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Amigo Realty
(506) 2223-1327                     Pubished  Friday, March 8, 2013,  in Vol. 13, No. 48                Email us
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Jo Stuart

                Rica real estate

Big summer festival begins today in municipal parks
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José will follow up the X games with the summer festival Transitarte 2013 this weekend in an effort to bring art to the streets. The event begins today and lasts through Sunday.

Transitarte will be carried out in all the parks and culture spaces of San José.  Locations include Parque Morazán, Jardín de Paz, Parque España, Parque Nacional and the Central Nacional de la Cultura, the old liquor factory.

In these areas community members will be able to develop artistic skills in workshops while enjoying open air concerts, literature readings, art performances, sports and recreation activities, crafts and visual arts.

The motto “Centroamérica Viva y Unida” allows for active participation from all patrons, the municipality said.

A special stage has been built across from the Assemblea Legislativa walkway in Parque Nacional.  Some bands that will play include Un Rojo Reggae Band and República Fortuna who will perform today, The Wookies, Hello Seahorse, Sonámbulo Psicotropical and Son de Tikizia who are scheduled for Saturday and Escats and Disco Ruido who will entertain crowds Sunday.

While night concerts happen in the national park, the Festival de Cine Bajo las Estrillas, a late night movie showing, will commence simultaneously in the amphitheater of the Centro Nacional de Cultura Friday and Saturday.

Also, a boxing ring has been put in Parque España.  Fights of male and female boxers from 10 cantons across the country who range from 48 to 92 kilograms will have matches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To keep with the Olympic spirit, the British Embassy will inaugurate a photography exhibition today at 9 a.m. in the Paseo de los Damas, located
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Tents are up for the event that begins today.

in the walkway at the top of the bridge across from Parque Morázon.  The exhibit, “San José y Londres: Ciudades Con Legado Deportivo” will honor the Costa Rican athletes which participated in the 2012 Olympics and Paralimpics.

Persons such as Aundrey Amador, Gabriela Traña and Osman Murillo will be depicted on 16 canvases set up for the three days.  Afterwards, the pictures will be rotated throughout the country.

“This exhibition aims to bring to the streets knowledge to all Costa Ricans about the contribution of the Olympic legacy and the importance of the effect of the practice of the sport in the person,” said a municipality release. 

“The canvases contain inspirational messages of athletes and that motivate new generations to practice sports and lead a healthy lifestyle,” it continued. “The words of Gabriela Traña: 'It is not great when you win the competition, it is great every day, in every step, the details of the effort, discipline, and perseverance that allow us to achieve the dreams that we have built'.”

Daily activities will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 11 p.m..  A complete program can be viewed HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
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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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Photo by Joan Ritchie Dewar   
Cane firing generates giant flames and smoke

Our readers' opinion
Cane fires are a health issue
for everyone in Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Wrong assumptions are being made regarding the firing of sugar cane.
It is not an expat or tourist problem, but one that concerns the whole Costa Rican community, families, children, you, me, and everyone who breathes the air. 

Just as Costa Rica is coming into the 21st century with improved technology and even street signs in San José, its citizens are becoming aware of the health problems created by not only the pre-harvest firing of sugar cane but also of post-harvest burning of tomato plastic, pineapple, rice  and banana fields (a/k/a biomass), bush fires and from automobile emissions. It all adds up, but cane firing is the worst and most visible for at least four months of the year!!

Pollution is considered to be the No. 3 global problem (after hunger and poverty), causing 33 percent of all human illness.  Air pollution is a significant risk factor for multiple health conditions including respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.  Studies in many countries of the world indicate that respiratory diseases increase during the sugar cane season.  It is said that it takes 250 days to cleanse the air of particulates – just in time to start a new cane firing season!  

Costa Rica has not yet made relevant studies on the incidence of asthma related to biomass burning.  However, a study conducted by Pediatrician Soto-Quiroz, director of pneumology, National Children’s Hospital of Costa Rica, determined that, of 59 countries surveyed, Costa Rica has the third highest asthma index in a young population.  A study conducted in 2009 by Posada Arevalo in Tabasco, Mexico, concluded that smoke is one of the planet`s most fearsome contaminants.
The excuses of firing cane to get rid of snakes, to make cutting easier and to reduce the cost of transportation due to lighter loads just don’t cut it against the conditions cane workers endure and breathe: covered in ash like a chimney sweep at the end of the day!   Few Costa Ricans will even cut cane anymore.  Instead, most is done by foreigners, people from countries so poor that they are willing to suffer health risks to send money home to their families.

To date only two countries have banned the firing of cane, Cuba and Paraguay, where mills are fined if they process burnt cane.  Brazil’s main sugar cane state of Sao Paulo has agreed to stop the practice of burning cane fields by 2017.

The government of Costa Rica does show concern. It was rumored in 2005 that Costa Rica would ban the firing of cane.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, since 2009 permits are required to fire cane following certain guidelines.  But, very few permits are applied for.  Most firing is, therefore, illegal and, regrettably, there are no sugar cane fire police!

The eradication of pre-harvest sugar cane burning is key to reduction of air pollution and improvement of air quality. Some Costa Rican sugar cane farmers have seen the light and are, in fact, already green cutting.
Ingenios (sugar processing plants) are another significant factor.  Some, like Grecia’s Cooperativa Victoria, work to minimize burning.  Other ingenios actually require that cane be fired before they will process it!   Smokestack emissions from ingenios often add to the polluted atmosphere.
Costa Ricans and expat residents are proud of the coffee and sugar cane industries, as much as they are of their parks, palm trees and beaches.  Cane is grown in the Guanacaste, Central Valley and Turrialba regions.  We don’t want anyone to lose production, rather to improve the health of the nation.
Just as Costa Rica has established a certification for sustainable tourism program, the same should be developed for the agro industry.  Perhaps then the country will attain its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021, and we’ll all live longer and healthier.
Joan Ritchie Dewar, Jean Kalbun,
Carolina Rugeles

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
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
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Lottery bets on electronics to fight the illegal numbers games
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The numbers racket in Costa Rica is a $100 million a year business, according to top officials of the government-sponsored lottery.

They said Thursday that they hope to attack this illegal racket by introducing an electronic lottery. The government brought in $350 million though the lottery last year, according to Francisco Ibarra Arana, general manager of the Junta de Protección Social. But in addition to prizes, the government lottery diverts much of its income to social programs.

Those who run the illegal lotteries can be far more flexible because they do not have a social obligation.

Lottery officials were testifying Thursday before the  legislature's Comisión Permanente Especial de Control de  Ingreso y Gasto Público.

Most expats are not familiar with the underground lotteries. They generally revolve around concentrations of blue collar workers, such as the Mercado Central and some of the downtown parks. Some are informal extensions of the lotteries in Panamá and Nicaragua and use the same winning numbers. These appeal to expats from those countries.

The Junta de Protección Social has come out with several lottery products to counter the illegal games in the past. There are the tiempos, sort of a daily lottery, and instant, scratch-off tickets.

The Junta has been trying since 2010 to put electronic games into practice. The proposal is to have video outlets all over the country offering smaller instant prizes and also selling tickets for drawings from one to three times a week.

Still the illegal lotteries thrive because they are informal and highly convenient. Most rely on agents who work the streets and even make payoffs to winners.

Finally last May the Contraloría General de la República budget watchdog approved a Junta contract with  GTECH Global Services Corp. Ltd. of Providence, Rhode Island. The company is a subsidiary of the Italian Lottomatica Group S.p.A.

The Junta plans are not without opposition. Lottery vendors
The many types of lotteries designed to increase play and confront the illegal games.

fear that the electronic machines will take their business. Such vendors frequently work the same corner as did their parents selling tickets for a percentage of the face price. Like all salespeople, they promote the lottery.

The lottery has an inspection service that tracks down the illegal lotteries, but the complaints do not have a high priority in the courts.

Lottery officials said that slightly more than 63 percent of the gross is returned as prizes. The Junta had a public relations disaster last Christmas when it failed to sell the wining tickets in the annual gordo lottery. Instead of holding a new lottery or adding the money to future prizes, the Junta just kept the winnings.

Lottery officials rejected the claim made by some that the government was privatizing the lottery. Instead, they said, the Junta simply was getting technical support from a private firm.

There was no indication when the lottery machines actually will be in service.

The lottery may be facing another obstacle. Executive branch officials have suggested that proceeds from the latter might be subject to income taxes under proposals that might be sent to lawmakers at the end of the year. That would be a decided advantage to the illegal lotteries and the estimated 10 gangs that run them.

The traditional health measure is valid now more than ever
If I sound as if I am harping, I am.  But since it is a matter of life or death, it is important to remind everyone, especially people in the medical profession, to WASH YOUR HANDS.

I am beginning to feel like I am channeling Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who in the mid 1800’s came to realize that doctors who performed autopsies or examined a patient and then did not wash their hands before delivering a baby or examining an expectant mother were responsible for so many women dying of puerperal fever.  The women who delivered at home, or were attended to by midwives or gave birth before making it to the hospital more rarely suffered from this bacterial infection.

In the 1840’s the realization of what could be causing the deaths dawned on several men from Oliver Wendell Holmes to my hero, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, an Austrian.  (I am convinced that new ideas float in the stratosphere and are picked up by those paying attention.) They put forth the idea that doctors who did not wash their hands or their instruments were the cause of puerperal fever.  However, Charles Delucena Meigs, a well known obstetrician at the time, said, “Doctors are gentlemen and gentlemen’s hands are clean.”  It was not until 1867, when the germ theory was accepted, that Joseph Lister wrote on the subject, and cleaner hands prevailed.

It is hard to believe that over 150 years later patients in hospitals throughout the world continue to die of bacterial infections that they contact in hospitals. These infections are called HIA, and today there is a growing fear that a new bacteria that is deadly and impervious to any present antibiotic is emerging.  Ironically, we will probably learn that the overuse of antibacterial soaps, etc. and the overuse of  antibiotics unnecessarily are partially responsible.  But the answer still is WASH YOUR HANDS (plain soap and water will do if you wash thoroughly).  And use sterile equipment.

In spite of what we have learned, in the U.S. today 99,000 deaths a year are due to hospital acquired infections. In Europe, where surveys are available, it is estimated that HAI are responsible for two-thirds of the 25,000 yearly deaths.

I couldn’t find any statistics for Costa Rica, but I have been in all of the hospitals in the city except the Católica, for one reason or another, including three operations, and for different lengths of time and have never had an infection.  I 
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

Like this!

have also witnessed medical personnel wash their hands more often here than elsewhere.  However, my empleada spent a half hour this past week recounting to me the various fatal infections she was aware of at just one of the Caja hospitals.  All of her stories were of people who had had operations.

So, as they are advising on U.S. TV where reports of this untreatable and deadly bacteria is surfacing in hospitals, if you are going in for an operation, make sure the doctors caring for you are washing their hands.  Don’t be reluctant to ask. It is your life. And it is an unnecessary way to die.

Cautionary steps are necessary, but it seems this generation of parents may be taking too many precautions with their children. According to many reports, keeping children too uncontaminated by their environment in their early years prevents them from building up their natural immunities and makes them more prone to infections and allergies and conditions like asthma, later, which, of course, can mean more visits to the hospital. That is where moms should pull out their antiseptic lotions.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
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Image of the comet made by Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy

Residents here might view
comet in the western sky

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and the Royal Astronomical Society

Residents might be able to see a bright comet as it heads back into the outer reaches of the solar system after looping around the sun.

The comet is designated  C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS, and residents in the Southern Hemisphere already had a chance to see it on its inbound path.

Discovered by and named after the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, the comet was first detected in June 2011, when it was an extremely faint object 1.2 billion km from the Sun. Looking at its path, astronomers soon realized that it could become very bright at its closest approach to the sun Sunday.

Like other comets of its type, PANSTARRS is thought to have originated in the Oort Cloud, a vast region containing millions of comets located more than two light years from the Sun. PANSTARRS travelled in towards the inner solar system for millions of years, dormant for most of this time as a small nucleus made up of rock and ices.

When comets approach the sun, these ices heat up, eventually turning to gases that jet out into space together with dusty material to form a head around the cometary nucleus. Particles from the sun, the so-called solar wind, blow the gases back in a straight tail, while sunlight exerts a pressure on the dust particles to create a curved tail. The two tails and coma make up the classic comet familiar in so many astronomical images but are not always easy to pick out with the eye.

Encouragingly, PANSTARRS has already been seen by observers in the southern hemisphere before reaching the sun, with reports that it is visible to the unaided eye. Tonight the comet should start to be seen from the Northern Hemisphere, although to begin with it may only be visible through binoculars or a telescope.

Early next week, PANSTARRS will be further from the sun and should be easier to spot. To find it, skywatchers will need a clear sky, ideally be away from the lights of towns and cities and have a good western horizon. After sunset on those dates the comet will be low down in the west and appear as a misty patch not far from the crescent Moon. Using binoculars will make it easier to find and will certainly help identify the tails which should point up from the horizon.

As the days pass, the comet will move away from the sun and fade and light from the moon will interfere more. At the same time however, PANSTARRS will be higher up, will be visible later in the night and so be seen in a darker sky. After its brief period of visibility, the comet will travel back out towards the depths of space where it will only be detected by large telescopes.

International petition seeks
to protect hammerhead sharks

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Over 10,000 citizens from 118 countries signed a petition calling on the delegates participating in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, currently meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, to provide protection of hammerhead sharks from international trade by listing the species under Appenix II of the Convention, according to the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

The proposal was submitted by Costa Rica, Honduras and Brazil, and currently enjoys the support of Central America, most of South America, the United States and the European Union, said the local environmental group. At this moment, Latin American delegates are working hard to gain the support of African nations, it said. The Latin American region also seeks the listing in Appendix II of porbeagle sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and manta rays.

Currently, over 100 million sharks are globally sacrificed every year to supply the demand of shark fins in Asia, according to a recent study. The lack of controls has led to the dramatic depletion of shark populations. Hammerhead sharks are particularly sought due to the high quality of its fins, and declines in its population have been reported in the range of 90 percent or more. The listing of the species in Appendix II would not ban the commercial activity, but rather ensure that the products of this species come from legal and controlled fisheries that do not compromise its survival, said the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

Japan leads a block of Asian nations that seeks to avoid such controls, and through the secret vote mechanism hopes to derail the initiative and maintain this unsustainable extraction volume, the organization said.

"Hammerhead sharks migrate throughout the oceanic islands of the Eastern Tropical Pacific, where a large presence occurs of national and foreign vessels that carry out the unsustainable extraction of this species," informed Randall Arauz, who serves as adviser to the Costa Rican delegation on marine species. "CITES promotes regional and international cooperation, ensuring the perpetuity of this species, which annually generates millions of US$ through non lethal activities such as ecotourism and diving."

Arauz is associated with the Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas.

The hammerhead shark vote is expected to take place today, but could be delayed until Monday, the organization said.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
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Brennan finally confirmed
to head CIA despite filibuster

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency. He is, counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.

The 63-34 vote ends a contentious nomination process that was delayed amid heated arguments over America’s use of unmanned aircraft, known as drones. 

With more than three decades of experience in U.S. intelligence matters, Brennan’s qualifications to lead the CIA were never in doubt.  In fact, much of the late fury surrounding his nomination had little to do with Brennan at all.

During his confirmation hearing last month, senators grilled Brennan about U.S. drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Afghanistan.  Earlier this week, Republicans sought answers from the Obama administration about the possible use of drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.

​​When Attorney General Eric Holder did not absolutely rule out such use, Sen. Rand Paul spoke on the Senate floor for 13 consecutive hours Wednesday to delay a confirmation vote on Brennan.

“The president says, ‘I have not killed anyone yet.’  He goes on to say, ‘I have no intention of killing Americans, but I might.’  Is that enough?  Are we satisfied by that," asked Paul.

Other Republicans criticized Paul.  Sen. John McCain labeled it ridiculous to even suggest that a president might deploy armed drones to kill American citizens in non-emergency situations.

Shortly before the vote, Paul proclaimed himself satisfied by a letter he received from Holder in which the attorney general stated that the president does not, in fact, have the authority to use a drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil.

The CIA has lacked a director since David Petraeus abruptly resigned last year, a fact noted by the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein.

​​“The CIA director position must be filled," said Ms. Feinstein. "Five months is too long to leave it vacant.  And John Brennan, I believe, and 12 members of our committee believe, is the right person to fill it.”

The Intelligence Committee has compiled an exhaustive report on CIA abuses committed at secret sites used to interrogate terror suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, said John Brennan has work to do.

​​“Our government has an obligation to the American people to face its mistakes transparently, help the public understand the nature of those mistakes, and then correct them," said Udall. "And in this regard, the next director of the CIA has an important task.  The specific mistakes I am referring to are outlined in the Intelligence Committee’s 6,000-page report on the CIA’s deeply-flawed detention and interrogation program.  Acknowledging the flaws of this program is essential for the CIA’s long-term institutional integrity."

Before serving as a White House counter-terrorism advisor, Brennan had a long career in the CIA that began in 1980.

Osama's son-in-law to face
justice in New York City

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, a former al-Qaida spokesman, has been captured by the United States and brought to New York City to stand trial.

Justice Department officials say Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be arraigned today on charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals.

Rep. Peter King, a Republican,  Thursday credited CIA and FBI agents with catching Abu Ghaith recently in Jordan.

A Turkish newspaper reported that Abu Ghaith was seized at a luxury hotel in the capital, Ankara. Sources said he was then deported to Jordan, where U.S. intelligence agents took him into custody. Turkish officials refused to comment on the report.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the arrest shows U.S. resolve to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

But Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, also Republicans, say the Obama administration is wrong to bring Abu Ghaith to New York instead of sending him to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba for extended questioning.

They say trying Abu Ghaith in the U.S. means he will be afforded the protections of the American legal system, which they say he does not deserve.

Abu Ghaith appeared in al-Qaida propaganda videos after the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.  His father-in-law, Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 2001 attacks, was killed nearly two years ago in a U.S. raid on his compound in Pakistan.

King is a member of the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and a former chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

In addition to U.S. intelligence agents, King praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the capture of Abu Ghaith.

Cardinals have to consider
the qualities of a new pontiff

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned as pontiff last month, has pledged his unconditional reverence and obedience to whomever succeeds him to guide the 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church.

As cardinals continue their discussions, Vatican experts ask what kind of pope do they believe will be best suited to lead the church?

The Rev. Thomas Reece at Georgetown University said the cardinals will be looking for someone who can best convey the Catholic message.

“The most important thing is to figure out how to preach the gospel in a way that is attractive and understandable to people in the 21st century, especially young people,” said Reece. “Certainly in the north, in Europe and the United States, we see young people leaving religion, not just Catholicism, but Christianity and other religions. So, how to make the message of Jesus, which I think is very attractive and challenging, get it across to young people so that it doesn’t turn them away. That is the real challenge.”

In other words, said Rev. Robert Barron, rector of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago, the cardinals would want “someone who is a skilled and gifted evangelizer.”

“Once you say that, then you are saying someone with a lot of theology, theological acumen, someone with good communications skills, someone who knows lots of languages, certainly true since John Paul was pope,” said Barron. “But I would say the major rubric under which they see all this is an evangelizer, someone who can proclaim the gospel effectively to the wider world.”

​​Many experts said the cardinals also will discuss whether it is time to elect a pontiff who is not European. Forty-two percent of the world’s Catholics are in South America and 24 percent live in Africa, where the church is growing.

But experts also pointed out that more than half of the cardinals are European, which gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to electing a pope.

The cardinals will be looking for someone who is a good manager and who could reform the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Curia, especially following the scandal involving the pope’s butler who stole documents, some of them revealing alleged corruption in the Curia.

Reece is somewhat skeptical. He said "there has been talk for decades about reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, and none of the popes have been able to accomplish it.”

Experts said as the cardinals discuss who is best qualified to become pope, they are facing a unique situation, the presence of a former pontiff, Benedict XVI, now living not far from their deliberations.

Some experts asked: will he play a role in future Vatican affairs?

Not according to church historian Chris Bellitto, teaching at Keane University in Union, New Jersey.

“If this pope wanted to have a hand in affairs, then he wouldn’t have resigned,” said Bellitto. “And stylistically, I cannot see this man interfering. He has spent his entire life for the institution. If he meddled, he would be undermining the institution. And I just don’t see it happening.”

Reece said Benedict is “perfectly happy in his room and his library, reading his books.”

“The question is, will he write? If he writes, then there is always the fear that people will look at his writings and say, 'Well, Benedict says this, but the new pope says that.’ And that would not be healthy for the church,” said Reece.

​​Barron agreed that the former pontiff will not insert himself in the affairs of the church, but he is uneasy about Benedict’s decision to resign the papacy.

“I do have a little bit of a concern about the precedent-setting quality of this, if it becomes the norm that popes resign or retire, because who knows in the future what troubles that might cause and what ambiguity it might cause,” said Barron. “So I get that. I get how this is certainly unusual and maybe not the best precedent for the future of the church, I understand that. But this particular ex-pope, I think, will not cause any trouble in that regard.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI currently is living in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, waiting to move into his permanent facilities inside the Vatican walls.

Ironically, he will not be able to vote for a new pontiff because he is over 80 years of age - the limit set for any cardinal voting in a papal election.

Facebook makes adjustments
to showcase its advertising

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Facebook Inc. introduced the biggest change in years for its popular newsfeed on Thursday, a facelift that renders the social network more ad-friendly while potentially prompting its more than one billion users to spend more time on its Web site.

The changes to the newsfeed, whose look and feel has remained largely unchanged since its inception, include a division into several sections, with separate areas for photographs and music.

And it comes with a revamped interface that gives more prominence to visual media, such as photos and videos.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the makeover was part of an effort to position the social network as a personalized newspaper, complete with different sections for users to explore.

The makeover comes roughly a month after Facebook introduced a new social search feature it dubbed graph search that makes it easier for users to discover more content on the social network.

The much-needed changes unveiled on Thursday, which standardize the network's look across different types of desktop and mobile devices, served mainly to bring Facebook up to date as Google+, the much younger competing social network started by Google Inc., begins to incorporate more video and images.

"This is just going to provide more opportunity for people to click around and stick around," said Brian Blau, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner, about the revamped newsfeed.  "The newsfeed was kind of outdated. This sort of brings it up to maybe what's comparable to sort of their competition, and partner sites that are focusing on media and richness."

Facebook's newsfeed, an ever-changing stream of photos, videos and comments uploaded from friends, is the first page most users see upon logging in. It is one of three pillars of the service, along with search and user profiles.

The updated newsfeed provides more space for the photos and videos that users share on the network, and provides a more consistent look and feel between the version for PCs and for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The changes will begin rolling out in limited fashion from Thursday, Facebook said.

The last major update to the feature occurred in September 2011. Since then, the company has incorporated ads directly into the feed and has shifted its focus to creating mobile-first experiences, because more people now access the social network from smartphones and desktops than from desktop computers.

Marketers will be able to fashion more compelling ads thanks to the increased real estate for photos, said Hussein Fazal, the CEO of AdParlor, a firm that helps companies advertise on Facebook.

"Larger images will result in higher click through-rates, a higher level of engagement and better performance,"  Fazal wrote in an email.

Analysts say however the company needs to tread carefully to avoid inundating users' various feeds with advertising, as Facebook tries to sustain a rapid pace of growth that helped it debut on public markets at the highest-ever valuation for a technology company.

The world's largest social network is moving to regain Wall Street's confidence after its botched IPO last year, addressing concerns about its long-term prospects, many of which center on an industry-wide shift toward the use of mobile devices.

Facebook shares, which are still more than a quarter off their IPO price of $38, were up 4 percent at $28.56 on Thursday afternoon on the Nasdaq.

Facebook and Google, which both got their start on desktop computers, are now managing a transition of their products onto smartphones and tablets, which typically yield less revenue than on PCs.

The two Internet mainstays are also waging a war for revenue in mobile advertising, a market that is still small compared with the traditional desktop but that is growing exponentially.

In terms of overall mobile advertising, Google commanded a 53.5 percent share in 2012, aided by its dominance in search-based ads. Facebook had just 8.4 percent, a distant runner-up, according to estimates from research house eMarketer.

But in terms of mobile display ad sales, Facebook narrowly edges out its rival with 18.4 percent of the market versus Google's 17 percent, the research outfit estimated.

Unemployment claims dip
in U.S. with fewer layoffs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The number of Americans making new claims for unemployment benefits is dropping, pushing the four-week average for jobless assistance to a five-year low and signaling that the U.S. labor market might be stabilizing.

The U.S. government said Thursday that 340,000 unemployed workers made new claims for financial aid last week, a drop of 7,000 from the week before.

That pushed the four-week average down to 348,750, the lowest total since March 2008, in the early stages of the country's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Fewer claims for benefits usually mean that employers are curtailing worker layoffs.

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The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2013 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Increase in fixed-line service
rejected by telecom regulator

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telecom regulating agency said Thursday it had rejected a proposal by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to increase fixed-line rates by 168 percent.

The government telephone company wanted to increase the per minute charge for fixed -line service form 4.2 colons to 11. The increase also would have affected voice over Internet service for all the firms offering such service in Costa Rica. Consequently there were objections from private vendors.

The agency, theSuperintendencia de Telecomunicaciones noted that objections were aired at a hearing Jan. 29. However, the agency asked for a three-month study of the marketplace and left open the possibility of raising rates when that is completed.

Trespassers reported again
on disputed Isla Calero

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry confirmed Thursday that there were reports that presumed Nicaraguans were on the disputed Isla Calero in extreme northeast Costa Rica. In addition the ministry had scheduled a visit by Costa Rican environmentalists to the location to survey the area.

The Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that the visit by environmental experts was being conducted by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía.

Visits to the disputed island is a violation of the rules set forth by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, which is hearing the territorial dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In October 2010 Nicaraguan soldiers invaded the island, and Costa Rica turned to the court to resolve the matter.

The soldiers eventually withdrew under orders from the court, and the only individuals permitted there were supposed to be environmentalists sent by Costa Rica to safeguard the land. Still young Sandinista groups sometimes go to the island to challenge Costa Rica.

Nicaragua wants to put a channel for the Río San Juan through the island to provide better access to the river to replace the highly silted and meandering initial 40 kilometers of the river. Better access could make the area ripe for tourist development.

Rain predicted for weekend
in north and along Caribbean

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather institute said that rain would persist in the northern zone and on the Caribbean coast at least until Saturday and that clouds and light rain would be the norm in the mountains around the Central Valley. Strong winds also were predicted.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said Thursday that the Río Sarapiquí was already reported rising.

The central and south Pacific are expected to continue with few clouds in the morning and with isolated showers in the afternoons.

$167 million school project
gets initial legislative OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature Thursday gave initial approval for a $167 million project that will result in the construction of 79 schools over the next 20 years.

The lawmakers voted to set up a trust that will be financed by a bond issue. The new facilities will serve 30,000 students, lawmakers were told.

In another action, the legislature gave final approval to a $40 million loan to modernize the public Puerto de Moín.

Woman passenger dies in crash on Cartago highway

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A woman died Thursday in a car accident in Ochomogo in Cartago province.

The accident occurred at 3 a.m. as the woman was traveling in a Hyundai Tucson with Wilson Romel Owaldo of the United States, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The two were on the Autopista Florencio del Castillo when the vehicle had a head-on collision with a tanker truck, according to a report from the judicial organization.

Owaldo was taken to Hospital Nacional Dr. Max Peralta in Cartago in stable condition, while the woman, who had not been fully identified, was brought to the judicial morgue, said the agency.

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Real Estate
About us
What we published this week: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Earlier
The contents of this page and this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2013 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. Abstracts and fair use are permitted.  Check HERE for details

A.M. Costa Rica
Seventh Newspage

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, March 8, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 48
Real Estate
About us

Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela photo
Colombian rebels sent their condolences to Venezuelan officials.

U.S. relations are expected to continue
under a Nicolas Maduro administration

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is raising questions about what happens next in Venezuela, both internally and with its relations to other nations, including the United States.  Analysts do not expect the tense relationship between Washington and Caracas to change soon.

The death of President Chávez is being mourned by his supporters, while many inside and outside Venezuela wonder what the future holds. 

A commanding and charismatic figure in life, Chávez played an outsized role on the world stage, largely by challenging the United States and what he saw as Washington's economic and political dominance of Latin America.  

"He was a guy about power, you can’t really understand Chávez, the way he operated, what he did, what he couldn’t do, unless you understand his tremendous appetite for power," explained Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "And that meant power within Venezuela, power within Latin America and that meant challenging and defying the superpower."

He repeatedly accused the United States of undermining his socialist revolution.  A failed coup attempt in 2002 tacitly supported by the Bush administration further antagonized the Venezuelan leader and his supporters.

This antagonism is unlikely to change soon. 

At a meeting convened the day Chávez died, Vice President Nicolas Maduro accused Washington of plotting to undermine Venezuela and announced the expulsion of two American diplomats. 

That does not bode well for future relations, says Carl Meacham of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"It is sort of sticking to the playbook that Chavismo has used in the past: always blame the United States or blame some foreign entity to distract them from problems that they have going on in Venezuela," he said.

Despite this, Venezuela is a major supplier of petroleum to the United States and even provides free heating oil to poor Americans through a non-profit group.

American University Professor Philip Brenner says this shows that relations between the two countries would be better if Washington recognizes certain realities.

"I think the important thing to remember about Venezuela is that they have never even threatened to cut off our oil.  Venezuela has done nothing to actually harm U.S. interests except to challenge U.S. dominance," Brenner noted.

Vice President Maduro, a former foreign minister and union leader, is expected to govern Venezuela for now and could be more pragmatic in his dealings with Washington, according to Shifter.

"I think what we can expect from Maduro is a very tough stand, ideological stand, confrontational stand in public but behind the scenes I would imagine he would try to work things out, try to at least establish channels of communication at least, including with the United States," added Shifter.

Meanwhile, Maduro's accusations that the enemies of Chávez caused his cancer have been rejected by U.S. officials who have limited their comments to possible areas of cooperation such as counternarcotics and energy in the post-Chávez era.

Thursday was another day of mourning

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelans are observing another day of mourning for their late President Hugo Chávez, who died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.

Mourners were lined up Thursday at a Caracas military academy where Chavez's body is lying in state. Several close Chávez allies, including the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, already are in Venezuela for his funeral on Friday.

The head of Venezuela's presidential guard said that Chávez died of a massive heart attack and was suffering a great deal in his final moments. Previously, the government had confirmed Chávez had cancer, but had not given details about the type or the severity.

Wednesday, crowds of grieving Venezuelans sobbed and threw flowers as the president's coffin made its way through the streets of Caracas from the hospital where he died to the military academy where he now lies in state. A somber Vice President Nicolas Maduro walked next to the hearse.

The United Nations Security Council held a moment of silence Wednesday for Chávez, and many world leaders have expressed their sorrow.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is closed until after the funeral. The U.S. delegation to the funeral has not yet been announced. President Barack Obama said he reaffirms his support for the Venezuelan people and is committed to polices promoting democracy and human rights.

Chávez, a staunch socialist, was elected president in 1998. He earned the enmity of the United States and others for such policies as nationalizing major companies and courting world leaders such as Fidel Castro, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

The country's opposition accused him of being a dictator. But millions of poor Venezuelans revered him for using the country's vast oil wealth to give them access to low-cost food, free medical care and other social programs. However, experts say Chávez failed to control crime or use oil wealth to enrich the overall economy.

Ex-FBI agent still among the missing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says it remains committed to safely bringing home a former agent who went missing in Iran six years ago this week.

The FBI issued a statement Thursday in the case of Robert Levinson, who has not been publicly seen or heard from since he went missing March 9, 2007.  A year ago, the FBI offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Levinson's safe return. 

FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce says that reward remains unclaimed and is encouraging anyone with information about Levinson's disappearance to contact the bureau.

Levinson disappeared while traveling to Iran's Kish Island as a private investigator researching a cigarette-smuggling case.

His wife, Christine, said Thursday that she had no idea what had happened to him until just over a year ago.

"The first time we saw any pictures was when we received a video in November 2010 and then we received still pictures in April of 2011," she said. "And those were the only two times we heard anything and one of the things we do have is a million-dollar reward."

Levinson's wife said even though the pictures made her sad, she was glad to learn that he was alive.

The United States has sought explanations from Iran, but the Iranians have said they know nothing about Levinson's whereabouts.

The retired FBI agent, who turns 65 March 10, suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.  His family is worried that he may not be getting proper medical treatment.

In 2011, the State Department cited reports that Levinson was being held in Southwest Asia in the border region of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

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