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Published Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 32
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Ministry rents data center for $551,898 a month
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The finance ministry said Monday it has entered into a no-bid agreement with the state telecom company to rent a data center for  $551,898 a month.

This is a three-year agreement that can be extended for one year more.

During the next 12 months, the ministry will be transferring data to the new setup operated by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in Guatuso de San Isidro de El Guarco, Cartago, the ministry said.

The ministry left open the possibility that it would eventually construct its own data center.

The government has made use of no-bid contracts between government agencies, which is legal.

Helio Fallas, the first vice president and finance minister, said that his ministry has responsibility for all the technology of the central government. That includes paying salaries.

The new setup has seven layers of security that protects the hardware and software, said

data center
Ministerio de Hacienda photo
Ministry officials inspect new data center

the ministry. The system also meets standards of the financial system, it said.

The Ministerio de Hacienda still has plans to construct a data center in the proposed government city that is being promoted by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and the U.N. Office of Project Services.

Generations differ on feelings for Valentine's Day
By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A difference arises in younger and older opinions on Saint Valentine’s Day.

The holiday, also known as el Día del Amor y la Amistad, is widely recognized as being a time of romance and love shared between couples, lovers, and spouses. At the same time, generational gaps seem to widen when talking about the appreciation of friendship in the holiday.

Older persons, who are being defined as those past their 30s, directly and quickly included friendship as an integral part of the holiday in Costa Rica. Mauricio Ojetta of the Floristería Ana along Avenida Segunda just past Calle 9 noted that his customers are not only men and women buying flowers or roses for their significant others. Single people wanting to show appreciation for their friends have and will stop by, too, he said.

Just a few feet down, Luis Calvo and Damaris Marín, married storefront owners of Kiosco Rojo, also agreed that Valentine’s Day is more than just about loving one’s girlfriend or boyfriend, fiancée or wife but also one’s own circle of friends. These florists, however, are of an older generation. They also, obviously want a less exclusive range of customers.

“My plan for Valentine’s Day is to sell as much as I can because the money is the best gift for her,” Calvo said with a smile motioning towards his wife.

Junior Sequeira
A.M. Costa Rica/Conor Golden
Junior Sequeira, buying an arrangement for his wife, is on the border between generations.
Younger, single Costa Ricans in their teens or 20s and 30s told a reporter they appreciated their friends but would not necessarily always buy them a gift just because it was Valentine’s Day.

“If I was in love, I would celebrate it but I don’t,” said Tatiana Porras, “Although it is a time to enjoy with my friends, I feel it is a somewhat commercialized event. I will display my affection for people at all times and not just for a special date.”

Daniela González and Frederick Ruge, also young Ticos, expressed neutral sentiments. They are both not in a serious relationship and do not really celebrate Valentine’s Day at all, they said.

Khristel Aparicio echoed that neutral response. She would celebrate with something romantic like a picnic or going to the beach or simply being with that person. “But I cannot. I am a grumpy soltera,” she joked.

That seemed to be the standard response: if I were in a relationship, I would celebrate it with my significant other. I am single, and so it is just another day.

What about those in relationships?

Anthony Pereira stopped by the Floristería Ana. A young man in his late 20s, Pereira has a girlfriend.

As he hurriedly purchased a couple of roses going for 2,000 colons each, Pereira said that he was going to lay them on the bed for his girlfriend. It also happens to be her birthday, too, he said.

Another customer named Junior Sequeira in his 30s was purchasing an arrangement of flowers for his wife. He could represent the dividing line in generational trends. Along with the florists and Pereira, Sequeira noted that it is common for friends to exchange gifts as gestures of goodwill and blessings.

Marco Paccagnella, himself married for 30 years, offered one of the more pragmatic views. He noted that many relationships tend to be more relaxed here than in Italy, his country of origin, or other places in Europe and the United States.

Some friendships are purely platonic, but others may include casual sex as well, he said.

He agreed that the holiday is a celebration of both friends as much as love and romance.

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Sarasota Dolphin Research Program/ Chicago Zoological Society photo
A juvenile female bottlenose dolphin had this fishing material embedded in her fin and elsewhere on her body.

Food handouts lead to damage to dolphins

By the Mote Marine Laboratory news staff

Wild dolphins are more likely to be injured if humans feed them even unintentionally, reports a new study.

The researchers investigated why bottlenose dolphins begin seeking human-provided food and how this affects their risk of injury. The paper’s lead author from Murdoch University in Western Australia and researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland analyzed data collected from 1993-2014 by the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program wild dolphin experts and Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program.
“This is the first study that directly links human-related feeding of wild dolphins,  intentional or not, with increased risks of injury from human interactions such as boat strikes, entanglement in fishing gear or ingestion of hooks and line,” said Katie McHugh, staff scientist of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program  “During the time span of this study, we saw an increase in the number of dolphins seeking and accepting food provided by humans. We asked: Why are we seeing this increase and what are the consequences?”
In general, the Dolphin Research Program and Mote scientists work to educate the public that feeding or harassing wild marine mammals is dangerous and usually illegal.

“Animals can die from human interactions. For instance, we examined a dolphin known as FB93 who was recovered dead with a fish hook embedded in her head leading to fishing line around her larynx, strangling her,” said Gretchen Lovewell, manager of Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program. “Even if an animal survives with a wound or entanglement, it might be less able to survive the next challenge.”

Before the current study, one of the strongest cautionary tales came from a long-term resident Sarasota Bay dolphin nicknamed Beggar because people fed him often. Beggar was found dead in 2012 with fish hooks in his stomach, broken bones, signs of old wounds, a history of abnormal behavior and health issues likely related to his human-altered diet. Though natural causes, stingray barbs, were suspected factors in his death, getting food from people didn’t help.

The new study analyzed data from 1,142 bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, including 190 (16.5 percent) described as conditioned because they had accepted human handouts, targeted bait, catch or crab pots, or had patrolled back and forth within 20 meters of boats, lines or fishing piers. The authors found that 84 (7.5 percent) of the dolphins had human-related injuries by the end of the study period in 2014.

In a well-documented subset of the dolphins, 366 individuals observed in multiple seasons, 43.7 percent were dubbed conditioned and 20 percent had human-related injuries. Among the injured dolphins, more than a third died or required rescue by trained responders.
In the new study’s analysis, led by postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Fredrik Christiansen of Murdoch University in Australia, the researchers investigated injury risk in 404 well-documented dolphins. On average, dolphins conditioned to seek human-sourced food had approximately double the injury risk of those that were not conditioned. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Royal Society Open Science.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 32
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Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud
The ballet scene from ‘Alicia en el país de las maravillas’
School children have special programs to show them performance art
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The cultural ministry, working together with the education ministry, is going to make literature come alive to students in Costa Rica with performances by the Teatro Nacional.

Starting this March, the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica with the Ministerio de Educación Pública will perform a total of eight productions based on books, including: “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Frankenstein,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Alice in Wonderland” among others.

Each production will be performed every other month. The first show will be “La Orestíada” in March, known in English as as “The Oresteia,” the Greek tragedies by Aeschylus. The last show will be “Alice in Wonderland” in December.

The education ministry expects at least 30,000 students to attend the performances this year. Last year about 24,000 students attended, according to official estimates. Just like last year’s program, students will have the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Teatro Nacional and receive a printed version of the tour to supplement the experience, officials said.

Teachers will also get in on the learning, too. Ministry officials said that they will receive a summation of the important elements related to staging the performance and recommendations of what to know before, during, and after watching the show.

Prices determined by the education ministry will be 2,500 colons a ticket for public schools and 3,500 colons a ticket for private schools.

“La Orestíada” will open to the general public on Friday,

Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud photo
Students might be introduced by ‘The Firebird,’ a ballet by Igor Stravinsky.

March 10. Tickets are on sale for between 8,000 and 15,000 colons. These can be purchased at the Teatro Nacional’s website or the ticket booth.

Each performance will have specific dates for the general public that will be announced by the Teatro Nacional in the coming weeks, officials said.

La Uruca-Heredia bridge completion is expected by March 7
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another bridge should be completed on the Río Virilla by March 7, the transportation ministry said.

This bridge, between the Pozuelo cookie factory in La Uruca and the Jardines del Recuerdo, will include a new steel structure on which individual concrete slabs will sit. Railings are also being placed so that the bridge mimics another bridge directly next to it.

Both projects have a width of around 10 meters with shoulders on either side. The road that these two bridges are located is itself undergoing a four-lane extension and the installation of sidewalks, pedestrian railing and a central curb separating traffic. According to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, the last layer of asphalt needs to be placed in the Heredia sector which starts at the bridge and goes north towards the cemetery.

Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
The steel beams are awaiting concrete slabs.

Once that is complete, officials expect to lay down markings and signs for the road. Total expenses for the construction and improvements on the bridges and the extension of the highway is around $8.6 million.

The bridge is not to be confused with the one on the General Cañas autopista further west that still is undergoing extensive repairs and widening.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 32
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Costa Rican bishops enjoy a photo opportunity with Pope Francis in Vatican City. To the right of the Pope is Archibishop José Rafael Quirós Quirós.
Vatican News Service photo

Country's bishops are giving  Pope Francis a report on their dioceses
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Roman Catholic bishops from Costa Rica are in Vatican City this week to make their periodic report to Pope Francis.

The seven bishops and Archbishop José Rafael Quirós Quirós of San José were photographed with the pope Monday.

The visits stem from a 16th century edict directing bishops to report on the state of their diocese. The measure was revised in 1983 to specific visits to Vatican City every five years by bishops.

The visit was reported in the Vatican News Service. Other Vatican news sources said the bishops discussed the shortage of priests, couples living together without benefit of matrimony, organized crime and violence.

In addition to Quirós, the visiting clergymen are Ángel San Casimiro Fernández of Alajuela,  José Francisco Ulloa Rojas of Cartago,  José Manuel Garita Herrera of Ciudad Quesada, Javier Gerardo Roman Arias of Limón, Óscar Gerardo Fernández Guillén of Puntarenas, Gabriel Enrique Montero Umaña of San Isidro de El General and Manuel Eugenio Salazar Mora of Tilarán-Liberia.

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.

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See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 32
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Flynn quits White House post
under fire over Russian contact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

National security adviser Michael Flynn has resigned after reports he misled Trump administration officials about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.

Flynn's departure less than one month into the Trump administration marks an extraordinarily early shakeup in the president's senior team of advisers. Flynn was a loyal Trump supporter throughout the campaign, but his ties to Russia caused concern among other senior aides.

Flynn initially told Trump advisers that he did not discuss sanctions with the Russian envoy during the transition. Vice President Mike Pence, apparently relying on information from Flynn, publicly vouched for the national security adviser.

Flynn later told White House officials that he may have discussed sanctions with the ambassador.

In his resignation letter, Flynn said in the fast pace of events he inadvertently briefed Vice President Pence with incomplete information about his Russian contacts.

Gen. Keith Kellogg has been named his interim replacement.

Immigration raid totals at 680,
Homeland Security chief says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says immigration officers have arrested more than 680 people in recent raids targeting illegal migrants, most of them criminals.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said 75 percent of those rounded up for deportation have criminal records, and he described the operations as routine.

The raids took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York.

Kelly said the crimes committed by the undocumented migrants included homicide and aggravated sexual assault. He said the focus of the recent raids was on dangerous criminals, but said it also included anyone who had broken immigration laws.

President Donald Trump said Monday that he was honoring his campaign pledge to deport criminal illegal migrants. “We're getting them out. I'm just doing what I said I would.”

Speaking at a news conference at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said “We're getting the criminals, the drug lords . . . . We're getting the bad ones . .. . People are going to be very, very happy.”

Trump described the government's raids against the illegal migrants as a stance of common sense.

The number of arrests during the recent raids is similar to those carried out during operations by the previous administration of Barack Obama.

While the raids were not out of the ordinary, news of the arrests and rumors about other raids sparked fear and confusion among immigrants.

Immigration rights activists say the government is deporting migrants indiscriminately, and not taking into account their ties to the community.

During the campaign for president, Trump promised to deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented migrants with criminal records once he took office.

Trump and Trudeau differ
on their migrant policies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained sharply at odds Monday on immigration policies, with Trump applauding his crackdown to deport undocumented migrants and Trudeau acclaiming the success of Syrian refugees in his country.

Trudeau welcomed 40,000 Syrians into Canada even as Trump has sought to indefinitely suspend entry of any Syrian refugees into the U.S., part of his court-blocked plan to halt travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries with histories of terrorist attacks.

Asked whether he is confident the northern U.S. border is secure with the Syrians in Canada, Trump told a White House news conference, “You can never be totally confident.”

Trudeau said the Syrians who have settled in Canada are very successful and that our allies understand Canada's welcome to refugees from war-torn countries.

But the Canadian leader declined to criticize Trump's immigration policies, saying, The last thing Canadians want is for him to come down to another country and lecture them.

The two leaders, meeting for the first time, reached more agreement on boosting the already high level of trade between the countries, which Trudeau said amounted to $2 billion a day in cross-border transactions. Trump, during his lengthy presidential campaign, had vowed to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement that includes the U.S., Canada and Mexico to shape it in more favorable terms for U.S. workers.

But after meeting with Trudeau in the Oval Office and over lunch, Trump said U.S. trade problems with Canada were much less severe than has taken place with Mexico, which he called very unfair.

Trump said the U.S. and Canada would be tweaking their trade relations. “We're going to make it even better,” Trump said.

U.S. places Venezuelan VP
on list of criminal kingpins

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States has designated Venezuela's vice president as an international narcotics trafficker under its Kingpin Act.

Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah controlled planes and drug routes and protected and facilitated other narcotics traffickers operating in the South American country, a senior U.S. official told reporters Monday evening.

El Aissami, who was named Venezuela's vice president early last month, was the country's minister of interior and justice between 2008 and 2012, and then governor of Aragua state for the past five years.

In those previous positions, U.S. authorities allege he oversaw or partially owned narcotics shipments of more than 1,000 kilograms from Venezuela on multiple occasions, including those with the final destinations of Mexico and the United States. He also is alleged to have been involved in money laundering.

U.S. officials stressed that the case against the Venezuelan official, who is the highest-ranking official of that country to be targeted for sanctions, was years in the making, and that the action was not taken because he recently became vice president.

​The action is not a political one, not an economic one, not a diplomatic one, said another high-ranking U.S. official who briefed reporters.

The act is certain to cause a further worsening of relations between Caracas and Washington. Venezuela is facing an economic crisis with triple-digit inflation, and basic necessities are difficult to find.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez, blames its financial woes on both the domestic political opposition and the United States.

El Aissami's alleged primary frontman, Venezuelan national Samark José López Bello, also was designated for providing help to El Aissami, according to a U.S. Treasury Department statement.

Lopez Bello oversees an international network of petroleum, distribution, engineering, telecommunications and other companies.

Thirteen companies owned or controlled by López Bello and others, in the British Virgin Islands, Panamá, the United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela, have been blocked, according to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

El Aissami is a significant narcotics trafficker in Venezuela, and Monday's action “demonstrates that power and influence do not protect those who engage in these illicit activities,” said John Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

El Aissami's father was a Druze immigrant from Syria who allegedly was a military associate of then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

According to a CNN report last week, El Aissami has been linked to the issuance of 173 Venezuelan passports and identification cards to individuals in the Middle East, including those linked to Hezbollah.

12 at Puerto Rican airport
linked to huge cocaine ring

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. federal grand jury has indicted 12 suspects, including six current or former airport baggage security inspectors, in connection with a massive cocaine smuggling operation at the international airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, in a statement Monday, said the case is built on evidence that the defendants smuggled suitcases containing as much as 15 kilograms of cocaine through the airport's Transportation Security Administration  security system. Other defendants include at least one former airport security manager and suspected couriers.

Between 1998 and 2016, the statement alleges, the defendants helped smuggle 20 tons of cocaine through San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.

The six TSA workers, who face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, were supposed to provide security and baggage screening for checked and carry-on luggage placed on outbound flights.

U.S. Senate OKs Trump’s pick
for secretary of the Treasury

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's pick for Treasury secretary, former Wall Street executive Steven Mnuchin, 53-47 Monday, with Republicans lining up in support and Democrats vociferously opposed.

“Under any objective standard, Mr. Mnuchin has ample experience, credentials and qualifications for this important position,” said Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Shortly after his Senate confirmation, Mnuchin was sworn in at the White House by Vice President Mike Pence. Also in attendance was President Donald Trump, who praised him saying "our nation's financial system is truly in great hands."

After rising to become a partner at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin led a group of investors that bought out a failing California bank at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Under his leadership, the bank foreclosed on thousands of distressed properties, a fact that Democrats repeatedly brought up at Mnuchin's confirmation hearing and in spirited floor debate ahead of the vote.

At his confirmation hearing, Mnuchin stressed that the bank he led, OneWest, made risky real estate loans before his investor group took over the institution. He also said OneWest did allow some homeowners to modify their loans and avoid foreclosure, and that, while mistakes were made in the processing of some foreclosures, the bank did follow established guidelines for seizing delinquent properties.

Health and Human Services
secretary also wins approval

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate voted 52-47 to approve Rep. Tom Price as the new chief of the massive Health and Human Services Department.

The vote came early Friday morning at the end of a session that ran well past midnight.

Price, a veteran House member from the state of Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon, is an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said Price, also a Republican, “knows more about health care policy than just about anyone.” McConnell said Price would help “bring stability to health care markets that Obamacare has harmed.”

As the new Health and Human Services chief, Price, 62, will lead the campaign to dismantle the health care law that allowed 20 million Americans to gain access to health insurance.

Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare, but have not agreed on a replacement.

In addition to Price, the Senate has confirmed six others: Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Jim Mattis as Defense secretary, Jeff Sessions as attorney general, John Kelly as Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Chao as Transportation secretary, Steven Mnuchin  as Treasury secretary and Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.

That leaves seven other nominees yet to be confirmed.

The other executive positions yet to be filled are the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor and Veterans Affairs.

Pollution found in creatures
from deepest parts of ocean

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

No place is safe from pollution, including the deepest parts of the oceans.

Writing in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom say small creatures called amphipods that live in the Mariana and Kermadec trenches, both of which are more than 10 kilometers deep, have extremely high levels of man-made toxic chemicals in their fatty tissues.

The chemicals, called persistent organic pollutants, include polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

Polychlorinated biphenyls were produced from the 1930s through the 1970s when they were outlawed. But researchers estimate 1.3 million tons were produced worldwide.

They entered the environment through industrial accidents and discharges and leakage from landfills. Furthermore, they are invulnerable to natural degradation so can last for decades, said researchers.

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth, said lead researcher Alan Jamieson.

“In fact, the amphipods we sampled contained levels of contamination similar to that found in Japan's Suruga Bay, one of the most polluted industrial zones of the northwest Pacific.”

To reach their conclusions, researchers used deep-sea landers to bring organism samples up from the trenches, which are 7,000 kilometers apart.

The pollutants, according to Jamieson, likely sank to the bottom of the ocean through contaminated plastic garbage as well as dead animals that drifted to the bottom and were eaten by the amphipods. Amphipods with toxic chemicals are then eaten by bigger organisms as the pollutants make their way back into the food chain.

Danger lessens in California,
but residents still kept away

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nearly 200,000 people remained under evacuation orders Monday in the western U.S. state of California while authorities tried to repair erosion of an emergency spillway at the country's tallest dam to keep it from failing and unleashing uncontrolled flood waters.

The immediate emergency that led to the evacuation appeared to have waned, but officials were assessing how to fix the overflow channel at the Oroville Dam before deciding whether it was safe to let people return to their homes in rural communities 240 kilometers northeast of San Francisco.

"Now that there is no more water going over the emergency spillway, though it brings stability to the situation, there are still a lot of unknowns," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters late Sunday. "We're not at the point yet where we can make decisions about whether or not it is safe to repopulate areas."

The 235-meter dam, which holds back Lake Oroville, was not in danger of collapse. Authorities were releasing 2,830 cubic meters of water per second from the main spillway on Sunday, bringing down the reservoir so that there was no more flow into the emergency channel. Officials are trying to drop the dam's water level by 15 meters ahead of more storms forecast to hit the region on Wednesday.

The emergency is the result of winter storms that brought relief to the most populous U.S. state after four years of drought, but water levels behind the dam forced officials to use the emergency spillway for the first time in almost 50 years. The evacuation was ordered after engineers spotted a hole in the concrete lip of the emergency spillway.

In addition, there was unexpected erosion in the main spillway, with heavy rains creating a 60-meter-long crevice 9 meters deep, although authorities said that cave-in appears to have ended.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said, "It's clear the circumstances are complex and rapidly changing. The state is directing all necessary personnel and resources to deal with this very serious situation."

Evacuees jammed local roads to escape the region Sunday after officials warned them of the emergency spillway's possible imminent collapse, telling them the evacuation order for the valley communities below the dam was not a drill.

Lake Oroville plays a role in California's government-run water delivery network, supplying water for vast agricultural fields in the middle part of the Pacific coastal state and water for residents and businesses in the populous southern part.

Venus missions can resume
in six years, NASA says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nobody has sent a spacecraft to land on Venus since 1985, mostly because anything that touches its surface fries in less than an hour.

The most vulnerable are computer chips that fail at temperatures above 250 degrees C, while even the best insulation and cooling systems cannot cope for long with Venus' 470-degree surface temperature.

But scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Glenn Research Center now say it will soon be possible to resume explorations, thanks to their new, ceramic-packaged chip.

The silicon carbide-based microprocessor is able to withstand the hellish temperature as well as the crushing atmospheric pressure on Venus' surface, about 90 times that of Earth.

Scientists say designing the mechanical parts of a lander still pose quite a challenge, but the technology could be ready for another Venus mission by 2023.
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Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: 
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Costa Rica penthouse for sale
 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $795K U.S.  Also available for monthly rent for $3,400 per month on an annual basis. Go to  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 32
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Ben Rasmussen prepares to sample his brew.

One-man chocolate factory wins awards

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Americans shower their loved ones with gifts on Valentine's Day, with chocolate being the most popular gift-giving item, according to a recent National Retail Federation survey. The organization estimates consumers will spend $1.7 billion on chocolates this year. That keeps Ben Rasmussen, who creates award-winning chocolates, especially busy.

The main ingredient in Rasmussen's one-man chocolate factory in Woodbridge, Virginia, is cocoa beans.

"Once the beans are cracked in the winnower, the nibs, which is the meat of the bean, goes into the grinder.  . . . And it just spins round and round and grinds the nibs into liquid called coco liquor. To that I add sugar. That is all my chocolate is. Just coco beans and sugar," he said.

That sounds simple, but making a good craft chocolate is anything but, he says.

"What you're eating is results of the chocolate maker's creative choices," Rasmussen said. "How they process that could be how they roast it, how they grind it or how they conche, how they do all of these myriad things that go into the flavor of the chocolate." The conche is what the trade calls the mixer.

For Rasmussen, his love of chocolate started about eight years ago when he tasted a sample of gourmet dark chocolate. He said he fell in love with it instantly and started learning to make it himself.

In very short order, his company, Potomac Chocolate, was born. The bar from the first batch of chocolate he made in his kitchen was a finalist in that year's Good Food Awards, which is based out of San Francisco.

"I'm a Linux system administrator, a computer nerd," Rasmussen said. "So finding out how to balance the work at my day job and chocolate is a real struggle, especially considering the fact that I've got family, four kids. I am a busy guy."

The busy guy makes about 140 kilos (300 pounds) of chocolate every couple of weeks, and sells it online and in high-end gourmet specialty stores and coffee shops.

Rasmussen's cocoa beans are from four places: Costa Rica, Venezuela, Perú and the Dominican Republic. Each of his 10 flavored bars indicates the origin on the wrapping.

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From Page 7:

Small businesses invited to seek awards

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Cash awards and bragging rights are the goals for participating businesses in the annual small-business event and award ceremony of the commerce ministry.

The Galardón PYME of the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio adjusted the qualifications for small and medium-sized business interesting in participating. The prize money also has been increased upwards of $3,000.

Those businesses that want to run must submit a document of not more than two pages explaining the products and services offered by the business, how many years has it existed, and what the business exactly is. Interested participants must also submit a YouTube video not longer than a minute and a half to the ministry.

The winners for the Galadarón award may also use that recognition in advertising, officials said. The award ceremony will be held April 7 and the event will continue for two more days at the Estadio Nacional.

The Procomer organization, the Promotora de Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica, also intends to announce a list of benefits it will grant that small businesses participating in the event may be able to receive, the ministry said.

Participants must be registered in the Sistema de Información Empresarial. The award categories will consist of: PYME Verde, PYME Innovadora, PYME Cultural, PYME Mujer, PYME Joven, PYME Esencial. PYME is a Spanish acronym meaning las Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas, or small and medium-sized employers.