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Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 30
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Japan helping to popularize baseball to school kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A meeting here to promote baseball in the public schools begins Sunday with –- what else? -- a baseball game.

Educators from five countries, including Costa Rica, are participating in the five-day seminar in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

The game will be Sunday at the Polideportivo de Santo Domingo between the The Trans Tica de Santo Domingo team and a team of Costa Ricans and visitors from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ecuador, Belize and students from Oberlin University in the United States.

The visitors are volunteers with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which is sponsoring the gathering.

Baseball is not a big sport in Costa Rica, although many Nicaraguan immigrants play the game. Social commentators have characterized soccer as the nation’s sport and just short of a religion.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública is promoting the sport in about 35 schools in hopes of setting up
A.M. Costa Rica graphic

at least 30 teams. The Japanese have been assisting the Asociación de Béisbol de Santo Domingo since 2008. The association now has 20 teams in the Heredia area. Japan also is trying to generate interest in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

More than 100 persons are expected to participate in the seminars with the goal of encouraging the teaching of baseball in primary and secondary schools, said an announcement from the Japanese agency. Sessions will be in the Hotel Cibeles in Santa Domingo.

The Japanese note that baseball has been a sport there for 100 years.

The best advice for the weekend? Go fly a kite!
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another cold front is moving down from the north, and it is expected to augment the winds today and Saturday. Most expats are weary of counting, but the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says this is cold front No. 18 for the season.

Such cold fronts are typical of the dry season in Costa Rica, but the number seems higher then normal this year.

The forecast is for winds in the 85 to 100 kph 
range, that is up to 62 mph, with a reduction in temperature of from 1 to 3 degrees C in the Central Valley during the daytime.

There were winds Thursday from 50 to 75 kph, the higher speed being in the mid-40s mph.

The front is expected to bring rain to the northern zone and the mountains in the north Pacific and the Central Valley.

The good news is that the weather will be great for flying kites at Parque la Sabana or Parque de la Paz. The vendors will be waiting.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 30
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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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Depósito Libre rebuilding wins approval

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers Thursday approved for the second and final time a bill that will allow the southern zone development agency to use a surplus to rebuild 14 stores at the Depósito Libre Comercial de Golfito. That were destroyed by fire.

The measure also specifies that a surplus be applied to modernization of the electrical system in the Depósito.

The Depósito is where Costa Ricans and expats go to make tax-free purchases. The purpose of the Depósito, founded in 1990, was to generate economic activity after banana companies left the area.

The bill is No. 20.208.

The measure also redistributes the income of the development agency, the  Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur, to provide for publicity campaigns and secondary, technical and higher-education scholarships for low-income children in the cantons of  Buenos Aires, Golfito, Osa, Corredores y Coto Brus.

The bill also provides for payments to the central government for the work it does to support the junta. The junta makes some of its income from rents at the  Depósito.

Our reader’s opinion
Protein-obesity link is discounted

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Is this link between lack of protein and overweight women in San José the answer?

I wonder how accurate this study is in regards to obesity.  When I arrived in Costa Rica, in 1989, there were practically no obese Ticos in the Central Valley and elsewhere.  As time marched on this changed and even more so in the past 15 years.  

I am not sure if lack of protein is the real problem.   Are Ticos consuming less protein then they were 25 years ago?  It seems to mirror other changes in diet.  The traditional diet has changed a lot in 25 years.  Now much more food consumed is processed and many items have more corn syrup, refined starches and diet sweeteners, which have been not shown to reduce weight but possibly increase it.

There seems to be a correlation among the middle- and upper-class consuming much more processed and fast food then in previous years.  25 years ago there were only a couple McDonalds and Pizza Huts and no other fast food chains.   Now there is every type of fast food chain available, not only in the Central Valley but in many other towns outside of San José. 

One other additional change.  Ticos tend to walk less.  People use to walk a lot more before the price of cars dropped to make them more affordable to more Ticos. 

To sum it up, I think the change from a more traditional diet of beans and rice to a processed food and fast food diets and the lack of exercise in regards to walking are more of an impact then the assumption that less intake of protein leads to obesity here in Costa Rica.  You can witness the same epidemic problem of obesity in the United States, and it's not brought on by lack of protein.

I am a vegetarian, and I consume less protein then most meat eaters, but I am not overweight as many of my friends that like their meat and lots of protein.  In fact, most vegetarians are less overweight then their counterparts who consume more protein.
Henry Kantrowitz,
Punta Leona 

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Third News Page
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 30
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Country's finances take another hit from a major rating agency
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another international rating agency has downgraded the country’s credit worthiness and maintained the negative outlook.

This time the change came from Moody's Investors Service, which categorized the country as Ba2 from Ba1. Unlike the Fitch rating services, Moody’s did not say that new taxes were the only way out of the financial mess.

The company said that cuts in expenses could be helpful, too. In fact, Moody’s said that even if proposed legislation is approved, its analysts believe that the reduction in the fiscal deficit will not be sufficient to halt the increase in debt ratios. National elections are due early next year, and policies thereafter will depend on the administration that will assume office, likely in May 2018, it said.

That is basically what the finance minister said earlier this week. Still, the Ministerio de Hacienda issues yet another call Thursday that lawmakers approve a value-added tax and increases in the income tax rate.

Both rating agencies have Costa Rica securities in the junk bond category.

Moody’s said high fiscal deficits are a result of increased current spending, particularly wages and transfers, both part of fiscal policies which were intended to offset the impact of the global shock in 2009. Since then, government spending has continued to increase and will likely reach 21 percent of gross domestic product this year, up from 17.4 percent in 2009.

It was Óscar Arias who expanded the public payroll by about 10 percent in the face of the world economic recession.

Moody’s noted that the current situation exposes the country to what it called exchange rate and interest rate shocks. Expats may have noticed that the value of the U.S. dollar has climbed about 5 colons in the last month, despite efforts by the Banco Central de Costa Rica to maintain the interest rate stable.

Some analysts believe that the central bank has exhausted its

efforts holding the rate stable and that a dramatic increase in the value of the dollar is likely by the end of the year.

Moody’s painted a grim picture of the nation’s finances:

Government debt has risen every year since 2008 when what was owed was about half of the current 25 percent of gross domestic product. The debt to income ratio is expected to be 318 percent in 2017.

The rising debt is due to interest payments on what the government owes. The annual shortfall between government income and expense may be as much as 6 percent gross domestic product this year. This exposes the government to potential increases in the interest rate. The company said it expected deficits to continue to increase the government debt burden.

Reaching a policy consensus is difficult due to increased polarization in Costa Rica's legislative assembly and the highly atomized legislature, which comprises 57 members from nine political parties, Moody’s said.

“Given the negative outlook, a rating upgrade is unlikely,” said the firm. “However, we would stabilize the outlook at the current rating level if we expected the government to adopt structural budgetary adjustments, such as increased tax revenues, spending cuts or a combination of both, that were expected to arrest and ultimately reverse the rise in the government's debt levels.”

As Helio Fallas, the finance minister noted, most of the national budget is fixed by law or the Constitution, and only about 5 percent is discretionary. So any major cuts would require extensive legislative action and maybe even changes in the Constitution.

The Moody’s and Fitch ratings are consulted by international investors which base their interest rate requirements on the security of the investment. Costa Rica has gotten itself into a situation where much of the annual bond sales are to national investors, meaning government agency, state banks and other institutions.

High court backs environmental ministry in the case of the lion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala Primera has backed the environmental ministry in the dispute with the Simón Bolívar zoo operator Fundazoo. The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía has been trying to get rid of the zoo and turn the area into a garden, but the zoo has an enforceable contract.

The latest dispute revolved around Kivú, that aging circus lion that has lived for years at the zoo. The ministry required the zoo administration to move the lion to better quarters at a zoo facility in Santa Ana.

That may have not been good for the lion, which seems to have suffered health reverses after the move.

The case attracted the attention of animal rights activists.

The court decision directed the zoo administration to adopt a modern vision of conservation of wildlife with changes in the exhibitions of the animals, the habitats and the living conditions, said the ministry in reporting the decision.

The Sala Primera of the Corte Suprema de Justicia is the final authority in civil matters.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 30
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Beetle species just discovered here hitches rides on army ants
By the BioMed Central new staff

A new species of Costa Rican beetle has been spotted hitchhiking on the back of army ants as a means of transportation, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Zoology.

The newly discovered beetle, Nymphister kronaueri, uses its strong mandibles to anchor itself tightly to the ant's body in order to hitch a ride when the nomadic army ants move to new nesting sites. It was only found in one particular army ant species and primarily on medium sized workers demonstrating that it is a highly specialized ant guest.

Christoph von Beeren, lead author of the study, from Technical University Darmstadt, Germany, said: "While collecting ant guests during the nightly emigration of an army ant colony, we realized that the abdomen of some ants looked odd and reflected the light of our headlamps in a slightly different way. From above it is difficult to detect the parasite, because the beetle closely resembles the ant's abdomen. When viewed from the side, however, it looks as if the ants had a second abdomen. To our surprise the odd looking ant abdomens turned out to be beetles."

Von Beeren adds: "To the human eye, the beetle is quite difficult to detect when attached to the ant as they are similar in size and shape to the host ants' abdomen. The outer shell of the beetle is also smooth and shiny, just like the ants. We think that by imitating this part of the ants' body they might reduce the chance of recognition by the ants, allowing the beetle to travel undetected."

The new species is named after Daniel Kronauer, a dedicated
BioMed Central graphic
Graphic shows how the beetle hangs below the ant.

 army-ant researcher at The Rockefeller University, New York, who first discovered the species in an army ant emigration. It is one of many organisms, including silverfish, wasps, beetles, mites and flies that are known to exploit army ant colonies.

This new finding was made during a biodiversity assessment of army ant guests at La Selva Biological Station, a lowland Atlantic rainforest in Costa Rica. Von Beeren and his colleague Alexey Tishechkin, co-author of the article, collected ant parasites from many tropical sites but only discovered the new beetle species in one particular host species in Costa Rica.

Von Beeren adds: "Army ants have been studied extensively by researchers, yet this conspicuous new species has been overlooked until now. Little is known about other species of army ants and their guest communities. It is evident that many more species like N. kronaueri still need to be discovered."

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

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

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

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

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

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

George Lundquist

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Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for  your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.We are offering homes for every budget and every need. Please visit our Web page at or contact us at or call at (506) 2654-5442

Spectacular rentals are available for low weekly prices on at resorts such as Bahia Turquesa Residences and Villas Sol Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste. We have 
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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 30
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Sessions take over with pledge
to uphold unenforced laws

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Sen. Jeff Sessions was sworn in as the next U.S. attorney general Thursday at the White House, where he stressed that the U.S. needs a lawful system of immigration that serves the interest of the American people.

President Donald Trump lauded Sessions with praise as he congratulated him on being sworn in, calling the new attorney general a man of total, utter resolve.

“He has devoted his life to the cause of justice and believes deeply that all people are equals in the eyes of the law. And very importantly for Jeff and for so many of us also in the eyes of God,” Trump said.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Sessions Wednesday, after more than a day of heated debate and a dramatic confrontation that led to the suspension of a prominent Democrat from floor deliberations.

The 52-47 vote made Sessions, a long-serving Republican senator from Alabama, America’s top law enforcement officer and the sixth Cabinet pick approved in the Trump administration.

During the swearing in ceremony, Sessions said he never imagined he would have the great honor of becoming attorney general and he cares deeply about the agency’s traditions and its heritage.

“I had 15 years in that great department,” Sessions said. “And the honor to lead it now is something I do not have words to express effectively.”

On the subject of immigration, Sessions vowed to uphold laws that he said were largely unenforced during the Obama administration.

"That’s not wrong, that’s not immoral, and that’s not indecent . . . . We need to end this lawlessness that threatens the public’s safety, pulls down wages of working Americans,” he said. “If you continually go through a cycle of amnesty, that you undermine the respect for the law and encourage more illegal immigration into America.”

An early and ardent Trump supporter during last year’s tumultuous campaign, Sessions pledged to put the law above politics as attorney general.

Sessions served in the Senate for 20 years and also was attorney general for the state of Alabama as well as a federal prosecutor. In 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan tapped him to be a federal judge, but the Senate voted down his nomination amid allegations of racial bias in his past.

Illegal Mexican mother of two
deported for felony conviction

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A mother of two children, both U.S. citizens, was deported to México early Thursday, her lawyer said, showing a change in U.S. policy toward undocumented immigrants.

The lawyer, Ray Ybarra Maldonado, said the undocumented woman was taken into custody Wednesday in Phoenix, Arizona, when she stopped in for a routine check at a U.S. immigration office.

"I was informed by the Mexican Consulate that my client was deported from the country," Maldonado said.

The woman Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, had checked in with U.S. immigration authorities every year since 2008, when she was stopped for using a fake Social Security number during a raid on a water park where she worked. In past visits, she answered questions that were put to her and went home.

But when Ms. Garcia de Rayos went in for her meeting Wednesday, she was arrested and deportation proceedings were begun. She had lived in the U.S. for more than 22 years.

During a news conference, Maldonado said he had filed a stay of deportation on Wednesday.

"Yesterday at 5:30, I was told the decision would come shortly. And here it is this morning, and those cowards have yet to even return my call, even send me an email, to give me any information about why they denied our stay," he added.

A statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the deportation was "based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013. Relevant databases indicate Ms. Garcia de Rayos has a prior felony conviction dating from March 2009 for criminal impersonation."

"ICE will remove illegal aliens convicted of felony offenses as ordered by an immigration judge," the agency said in series of tweets after the media reported the deportation.

Maldonado said Ms. Garcia de Rayos' deportation was an attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to deport immigrants living in the country illegally who had previously not been a priority for deportation under the administration of former President Barack Obama.

"I think it just fell on her bad luck, the bad timing, of her last check-in being yesterday. … There's no facts in their case that are any different from the last times that she checked in — the only difference being the executive order and a new president," Maldonado said.

"We are the first ones. Our family was the first one," Ms. Garcia de Rayos' son Angel, 16, said. "My sister needs my mom. Me, too. My sister is only 14. She is growing up. She needs her advice.  . . . My mother is everything to me. . . . We are going through a lot of pain."

When Ms. García de Rayos came to the U.S., she was the same age as her daughter Jacqueline is now. "Her heart is so big. She treats everyone as if they were her own family," an emotional Jacqueline said.

Dozens of immigration activists blocked the gates surrounding the immigration office near central Phoenix Wednesday night to try to prevent enforcement vans from leaving.

Protesters said Ms. Garcia de Rayos was in one of the vehicles, which were used to transport people in custody to detention centers or to Arizona's border with Mexico for deportation.

A photo by The Arizona Republic newspaper identified a woman looking through one of the vehicle windows covered by security screening as Ms. Garcia de Rayos.

Appeals court won't uphold
Trump ban on suspect visitors

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A federal appeals court Thursday refused to reinstate President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

The three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously declined to block a lower-court ruling that suspended the ban and allowed previously barred travelers to enter the United States.

"We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury," a statement issued by the appeals court panel said.

The Justice Department said that it was reviewing the decision and considering its options, following the announcement.

In its ruling, the appeals court said the government presented no evidence to explain the urgent need for the executive order to take effect immediately.

The judges noted compelling public interests on both sides. "On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies.

"And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination," they ruled.

"We hold that the government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury," a statement issued by the appeals court panel said.

“See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake,” the president tweeted shortly after the court announced its decision. A short time later, he complained to reporters at the White House that the court made a political decision, and said his administration eventually will win the case very easily.

In response to Trump's tweet, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who leads one of the states that challenged the ban, said: "Mr. President, we just saw you in court, and we beat you."

At a news conference in Seattle, Bob Ferguson, the attorney general for the state of Washington said, “We are a nation of laws, and . . . those laws apply to everybody in our country, and that includes the president of the United States. In my view, the future of the Constitution is at stake.”

When asked to respond to the latest Trump tweet, he noted that opponents are now two-for-two in challenging the Trump administration’s ban in the courts.

Ferguson said the president's ban had real human consequences, and he denied he is pursuing the case as a Democrat versus a Republican president.

Last week, District Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban after the states of Washington and Minnesota sued.

During oral arguments Tuesday, the judges heard arguments from a lawyer for the Justice Department and an attorney representing the states of Washington and Minnesota, which sued to overturn the ban.

U.S. attorney August Flentje argued that Trump's executive order was well within his power granted by Congress and the Constitution.

However, the judges rejected the administration's lawyers, who claimed the court did not have the authority to review the president's executive order.

"There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy," the court said.

Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell said on Tuesday reinstating the travel ban without a full judicial review would throw the country "back into chaos."

He also said the ban had separated families, stranded students overseas, and left people in doubt about whether they should travel because of the uncertainty of whether they could come back.

Soon after his ruling, the State Department said people from the seven countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, with valid visas could travel to the U.S. The decision led to tearful reunions at airports around the country.

The federal government could ask the 9th Circuit to have a larger panel of judges review the decision, or it could appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, the administration would need five of the eight justices to vote in its favor.

However, the court is currently evenly divided 4-4 between liberals and conservatives. If the Supreme Court justices were to tie 4-4 in its decision, the lower court’s ruling would stand.

Work begins on oil pipeline,
but Indians take case to court

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Work resumed Thursday on the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline in the north central U.S., while an Indian tribe went to court again in a last-minute effort to stop the project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had given the go-ahead Wednesday for the work to continue. President Donald Trump ordered the project completed after former president Barack Obama had put it on hold.

The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, started drilling under Lake Oahe in North Dakota immediately after getting word from the army. It says it expects to have the project finished and oil flowing in 83 days.

The Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe filed another court motion to try to stop the project. It says the corps broke its word to have a further environmental study.

Tribe leaders contend the pipeline is too close to their water supply and sacred land. They say an oil spill or a rupture in the pipe would be a disaster for millions of people.

They accuse the Trump administration of showing contempt for the environment and putting oil company greed ahead of their treaty and water rights.

Pipeline supporters contend the pipe is safe and that transporting oil underground poses much less risk to the environment than using trains and trucks.

Native Americans and their supporters have held a nearly nonstop protest near the lake, which sometimes has erupted in violence.

Yoga might ease back pain,
survey of medical studies says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Yoga could help ease lower back pain, a new study suggests.

Writing in the journal Cohcrane Library, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine say the ancient form of exercise could help the millions of Americans who suffer from lower back pain.

"We found that the practice of yoga was linked to pain relief and improvement in function," said the study's lead author, Dr. L. Susan Wieland, assistant professor of family & community medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "For some patients suffering from chronic non-specific low back pain, yoga may be worth considering as a form of treatment."

According to the researchers, 80 percent of Americans will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Furthermore, one third of adults report that lower back pain has interfered with their ability to perform daily tasks.

To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at 12 different studies that included more than 1,000 subjects, that examined the link between yoga and alleviating lower back pain. The studies examined the differences between those who practiced yoga and those who received “non-exercise intervention such as educational material given to a patient, or to an exercise intervention such as physical therapy.”

They found after three and six months, those who did yoga had “small to moderate improvements in back-related function, as well as small improvements in pain.”

Researchers did add that yoga was about as effective as non-yoga exercise in helping back pain, but because there were only a few studies that compared the two, more research needs to be done.

Yoga is both physical and meditative and dates back thousands of years to India. It has seen a surge in popularity in the United States in recent years. The participants in the studies analyzed by the researchers usually practiced Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga yoga.

Researchers did say that since the participants in the various studies all knew they were practicing yoga, there would have been some bias in their reporting.

Furthermore, there were reports of adverse effect among those who practiced yoga over those who did not exercise, but those effects were about the same as those who tried non-yoga exercise.

Twitter reports another loss
despite slight income increase

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Twitter, Incorporated reported its fourth-quarter losses nearly doubled from the same period in 2015.

The online messaging company reported a quarterly loss of $167 million at the end of 2016. In 2015, the company reported a loss of $90 million over the same period.

The business said revenues in the fourth quarter were up 1 percent from $710 million in 2015 to $717 million in 2016. It was the the slowest revenue growth since the company went public in November of 2013.

There was one bright spot: The average number of active users rose 4 percent compared to a year earlier to 319 million.

Twitter has been failing to keep up with other social media platforms such as Facebook. Twitter recently reduced staff and an attempt to sell the company failed.

The 10-year-old Twitter has never made a profit, and despite tweaks to the format, has only seen modest growth in users.

Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, called 2016 a transformative year.

"We reset and focused on why people use Twitter: It's the fastest way to see what's happening and what everyone's talking about," he said. "We overcame the toughest challenge for any consumer service at scale by reversing declining audience trends and re-accelerating usage."

He advised patience, saying revenue growth “will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results.”

Investors may not be as patient, as Twitter shares were down about 10 percent in Thursday pre-market trading.

School owner pleads guilty
to immigration fraud scheme

Special to A.M. Costa Rica
The owner of four Los Angeles-area schools pleaded guilty today to federal immigration fraud charges. The schools enrolled hundreds of foreign nationals who fraudulently obtained immigration documents allowing them to remain in the United States as students even though they rarely, if ever, attended classes.

The owner, Hee Sun Shim, 53, of Beverly Hills, the owner and manager of the schools, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy and immigration document fraud.

Shim, along with two co-defendants, ran a pay-to-stay scheme through three schools, Prodee University/Neo-America Language School, Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center and the American College of Forensic Studies. A fourth school in Alhambra, California, Likie Fashion and Technology College, was also involved in the scheme, which ran for at least six years.

Prodee and the other schools issued immigration documents to foreign nationals who were not bona fide students, had no intention of attending the schools, and sometimes lived outside of California. As part of the conspiracy, Shim created bogus student records, including transcripts, for some of the students for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities. In exchange for the immigration documents that allowed them to remain in the United States, the purported students made tuition payments to Shim and his co-conspirators to enroll and remain enrolled at the schools.

Two other defendants named in the 2015 indictment previously pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing.

The investigation in this case began in 2011 after a compliance team with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, paid an unannounced visit to Prodee University’s main campus on Wilshire Boulevard. During the visit, the team observed only one English language class with three students in attendance, even though records indicated more than 900 foreign students were enrolled at Prodee’s two campuses. That same day, an unannounced visit to the American College of Forensic Studies found only one religion class in session with a single student present, even though the school had more than 300 foreign students in active status.
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 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $795K U.S.  Also available for monthly rent for $3,400 per month on an annual basis. Go to  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 30
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Environmentalists laud finning verdict

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An environmental non-profit is reporting that a Puntarenas court convicted a businesswoman for shark finning.

The woman had operated a firm that brought shark fins to port separated from the body, a practice illegal in Costa Rica, with intentions of selling them abroad, the organization, Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense, noted.

The Trial Court of Puntarenas imposed a six-month prison sentence on the Taiwanese businesswoman, the organization said.

Environmental organizations were pleased.

“We are pleased that, from the power of the Judiciary, Costa Rica has sent a clear signal that its priority is to protect the country’s sustainability. The response to the finning was appropriate, and responsible fishermen and environmental authorities will applaud it as such. At Conservation International, we reiterate our commitment to sustainable fisheries, transparent management of marine resources, and control of the country’s environmental regulations,” said Marco Quesada, director of the Costa Rica Program of Conservation International.

A court in 2011 failed to convict the woman, but prosecutors brought the case to court again. There is no prohibition against double jeopardy in Costa Rica.

“This is a truly historic sentence, as it’s the first time there has been a criminal conviction for shark finning. We applaud the efforts of the public prosecutor’s office to enforce the national laws and international commitments of Costa Rica. We hope this case will be a precedent that helps prevent this practice from happening again,” said Gladys Martínez, attorney with the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense.

The two organizations said they assisted in the resolution of the case by advising the prosecutors on arguments of international law. According to Costa Rican law, shark fins must arrive to port naturally attached to the shark’s body. In cases such as this one, the fins are removed and the body tossed back to sea so the fishing boats can hold as many fins as possible. 

“Shark finning is a crime punishable in Costa Rica by articles 139 and 40 of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Law. In addition, Costa Rica has ratified various international treaties that oblige it to protect the environment. These obligations include the protection, conservation and sustainable use of marine resources,” reads the document provided by both organizations to prosecutors for use during the trial.

The organization did not say if the woman was remanded. Usually individuals without criminal records receive conditional release for sentences under three years. The woman also has the right to appeal and seek yet another trial.

ESL prof who had programs here dies

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A retired University of Illinois professor, known in Costa Rica for setting up exchange programs, has died,

He was Lawrence Bouton, 85, who died Feb. 1 in Urbana, Illinois. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church, Champaign, Illinois, the university reported.

Bouton was one of the first faculty members for the university’s master of arts in teaching English as a second language program.  He also set up exchange programs in Spain to give graduate students opportunities to teach abroad. He retired from the university in 2000.

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Agreement encourages access to maritime jobs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government has entered into an agreement that will support the Universidad de Costa Rica in offering a graduate course for those interested in a maritime career.

The program will be offered at the university location on the Caribbean coast.

The course is consistent with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, said Casa Presidencial. The Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje also is participating by offering a basic maritime course in Limón, Puntarenas, Guanacaste and the southern zone.

Students will have the opportunity to seek a degree and international certification by the Dirección Marítimo Portuaria of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

Casa Presidencial said that the goal was to allow young Costa Ricans to seek some of the 50,000 maritime jobs that are expected to open up worldwide.