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Published Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 24
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911 call is no guarantee of a rapid response
By Conor Golden 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dial 911, and help should come, but expats may question exactly how long help will take to arrive in Costa Rica.

That question arose when an office worker in a downtown building fell to the the floor and lost consciousness Tuesday. The people in the building rushed to help and called 911, but a Cruz Roja ambulance did not arrive until an hour and a half after the call came in. That comes despite the fact that Hospital Calderon Guardia is around 1,500 feet away.

Jorge Jiménez, the Cruz Roja officer in charge that day, explained that response times can vary for a number of reasons: There could be a lot of traffic. There could be a lack of available beds in the hospitals. Nearby ambulances could be busy elsewhere. Stretchers to carry the injured are in use.

Jiménez said that a typical wait for an emergency ambulance should only be around 10 minutes if the location is in San José Centro. The response to a surrounding metropolitan area around the capital should be around 30 minutes or less, he said.

Ambulance drivers not involved in the Tuesday incident expressed their view of the situation.

Fernando Navarro, an ambulance driver with the Cruz Roja, offered a different time of arrival. Navarro warned that it might take up to half an hour to get to the scene of the emergency in San José. In the community where he lives in Cartago, the response time could take up to two hours, he said.

The problem that some Cruz Roja ambulance drivers said was that there were not enough people volunteering and not enough money to hire more staff. Navarro said he often goes out on calls alone in his ambulance.

For the community of Corralillo, a district south of Desamparados in Cartago province, he is one of two available Cruz Roja ambulances. He started out as a volunteer for the Cruz Roja for eight years before becoming a paid employee working 12-hour shifts these past three.

Cruz Roja ambulance
A.M. Costa Rica photo 
Cruz Roja ambulance waits outside hospital.

Monica Chévez, another Cruz Roja ambulance driver, echoed the concerns of Navarro in the lack of available manpower to provide emergency services. She has been a volunteer for at least four years and her ambulance services Monteverde.

She said it takes around four hours to bring people to the hospitals in San José. Ms. Chévez said that many would like to help by joining the Cruz Roja but cannot because they need to be paid to support their families.

The result is situations where ambulances like Navarro’s go out with one emergency medical technician who doubles as the driver, she said.

Lachlan Serrano, a paramedic with the Instituto Nacional de Seguro’s emergency services, noted that private ambulances are an asset to people when there are no public ambulance services nearby or available.

He said that although their response time is quicker clocking in at a four-minute estimated time of arrival within the capital, the arrival time significantly drags on in rural areas.

Cruz Roja says about 32 percent of its money comes from government mandated funds such as percentages of taxes on telephone bills, stamps on official documents, a percentage of traffic tickets and part of the tax on imported cigarettes, among other things.

Some 68 percent comes from the organization’s donors, the international Red Cross and Cruz Roja-sponsored event profits, it says.

As if to underline the problem, when the ambulance did arrive at the office building Tuesday, the lone driver came to the third-floor office without any gear and not even a stretcher for the seriously injured woman.

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The tunnel has been in service since August, and environmental staffers captured this photo of an ocelot using it at Las Pailas II.

Tunnels keep wildlife safe from vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state power generator said Wednesday that a second animal tunnel has gone into service at the Las Pailas II plant in Liberia. The tunnels keep animals from the danger of crossing highways.

The company, the Institute Costarricense de Electricidad, said that its subsidiary the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz also maintains two tunnels at its hydro plant Balsa Inferior between San Carlos and San Ramón.

The motor vehicles are a major predator of forest creators.

The institute said that in the case of Las Pailas II, four species already have been recorded using the tunnels under the highways. The company has installed cameras and employees try to find animal tracks, it said.

The animals include four species, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), the eastern cottontail rabbit, (Silvilagus floridanus), the gray four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum)  and the common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis).

The electrical institute has plenty of trouble with wild animals. Most expats know of the tragedies that befall monkeys when they touch a power line. The institute said that it has installed 30 monkey bridges, including some around the Las Pailas II plant, as well as hundreds of kilometers of coverings on power lines to protect monkeys. There are more than 11,000 devices designed to keep animals from climbing utility poles.  And there are more than 20,000 devices to keep birds from the transmission lines, the company said.

Our reader's opinion
Most Costa Ricans are honest people

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was very disappointed that you would print such a biased and false opinion piece as that written by Aubrey Lee.  The opinion that "a bullet to the head would be better than the 3-month detention the courts hand down" has no business in any reputable newspaper and his/her opinion that "If you leave a gift box in the car with a venomous snake and the doors unlocked, half the population of Costa Rica would be dead of snakebite." is offensive to the great majority of Costa Ricans who are honest people. 

My own experiences in the 34 years that I have lived here are the exact opposite. I have had many things that I've misplaced returned to me, including once when I dropped my wallet getting off a San José bus and had the bus stopped so someone could bring it to me.

I am sorry that Aubrey Lee has had such bad experience here, maybe he/she would be better off returning to where they came from.

Robert Anthony Warren
Cima de Dota

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 24
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Appeal against Sardinal pipeline rejected, state water firm says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected an appeal for relief involving the controversial Sardinal-Playas del Coco water line, the state water institute said Wednesday.

In 2009 and 2010 the pipeline was a target for anti-U.S. and anti-development sentiment. Gangs damaged the pipeline in a protest on May 12, 2009. Some in the community support the pipeline because of the promise of more jobs along the coast.

The concern was that the state company would take water from the Sardinal area to support development in Playa del Coco and Ocotal. Development has suffered along the coast because of the lack of water. Many condos are standing vacant because water is not available.

The Sala IV appeal came from Sardinal residents.

In addition to the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, agencies named in the appeal were the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and the Servicio Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento.

Acueductos y Alcantarillados said that extensive testing has demonstrated that taking water for use elsewhere would not

weaken the acquire in Sardinal. The court supported that point of view as contained in a study done in 2008 as well as an environmental study done in 2010, said Acueductos y Alcantarillados.

The water institute also said that monitoring during 2015 and 2016 that the aquifer was not over exploited, despite the drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon.

There are 36 separate wells. In technical terms, the institute said that the wells produce 440 liters per second and that just 70 liters per second would be used by the water line.

In contrast, said the institute, the aquifer at Playa Panamá did not show rapid recovery and suffered invasion by salt water from the ocean.  Playa Panamá as well as Playa Hermosa would be served by the pipeline.

The troubled pipeline proposal was criticized strongly in 2008 by the Contraloría de la República, which said that some 4,100 water hookup permits had been issued incorrectly and ordered that they be made void.  Local developers contributed $8 million to the pipeline project.

Acueductos y Alcantarillados did not say if there were other pending legal cases against the pipeline.

Youngsters (and parents!) are facing the last weekend of school vacation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend will be the last before the start of public school. Plenty of families will use the time for a final run to the beach or to make a visit to an out-of-town grandmother.

Not just public school starts Monday morning, but also private schools that keep the Costa Rican schedule of February to December. There is no accident that the vacation period corresponds to the coffee harvest.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública reports that there are about 2,000 U.S. citizens attending classes. The precise figures for this year are not yet available. Many more are in private schools.

Traffic police consider the start of school to be a challenge each year. This year there is an extra complication with the vehicle restrictions on the General Cañas autopista. Not only will traffic there continue to be a mess, the traffic police say they will pay special attention to schools located on or near Ruta 106 in Heredia. That is the road being used as detour in lieu of the Río Virilla bridge, which is limited to buses, emergency vehicles and motorcycles during rush hours.

The  Escuela Villalobos in Lagunilla de Heredia is right on that highway. It is one of 71 elementary and high schools that will be getting special attention, mostly because of the nearby traffic. The Conservatorio Castella  and the Colegio Técnico Profesional de Ulloa are two more being affected by the temporary highway restrictions.

Some families will ignore a vacation this weekend while they pull together all the necessities students need for the first class day. School officials post detailed lists ranging from erasers to uniforms, and students are suppose to have everything for an inspection on the first day.

The economics ministry after one of its annual surveys said

bakcto school
A.M. Costa Rica graphic

that parents could expect to spend from 74,799 to 120,635 for each student depending on the grade level. That's about $136 to $219. The ministry also said that prices vary widely.

And transportation for those who need it is extra.

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Palermo 900

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 24
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Professor claims his computer program says Falcons to win Super Bowl
By the University of Pittsburgh news staff

The Atlanta Falcons will defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51. This prediction comes from a University of Pittsburgh researcher who backs his claim with seven years of National Football League data and statistics.

“Increasingly, we are seeing NFL coaches and executives embracing analytics to improve their overall knowledge of the game and give them data-driven competitive advantages over their opponents. I believe this study is yet another step in that direction,” said Konstantinos Pelechrinis, an associate professor in Pitt’s School of Information Sciences.

Pelechrinis’s study, published in PLOS, analyzed 1,869 regular and postseason games from 2009 to 2015. Through in-depth analysis, he identified key in-game factors, turnover differential and penalty yardage, among others, that directly correlate with winning probability. The analysis found that committing one fewer turnover than the opposition presented a 20 percent gain in winning probability.

A 10-yard advantage in penalty yardage correlated to a 5 percent difference.

He then used a probability model to create a football prediction matchup engine to compare teams. Pelechrinis compared the Patriots’ and the Falcons’ performances in those key in-game factors during the 2016 regular season. Finally, Pelechrinis ran

10,000 simulations of the game in order to draw his conclusion: The Atlanta Falcons have a 54 percent probability of prevailing in Super Bowl 51.

“I believe both die-hard football fans and casual viewers will be in for an exciting game this Sunday. The Patriots and the Falcons are two dynamic, high-scoring football teams that perform extraordinarily well in the key areas of the game that most impact winning,” said Pelechrinis. “However, we are confident that it will be the Atlanta Falcons walking away with that franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.”

When Pelechrinis ran his model on the 2017 NFL Playoffs, the software had an accuracy rate of 90 percent. Pelechrinis said the system can reliably foretell the outcomes of all NFL games with an accuracy of 63 percent. This rate is comparable to existing state-of-the-art prediction systems and outperforms expert NFL analysts more than 60 percent of the time.

In addition to predicting upcoming game matchups, an expanded version of the study explored strategic on-field decision-making. Most notably, it found that coaches are overly conservative in key situations such as fourth-down conversions and point-after-touchdown options, which reduces the team’s winning probability percentage.

Pelechrinis points to fourth-down conversion attempts when deep within an opponent’s territory as a prime example of coaches being too cautious with their in-game decisions.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
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!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

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

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 24
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Rex Tillerson is confirmed
as the new secretary of State

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Rex Tillerson was sworn-in Wednesday night as the new U.S. secretary of State, hours after his confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Vice President Mike Pence gave the oath to Tillerson in the Oval Office of the White House as President Donald Trump looked on.

Tillerson thanked Trump for giving him what he called an enormous opportunity, and said he will always serve the interests of the American people at all times.

Trump congratulated Tillerson, saying the new secretary is respected all over the world and will bring his unique skills and great insight into global diplomacy.

Only three Democrats and one Independent joined a united Republican caucus in backing Tillerson, who was confirmed by a vote of 56 to 43 after senators of both parties spent weeks mulling the former ExxonMobil head’s cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ability to put business interests aside and serve as America’s top diplomat.

“He has done a tremendous job for one of the largest businesses in the world,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. “Now, his enormous experience, aptitude and talent are going to be put to work for the American people.”

However Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland said, “I remain concerned that Mr. Tillerson’s demonstrated business orientation would prevent him from being a secretary of State who forcefully advances the values and ideals that have defined our country."

Cardin added that Tillerson will be asked to carry out what he calls Trump’s dangerous and reckless foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the Senate also advanced three other Cabinet picks on Wednesday, as Republicans overcame dogged and, at times, unprecedented delay tactics by Democrats by taking unprecedented steps of their own.

Senate committees advanced the president’s nominees for attorney general, Treasury secretary, and Health and Human Services secretary with Republican votes alone.

The Judiciary Committee supported Sen. Jeff Sessions to become America’s chief law enforcement officer 11 to nine, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed.

Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican of Utah, described Sessions as a man who has devoted his entire life to the law, to enforcing it, to protecting it, to defending it and, as a lawmaker, to improving it.

“Senator Sessions, although an amiable colleague, is well outside the mainstream of both Democratic and Republican positions on criminal justice reform, torture, privacy, and voting rights,” said Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware.

Democrats delayed votes on multiple nominees by invoking arcane Senate rules and exercising procedural tactics whenever possible. Tillerson’s confirmation was set back more than a week when Democrats insisted on a preliminary vote ahead of final confirmation, and did so after having invoked a rule that delays a floor vote on a nominee.

Sessions would have been approved in committee Tuesday, but Democrats invoked a little-used rule limiting the length of time a committee can meet, then spoke at length in the Judiciary Committee, ensuring the time limit would be reached before a vote could be held.

Rarer yet, Democrats boycotted the Finance Committee Tuesday and Wednesday to forestall votes on Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee and Tom Price, nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Senate rules require at least one minority member be present for committee votes to proceed. A visibly frustrated Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, led a successful effort to change the rules governing the panel, and Mnuchin and Price were swiftly approved with Republican-only votes.

“The only chaos we have in the Senate is because of Senate Democrats,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “It is time to get over the fact that they lost the election. The president is entitled to have his Cabinet appointments considered.”

Democrats insist extra time to consider Trump’s nominees is needed.

“The proposed Trump domestic Cabinet is an unprecedented swamp of conflicts of interest, failures of disclosure, and dark money secrets,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. “None of this is good.”

Shortened tempers and frayed nerves have been evident in a body that prides itself on decorum and lofty debate. Sen. Hatch said Democrats were acting like idiots, while Sen. Cornyn blasted Democratic delay tactics as a hissy fit.

But the ire of recent days could be dwarfed by the fury of a looming battle over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, appellate court Judge Neil Gorsuch.

Unlike Trump’s Cabinet picks, Democrats could both delay and block Gorsuch’s nomination. Republicans, who control the chamber, could change Senate rules that currently allow the minority party to insist on a three-fifths majority to confirm Supreme Court nominees.

A rules change has been called the nuclear option as it would forever alter the Senate, a body where the minority party historically has been able to curb the ambitions of the majority.

Malaria superbugs prove
more resistant to vaccines

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Malaria-resistant superbugs are emerging in Southeast Asia, threatening worldwide control efforts, according to the authors of a new study.

Researchers reporting in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that a lineage of the P. falciparum parasite, which causes the most dangerous form of malaria, is now becoming resistant to the most effective malaria drug, and the resistance is spreading.

Artemisinin and combination therapies including artemisinin are considered the best possible treatment for malaria. The authors warned that resistance to the drug, and its widely used partner drug, piperaquine, was rapidly spreading throughout western Cambodia, southern Laos and northeastern Thailand.

The researchers, from Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand, said a global health emergency could occur if multi-drug-resistant parasites spread through India to sub-Saharan Africa.

Oxford University professor Nicholas White, a co-author of the study, said public health officials were losing a dangerous race to eliminate artemisinin-resistant falciparum malaria before widespread resistance to partner antimalarials makes that impossible.

White added that unless resistance was tackled from a global public health emergency perspective, the consequences of drug resistance spreading further could be grave.

In the Lancet article, researchers reported examining blood samples from patients with so-called uncomplicated malaria from a number of sites in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. They found a single mutant parasite lineage replacing parasites containing less resistant mutations in three of the four countries.

Superbugs, they noted, have evolved to contain multiple factors that make them fitter and more transmissible.

Drug-resistant strains of malaria have spread before from Asia into Africa, killing millions, according to the authors. They called for public health officials to work with policy, research and funding partners to respond to the current threat in Asia to avoid history repeating itself.

Mike Turner, the head of infection and immunology at Wellcome Trust in Britain, which funded the study, predicted that the number of deaths from drug-resistant malaria will increase to millions of people every year by 2050 if nothing is done to address the current threat.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 212 million cases of malaria globally in 2015, resulting in 429,000 deaths. Most of the victims were children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Artificial intelligence beats
pros at poker for first time

By the Carnegie Mellon University news staff

Libratus, an artificial intelligence developed by Carnegie Mellon University, made history by defeating four of the world’s best professional poker players in a marathon 20-day poker competition.

Once the last of 120,000 hands of Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em were played on Jan. 30, Libratus led the pros by a collective $1,766,250 in chips. Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science, and Noam Brown, a graduate student in computer science who were the developers of the robot said the sizable victory is statistically significant and not simply a matter of luck.

This new milestone in artificial intelligence has implications for any realm in which information is incomplete and opponents sow misinformation, said Frank Pfenning, head of the computer science department in the university’s School of Computer Science. Business negotiation, military strategy, cybersecurity and medical treatment planning could all benefit from automated decision-making using a Libratus-like artificial intelligence.

The pros included Dong Kim, Jimmy Chou, Daniel McAulay and Jason Les who will split a $200,000 prize purse based on their respective performances during the event.

McAulay, of Scotland, said Libratus was a tougher opponent than he expected, but it was exciting to play against it.

Libratus’ victory was made possible by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges computer, on which the AI computed its strategy before and during the event, and by Rivers Casino, which hosted the event.

The event was surrounded by speculation about how Libratus was able to improve day to day during the competition. It turns out it was the pros themselves who taught Libratus about its weaknesses.

“After play ended each day, a meta-algorithm analyzed what holes the pros had identified and exploited in Libratus’ strategy,” Sandholm said. “It then prioritized the holes and algorithmically patched the top three using the supercomputer each night.”

This is very different than how learning has been used in the past in poker. Typically researchers develop algorithms that try to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses. In contrast, here the daily improvement is about algorithmically fixing holes in our own strategy.”

Sandholm also said that Libratus’ end-game strategy, which was computed live with the Bridges computer for each hand, was a major advance.

It was able to update its strategy for each hand in a way that ensured any late changes would only improve the strategy. Over the course of the competition, the pros responded by making more aggressive moves early in the hand, no doubt to avoid playing in the deep waters of the endgame where the robot had an advantage, he added.

Head’s-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em is an exceedingly complex game, with a seemingly infinite number of information sets. Each set is characterized by the path of play in the hand as perceived by the player whose turn it is. That’s vastly more information sets than the number of atoms in the universe.

The robot must make decisions without knowing all of the cards in play, while trying to sniff out bluffing by its opponent. As no-limit suggests, players may bet or raise any amount up to all of their chips.

Rebuilt wetlands fights
high CO2, report says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

When it comes to climate change, there are all kinds of ideas about how to address the problem.

One that has been on the front burner lately is the engineering approach. The idea is: humans can fix the problem through technology, rather than by punishing people and industries that pump carbon into the atmosphere. Supporting clean energy technologies, and making them as cheap and plentiful as fossil fuels, is one way to engineer our way out of the problem.

But according to a new report, protecting and rebuilding some of our coastal wetlands may be another way to get some carbon out of the atmosphere.

The new study was done by researchers from the University of Maryland, with support from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and appears in the Journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The goal was to find the world's best blue carbon storage sites. Blue carbon is what scientists call the carbon dioxide captured and held in the world's oceans and coastal systems.

Ariana Sutton-Grier, an ecosystem ecologist at the University of Maryland, said one of the main points about the research is that the natural world has already figured out some effective ways to deal with excess carbon. "Coastal wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet," she points out, "and they store a lot of carbon below ground."

How much? "The researchers estimated that mangrove forests in the U.S. capture and store as much as 34 metric tons of carbon annually," the team said in a press release. "Which is roughly equivalent to the carbon emitted by 24 million passenger cars in a year."

And that's just the U.S. How about the world? Including the United States, they estimate coastal wetlands may capture and store more than 200 metric tons of carbon per year globally.

That's a lot of carbon, but Ms. Grier admits, not nearly enough to solve the problem. "This would definitely not be a silver bullet that would fix climate change;" she said. "There is no silver bullet. Human emissions are much larger than natural sinks, but with a problem this big, we need to find multiple solutions to reduce and combat emissions..."

To give you an idea how big, some of the best estimates suggest humans are pumping about 36 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year.

To help reverse that trend means protecting, and perhaps beginning to restore the coastlines that have been degraded by human activity and rising sea levels.

That's no easy task. First of all, it's expensive.

Take, as an example, the Coastal Wetlands, Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990. In the 26 years since it's been put in place, over 200 different projects have been authorized, affecting over 400-thousand hectares of coastal wetland in the state of Louisiana. The annual budget has ranged from 30 to 80 million dollars per year.

It is an expensive, and a time consuming process, but Ms. Grier says worth its weight in gold, "if the world invested in coastal restoration in a major way," she says, "then yes, this would 'new' carbon sinks that would be an important contribution to climate change mitigation..."

But it's about more than restoration. Ms. Grier says that in the past 250 years, the U.S. has lost about half of its total wetland area. And internationally, she said estimates are that we are losing between 0.7 percent and up to 3 percent of the global area of these habitats per year.

Not only does that make hurricanes and flooding worse, but all that carbon that was being stored heads into the atmosphere. Ms. Grier calls it a double whammy. "In destroying or degrading these wetlands, they get drained and the oxygen in the air causes the carbon in the soil to be decomposed and blown off as CO2 so we lose the store, and what was a fabulous natural carbon sink becomes yet another human-caused emission!"

The question arises: aren't there cheaper ways to save the world's carbon sinks, like the Amazon rainforest? Ms. Grier says there's more than one solution, but the researchers believe that blue carbon habitats may stand alone as the most efficient biological reservoirs of stored carbon on Earth.

And as the world struggles to cut its emissions, restoring wetlands may be a particularly effective way to help meet those targets.

Trashed electronics create
the 2020 Olympic medals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will be made from metals reclaimed from discarded cell phones.

Olympic organizers say they are asking the Japanese public to donate old phones or other old electronic appliances in an effort to collect as much as eight tons of metal to produce the 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals that will be awarded during both events.

Starting in April, special boxes for donated phones will be placed in offices and phone stores.

"A project that allows the people of Japan to take part in creating the medals is really good," said Tokyo 2020 sports director Koji Murofushi, "There's a limit on the resources of our Earth, so recycling these things will make us think about the environment."

The move was met with support from former U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton, who won back-to-back gold medals in the decathlon. He tweeted that he was tempted to come out of retirement to vie for one of the medals.

This will not be the first time recycled materials have been used to make Olympic medals. For the 2016 Rio Games, the bronze and silver medals were made in part from recycled products.

California conman caught
again for parole violation

By the U.S. Department of Justice news staff

A convicted con man who defrauded a North Carolina man out of more than $8.7 million and was sentenced to nine years in federal prison has been sentenced to another six months in prison for violating the terms of his supervised release by traveling to Africa without permission in relation to another possible fraud scheme.

Thomas Mitchell Johnson was sentenced Monday afternoon to six months in federal prison, which will be followed by two years of supervised release. Johnson lives in Sherman Oaks, and he resided in Burbank prior to being convicted and sentenced in 2008.

The sentencing follows Johnson’s admission late last year that he violated the terms of his supervised released, which is a three-year period of court supervision that followed his prison term by traveling to the Ivory Coast without permission from the court or his probation officer.

Only 10 days after being released from federal prison in July 2015, Johnson sought a court order to allow him to travel to the Ivory Coast. Johnson claimed he had an opportunity to work as a consultant on a cashew and almond processing plant with the government of the Ivory Coast, and that the government of the West African nation had agreed to pay his travel and living expenses. This request was denied by the court.

In April and July of 2016, Johnson sought permission to travel to New York City for work, requests that were granted. Later in July, Johnson was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport after arriving on a flight from Paris as part of trip that originated in the Ivory Coast.

A review of his passport revealed that Johnson had traveled to the Ivory Coast in both April and July of 2016. Further investigation revealed that Johnson had made a video in New York City in May 2016 in which he discusses plans for his company to engage in cashew and cocoa processing, how we are already committed on paper to investing $50 million every six months for two and one-half years, and that the project would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Ivory Coast.

The Probation Office filed a petition with the court concerning Johnson’s unauthorized travel, allegations that Johnson admitted in December.

Johnson was on supervised released after serving a prison sentence resulting from a fraud scheme in which he defrauded a North Carolina man out of millions of dollars in a scheme that purportedly involved high-yield bonds. Johnson was sentenced after being found guilty at trial of six counts of interstate transportation of stolen property and five counts of money laundering.

Through his company, Zurich Capital Holdings, Inc., Johnson offered an investment opportunity to the victim-investor, who transferred $10 million to an account Johnson controlled. Johnson spent the majority of the victim’s money on extravagant personal expenses including the purchase of two luxury homes in Burbank and high-end automobiles, including two Bentleys, two Mercedes Benz and a Land Rover.

Johnson was sentenced on Monday for the supervised release violation by U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner. The case Johnson was investigated by the FBI, and the violation of supervised release was investigated by the United States Probation Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Pinkel of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section prosecuted the case.
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                                  Tamarindo The experts in buying property in Costa Rica, with more than 20 years experience and the largest networked team of agents in the country.  We can help you learn if investing in Costa Rica is right for you with our low-key, educational approach to sales. Our professional agents can tell you more about Costa Rica properties, including condos, homes, lots and & commercial real estate. Twelve (12) agents to serve you, from Playa Marbella to Playa Dante in the Guanacaste, through our Tamarindo and Flamingo offices. For more information, please contact our local phones: 506-2653-0073 Tamarindo / 506-2201-9056 Flamingo ~ Toll Free: 1-866-976-8898 or email:  or click here

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Beautiful farm in excellent location
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horse ranch
Spectacular Horse Ranch and Spiritual/Yoga
Retreat Center For Sale

We invite you to a horseback tour of 187 acres of pristine farm land with breathtaking vistas, including the islands of the Gulf of Nicoya. There are multiple springs and streams, wooded areas, hard-wood and fruit trees, rolling hills with a geat variety of birds and wildlife. This property boasts the privilege of being bordered by thousands of acres of forest preserve down a steep canyon, offering its own spectacular views, which will never be developed. The many hills provide a builder an endless array of possibilities for nestling buildings in where they will have both views and privacy. The elevation of the property at 1,200 to1600 feet above sea level ensures fresh breezes and ideal year-round temperatures with a day-time average in the low 80's for open-air living. There is a ranch-style house with guest house with 8 total bedrooms, 5 modern baths, huge eat-in kitchen, landmark palm-thatched giant rancho, stable, and storage buildings. The home will come partially furnished, including beds, ample dishware for large groups, housewares, linens, washer/dryer, and fine hard-wood hand-built cabinetry. The remaining horses, 4 to 6 of them, will also convey if one wishes. We are also including a LARGE BEACH LOT in nearby Playa Bejuco. San Rafael de Nandayure is a tiny rural village nestled into the mountainside above Carmona with all the charms of the simple good life of a BLUE ZONE. Carmona is a thriving town with a clinic, restaurfants, shopping, and everything else one may need.  More information
go to  Call Darin Ricco, phone +619-846-8249 or email:


Situated 3 miles west of the capital, 8 miles from the airport. Quiet, secluded area within walking distance to a commercial center including a hotel, 6 restaurants,  next to 2 bus line stops. Car ownership is not needed. January-March air temperatures are 72 to 80 degrees F.  Apartment 1,200 sq. ft (100 sq. meters), on ground floor, indoor  patio. Large windows without bars, parquet floors.  Spacious living room-dining area, 2 bedrooms, maid's room, 2 bathrooms, 4 closets  (including walk in), fully equipped kitchen (refrigerator, washing machine,small appliances, all necessary utensils, work tools). Close covered parking space in guarded area.  Many amenities, (pictures, indoor plants, sewing machine, books, keyboard, dishes, glassware,silverware). Annual cost of maintenance about $1,350 includes water, landscaping service, garbage disposal, 24-7 security and property taxes.
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 Available for viewing:   CONTACT:  USA :  (585) 969-3413 or (585) 266-7418 or in COSTA RICA : (506) 2231-0410.   email:

Sámara titled land for sale by owner
5.7 acres. Only 150 meters to beach: $275,000
Less than $12 a meter

Fully titled, held by corporation. 150 meters to beach! Paved road frontage. Electric, phone and broadband internet at the road. Year-round water on property for well. 3 -minute drive to Sámara center and a 3-minute walk to Playa Sámara. 23,561 square meters / 5.7 acres. Property was purchased on 2005 with plans to develop 21 villas on the property. Project was halted due to real estate market collapse in 2007.  We are no longer interested in developing due to age, health and motivation!  Priced well below market value for quick sale.  More info click HERE! Email:    Phone: 506-4033-6695.

Owner Financing in San Ramon
New Construction, and Ocean View 
Brand new home with 4-plus bedrooms and 3 baths all overlooking an incredible 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean and mountains. Located only 45 minutes from the San Jose airport and about the same to the Pacific Ocean.  The lower level could be used as a separate apartment or mother-in-law setup. Home includes HUGE master  suite, CLOSETS, custom cabinets, granite counter tops, high wood ceilings, and all in an area that is 70-80 degrees year round. Priced at $199,000. Completion date is January.  See the Virtual Tour CLICK HERE or see our site here If you would like to take a look at this amazing house, please give me a call at  Costa Rica # 506-8755-6743 or if from the States call # 509-570-1928 or email 

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Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
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Costa Rica penthouse for sale
 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $795K U.S.  Also available for monthly rent for $3,400 per month on an annual basis. Go to  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 24
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Regional experts seek end to malaria

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A high-level meeting of experts from several Latin American countries and organizations has called for the elimination of malaria.

The regional meeting began Wednesday. It aims for the total elimination of malaria in Costa Rica and the wider region. The group said it recognizes the necessity of joint partnership in the effort to eliminate the scourge in neighboring countries as much as in each individual nation. The meeting is being held until Friday.

Members involved seek to establish strategies for the reduction of regional cases in the next three years and exchange information about possible risk areas in the region. Costa Rica has a national plan to eliminate malaria by 2020, which includes a strategy of disease monitoring and surveillance as well as improving medical care related to the mosquito-borne virus.

Ex-lawmaker's hearing continues

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A decision may come soon on whether to proceed to trial against a former member of the Costa Rican legislature.

A preliminary hearing against Jorge Angulo Mora continued Wednesday with the presentation by prosecutors and a rebuttal from the defense. Angulo is accused of taking a bribe from a contractor and of accepting favors from public agencies because of his position as a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional and a member of the Asamblea Legislativa.

Joining Angulo in the defendant’s box are three other persons, all of whom are accused of bribery. One of the trio additionally is charged with scamming and illicit enrichment, officials said.  Prosecutors asked the judges to accept the accusations and evidence presented against the defendants.

In addition, eight former members of the Junta Directiva de Judesur were charged with embezzlement. The defendants voluntarily accepted the evidence against them during the preliminary hearing held Jan. 10. The government's lawyers accepted the defendants settlement offer Tuesday.  The junta operates the southern zone's primary development agency and also managed the Deposito Libre in Golfito where goods are sold without national taxes.

With the offer, each defendant must pay 2 million colons, complete community service and not hold any public office that involves the administration of or handling of public funds for two and a half years, officials said.

Political correctness put into manual

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public media is creating a new stylebook for its staffers and outlets on the use of non-discriminatory language, sound, and images.

The Sistema Nacional de Radio y Televisión and the Defensoría de los Habitantes teamed up to create the first style manual, according to the executive president of the public media administration.

The style manual will include specific recommendations and tips as to how members of public media should address issues defined as sensitive. These include information related on how to approach: disasters, gender equality, race or ethnicity, migration, disabled persons, and gay or transgender persons.

The goal is to reduce any prejudicial or discriminatory language in writing, images, audio, and photographs, according to officials. The regulations within the style manual will be published within the first half of this year. Publication will also kick off training of the Sistema’s staff members.
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U.S. Fed declines to raise the base interest rate

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank will leave interest rates unchanged for now, but also acknowledged Wednesday that consumer and business sentiment has improved since President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

New economic data released by the government bolsters the case for a rate increase soon, economists said. But while the U.S. job market continues to show improvement, the Fed gave little direction on when it might raise the federal funds rate, the interest rate it charges banks for overnight loans.

In a statement following its two-day meeting this week, the Federal Open Market Committee said it expects "economic conditions to evolve in a manner that will warrant gradual increases when inflation reaches the Fed's target rate of 2 percent." The index used by the Fed currently measures inflation at 1.6 percent annually.'s chief financial analyst, Greg McBride, said inflation could be the wild card for the Fed in 2017. But he added that some of the uncertainty revolves around questions surrounding future White House policy.

"The Fed will have a difficult time raising interest rates further as long as there is guesswork about what the fiscal stimulus will look like," said McBride.