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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 25                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Country's best
tempts Japanese

Japanese coffee roasters were in Tarrazú over the weekend as local producers try to gain share in that country's market. The  Asocafé Tarrazú said some 20 microtoasters came to sample the local premium coffee. Disease and low prices have hit the coffee industry here, so producers said they were pleased with the response from the Japanese visitors.
Coffee tasting
Asocafé Tarrazú photo

Survey of liquid gas plants results in a grim report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An explosion at a small restaurant in Alajuela last month and subsequent news reports show that anything less than a pristine liquid petroleum gas container is a time bomb. Now regulators are pointing a finger at the firms that put the gas in those containers.

Regulators initiated inspections of 14 commercial gas
operations and found that all were less than adequate, they reported Monday.

The top plant, operated by Petrogás, received a so-so score of 71 percent, according to the report from the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios
gas tank
Públicos. A Gas Nacional Zeta plant received 67 percent, while a Tomza plant got 52 percent and a Solgas operation earned just 50 percent, it said.

The agency said investigators found a litany of deficiencies. The inspections were done by personnel from the Escuela de Ingeniería Química of the Universidad de Costa Rica. The grading was based on Central American and international standards, the agency said.

Any score under 80 percent is not considered acceptable, said the agency.

A universal failing was one of security, according to the summary released Monday. And it said there were persons performing sensitive work who were not certified to do so.

"These results confirm that from the filling of cylinders we have a big problem," said Juan Manuel Quesada of the agency's energy section. "The lack of adequate security measures puts in danger the lives of
hundreds of persons who work in these plants and in the vicinity. These companies have the responsibility to offer a quality and very secure public service that begins at their installations." He was quoted in the summary.

The Autoridad Reguladora said that the firms have five days to present a plan to correct the deficiencies.

Among other findings were that the bulk of the firms do not have sensors to detect gas leaks. Such devices would include alarms and warning lights. The inspectors also found metal pieces on the floor that could produce sparks. In addition, there were no systems to detect the residue that remains in cylinders at the point where they are filled. There is a possibility of water or some other contaminant there.

There also was a general failing to keep adequate records, said the agency.

The Autoridad Reguladora said that the firms should make more of an effort to provide information to the end consumer because this is where the bulk of the mishaps take place.  And the firms should locate their plants well away from, neighbors, the agency said.

Three persons have died from the Jan. 21 explosion in Barrio El Carmen, Alajuela. Others, including a child, remain hospitalized from burns. Fire fighters blamed the explosion and fire on a ruptured gas tank. Judicial agents later detained the gas supplier and said that he had in his possession tanks with dents and rust.

Liquid petroleum gas is used widely as a cooking fuel in both homes and restaurants. Costa Rica does not have gas lines in the streets.

Expats have also been warned that the best connectors for the tanks are the screw varieties.

There also are snap-on connections, but these are less secure and have to be checked closely, fire fighters have said.

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Women's Club plans gatherings
in Heredia and Ciudad Colón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of Costa Rica's oldest service organizations, the Women's Club of Costa Rica, is hosting two events to bring together women of different backgrounds who share the same goal of philanthropy.

The first is a morning of Tai Chi and coffee at Taoist Tai Chi Center in Heredia Monday. The other is a wine and cheese afternoon in Ciudad Colón Feb. 16.

The Women's Club of Costa Rica has been helping communities since 1940, providing scholarships to young children and creating public school libraries.  It is composed of more than 250 English-speaking women from around the world.

With the motto Friendship through Service, they have donated $250,000 to community service projects, including the first mammogram machine in Costa Rica, said Linda Manoll, second vice president.
“For the past 40 years, we've supported hundreds of scholarships for economically disadvantaged high school students in rural areas and post-secondary and university students.   We've created dozens of libraries and provided hundreds of sets of textbooks for students in public elementary schools,” she said.

All work is done by volunteers from their homes, and the club doesn't have any operational costs.

The activities next week are all designed for women in the neighborhood to meet and interact with each other and are open to the public.  Those who want more information can email or visit the Web site at . Those specifically interested in the Tai Chi can call 2268-3748.  Information on the cheese event is available at 8369-7992.

Former Clarion resurrected
as hotel-casino Mona Lisa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José added a new hotel last week with a soft opening of Mona Lisa Thursday.

Mona Lisa is the former Clarion hotel in Barrio Amón.  After the business went to default, it was bought by Iowa attorney and businessman Tom Lustgraaf.  He then brought his brother Walt Lustgraaf to help. 

Lustgraaf has owned restaurants and worked with casinos in Iowa. Upon hearing about the opportunity in San José, he sold his business and made the investment, he said.

Along with the staff of General Manager George Jannie and Guest Services Manager Guy Grand, the men worked for a year to remodel the 93-room hotel.

The rooms at the Clarion were styled after American hotels and were built spacious with large bathrooms, Grand said.  The Mona Lisa kept these rooms and offers rooms with either double beds or a king bed and suites for a special rate.

The new hotel also includes a renovated 8,000 square foot casino and restaurant, cigar shop, coffee shop and tour agency.  It is the plan to add a pharmacy and an upstairs club area for those who buy memberships.

“We want it to be all inclusive, whatever anyone needs in this one place,” said Grand.

The Mona Lisa is at Avenida 11 and Calle 3 bis.

Municipal workers to tackle
informal garbage dump

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomorrow at 6 a.m. crews from the Municipalidad de San José will head to the community in Nietos de Carazo- Hatillo with heavy machinery to clean up a lot that the locals have turned into an open dump.

The lot, which is near the Alajuelita traffic circle, was also being used to extract copper wires which is proving to have effects on the breathing of persons in the neighborhood, the municipality said. Vagrants burn off the insulation to get to the copper.

This will be the second time municipal workers have cleaned the area.  They cleared 73 tons of garbage Dec. 17.  The effort cost the city more than 1 million colons to complete, according to spokespersons.

The situation has since worsened, they said, and authorities have called for another cleaning followed by the addition of barriers to close the area.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
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Lawmakers briefed on genetically modified corn plants
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Gloria Abraham, the minister of Agricultura, defended genetically modified corn at the legislature Monday. She brought along some experts.

She told lawmakers, principally members of the Partido Liberación Nacional, that Costa Rica has had genetically modified crops for 20 years.  Also there was Alex May, president of the Comisión Nacional de Bioseguridad.

Genetically modified crops are in the news because a Monsanto subsidiary here wants to plant in Chomes a small trial patch of a strain of corn the firm has developed. The grain would be exported. Environmentalists are strongly opposed.

A chart presented at the legislative visit showed that  genetically modified soybeans have been grown in the country since 1991. There also was genetically modified corn planted then and seven times to 2001. Genetically modified cotton has been planted since 1991. In 2012 there were 281 hectares of genetically modified cotton. There also are genetically modified banana plants and pineapple plantings, although on a very small scale. There was but one hectare of modified bananas in 2012, and just 5.2 hectares of modified pineapple, according to the ministry's figures.

Other data showed that Costa Rica is strongly dependent on imports for its corn. In 2012 Costa Rica imported 416,541 tons of yellow corn and 12,799 tons of white corn to meet a national demand of 447,720 tons.

DPL Semillas Ltda. is the Monsanto subsidiary.

The biosecurity commission has approved the request by DPL Semillas, but opponents are taking the decision to the Sala IV constitutional court.

Lawmakers were told that there are six pieces of legislation on the books that provide the framework for such projects in Costa Rica and that some adjustments might be needed to meet modern needs.

In addition they were told that there has never been a case of genetically modified corn causing health problems.

Most of the corn grown in Costa Rica is by small producers
corn ear
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
 Young ear of corn still needs a few weeks on the plant for
 eating and more time after that to be harvested as grain.

with plots of some 2.5 to 12 hectares, lawmakers were told. One hectare is 2.47 acres. Typically corn is planted in December during what is known as the Costa Rican summer or dry season.

Genetic modifications are seen in some quarters as a way to make the next big advance in feeding the world. But the concept also has generated fears and opposition. Environmentalists here say that the genetically modified corn might pollute the gnome of Costa Rica's corn. They also oppose the idea that farmers should purchase hybrid seeds each year instead of planting seeds from the prior year's crops. The more modern hybrids do not breed true.

Loss of mangroves seen as invitation to erosion in Guyana
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A French study shows that the country of Guyana is facing likely massive erosion because it has lost the bulk of its coastal mangroves.

The situation is important to Costa Rica where coastal development has endangered mangroves but not yet to the extent that has happened in the South American country.

Environmental officials have repeatedly pointed out the damage to mangroves on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica and along the Caribbean.

A study conducted by IRD researchers and the University of Aix-Marseille reported that the reduced protection provided by mangroves against the ocean swell in Guyana will lead to the large-scale erosion of 370 kilometers (230 miles) of the country's coastline.
The French agency for inter-institutional development research said that the worldwide mangrove forest area has been reduced by 30 percent over 20 years, mainly due to the rising sea level.

The mangrove forests in the Guyanas (French Guiana, Surinam and Guyana), which spread across the Orinoco and Amazon deltas, are among the most extensive in the world, it noted. This particular ecosystem, between the earth and the sea, plays a major role in protecting the particularly unstable muddy coastline against erosion. However, most of the Guyana mangroves have been destroyed to develop the coastal plain, it noted.

The retreating mangrove wall will result in large-scale coastal erosion, threatening populations and their economic activities, as demonstrated in this study, the agency said, adding that more than three quarters of Guyana's 450 kilometers (about 280 miles) of coastline along the Atlantic are currently diked up. Coastal stability now depends on these earthen dikes, it said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 25
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Latin American economies are becoming  economic leaders
By Mark Benson*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Since the U.S.-led credit crunch of 2008 the worldwide economy has been fairly volatile and, indeed, Europe has been subjected to a double dip recession. The U.S. authorities seem unable to agree on a long-term financial strategy.  The U.S. government debt ceiling has not been increased permanently and within Europe there is infighting among European members.

In many ways this has played into the hands of Latin America where an array of countries have benefited, shown exceptional financial planning and attracted significant investment from North America, Europe and the Far East.

Can the Latin American economic boom continue?

Many countries across Latin America are forecast to show economic growth of around 4 percent or above during 2013 which is exceptional compared to Europe and North America where many countries are struggling to maintain positive growth. Brazil is leading the charge. México is increasing its influence on the worldwide trading arena, and even countries such as Costa Rica have played their part. But can this boom continue?

It seems almost certain that this ongoing economic boom will continue at least while Europe and North America continue to struggle. Exports are up, economies are growing, unemployment is under control and the standard of living for many people in Latin America is better than they have ever seen. It is fair to say that Latin America is seen by many people as something of a safe haven with regards to investment, and the growing wealth of the local population has not gone unnoticed.

Costa Rica is expected to grow by 4 percent, as forecast by the World Bank, during 2013 although behind-the-scenes this is a reduction on the original 4.8 percent forecast by the Banco Central. There is a similar trimming of economic forecasts elsewhere. While this does not signal the end of the economic boom, it is worth noting.

The Costa Rica authorities have been very quick to realize that investment by foreign companies is all good and well for the domestic economy, but this has led to a significant strengthening of the local currency. The higher this currency moves, the less competitive Costa Rica is on the international trading arena which could, if left unattended, lead to a slowdown in economic growth.

The Banco Central has already put in place some regulations, and the executive branch has proposed legislation to limit foreign investment in the short- to medium-term.  This should at worst check the ongoing strength of the currency and at best lead to a reduction in exchange rates.

This is a scenario which is likely to be replicated across Latin America and is one of which governments need to be fully aware. The problem is that by reducing foreign investment this could place pressure upon domestic economic growth in the short term, but allowing overseas investment to continue at current rates could push the currency exchange rate higher and slow exports. This is a delicate balancing act by any stretch of the imagination.

Historically inflation has been the monster haunting Latin America and has on a number of occasions been the catalyst for economic collapse. Over the last few years, since the collapse of Brazil in the 1990s, inflation has been very much under control and is still relatively stable today. However, as standards of living improve, household wealth increases and disposable incomes reach levels not seen for many years more .

pressure could be put on services and products pushing inflation higher

This then gives the authorities a quandary. In order to combat inflation, they would probably need to increase interest rates although this would reduce the amount of credit available to consumers and could lead to a slowdown in spending. On the other hand, if governments around Latin America see their economies weakening in the short- to medium-term they could reduce base rates, make consumer credit more available at better rates but this would feed the monster that is inflation.

Many European governments have had this quandary on numerous occasions in the past. While some have handled the
situation very well, others have struggled. The consensus is that Latin America will maintain this growth path in the short- to medium-term and will in the longer term become an economic powerhouse. Brazil is heading towards the higher echelons of economies around the world.  México was recently confirmed as the 10th largest economy in the world and more growth is expected across the region.

The economic prosperity of Latin America is not necessarily at risk at this moment, although governments need to be aware of the double risk of a slowdown in economic growth and the monster which is inflation. Tackling these two issues will need kid gloves, will be something of a balancing act and may take some time to perfect.

The region as a whole is now far stronger as an economic area than it ever has been, more and more trade agreements are being negotiated with overseas partners, and many people believe that Latin America will soon be challenging Europe as one of the leading economic regions of the world.

Massive progress has been made since the early 1990s when Brazil was on the verge of bankruptcy. The area has managed to avoid the worst of the worldwide economic downturn experienced since the 2008 U.S. credit crunch, and the standard of living for many people in the region has increased dramatically. There may be some tricky periods ahead for Latin American governments, but they have shown themselves to be more proactive than reactive which bodes well for the future.

*Provided by the Latin America Forum

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Kerry stresses rights
as he begins his job

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has begun work as America's top diplomat. On his first day in office, he stressed the need to protect universal human rights.

Arriving the first day on his new job, Kerry told State Department employees he will continue President Barack Obama's push to make the world a safer place.
"This president's vision, and what he has implemented through your efforts over the course of the last years without any question, has restored America's reputation and place in the world," Kerry said.

He said that reputation can help empower people.
"We get to try to make peace in the world, a world where there is far too much conflict, far too much killing. There are alternatives," Kerry said. "We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease. We get to try to empower people with human rights. We get to speak to those who have no voice."
Human rights were a focus of President Obama's first term, including stopping violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Sarah Margon says Kerry can do more.
"I'd like to see in the next Obama administration it become an even more central tenet particularly on some of the central national security issues that the administration is going to have to address," Kerry said.
On the Middle East, Kerry has already phoned Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas making a personal commitment to pursue peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Kerry also telephoned the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea. He assured them that North Korea should understand it will face significant consequences if it continues "provocative" missile tests.
Speaking to the department's employees, Kerry addressed the sacrifices made by those killed in September at the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
"The dangers could not be more clear. We are reminded by the stars and names on the wall," Kerry noted. "And we are particularly reminded by Chris Stevens and Glen Dougherty, and Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith."
Cato Institute analyst Malou Innocent says Kerry has big challenges in Libya.
"It's very difficult to transition from a state-building operation to a nation-building operation, the sense of creating a cohesive Libyan identity.  That's something that Gadhafi exploited to his benefit. He ruled by divide-and-rule, of course.   So moving forward we are still going to see a degree of chaos in Libya even as it has a veneer of sort of a Western democracy," he said.
Kerry joked about succeeding two women -- Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. He told diplomats he has "big heels to fill."

U.S. Postal Service issues
stamp honoring Rosa Parks

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Postal Service has issued a special Rosa Parks stamp to commemorate the 100th birthday of the late civil rights icon who helped end racial segregation in the United States.

The stamp shows an artist's depiction of a 1950s-era photo of Parks, who was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus.

At the time, blacks were treated as second-class citizens and regularly faced racism, discrimination and violence simply because of the color of their skin.
Ms. Parks' arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system, nearly crippling the service because a majority of its riders were black.

The protest had more wide-ranging effects, too. It helped bring prominence to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who went on to become one of the country's most outspoken advocates of racial equality and civil rights.

The boycott ended when the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation in 1956 and ordered the southern city to integrate its buses.

Of her historic decision to refuse to move to the back of the bus, where other black riders sat, Ms. Parks later said, "All I was doing was trying to get home from work."

The soft-spoken but feisty activist died in 2005 at the age of 92, becoming the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

China and Russia get blame
for cyber attacks in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Three US news organizations, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, say Chinese hackers have infiltrated their company's computers to track their coverage of China.  Some experts say this has been an on-going problem for more than five years. These cyber attacks are different than most because of the danger to individuals.

But the use of news media can also provide an opening for hackers who want to know what reporters are covering and who's giving them information.

These newspapers are not alone. Experts think nearly every media outlet has been attacked. They either don't know it or don't report it. Hacking hits at the Voice of America.

VOA's Tibetan service broadcasts four TV shows a week and five radio shows a day.  Bureau Chief Losang Gyatso says his people confront hackers daily.

"We basically don't keep any of our contact information from our sources on our computers.  We are very careful.  We have shields and filters on all of our hard drives,"Gyatso said.

" is the Tibetan government in exile, so that address has been stolen, basically."

Gyatso says, like with the U.S. newspapers, hacking has been traced to China. 

Alan Paller has trained 145,000 cybersecurity experts around the world.  He says more than 100 countries are involved in cyber espionage.

"China is noisier, meaning their techniques are often easier to find so they get caught a lot and so you read a lot of stories about them.  But the Russians are just as prolific and much more clandestine."

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Start of school Wednesday
is challenge for police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The start of the public school year always is one of confusion, traffic jams, crying kindergartners and even a few weeping mothers.

Wednesday will be no different as traffic police, Fuerza Pública officers and others try to keep the youngsters safe. There even will be police dogs out to sniff out contraband.

More than 3,000 police officers will be involved in school security throughout the year, said the Fuerza Pública Monday. Among other duties they will be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.

There also are the presentations that the police make in the schools. The anti-drug DARE program is one of these. Police said they expect to reach 112,000 youngsters with the program this year. Some 40,000 more will be briefed on personal security.

If the coming school year is like the last one, police expect to make about 800 entries into schools in search of drugs, they said.

Soccer fans follow team
to crucial game in Panamá

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

About 1,500 persons, most of them soccer fans, passed from Costa Rica to Panamá Monday. A similar exodus is expected today because the Costa Rican national soccer team plays Panamá Wednesday.

This is a big deal in sports because this is one of the games that counts in determining which teams will participate in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Costa Ricans who fly into the Tocumen international airport will have the benefit of that country's program of free medial insurance for tourists.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said that the border crossing at Paso Canoas would be open from 3 a.m. until midnight after the game and through Friday to accommodate sports fans who are returning to Costa Rica.

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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

Chili cookoff
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 25
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Global soccer scandal hurts sport

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of soccer matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world's most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.

About 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.

"This is a sad day for European football," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "This is now an integrity issue for football. Those responsible for running the games should hear the warnings."

The world's most popular sport, soccer is played on every continent. The World Cup and Europe's Champions League are beamed worldwide and generate billions of dollars for national associations, clubs and broadcasters.

Top players such as Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese international who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid, are household names.

The matches in question, some of which have already been subject to successful criminal prosecutions, were played between 2008 and 2011, the investigators said. About 380 of the suspicious matches were played in Europe, and a further 300 were identified in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Corruption linked to Asian betting syndicates and organized crime has long been seen as a threat to the game, but Monday's announcement underlines the scale of the problem.

Ralf Mutschke, director of security for world soccer's governing body FIFA, said sports bodies and prosecutors needed to work more closely together.

"The support of law enforcement bodies, legal investigations, and ultimately tougher sanctions are required, as currently there is low risk and high gain potential for the fixers," said Mutschke, a German former police officer.

Criminal gangs are believed to be involved in match-fixing networks, using them as a way to launder cash. Last year the head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that $1 trillion was gambled on sports each year or $3 billion a day with most coming from Asia and wagered on soccer matches.

A German investigator described a network involving couriers ferrying bribes around the world, paying off players and referees in the fixing which involved about 425 corrupt officials, players and serious criminals in 15 countries.

"We have evidence for 150 of these cases, and the operations were run out of Singapore with bribes of up to 100,000 euros paid per match," said Friedhelm Althans, chief investigator for police in the German city of Bochum.

Singapore police said last month that they were helping Italian authorities to investigate alleged soccer match fixing involving a Singaporean, but said he had not been arrested or charged with any offense there.

German investigators said international matches were implicated as were games in Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Slovenia and Canada. Suspicious games had also been identified in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Fourteen people have already been convicted in Germany in connection with the investigation.

Austrian prosecutors are investigating 20 people, including players, on suspicion of fraud and money laundering linked to fixing and betting on soccer matches, a spokesman for prosecutors in the city of Graz said.

Investigators said no names of players or clubs would be released while the investigation proceeded. However, the fixing also included top flight national league matches in several European countries, as well as two Champions League matches, including one played in Britain.

UEFA, European soccer's governing body, said it expected to receive further information from Europol in the coming days.

"As part of the fight against the manipulation of matches, UEFA is already cooperating with the authorities on these serious matters as part of its zero tolerance policy towards match-fixing in our sport," it added.

England's Football Association said it was not aware of any credible reports into suspicious Champions League fixtures in England.

Soccer has been affected by bribery scandals in the past, with the English game suffering in the 1960s and Italian soccer hit by a series of fixing cases in recent years.

The growth of televised sport and technology that allows gamblers to bet during a match have created fresh opportunities for fraudsters with links to organized crime.

Corruption goes beyond soccer. Three Pakistani international cricketers were jailed in Britain in 2011 for their part in a  scam where players agree to rig a specific part of a game, so-called spot fixing.

Althans said that while German police had concrete proof of 8 million euros ($11 million) in gambling profits from the match fixing, this was probably the tip of the iceberg.

Investigators described how gang members immediately subordinate to the Singapore-based leader of a worldwide network were each tasked with maintaining contacts with corrupt players and officials in their parts of the world.

Laszlo Angeli, a Hungarian prosecutor, gave an example of how the scam worked. "The Hungarian member, who was immediately below the Singapore head, was in touch with Hungarian referees who could then attempt to swing matches at which they officiated around the world," he said.

Accomplices would then place bets on the Internet or by phone with bookmakers in Asia, where bets that would be illegal in Europe were accepted. "One fixed match might involve up to 50 suspects in 10 countries on separate continents," said Althans.

"Even two World Cup qualification matches in Africa, and one in Central America, are under suspicion," Althans added.

Obama travels to promote gun bans

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama traveled to the northern U.S. city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Monday to press his case for strengthened gun control laws. Obama says Americans are demanding action.

Obama chose Minneapolis for his first trip outside of Washington to campaign for proposals that include a new ban on military-style assault weapons, and universal background checks for all gun purchases.

Leaders in the city have taken steps to reduce gun violence.

At the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, Obama sat down with community leaders to hear their ideas and discuss what they have accomplished.  

One of them was Police Chief Janee Harteau who recalled the toll from gang violence, including the shooting death of a 5-year-old child.

"On a regular basis we see gun violence between rival gangs with several shootings happening just blocks from here.  And in the last 13 months we have seen horrific incidents right in this neighborhood that have shocked our community to the core," Chief Harteau said.

Obama noted that measures taken in Minneapolis had reduced the number of young people wounded by guns by 40 percent.

"We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting.  No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there is even one thing we can do, if there is just one life we can save, we have got an obligation to try," Obama said.

Obama also is pushing for restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips, increased funding for mental health and school security, and lifting restrictions preventing federal government studies of causes of gun violence.

Despite national horror from the recent shooting of young schoolchildren and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, supporters of strengthening gun laws face fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association, the largest gun owner lobbying group.

On Capitol Hill, new assault weapons ban and ammunition magazine legislation face an uncertain fate. 
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