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Ministerio de Educación Pública photo
The new school in Abrojo de Montezuma is now in service.
Formal education reaches a hidden corner of country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are still areas of Costa Rica where there are no schools. But now there is one less area because a new structure has been erected in Abrojo de Montezuma in Corredores on the border with Panamá.

The students are native Guaymí who have been educated by television and long-distance communications.

The new school cost 130 million colons, about $260,000, and contains a computer lab, two classrooms, an administrative area and workrooms for teachers, as well as sanitary facilities.
Formal education came to the area in 2003, three years after the locals agreed that their youngsters should have a broader education.

About 70 students will attend the new school.
The Guaymí or Ngobe have their largest population in Panamá, and many from Panamá come into Costa Rica as seasonal visitors to pick coffee. The women are distinctive in their colorful full dresses.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública said that the government of Japan has donated 47 million colons or about $94,000 to put in a dining area and three more classrooms

Refinery union threatens strike to protect salaries
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unionized employees at the national petroleum monopoly say that they are going on strike today because they fear cuts in their salaries.

The union said that a media campaign was being waged against unions by a group with economic power that dreams of a single salary of hunger for all the Costa Rican workers.

The workers at the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. are the newest group of public employees to be upset by proposals to eliminate certain bonuses from worker salaries. The Contraloría de la República, the budget watchdog, has been leading the campaign, and the central government supports the idea.

Nearly every agency in the central government has its own union that negotiates salaries separately. The base salary frequently is eclipsed by bonuses and
 special payments, although the refinery union rejects the idea that some workers get three times their state pay that way.

The controversial concept is the salario unico, which officials see as a partial solution to the nation's fiscal deficit. Central government officials call the current trend in public employee salaries unsustainable. The unions, of course, respond that the government is trying to solve the deficit by taking money from workers.

For expats, the call for a strike might mean a quick trip to the service station to fill up the tanks of the family vehicles before striking gasoline delivery drivers have an impact on supply. That is if they can maneuver through striking unlicensed taxi drivers who also are unhappy about the government not resolving their status. They promise surprise blockades. Unlicensed taxi drivers and licensed drivers have been fighting for years over who has the right to pick up passengers.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Our reader's Opinion
More enforcement needed
on Pacific coast highway

My wife and I have lived in Matapalo de Aguirre, which is about half way between Quepos and Dominical, for the past six years.  Route 34, the Costanera as everyone around here calls it, was a rutted, sometimes almost impassible dirt road from Quepos to Dominical when we moved here.  This section of the Costanera was subsequently paved in 2010.
What is WRONG with this highway which is now paved all the way from the Caldera highway down to Palmar Norte where it meets the intercarretera is the total lack of presence of tránsitos to enforce traffic laws.  In the six years we have lived here the only time I have seen a tránsito anywhere between Quepos and Dominical other than when there is an accident is when they periodically set up a checkpoint by the airport in Quepos where they spend more time watching the planes land and take off than enforcing traffic laws and twice when they set up a checkpoint just west of the Rio Savegre by a little pueblo named Maritima.  On our trips to Dominical or on down to Uvita I have only seen a tránsito once.
When we frequently have to go to San Jose for medical appointments or to catch a flight seldom do we ever see a tránsito.  Occasionally, we see one on the Caldera highway parked in the shade under an overpass and occasionally in the Jacó/Herrudura area.
Whether we are simply going to Quepos on a weekly shopping trip and at times more often or traveling all the way to the Caldera, drivers constantly ignore the speed limit and throw caution to the wind.  Today I had to go into Quepos, a distance of about 17 miles from the time I get onto the Costanera to where I turn off to go into town.  I had already read today's article so I purposely maintained a steady 85 kph.  The speed limit ranges from 60 to 80 KPH.  YES, I was speeding.  When I got back home I had been passed by eight tractor/trailer rigs, three regular passenger buses, two motorcycles and 12 cars.  The worst offenders are the Tracopa buses that run from San José to Panamá and back.  Their speed in most instances has to be well over 100 kph.   Passing a speeding tractor/trailer rig is nothing to those guys.
It is not uncommon to be passed by three or four vehicles at a time.  When one pulls back into the lane, most often the others continue on until the lead vehicle pulls back into the lane with the others continuing until all have passed one another.   This is not just between Matapalo and Quepos.  It could be anywhere from Matapalo to the Caldera or on down south.   Another danger are drivers maintaining 30 or 40 kph regardless of driving conditions often times belching smoke like an old fashion coal burning locomotive.
I will not even get into passing on blind curves or where on-coming traffic is forced to move to the side of the road to avoid a collision.
With no enforcement, drivers are free to ignore traffic laws with impunity, at least until they kill one another or injure one another sufficiently to warrant a tránsito magically appearing.  I remember reading some time ago an article in A.M. Costa Rica that gave the strength of the tránsitos.  I can't remember the total strength but it does stick in my mind that there are only 165, maybe it is 185, effective members of the force.  All the others are either in management or supervisory positions or else are assigned to mundane administrative duties in various offices.
Nothing is going to change along this highway or any other highway in Costa Rica until the tránsitos start getting out and doing what they have been hired to do.
Frank Walker
Matapalo de Aguirre

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
Click a story for the summary

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 37
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Special race scheduled Sunday for youngsters on Paseo Colón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Children will have their chance to take their mark, get set and go like the X Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos athletes

Namú, the Central American games mascot
 through a mini-marathon Sunday along Paseo Colón.  The official games will begin March 3.

The organizers of the X games will host an athletics day where youths from ages 4 to 13 will be able to run alongside the events mascot Namú. 

Runners will be broken into three categories.  The first is from ages 4 to 6 who will take on a 100-meter dash leaving from Toyota.  Next is the 7 to 9 years old doing a 200 meter dash from Wendy's restaurant.  The final group is the 10 to 13 years old who will run 600 meters from Pizza Hut.

Persons who place first, second and third in each category will receive a Nitendo Wii and Wii Sports Resort game.  Prizes are provided by Gollo stores.

The races will begin at 9 a.m. Participants are asked to be in the starting area at 7 a.m. so everything can get set up, said the coordinators.

Those who wish to participate can register online at  The entry fee is 4,000 colons, which includes a race t-shirt.

After the race, a family festival will begin with games for the children.

Police get more than 500 modern radios for patrol use
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police are fond of saying that bad guys cannot outrun the Motorola.

Well, now Fuerza Pública officers have more than 500 new Motorola radios to use daily.

Security ministry officials displayed some of the 559 Motorola portable radios, 200 mobile units and 76 base stations that have been purchased.

The value is about 800 million colons or about $1.6 million. The new devices include a geolocalization system and a way to turn off the device if it is lost or stolen. Officials also said that the radios are designed to prevent scanning for hobbyists or crooks.

Mario Zamora Cordero, the security minister, and Juan José Andrade Morales, the director general of the Fuerza Pública, announced the arrival of the devices.
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Jorge Alonso Alvarez V
Some of the radios frame the security officials

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 37
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Corruption fighter lists
nations with illegal flows

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Corruption is a common and pervasive human flaw. In every society, there are people who will act improperly if they think that they won’t get caught. Nations enact laws to try to curb corrupt activities, but the lure of money and power, in some circumstances is irresistible to many.

If there is money, if there is power, there is the likelihood of corruption, whether blatant, or hidden, whether in government, in private business or among individuals.

Corruption is so vast, and so pervasive, that the numbers are staggering.  An international anti-corruption monitoring group called Global Financial Integrity says that in the years from 2001 through 2010, developing nations experienced a total of $5.86 trillion in illicit funds leaving those countries.

The leading nation among them was China, where the total that decade hit $2.75 trillion. Mexico was second on the list, with $476 billion in illicit outflows. Russia was fifth at $152 billion. Nigeria was the top African nation on the list, at number seven, with an illicit outflow of $129 billion.

The typical image of an official corrupted by bribes represents only a small part of the picture, according to Global Financial Integrity’s director, Raymond Baker.

“The corrupt component that stems from bribery and theft from government officials is really quite small. It’s only about 3 percent or 4 percent or 5 percent of the global total,” says Baker. “The larger parts of these cross-border flows are the criminal component, which in our estimation is about 30 to 35 percent of the global total. But the commercially tax avoiding component at about 60 to 65 percent of the total is by far the biggest part of this problem.”

Global Financial Integrity says that more recently, the illicit outflow from developing nations is nearing a trillion dollars a year.

Moving veritable mountains of money requires a vast and global shadow financial system.

“The essential elements of the system are secrecy, jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake charitable foundations,” says the Global Financial Integrity director. “The mispricing of trade is part of this system; various money laundering techniques are a part of this system. Quite frankly another part is holes left in the laws of western countries that facilitate the movement of money through this shadow financial system and ultimately into our own western economies.”

He said one of the biggest financial black holes in the world is actually the United States, where individual states handle the legal process of incorporations, often with little oversight. It says this allows creation of anonymous companies that can then serve as shells and conduits for illicit money.

Corruption monitoring groups say banking secrecy in some western nations such as Switzerland, and islands in the Caribbean, attracts corrupt cash and facilitates its movement. In recent years, Switzerland has bowed to pressures from other nations and international law enforcement agencies and somewhat loosened its secrecy laws.

While corruption is vast in scope, the effort to fight it is growing in strength, and spreading around the globe.

Since its founding in 1993, the watchdog group Transparency International has worked to get nations to put more of their government activities in the public light. And along with that effort, the advance of technology and other developments have given citizens everywhere better tools to press for that openness. Transparency International co-founder Frank Vogl lists the broad-based efforts underway.

“Thanks to the Internet,” Vogl said, “Thanks to the really enormous growth of civil society across the world, thanks to social media, thanks to investigative journalism, thanks to courageous public prosecutors, the public at large knows more about abuse of public office than ever before. It is better informed about corruption.”

Prosecutor will appeal
the Pascall appeal decision

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An acquittal is not permanent in Costa Rica. Neither is a conviction.

Carlos Pascall, the former Limón soccer club president is finding that out the hard way. He was freed after 18 months in prison Tuesday and returned triumphantly to Limón. He had been convicted by a trial panel of money laundering. But an appeals court finally set that conviction aside after Pascall spent 18 months in prison.

Now prosecutors say they will appeal the acquittal to an even higher panel. If that panel overrules the lower appeals court, Pascal will be going back to prison.

Costa Rica does not have a double jeopardy rule. A person may be acquitted by a trial panel and then convicted on appeal.

Even when someone is convicted at trial by three criminal judges, they frequently are allowed to remain at liberty until an appeals panel hears the case. Many convicted persons are no longer around when the appeals decision comes down.

Trio held in hijacking
of electronics shipment

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators detained three men Tuesday night as suspects in the hijacking of a truck loaded with electronics gear and the kidnapping of the driver.

The driver was transporting a load that included flat screen televisions, sound equipment, and modular furniture from Panamá Sunday.  While driving along Interamericana Sur in Ciudad Cortes, hijackers struck, said a judicial report.  The cargo was valued at about $83,000, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The men threatened the driver with guns and took him tied up in his vehicle and left him in Quepos. Meanwhile, the crooks used another truck to carry away the container with the electronics.

The detained men who are of the ages 34, 43 and 17 were found in Taras de Cartago traveling in a truck. Agents said they recovered the stolen goods.  
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Budget showdown may
bring on massive cuts

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress are headed for a budget showdown March 1 involving $85 billion in mandatory cuts, unless lawmakers come up with a different way to reduce the deficit. The cuts will affect domestic and military spending equally, and have hardened the political battle lines in Washington.

Back in August of 2011, Obama proposed mandatory budget cuts as a way of forcing action to reduce deficit spending by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

Most analysts predicted Congress agreed to this believing the mandatory cuts would never happen and that lawmakers would find a way to compromise on a different set of cuts in time to avert what many see as a meat cleaver approach to cutting government spending.

Compromise has proved elusive in the age of polarized politics in Washington, however, and the president warned lawmakers and the public about the consequences of the cuts in his recent State of the Union address.

“They would devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.

Republicans are holding firm, including the speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio.

“The sequester will be in effect until there are cuts and reforms that put us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years, period!” said Boehner.

Analysts say conservatives now see the sequester cuts as the best way to make a real dent in government spending. Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute said:

“Especially a number of conservatives, in and out of Congress, The Wall Street Journal editorial page, talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, are saying, 'Bring it on, let us do the sequester,' and the basic underlying theme is, 'We are going to get a huge set of budget cuts. We are not going to get them any other way. Big deal if they hurt. Let us make it happen.'”

Ornstein said Republicans are taking a risk by backing the cuts and directly challenging Obama so soon after his re-election victory last November.

“The president has the upper hand in many objective ways. His approval rating is high. Congress’ approval rating is low, and Republicans in Congress have a particularly low approval rating. Americans do not want these things to occur.”

In order to block the sequester cuts from taking effect, Congress would have to pass an alternative set of budget cuts by March 1. But Ornstein said time is running out.

"And the real danger here is that we could reach a confrontation and have some real damage done that ultimately will probably be dealt with, but in the meantime the damage will be there and it will be long lasting,” he said.

The cuts would affect international humanitarian and military assistance, and could upset allies, said analyst Jim Arkedis with the Progressive Policy Institute.

"I think that the world is probably a little bit frustrated, certainly countries that are expecting to receive American aid, whether it is humanitarian or military assistance, you name it, sort of Democratic formation assistance, that sort of thing, are probably frustrated and nervous,” said Arkedis.

Neither side appears in a hurry to do much to derail the automatic cuts. Republicans see it as the only way to truly shrink government spending. Democrats believe they will reap political benefit because the public will largely blame Republicans for any disruption to government services that come about from the cuts.

U.S. delegation meets
with Raúl Castro and Gross

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. congressional delegation has left Cuba after meeting with President Raúl Castro and visiting an American who has been jailed in Havana since 2009.

The delegation was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. Leahy said President Castro and the group "discussed the continuing obstacles and the need to improve relations" between the United States and Cuba.

"I think that we are at a time when, I would hope, that both our countries would adapt to the 21st century as far as relations," said Leahy. "I had very good talks with President Castro, but with others also. And I'll talk to President Obama when I get back, and I will fill him in with those talks and I will also give him my recommendations.''

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also attended the meeting.

Leahy and Rep. Chris Van Hollen also met with 63-year-old American Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since 2009. Hollen represents Gross's home state of Maryland. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence for illegally possessing communications equipment while on a democracy-building program funded by a U.S. State Department program.

The congressional delegation wants Cuban authorities to free Gross. Leahy led a similar delegation to Cuba last year, where he met with Castro and Gross. 

Havana has offered to release Gross in exchange for five Cuban spies captured in the U.S. in the 1990s and serving lengthy jail sentences.  Washington has ruled out any such prisoner swap.

Pope may issue edict
for early conclave

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pope Benedict may issue a decree calling for an early start to the conclave of cardinals that will elect his successor.

A Vatican spokesman says the pope is considering the possibility of making changes to the law before he steps down in a week.

Under rules set by Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, the conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, meaning a start of March 15 at the earliest.

Church authorities say they need a new pope in place for Holy Week, which starts March 24 for Palm Sunday and culminates on the 31st with Easter.

The current rules allow for cardinals to have time to travel to Rome following the death of a pope, but a Vatican spokesman said since the cardinals know the exact date of Benedict's resignation, they can plan on arriving in Rome early.

Some 117 Catholic cardinals will enter the conclave, which is held in the Sistine Chapel.
Benedict announced earlier this month that he was resigning for health reasons.

The 85-year-old Benedict was elected pope in 2005 to replace the late John Paul II.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 37
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Two men die as victims
of separate robberies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A store keeper in Moravia died Tuesday night, the apparent victim of an armed robber.

Meanwhile in Desamparados, investigators reported the death of an off-duty security guard who engaged robbers in a gunfight at a bus stop.

The dead man in Moravia was 74 years old, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was identified by the last name of Herrera. The man operated a small store near the Moravia Parque Central. Agents do not know why a robber shot the man after getting money from the cash register.

Dead in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados was a man with the last name of Astúa. He was waiting for a bus about 7:30 p.m. Monday when two men on a motorcycle tried to rob him. Because he was a security guard, agents said he pulled out his own weapon and fired on the robbers. He died from two bullet wounds at the bus stop.

Later agents said they identified a man who came to Hospital San Juan de Dios from the same area with a bullet wound. They said they think that Astúa shot him.

Power generation contract
will be approved today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said it would sign agreements today with six firms for the private production of electricity. The power producer said it had selected five firms that operate wind farms and six that have hydro installations as finalists, and the agreements would be signed with the first six today.

Veterans group to meet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Guanacaste Veterans Association will meet Saturday at the upper deck of Coconutz in Playa del Coco at 10 a.m..  Topics will be logos, ID cards, and planning future events, the organization said. Those interested can RSVP for planning purposes as soon as possible to Karen and Quinn Slack at 8938-3251, 8708-1325 and, or Dave Reynolds at

The organization said it is looking for members who have served in the military or support the military.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 37
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Operclipygus falini, one of the new species, named for researcher Zachary Falin at the University of Kansas, who collected some of the original specimens.

Tropical forests yield bundle of bugs
By the Pensoft Publishers news staff

The tropics are home to an extraordinary diversity of insect species. How great is it, exactly? Researchers do not know, but those at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History published a study on tropical beetles that can point toward an answer. The paper was published in the open access, peer-reviewed journal Zookeys.

Entomologists Michael Caterino and Alexey Tishechkin have named 138 new species within the genus Operclipygus (the name refers to their clamshell-like rear end), thereby increasing the size of the genus over six times. The work is based on a study of over 4,000 specimens amassed from natural history museums all over the world, as well as specimens from fieldwork collected throughout Central and South America by the authors.

The lead co-author of the paper, Caterino, comments on the significance of such biodiversity: "We all know that forests in the tropics are disappearing. But we only have the faintest idea of how much biodiversity is disappearing with them. Studies like this are critical to seeing where the greatest diversity is, and finding out the best ways to protect it."

These beetles all belong to a family known as histerids, or clown beetles. All of the newly described species are similar in appearance to a poppy seed: small, round and black. Because of their extreme abundance, however, they have an ecological importance disproportionate to their size. As voracious predators of other insects' larvae, these beetles help controlling pesty flies. As in some cases their menu includes fly larvae found in decomposing bodies, some researchers have been promoting their use in forensic investigations.

Since the days of Darwin, Wallace, and Bates, entomologists have both celebrated and bemoaned the overwhelming diversity of tropical insects. Modern-day scientists continue to grapple with the question of just what extent of insect biodiversity lives in the tropical parts of the world, with estimates ranging from 5 to 30 million species or more. This study is only one part of a larger revision of several related histerid genera, and it seems not to be an isolated case, with most groups revealing five to six times the species currently documented.

So while biologists have a long way to go in fully documenting the species diversity in rapidly-disappearing tropical forests, comprehensive taxonomic revisions of neglected insect groups can help to clarify the magnitude of what's at stake. This project was funded by the Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics program of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

White House stiffens trade protection

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Obama administration has unveiled a new strategy to help protect American companies from economic espionage and thefts of trade secrets, an issue linked to intensified concerns about cyber espionage.

Trade secret theft and intensifying cyber attacks targeting U.S. industrial and technological sectors are closely intertwined.  President Barack Obama says they threaten the U.S. economy and national security.

U.S. companies are estimated to have lost at least $300 billion last year according to a recent congressional committee report.

High level meetings at the White House and across the government led to Wednesday's announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials of a dramatic escalation against economic espionage.

Holder said the stakes have never been higher.

"In some industries, a single trade secret can be worth millions or even billions of dollars.  Trade secret theft can require companies to lay off employees, close factories, to lose sales and profits, to experience a decline in competitive position and advantage, or even to go out of business.  And this type of crime can have significant impacts not only on our country’s economic well-being, but on our national security as well," Holder said.

Holder said national security impacts include hostile states obtaining data that can endanger American lives, expose energy, financial and other sensitive sectors to massive losses, and leave infrastructure open to attack.

The new strategy aims to increase U.S. engagement and coordination with countries where there are high levels of trade secret thefts, step up information sharing with private companies and intensify law enforcement and intelligence efforts.

Domestic legislation would be reviewed to improve enforcement, and a public awareness campaign would be intensified about the effects of trade secret theft.

Victoria Espinel is the White House coordinator for intellectual property enforcement.

"Our status as a global innovation leader is compromised by those countries who fail to enforce the rule of law or international agreements or who adopt policies that disadvantage American companies and American workers including encouraging or tolerating the theft of U.S. trade secrets," Ms. Espinel said.

Robert Hormats referred to some governments or companies "gaming the system" and pursuing "downright illegal" policies to gain competitive advantage. He is undersecretary of State for economic affairs.

Protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, he said, remains "a serious and highly troubling issue," one raised consistently at a high level with China.

"Our message is actually quite clear.  The protection of intellectual property rights and trade secrets is critical to all rights holders, whether they be from the United States or whether they are for Chinese companies as well or for other companies around the world," Hormats said.

In 2012, President Obama announced establishment of a new enforcement office to challenge unfavorable trade policies, including intellectual property violations and subsidies to favored industries.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says President Obama is very concerned about all threats to the U.S. economy and national security.

"It is something that is very much on the president's mind.  It is why the president has urged Congress to act appropriately on cyber security legislation and why again today we are calling on Congress to act," Carney said.

Carney said an executive order President Obama signed to bolster defenses in crucial American industries against cyber crime needs to be followed by new congressional legislation.

Cyber security threats were thrust back into the headlines after a Virginia-based cyber security firm, Mandian, released a report linking attacks to a unit of China's military. 

China denied allegations of any high level involvement.

Pavas to get new child-care facility

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pavas, a San José district, will have a new child care facility designed to provide supervision for 220 children ages newborn to 6 years old. It will be available to low-income families that need the service.

The center will be equipped with two nurseries, and 10 preschool classrooms.  It will also have a dining room, restrooms, hallways and playgrounds.

Shapes such as triangles and circles will be incorporated into the wall design, as a way to make the environment more friendly for the children, said the municipality.

Construction for the facility will cost 260 million colons, about $520,000, and will be paid for by the Municipalidad de San José.

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