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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 27                Email us
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Jo Stuart

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More taxes are considered for future legislation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Slowly the Laura Chinchilla administration is moving to raise bit by bit taxes that could not be approved in one large package.

A legislative committee is studying changes to the law now, and the administration's top financial minister let the cat of of the bag Wednesday. He told a local radio station that just about anything could be subjected to taxes.

Among these items are the annual Christmas bonus workers receive from employers, those large lottery prizes and a special kind of savings account, called salario escolar, that helps parents pay for the expenses of the new school year.   None is taxed now.

The administration already has included all but basic food items in the sales tax. Many such items, like t-bone steak, had been exempt at the cash register.

How about a capital gains tax?

Expats already have seen increased taxes. The first full year of taxes on corporations was due Jan. 31. That is supposed to give more resources to the police.

Then there is the luxury home tax that went into effect Oct. 1, 2009, during the Óscar Arias Sánchez administration. Many expats struggle with trying to figure if their home is subject to the tax. The proceed are supposed to eliminate slums.

This year, expats and Costa Ricans who have maritime concessions are struggling with major increases in the annual canon or tax there. And those who have homes elsewhere were supposed to report their estimated new assessments to the municipality by the end of the year. Higher assessments will mean more taxes.

But that is just the start. Édgar Ayales Esna, the minister of Hacienda told ADN news that a bill calling for many more taxes would be presented within a year.  Basically he said everything is on the table.

Perhaps sensing the future, the country's business chamber came out to support a value-added tax Tuesday. Such a levy on every stage of production provides a good way for tax officials to catch evaders. But the value-added tax also is a windfall for governments because they generate much more revenue.

Recently there have been $1 and $2 increases in the exit tax at airports and also a tax levied on casinos that is being appealed.

The original Chinchilla administration proposals called for taxes on passive income like rents and interest. Medicine also would have been taxed, and

the property transfer tax would have been doubled. Also proposed was a tax on the services of professionals like lawyers, physicians and dentists. There also was a plan to tax private schools tuition and private medical care.

The bulk of the nation's lawmakers supported the Chinchilla administration proposals. The bill died only because the Sala IV constitutional court questioned the procedures, not the content.

So now little by little these concepts are surfacing again.

Costa Rica is in much the same situation as the United States with a growing national debt, continual annual deficits and lawmakers and presidents who fail to put forth serious measures to stem the hemorrhaging. For example, a legislative committee Wednesday afternoon approved a bill that would create a fund to provide loans so some middle-class workers could buy homes. Although the bulk of the money would come from lending forced on banks, there is a clause allowing the input of public money.

Ayales was at the legislature Wednesday to promote the administration's plan to levy a 30 percent tax on so-called speculative capital. The law says that only non-residents would pay the tax on short-term investments. The Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios approved a substitute text of the bill. It gives broad authority to the Banco Central to force investors to keep their money here longer or to levy a tax.

The stated purpose of the plan was to support the colon against a large influx of dollars put here because Costa Rica has a relatively high rate of interest. Those who send money out of the country already are supposed to pay an 8 percent assessment to cover future income tax, but hardly anyone does.

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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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Our readers' opinions
Capital gains tax proposed
for those real estate windfalls

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
After having lived in Costa Rica for a total of eight years, it amazes me that no one has proposed a capital gains tax on real estate.  I am not sure if a study has been done, but I have seen astronomical gains in land values in the Central Valley and watched as former coffee lands were sold off for development for millions and the sellers becoming quite wealthy and not paying a dime in taxes on these sales.   

It is quite clear that President Laura Chinchilla is typical of her predecessors. She serves her masters well, as she has not been able to or is not willing to convince the wealthy in Costa Rica that comprehensive serious tax reform is needed which would include capital gains taxes and universal taxation (so that Ticos' investments worldwide are taxed locally as well with certain exemptions allowed).   VAT, or Value Added Taxes, are a regressive type of taxation that only penalize the poor and working class as the percentage they pay for finished goods represents a much higher percentage of their take home pay than for the wealthy when they purchase the same goods.
In August of 2006, Costa Rica awarded a Mexican subsidiary of an American corporation, Bearing Point, a $26 million contract to modernize the national tax system.  With just a quick Internet search, it was quite obvious that Bearing Point had their own financial and legal problems in the United States.  In fact, in just the first quarter alone for 2007, the company lost $61.7 million. I prepared a dossier on this corporation's background prior to this contract being awarded.  I took this report to a town hall meeting where a high official in the Arias administration was speaking.  

When the meeting was over, I approached this official and explained that Bearing Point was expanding into Latin America because of problems at home and that the government was taking a risk doing business with them.  This official was skeptical of my motivations and had me deliver my report to his assistant.  The contract was awarded with great fanfare. In February of 2009,  the corporation Bearing Point filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and emerged out of bankruptcy as a partnership.
Because of non-performance, the contract between Costa Rica and Bearing Point was terminated by the Ticos in May of 2010, and Costa Rica lost $17.8 million.  One report stated that it will cost an additional $34 million to finish the project.   The case ended up in litigation.
I think the problems to Costa Rica's national debt are complex, but the larger problem is that the rich or soon-to-be rich politicians in the assembly are more interested in getting wealthy than taxing their own.  Their own greediness is leading to the serious social and economic inequalities in the country, more crime and hopelessness and more and more private security and walls surrounding the rich.  Unless they take a hard look at this issue, this unorganized random violence could eventually manifest itself into a serious threat against the established order.
Seth Derish

Editor's Note: Derish runs a private investigations firm in California and in Costa Rica.

Baby boomers' maladies
are function of their diet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This study from yesterday's article is no surprise.  I am a baby boomer and see how most of the baby boomers I know have one or more of the problems that were mentioned in the article.  As

mentioned, "baby boomers have higher levels of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and higher rates of disability than their parents."  I would say a main factor is diet.  It seems quite obvious.  Most baby boomers have been eating more packaged processed food with so many artificial ingredients that our parents never consumed until their later years. 

More additives occur in the daily diet of most baby boomers including the meats they are eating.  All the antibiotics and hormones fed to livestock is passed on to the consumer.  Many fish have high levels of mercury and other heavy metals.

Unnatural preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, MSG and additional salt are all part of the problem.  Until the baby boomers decide to change their eating habits, they will continue to suffer from the above mentioned infirmities.  I have only been sick once in the past 15 years and that was from dengue. I also have only been to a doctor once in that time.  That was because I needed 25 stitches behind my knee from an accident I had. 

I feel my diet and lifestyle play an important role in my health.  I am a vegetarian and eat very little packaged foods and add no salt to anything I eat.  I consider my diet as my medicine.  Funny how some people tell me I must be missing out with the way I eat.  I don't feel that at all.  It is just a different way at looking at things. 

I also hear the argument that people are living longer so it couldn't be diet.  We are living longer because of breakthroughs in treatments for ailments.  That doesn't always make quality of life better though.
Henry Kantrowitz
Punta Leona

Women's Club corrects article

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for reporting on the two neighborhood meetings planned by the Women's Club of Costa Rica.

May I request that you make a correction: Your article said that we've contributed $250,000 to Costa Rica.  That figure is for the last five years only. We've been working in Costa Rica for 73 years and have contributed many hundreds of thousands of dollars during that time. The donations include scholarships, libraries, textbooks and other tangible items.

Linda Manoll
Women's Club of Costa Rica

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
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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on arcvhied pages.

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From A.M. Costa Rica

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                Rey Hotel

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 27
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Central American sports games will be inaugurated March 3
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Olympic games may be over, but Costa Rica is gearing up for Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos set to begin March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Estadio Nacional in Parque la Sabana.

True to the Olympic style, runners will pass a torch through the country.  Panamá will transfer the flame to Costa Rica at the Paso Canoas border.  Panamá hosted the last games.

From the border, the torch will tour the nation going through Pérez Zeledón, Puntarenas, Liberia, San Carlos, Pococí, Limón, Cartago, Tarrazú, San Ramón, Alajuela, Heredia, Goicochea, and the San José neighborhoods of El Carmen, Zapote, San Francisco, Hospital, San Sebastian, Hatillo, Pavas, Uruca, Merced and Catedral.

The destination will be the national stadium at 7 p.m. for the lighting of the caldron at the opening ceremony.  More than 4,000 athletes from around Central America will also walk the track, before they make history and win medals at the 10th games.

The theme of the games, will be the phrase that many Costa Ricans use as second nature, Pura Vida.  To natives it means
 more than just pure life, but is a response that symbolizes the laid back Tico culture that makes the best of everything.

It is a phrase that recognizes us in any part of the world, said Jorge Villalobos of the organizing committee.

The entire spectacle will cost the country $1.5 million. In total 1,410 artists will participate, including a performance by Debi Nova.  Ms. Nova is a singer-songwriter and dancer from Escazú.  She has worked with artists such as Ricky Martin, Brittany Spears,  and Boney James.

Also on the stage will be the Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil, Humberto Vargas, winner of the festival Viña del Mar, Maribel Guardia and the soprano Sofía Corrales.  The producer of the games will be the artist Delia Piccirilli, and Alfonso Gallego will be project manager. Marcela Aguilar will be the coordinator of the choreography and Horacio Prado the costume designer, said a release.

Tickets for the inauguration vary from $30 to $50 depending on stadium location.  Persons who use Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica cards to buy tickets receive up to a $5 discount.   

Those who wish can buy them online at

Expats and medical tourists should do their homework first
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Never does the phrase "you get what you pay for" apply more strongly than in seeking medical care in Costa Rica.

A medical tourist who looks only to price, is bound to have troubles. Some of them can be very serious.

Costa Rica has a range of medical practitioners. Some are graduates of prestigious U.S. and European universities and medical schools. Others have the equivalent of a four-year undergraduate education at a Costa Rican school.

The term banana docs is thrown at graduates of Latin American institutions because they have not completed the many years of study and internships required in First World countries.  That really is unfair because there are some Costa Rica-educated physicians and surgeons who are highly respected and highly capable. Some Cuban-educated physicians are among the world's best.

Yet there are continual claims of students failing to study and then buying a passing grade.

The main point is that the medical tourist and even expats have to shop around.

The same is true for dentists. Most First World visitors would be surprised to see an unlicensed individual practicing dentistry out of his garage. But they do. On the other end of the spectrum are highly sophisticated operations with the most modern equipment.

The medical tourist must have some knowledge that enforcement of medical laws is not as rigorous here as, say, in the United States.

There have been serious problems. A recent Spanish-language newspaper exposé pointed out that there are no rules to prevent a holder of a four-year undergraduate medical degree from doing the most complex operations.

There also has been a recent criminal action against a physician on the allegation that she contributed to the death  of a judge, a liposuction patient, by putting her under anesthesia too long. The doctor maintains a surgery operation in a converted house.

Another allegation launched by a former top model is that a physician injected damaging material into her buttock. The press conference included photos of both cheeks of the woman's buttock being heavily damaged and full of dead flesh.

Although accidents can happen in the best medical facilities, would-be visitors should look to the local professional associations first to make sure the persons to whom they are talking to are members. These associations are legally
La Extra
 El Diario Extra played the story about the liposuction
 death of a judge as the top story of the d

constituted by the legislature, and membership is obligatory for physicians and dentists.

They are called colegios, but are certainly not colleges in the sense of undergraduate education. These organizations also arbitrate complaints. If a professional is ejected, he or she is barred by the law from working in their field.

A search engine of physicians and surgeons is HERE.

The dental colegio is HERE!

Also possible is for a potential patent to make a call to the appropriate colegio.

A good start for those in need of medical care is the professional advertisements in reputable newspapers and in this publication. A.M. Costa Rica has never had a valid complaint about the medical care given by an advertiser. This newspaper also publishes news stories about complaints from patients who believe they have been mistreated by medical workers. An Internet search also will turn up a person with a history of problems.

Then the visitor or resident expat should check to see if the professional has had international advanced training in various specialties. Such information usually is available on the individual's Web site and can be crossed checked with the international crediting agency.

The major hospitals here also provide a list of professionals on their staffs and the specialities. This is a good recommendation.

Those who travel to Costa Rica need to be aware that some agencies and individuals promote various professionals because they are getting a commission. That is not unethical, but the fact adds another dimension to evaluating the professional.

Finally, expats and medical tourists should be aware that there is little chance for malpractice suits. The professions stick together and the court system is highly challenging.

Del Rey Hotel

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 27
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Neutral conditions in the Pacific make forecasts more difficult
By the Jet Propulsion Laboratory news service

Sea-surface height data from NASA's Jason-2 satellite show that the equatorial Pacific Ocean is still locked in what some call a neutral, or "La Nada" state. This condition follows two years of strong, cool-water La Nina events.

A new image, based on the average of 10 days of data centered on Jan. 26 shows near-normal conditions  across the equatorial Pacific.

This latest image highlights the processes that occur on time scales of more than a year, but usually less than 10 years, such as El Niño and La Niña. These processes are known as the interannual ocean signal. To show that signal, scientists refined data for this image by removing trends over the past 20 years, seasonal variations and time-averaged signals of large-scale ocean circulation.

The height of the water relates, in part, to its temperature, and thus is an indicator of the amount of heat stored in the ocean below. As the ocean warms, its level rises. As it cools, its level falls. Yellow and red areas indicate where the waters are relatively warmer and have expanded above normal sea level, while green indicates near-normal sea level, and blue and purple areas show where the waters are relatively colder and sea level is lower than normal. Above-normal height variations along the equatorial Pacific indicate warm El Niño conditions, while below-normal height variations indicate cold La Niña conditions. The temperature of the upper ocean can have a significant influence on weather patterns and climate.

"This past spring, after two years of La Niña, the expected El Niño was a no-show," says Bill Patzert, climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "La Niña faded and La Nada conditions locked in."

"This absence of El Niño and La Niña, termed neutra' by some, has left long-range climate forecasters adrift," Patzert added. "Seasonal, long-range forecasting works best when signals like El Niño and La Niña are strong." Patzert calls the present condition La Nada because the word neutral misleadingly implies to some that weather will be normal.
La Nada
NASA-JPL/Caltech photo
 Near normal sea level depicted in green in this graphic
 shows that this is the general condition.

"For me normal is the cycle on a washing machine," Patzert said. "I never say the word normal when it comes to winter weather in the American West. For instance, in the last 100 years, we've only had a total of six normal years of rainfall in Los Angeles, meaning about 15 inches of rain per winter in downtown L.A. Historically, La Nadas have delivered both the wettest and driest winters on record. For long-range forecasters, La Nada is a teeth grinder." NASA scientists will continue to monitor this persistent La Nada — now in its 10th month — to see what the Pacific Ocean has in store next for the world's climate.

The comings and goings of El Niño, La Niña and La Nada are part of the long-term, evolving state of global climate, for which measurements of sea surface height are a key indicator. Jason-1 is a joint effort between NASA and the French Space Agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales. Jason-2 is a joint effort between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

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U.S. lawmakers will get
document justifying drones

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

A top administration official says President Barack Obama has ordered the Justice Department to turn over classified legal documents justifying drone strikes on U.S. citizens overseas who are suspected of terrorism.

The official says that the papers will be handed over to two congressional intelligence committees.

Eleven U.S. senators had demanded to see the legal opinions after a leaked Justice Department memo Tuesday broadened the rationale for targeting alleged terrorists.

The administration has previously justified such attacks if a terrorist strike is believed to be imminent. But the leaked memo says an American citizen may also be targeted for death for being part of an ongoing terror plot, and when officials determine that capturing a suspect is not possible.

Some U.S. lawmakers, legal experts and civil libertarians criticize the policy as condemning an American citizen without a fair trial.

The Obama administration has defended the policy since two separate strikes by unmanned aircraft killed three U.S. citizens in Yemen in 2011.

​​Senators are expected to question John Brennan, President Obama's choice to head the CIA, about the drone policy during his confirmation hearing today.

Brennan is currently Obama's top counterterrorism adviser and a strong supporter of the administration's anti-terror policies. He says the way in which U.S. forces use unmanned aircraft abroad are legal, ethical and highly effective. President Obama has said Brennan's counterterrorism work has made it harder for al-Qaida to plan attacks against the United States.

Brennan worked for the Central Intelligence Agency before taking up his current White House post. During his time as chief of the CIA team in Saudi Arabia, he is believed to have played a pivotal role in negotiations with Saudi leaders that produced an agreement for a base for U.S. unmanned aircraft in the kingdom.

Saudi-based drone aircraft have hunted down al-Qaida terrorists in neighboring Yemen.

Critics say such attacks too often lead to the deaths of innocent civilians, and they contend such tactics are immoral. Pakistan says it never gave blanket agreement for U.S. air strikes on its territory, and it has strongly criticized the use of U.S. drones.

Section of terrorism law
considered by appeal panel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A New York appeals court Wednesday heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's power to indefinitely detain anyone it believes is a terrorist or who supports terrorists. Plaintiffs say a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act gives the U.S. military sweeping powers, even inside the United States. The Obama administration says the law does no such thing.

The legal battle played out in a New York federal appeals court is about one passage in the legislation: It says the U.S. military may indefinitely detain anyone it accuses of substantial support to terrorists or associated forces.

A group of plaintiffs, including former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, challenged the provision as unconstitutional last year, saying it infringes on their First Amendment right to meet with others and speak and write freely and on their Fifth Amendment right to due process in a court of law.

Hedges says it gives the U.S. military unprecedented power “. . . to allow the military onto our streets, to seize American citizens, strip them of due process, put them in military facilities, including our offshore penal colonies, and hold them indefinitely,” Hedges said.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Bruce Afran, said that someone who sends money to support the legal defense of Guantanamo inmates, for example, or who provides help such as hosting a Web site for them, could be arrested and detained.

“It is an attempt by the executive branch to take on vast detention authority, not akin to a democracy, but like most of the dictatorships we’ve had the misfortune to know over the last century. The framers of the Constitution were very clear to make certain of two things: one, that the military is always commanded by civilians, and two, that the military will never have authority over civilians,” Afran said.

U.S. District Court judge Katherine Forrest, an Obama appointee, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and against the Obama administration last year, leading to Wednesday's appeals court hearing.

In its brief, the administration contends that the plaintiffs are misreading the law and have no legal right to bring this suit against the government because their rights are not infringed.

Mandatory budget cuts cause
Pentagon to delay warships

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Pentagon is postponing deployment of two warships to the Persian Gulf because of possible budget cuts, leaving just one U.S. aircraft carrier in the Middle East region.
The aircraft carrier "USS Harry S. Truman" and the guided missile cruiser "USS Gettysburg" were to leave for the Mideast this week, but they will instead remain in port in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Pentagon said the deployment was delayed rather than cancelled, and said the two warships could put to sea on an emergency basis if necessary.
The "USS John C. Stennis" now will be the only American aircraft carrier in the gulf. Two carriers had been stationed there at all times since 2010, when Iran threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transportation route for oil tankers.
The Pentagon, like nearly every government agency, faces deep spending cuts that will be triggered automatically on March 1 unless Congress passes a federal budget or takes other action to meet fiscal deadlines.
In a speech Wednesday in Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blasted what he called partisan dysfunction and legislative madness in Congress. He said lawmakers' inability to agree on important bills threatens Americans' quality of life, the economy and national security.
Despite reducing the U.S. military presence in the Gulf, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States will continue to keep a robust military presence in the Middle East ready to respond to any contingency and to confront any threat in the region.
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Officials back electronics
to guard some prisoners

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Executive branch officials were at the legislature Wednesday supporting a bill that would provide for electronic devices instead of prison to keep track of criminals.

They are Fernando Ferraro, minister of Justicia y Paz, and Marta Iris Muñoz Cascante, director of Defensa Pública. They appeared before the Comisión con Potestad Legislativa Plena Tercera.

The prisons are 33 percent over populated and 55 percent of those are between 18 and 35, lawmakers were told. Each convict costs the state $42 a day, said Ferraro. He said that by using electronic devices the daily cost could be cut to $15.

The Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo is ready to underwrite a trial project with 200 convicts,

The officials supported using this system for persons held before trial and for woman who have children at home. The likely candidate would be someone sentenced to no more than six years, they said.

Warlock facing fraud rap
jailed for three months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The self-described brujo or warlock will have three months to commune with the spirits. A judge ordered the man, identified by the last names of Herrera Vega to be held for that period for investigation.

He was the 22-year-old man judicial agents detained Tuesday on the allegation that he defrauded a woman with spells designed to give her a lottery win. The man lived in Calle Blancos but operated out of a storefront on Paseo Colón.

Employee protest Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unionized public employees from 17 municipalities are scheduled to protest in downtown San José Tuesday. They will be in front of the Corte Suprema de Justicia building because they are upset with a Sala IV decision that will restrict existing union contracts.

The unionized workers also are unhappy with the Contraloría General de la República which basically said that existing contracts with employees should be renegotiated because of disproportionate salaries. The court backed the Contraloría.

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This is the cat that will be in the new games

Monopoly fans pick cat and dump iron

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Monopoly fans have voted to make a cat the newest token in the popular board game, replacing the not-so-hot iron, toymaker Hasbro Inc. said Wednesday.
After a month-long online vote in 185 countries, the iron was ousted by the cat, which will become the newest token in the classic game after winning 31 percent of the vote.
"While we're a bit sad to see the iron go, the cat token is a fantastic choice by the fans and we have no doubt it will become just as iconic as the original tokens,'' Eric Nyman, senior vice president and global brand leader for Hasbro Gaming, said in a statement.
With just 8 percent of the vote, the iron was the least popular of the eight tokens that also include the race car, top hat, wheelbarrow, battleship, shoe, thimble and Scottie dog.
Hasbro said the iron, which has been in the game since the 1930s, will be eliminated in new editions that arrive in stores later this year.
In addition to getting rid of an existing token, fans also voted on which new one to include. The cat clawed its way past a toy robot, guitar, helicopter and diamond ring.
In the popular property game launched in the 1930s, players try to get rich by buying, renting and trading properties. The game, which according to Hasbro has been played by more than a billion people, is sold in 111 countries and available in 43 languages and a digital version.
Hasbro said it will also issue a special edition with gold-colored versions of the eight classic tokens and the five tokens included in the online vote.

Facebook rejection has consequences

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Facebook users who decide to unfriend someone may trigger a series of real-life consequences which reach beyond cyberspace, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Denver.

Based on 582 survey responses gathered via Twitter, the study found that 40 percent of people would avoid anyone who unfriended them on Facebook in real life. Half of the respondents said they would not avoid the person, and the remaining 10 percent were unsure.

The survey found more women than men would avoid contact with the person who unfriended them. That surprised researchers, who were unable to find any reasons behind the difference between genders.

Social media Web sites have opened a new chapter in human relationships. In the past, making a friend involved face-to-face communication and interaction. Friends were an actual physical part of the social circle.

Sites like Facebook allow users to become friends with people they’ve never met and might never meet in person.

This past October, Facebook alone logged its one billionth user.

Social media Web sites have been changing the dynamics in interpersonal communication as well. Traditional face-to-face dialog has given way to quick online interactions that have their own set of rules, language and even etiquette – called ‘netiquette’.

“People think social networks are just for fun,” said study author Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. “But, in fact, what you do on those sites can have real-world consequences.”

Sibona found there were six factors which predicted whether someone would avoid a person who unfriended them.

• If the person discussed the event after it happened

• If the emotional response to the unfriending was extremely negative

• If the person unfriended believed the action was due to offline behavior

• The geographical distance between the two – if they lived close to each other and there’s a chance of physical contact

• If the troubled relationship was discussed prior to the unfriending

• How strong the person valued the relationship before the unfriending

Those who thought the unfriending was punishment for behaving badly offline also tended to avoid further contact with the ‘unfriender’

Compared to real-life relationships, the cost of maintaining online relationships is extremely low, according to Sibona. “In the real world, you have to talk to people, go see them to maintain face-to-face relationships. That’s not the case in online relationships. ”

Sibona also points out that real-life friendships often end by just fading away as people drift apart. However, an online friendship can come to an abrupt end when one friend unilaterally declares the friendship is over.

“Since it’s done online, there is an air of unreality to it, but in fact there are real-life consequences,” Sibona said. “We are still trying to come to grips as a society on how to handle elements of social media. The etiquette is different and often quite stark.”

China rejects gifts to fight corruption

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In another push to stem corruption, China banned radio and TV ads promoting gift giving, according to a story published Wednesday in the China Daily.

Citing a circular issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the report said advertising luxury goods, such as expensive watches and gold coins, “publicized incorrect values and helped create a bad social ethos.”

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is a censorship body that was established after the Communist Party took power to ensure that cultural products were in accord with the ideological and political aims of the party.

The move to ban certain ads comes as the lunar new year celebrations approach and is another in a line of efforts by Chinese authorities to root out corruption, something the Chinese Communist Party has publicly acknowledged as a life or death struggle.

During last November’s party congress, outgoing president Hu Jintao gave a warning about the effects of corruption.

"Opposing corruption and building an honest and clean government is a clear stance the party has been adhering to and is an important political issue the people have been paying attention to," he said. "If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state."

In January, the eastern city of Ningbo and three other municipalities in the progressive southern province of Guangdong enacted a requirement from the central government that officials publicly disclose their assets.

In December, China forbade high-ranking Chinese military officials from attending banquets and other events where alcoholic beverages are served. They also set limitations on the use of welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, live performances and souvenirs.

Since becoming party chairman last November, Xi Jinping and the head of the party’s disciplinary commission, Wang Qishan, have been taking steps to crack down on corruption. Xi has pledged to go after both high- and low-ranking officials, and the party says it will launch a major anti-corruption plan.

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