú negro (Miquartia guianensis).

Police were from the Barra del Colorado station. That area was hard hit even though the hurricane technically did not enter Costa Rica until further west.

Puerto Lindo, which is in extreme northern Costa Rica was cut off for a time because so many trees fell across the main road.

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
Government inspectors check out the fallen timber.

Reports from the area Thursday said that locals have been chopping trees that obstructed waterways to open some of the routes used by the community’s fishing boats. Another report said that entire valleys of trees had been felled.

The government ordered that mechanical devices like tractors could not be used to retrieve the fallen timber.

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Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

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Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 20
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Police chiefs concerned
about sanctuary fund cuts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Police chiefs from different parts of the United States on Thursday voiced their concerns about President Donald Trump's executive order to strip federal grant money from sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants.

Law enforcement authorities said that cutting funding to force local policies to change was troubling and that the notion that police do not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, was wrong.

"We are concerned about this threat of losing funds," said J. Thomas Manger, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Manger is the police chief of Montgomery County, Maryland, a populous area adjacent to Washington, D.C., and said a one-size-fits-all approach to immigration policy wouldn't work with the 18,000 police departments in the country.

"And it's an unfunded mandate, quite frankly. Immigration law is best enforced by federal government, and we are happy to help and cooperate,” said Mike Tupper, police chief in Marshalltown, Iowa.

But Tupper said his department did not have the financial resources or personnel to take on these additional tasks.

Sanctuary cities limit help to federal authorities who may be looking to arrest and deport illegal immigrants. Thirty-nine U.S. cities and 364 counties nationwide have established themselves as sanctuary places; others prefer the term welcoming cities.

Proponents of tougher immigration laws, however, object to sanctuary cities. They say the sharing of information helps officials catch criminals.

"We confer this special privilege on, in many cases, dangerous, violent criminals because they came here illegally," said Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania.

Federal grants to cities and communities come from general revenue and are used to pay for various services, such as community centers, health clinics and housing for low-income people.

The cities individually could lose millions of dollars in this federal aid. Many of the cities, including some of the biggest in the country, are located in states that Trump won in the November election.

For police departments, that could mean funds cut from programs that support interstate background checks for those who plan to purchase guns, training in active shooting situations, and programs to combat drug trafficking and abuse.

Both police officials said they had worked with ICE in following the Priority Enforcement Program, which requires that departments submit the fingerprints of an illegal immigrant who has committed an aggravated felony to the FBI for criminal history and warrant checks.

The same biometric data is then sent to ICE to determine whether the individual is a priority for removal, consistent with enforcement priorities.

Tupper said the Marshalltown Police Department serves a smaller population of about 30,000 people, with 30 percent to 45 percent of its residents identifying themselves as immigrants.

"I think sometimes people assume that because we have a large immigrant population that everybody here is undocumented. That's not the case," he said.

"But even the folks that are here with documentation, lawfully are very concerned with the direction we are heading and also fear they're going to be caught up in enforcement efforts," Tupper said.

In contrast, the sheriff of Frederick County, in northern Maryland, supports an immigration enforcement policy that allows local police to work in association with immigration services.

Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said the announced executive order by Trump was the right way to go.

For the past eight years, the county has followed the 287(g) program, one of the partnership programs between immigration and local law enforcement, that trains and authorizes designated police officers to act as immigration officials.

In Frederick County, they do so only in detention centers and not on the streets, Jenkins said.

He said Frederick County police work strictly with immigration priorities, and that will not change.

"I can tell you this: We have never had a complaint of profiling, discrimination, wrongful action by a police officer. I think it can be done the right way," Jenkins added.

New machine could print
human tissue, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

3-D printers have moved from plastic to metal, and now to human tissue.

Spanish scientists report they have designed a machine capable of printing a replacement for human skin using special bio-ink consisting of human skin cells and other biological components.

The printer is in the research stage, but its designers hope it will eventually be approved for treating burn patients, as well as for replacing animals in the testing of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

According to the scientific report, published in the online journal “Biofabrication,” the printed skin has all the essential parts of the natural skin such as: the dermis, the layer of tissue that contains capillaries, nerve endings and other structures; the epidermis, the layer of cells atop the dermis; the stratum corneum, the horny outer layer; and even the collagen, which gives skin its elasticity and mechanical strength.

The skin bioprinter is the product of a collaboration of scientists from Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, the Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research in Madrid, Madrid's General Gregorio Maranon Hospital and Spanish bioengineering firm BioDan Group.

Meanwhile, Chinese biotechnology firm Sichuan Revotek says it has successfully implanted 3-D-printed blood vessels into rhesus monkeys, in a bid to develop technology for mass-printing of human organs.

Five diplomats resign days
before Tillerson takes over

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Five diplomats in the senior management team at the U.S. State Department have stepped down, only days before President Donald Trump's choice to head the department is expected to receive Senate confirmation and take over.

One of the five diplomats was on a plane flying to Europe for a high-level meeting when he was ordered to turn around and return home, diplomatic sources said.

Career diplomats at the department, however, bristled at news reports Thursday blaming the new administration for mass resignations or firings.

"The context for this is completely missing," said Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional group and labor union for the U.S. Foreign Service.

"Rotations to new positions and retirements after a fixed number of years of service are part of the DNA of the foreign service," Ms. Stephenson said. "It's normal that a change of administration brings a change of personnel."

The two most high-profile names exiting are Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy and Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Also leaving are two other assistant secretaries: Joyce Barr for Administration and Michele Bond for Consular Affairs.

Another prominent departure is Ambassador Gentry Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions.

And late Thursday U.S. officials confirmed that Thomas Countryman, a career diplomat who has been serving as Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, is retiring next week.

Diplomatic sources say Countryman was on a flight to Rome for a meeting on non-proliferation when he was ordered to turn back and return home. The State Department declined to comment on that information.

Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesperson, said in a statement earlier that the senior managerial posts now vacant are political appointments, requiring a presidential nomination and confirmation by the Senate.

"Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire, by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service," Toner said. "No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited."

Neither the State Department nor the officials have linked their departures explicitly to the Trump administration.

News of the diplomats' departure follows a visit to the State Department by Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.

Kennedy, who spent 44 years at the State Department, is retiring. His departure seemed likely after Trump's surprise victory.

Kennedy had been embroiled in the controversy surrounding the private e-mail server of former secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kennedy was said to have pressured the FBI to declassify information in one of the e-mails, in return for allowing more FBI agents to be posted overseas. The State Department denied any quid-pro-quo was offered.

Kennedy was appointed to his management position by former president George W. Bush, and he held the post throughout former president Barack Obama's eight years in office.

México's president cancels
meeting with White House

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

México's president has cancelled a planned meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, deepening the rift between the two countries over Trump's announced border wall.

President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on Twitter that he would not attend Tuesday's planned visit at the White House.

Speaking from a congressional Republican retreat in Philadelphia later on Thursday, Trump said the two leaders agreed to cancel the meeting because it would be fruitless if Mexico won't agree to pay for the wall.

"The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week," Trump said. "Unless Mexico treats the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go a different route. We have no choice."

Trump and Peña Nieto met in August in México City to discuss immigration, the border wall and other issues. Trump said that he and Pena Nieto did not discuss who would pay for the proposed wall. However Peña Nieto later wrote on Twitter that he opened their conversation telling Trump that México would not pay.

Later that month, Peña Nieto's approval rating sank to 23 percent and has since fallen to 12 percent, the lowest recorded for a Mexican president. Trump's approval rating stands at roughly 45 percent, the lowest of any incoming American president.

The White House says President Donald Trump has a buffet of options on how to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

Plans for the controversial wall have soured Mexican relations with the United States, just days into the Trump presidency.

Earlier Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump wanted to slap a 20 percent tax on all imports from México. He said the new tax would raise $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall. He also said the president discussed the idea with congressional leaders and wanted to include the measure in a comprehensive tax reform package that Congress would have to approve.

But later, the White House said the idea is just one of several options on the table for paying for a wall along the southern border. And it said Trump has yet to make a final decision about how the U.S. will recoup the costs of his proposed border wall.

U.S. taxpayers initially would foot the bill for the wall, which is expected to cost as much as $15 billion. It is unclear what retaliatory steps México could take if the border tax is approved, because exports to the U.S. are essential to the Mexican economy.

It is unclear what retaliatory steps Mexico could take if the tax was approved, because exports to the U.S. are essential to the Mexican economy.

The wall along the U.S.-Mexican border would be primarily aimed at stopping illegal immigration into the U.S. But many Mexicans regard the idea of a wall as an insult, and the rough terrain and stretches of private property along the border could make building the wall a long, complicated project.

New York man sentenced
to 20 years for terror plot

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Justice Department says a federal district court in New York has sentenced a man convicted of terrorism charges to 20 years in prison and 50 years of supervised release.

The Justice Department said Thursday that Emanuel Lutchman, 26, received his sentence for conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State. The group is a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Court documents name the Syrian contact as Abu Issa Al-Amriki, a known Islamic State leader who is now deceased but was communicating with Lutchman in 2015, according to Lutchman.

Lutchman has admitted to conspiring with Al-Amriki in 2015 to conduct an attack against civilians using knives and a machete on January 31 of that year.

Lutchman said he planned to conduct an attack that could be claimed by the terrorist group in order to gain membership in the organization.

Court documents say Lutchman posted support for the group on social media, including images, videos and documents related to Islamic State and violent jihad, or holy war.

Documents also said Lutchman downloaded and watched terrorism videos and maintained a digital collection of terrorism-related documents, including those meant to provide guidance to would-be terrorists plotting so-called lone wolf attacks in the United States or elsewhere.

Documents say Lutchman initiated contact with Al-Amriki on Dec. 25, 2015, and agreed in subsequent communications to attack and kill as many people as possible in a U.S.-based attack.

Lutchman then made contact with three other individuals affiliated with the FBI who were posing as fellow would-be terrorists, to whom Lutchman admitted his intentions and from whom he solicited support.

Lutchman has admitted that with his contacts, he identified a location in Rochester, New York, as a target; obtained weapons and supplies, and discussed making a video that Islamic State could use after the attack to prove his allegiance.

After Lutchman made the video, he was arrested by law enforcement officials and the weapons and supplies were confiscated. He has been in federal custody since Dec. 30, 2015.

Study says cooking stoves
contribute to air pollution

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study finds that cookstoves, used for cooking and heating inside homes in many developing countries, contribute to outdoor air pollution and have a significant impact on climate change.

An estimated 40 percent of the global population use cookstoves that burn solid fuels such as wood. Most studies of cookstoves focus on the health impacts in and around homes where they are used. Those reports show that up to a half-million people are thought to die every year as a result of inhaling fine particulate matter and soot emitted by cookstoves into outdoor air.

Now, a new study looks at the air quality and climate impacts of cookstoves on a global scale.

Scientists at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, used satellites owned by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with supercomputers that modeled cookstove pollution country by country.

Results showed that cookstoves used in Baltic countries like Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had an enormous impact on climate change, according to Forrest Lacey, co-author of the study, which was published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

"In general, it's more of the northern latitude countries,” Lacey said. “So that's why we're seeing like the central Asian countries and Ukraine or Romania, because they actually get a lot of transport on the snow of black carbon, which has an amplified warming impact."

Some of these carbon deposits can blow as far north as the Arctic, which is experiencing the greatest climate impact caused by greenhouse gases.

The use of cookstoves in populous countries like India and China also has a huge impact on climate change because of the sheer numbers of stoves that are used. But reducing the use of cookstoves in the Baltics, said the authors, would have the greatest benefit in terms of improving climate and air quality.

Non-governmental organization’s hope to distribute millions of clean stoves around the world this year, according to Lacey, making a sizable dent in the estimated 100 million cookstoves that are used globally.

Not only would a large-scale reduction in solid fuel cookstoves improve local air quality, said the authors, it would benefit the global climate, too.

San Bernardino figure admits
entering into fake marriage

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Mariyah Chernykh pleaded guilty Thursday to federal immigration fraud charges and admitted entering into a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez, Jr., who is facing charges of conspiring with the male assailant in the Dec. 2, 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California.

Ms. Chernykh, 26, of Ontario, California, pleaded guilty before U. S. District Judge Jesus Bernal to charges of conspiracy, perjury, and false statements.

As a result of her guilty pleas, Ms. Chernykh faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million. Judge Bernal is scheduled to sentence the defendant Nov. 20.

Ms. Chernykh is the second person to plead guilty in the immigration fraud scheme. On Jan. 10, Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of deceased San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook, pleaded guilty to being part of the conspiracy.

The third defendant in the case, Tatiana Farook, the wife of Syed Raheel Farook, still faces charges contained in a grand jury indictment and is scheduled to go on trial March 28.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in late 2014 and continuing through February 2016, the three defendants conspired with Marquez to obtain immigration benefits for Ms. Chernykh by arranging and carrying out a fraudulent marriage between Ms. Chernykh, a Russian citizen, and Marquez, a U. S. citizen. In court Thursday, Ms Chernykh admitted that she made false statements in immigration documents, that she paid Marquez for his participation in the scheme and that she made additional material false statements during interviews with FBI special agents.

Marquez was charged in a separate federal indictment with participating in the marriage fraud scheme, as well as plotting with San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook in 2011 and 2012. Marquez is also charged with supplying two firearms that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfin Malik, later used in the San Bernardino attack and during the shootout with law enforcement that ended in the couple’s death. Marquez is scheduled to go on trial before Judge Bernal Sept. 26.

“Two of the four defendants charged as a result of the investigation into the December 2 San Bernardino terrorist attack have now been convicted,” said U. S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “These convictions signify important progress in the ongoing investigation and prosecution of all those connected to the attack. Today’s guilty pleas are further proof that law enforcement has doggedly investigated all leads stemming from the tragic attack in San Bernardino as we continue our efforts to bring justice to the community.”

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 20
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Plenty of options for weekend relaxation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Devils, dragons, and DJs are among some of the things that people can expect to be present this weekend in Costa Rica.

La Banda de Conciertos de San José will host a concert Saturday evening at the Catholic church of Barrio Córdoba. The concert is part of the wider Fiestas Patronales de Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción del Rescate de Ujarrás. Juan Bautista Loaiza, the band director, said that the music will cross classics with contemporary popular music.

For those who want to look for events in the centro, this weekend will merge together the sounds of centuries-old tradition with modern, mechanized electronic music.

Saturday marks the beginning of the new Chinese New Year, and Barrio Chino is going to play host to this year’s celebration along the Paseo de los Estudiantes. Model dragons will slither through the streets on poles conducted by participants in the pasacalles, or street parades.

They will most likely be dressed in traditional Chinese fashion in celebration of one of the world’s most ancient cultures. There will be Chinese food in abundance and shows and concerts of traditional Chinese origins. The festival will last from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Although not quite as ancient in its origins, the Municipalidad de San José along with the Costa Rican-based event promoter Promosonica is hosting Sunday’s Chepe Joven. The event along Paseo Colón will blast electronic music from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Headliners for the event will include Uruguayan-based DJ Solarc and New York-based DJ Roger Sanchez.

According to the municipality, around 20 DJ’s from both inside and out of Costa Rica are expected. Club Vertigo in San José will play host to the event’s official after-party running until 2 a.m. the next day. There is a cover charge of 4,000 colons.

For more adventure and a taste of Costa Rican ethnic identity, the devils of a Boruca community have come out to fight the Spanish conquistadors once again for this year’s Juego de los Diablitos. At least, that is the symbolism behind the event.

The ceremony started Thursday and will go until Sunday. It involves the entire community from the elders to children at Rey Curré. The location is on Boruca tribal land and is located in southwest of Costa Rica near the Pacific Ocean.

This three-day long celebration represents one of the oldest native traditions in Costa Rica commemorating the 16th century conquest of the region by the Spanish empire. It represents an attempt at preservation of the ethnic identity of the Boruca.

Young people dress up as diablitos, or little devils in Spanish, and prepare the distinctive and grotesque-looking masks that will be worn during the game. For the Juego de los Diablitos itself, the devils represent the native tribes while a bull represents the colonizer.

If one goes today, witnesses will see the bull, or the symbol for the Spanish conquistadors, arrive. The diablitos, meanwhile, were going house to house and fed with chicha, the corn-based bread prepared especially for the celebration a year in advance, and other food.

The cacique, or the greater devil, then summons the people to arms and confronts the bull until it is finally defeated on Sunday, according to information from the Ministerio de Cultural y Juventud.

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From Page 7:

Government shifts its position on new taxes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government made another pitch for more taxes Thursday and proposed a value-added tax of 13 percent rather than the 15 percent that had been proposed previously.

The change came in a letter from Helio Fallas, the finance minster, to lawmakers.

A major credit rating agency just put Costa Rica lower in the junk bond category in part because lawmakers have not acted on new taxes.

The current sales tax is 13 percent, but a value-added tax of the same amount would raise more money. In addition, the type of tax makes evading more difficult.

The government proposal also would assess a 4 percent tax on non-public medical care and private education.

A second revised bill would establish a 12 percent tax on capital gains. The finance ministry claims the move is to close loopholes in evading the payment of income tax. Both tax proposals are for the purposes of sustaining public finances and the fiscal deficit, according to the letter and finance officials.

Fallas and the minister for the presidency, Sergio Alfaro, presented this letter Thursday in a press conference. The prominent, Costa Rican left-wing political party Frente Amplio responded in lukewarm favor of the government’s proposal. The party did regret, however, that the bill lowers the proposed tax on capital gains from 15 to 12 percent, according to party leader Edgardo Araya Sibaya.

On the value-added tax, Frente Amplio was pleased to see an increase in the tax base, rather than an increase in the tax itself. “What we do not think is acceptable is that we intend to collect taxes on health and education,” Araya said. The party is preparing to oppose this and urged a negotiation to be open before considering passage.