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Published Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Vol. 17, No. 37
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International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes photo
Dozens of lawyers are involved in the Aven arbitration case.

Property case exposes range of real estate woes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country's real estate situation became further clouded Monday when a fraud prosecutor said an investigation has been opened in a case involving three condo projects.

That revelation followed a report Friday that 15 percent of the projects being offered at a construction expo had not been authorized for sale.

The fraud prosecutor is José Pablo Miranda. The Poder Judicial said the prosecutor was seeking consumers who had been involved with the project.

The parent firm of the three condo projects was identified as Homes Grupo Inmobiliario, and the projects are Real Garita in La Garita de Alajuela, Real Boungainvillea in Santo Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia and Condado del Valle in San Sebastián.

The Poder Judicial said there had been complaints from the public, but the announcement was not specific as to what kind of complaints.

The Homes Grupo firm was mentioned in the Panamá Papers release, and Roberto Wong Coto and Sugey Jarquin Zuñiga were listed as beneficiary of the corporation. They both were listed as living in San Ramón de Tres Ríos.

Mossack Fonseca & Co., the law firm at the center of the Panamá Papers case, seems to have formed the corporation in 2015.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio reported Friday that its consumer inspectors found 17 projects that were being offered to the public without authorization at a construction expo. The law and regulations requires those offering projects to be built in the future to get financial clearance from the ministry.

The latest real estate developments comes with a backdrop of claims of property theft and bribery.
A week from today on a tract of central Pacific land another chapter takes place in the 18-year case of Ivanhoe Investment, Inc., represented by Sheldon Haseltine.

The corporation is opposing the claim by well known businessmen that they bought the property from a squatter.

The agricultural courts have a tradition of holding sessions on disputed land. The land involved is valuable because it is near the famous Los Sueños complex.

Cases of bribery is fundamental to claims that are being heard now in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. David Aven and his U.S. investors are seeking damages from Costa Rica for illegally shutting down the Las Olas project in Parrita.

Jovan Damjanac, the project's representative in Costa Rica said Monday that the parties have completed testimony and that they are submitting final memorandums to a three-person arbitration panel.

Aven said in papers filed with the World Bank entity that he was solicited for a bribe by a functionary of what is now the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and on another occasion officials of the Municipality of Parrita sought $200,000.

When Aven declined to pay, the project was shut down, his lawyers say. They also claim that the judiciary did not follow up on complaints of the bribes. A decision on compensation is expected later in the year.

Damjanac said that he, himself, is facing a fourth court trial on allegations of environmental damage stemming from the project.

Property frauds, land thefts and problems for developers are many in Costa Rica. For example, last Jan. 20, investigators detained four men and a woman in a case of four Guanacaste properties that were sold based on fake paperwork in the Registro Nacional.

Agents arrest suspect for murder of Gringo's wife
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special security ministry unit captured a suspect Monday in the rape-murder of a female home invasion victim in late December. 

The victim was reported at the time to have been married to a U.S. citizen but that they were not living together.

The detention took place on Avenida 10 between calles 1 and 3 in San José. The arresting unit was the Dirección de Inteligencia Policial of the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública.

Work associates discovered the murder last Dec. 30 in the apartment in San Joaquín de Flores, Heredia.  The dead woman was identified as Jensie Brooks Hooker, 30.

The police agency said that someone had forced their way into the apartment, tied up the woman, abused her sexually and then cut her throat.

The apartment showed signed of a struggle and some items were taken, investigators said at the time. The woman had lived there two years, investigators said at the time.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 37
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Sections of Ruta 117 to close until Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those raised reflective plastic boxes that mark highway lanes are called captaluces, and highway workers are going to be installing more. But to do so, Ruta 117 will need to be closed.

The Dirección General de Ingeniería de Tránsito said its crews would start today on Ruta 117 between Los Ángeles de Santo Domingo de Heredia and Moravia to mark the asphalt, install the reflective devices and install signs. The work is scheduled to continue until Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., said the agency. In most cases, delays for motorists would be about 30 minutes, it added.

Crews also are working at night in surfacing the stretch of highway between the Galletas Pozuelo factory in La Uruca and the Jardines del Recuerdo cemetery. This is where a bridge over the Río Virilla has been widened. This asphalt job was to start Monday night and continued until 4 a.m. today. The highway was to be closed during this period, and motorists were being rerouted to the General Cañas autopista.

Crews are scheduled to be back on the job from 10 p.m. tonight until 4 a.m. Wednesday and from 10 p.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Thursday.

The new four-lane highway is supposed to go into service March 7. The route had been two to three lanes and was a continual bottleneck for travel to and from Heredia Centro.

Defensoría to schools: Teach road safety

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ombudsman’s office wants Costa Rican schools to teach students how to improve on their road safety skills.

The Defensoría de los Habitantes announced Monday that the Ministerio de Educación Pública needs to implement a compulsory education program on road safety for all schools in the country. Traffic law in Costa Rica actually requires that schools provide road education in schools and that the Dirección General de Educación Vial develop a classroom course on the process of getting a driver’s license for students in their sophomore, junior and senior years of high school.

In response to the Defensoría’s investigation on the program’s implementation, the education ministry developed a road safety plan to fulfill the requirements addressed in the law. It also installed some training on road training for teachers.

This comes in spite of the education ministry’s view that there is no clear provision regarding the implementation of a road education plan. The ministry believes it is limited to the decision of officials in each school. The Defensoría responded with a request to education officials to issue a guideline to local administrations to establish that obligation.

The Defensoría expects these new obligations to be applied by the end of this year. According to data from the Consejo de Seguridad Vial, road deaths are the leading cause for violent death in Costa Rica. It is also considered a public health problem, according to officials.

The data from the Consejo and the Policía de Tránsito reported that last January saw the highest number of road deaths in the last five years. These statistics, the ombudsman said, are the reasons behind the necessity in implementing the programs.

Finance ministry wants more taxes again

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Despite the precarious government financial situation, expenses increased 6.9 percent in the first month of the year, according to the finance minister. Governmental income was up 8.4 percent, too, in part because of Christmas shopping sales tax.

The minister, Helio Fallas, the first vice president, issued yet another call for more taxes. Again he admitted that more taxes would not stop the financial bleeding, but more income would give the government time to consider how to readjust its finances, presumably to seek more taxes.

Fallas said that projections generated by his ministry show that without new taxes the national deficit would be 6.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2018 and 6.9 percent in 2019.

Fallas just returned from meetings with staffers at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. The fund also supports more taxes.

Last year the nation's gross domestic product was about $55 billion. That is an estimate of the costs of all the goods and services during the year. The figure for 2016 has not yet been computed, but the amount for 2015 is $54.61 billion. Governments speak of percentages of gross domestic product as a shorthand.

Based on these numbers, Fallas is predicting a government debt of $3.6 billion in 2018 and $3.8 billion in 2019. He said he is estimating a national debt for 2017 of about 5.9 percent. That computes to $3.25 billion.

The national debt results when the government spends more each year than it brings in, hence the call for more taxes.

Fallas and President Luis Guillermo Solís have been unable to convince lawmakers to pass a new value-added tax to replace the existing sales tax and to raise income tax rates. Fallas called again Monday for this to be done.

Also on the table is a tax on corporations to replace one determined to be unconstitutional two years ago due to procedural errors. That bill passed on first reading but was referred to the Sala IV constitutional court for an opinion before a second and final vote.

Part of the government's trouble is in legislation and constitutional requirements that allocate about 95 percent of the budget. That leaves just 5 percent to which cuts can be made.

A lot of the mandates are based on gross domestic product, so as the economy improves, so do the required expenses.

Fallas also noted that two international waiting agencies have downgraded the country's credit worthiness. That will increase the cost of floating bonds to finance the deficit.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 37
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Environment ministry defends treatment of now-dead Kivú, the lion
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía has launched a defense of its treatment of  Kivú, the African lion, who died shortly after the ministry ordered that he be moved. A statement Monday night from the ministry said that the lion has been suffering a renal insufficiency. 

The animal and another lion lived in a small cage at the Simon Bolivar Parque Zoologico y Jardin Botanico Nacional in north San José.

But the ministry noted that animal rights activists began an online campaign last July to better the condition of the lion.

Both the ministry and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería investigated and found that the cage of some 70 square meters was too small.
The lions had lived in the cage for nearly two decades. A companion, Kariba, died earlier.

The ministry also questioned the lion's diet and said it should contain more animal meat and bones.

The ministry also said that the cage was not like the lion's natural habitat. However, the lion was part of a circus that came from Cuba, so it may never have lived in the wilds.

The lion's condition and now its death change the way Costa Ricans perceive zoos, said the ministry. Officials have been trying to cancel the lease of the foundation that runs the zoo.

The ministry praised the quality of life of the lion after the animal was relocated to a rescue center where there was a 300-square-meter cage, trees, plants and a place where the lion could hide.

Economics ministry constructs a new import tariff on Brazilian sugar
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica may be approaching another protectionist trade dispute, this time with Brazil.

The Ministerio de Economía Industria y Comercio has ordered a 6.82 percent import tariff on Brazilian sugar with the claim that the south American country is engaged in dumping.

Brazil is likely to take countermeasures against Costa Rican products, and Monday some officials there spoke of an appeal to the World Trade Association. Dumping is when a country exports goods at or below the cost of production.

Sugar wholesalers and producers here, members of the Liga Agrícola Industrial de la Caña, have said that they would not raise the price because of the import duty on Brazilian sugar.

Sugar wholesalers and producers here, members of the Liga Agrícola Industrial de la Caña, have said that they would not raise the price because of the import duty on Brazilian sugar.

It was the sugar league, which has a membership of 8,000 producers, that sought the anti-dumping tariff since July 2015.

The newly appointed economics minister, Geannina Dinarte Romero, an academic and former legislative aide, ordered the import duty in what may have been her first action in the job. She replaced Welmer Ramos Feb. 14.

He had resisted calls for an import duty.

Costa Rica is still involved with México because the sanitary arm of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería banned Mexican Hass avocados because of a potential plant ailment.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 37
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Presidency in Ecuador still up in the air, and April runoff possible
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Exit polls from Sunday's presidential election in Ecuador put the ruling party's Lenin Moreno ahead of the closest contender among seven opposition candidates, although it was unclear whether he had enough votes to avoid an April runoff.

With more than 80 percent of polling stations reporting Monday, Moreno had almost 39 percent of the votes, compared to just under 29 percent for conservative Guillermo Lasso, a former banker.

To avoid a runoff, Moreno needs 40 percent of valid votes and a 10-point lead over Lasso.

An exit poll by Cedatos pollster estimated Moreno received some 39.4 percent of valid votes versus about 30.5 percent for Lasso. Its margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.

A separate OPECUADOR poll published by state media showed Moreno with 42.9 percent of valid votes, versus 27.7 percent for Lasso.

Even before the first vote results, Moreno was quick to declare himself the winner based on inconclusive exit polls and called on Lasso to recognize defeat.

He softened his tone, however, while addressing supporters late in the night.

An ally of the outgoing leftist President Rafael Correa, Moreno had been leading in opinion polls and promised to continue the current president's programs on tax-and-spend social policies.

Lasso has vowed to cut spending and taxes while creating one million jobs. Lasso had been second in pre-election polls.

The oil-rich country's economy shrank by 1.7 percent in 2016 due to falling oil prices.

The result of the election could also change the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. One campaign promise from the two leading conservative candidates was to evict Assange from Ecuador's London embassy where he has taken refuge out of fear of extradition to the United States.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 37
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Voice of America photo  
New York City protesters support diverse causes.

Protests in many U.S. cities
create holiday against Trump

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of protesters rallied nationwide to oppose the Donald Trump administration during Monday's President's Day holiday.

Events were underway from Boston to Seattle where protesters said they hoped to make it an anti-Trump day. A list of cities on the Not My President’s Day Facebook page showed at least 30 cities where protests inspired by the national movement of Bad Dudes and Nasty Women took place.

In New York City, several thousand protesters stretched at least eight blocks near the Trump International Hotel. Organizers of the protest said on Facebook, "Donald Trump is literally our president, but figuratively, he has attacked every value New Yorkers embody and does not represent our interests."

Several hundred people gathered in Washington, shouting "Dump Trump."

In Chicago, hundreds gathered near Trump Tower, holding signs in English, Arabic and Spanish calling for resistance to Trump's immigration policy.

A woman marching in Los Angeles said she was marching for her parents who have worked hard to provide for us.

Another demonstrator in Dallas, Texas, said people were angry.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on and it’s only been a month, and it’s kind of scary for a lot of people because a lot of people are actually being affected by what’s going on,” she said.

"I'm here to protest everything that 45 stands for . . . From his views on women to his views on immigration, racism, sexism and all the awful things that he is representing is embarrassing our country," another protester said, indicating that Trump is the  45th U.S. president.

In one month of presidency, Trump has signed 24 executive orders and memoranda including orders to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific trade deal, impose a federal hiring freeze, and temporarily ban travelers from seven Muslim nations. That order was blocked by federal judges.

Most students, school employees and government workers had Monday off work because of the federal holiday.

Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studies renewable energy solutions to climate change. He said scientists are trying to send a message to President Trump that America runs on science.

“Science is the backbone of our prosperity and progress,” Supran said.

Demonstrators, some dressed in while lab coats, held signs that read “Science Matters,” “Scientists Pursuing Truth, Saving the World” and “Make America Smart Again.”

The Rally to Stand Up for Science in Boston’s Copley Square was held outside the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting.

Saturday, Trump held a large rally in Florida with about 9,000 supporters gathered in an airport hangar in Melbourne.

They loudly cheered Trump's comments. While anti-Trump protests are continuously across the country, the president’s fiercest backers echoed his message.

"He is right on point, because, unfortunately, most of the news media distorts it and twists it to their benefit,” said Hamilton Campos, who attended Trump’s rally Saturday. “You know, they were hoping that Hillary was going to win and she did not,” meaning Mrs. Clinton.

Many Londoners demand
Trump not be invited to UK

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of people took to the streets of London outside Parliament late Monday as British lawmakers debated whether to withdraw an invitation to U.S. President Donald Trump for a state visit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May became the first foreign leader to meet Trump in the White House in January, when she invited him to Britain on a state visit to be hosted by Queen Elizabeth II later this year.

The debate was scheduled after more than 1.8 million people signed an online petition calling on the British government to cancel the state visit. A counter-petition urging the government to support the visit, signed by 300,000, was also being discussed.

Despite the robust debate in parliament, the lawmakers have no power to actually withdraw the offer.

Paul Flynn, a member for the opposition Labor Party, opened the debate calling Trump a man who behaves like a petulant child, who should have his state visit downgraded to a mere visit.

Outside parliament, protester Benjamin Kari said people needed to stand up against Trump's policies and avoid becoming complacent. "He's promoting racist policies. He's normalizing racism and misogyny and Islamophobia."

Bryan Richardson, a member of the Stand up to Racism group, said May "humiliated herself by rushing over to Washington to be the first leader to meet Donald Trump."

Some lawmakers said May's haste to bolster the trans-Atlantic special relationship as Britain prepares to leave the European Union had an edge of desperation.

The government insists Trump's visit will take place, though dates have not been announced. Conservative lawmakers said revoking the invitation would be a bad idea for the trans-Atlantic relationship.

"We believe it is absolutely right that we should use all the tools at our disposal to build common ground with President Trump," Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan told lawmakers.

"The visit should happen, the visit will happen," he added. "And when it does, I trust the United Kingdom will extend a polite and generous welcome to President Donald Trump."

Fake news defending policy
in Sweden, Trump tweets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump contends the fake news media is defending Sweden's immigration policies, claiming that massive immigration into the Scandinavian country has been a failure.

"Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!" Trump said Monday on his Twitter account.

Trump's comment extended for another day the spat he ignited with Washington's allies in Stockholm when he suggested, erroneously, at a Saturday campaign rally that a terrorist attack had occurred in Sweden Friday.

Trump mentioned past terrorist attacks in Europe linked to open-borders immigration, saying, "You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden.Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers and they're having problems like they never thought possible."

Trump, after many Swedes mocked the comment for hours on Swedish social media sites, said his remark referred to a Fox News broadcast about migrants and Sweden that he had watched Friday, not a terrorist attack.

Journalist Ami Horowitz contended on the show that high-level Swedish officials are deliberately covering up a surge in crime, especially gun violence and rapes, committed by some of the more than 300,000 immigrants Sweden has accepted from war-torn countries since 2013.

Official government statistics show that the country's crime rate has fallen since 2005.

While Trump contended that Sweden's acceptance of the immigrants has failed, the Swedish embassy in Washington said Sunday, "We look forward to informing the U.S. administration about Sweden's immigration and integration policies."

National security adviser job
filled by a military strategist

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump named a new national security adviser Monday, picking Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, a military strategist who has spent his entire career in the U.S. armed forces.

Trump called the 54-year-old McMaster a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.

The president, making the announcement from his Florida retreat Mar-a-Lago along the Atlantic Ocean, said that retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been his acting adviser, will now serve as chief of staff of the National Security Council.

McMaster is currently director of the Army's Capabilities Integration Center, an Army agency integrating war-fighting capabilities with other government agencies. Trump selected him over at least three other contenders, including Kellogg.

McMaster will replace Michael Flynn, the retired Army general Trump fired a week ago after just 24 days on the job at the start of Trump's assumption of power in Washington. The new president said last week it was unacceptable to him that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador to Washington in the weeks before Trump was inaugurated a month ago.

McMaster is a much-decorated soldier, winning a Silver Star early in his Army career leading U.S. troops in their destruction of 80 Iraqi Republican Guard tanks without U.S. losses in a battle against Saddam Hussein's forces during their 1991 invasion of Kuwait. McMaster has held numerous key Army postings over the last 25 years.

Three years ago, Time magazine put him on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world, calling him the architect of the future U.S. Army.

The immediate reaction from members of Congress was positive.

Sen. John McCain, who has occasionally voiced concerns about Trump's administration, especially over foreign policy and security issues, said McMaster is an outstanding choice for national security adviser, and called him a man of genuine intellect, character and ability.

Fellow Republicans Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Adam Kinzinger also heaped praise on McMaster, with Cotton tweeting the general is one of the finest combat leaders of our generation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted that McMaster is a "solid choice, bright & strategic. Wrote the book on importance of standing up to POTUS. May need to show same independence here," meaning with the president of the United States.

Pence said Monday he was disappointed to learn that Flynn had misled him about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, stressing that he supported Trump's decision to fire him.

Pence, during a news conference at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels, said, "It was the proper decision, it was handled properly and in a timely way."

Trump's chief of staff said Sunday that the person selected to be the next national security adviser, McMaster, as it turns out, will have full authority over staffing decisions for the National Security Council.

That issue over control was reportedly one reason former Navy admiral Robert Harward turned down the job last week.

Former U.S. Defense secretary Leon Panetta told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday the turmoil surrounding the key position has made U.S. national security operations dysfunctional.

Russia's UN envoy Churkin
dies suddenly at age 65

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russia’s long-time U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly Monday in New York, a day before he would have turned 65 years old.

The Russian foreign ministry announced his death in a statement, giving no details on the circumstances. The president of the U.N. General Assembly, Peter Thomson, said that he was informed Churkin had some sort of cardiac arrest at the Russian mission and was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Fellow U.N. diplomats immediately took to social media to express their shock and sadness at his sudden passing.

“Absolutely devastated to hear that my friend & colleague Vitaly Churkin has died,” tweeted Britain’s U.N. envoy, Matthew Rycroft. “A diplomatic giant & wonderful character. RIP” he added.

“Shocked to learn of the passing of our dear colleague Vitaly Churkin,” Sweden’s U.N. ambassador Olof, Skoog wrote. “He will be deeply missed. Deepest condolences to his family.”

The new U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, paid tribute to a gracious colleague.

Churkin had a distinguished career as a Russian diplomat, joining the foreign ministry in 1974. He was his government’s Special Representative to the talks on Former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and later served as ambassador to Belgium (1994-1998) and Canada (1998-2003).

In 2006, he presented his credentials to then-Secretary-General Kofi Annan and took up his post as U.N. ambassador.

Vatican and Jewish Museum
planning major joint exhibit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Vatican and Rome's Jewish Museum have announced an unprecedented event, a joint exhibit focusing on the menorah, the candelabra that is the ancient symbol of Judaism.

The exhibit will open May 15 and run through July 23, and will be simultaneously held in St. Peter's Square and in the museum in Rome's main synagogue.

The displays will include pieces of artwork and other exhibits from around the world, centering on the importance of the menorah in both Jewish and Christian history and culture.

Officials say the highlight will be tracing the fate of the solid-gold menorah taken by the emperor Titus when Roman soldiers destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.

Although paintings show the emperor carrying the menorah, it is still unknown exactly what happened to it, and there are numerous accounts of its fate.

But many historians believe it was stolen when the Vandals raided and sacked Rome in 455.

A newly found stone from the Galilee synagogue dating to the first century A.D. will be another highlight of the exhibit.

Ties between the Roman Catholic Church and world Judaism have improved immensely since 1965 when the Vatican repudiated Jewish guilt for the death of Christ.

Food additive can open door
to bad bugs, research says

By the Binghamton University news staff

The ability of small intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens is significantly decreased after chronic exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, a common food additive found in everything from chewing gum to bread, according to research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Researchers exposed a small intestinal cell culture model to the physiological equivalent of a meal’s worth of titanium oxide nanoparticles, 30 nanometers across, over four hours or three meal’s worth over five days.

Exposures for a short time did not have much effect, but chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients, iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically, were more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.

“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time. Don’t worry, it won’t kill you! But we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Gretchen Mahler, a biomedical engineering assistant professor and one of the authors of the paper.

“There has been previous work on how titanium oxide nanoparticles affects microvilli, but we are looking at much lower concentrations,” Ms. Mahler said. “We also extended previous work to show that these nanoparticles alter intestinal function.”

Titanium dioxide is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and ingestion is nearly unavoidable. The compound is an inert and insoluble material that is commonly used for white pigmentation in paints, paper and plastics. It is also an active ingredient in mineral-based sunscreens for pigmentation to block ultraviolet light.

However, it can enter the digestive system through toothpastes, as titanium dioxide is used to create abrasion needed for cleaning. The oxide is also used in some chocolate to give it a smooth texture, in donuts to provide color and in skimmed milks for a brighter, more opaque appearance which makes the milk more palatable.

A 2012 Arizona State University study tested 89 common food products including gum, Twinkies, and mayonnaise and found that they all contained titanium dioxide. About 5 percent of products in that study contained titanium dioxide as nanoparticles. Dunkin Donuts stopped using powdered sugar with titanium dioxide nanoparticles in 2015 in response to pressure from the advocacy group As You Sow.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 37
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Woman jumps out of a moving vehicle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman alleged to be fleeing an assault by her partner jumped out of a moving car Monday.

According to the police, the woman and her partner were driving past the passport offices in Tibás when she jumped out of the vehicle. Police said that the woman claimed she was being abused and threatened by her partner.

The man apparently got out of the vehicle and ran more than five blocks on foot and pushed a police officer, according to a report.

Police finally detained the man. He is now in the custody of the prosecutor’s office. The suspect is being charged with disobeying a police order, resisting arrest, and aggression against a police officer.

Fisherman nabbed by Fuerza Pública

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fisherman was surprised by police Monday after being caught with a large amount of fish stolen from the Caño Negro wildlife refuge.

The Fuerza Pública in the Guataso canton of Alajuela found over 126 fish and seized the fisherman’s equipment. Among the equipment were diving goggles and spear. The man is alleged to have an outstanding denunciation against him for theft, police said.

The equipment and responsibilities for disposal of the dead fish were given to the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

Many of these police actions are often carried out just before the close of the fishing season that begins next March.

Ministeiro de Agricultura y Gandería photo

Agriculture officials say this is the third load of illegal onions confiscated this year near Paseo Canoas. The onions came from Panamá but carried a label saying they were produced in Holland, said officials. The load lacked sanitary clearance.

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From Page 7:

Government will bolster Bancrédito finances

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has authorized what is being called a move to strengthen the income of Bancrédito.

The state commercial bank was stuck with bad loans last year when a major retailer sought bankruptcy.The bank was known as the Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago before being nationalized in 1948.

The country's Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras cited what were called irregularities in the bank's finances. The bank has lost money for a number of months.

The central government's Consejo Económico said that Bancrédito will receive the commissions from the sale of exit tax from airport passengers from Banco Nacional.

Casa Presidencial said that the bank would continue with its normal operations. Government officials including Helio Fallas, the first vice president and minister of Hacienda, are working with the bank to mitigate the problem and proposed short and long-term solutions, said Casa Presidencial.