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Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 96
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cyber
                            attack map
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While many Latin American countries faced a cyber attack, Costa Rica was spared.
ICE says Costa Rica is spared from cyber attack
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
with wire service reports

The Costa Rican electricity institute, which controls and operates as a major provider of cellular and internet service, announced Monday that its platforms were not affected by the worldwide cyber attack.

The A.M. Costa Rica wire service reported Monday that Europe's police agency Europol says a global cyber-attack has affected at least 100,000 organizations in 150 countries, with data networks infected by malware that locks computer files unless a ransom is paid.

So far there has been no progress reported in efforts to determine who launched the plot.

Computer security experts have assured individual computer users who have kept their PC operating systems updated that they are relatively safe.

They advised those whose networks have been effectively shut down by the ransomware attack not to make the payment demanded.

The hackers demanded the equivalent of $300 paid in the digital currency bitcoin to be delivered to a likely untraceable destination that consists merely of a lengthy string of letters and numbers.

However, the authors of the "WannaCry" ransomware attack told their victims the amount they must pay would double if they did not comply within three days of the original infection.

That is by today in most cases. And the hackers warned that they would delete all files on infected systems if no payment was received within seven days.

Avast, an international security software firm that claims it has 400 million users worldwide, said the ransomware attacks rose rapidly Saturday to a peak of 57,000 detected intrusions.

Avast, which was founded in 1988 by two Czech researchers, said the largest number of attacks appeared to be aimed at Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan, but that major institutions in many other countries were affected.

Computer security experts said the current attack could have been much worse but for the quick action of a young researcher in Britain who discovered a vulnerability in the ransomware itself, known as WanaCryptor 2.0.

The researcher, identified only as "MalwareTech," found a kill switch within the ransomware as he studied its structure.

The kill function halted WanaCryptor's ability to copy itself rapidly to all terminals in an infected system, hastening its crippling effect on a large network, once it was in contact with a secret internet address, or URL, consisting of a lengthy alphanumeric string.

The kill function had not been activated by whoever unleashed the ransomware, and the researcher found that the secret URL had not been registered to anyone by international internet administrators.

Experts cautioned, however, that the criminals who pushed the ransomware to the world might be able to disable the kill switch in future versions of their malware.

WanaCryptor 2.0 is only part of the problem.

It spread to so many computers so rapidly by using an exploit, or a software capable of burrowing unseen into Windows computer operating systems.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad issued a statement that said all operations were normal and that, following the events, the group activated proper security protocols and confirmed the latest security updates were available.

“To be interconnected there is a security risk that must always be controlled, so the corporation maintains a permanent identification of that condition and is very strict in the application of security updates,” said Juan de la Cruz Brenes, the director for protection and institutional security.

“In addition, vulnerability analysis and penetration tests are carried out in our networks, which seek to minimize computer attacks, as was the case in other countries with this virus."



Animal cruelty bill gives some passes on traditions
By Rommel Téllez
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bulls, horses and even crocodiles will continue to be used as a form of entertainment despite the new bill against animal abuse and cruelty approved on first round by the legislative assembly last Thursday.

That's because the bill provides an exception clause for animals that take part in what are considered cultural traditions. In Costa Rica the most famous one is called Corridas de Toros a la Tica. It is a local version of classical bullfighting and it consists of a group of people gathered in an arena teasing and running away from a bull.

Another tradition is El Tope, which is horse parade. These take place all over the country, especially during local religious celebrations. During El Tope, people ride the animal to show off their abilities in horse riding, while others rent the animal, parading around as cowboys and cowgirls while, in some cases, steadily getting more and more drunk.

The two most famous are the Tope de Fin de Año, that takes place each year in Dec. 26 and the Tope de Palmares, which is part of the January festivities that take place in Alajuela canton.

A third custom is the Lagarteada, which takes place in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, every Good Friday. It consists of a group of hunters followed by spectators until they are able to catch an crocodile. Once the mission is complete, it is taken to the closest town, exhibited and then returned to its habitat.

“These are protected activities protected by other legislations and the requirements implemented by the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal,” said Otto Guevara, legislator of the Movimiento Libertario political party. “It remains a private, legal activity as long as it complies with the regulations.”

In the case of bull fighting and Tope, the current legislation requires that the organizers of the activities provide the proper shelter, food, rest and tranquil conditions to keep the animal's physical health and sanity, according to Warren Hidalgo, director of the Animal Welfare Program at the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal.

“Also, a licensed veterinarian should be on site during the whole event to make sure the animal does not  suffer and in case of an injury it gets the proper treatment,” said Hidalgo.

“This licensed professional has the power to stop an activity he considers harmful to the animals.”

Hidalgo mentioned that usually abuse comes in the form of using electrical shocks to increase a bull's aggressive behavior or the use of sharpened spurs in the case of horses.

“Of course that's a monstrosity; to expose this bulls and horses to unbearable amounts of stresss. They do suffer,” said Juan Carlos Peralta, president of the ABA Animal Welfare Association.

“Unfortunately, the bill still allows the use of animals for entertaining and profit making, disguised under the concept of tradition,” he added.

“What's positive is that these so-called traditions are on their way to disappear, because newer generations show no interest in watching people riding or teasing animals. These practices will eventually disappear,” he said.

Peralta also considered the Lagarteada to be a non-traditional activity that should be banned since no law regulates it.

As an example he mentioned this year's Lagarteada incident, where the caught alligator died.

According to a statement sent by the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía at the time, the female animal suffered extreme stress that perpetuated indigestion and vomiting.

Since she had been muzzled, she died of asphyxiation.

“That's a terrible thing and the ministry provided the permits for it. Even the wild animals should be protected.” said Peralta.

The Ley de Bienestar Animal is aimed to protect domestic animals and pets from any form of abuse.

According to the bill, the concept of domestic refers to all those animals that have changed their wild nature because of contact with humans.

It may include cats, dogs and farm animals.

The bill still needs to get approved on a second round of votes. This is likely to happen next week, according to Movimiento Libertario legislator Otto Guevara.


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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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Protest in assembly chamber gets rough

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A protest within the legislative assembly building got rough when the group’s president sent in security to remove certain posters and attacking one person among the protesters.

The Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios, a prominent civil rights group for Costa Rican LGBT community members, denounced the actions of Asamblea Legislativa as a restriction on free expression.

According to the group, members of the Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Costa Rica went to the chambers in response to the group’s call to protest.

One of the posters featured among the students showed a fictional kiss between the legislature president Gonzalo Ramírez and Antonio Álvarez Desanti, another deputy in the assembly and prominent presidential candidate.

The civil rights group said that this was a denouncing of what they believe to be a collusion between evangelical groups represented often in the form of the Renovación Costarricense party, of which Ramírez is a member, and the Partido Liberación Nacional, whom Álvarez Desanti is a member of and the party candidate for Costa Rican president.

It should also be noted that Ramírez is an openly evangelical pastor and came under criticism from human rights experts upon his ascendancy back in early May. That decision came with the heavy support of Liberación Nacional.

Frente is calling this action a hindrance on the advancement of human rights for the LGBTIQ community. The legislature president dismissed the posters as being offensive to the members of the assembly.

Students claim that, on many occasions, the protesters asked security officials to identify themselves and who gave the order to remove the order under what grounds. Security members apparently refused to answer any of the questions.

The group also said that the same security groups tried to expel journalists from La Nación and MundoCR who were present at the time. The group said that there should have been no censure of the press or citizenry, that a kiss cannot be considered offensive and officials cannot act under anonymity when it is to suppress and injure fundamental rights.

"From the federation of students we consider unacceptable the abuse of power and the denial of identification of public officials in exercise,” said Christopher Carballo, a spokesman for the group. “This is only a symptom of the fragile shell that constitutes not only the discourse of human rights with which Costa Rica is promoted outwards, but also of democracy in itself, as a whole.”

Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios is preparing to take measures in opposition to this action. It said it is calling on the Defensoría de los Habitantes to look into investigating the deputies involved. It also said it was planning to attend the summit of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights today and Wednesday.


Shootout in Escazú leaves two dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A shootout near a private school in Escazú resulted in the death of two men early Monday morning. One child, 6-years old, was also injured during the shooting.

According to a preliminary report, the events occurred about 7 a.m. Monday when both died in separate vehicles. Two persons in tracksuits began to shoot at both cars, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.

One of the cars managed to escape to police offices in Santa Ana but the victim died upon arriving at the site. The other man, a Lebanese national, was declared dead in the other vehicle. Judicial agents said that a 6-year-old girl was also found in the car but unharmed.

The other minor was a boy of the same age. He was injured when, getting into the car, he was shot in the back by a stray bullet. Agents said he was taken to Hospital Nacional de los Niños.

One of the deceased apparently had a criminal record of possession of an unregistered firearm, according to a report from the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública. He was detained by the Fuerza Pública in Tibás and handed over to the prosecutor’s office on that charge. This one is not the Lebanese national found dead at the scene.

During Monday’s incident, police discovered three pistols in the vehicle that arrived at their offices. In total, police seized at least 8 weapons including an AR-15 assault rifle.

The other man is apparently a Lebanese national, police said, and a bodyguard of the victim. Authorities have not announced a motive or any further details regarding this case.


Changes to public bus system coming

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican ombudsman has apparently won its day in court against the public transportation council that governs the bus system.

According to a statement released Monday by the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the organization praised the decision of the constitutional court to order the Consejo de Transporte Público to comply with measures related to handicap accommodations on buses.

The resolution by the Sala IV comes after a complaint was filed by a handicapped person who appealed against the transport group when being denied the disability ramp. The woman claimed that she did not use a wheelchair but had difficulty climbing.

A report by the ombudsman to the judges said that this violated the principle of accessibility and freedom of transit. This would also cause a limitation in access to other rights when taken into the account the necessity of public transportation within the facets in so many others’ lives, the organization said.

On the opposing side, the Consejo claimed that the ramps on public buses are only meant for those with wheelchairs. A use contrary to what it is supposed to be for would be endangering other passengers, the public transport group said.

The court found those arguments to be valid in regards to what the ramps are for and, to that end, ordered the Consejo to comply within two years in taking appropriate measures to accommodate the deficiency in access, the ombudsman said.

In the meantime, the court said, the buses should allow passengers with limited mobility to use the ramp and be provided assistance from a third party or from the bus driver themselves upon request.

This comes as the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos announced it would be holding a seminar on ways to improve the public transportation system today at 8 a.m.

The goal of the seminar, organizers said, is to draft a complete and comprehensive set of recommendations at modernization along with an analysis of urban mobility alternatives in the country. Among the expected attendees include the minister and deputy minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes along with engineering experts from Brazil.



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Permits generate fast approval and disapproval at the same time
By Rommel Téllez of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In just 27 days, the government granted environmental permits to develop a pineapple plantation in Palmar Sur, within the Osa canton, close to internationally protected wetlands and archaeological monuments.

The permit was requested on Nov. 18, 2016 and approved on Dec. 15 by the Secretaria Técnica Nacional Ambiental, the government agency in charge of protecting environmentally vulnerable areas from human overexploitation.

The Secretaria without any field inspection granted the authorization. According to resolution 2331-2016, the visit was deemed unnecessary due to the nature of the project and the photographs provided by the developer: Desarrollo Agrícola del Monte S.A.

Besides, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía confirmed in a statement that the Secretaría failed to comply with one of the requirements in this type of license: to inform the regional conservation agency of the existence of wetlands protected by the Ramsar Agreement.

The plantation would be located in Palmar Sur, a village that belongs to the Osa Canton in the southeast of Puntarenas province. It will expand along 600 hectares, or about 1,483 acres. Within that property, there are apparently at least three wetland areas.

In fact, canton de Osa is famous for hosting four Pre-Columbian sites filled with stone spheres which have been declared part a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

A.M. Costa Rica sent several inquiries to the company, but no answers were provided.

The project has faced strong opposition not only from environmentalist groups but also from archeologists, which seek to protect the perfectly rounded stones dating back at least 1,500 years.

Rocío Fernández, director of the Museo Nacional, confirmed to A.M. Costa Rica that the permits given by Setena do not necessarily include the assessment of the museum’s archaeologists.

In fact, it was an archeologist paid by Desarrollo Agrícola del Norte, the one in charge of filing a report approving the viability of the plantation.

In spite of that, Ms. Fernández said that the museum will be sending its own team of inspectors to check the area and provide a more accurate assessment.
pineapple protest
Frente Amplio photo
Protesters gathered in front of the Museo Nacional.

In case they find the stone spheres could be damaged, she would seek to halt the development of the plantation in order to decide whether the spheres are removed or not.

Last week, A.M Costa Rica reported that a group of unidentified workers were sent by the museum to one of these archaeological sites and tried to remove the stones. However, neighbors intervened and stopped the removal. Museo Nacional later sent a written apology for not informing properly about their plans.

On Monday, a group of protesters coming from all around the country met in front of the Museo Nacional demanding the safekeeping of the rocks and then moved to the chambers of the legislative assembly. There, they protested against the pineapple industry.

“A plantation so close to rivers and historical monuments will only damage the environment,” said Fabián Pacheco, member of the conservationist group Bloque Verde.

“We want this project to be halted until we can make sure this industry will cause no further damage.”

The same Monday afternoon,Edgar Gutiérrez, the environmental minister, sent a statement where he claimed to have ordered a quick investigation on the matter since May 5.

In the document, the ministry urges the Secretaría to halt the permits while things get cleared.

The document also requests a report on how pineapple permits have been granted in the last 12 months, and recommends the Secretaría to get in touch with conservation authorities to coordinate how the wetlands will be protected.



From modest origins to rising regional prominence: La Zarcereña
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

La Zarcereña’s cookies and crackers came out of the oven for the first time back in 1992, with the aim of sharing that homemade bakery taste to visitors at farmers markets.

According to a statement by the Promotora de Comercio Exterior, the company continues to expand from a home oven to a production plant and from 10 employees to over 255. Production capacity has increased as well with 150 packs produced a week ballooning to over 45,000 a day.

"Growing is a matter of attitude,” said Rodrigo Rojas, the general manager for the company.

“Many entrepreneurs who start out are scared and limit themselves. Here I have learned that companies, however small, if they have a good product can look for market. The opportunities are there, but you have to go look for them.”

La Zarcereña has even crossed the border with their products arriving in Nicaragua since last year, the Promotora said. The regional head of the promotion organization, Marco Alfaro, said that the Zona Norte had a lot of potential with examples such as this business.

cookie cutting
Promtora de Comercio Exterior photo
Employee cutting up some dough for La Zarcereña.

“This company has clear production capacity, but also has growth and expansion goals,” Alfaro said.

The company said it plans to also continue that expansion with eyes falling next on the wider Central American and Panamanian markets.


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Expect increasing intensity and amounts in rainfall, research says
By the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
press staff


A new study by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich shows that the most extreme rain events in most regions of the world will increase in intensity by 3 to 15 percent, depending on region, for every degree Celsius that the planet warms.

If global average temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years, as many climate models predict given relatively high CO2 emissions, much of North America and Europe would experience increases in the intensity of extreme rainfall of roughly 25 percent.

Some places such as parts of the Asian monsoon region would experience greater increases, while there will be smaller increases in the Mediterranean, South Africa and Australia.

There are a few regions that are projected to experience a decrease in extreme rainfall as the world warms, mostly located over subtropical oceans that lie just outside the tropical, equatorial belt. 

The study, published today in “Nature Climate Change,” finds that the varied changes in extreme precipitation from region to region can be explained by different changes in the strength of local wind patterns: As a region warms due to human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide, winds loft that warm, moisture-laden air up through the atmosphere, where it condenses and rains back down to the surface.

But changes in strength of the local winds also influence the intensity of a region’s most extreme rainstorms.

Paul O’Gorman, a co-author on the paper and associate professor of atmospheric science in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, said being able to predict the severity of the strongest rain events, on a region-by-region basis, could help local planners prepare for potentially more devastating storms.

Since the 1990s, scientists have predicted based on climate models that the intensity of extreme rain events around the world should increase with rising global temperatures. Current observations have so far verified this trend on a broad, global scale.

But knowing how extreme storms will change on a more specific, regional scale has been a trickier picture to resolve, as climate data is not equally available in all countries, or even continents, and the signal of climate change is masked by weather noise to a greater extent on the regional scale.

“The observations are telling us there will be increases at almost all latitudes, but if you want to know what’s going to happen at the scale of a continent or smaller, it’s a much more difficult question,” O’Gorman said.

He and his colleagues began their study by taking a global perspective. They first looked through a massive archive of global simulation runs, known as the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, which aggregates outputs, or predictions, made by different climate models, for everything from local air pressure to the thickness of sea ice in response to changing climate.

For this study, the researchers culled the project’s archive for specific outputs, including daily accumulated surface precipitation and temperature, vertical wind velocity and pressure, and daily atmospheric humidity. These outputs were simulated by 22 climate models, for the years 1950 to 2100, under a scenario in which there are relatively high emissions of CO2.

climate region map
Wikipedia map  
Red highlight displays tropical regions of world.

The team looked at each of the 22 models’ outputs on a regional, grid-by-grid basis. Each model simulates climate conditions by dividing the globe up into a grid, with each grid cell’s side measuring 100 to 200 kilometers.

For each cell in each model, the researchers identified the maximum daily rainfall per year and compared this to the average global temperature for that year.

All 22 models predicted that the highest increases in extreme rainfall will occur over parts of the Asian monsoon region such as India and over parts of the equatorial Pacific, with more moderate increases in North America, Central America, the Mediterranean, and Australia.

O’Gorman says that while the spatial pattern of change was robust across the models, the magnitude of the change was much more uncertain in tropical regions, and higher-resolution modeling is needed to narrow down this uncertainty.

To see what was influencing the region-to-region variability in rainfall increases, the team plugged the outputs into a physics-based formula that relates the amount of surface precipitation to the vertical winds and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.

They found that, overall, it was the changes in winds, and not water vapor, that determined the region-to-region variations in the change in extreme rain intensity.

The researchers also found decreases in extreme rainfall amounts over subtropical ocean regions, where the overlying atmosphere is generally dry, producing relatively weak storm systems.a

He suggests this may be partly due to the ongoing expansion of the tropics, and the associated changes to a atmospheric circulation system known as the Hadley cell, in which air rises near the equator and descends farther poleward.

As the climate has warmed in past decades, researchers have noted that the climate at the equator has spread towards the poles, creating a much wider tropical belt.

As the tropics and the Hadley cell continue to expand, this would affect the pattern of extreme precipitation, especially in the subtropics.

O’Gorman is currently investigating whether the duration of extreme rainfall events changes with increasing temperatures, which could have practical implications for determining the resilience of buildings and infrastructure.

“Given an extreme precipitation event, how long does it last, say in hours, and does that time change with climate warming?” O’Gorman says. “We think the intensity of an event changes, and if the duration also changes, that could be significant too.”




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A.M. Costa Rica's
  
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 96
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Javier Valdez
Voice of America photo    
Javier Valdez.

Award-winning journalist
shot dead in north México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Award-winning reporter Javier Valdez has been shot dead in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.

Valdez, who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was killed Monday when unidentified attackers opened fire on his car in the city of Culiacán where he was working.

Valdez, 50, received the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2011 for his coverage of drug trafficking.

He was a correspondent for a national newspaper, La Jornada, and also co-founded the respected Ríodoce publication and authored several books delving into narco-trafficking and organized crime.

Valdez is at least the sixth journalist to be murdered in México since early March.

President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned what he called an outrageous crime.

Journalists targeted in México are most often local reporters in places where the rule of law is tenuous, but there have also been killings of journalists with national profiles such as Valdez and Regina Martinez Perez, who was slain in 2012.

The recent spate of slayings includes Miroslava Breach, correspondent for La Jornada in the northern state of Chihuahua, who was gunned down in March.

On Saturday, seven journalists were assaulted and robbed by a mob of about 100 armed men on a highway in the troubled southern state of Guerrero.

Sinaloa has long been a drug-trafficking hotbed and is home to the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by notorious kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman currently in a New York prison awaiting trial on multiple charges.

Experts say Guzman's arrest last year and extradition in January have led to upheaval in the area as rival factions war for control of the gang.

"Drug trafficking there is a way of life," Valdez said in an October interview with Rompeviento TV. "You have to assume the task that falls to you as a journalist. Either that or you play dumb. I don't want to be asked, 'what were you doing in the face of so much death? Why didn't you say what was going on?'"

European Union urges peace
and talks within Venezuela


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Union is pressing Venezuela’s government and opposition groups to resume negotiations toward peacefully resolving the political crisis that has convulsed the country for nearly two months.

In a statement issued Monday, the EU repeated concerns it had expressed last July seeking an urgent, constructive and effective dialogue.

The EU’s current statement calls for all Venezuelan political actors and institutions to work in a constructive manner and to avoid violent acts.

Since early April, at least 38 people have died and many more have been injured in clashes between opponents and backers of President Nicolas Maduro’s government. The EU statement called for investigating all incidents of violence.

Dissatisfied Venezuelans have taken to the streets to demand that the socialist Maduro schedule long-delayed elections, release political prisoners and permit the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Their demonstrations, and those of Maduro's backers, have escalated since the government-friendly Venezuelan Supreme Court's late-March attempt to strip the national assembly of its legislative powers and since Maduro's May 1 call for a new constitution.

The EU has a direct stake in the conflict, its statement noted, with more than 600,000 European citizens living in Venezuela. The EU said it reiterates its readiness to cooperate with the Venezuelan authorities to ensure their safety.

On Monday, responding to a call for a nationwide sit-in, activists again barricaded streets and highways with lawn chairs, tree limbs and garbage.

"I’m here for the full 12 hours" of the sit-in, which started at 7 a.m., human resources worker Anelin Rojas, 30, said while perched cross-legged with a novel in the middle of Caracas’ main highway. "And I’ll be back every day there’s a protest, for as long as is necessary. Unfortunately, we are up against a dictatorship."

Maduro repeatedly has accused the United States of leading an attempt to overthrow his government. He has ordered troops to block opposition marches, using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

On Sunday, Maduro opponents sought to win over the troops to their way of thinking.

Dozens of women in black converged on the national guard’s headquarters in Caracas, in a Mother’s Day appeal to the country’s armed forces to listen to your mothers and set aside weapons.

"Today, Venezuelan mothers have come to talk to the soldiers, to the national guard, at all the barracks in Venezuela," said former National Assembly lawmaker Maria Corina Machado.

“These women are telling soldiers not to obey orders from the dictatorship, from the dictator who has robbed food and brought blood to his country. Listen to your mothers!”

Separately, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly also urged security forces toward conversation, not combat.

Maduro is pushing you as an institution to ignore the constitutional order of Venezuela and you have to stop that situation, Julio Borges, the lawmaker, said at a news conference Sunday.


Killer gets 49 years in prison
for murder of transgender


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. judge sentenced a Mississippi street gang member to 49 years in prison in the first federal hate crime trial involving a transgender victim.

Josh Vallum is already serving life in prison on state murder charges for killing Mercedes Williamson.

Vallum apologized for killing her, saying there is no excuse for what he did.

But federal judge Louis Guirola said killing someone because of sexual orientation is particularly heinous and can't be tolerated by an enlightened society.

The 29-year-old Vallum pleaded guilty to the murder in December, saying he was afraid his fellow gang members would kill him if they found out he was dating a woman who was born a male.

Vallum apparently did not know the 17-year-old Williamson had male genitalia until the two started dating.


Security firms see a link
to North Korea in attack


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cyber security researchers on Monday pointed to code in a ransomware attack that could indicate a link to North Korea.

Symantec and Kaspersky Lab each cited code that was previously used by a hacker collective known as the Lazarus Group, which was behind the high-profile 2014 hack of Sony that was also blamed on North Korea.

But the security firms cautioned that it is too early to make any definitive conclusions, in part because the code could have been merely copied by someone else for use in the current event.

The effects of the ransomware attack appeared to ease Monday, although thousands more computers, mostly in Asia, were hit as people signed in at work for the first time since the infections spread to 150 countries late last week.

Health officials in Britain, where surgeries and doctors' appointments in its national health care system had been severely impacted Friday, were still having problems Monday. But health minister Jeremy Hunt said it was encouraging that a second wave of attacks had not materialized.

In the United States, Tom Bossert, a homeland security adviser to President Donald Trump, told the ABC television network the global cybersecurity attack is something that, for right now, we've got under control.

He told reporters at the White House that less than $70,000 has been paid as ransom to those carrying out the attacks. He urged all computer users to make sure they install software patches to protect themselves against further cyberattacks.

In the television interview, Bossert described the malware that paralyzed 200,000 computers running factories, banks, government agencies, hospitals and transportation systems across the globe as an extremely serious threat.

Cybersecurity experts say the hackers behind the "WannaCry" ransomware, who demanded $300 payments to decrypt files locked by the malware, used a vulnerability that came from U.S. government documents leaked online. The attacks exploited known vulnerabilities in older Microsoft computer operating systems.

During the weekend, Microsoft president Brad Smith said the clandestine U.S. National Security Agency had developed the code used in the attack.

Bossert said criminals, not the U.S. government, are responsible for the attacks. Like Bossert, experts believe Microsoft's security patch released in March should protect networks if companies and individual users install it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had nothing to do with the attack and cited the Microsoft statement blaming the NSA for causing the worldwide cyberattack.

Even though there appeared to be a diminished number of attacks Monday, computer outages still affected segments of life across the globe, especially in Asia, where Friday's attacks occurred after business hours.

China said 29,000 institutions had been affected, along with hundreds of thousands of devices. Japan's computer emergency response team said 2,000 computers at 600 locations were affected there.

Universities and other educational institutions appeared to be the hardest hit in China. China's Xinhua News Agency said railway stations, mail delivery, gas stations, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls and government services also were affected.

Elsewhere, Britain said seven of the 47 trusts that run its national health care system were still affected, with some surgeries and outpatient appointments canceled as a result.

In France, auto manufacturer Renault said one of its plants that employs 3,500 workers stayed shut Monday as technicians dealt with the aftermath of the Friday attacks.

Computer security experts have assured individual computer users who have kept their operating systems updated that they are relatively safe, but urged companies and governments to make sure they apply security patches or upgrade to newer systems.

They advised those whose networks have been effectively shut down by the ransomware attack not to make the payment demanded, the equivalent of $300, paid in the digital currency bitcoin.

However, the authors of the "WannaCry" ransomware attack told their victims the amount they must pay will double if they do not comply within three days of the original infection, by Monday in most cases.

The hackers warned that they will delete all files on infected systems if no payment is received within seven days.


U.S. doles out new charges
against the Syrian regime


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States accused Syria on Monday of carrying out mass killings of prisoners on a daily basis and then burning their bodies in a large crematorium outside the capital of Damascus.

The U.S. State Department said as many as 50 prisoners a day are being hanged at the Saydnaya prison. It alleged that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad then is using the crematorium to hide evidence of the extent of the mass killings.

The top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Stuart Jones, said the Damascus regime has sunk to a new level of depravity, with the continuing military assistance of Russia and Iran, two countries that have supported the Assad government's six-year fight against various rebel groups attempting to overthrow it. About 400,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Jones stopped short of accusing Moscow of involvement with the crematorium, saying the State Department had not presented evidence of the mass killings to Russian officials.

But he said the U.S. has an ongoing conversation with the Russians, talking about the problem that their failure to condemn Syrian atrocities and their apparent tolerance of Syrian atrocities has created.

Asked whether the U.S. is considering a new attack to destroy the crematorium, Jones said that as Trump has said, the U.S. is not going to signal what they are going to do and what they are not going to do.

The State Department official said that since Syria's civil conflict began in 2011, the Assad regime has treated opposition forces and unarmed civilians as one and the same committing widespread violations of international law, including the law of armed conflict and human rights law.

"Although the regime's many atrocities are well documented," Jones said, "we believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of the mass murders taking place in Saydnaya."

He said the U.S. claim is based on information from credible humanitarian groups and its intelligence community.

Jones did not give an official estimate for the total number killed at the Saydnaya facility. But he cited an Amnesty International report that between 5,000 and 11,000 had died at the prison between 2011 and 2015.

He alleged that the Assad regime had detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people over the same four-year period.

The State Department released newly declassified commercial satellite photos of what it said is a building at the prison used as the crematorium.

The latest photo dated to January 2015, more than two years ago, taken during the administration of former President Barack Obama. It was not immediately clear why the United States waited to present its evidence.


New cholera outbreak kills
at least 180 people in Yemen


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed at least 180 people since April 27, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday.

Two years into a war between Houthi rebels and government forces allied with a Saudi-led Arab military coalition, which has killed more than 8,000 people, Yemen has declared a state of emergency in the capital Sana'a over the outbreak.

Fighting has taken a toll on medical facilities in the war-torn country, as more than half of Yemen's facilities, which are now operated by Houthi rebels, no longer function.

The U.N. says some 17 million of Yemen's 26 million people lack sufficient food and at least three million malnourished children are in grave peril.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick and other international officials met with the health ministry in the Houthi-run capital of Sana'a, urging aid donors to assist to avoid an "unprecedented disaster."

The World Health Organization classified Yemen as a level three emergency, alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq. The country is the poorest nation in the Arab World.

Cholera is highly contagious and can be contracted from ingesting contaminated food and water.


More news of the Americas
From the Voice of America

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Rich Coast Realty
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San Ramon home
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Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya. 7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 foot elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, appliances included. High-speed internet installed,  Price for sale $179,000    Contact Mike: mmpeace@hotmail.com  (please link that email)
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Santiago de Puriscal
A little piece of paradise near Santiago de Puriscal,
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16 acres (approximately).  Price: $425,000 USD

We are selling our beautiful finca that has been in the family for 37 years. It is located 3 miles (5 km.) northwest of Santiago de Puriscal in the village of Desamparaditos. We are looking for a discriminating buyer who would appreciate the location, views, flora and fauna. Excellent for artists, writers and nature lovers. Fantastic birding. Very private but not isolated. Have surveyed plans for possible subdividing.

For more information:  In the U.S.A. call the owners: Pete & Debbie Todd: 970 -221-1457 or 970-581-4826 or email toddscolorado@gmail.com. In Costa Rica call Liz Guegan at 506-7187-8577.
CODE: 9216-8/11/17


Plantation Acres
PLANTATION ACRES
This exiting new project offers spectacular home sites with breathtaking ocean and forest views stated on 100 acres of tropical forest.

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* At just an hour from San José, the capital city.
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* 10 minutes from Jacó Beach, Costa Rica’s lives beach town

Contact:
Johnny Lopez
Phone: (506) 8945-5820 / (506) 2643-3356
Email: johnny@c21jaco.com
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Puriscal home
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REDUCED $40K - $355,000
HEALTH CONDITIONS REQUIRES QUICK SALE
This is a gorgeous, new, 3-bedroom luxury home on 2.2 flat acres in a secure, gated community, high in the hills of Puriscal, with stunning, 180-degree views of the ocean, city and mountains of the Central Valley in Costa Rica. Centrally located in the heart of Costa Rica, you are never more than an hour from the Pacific beaches while being much less than that to the culture, shopping, services and night life of the San José, Escazú, Santa Ana and the whole Central Valley. The Altos de Antigua gated community sits at an altitude of 2,800 feet with mild temperatures year round. Features wide paved roads and cement culverts throughout, a large community pool & spa with changing rooms & showers. The community association fees are $42 a month ($500 annually).
This property is currently being offered for $355,000.00 U.S.
Purchase adjoining 2.2 acre investment lot with the home sale for $35,000.00 U.S. or separately for $55,000.00 U.S.
 
    Summary of House Features:

       * Completed 2012 to North American standards
       * 3 large bedrooms, 2 full baths
       * Custom designed kitchen w/granite countertops
       * Frigidaire Professional appliance package
       * State-of-the-art solar hot water
       * Eco-friendly Toshiba LED lighting
       * LG Multi-Split air conditioning system
       * House & perimeter security alarm system
       * 2-car closed garage w/large paved driveway
 
Video Tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUEAmahIU9A
Community Web Site: http://www.altigua.com
Photos: HERE!
Costa Rica # 506-8985-6705 or from the States call # 561-740-0651 or email gary_one@msn.com
9173-9/1/17

colinasdelsol
COLINAS DEL SOL Fenced Gated Lots for Sale

* Colinas del Sol is a fenced and gated project  in a quiet area.
* There are 88 clear titled lots.
* Mountain areas with great views.
* Gently sloping level areas ideal for hobby farms, gardening, fruit trees.
* Quiet place to get away from the busy city and beach crowds.
* All lots have gravel roads to them, water and electricity at each.
* Lots are 5,000 sq. meters or larger, starting at only $40,000 USD
* Located in Libertad, Guanacaste, northwest Pacific area of Costa Rica.
* 20 minutes to the Liberia International Airport
* 15 minutes to the Pacific Beaches
* 10 minutes to Medical Facilities
* 25 minutes to the Liberia Hospital
* 5 minutes to Vista Ridge Golf Club

Contact:
In Costa Rica, Jeffrey Sandi Murray:  jsandimurray@colinasdelsolcr.com
In the USA and Canada contact Jim Day: jimday50@aol.com or call 517-484-3675

For more information Click Here: www.colinasdelsolcr.com
9056-2/28/17

Etlinger Farm
rollover
Beautiful farm in excellent location
At only an hour's drive from San José, minutes from Guápiles, and boardering Braulio Carrillo National Park, Etlingera Farms is one heck of an amazing farm. We purchased this 77-acre farm 10 years ago after many trips, and an exhaustive search. It has a little bit of everything we were looking for and a whole lot of beauty. Our average elevation of 600 meters helps to keep Bella Vista cool year round. This farm is nearly level with a semi-modern 2-bedroom house. A fairly rustic 2-bedroom caretaker's home. And, a comfortable, 1-bedroom cabin where we stay. We have 2 large barns, a chicken coop, and a 3-stall pig pen. There are two tilapia ponds and 2 hectarias, (approximately 5 acres) of different species of bananas. The property boarders Rio Blanco in the rear and has 300 meters of public road frontage. Water, electricity, and telephone are all serviced by public utility. Etlingera Farms was reforested with several thousand wood trees of different tropical varieties. We truly believe this farm is spectacular. Our neighbors are selling for as much as $20 per meter. We are negotiable, motivated and open to offers. Our location can be found by searching Etlingera Farms on Google Maps. Our webpage is www.etlingerafarms.com and photo album can be found at www.ticorico.com
9196-4/25/17

horse ranch
rollover
Spectacular Horse Ranch and Spiritual/Yoga
Retreat Center For Sale

We invite you to a horseback tour of 187 acres of pristine farm land with breathtaking vistas, including the islands of the Gulf of Nicoya. There are multiple springs and streams, wooded areas, hard-wood and fruit trees, rolling hills with a geat variety of birds and wildlife. This property boasts the privilege of being bordered by thousands of acres of forest preserve down a steep canyon, offering its own spectacular views, which will never be developed. The many hills provide a builder an endless array of possibilities for nestling buildings in where they will have both views and privacy. The elevation of the property at 1,200 to1600 feet above sea level ensures fresh breezes and ideal year-round temperatures with a day-time average in the low 80's for open-air living. There is a ranch-style house with guest house with 8 total bedrooms, 5 modern baths, huge eat-in kitchen, landmark palm-thatched giant rancho, stable, and storage buildings. The home will come partially furnished, including beds, ample dishware for large groups, housewares, linens, washer/dryer, and fine hard-wood hand-built cabinetry. The remaining horses, 4 to 6 of them, will also convey if one wishes. We are also including a LARGE BEACH LOT in nearby Playa Bejuco. San Rafael de Nandayure is a tiny rural village nestled into the mountainside above Carmona with all the charms of the simple good life of a BLUE ZONE. Carmona is a thriving town with a clinic, restaurfants, shopping, and everything else one may need. The price of our listing Rancho Ricco is $799,000. More information
go to www.ranchforsalecostarica.com  Call Darin Ricco, phone +619-846-8249 or email:  darin_ricco@hotmail.com
9183-6/13/17

rollover
Owner Financing in San Ramon
New Construction, and Ocean View 
Brand new home with 4-plus bedrooms and 3 baths all overlooking an incredible 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean and mountains. Located only 45 minutes from the San Jose airport and about the same to the Pacific Ocean.  The lower level could be used as a separate apartment or mother-in-law setup. Home includes HUGE master  suite, CLOSETS, custom cabinets, granite counter tops, high wood ceilings, and all in an area that is 70-80 degrees year round. Priced at $199,000. Completion date is January.  See the Virtual Tour CLICK HERE or see our site here  www.whynotcostarica.com. If you would like to take a look at this amazing house, please give me a call at  Costa Rica # 506-8755-6743 or if from the States call # 509-570-1928 or email tim@whynotcostarica.com 
9143-2/3/17

Penthouse
rollover
Costa Rica penthouse for sale
 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $795K U.S.  Also available for monthly rent for $3,400 per month on an annual basis. Go to www.ThePenthouseCostaRica.com  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email crstratton@ymail.com
9132-6/1/17

Business for sale or lease (paid category)

Live the dream!
Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact: manager@crbusiness.biz.

Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)

Remax
Tamarindo
www.remax-oceansurf-cr.com The experts in buying property in Costa Rica, with more than 20 years experience and the largest networked team of agents in the country.  We can help you learn if investing in Costa Rica is right for you with our low-key, educational approach to sales. Our professional agents can tell you more about Costa Rica properties, including condos, homes, lots and & commercial real estate. Twelve (12) agents to serve you, from Playa Marbella to Playa Dante in the Guanacaste, through our Tamarindo and Flamingo offices. For more information, please contact our local phones: 506-2653-0073 Tamarindo / 506-2201-9056 Flamingo ~ Toll Free: 1-866-976-8898 or email:  info@remax-oceansurf-cr.com  or click here www.remax-oceansurf-cr.com
9145-1/2918

ReMax
Playas del Coco
We are an award-winning Team of Professional Agents working with Costa Rica’s #1 Selling Real Estate Agency RE/MAX Prestige Ocean Properties. Get to KNOW, LIKE & TRUST us and let us help you find YOUR Pura Vida! We have over 30 years of experience to educate our buyers and sellers in all aspects of Real Estate.  For Information on condos, homes, lots, farms, ranches, commercial or development property
CONTACT US TODAY with NO OBLIGATION whatsoever.

Playas del Coco Click Here!

Playa Panama Click Here!

Playa Hermosa Click Here!
Peninsula Papagayo Click Here!

Playa Matapalo Click Here!
Toll Free 1-877-293-1456
Email: michael@costarica-realestate.com

9174-2/7/18

Real estate-related services (paid category)

A-1 graphic
A1 MASTER BUILDERS COSTA RICA
SMALL and LARGER jobs welcome !!!. We can build from any plan you bring us all work done by USA codes master electric and plumbing Better quality and lower prices than USA. We do it all Right  + Reasonable.
Call us: Toll Free 877-778-8515   
     Text from US: 804-313-6382 
     CR phone: 506-8307-0164
     Email: hotelescazu@aol.com
     For more info also see our sites:
    www.a1masterbuildercostarica.webs.com
    www.hotelsescazu.com
    www.hotel4salecostarica.com
    www.wind-solar.webs.com 
9142-7/27/17
Related

Browse timeshares for sale and rent by owner in Costa Rica at bargain prices. We connect existing timeshare owners with those looking to buy or rent a timeshare on the resale market. Timeshares on the resale market are up to 50% cheaper than those sold through the resort. Already own a timeshare and looking to sell? Stop saying “sell my timeshare” and let BuyaTimeshare.com help you find a buyer or renter.
9203-4/19/2018

COSTA RICA SOLAR
solar one

solar two
NOW with the New Power Company Regulations, we're installing photo voltaic systems for solar electricity.
PV systems: we use Enphase micro-inverters. More flexible. Add panels whenever you like. More reliable than any other system and fully guaranteed!

Solar device
NOW is the time to install our new super-efficient solar hot water! New model for condos
Solar collector
BUY NOW! Your solar hot water system, so in three months, we can calculate a lower install price for your PV system.  Perfect for homes and hotels. Save up to 40% of your electric bill.
More Watts per Panel, Smarter and more Capable Enphase Micro Inverters mean Less Cost and more Flexibility for You.

    We aren't Cheap...Neither are our Products. Call to Compare.
    More Flexible, Reliable-and Fully Guaranteed!

    Push this BIG RED BUTTON:  (O) and Learn ​details about your deal with ICE     
    SEE our new PACKAGE DEALS.
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CALL TODAY!
Office: 506-2446-0543
Andre 506-8314-8090
Paul 506-8898-9398
OUR EMAIL:
 andrefurlong@gmail.com
Paul.Furlong@CR-Solar.com
VISIT OUR WEB:
www.crsolar.net 
9177-6/19/16



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A.M. Costa Rica sixth news page

 
A.M.
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Published Tuesday, May 16, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 96
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Cruz
Roja building
Cruz Roja Costarricense photo   
One of the entrances to the new building in Heredia.

Cruz Roja gets new Heredia building

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cruz Roja received a new building and care facility at Santa Bárbara de Heredia for its auxiliary committee.

After an investment of close to $322,000 in colons from the Convenio de Cooperación y aporte Financiero del Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, the building provides a waiting room, control office, infirmary, administrative section, meeting room, dining room, bathrooms, bedrooms with separate bathrooms for patients, a large living room for up to 80 people and includes a kitchenette, parking and storage areas, the organization said.

According to data from the Cruz Roja, the committee in Heredia attended over 1,000 patients last year and covered a total distance of at least 11,441 miles. The creation of the building is a preemptive measure, the Cruz Roja said, to provide facilities in anticipation of increased needs from the surrounding communities it provides services for.

The inauguration of the building was presided over by second Vice President Ana Helena Chacón and Glauco Quesada, the head of the Cruz Roja Costarricense, among others.

“We seek to provide an adequate space to guarantee the right to care and basic medical services of the 36 thousand people of the canton, plus 60 thousand of the neighboring cantons of Flores and Barva,” said Emilio Arias, the human development minister.

“It is not only an infrastructure project, it is a social investment that guarantees the right to health that we all have.”


Student going to Vegas competition

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The young Costa Rican researcher, Carolina Zúñiga, a student from the school of Food Technology of the Universidad de Costa Rica, has been selected as one of six finalists in the undergraduate research competition to be held in Las Vegas on June. The Institute of Food Technologists organizes the competition.

Ms. Zúñiga is the first student from a university outside the United States and Canada that will make it all the way to the finals in this competition.

She will defend her research before a jury and determine whether reducing the pH of food through the addition of organic acids is a strategy to prevent the spores of deteriorating microorganisms and pathogens in the Chili Sauces marketed in Costa Rica, particularly Clostridium botulinum.

To conduct her investigation, Zuñiga was given a $1,000 grant from the university.


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From page 7:

Agricultural sector receives millions of colons


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some industries in Pérez Zeledón were just granted some funding to enable the growth and expansion of its businesses and to continue the profits made by the Costa Rican agricultural sector.

The agricultural ministry gave a grant of 80 million colons to the Cooperativa Agroindustrial y Servicios Múltiples de San Antonio Pérez Zeledón for the purchase and construction of a laboratory building as well as heavy-duty composting equipment.

Casa Presidencial released a statement Monday praising the initiative to aid the organic production that the cooperative does particularly in the European market. The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería gave the funds to the organization to acquire inputs in starting the production process of Bioles commercially. These are plastic tanks used to store and distribute boils.

This is also meant to improve production of organic bananas, coffee and cocoa that the group specializes in, the government said.

Another project worth about 91.5 million colons was aimed at helping small artisanal producers of cheese from Pérez Zeledón. This is to go towards building the necessary infrastructure to guarantee safe conditions and good practices for the products being sold. It also enables the purchase of adequate equipment for the industry, Casa Presidencial said.