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Published Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 25
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Agents detain suspect in murder of five in Liberia
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Post at 6:45 a.m. Friday

Judicial agents today raided a home in Liberia and took into custody a man who is the principal suspect in the murder of four university students and a friend Jan. 19.

The raid was in Barrio La Victoria not far from the rented home where the killings took place.

Agents attributed the killings to a fixation that the suspect had on one of the three young women who were killed. They said he gained entry to the home through a back door and that

he was not wearing a shirt at the time. That is why the sole survivor, a 14-year-old girl, could describe a tattoo the assailant had on his right shoulder.

The girl left the Liberia hospital earlier this week after treatment for a knife wound to the throat.  All five of the murder victims had their throats cut. They seem to have been herded into the same room by the assailant. The 14 year old is the main witness.

Agents said that the suspect had at least one criminal conviction for drugs and that he was given conditional release to live with relatives.

Customs makes another big grab of imported goods
By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Customs officials confiscated about 1,100 kilograms of shipments coming in to Costa Rican airports in the last two months. The case appears to be an effort to evade import duties. But there are other cases that suggest an over eager government agency.

Customs inspectors claimed these latest items were taken because there were no taxes paid on them. Among the confiscated goods are around 600 cell phones, 800 tablets, 100 Bluetooth speakers and other packages. The items were being held in warehouses at Juan Santamaría airport and in Aurora, Heredia.

The goods correspond to two imports declared by the same customs agent, officials claim. The agent is alleged to have worked together with the importer for what has been declared, according to officials. The agents involved explained to customs authorities that they were importers for cell phone cases valued at $2,000. Officials estimate that the value of these items could exceed $120,000.

Currently, the tax agency said employees are evaluating the items to determine the exact amount of taxes that need to be levied. A result of this action could implicate the case as tax fraud and a violation of customs law, it added. The punishment for these crimes could be four or five times the amount of the taxes not received with interest. The prison term carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.

The case and the undeclared goods will be handed over to judicial authorities in the coming days, customs officials said.

The Dirección General de Aduana has been aggressive in its actions within the past year in holding goods entering Costa Rica.

A shipping container bearing donated medical supplies for underprivileged people has been held since October over a demand for import duties at the Costa Rican port of Caldera.

The California non-profit organization Nuestra Ayuda has been negotiating with Costa Rican authorities to release the donated medical and healthcare supplies for people in desperate need, said the organization’s president, Edward Solarewicz.

According to the content list provided to A.M. Costa Rica by Solarewicz, the shipping container holds approximately 12 boxes and four carts mostly loaded down with various medical supplies, but also a small amount of non-related donations as well.

These are supposed to be doled out to people in need in Talamanca and Limón, according to the group.

The group issued an open letter Saturday begging the port authority and the government to release the container.

Solarewicz said that the items within the
retained goods
Dirección General de Aduana photo
This stack of boxes is held for inspection.

container are being held because they were not properly priced and itemized. The government intended to assess a tax based on the value. Nuestra Ayuda has also been asked to pay a storage fee of around $50 a day to hold the container, according to Solarewicz. That is money the foundation cannot afford, he said.

This is not the first time that sponsors of donated items have had trouble getting containers through Costa Rica customs.

Peter Aborn, a member of the Asociación Proyectos Especiales de Salud Región de Talamanca, said he has had a shipping container confiscated by customs authorities.

The items amounted to some 2000 kilograms worth of mostly dental instruments and equipment, but also donated items like sports gear as well.

These goods were also confiscated around October and November 2016, Aborn, a retired U.S. Dentist, said. All the supplies have been confiscated on account of the lack of payment for import duties.

Despite the efforts of Aborn and other members of the organization, their pleas for release have fallen on deaf ears by members of the government. Aborn acknowledges the position of the government in trying to weed out false organizations and the efforts of individuals within the system. The problem becomes the issues related to the bureaucracy and regulations that prohibit the ability of organizations like his own from helping people, he said.

In 2011, the government changed the rules and consigned thousands of shipments to limbo where they may still remain because of unpaid sales tax.

There has been no response to A.M. Costa Rica’s request for comment from Benito Coghi, the director general of customs.

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


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Dental Services Costa Rica

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Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
This is not the product of a routine marijauna bust.  Fuerza Pública officers stopped a car containing a judicial worker in Ciudad Colón and found this quantity of marijuana.

Prison term award for touching a woman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A taxi driver received a prison term of three years and eight months for sexually harassing a woman who was standing on a bus.

The prosecution found that the pirata, the name for the unofficial cab drivers in Costa Rica, approached the victim from behind while both were on the Purral-San José route in Moravia Jan. 17.  The name of the defendant is Jorge Aguilar Solís.

According to the report, Aguilar purposefully moved his private parts up against the butt of the victim twice. When the woman asked for help from the bus driver, the molester got off the bus heading in the direction of the Clínica Jiménez Nuñez.

The victim called 911. Thanks to the corroboration of a witness to the crime, police apprehended Aguilar in front of the Novacentro mall, according to the report. The defendant accepted a plea deal with the prosecution and was sentenced Monday. The conviction was made in 12 days.

Officials urge any other victims to file complaints related to this case.

Our reader’s opinion
Young Navy SEAL gave his life for us

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As the son of a career naval officer and one of a multitude of such former dependents and family members, every death of any member of our armed forces in combat affects me deeply.

Politics must take a distant second place to the sacrifices that these magnificent people make -- not to further some bureaucratic agenda or add to the bottom line of a huge corporate entity, but to bring the ideas of personal choice and freedom from fear and want and religious persecution and the potential that every child, boy or girl, brings to the fragile thing we call civilization.

Please take time to consider the nature of the work our people in uniform do, not just fighting when it is necessary, but the building of schools and hospitals, the opportunities that physical security brings to every person who lives under the umbrella of safety they all too often die for so that we can enter an aircraft, go to a mall and carry out our daily lives in a manner befitting a free people.

The young Navy SEAL recently killed in Yemen gave his life so that each of us might live ours in the hope of a better tomorrow. His three children and their mother are left, bereft of his presence. Please consider well these people and their loss before attacking the institutions and policies that led to that terrible bereavement.

Women in particular might benefit from careful consideration of the nature of religious fanaticism that tortures girls for going to school, that allows a male member of the family to murder a female member for exercising her basic human rights. Fighting these battles is done by hard men and women making hard decisions. They are willing to risk all to allow us the freedom to argue. Let us do so with respect and constraint.
Harv Brinson
San Ramon

News from the Spanish-language press
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Third News Page
U.S. Tax
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 25
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An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
News story puts the spotlight on a vital but troubled agency

The Cruz Roja is one of those agencies that everyone loves. The agency’s workers and volunteers carry the injured and ailing to hospitals.

Agency workers are often seen on television providing aid at accident scenes.

But all is not as efficient as television might present. A news story Thursday showed that a middle-aged woman could lay on an office floor for 90 minutes before an ambulance arrived in downtown San José.

Response times are certainly longer in rural areas.

And when the ambulance did arrive, there was but one crew member who came to the woman’s aid without any equipment, not even a stretcher or neck brace.

The delay was so long that the woman’s elderly father beat the ambulance to his daughter. And then he had to help the Cruz

Roja worker in getting his daughter to the ambulance.

The news story revealed a troubled crucial agency beset by financial and staffing problems. That seems to be the norm for the entire public health system.

The woman is recovering, but had she suffered a stroke or a heart attack, the 90-minute delay might have been fatal.

There is not much expats can do directly. Few are fit to be volunteer ambulance drivers. But they can adjust their donation plans to include the Cruz Roja, which only is partly supported by public funds.

One expat couple even donated an ambulance to the agency in the past. 

Still, expats should consider using a private service in a real emergency. And it might not hurt to bend an ear of the nearest public official.

Telemarket scammer admits participating in two frauds from here
By the U.S. Justice Department news service

A U.S. man living in Costa Rica pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in two separate schemes.  One scheme was a $10 million sweepstakes scam that targeted elderly U.S. residents, and the other was a $2.5 million high-yield investment fraud, the Justice Department.

The man, Kristian Francis Sierp, 45, formerly of Boca Raton, Florida, pleaded guilty in two cases before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer of the Western District of North Carolina.  Sentencing is set for June 19 before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney.

In the first case, which charged Sierp with participating in a $10 million telemarketing sweepstakes scheme, the man pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

As part of his guilty plea, Sierp admitted that from approximately January 2011 through September 2015, he worked in various illegal Costa Rican call centers belonging to co-conspirator Elliot Rosenberg, where they placed telephone calls to U.S. residents, falsely informing them that they had won a substantial cash prize in a sweepstakes.  The victims, many of whom were elderly, were told that in order to receive the prize, they had to pay for a purported refundable insurance fee, Sierp admitted. 

Sierp further admitted that after he received victims’ money for an initial fee, he would contact the victims again to demand additional purported fees to cover even larger promised prizes. 

Sierp further admitted that he and his co-conspirators continued
their attempts to collect additional money from a victim until that victim either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme.  To further their fraud and mask that they were calling from Costa Rica, Sierp and his co-conspirators often falsely claimed that they were calling on behalf of a U.S. federal agency and utilized voice over internet protocol phones that displayed a 202 area code, giving the false impression that they were calling from Washington, D.C., he admitted.

In the second case, which charged Sierp with engaging in a high-yield investment fraud scheme, Sierp pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. 

As part of his guilty plea in this case, Sierp admitted that he worked with co-conspirators since at least January 2016 to sell stock in Niyato Industries Inc., a Nevada corporation purportedly operated from Charlotte.  Sierp admitted that he and his co-conspirators falsely marketed Niyato as a manufacturer of compressed natural gas automobiles and a distributor of natural gas fuel that had patented technology, valuable contracts and high-profile executives. 

Sierp also admitted that he and his co-conspirators falsely sold investors on a promise that Niyato was planning an imminent stock offering that would reap investors a tenfold return on their investments.  In truth, Sierp admitted, he and his co-conspirators knew that Niyato had no facilities, products, patents or plans for an imminent public stock offering, but rather was merely a vehicle for inducing investor funds.  Sierp further admitted that he made all investor sales using a fake name from a telemarketing call center that he owned and operated in Costa Rica.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 25
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Heavy equipment takes a bite out of internet fiber optic cable in Cartago
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state telephone company said it expected to have repaired by Thursday night an internet and cell telephone outage in Cartago.

The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said that the outage took place when a Municipalidad de Cartago worker using heavy equipment cut a fiber optic line near Mall Paseo Metrópoli Thursday morning.

The areas affected included Tierra Blanca, Cipreses, El Empalme and San Marcos de Tarrazú. Cell service on the 3G network also was affected, mostly round Ochomogo, the company added. The company said it had three crews working to restore service later Thursday.
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
Splicing fiber optic cable is like a puzzle.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

HIdden Garden graphic
Put Costa Rica on your walls
The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is the perfect place to find quality Costa Rican and international art for your home or office.  With over 60 artists and 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we have been your source for fine art since 2010.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever. Located just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport (towards the beaches).

Visit our Web site at:
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Find us on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Twitter,
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Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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International shipping available.

Georgre Lundquist header

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.

George Lundquist

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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2016 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. 
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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 25
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México and United States
deny Trump invasion threat

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States and México are both denying that U.S. President Donald Trump warned he was ready to send American troops into México.

The Associated Press and a Mexican journalist in Washington both reported that Trump told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto during a phone call last week that he would deploy U.S. forces to deal with the bad hombres down there unless México did more to control them.

The AP account was based on a partial transcript of the call that it was given on the condition of anonymity by a person who had access to the official transcript. The AP noted it was not possible to determine the tone of Trump's remark.

Mexican presidential spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said it is absolutely false that Trump suggested he would send U.S. troops to México. Sanchez said Trump and Peña Nieto acknowledged their differences on various subjects, but expressed a desire to maintain dialogue to reach agreement between the two countries.

One of Trump's first acts as president was to sign an executive order for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-México border. He promised throughout his campaign to build the wall and have México pay for it.

Peña Nieto has made it clear his government will not pay for the wall, and he canceled a planned visit to the U.S. after Trump signed the order. Their telephone call was intended to patch up relations.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ James Gathany 
A zika vector hard at work getting dinner.

Zika vaccine effective 100%,
Pennsylvania researchers say

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An experimental zika vaccine has been shown to be 100 percent effective in protecting laboratory animals from the virus, according to researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Scientists say one dose of the vaccine prevents transmission of the zika virus in the animals tested, and it appears to be a potentially powerful weapon in the global war against zika.

The so-called mRNA vaccine uses genetic material from the zika virus to protect against the mosquito-borne illness. It stands for messenger RNA, which in the body translates to DNA, the blueprint for life, into proteins that carry out various biological functions.

The mRNA vaccine is different from others that stimulate the immune system by using weakened or killed pathogens.

Drew Weissman is an mRNA vaccinologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He developed the vaccine in collaboration with researchers at a number of institutions.

Weissman and colleagues modified tiny strands of viral RNA that hold the genetic codes for making zika viral proteins. While RNA that’s simply injected into the body may be recognized as foreign by the immune system and swept away, the scientists developed a delivery system for the mRNA vaccine that allows it to slip unnoticed into cells, where the genetic machinery quietly makes viral proteins.

These harmless proteins enhance the immune system, so it is primed to recognize and destroy a zika infection, if one is encountered.

Weissman says everyone would be vaccinated against the virus in areas where zika is endemic.

A single shot of the vaccine protected mice and macaque monkeys for an extended period of time in an environment where they were exposed to zika, Weissman said.

“What we saw when we looked at both mice and macaques is that we could give a single dose and very low dose of modified RNA and get complete protection,” he said. “And in mice we looked out to five months, and the protection remained potent at five months after a single immunization.”

In monkeys, the vaccine has only been observed for five weeks, but the protection seems to be holding.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

Weissman’s vaccine was made from a zika virus strain isolated in a 2013 outbreak. The mosquito-borne illness has hit the hardest in Latin America, causing birth defects in the babies of pregnant women.

“So I think the great advantage is that unlike other vaccines described so far,” Weissman said, “you could go into a country or a region and give a single immunization and be done. So it doesn’t require any infrastructure to track down people that didn’t receive a second immunization. It doesn’t require a second immunization, so it’s going to be much easier and cheaper to vaccinate a large area.”

Weissman hopes to begin clinical trials of the mRNA vaccine within 18 months.

Pentagon gets exemptions
approved for military aides

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Pentagon says a list of exemptions to President Donald Trump's 90-day ban on immigration from seven countries identified by the White House as sources of terror will now include people who have aided the U.S. military from all of the targeted countries.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department would continue to make sure that nationals who have worked with us, most notably in Iraq but not exclusively in Iraq, have an ability to have their contributions to U.S. military operations reflected in this process.

On Monday, Capt. Davis told reporters the exemption list being compiled by the Pentagon was only for Iraqi nationals and not for those in the other nations affected by the ban: Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

The executive order, signed Friday afternoon, bans travelers from the seven countries from entering the United States for 90 days and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Capt. Davis said the Pentagon was pleased that the U.S. government had determined it was in the nation's interest to allow Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa holders to continue to travel to the United States. He added that American embassies and consulates overseas were continuing to process and issue Special Immigrant Visas to qualified applicants.

The Pentagon spokesman initially stated that the military had provided the White House with a list of names of Iraqi nationals who had helped U.S. forces in past and present fights.

Capt. Davis had to walk back those statements Thursday, explaining that the Pentagon was helping to identify categories of people rather than compiling a long list of names.

Pentagon officials have declined to comment on whether Secretary of Defense James Mattis asked for the exemptions, saying that the nature of his counsel to the president was private.

Among the concerns raised by the immigration ban is the fate of Iraqi pilots trying to enter the U.S. for training at U.S. bases. Capt. Davis restated Thursday that his understanding of the situation was that Iraqi pilots enter the U.S. on a different kind of visa that isn't affected by this executive order.

While highly unpopular overseas, the 90-day entry ban on citizens of seven countries is supported by roughly one-half of all Americans, according to polls, and is consistent with repeated promises made by Trump during his election campaign.

Trump and Australia show
complexity in refugee ban

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

“Do you believe it?” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted late Wednesday. “The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia.”

What Canberra and Washington agreed late last year had nothing to do with illegal immigrants though. Instead, it was another domestically contentious issue in the U.S. The previous administration agreed to take an undisclosed number of asylum-seekers intercepted at sea while trying to get to Australia by boat.

In other words, the U.S. would take in refugees from a longtime ally to help the ally out.

By some media accounts, the deal sparked a testy phone exchange Saturday between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a day after Trump suspended the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

Depending on who you talk to, accepting refugees might be considered a burden or a responsibility. It is always a negotiation, domestically and internationally: which countries will take in refugees permanently, and when, and from where.

When the U.S. takes in refugees, it telegraphs not only that the country is welcoming to those fleeing persecution, or upholding certain values, but also that the U.S. is showing solidarity with allies far more taxed by displaced people.

In the big picture of refugee resettlement, the U.S. has been a leader. The supply and the number of spaces allocated to the displaced Syrians, Burmese and Congolese who could not return home was never enough to meet the demand.

The United Nations refugee agency estimates there are more than 16 million refugees under its mandate.

Even at the most recent peak of American refugee resettlement in 2016, the U.S. took 0.4 percent of the total refugee population.

That is more than half of the population the U.N. recommended for resettlement. About 85,000 of roughly 150,000 refugees were placed permanently in so-called third countries like Costa Rica.

Eskinder Negash, former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, says that Trump’s ban is a failure of the guiding principles for refugee resettlement.

“What we're seeing now is the whole program is framed from a national security perspective. From my view, that doesn't take into account foreign policy or humanitarian concerns,” says Negash, himself a refugee from Eritrea who served under the Obama administration and is now with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

“When you take the whole executive order in its totality, it doesn't seem to be a national security concern. It seems to be some kind of political decision,” says Negash.

Australia resettles refugees through the U.N. system, but does not accept asylum claims of those arriving by sea. Those individuals are instead transferred to detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru. So when the U.S. agreed to take in 1,250 refugees, it was a gesture of support to a longtime ally.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that Trump does not like the deal, but out of respect for Turnbull, he's going to allow that process and continue to study it.

Beth Ferris, research professor at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration, believes the leadership role in resettlement has a wider impact. Pulling back on the program sets the tone for the countries sharing the largest numbers of refugees like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon who may see it as a signal that they can also scale back on their support to refugees.

She sees Trump's order as a blow to an imperfect but much-needed international system.

In a response from the Migration Policy Institute to the refugee program cuts, Kathleen Newland and T. Alexander Aleinikoff wrote that: “The United States' willingness to share the responsibility of providing solutions for refugees sends an important signal to allies and adversaries alike that U.S. policy stands firmly against persecution.”

“Critics of our humanitarian immigration policies will tell you that asylum is a gift, given to needy people because Americans are nice,” asylum lawyer Jason Dzubow said at an event organized for refugees in January, days ahead of the Inauguration. “And it's true that giving refuge to people fleeing persecution is the right thing to do but America did not create the asylum system to be nice.”

Sleep helps brains function,
according to Wisconsin study

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sleep is an enduring mystery and scientists continue to study its forms and its functions, and some new research shows sleep helps make us smarter.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison have found sleep helps improve brain function by shrinking synapses, the junctions between nerve cells.

Researcher Chiara Cirelli said the research team started with the hypothesis that humans sleep so that the brain can restore and recharge itself. She said the idea seems simple, elegant and logical, but testing it and discovering how it works has been incredibly difficult.

Ms. Cirelli and Giulio Tononi of the Wisconsin Center for Sleep and Consciousness have been trying to prove the "Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis" since they published a first version of it in 2003.

Ms. Cirelli said they began by literally, measuring the size of the synapses in the brain.

"There are 100 billion synapses in our brain," she said, “and we know that stronger synapses are also bigger."

They knew that during sleep the brain can sample all our synapses, and renormalize them in a smart way, comprehensive and balanced.

So they decided to see if that renormalization has a physical component, that is, are they bigger after being awake all day, and smaller after a good night's sleep.

Synapses are only about 20-40 nanometers wide, and the team looked for changes in these already tiny gaps between nerve cells. They had to wait until advances in electron microscopy made it possible to see these tiny changes.

A university press release said it was a massive undertaking, with many research specialists working for four years to photograph, reconstruct, and analyze two areas of cerebral cortex in the mouse brain. They were able to reconstruct 6,920 synapses and measure their size.

Ms. Cirelli says it is an incredibly painstaking process because all the actual measurements of the synapses, or what they call the segmentation, has to be done manually.

To make sure there was no bias, the team deliberately did not know whether they were analyzing the brain cells of a well-rested mouse or one that had been awake.

The result proved the hypothesis by finding a few hours of sleep led on average to an 18 percent decrease in the size of the synapses. "This shows, in unequivocal ultrastructural terms, the balance of synaptic size and strength is upset by wake and restored by sleep," Ms. Cirelli said.

Ms. Cirelli said what happens with sleep, is that salient and novel information is integrated within the body of knowledge, irrelevant details are forgotten, and new space is created for new memories to be formed the next day.

She says synapses shrink as brain cleans house, and we wake up refreshed and ready to fill up those synapses with new information.

The work gets more complex from here on by researching the effect lack of sleep has on synapses. The preliminary data says without sleep those synapses never shrink, and the concern is that if synapses continue to strengthen, they will saturate, and thus neurons, which use synapses to communicate, will start responding too often and too much, also to inappropriate stimuli.

In short, the noise in the brain will increase, at the expense of the real ”signal.”

The team is also interested in the possibility there could be other ways to help the brain sift through material, perhaps through meditation or other forms of quiet wakefulness. The research also holds out hope that could help people with chronic sleep disorders.

The team has already found one of possibly several molecules that make the synapses downsize. It's called Homer 1a, and is only present in the brain during sleep. If they can chart more of these molecules and discover how they get the synapses to shrink there could one day be a way to refresh the brain without the need for sleep.

The research findings are the culmination of more than a decade of work performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and is published in the journal Science.

Global hackathons breeds
an entrepreneurial spirit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Among all the applications on a mobile phone, there is a good chance a few were created by hackers at a hackathon.

With the advent of the digital age, anyone with a good idea and the ability to code can be considered to be a hacker, or someone who can produce innovations that were not possible before the internet.

Taking an innovative idea to the next level and ultimately forming a startup, takes a team of people with unique skills. Forming those teams often occurs at an event called a hackathon.

“A hacker is anyone who can take limited resources or be in any type of constraint, time constraint, resource constraint, knowledge constraint, and create something from nothing or something from very little,” explained Sabeen Ali, who considers herself a hacker.

Ms. Ali applied her ability to innovate to her company AngelHack, where it holds hackathons around the world. People with inventive ideas like hackers can attend, write computer programs and code together.

“Somebody who works in a larger organization nine-to-five, building the same app, day after day, can come and build that thing that’s been keeping them up at night. Or somebody like me, who’s an entrepreneur, who has this amazing idea," Ms. Ali said. "I know how to make money from it. I know all the customers and the clients, but I don’t have the tech resources to be able to put it together. I needed this type of outlet and support and forum."

AngelHack has organized hackathons in 92 cities globally where hackers form teams and compete for the best idea and product.

A winner from each event is mentored by AngelHack for 12 weeks. AngelHack coined the program as HACKcelerator, a play on the word accelerator, where startups work toward a goal in a short period of time.

Through virtual sessions, teams try to get funding and turn their innovations into startups and grow.

“Once they’ve launched, what we really want them to do is to keep getting traction, so that means getting more users. That means trying to get their word out there for their product,” said Adi Abili, who helps run the HACKcelerator program.

“Nobody in Sri Lanka has been exposed to something like this and we really grew as a team and as people these 12 weeks,” said Ravihans Wetakepotha of HypeHash.

The startup from Sri Lanka was one of the teams picked for AngelHack’s HACKcelerator program.

HypeHash, along with other top teams, were chosen for a trip to Silicon Valley, where they will stand in front of hundreds of investors to present their startup.

“We almost had a culture shock coming here and looking at this big, grown-up people’s startup ecosystem,” Wetakepotha said.

“The open collaborative environment is the defining feature, I think, of Silicon Valley itself, and that culture kind of seeps in the atmosphere and how everybody behaves even when you’re here. For any culture, we found that once people do become more collaborative and more open with whatever they’re working on, it improves their business and that translates globally,” Ms. Abili said.

Among the success stories: a team that raised $10 million, and two others acquired by Google.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 25
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Traffic mess expected at school openings

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bridge over the Río Virilla on the General Cañas autopista and detour routes can expect more school buses and student commuters in the coming days.

Monday will mark the start of classes again for the nation’s public schools and even some institutions of higher education.

Tecnológico de Costa Rica has set up bus service for its students.  The university had a main campus in Cartago and a satellite campus in San José.

The university has arranged bus service from Parque Juan Santamaría in Alajuela at 5:30 a.m. Monday thru Friday. The bus will be traveling using the exclusive lane available to public transportation on the bridge.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Educación Pública said it will allow students arriving late to class due to the road congestion generated by the bridge. The ministry said it believes the construction and traffic situation will impact around 31,000 students from 77 schools in the greater San José area.

To minimize the impact on attendance, the Conservatorio Castella and the Colegio Técnico Profesional Ulloa will begin classes on Thursday instead of Monday. Both schools are adjacent to the General Cañas autopista on which the bridge is located.

Education officials are also reaching out to the Consejo de Transporte Público to expedite the process of mass transport of students and also to encourage parents to utilize those services. The consejo is apparently offering a student transport permit, officials said.

The railway institute said that the Alajuela-San José route will add three more stops, Río Segundo, San Joaquín and San Francisco, to avoid congestion on the Heredia-San José line.

Casa Presidencial also announced that 840 more employees are working at home to avoid commuting. This brings the number of persons officially working from home to 1,882.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes closed the eastbound bridge lanes for six weeks for construction. The normally four-lane bridge is now just two restricted lanes.

Four held after Jacó vehicle break-in

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested four individuals for a string of thefts affecting tourists at beaches in Jacó Wednesday night.

According to the official report, members of the Departamento de Inteligencia Policial arrested three suspects. The leader was identified as a a Nicaraguan woman wanted in that country in Nicaragua. Officials said  she may be transferred to police in that country.

The suspects were apprehended in a car after an alert had been put out, police said.

Agents from the department had been monitoring the group since the Fiestas de Palmares last January, according to the report.

The official cause of arrest in this case was an apparent theft from a tourist vehicle. Items found on the suspects included jewelry valued at more than $5,000, police said.

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From Page 7:

Smoke-free Sunday program beginning again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José is continuing its smoke-free Sundays campaign beginning Feb. 12 along Paseo Colón.

This campaign originally began and continues to promote smoke-free spaces in the capital but has developed into a recreational time for families to improve their health with physical activities and a tobacco-free lifestyle. The series of Sunday activities also aims at reducing pollution and fumes from vehicles as well.

This will be the first year where organizers will include an area for dogs to join in, too, the municipality said. Attendees can also expect activities such as dance classes, sports, aerobics, physical therapy and cultural presentations, organizers said.

The Municipalidad de San José, the Comité de Cantonal de Deportes de San José, and the Ministerio de Salud are sponsoring the event. The Proyecto Domingos Familiares Sin Humo will continue through April 9, organizers said.