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(506) 2223-1327                             Published Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 54                            Email us
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Politics is another dimension of the Irish U.S. legacy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Irish immigrant’s love of conversation and camaraderie quickly led to immersion into politics in the new country.

The second generation Irish are well represented in the list of big city bosses that ruled much of the United States and the Democratic Party from the late 1900s to the 1950s.

These included Thomas Pendergast in Kansas City, Missouri, and Michael Curley, the long-time mayor of Boston and a governor of  Massachusetts. And there was Frank Hague in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Pendergast started Harry Truman on a political career. Curley won election even when in prison.

Hague amassed great wealth and promoted another Irish-American, Al Smith, as far the Democratic nominee for president.

The strength of these men were based on ward politics, the ability to help and assist residents.

Naturally a lot of the politicking involved the local taverns and municipal patronage, finding government jobs for supporters.

They were building on the tradition of another son of Irish and Scotish immigrants, William Tweed, known as Boss Tweed. He ruled New York City around the time of the U.S. Civil War.

With the exception of the Daley organization in Chicago, Illinois, the twilight of these big city bosses coincided with the movement of third- and fourth-generation offspring of Irish immigrants to the suburbs to be replaced with other ethnic and racial groups in the big cities.

Television also seemed to reveal the depth of the corruption in a way that printed newspapers could not.

Frank Hague in Jersey City worked his way up from knocking on doors in the city’s Second Ward to being a kingmaker even at the national level. Irish Democratic politics was so successful there that Jersey City had but one Republican mayor in 75 years.

The current primary election political free for all that dominated CNN is nothing compared to the treachery, double dealing, and outright authoritarianism found in Jersey City under Hague and his successor bosses, Frank Hague Eggers and John V. Kenny. In fact, Hague won his first election by buying votes.

He maintained his power by being able to deliver the votes from his ward to the Democrats he supported. Later he delivered enough Jersey City votes to determine the state governor’s races.

Frank Hague and
                          Michel Curley
Frank Hague  Michel Curley

Tweed and Pendergast
William Tweed Thomas Pendergast

Patronage meant placing supporters in government jobs, even as lowly janitors, police officers, firemen, dog catchers and hundreds of other positions controlled by the party machinery. It mean attending weddings, funerals and baptisms. It meant buying drinks and delivering food packages. It meant caring for the health of the voters. Hague built a massive 10-building medical center in the city.

Although Hague was corrupt and a notorious bribe taker, he still was effective in improving city services, making the police department more responsive and eliminating street crime.

Hague retained the job of police commissioner throughout his political career, so he could order squads of burly cops to patrol the city in unmarked cars. They did not need probable cause to stop and frisk pedestrians. Hague also instituted a system of controls at the tunnels that connected Jersey City to New York City. Unapproved New York crooks were turned back at the tunnel exits.

That could have caused major court cases, but Hague also controlled the state Supreme Court.

What some historians call the underworld of Irish politico-crime is not well-known to most Americans. But expats who follow Latin American politics can see some of the same trends. The current scandals in Brazil is an example.

So today, St. Patrick’s Day, a history of U.S. big city bosses provides an added dimension to the Irish contribution to America over and above stepdancing, banshees, leprechauns and Guinness stout.

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Instituto Costarricense de elecgtricidad photo
Worker excavates a walled grave site.

Hydro project yields clues to ancient life

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As with most major governmental projects, archaeologists surveyed the  Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Reventazón area and located 66 settlement sites.

The Instituto Costarricense De Electricidad said Wednesday that some of the oldest material was dated 12,200 years ago. The radiocarbon tests were done on vegetable matter that appeared to have been manipulated by humans, said Luis Hurtado de Mendoza, archaeological coordinator for the project.

He said that this was the earliest evidence of humans in Central America.

The Reventazón project area is 1,018 hectares, a bit more than 2,500 acres. The location is in Siquirres.

The archaeologists also found many types of stone tools, Petroglyphs and grave sites on both sides of the Río Reventazón. They are being turned over to the Museo Nacional.

Some 12,200 years ago the world was emerging from the last ice age. Megafauna roamed Costa Rica, including giant sloth, Mastodon and giant armadillos.

Although 12,200 years is old by Costa Rican standards, some sites in South America go back 40,000 years, although such ages are controversial in academic circles.

Yes, expats can vote in U.S. elections

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. citizens in Costa Rica have options if they plan to cast a vote in the November elections.

The federal government maintains a Web site where overseas Americans can find information about voting and even ballots for federal offices.

Any U.S. citizen in Costa Rica can vote in the state where they last lived. That would require contacting directly the county clerk or similar official in the area where they lived. These ballots also include state and local offices and even local referendum questions.

The mail systems being what they are, expats might want to pay to return their ballot via an express service like FedEx. Sometimes these services agree to carry ballots for free as a promotional service.

The U.S. Embassy maintains information on its Web site about voting although unlike some other countries, including Costa Rica, U.S. citizens cannot vote at their embassies.

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Another case of mass poisoning of pets reported in Ciudad Neily
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another pet poisoning took place over the weekend in Río Nuevo, de Ciudad Neily. Some 16 dogs and at least six cats were victims of what appeared to be doctored meat.

The case follows a similar poisoning in Agua Caliente de Cartago where 17 dogs died.

The Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal said Wednesday that a joint investigation with experts at the Universidad de Costa Rica showed that the Cartago case involved a pesticide known as carbofuran. The substance is usually applied to field crops.

The agency also said that meat was used to deliver the poison in Cartago, too.

Before they die, the animals poisoned with carbofuran suffer  excessive salivation, breathing problems, stomach pains, vision problems, heart problems and tremors as well as diarrhea. Without immediate medical help, the animal is sure to die, said the agency.

The agency cautioned that this type of chemical also is toxic to humans, so those seeking to help poisoned animals have to take care.

The agency also urged owners to keep a good eye on their pets.

Dog poisoning is not restricted to the southern zone and Cartago. There are sporadic reports of poisoning frequently in the Central Valley. The main suspects are neighbors aggravated by barking, although such crimes are hard to prove.

Public defender questions timing of action against Mora trial judges
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation’s public defender agency is crying foul because the Inspección Judicial just took the decision to begin a disciplinary process against the first trial tribunal whose members acquitted suspects in the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora.

The statement in the name of the Defensa Pública noted that the first trial was more than a year ago and a retrial is taking place now in the Tribunal de Juicio de Limón.

The defense agency said that the action would affect the principles of objectivity, independency and impartiality by the current tribunal. It noted that these principles are stated in the Costa Rican Constitution and also referenced by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. That court said that judges should not be subjected to punishment for their decisions, and the only valid route would be an appeals process.

Many in Costa Rica were unhappy with the first trial court decision, although prosecutors handling the case appeared to have made errors.

Unlike other countries, trial verdicts are not final, and either the

prosecution or the defendants can appeal. So the seven suspects are back in court.

Prosecutors were unhappy, too, because the three-judge panel rejected a video testimony from one of the women who was with Mora when he was abducted May 31, 2013, near Playa Moín. He was there with four female volunteers to protect turtle nests from egg poachers.

The case created an international scandal.

Mora and volunteers were confronted by men who took him away and held the volunteers hostage for a time in a nearby dwelling.

The first trial judges said that both the prosecution and investigators lacked rigor in handling evidence including breaks in the chain of custody. Problems also existed in the presentation of the case of the three U.S. volunteers and a Spanish woman who were held hostage while Mora was dragged to his death at the nearby beach.

The judges cited errors in the handling of wiretap results including a lack of attributing ownership of cell phones.

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Single-dose dengue vaccine reported to be highly successful
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Researchers are on the cusp of a commercially available vaccine to prevent dengue fever, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that threatens half of the world’s population.

In addition, a vaccine against the zika virus, a close relative of dengue, will most likely enter clinical trials this year.

The dengue virus infects an estimated 400 million people in 120 countries each year. While the symptoms, including a rash, are usually not serious, the disease nonetheless kills some 25,000 people annually. Most succumb to a dreaded hemorrhagic form of the disease.

In a clinical trial, the new vaccine against the dengue virus, for now called TV003, was 100 percent effective in preventing the disease in a study involving 50 volunteers.

Twenty-four of the participants who received the experimental vaccine were exposed to the virus and not one became infected. By contrast, all of those in the control group, who were not vaccinated, became infected.

“To see that we got 100 percent protection against infection gives us great confidence in moving forward that the vaccine is going to work. So we were extremely excited,” said Anna Durbin, an infectious-disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a principal investigator.

There are four versions of dengue. Symptoms become more severe each time a person is infected.

So a vaccine has to protect against all four types.

There is already a dengue vaccine called Dengvaxia. While it raises protective immune system antibodies against dengue, people still get sick.

TV003 successfully shielded those involved in the study against a mild strain of dengue 2, the most aggressive of all the disease types. TV003 requires only a single dose compared with multiple shots of Dengvaxia.

A five-year clinical trial involving 17,000 people in Brazil is in the works. But Ms. Durbin said there would probably be enough data by 2018 to seek regulatory approval.

Clinical trials are also expected to begin in September or October of a vaccine against the zika virus, an emerging threat also spread by mosquitoes. It has been linked to brain defects in newborns, and also to the paralytic disease Guillain-Barre syndrome. Efforts to fight zika could also help the fight against dengue.

Zika is sort of like a cousin to dengue, Ms. Durbin said. What that means is that the recombinant DNA technology that the National Institutes of Health developed for zika virus will be able to be applied quite easily to dengue because it has the same genetic structure, she said.

National Institutes of Health scientists developed the successful dengue vaccine that researchers reported upon in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ms. Durbin said the aim is to give the dengue vaccine to children before they become infected for the first time. Any zika vaccine would likely be targeted to women of childbearing age as a way to combat any potential birth defects associated with the disease.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is a great place to find quality remembrances of Costa Rica to take home or to decorate your home or office in Costa Rica.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever.  With more than 60 artists on exhibit and fine art in 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we are easy to locate just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport. Visit our Web site at
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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

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

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.


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A.M. Costa Rica's  
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Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 17, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 54
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Axiom 890 pixels

U.S. faces losing its edge,
report on competition says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

The United States leads the world in innovation but could soon lose its competitive edge.

A Washington, D.C.,-based think tank ranked the U.S. 10th when it comes to government policies in support of global innovation, behind countries like Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

“We’ve kind of enjoyed this huge lead since basically the end of World War II or slightly before, so much so that in the 70s or 80s we couldn’t imagine the U.S. being outperformed in the top industries,” said Adams Nager, an economic policy analyst at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “All of these other countries are fighting for advantages . . . and the U.S. is, in this race for innovation supremacy, pretty complacent right now.”

Foundation researchers looked at factors such as investments in research and development, education, and tax incentives for innovation to determine country rankings.

South Korea spends 4.3 percent of its overall gross domestic product on research and development, the most of any country, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which works on economic development with governments.

The United States ranked fourth at 2.7 percent behind Israel and Japan. China is spending more than ever on research and development, in 2014 reaching a milestone of 2 percent of  gross domestic product.

The U.S. still spends far more on research and development, about $450 billion in 2013, than any other country, but percentage-wise, U.S federal research and development spending is at its lowest point since 1956. Meanwhile, China doubled its spending between 2008 and 2012.

“The loss in terms of economic value is immense,” said Nager. “If we lose out on that, suddenly there’s not as many scientists and engineers who want to come here. They all want to go elsewhere. You have more imports and fewer exports because we’re importing these new technologies.”

One bright spot is that the private sector is spending more on research and development. Research and development spending by American companies rose 6.7 percent in 2014, the biggest increase since 1996, according to U.S. Commerce Department data.

Rights organization urges
Obama to pressure Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Human Rights Watch is urging President Barack Obama to call during his historic visit next week to the island nation for concrete measures to end what it considers systematic repression in Cuba.

"His message on human rights needs to be forceful and specific," said John Vivanco, Human Rights Watch Americas director.  "Otherwise the trip may be remembered by Cubans who have suffered half a century of repression as little more than bonding time.”

Obama, who heads to Cuba Sunday, will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country in nearly 90 years.

The White House has said Obama will raise with Cuban officials the detention and harassment of those wanting to express their basic rights.

During the trip, the U.S. leader is expected to hold talks with Cuban President Raúl Castro, as well as meet with Cuban dissidents and civil society members.

Human Rights Watch says the situation in Cuba has remained largely unchanged since December 2014, when Obama and Castro announced the normalization of diplomatic relations.

"Important progress in a few areas has been made in recent years, such as increased freedom to travel and broader internet access, but the country's repressive system remains firmly in place," said Vivanco.

Cuba and the United States have endured 50 years of hostile relations, after revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

Supreme Curt pick
Voice of America photo 
President Obama with Supreme Court nominee

Obama picks centrist judge
for Supreme Court slot

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

President Barack Obama Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland, a federal appeals court judge widely viewed as a centrist, to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant last month by the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia.

But a political storm was building at the U.S. Capitol, where the Republican-controlled Senate has insisted it will not meet with or hold a vote on Obama’s nominee to the high court.

Senate Republicans say Obama, who is in his final year in office, should allow the next president to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Obama, who will remain in office until late January 2017, says it is his constitutional responsibility to choose a Supreme Court nominee promptly and that the Senate is obligated to hold confirmation hearings on his pick.

The showdown over the court vacancy is especially contentious because a new justice could tip the ideological balance of the court in either a liberal or conservative direction. Scalia's death left the court with eight justices.

Obama said Garland, 63, chief  judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will visit the Capitol today to begin one-on-one meetings with senators. “I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing," Obama said.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Wednesday that Obama should defer and “give the people a voice in filling this vacancy.”

The dispute is over “a principle and not a person,” McConnell said. “It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination, not with the intent of seeing this nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.”

Republicans are hoping their presidential nominee will win the November election and then name a jurist who will restore the court's conservative-leaning majority.

Undeterred, Democrats are keeping up the pressure on Republicans.

“I do hope they will do their constitutional duty and give President Obama’s nominee a meeting, a hearing and a vote,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

Visiting Fellow Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution, a Washington research and policy group, said the election season could be "more of a consideration than Garland's impressive credentials."

But Wheeler said, "Some Republicans might say, all things considered, are we better off taking a moderate Obama nominee than what could well be a Hillary Clinton nominee, assuming she will defeat Trump . . . .”

Analyst Michelle Jawando of the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy group in Washington, said it is vital that the high court remain above politics.

“This is the type of nominee we shouldn't leave to the petty politics of this moment. The Supreme Court is one of these institutions that we all should think about and recognize the importance of in our society,” she said.

“I selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America's sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence," Obama said during his announcement in the White House Rose Garden.

The president touted Garland as someone who has “won overwhelming bipartisan praise” as a judge and has a record of compassion and building "consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law."

Legal analysts said Garland would not excite Obama’s progressive backers but was a solid strategic choice given the partisan divides in Washington.

“When you are dealing with that kind of climate, it’s really important to have someone who is a consensus nominee,” said Michele Jawando of the Center for American Progress. “He is not a surprise to those in the legal profession.”

In emotional remarks, Garland called the nomination “the greatest honor of my life,” besides his marriage to his wife, Lynn, and the births of their daughters, Jessie and Becky.

"For me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court," Garland said. "Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life and is the hallmark of the kind of judge I've tried to be for the past 18 years."

Trump pulls out of debate
but plans a major speech

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Republican front-runner Donald Trump is planning what he calls a big speech Monday instead of debating his remaining two opponents for the party's presidential nomination.

Trump was due to take part in the Fox News debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but said Wednesday Republicans have had enough debates and he would not attend.

Kasich said without Trump, he will not go either.  Suddenly lacking candidates, Fox News canceled the debate.

Cruz, who trails Trump 673-410 in the Republican delegate count, hit out at the businessman, branding Trump as Ducking Donald and pointing his supporters to the Web site  

"Donald is scared to debate because he knows Ted Cruz will expose him as unprepared to be president and commander in chief," the site says, urging people to sign a petition for Trump to debate.

The site was registered Jan. 27, the day after Trump announced he was skipping the Republican debate before the Iowa caucus.  Cruz finished first in Iowa, 3 percent ahead of Trump.

Monday's debate was scheduled a day before primaries in Utah and Arizona with a combined 98 delegates at stake.  After a flurry of state contests in the past few weeks, the primary calendar is hitting a slow period, particularly for Republicans, who have just Utah, Arizona and a primary in Wisconsin between now and April 19.

The Democratic race between former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be a little busier.  They compete in the same states as the Republicans, but also have a caucus Tuesday in Idaho, March 26 caucuses in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington, and another in Wyoming April 9.

Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72, dies
on Florida musical tour

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Frank Sinatra, Jr., son of the legendary singer and actor, died suddenly Wednesday in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he was performing in a musical tribute to his father. The Associated Press reported that he had a heart attack and was 72 years old.

Sinatra was a singer and musician who made headlines in 1963 when he was kidnapped and released after his father paid a large ransom.

Gossip columnists said the kidnapping was a hoax and publicity stunt, but the FBI said it was genuine and the kidnappers were convicted.

While Sinatra could never come close to matching the fame and artistry of his father, he did become well-known as the musical director and conductor for the senior Sinatra's concerts.

Arctic ice
Los Alamos National Laboratory photo 
Ice is rapidly vanishing in the Arctic.

Melting Arctic ice wedges
might release unwanted gas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Ice wedges are a particularly cool surface feature in the Arctic tundra. And new research suggests they are melting fast.

Ice wedges are formed when groundwater freezes, then when the air gets cold enough at minus 17 degrees C. or lower  the ice begins to expand and contract, with more ice filling the cracks.

Eventually the wedge gets big enough to reach the surface, where it splits the earth like cracks in a sidewalk.

These ice wedges look like giant honeycombs on the frozen landscape. In the spring, the Arctic tundra looks like a jigsaw puzzle of small ponds with the ice wedges acting as the border between each little pond.

But new research published in this week's journal Nature Geoscience suggests these wedges play a significant role in maintaining huge stores of carbon dioxide held captive in the permafrost.

"The unique structure of ice wedge polygon landscapes promotes ponding of water and the accumulation of vast stores of soil carbon as wetland vegetation dies off seasonally and is buried and frozen over thousands of years" said Cathy Wilson, the Los Alamos National Laboratory geomorphologist who co-authored the paper.

While researchers have seen the collapse of ice wedges before, Ms. Wilson's study is the first to find that the rapid melting of ground ice has become widespread, with a ripple effect across the entire Arctic.

These collapses are called thermokarsts, and Ms. Wilson says they can change the area's hydrology by "creating a lot of new ponds, or by draining and drying polygon-shaped ponds by connecting them into a continuous drainage network."

The researchers also found that the melting ice wedges are speeding up the rate at which permafrost is thawing.

Permafrost is ground that has stayed frozen for at least two years. Most of the northern permafrost has been frozen for tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of years. It locks away season after season of plant life on ice, nearly 1,700 gigatons of organic carbon.

That's a whole lot more than all the greenhouse gas floating around the atmosphere in the form of methane and carbon dioxide, and it is released into the atmosphere as the permafrost thaws.

The scientists are concerned about the speed at which the arctic wedges and the permafrost are degrading.

"Change is happening so fast,” Ms. Wilson said. “I never thought I'd see thermokarst occur over the course of a few years at our field site. It's pretty exciting, but scary too."

The team noted that some of the wedge melting has occurred just from season to season, and in the case of one unusually warm summer, the surface wedges melted about 10 centimeters.

"It's really the tipping point for the hydrology," said the paper's lead author, Anna Liljedahl from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Instead of being absorbed by the tundra, the snowmelt water will run off into lakes and larger rivers. It really is a dramatic hydrologic change across the tundra landscape."

That change could release even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, potentially speeding up climate warming.

Math whiz honored for proof
of  Fermat's Last Theorem

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

A British mathematician has won the Abel Prize in math for solving an ancient math theorem.

Tuesday, Andrew Wiles was given the award, which is considered the Nobel Prize of math, by Norway’s Academy of Science and Letters.

The academy said Wiles was chosen for his stunning proof of French mathematician Pierre de Fermat's Last Theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semi-stable elliptic curves, opening a new era in number theory.

Wiles solved the problem in 1994 at the age of 62. Fermat's Last Theorem, posited in 1637, was the most famous, and long-running, unsolved problem in the subject's history.

Wiles told The Guardian newspaper that he discovered the theorem at the age of 10.

"What amazed me was that there were some unsolved problems that someone who was 10 years old could understand and even try. And I tried it throughout my teenage years," Wiles told The Guardian. "When I first went to college I thought I had a proof, but it turned out to be wrong."

Wiles' work has been described as an epochal moment and has allowed researchers to advance the study of mathematics in new ways.

In addition to the prestige, Wiles will receive $710,000 at the award ceremony May 24 in Oslo.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 17, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 54
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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
Brazilians protest Lula' appointment

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

Protests broke out in several Brazilian cities Wednesday as demonstrators condemned the move by embattled President Dilma Rousseff to appoint former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff.

Some 2,000 demonstrators Wednesday gathered in the streets of Brazilia and Sao Paulo after Ms. Rousseff named Lula, who left office with very high popularity ratings, saying it would strengthen her government.

Demonstrators say Lula was appointed in order to protect him from prosecution in a money laundering scandal involving the state-owned Petrobras oil company.

As a member of Ms. Rousseff's cabinet, Lula can only be tried before the Brazilian Supreme Court.

Lula denies involvement in the Petrobras scandal.

But adding to Wednesday's unrest was the release of audio recordings by a judge heading the Petrobras investigation. The judge said the recordings of Lula's phone conversations indicate Lula was seeking help in avoiding prosecution.

For her part, Ms. Rousseff is battling an impeachment attempt and a deep recession as well as the Petrobras scandal. Ms. Rousseff succeeded Lula in office, and some critics say they expect him to make another run for office when Ms. Rousseff's term is up.

This was the second set of Brazilian protests this week. Sunday, Brazilian police said some 3 million people across the country took to the streets to demand Ms. Rousseff's ouster.

Sergio Praca, a political analyst at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro said the demonstrations "were very powerful" and were "the worst scenario possible for the government."

Prosecutors say more than $2 billion was paid in bribes and other funds by the nation's biggest construction and engineering firms in exchange for inflated Petrobras contracts.

Dozens of former Petrobras executives and political figures are under investigation. Some of the alleged wrongdoing took place while Ms. Rousseff was chairman of the Petrobras board.

Ms. Rousseff and her party are also facing a new threat.  Saturday, the Workers' Party main coalition partner, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, said it will decide in 30 days whether it will maintain its alliance with the ruling party.

No deal reached on shareholder names

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The central government says it has not been able to reach an agreement with the business chamber on a proposed law that would require reporting the names of shareholders in active companies and any payments to them.

 Sergio Alfaro, the minister of the Presidencia, said that the two sides reached accord on about 85 percent of the issues, but they have eded the negotiations.

The legislature is considering a bill that would require providing names of shareholders to the  Dirección General de Tributación for placement in a data base. The concept is opposed by some business leaders, and the central government was negotiating with the  Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado

The government said that making the names of shareholders available to tax officials is suggested by the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Tax officials here and the central government want to keep track of any income that might be subject to taxation.

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U.S. Fed declines to raise key interest rate

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Top officials of the U.S. central bank are keeping their key interest rate steady for the time being.

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve also made it clear that officials will probably raise rates later this year, perhaps twice, in small increments.  Previously, experts had expected a larger number of rate hikes.

In a meeting with journalists, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said inflation picked up in recent months, but continued to run below the Fed's 2 percent target rate.

Ms. Yellen said slow growth in overseas economies poses some risks to the U.S. economy, making it prudent to continue low interest rates. She also said unemployment will continue to improve, falling to 4.7 percent by the end of this year. 

The Fed last raised interest rates in December to a still-low one-half of 1 percent. 

The Fed's job is to promote full employment and stable prices.  Cutting interest rates helped stimulate the economy and employment during the recession.  The Fed traditionally raises rates to keep inflation from rising too high, which could hurt the economy.