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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 36                Email us
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Mexican president
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
New president
in first visit

Mexico's dashing president,  Enrique Peña Nieto, is greeted at Juan Santamaría airport by Enrique Castillo, Costa Rica's foreign minister. The visitor is expected to stay until this afternoon as he receives honors and promotes a trade treaty between his country and the Central American states.

Our story is




Central Pacific route now seen as highway of death
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The title "the highway of death and dismemberment" always is in flux. One day headline writers consider the most dangerous road in the country to be the new Caldera highway where boulders roll downhill onto vehicles. Then there is Ruta 32 going north of San José past the cliffs in Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo where vehicles can be swept by slides into oblivion.

Now there is a new candidate: Ruta 34, which runs down the central Pacific coast from Orotina to Jacó to the Esterillos and then to Parrita, Quepos and Dominical.

Health and rescue officials are raising the alarm because the highway has had 33 major accidents since the beginning of the year, according to the  Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The most sensational one was this weekend when four persons died in a head-on crash near Parrita that ended when one of the vehicles exploded into flames.

Curiously the Caja said that the situation was much better when the highway was not well marked
 because motorists were more cautious. In a statement, the Caja blamed high speeds, alcohol, sleepiness and imprudence.

All of the major accidents had severe aftermaths, said a statement attributed to Edgar Carrillo Rojas, a physician and head of the health area around Parrita. He said he was going to call a meeting among representatives of agencies involved in handling mishaps, including the Cruz Roja and the Policía de Tránsito to see what preventative measures can be adopted quickly.

He said one of the problems is that the highway passes through population centers where there are pedestrians and persons on bikes. He said that some of the accidents resulted in amputations and disabilities and that a number of the victims were young and now with uncertain prognosis.

The physician said that the major problem was from the Esterillos to an area known as Palo Seco Viejo.

The section south of Quepos to Dominical recently was paved and refurbished with new bridges. High speed was not possible when the road was gravel.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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Professional Directory
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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6822-5/8/12
torch
Casa Presidencial photo
 President Chinchilla witnesses the passage of the Central
 American games flame to Costa Rica.


Nation invested $30 million
in regional sports competition


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With the torch making the rounds of Costa Rican communities, San José officials are putting the finishing touches on facilities for the 10th Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos that begins March 3 and runs until March 17.

The central government says the nation has invested $30 million in infrastructure.

President Laura Chinchilla and San José Mayor Johnny Araya Monge are the principal forces behind the effort. Both helped the country win approval to hold the games in July 2010 from the Organización Deportiva Centroamericana.

The torch representing the spirit of the games arrived Saturday in Paso Canoas and was greeted by the president and Araya.  Ms. Chinchilla offered sports as a way to combat violence and insecurity. 

The administration has put a lot of the infrastructure in areas that are considered low income. For example, Hatillo 2 on the south side of the capital is where a sports city has been constructed. There is a gym that can seat 5,200 persons and an olympic-size pool and four racquetball courts.

In Cristo Rey, a San José´barrio, the gym at the Liceo del Sur has been refurbished and the baseball park Antonio Escarré has seen improvements. Gymnasiums in San Sebastián and San Franciso de Dos Ríos also have been fixed up to serve as locations for some of the sports. Of course, the new Estadio Nacional will have a role, too.

Organizers of the games say that 2,757 athletes from seven countries will participate, and 567 will come from Costa Rica. They said they expect 10,000 tourists to come to the Central Valley because of the games.


Mexican president seeks
approval of trade treaty


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of México got a warm welcome Wednesday from lawmakers and from President Laura Chinchilla.

His country is Costa Rica's third biggest trading partner, and there is a free trade treaty between México and Central American nations on the table.

Both the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and Ms. Chinchilla urged the Asamblea Legislative to approve the measure. Peña Nieto also made a pitch for approval when he visited lawmakers at the legislature. After meeting with Victor Emilio Granados Calvo, president of the assembly, and speaking to the assembled members, the Mexican president circled the room to shake hands with each of the other 56 lawmakers.

In her meeting with Peña Nieto upon his arrival, Ms. Chinchilla again promoted her view that the way to reduce violence is with economic development and social inclusion.

Also Tuesday foreign ministers of the Central American states met as part of the summit of the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana. Other heads of state will be in the capital today for their part in the reunion.


 
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
 HERE!
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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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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Safe house gets government OK to house exploited children
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An airport sign that warned about the consequences of getting caught with a child prostitute followed by an underlined “we mean it” was enough to catch the eye of newly arrived tourist Maria Fejervary who was vacationing in the country with her children.

“I thought, why would we be greeted with this?” she said.

Once she returned home, curiosity led Ms. Fejervary to see reports that Costa Rica is the fastest rising country for underage prostitution.

As a child care psychologist, she wanted to help. To do so, she gave up her childcare facility in the Bay Area, of California and moved to Costa Rica in November 2010.

Now, more than two years later, she has built and received the necessary governmental permits to open the first safe house for child survivors of sexual exploitation.  A group of six girls will move into the house, known as Salvando Corazones, April 15.

"Salvando is so thankful to all who have supported us and worked alongside us to make this a reality," said Ms. Fejervary in a release.  “We see this safe house as just the beginning to help combat issues of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Costa Rica is a wonderful country. Let's help to remove the darkness and bring new light to these children."

Salvando Corazones, Spanish for "saving hearts," will house children from ages 8 to 18 in the Guanacaste region.  According to Ms. Fejervary, Guanacaste has a high amount of girls working in the area, but their location is set apart from the temptations to go back into the lifestyle or seek drugs.

“It's really peaceful. You really get a sense of healing here,” she said.

All the girls will be placed through the Costa Rican child care agency, the Patronato Nacional de Infancia.  Girls traditionally come to the organization on their free will seeking help or they were intercepted by the judicial agencies in raids, explained Ms. Fejervary.

Previously, since the girls were so young, the agencies had no place to put them.

“The psychology need is different from putting them in Rahab or the other places,” said Ms. Fejervary, referring to the Fundación Rahab for adults.

At Salvando Corazones, the youngsters will be put under a full program that includes four hours of home schooling where they will also be taught English, two hours of extra curricular activities, chores such as cleaning and gardening, sessions with a psychologist, and rest and relaxation.  On weekends, activities such as going out will be scheduled.
safe house
                  interior
Salvando Corazones photo
This is the interior of the new safe house.

The girls will have the opportunity to stay in the home until they turn 18 years old.  At that time they can either further their education or start their life in the world.

“We will provide training and life skills so they can face society without using their bodies as a way to finance themselves,”

It is Ms. Fejervary's goal to open multiple houses.  Her second home will be a way to separate the girls with children from those without, and her third house will be for boys.

Another part of the project will be to create a curriculum for schools that educates students and parents about child violence.

“In Costa Rica there is a lot of incest,” explained Ms. Fejervary. 

The girls who have been hurt think that they might as well go out and get paid to have sex, or they run away and then don't have a way to make money except for selling their bodies, she continued.

“One of the biggest transitional things that leads them into prostitution is abuse at home,” she said. Her goal is to start integrating a program that changes this culture of abuse.

“Culturally there needs to be a lot of change because you don't want to say its accepted, but when one in four of the kids is being abused, what other word do you use?” she said.

Ms. Fejervary knows the change won't be immediate, and says there will need to be at least two decades of educating and generations growing up before a drop in child prostitution is seen.

Another safe house is being opened in Quepos by the Seeds of Hope organization, but they are still awaiting approval from the child protection agency.   Once opened, Seeds of Hope and Salvando Corazones will be the only safe house for children in Costa Rica.


Windy weather expected to continue for the rest of the week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather prediction appeared to be correct Tuesday as winds reduced somewhat in Guanacaste and the Central Valley. But there still were gusts of 78 kph recorded in the Guanacaste mountains and gusts of 50 to 60 kph in the Central Valley.

That's a high of about 43 mph with Central Valley gusts between 31 and 37.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that windy conditions
would continue for most of the week with possible gusts of 85 kph, about 58 mph, likely in the mountains.

Meanwhile, more clouds are predicted today on the Caribbean coast and in the northern zone with the possibility of some showers in the central and south Pacific.

Such weather with windy conditions is typical of the season as high pressure enters the country from the north. The major dangers are to small boats and light aircraft as well as some vulnerable buildings, particularly in Guanacaste.

Del Rey Hotel

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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drug tool
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública
Police officers inspect a hydraulic press used in the fabrication of packages of cocaine. Photo below is of a design that could be pressed into the kilogram packages.

Tools here used to create
those neat packages of coke

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Every trade has its tools, and for dope smugglers there is the need to place cocaine in those neat, rectangular packages that weigh just a kilo.

So when agents of the Policía de Control de Drogas raided a drug packaging operation, they found ahydraulic press and a series of design stamps that would be pressed into the face of the packages to designate origin.

They also found 50 pieces of wood exactly the size of a kilo of cocaine, suggesting that there is not much honor among drug smugglers. Agents speculated that the wood would be mixed with kilo packages of cocaine.

The organization that agents said they broke up Tuesday specialized in ending cocaine out of Costa Rica hidden in objects such as books or in the stomach of compliant couriers, agents said.

The destinations were mainly the United States and Holland. One person already is in Dutch custody, agents said.

The security ministry said that the investigation began a year ago when someone telephoned a tip to a confidential drug line, 1176.

Anti-drug agents identified the leader of the organization by the last names of Reyes Lozano, a Colombian national.

Couriers related to this case were detained last May 15 and Jan. 23. The man detained this year carried more than half a million in U.S. currency. He was nabbed in Nicaragua.

Agents said they found books addressed to locations in Europe that has been placed in the Correos de Costa Rica mail system. That was last October. The books had hollow sections filled with cocaine.

Agents were only able to confiscate 57 grams of cocaine in a raid Tuesday. There were other types of drugs, including marijuana. They also confiscated vehicles and firearms.

In all, six persons were detained Tuesday. Four are Colombian and two are Costa Rican. These arrests are in addition to those of couriers.


Financial ratings remain
stable, Fitch reports

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fitch Centroamerica, S.A. rating agency is not troubled by Costa Rican actions to put restrictions on credit in Costa Rica.

The Central Bank said in January that it would put a ceiling of 9 percent on the accumulated growth of credit, the rating agency said.

According to Fitch's estimates, this reform will primarily impact the smaller and private banks and credit and savings unions.

Residential mortgages and consumer loans, the leading growth sectors, will be the most impacted by the credit restriction, according to Fitch. Additionally, this credit restriction will increase the already elevated exposure to securities issued by the state and the Banco Central.

The reform will not alter the rating fundamentals in the majority of cases, said Fitch, adding that, it also foresees that financial institutions whose ratings are based on their intrinsic creditworthiness will be able to sustain the impact of restricted credit growth.

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Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.

7551-10/25/1





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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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bookstore promoe

Medical
                vacations in Costa Rica

Significant benefit seen
in EU-U.S. free trade pact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States and the European Union are likely to begin negotiations as early as June on what some are calling a ground breaking free trade agreement. International trade experts say such an agreement would have substantial economic benefits on both sides of the Atlantic. But the obstacles are many, and success is far from guaranteed.

President Barack Obama raised the prospects of a Transatlantic free trade zone at his annual State of the Union address.

"Because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good paying Americans jobs," Obama said.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was quick to endorse the proposal, saying a comprehensive trade deal with the U.S. would boost Europe's flagging economy.

"It is estimated that when this agreement is up and running, the European economy will get a stimulus of a half percent of our GDP, which translates into tens of billions of euros every year and tens of thousands of new jobs," Barroso said.

In short -- a win-win for developed western nations.

But Sharan Burrow at the International Trade Union Confederation warns an agreement based purely on economic gain will hurt workers in the U.S. and Europe.

"Now if it's collaborative, if it's built on a value set that says we want to share the wealth so tools like collective bargaining are absolutely at the core, so we get the distributional effects,  it could be very interesting," Burrow said.

The concern is that eliminating barriers to trade and investments will undermine collective bargaining agreements and shift production to areas where labor is cheapest.

But trade expert Daniel Ikenson at the Cato Institute says that should not be an issue for the U.S.

"In fact, Europe's labor standards are widely considered to be higher than ours, so the U.S. labor movement would be less likely to oppose the agreement," Ikenson said.

Instead, he says negotiations could focus on harmonizing technical and regulatory standards.

"If you produce something in the United States, for example a washing machine, the electrical cord needs to be three feet and in the European Union, it needs to be one meter, which is three feet and three inches," Ikenson said.

Given that trade tariffs are already low between the U.S. and Europe, major hurdles are likely to revolve around subsidies, the financial aid governments give such groups as farm producers and aircraft manufacturers to stay competitive.

But even if both sides are able to work out their differences, labor leader Burrow says more trade is not the cure for a weak global economy.

"This economy is never going to get back on track in the global context unless we can do something about stopping the attack on worker's rights, giving the world a pay raise so people can build a capacity to live on what they earn and stabilize demand," Burrow said.

Trade between the U.S. and Europe accounts for nearly half of the world's economic output.  Analysts say greater trade would further cement the partnership and help counterbalance China's growing clout.


Hormone affecting chemicals
linked to human health issues

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A new study by the U.N. Environment Program and the World Health Organization finds many synthetic chemicals affect the hormone system and could have significant health implications.  The joint study updates scientific evidence presented 10 years ago and identifies the effects of human exposure to so-called hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Human health depends on a well-functioning endocrine or glandular system to regulate the release of certain hormones that are essential for some functions.  They regulate metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood.

Some substances known as endocrine disrupters can alter the functions of this hormonal system increasing the risk of adverse health effects.  Maria Neira, World Health director of public health and environment, said there is growing evidence that some endocrinal disrupting disorders or diseases are on the rise.

“The speed to which these diseases are increasing cannot exclusively be justified by genetic problems," said Dr. Neira. "It has to be as well be associated with environmental factors, issues like nutrition or bad nutrition or age or other factors that I would say are external and probably combined.”

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in many household and industrial products.  They can enter the environment mainly through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste.

Human exposure to these chemicals can create a lower sperm count in young men and contribute to breast cancer in women.  Ms. Neira says prostate cancer risks are higher among those men exposed to pesticides, particularly in those countries where occupational health is not well developed.

“We have an association as well with adverse effects on the developing nervous system in children and those can include a negative impact on brain development, and we have seen an excess risk of thyroid cancer among those workers who are using pesticides,” said Ms. Neira.

The report also raises concerns on the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals on wildlife.  For example, it notes exposure to such chemicals in the U.S. State of Alaska may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations.

It says the decline in population species of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to PCBs, the insecticide DDT, and other persistent organic pollutants and metals, such as mercury.

Among its recommendations, the study urges more comprehensive testing to identify other possible endocrine disrupters, their sources, and routes of exposure.  It notes what is known about these chemicals is just the tip of the iceberg.

 
Valuable dino skeleton
going back to Mongolia


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A nearly complete skeleton of a 70-million-year-old dinosaur will soon be returned to Mongolia.

Last year a Florida paleontologist sold the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus bataar at auction for more than $1 million.

U.S. authorities accused Eric Prokopi of lying on customs forms by declaring the fossilized bones to be worth $19,000. Prokopi pleaded guilty to fraud in December.

This week a judge ordered the skeleton and other fossils turned over to the government. Prokopi faces at least 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in April.

Mongolian officials say the skeleton, which is 2.5 meters tall and seven meters long, was smuggled out of its fossil-rich Gobi Desert. After the auction, Mongolia demanded its return.

Tyrannosaurus bataar is a close cousin of the better-known T. rex.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page


San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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Latin America news
asphalt
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
Heavy machine helps to put the last of the 18-centimeter (about 7-inch) final coating on Ruta 32 in Tibás, so about half the job is finished, motorists will be happy to hear. Work begins today on a southbound section between Llorente de Tibás and the Calle Blancos intersection in north San José.


Soccer club exec freed
in money laundering case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A three-judge appeals panel has acquitted  Carlos Pascall, the former president of the Limón professional soccer team.

Pascall, a well-known figure in Limón, has spent 18 months in prison, including preventative detention.

He was detained in a made-for-television raid when agents and police broke into his luxury Limón  home through a steel door. Pascal, dressed only in boxer shorts for the early morning visit, watched  uncertainly from a second-flood balcony.

He was accused of money laundering, based on funds sent to him from the United States by his brother.

The appeals panel in  Goicoechea Tuesday ordered his immediate release and instructed officials to return to him all the goods that had been confiscated.  The full decision has yet to be released.


Morning quake jolts
residents around Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nature gave a rude wakeup call to residents in the Jacó area.

Earthquake monitoring agencies registered a 5:53 a.m. quake Tuesday about 23 kilometers south of Jacó in the Pacific.

The Laboratorio de Ingenieria Sismica estimated the magnitude at 3.9. The Red Sismológica Nacional, Costa Rica said the jolt was 4.2.

The quake mainly was felt along the central Pacific coast and in parts of the Nicoya peninsula across the gulf of Nicoya.


Business sought in Asia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A delegation headed by Anabel González, the commerce minister, is making contact this week with business people and academics in China and Japan.











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A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage


San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 36
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shakig
One of a gazillion Harlem Shake videos posted on YouTube. This one was labeled Matt and Kim at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute field house in Troy, New York.

There's a lot of shaking going on

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A YouTube dance phenomenon called the Harlem shake is drawing a huge Internet audience in the United States and abroad.

In the past two weeks, thousands of people have posted short videos of themselves and their friends doing moves to a previously little-known electronic track by a New York DJ.

Most of the videos follow a basic formula that has been easy to replicate for fans around the world.

Jordin's Paradise, a local dance and fitness studio, organized a Harlem Shake flash mob in Dupont Circle Park this week, using Facebook to spread the word.

As a speaker blared the first 30 seconds of the song by New York-based DJ Baauer, two people dressed as penguins started to dance, with a studio cameraman filming them from a distance. At first, the park visitors near the penguins appeared to be oblivious to what was going on. But when the beat started, dozens of them jumped into the camera shot, transforming the once normal scene into dance-filled chaos.

Rita, a teenage participant, said she was excited about appearing in a Harlem shake video. "I think the song is really catchy, and since Gangnam Style was  difficult for everyone to get, this is really simple. So, even if you can't really dance, just do whatever, and it's awesome," said Rita.

In early February, five Australian teenagers from the state of Queensland were among the first to post a Harlem shake dance on YouTube.

The Sunny Coast Skate Crew created a video style that many others later imitated, starting with a masked dancer who is ignored by those around him, until a vocal sample says "Then do the Harlem Shake," and everyone else in the scene suddenly appears to be joining in.

YouTube says tens of thousands of versions of the dance have been uploaded this month, generating more than 175 million views.

The most popular iterations feature a U.S. swim and diving team at the University of Georgia, a group of Norwegian army officers, U.S. media company Maker Studios and an American comedian named Filthy Frank.

DJ Baauer, who released "Harlem Shake" last year to little fanfare, has seen sales of the song skyrocket on iTunes since it became the music of choice for the viral videos. His record company also gets a share of the revenue from YouTube ads shown before the video clips.

American indie rock duo Matt & Kim produced a version that attracted seven million views in a week. While on tour in New York state, they chose a concert hall as their venue and easily persuaded more than 5,000 fans to be their back-up dancers.

Vocalist Matt Johnson said via Skype that the energy of the dancers is what appear to be drawing the viewers.

"As far as I know, nobody has really done it with as many people as we have. There's just a certain energy that you get from watching the 30 seconds of this. I think people really have found that enjoyable and sent it all around."

Cynics say the flood of imitation videos that have appeared online eventually will make people tire of the Harlem shake and lead to its demise.

Johnson said he is surprised the craze has lasted this long.

"That's the nature of these Internet memes, that they can be so large so quickly," he said. "It's not like it can be maintained.  Everything is about doing it right then and moving forward. And there's something fun and very 2013 about that."

Jordin's Paradise director Rania Jaziri hopes the fad will endure. 

"People need to be able to dance and not care about any choreography and just have fun and come together, instead of being stuck behind a computer," she said.


Obama asks GOP to stop automatic cuts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama has issued another appeal to Congress to work with him to avert the first stage of mandatory automatic cuts to domestic and defense spending scheduled to take effect March 1.

​​The $85 billion in cuts that could begin next week are the first part of $1.2 trillion in reductions President Obama and lawmakers agreed on two years ago to force budget savings amid partisan gridlock in Washington.

Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the mandatory cuts proposed by President Obama after grueling debt and deficit negotiations in 2011.  Republicans want still deeper reductions beyond the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction Obama says has been achieved. 

Obama appeared in an auditorium with a group of 16 first responders, including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who he said could lose their jobs if automatic cuts occur.

He urged Republicans to work with him to avoid what he called additional brutal self-inflicted wounds on the economy.

"Republicans in Congress face a simple choice," he said. "Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security, and all the jobs that depend on them, or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?"

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, accused Obama of proposing more government spending and failing to offer a credible plan that Congress can pass.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Obama "still prefers campaign events to common sense, bipartisan action."

Obama said his door remains open to negotiations to avoid the mandatory cuts and achieve balanced reductions. "Nobody should want these cuts to go through because the last thing our families can afford right now is pain imposed unnecessarily by partisan recklessness and ideological rigidity here in Washington," he said.

Responding to questions about Obama's personal involvement in negotiations, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted to reporters that communication lines remain open.

The co-chairmen of a bipartisan fiscal commission Obama appointed issued revised proposals on Tuesday to address the nation's fiscal problems. Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson proposed $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, including spending cuts and health-care and tax reforms.

Bowles addressed the impact of across-the-board cuts. "There is no business in the country that makes its cuts across-the-board, you go in there and you try to surgically try to cut those things that have the least adverse effect on productivity," he said.

White House spokesman Carney said the latest Simpson-Bowles proposal supports Obama's position that the only way to tackle deficit and debt problems is with a balanced plan.

Even if the March 1 spending cuts are avoided, there still is the March 27 expiration of temporary funding of the U.S. debt, a second so-called fiscal cliff.

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