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Published Monday, May 30, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 105
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The country has so-called mafias by the dozens

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats need a spreadsheet to tell one mafia from the other. Costa Rica is an important country for a number of criminal organizations that generally are lumped under the term mafia.

Some are the real deal. The Italian Mafia has been involved with Costa Rica mainly for drug smuggling and money laundering. A leader of the Comorra lived here unmolested for at least eight months once.

Then there is the other real Mafia out of New York and New Jersey. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office just announced the arrest of six individuals involved in a Costa Rican-based sportsbook operation here.

There have been a series of arrests of those linked the the so-called Five Families who have used Costa Rica as an internet hub. John Gotti’s personal bookmaker, Dominick Curra, was a convicted fugitive when he arrived here in 2001. He was detained the next year in la Sabana where he was believed to have maintained some kind of betting operation. Gotti, the Teflon Don, was the former boss of the Gambino crime family.

There have been similar arrests in New York that linked bookmakers there to wire room operations here in 2002, 2009 and 2011, according to news files.

Then there are the Mexican mafias, the drug-smuggling gangs from that country who have thoroughly infiltrated Costa Rica. Their main job is the extensive drug smuggling that uses Costa Rica as an important way station.

The Mexican mafias are not to be confused with the Colombian mafias, mainly rebel organizations there that control drug cultivation and production.

Of course, all the drug organizations, by necessity, have morphed into money laundering and human trafficking, also involving Costa Rica. The Italian and U.S. mafias are less involved in those activities because much of their income is local.

Then there is the Taiwanese mafia, which is believed to control illegal shark-finning in Costa Rica.

The Russian mafia seems to prefer gambling and human trafficking. The former KGB operatives began building their worldwide network after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russians seem to have infiltrated and strong-armed their way into some Costa Rican sex tourism and casino enterprises.

And rounding out the list are the Chinese mafia, probably at least 16 established gangs in the country who have inserted their roots into Costa Rica to the extent that the government here has lost control of some sections of the capital. The main operations of these organizations involve human trafficking, local gambling and smuggling.

Most sources agree that Costa Rica is a prime location for criminals because there is no army and the judicial process is dysfunctional. Prosecutors and investigators here generally are distracted by the continual war on drugs, which takes up a lot of resources. The Dirección Nacional de Inteligencia y Seguridad has not seemed to have had any impact.

Costa Rican institutions also seem to be vulnerable to exploitation. Foreign prostitutes enter the country under the protection of the Russian and various other organized crime groups. They have had genuine visas as Spanish language students.

There seems to be infiltration of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. A previous A.M. Costa Rica article reported the account of a Dominican prostitute who said she paid off the second half of what she owed for her passage at a location in the immigration complex in La Uruca.

There also have been arrests of officials in the nation’s customs organization who have been
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involved in irregularities on imports.

Fuerza Pública officers have been caught riding protection for drug shipments. There also are indications that crooks have knowledge of much of the activities of the various police forces.

The central government seems to have little control over the sportsbooks operating here. Most of betting money goes to other national jurisdictions. And immigration Trabajo ministry officials are lax on enforcing labor rules.

Costa Rica got a warning as long ago as 1997 from the United Nations about the presence here of the Italian Mafia or Camorra. At that time police officials here said they had become aware of the Mafia presence in 1995, news files show. Even then it appeared that the Italians were infiltrating legitimate tourism businesses.

Even then some Russians were found to be getting appointments are honorary Costa Rican consuls in Europe. The diplomatic positions could have been used to further smuggling activties.

The Italian Antonio Iovine was the man identified as the leader of the Italian Camorra. He entered the country five times up until 2014, according to El Diario Extra.

During one visit, the man stayed eight months, the newspaper said, citing immigration sources.  Iovine entered once through Juan Santamaría airport even though he was on the Italian most-wanted list, said La Extra. His speciality was gambling, and his organization had control of much of the gambling in Europe.

Iovine may have been cooperating with Italian authorities during some of the time he was here.

Costa Rica’s attraction for New York area bookmakers is the security of their internet files. The traditional wire room full of telephones and bustling activity is a thing of the past. Now the gamblers place their bets through Costa Rican sportsbooks. The bet money may be paid offshore or in the New York metro area. Winnings are paid in the same way. The bookmakers can check the status of the accounts at any time via  computer or even a smartphone.

The six men held in the latest crackdown were arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn. The District Attorney’s Office said that, according to the indictment, between Sept. 1, and March 15, the defendants used the Web site www.stakestake.com to accept bets on professional and collegiate sporting events, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and horse racing. Access to the Web site was obtained by a user name and password that were unique to each user and wagers were placed directly on the Web site or by calling toll free numbers associated with it, the announcement said. During the time period charged in the indictment, the gambling operation accepted $13.2 million in wagers.

Eugene Castelle, 56, of Staten Island was identified as the leader of the group.  He was identified as a member of the Lucchese crime family. The Genovese crime family also has been said to have operations linked to here.

The stakestake.com Web site domain is in the hands of a British internet privacy firm. Operators of the Web site received monthly fees based on the number of gamblers associated with the New York betting operation, the district attorney’s office said.


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Professional Directory
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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Insurance professionals

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 Accountants

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Canas highway
Ministery of Obras Publicas y Transportes photo
Workers are moving to the level of the bridge deck after reinforcing the Autopista General Cañas span over the Río Virilla east of San José. Now that the strcuture has been reinforced, the crews will begin widening the bridge from four lanes to six.


Three more detained in robbery probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three more persons involved in a police corruption investigation have been detained, and all 12 have been remanded to preventative detention.

The suspects are accused of being home invaders and burglars while at times using police vehicles.

Investigators said Thursday that more arrests were anticipated. Three persons were detained Friday in  Alajuelita, San José and Desamparados.


Government submits cuts to budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has sent a bill to the legislature seeking $48.7 million in budget cuts while preserving funding for 255 projects, said the Ministerio de Hacienda.

Among the projects that are included in the revised budget is the sprawling farmers market planned for Sardinal.

The government has promised to effect some budget cuts to show good faith while lawmakers consider a package of tax increases.


Great Barrier Reef reported in trouble

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mass bleaching has destroyed more than a third of the northern and central sections of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists said today.

It is the third and most extreme mass bleaching event in 18 years to affect the reef, said Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland state.

"We found on average, that 35 percent of the corals are now dead or dying on 84 reefs that we surveyed along the northern and central sections of the Great Barrier Reef, between Townsville and Papua New Guinea," Hughes said in a statement.

He and other experts blame global warming and El Niño, which raises temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, for the mass bleaching events.

Warm water temperatures cause the coral to expel algae, which turns it white and robs it of an important food source. Bleaching also slows coral reproduction and growth rates, scientists said.

Coral is gone forever once it dies. If temperatures drop, however, the coral has a chance to recover.

"The current event is much more extreme than we've measured before," Hughes added.

In a months-long effort, researchers conducted underwater and aerial surveys of the 2,300 kilometer reef located off Australia's eastern coast.

The study found the southern reefs were largely spared from damage.

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site that draws more than $3.5 billion in tourism to Australia each year.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English


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Police said they stopped five persons who were robbing tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers detains five men Sunday as suspects of robbing tourists in  Manzanillo, Cahuita and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast.

There were four adults and a 16 year old.

The suspects were occupants of a vehicle police stopped in Westfalia  on Ruta 36. Police officials said that the car matched the description of a vehicle being used by the robbers.

Police in the  Grupo de Apoyo Operacional searched the vehicle and came up with two unregistered revolvers, police officials said. Also found were cell telephones, a gold chain, purses, watches, money and other jewelry, said police.

The arrest was credited to a victim who reported the crime quickly.

Police have the coastal highway under close watch. They also turn up frequently individuals transporting drugs and items smuggled from Panamá.

On the other side of the country, the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública also reported over the weekend that police pressure continued in Playas del Coco and in Tamarindo. From April 1 until May 16 122 persons have been stopped on drug charges, the ministry said. The effort involved the ministry’s Fuerza Pública, the  Policía de Fronteras, the Servicion Nacional de Guardacostas and even the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea.

The ministry said that 13 persons were detained for being in violation of immigration laws and that there also were arrests for violating the alcohol laws and for motor vehicle violations.

loot
Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
Police said they recovered these items stolen from tourists.


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Hurricane forecasters say the coming season is difficult to predict
By the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
news staff

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, will most likely be near-normal, but the climate signals that influence the formation of Atlantic storms make predicting this season particularly difficult.

That was the word from the U.S, National Hurricane Center, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 m.p.h. or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 m.p.h. or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 m.p.h. or higher).

While a near-normal season is most likely with a 45 percent chance, there is also a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season, said the agency. Included in the outlook is Hurricane Alex, a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the admininstration’s Climate Prediction Center. "However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

Bell explained there is uncertainty about whether the high activity era of Atlantic hurricanes, which began in 1995, has ended. This high-activity era has been associated with an ocean temperature pattern called the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, marked by warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a stronger West African monsoon.

However, during the last three years weaker hurricane seasons have been accompanied by a shift toward the cool oscillation phase, marked by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a weaker West African monsoon. If this shift proves to be more than short-lived, it could usher in a low-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes, and this period may already have begun, said the agency. High- and low-activity eras typically last 25 to 40 years.

In addition, El Niño is dissipating and the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent chance that La Niña, which favors more hurricane activity, will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October. However, current model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong La Niña and its impacts will be.

Despite the challenging seasonal prediction, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is poised to
ouitlook
Hurricane season outlook

storm names
Storm names for the 2016 season


deliver actionable environmental intelligence during the hurricane season with more accuracy to help save lives and livelihoods and enhance the national economy.

Coming online later this season are major new investments to further improve the agency’s ability to monitor hurricanes as they form and provide more timely and accurate warnings for their impacts. A new National Water Model, set to launch later this summer, will provide hourly water forecasts for 700 times more locations than the current flood forecast system, greatly enhancing the ability to forecast inland flooding from tropical systems. In the fall, the agency will launch GOES-R, a next generation weather satellite that will scan the Earth five times faster, with a resolution four times greater than ever before, to produce much sharper images of hurricanes and other severe weather,m the agency said.

The agency will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

The agency also issued its outlook for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific basins. The central Pacific hurricane outlook calls for equal 40 percent chance of a near-normal or above-normal season with for to seven tropical cyclones likely. The eastern Pacific hurricane outlook calls for a 40 percent chance of a near-normal hurricane season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season. That outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes.

Vacation, travel and hospitality


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Largest art gallery in Guanacaste
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or contact us by email:
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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the
 *HIGHEST SUCCESS RATE
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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.

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See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!
HERE!

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.
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rollover
Beautiful House Inside Gated Farm for Rent
House inside gated farm. Two bedroom, One bath fully-furnished. Close to town in Santa Barbara de Heredia.  $650 includes:  Internet, Wifi, Cable TV, Water, Electric.  Located in Santa Barbara de Heredia. American owner lives onsite, quiet, secure.  More information to my email: organicfarmhouserental@gmail.com
9019-6/25/16

Spectacular rentals are available for low weekly prices on SellMyTimeshareNow.com at resorts such as Bahia Turquesa Residences and Villas Sol Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste. We have 
Timeshare
1- to 3-bedroom ocean and garden view timeshares available and most offer air conditioning, cable TV, fully equipped kitchens, and relaxing hammocks on private balconies. Enjoy the unique combination of seclusion and convenience as all resorts listed on our site are close to popular Costa Rican attractions and downtown 
centers, but are surrounded in lush, tropical forest. Villas are also available for sale in our inventory, so you can enjoy yearly vacations to this mesmerizing rainforest paradise. Please visit our rental inventory HERE!  or call us toll free at 877-815-4227, International: 603-516-0200.  Email: info@sellmytimesharenow.com
8766-7/30/16

Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for  your stay in this beautiful part
tropical homes
of Costa Rica.We are offering homes for every budget and every need. Please visit our Web page at www.tropicalhomesofcostarica.com or contact us at rentals@tropicalhomesofcostarica.com or call at (506) 2654-5442
8784-2/19/16

Real estate for rent (paid category)

Central
                                              Valley view

Boutique quality mountain homes for rent located on a small horse ranch on the slopes of the Barva Volcano, Heredia Province. The homes have stunning views of Costa Rica's Central Valley. Located at 7,300-foot altitude, our ranch borders the Braulio Carrillo National Park and the homes are hiking distance to the Barva Volcano crater lake. We offer various rental options for our 1- and 2-bedroom homes. Contact us at Ajsanch783@AOL.COM for more details.
8981-5/28/16

Fully Furnished American style Apartments for Rent
2-bedroom, 2- bathroom, fully furnished American-style apartments with elevator in a secure building in Barrio Amó. Cable, Internet, water included. Shared laundry. Convenient to Parque Morazán,
hotels, restaurants, casinos, city government, national registry. $650 per month plus electricity. ½ month security deposit. No lease.  The larger apartments are $650 per month. They have larger bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. It would be best for the prospective tenants to visit
Barrio Amon
the building to see the apartments.   For more information contact: edificiomorazan@gmail.com  or call Hilda at 2221-7161.
8998-7/18/16




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A.M. Costa Rica's
  
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Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 30, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 105
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Axiom new ad

Pakistani driver’s family
files case over air strike


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Relatives of a Pakistani taxi driver who was killed in last week’s U.S. drone strike targeting the leader of the Afghan Taliban have formally lodged a police complaint against unnamed U.S. officials.

The deceased driver, Mohammad Azam, was transporting Taliban chief Mullah Mansoor when missiles fired by a drone struck their car in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, killing both of them.

Police in the remote district of Noshki, where the May 21 missile attack took place, confirmed Sunday that Azam’s relatives have set the criminal justice process in motion by filing what is called a First Information Report against unnamed U.S. officials.
 
“My brother, a father of four children, was innocent and the sole bread earner for his extremely impoverished family,” a brother of the deceased driver said in his complaint.

He said Azam had no links to any terror groups and used to ferry passengers in his taxi between Taftan, the Pakistani town bordering Iran, and Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

“I seek justice and legal action against American authorities responsible for the attack. I do not know their names but media has quoted them as claiming to have used explosive material to kill my brother,” the complainant added.

A Quetta-based attorney, Tahir Hussain, said that Azam's family likely will seek a trial in absentia if U.S. officials refuse to respond, and may attempt to push for monetary compensation.

In Islamabad Sunday, Pakistan's Interior Ministry said a DNA sample has confirmed that Mansoor was killed in the drone strike. American and Afghan officials already had confirmed his death, but Pakistan declined to do so until the DNA test result was known.

Officials said a relative of Mansoor provided a DNA sample that matched the Taliban chief's.

U.S. officials defended the drone attack, saying the Taliban leader was opposed to Afghan peace efforts and plotting deadly attacks against American soldiers as well as their partners in Afghanistan.

Mansoor apparently was returning from Iran and was targeted shortly after he entered Pakistan, where he had been residing along with other Taliban leaders.

A Pakistani passport found near the destroyed car carrying Mansoor was traveling in suggested the slain Taliban chief was using a pseudonym, Wali Mohammad, for undertaking journeys within and outside Pakistan. The travel document contained a valid Iranian visa.

The U.S. drone operations have long been under fire from rights defenders for causing collateral damage, although Washington insists they have effectively reduced the threat that terrorist groups pose to American interests in the region.

Pakistan condemned the drone attack on Mansoor as a violation of the country's sovereignty. Authorities have since arrested several officials for allegedly helping the slain Taliban leader get a Pakistani passport.

 
Libertarian candidate again
named for presidential slot


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A previously little-noticed U.S. political figure, Libertarian Gary Johnson, again won his party's presidential nomination Sunday, drawing new attention to his candidacy at a moment when majorities of Americans have unfavorable opinions about the major party front-runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Recent polls show the 63-year-old Johnson, who served two terms as the Republican governor of the southwestern state of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 before becoming a Libertarian, winning about 10 percent of the vote nationally against Trump and Clinton in a hypothetical three-way match in November's national election.

Also at the Libertarian convention in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, former Massachusetts governor William Weld was chosen to run as Johnson's vice presidential candidate.

Third-party presidential candidates in the U.S. have not fared well in the quadrennial elections, often times fading when people get closer to making their decisions about whom they will vote for. If Johnson were to maintain his 10 percent level of support nationally, it is unlikely he would win any of the country's 50 states.

But his vote total could affect the outcome in some individual states, especially since more than half of Americans in recent political surveys say they view both Trump, the brash billionaire real estate mogul, and Mrs. Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of State, unfavorably. U.S. presidential elections are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather in state-by-state votes, with the biggest states holding the most importance in the outcome.

Johnson's candidacy comes at a time when many Americans say they are disenchanted with the national government, a view that fueled the surge of Trump, who has never held elective office, to the top of the crowded Republican field that included a host of current and former senators and governors. Johnson would have to reach 15 percent support nationally in five polls to be included in three presidential debates scheduled for the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

In the U.S., Libertarians favor individual rights, challenging what they say is the cult of the omnipotent state, a view that could attract some voters to Johnson.

Johnson, as the Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012, won 1 percent of the vote when President Barack Obama won re-election to a second term over Republican Mitt Romney.

Ross Perot, a technology corporation executive, was the most recent serious third party presidential candidate in the U.S., winning no individual states, in the 1992 and 1996 elections, when Mrs. Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, was twice elected as president.

 
Nomination races contain
many twists and turns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest, where almost-daily twists and turns are confounding conventional wisdom in what has become an unusually turbulent end of the primary campaign season.

In January, New York businessman Donald Trump was one of more than a dozen Republican presidential contenders in a field with no clear favorite. By contrast, Hillary Clinton stood as the front-runner over just two Democratic rivals.

Last week, Trump clinched the delegates required to become his party’s nominee.

“We’ve won the nomination big by numbers that you can’t believe,” he said to thunderous applause at a recent campaign rally in California.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, has the delegate math squarely in her favor. But she is campaigning hard to avoid embarrassing defeats closing out the primaries.

Making matters worse was last week’s inspector general report that her email usage as secretary of State violated agency policies. The controversy has been swirling for more than a year and once again put Mrs. Clinton on the defensive.

“The use of personal email was a practice by other secretaries of State,” she said Friday. “And the rules were not clarified until after I had left. And, as I’ve said many times, if I could do it over again, I would have done it differently.”

Trump was quick to pounce. “I watched Hillary Clinton, as I say Crooked Hillary. She is crooked. She lies, she lies so much. It’s sad,” the businessman said. “Hillary is a disaster, folks. She has bad judgment.”

But Trump has been making headlines of his own by first agreeing to and then turning down a proposed debate with Clinton challenger Bernie Sanders.

Sanders said he would have relished the chance to debate Trump.

“What I hope will happen is that, in fact, I will run against him as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. And if I do, we’re going to beat him and beat him bad,” the Vermont senator said on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” program.

Beating Trump is one idea Sanders and Mrs. Clinton agree on.

“The stakes could not be higher,” Mrs. Clinton said at a recent campaign stop in San Francisco. “There is absolutely no way that we can let Donald Trump get anywhere near the White House.”

But with Mrs. Clinton and Sanders still battling each other, the Democratic Party is not unifying behind either. Rank-and-file Republicans, meanwhile, are showing some signs of rallying behind their nominee-to-be, leading to the first polls showing Trump tied or slightly above Mrs. Clinton.

“I’m leading in the polls. We’re leading in almost every poll now,” Trump said. “Do you believe this? It’s so great.”

Primary season ends next Tuesday, when America’s most populous state, California, and several others get their say.

space station
National Aeronautics and Space Administration photo
The inflatable new space station room goes up.

Space station get a room
with a really great view

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The International Space Station has added a unique new room to its configuration.

The U.S. space agency NASA successfully inflated and pressurized an add-on room that was installed on the outside of the outpost.

It took about seven hours Saturday for the pod to expand to its full capacity.  Fully expanded, the module is 4 meters long by 3.23 meters wide.

A series of tests determining the structural integrity of the pod will be conducted before the space station crew is allowed to enter it next week.

In addition, NASA says the tests will gauge how well the inflated room will protect against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.

The benefit of the inflatable pod is that it takes up little space when deflated, but provides more living/working space when inflated.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, was designed by Bigelow Aerospace, based in Las Vegas. The company received an $18 million contract to design the first-of-its-kind habitat.

The first effort to inflate BEAM Thursday was not successful. Scientists believe that since BEAM had been packed for so long, its fabric had trouble unfolding.


Three newspeople released
by leftist rebels in Colombia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian rebels have released three journalists being held hostage by guerrillas in a remote and restive region of the country. The three were released Friday.

Spanish-Colombian journalist Salud Hernandez-Mora was abducted May 21 in Catatumbo in northeastern Colombia by members of the Ejercito Nacional de Liberación.  She was working on a story about coca growers who grow the plant used to make cocaine in an area known as a corridor for smuggling cocaine to Venezuela.

She said she was treated well by her captors who moved her frequently.

The 59-year-old journalist, who writes for Spain's El Mundo newspaper and Colombian newspapers, was handed over to a delegation from the Roman Catholic Church.

Diego D'Pablo and Carlos Melo of the RCN network were covering Ms. Hernandez-Mora's kidnapping when they were captured Monday by the same rebel group.  The RCN journalists were released by the insurgents a few hours after Ms. Hernandez-Mora's release.

Colombia is attempting to end a five-decades long civil war.

The Ejercito Nacional de Liberación has recently agreed to hold peace talks with the government, but negotiations have been hampered by ongoing hostilities and kidnappings. It is Colombia's second largest rebel group.

For the past three years, Colombia has been holding peace talks with its largest rebel group, the Fuerza Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC.  The talks have been held in Havana, Cuba.

That group has observed a cease-fire since last year.

Leftist rebels have been fighting a guerrilla war to topple Colombian governments since 1964, killing more than 220,000 people. They have used drug trafficking and kidnappings for ransom to fund their war.

Colombia's rebel movement has been weakened in recent years, and right-wing paramilitary forces formed to counter leftist fighters have been disbanded.

  
Brazil celebrated diversity
with gigantic street parade


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians celebrated in the streets of Sao Paulo Sunday for one of the world's biggest gay pride parades.

Brazilians have little to celebrate at the moment. The country is dealing with a zika outbreak, the president's impeachment, and pressure to postpone this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

But the parade was an opportunity for people to dance, dress up and enjoy themselves, even if the overall theme of the gathering, a demand for equal rights, is a serious one.

"For some people, this is a Carnival out of season, to have fun, mess up and do some wrong things," one participant said. "In my case and for many others, we came for a cause -- asking for respect, to fight for our rights, for people to treat the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community better. We are human beings, just like any others."

Gay rights advocates in Brazil are pushing the congress to pass a law allowing Brazilians to legally identify themselves as the gender of their choice and not necessarily what is stated on their birth certificate.

Meanwhile, an open letter signed by 150 health experts calls for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to be postponed or moved because of the zika virus outbreak.

The signatories, which include experts from more than two dozen countries in fields including public health, medicine and academia, said Friday that to hold the games would be irresponsible and unethical. Among the signatories is former White House science adviser Philip Rubin.

"The Brazilian strain of zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before," the letter said.

The virus has been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains. The World Health Organization has said pregnant women should avoid areas where zika outbreaks are occurring, including the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The letter's authors said "An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic. Should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places (e.g., most of South Asia and Africa) the suffering can be great."

In an opposing view, Tom Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there is no public health reason to cancel or delay the Olympics.

Frieden said the outcry about the health risks of zika and the Olympics may well be overkill.

Rather than trying to "stop the world because we want to get off," he said, "let's take steps to make as much of the world is safe as possible for all."

The World Health Organization has noted that the Olympics, set for August, will take place during Brazil's winter season, when there are fewer active mosquitoes.

However, the letter's authors note that if visitors get infected with the zika virus in Brazil, they could return home to the Northern Hemisphere, where the virus could be spread among local mosquitoes during the peak summer months.

The letter's authors questioned whether World Health is properly considering its options to recommend moving or delaying the games because of its partnership with the International Olympic Committee. "We are concerned that WHO is rejecting these alternatives because of a conflict of interest," the letter said.

Scientists have known about the zika virus since it was discovered in Uganda in 1947, but only recently have realized its potential danger.

Starting last October, the mosquito-borne virus began to spread, particularly in Brazil, where it has been linked to birth defects in pregnant women who get infected with the disease.


Opioids are disappointment,
pain researchers contend


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

The wonder drug pain medications of the mid-1990s have turned out to be a major problem and a big disappointment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said not only do they run a high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse.

Public awareness of the opioid crisis has grown in the past few weeks, after the sudden death of pop star Prince, who died in April after reportedly seeking treatment for painkiller addiction, as well as with recent legislation passed by the U.S. House on opioid abuse.

“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses,” Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement earlier this month. “Overprescribing opioids largely for chronic pain is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic."

A single opioid overdose can also kill, because it can result in respiratory distress. The number of those deaths has been rising to a high of 29,000 in 2014, the latest year for which the figures are available.

Of that number, 18,893 deaths were from prescription painkillers. The other 10,574 were from heroin, the opioid of choice when  painkillers get too expensive or to difficult to obtain.

In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in April, Frieden and fellow researcher Debra Houry were blunt: "We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently."

Vicodin, Oxycontin and their cousins, all synthetic versions of the narcotic found in the poppy flower, hit the market in an aggressive marketing rollout in the mid-1990s.

They quickly became popular, providing a euphoric effect while they dulled pain. Studies at the time promised the drugs carried little risk of addiction.

The introduction of the new drugs dovetailed with directives by medical experts for health care providers to focus more on pain management.

Doctors began asking their patients to estimate their pain level on a scale of 1 to 10, giving patients more power over what drugs they were prescribed. It wasn't long before the drugs were getting used recreationally.

A study published in January in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 2,848 commercially insured patients who had a nonfatal overdose during long-term opioid therapy between May 2000 and December 2012,  91 percent of them continued to use the opioids. Seventeen percent of those had a second overdose within two years.

The fact that opioids and other addictive medications are prescribed by doctors can make an addiction harder to recognize, and to treat.

"Some actually take their medicines as prescribed, but they have gone to very high doses which impair their functioning. So they're seen as taking legitimate medicines in an honest way," said Bernadette Solounias, medical director at Ashley Addiction Treatment in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

That appearance of legitimacy, Dr. Solounias said, can make it hard for painkiller addicts to recognize a problem, seek treatment, or trust another doctor or addiction counselor.

Solounias said the treatment organization began its pain recovery program in 2011.

"We saw that there were people who had chronic pain and who had developed a dependence, sometimes an addiction, to their pain medications. These were medicines that were prescribed for them," she said.

The drug dependency, for many, was debilitating, but the patients also still had chronic pain to manage.

Dr. Solounias said the effects of dependency are reduced function in a person's daily life, including forgetfulness, sedation and preoccupation with having enough of the drug on hand to continue use.

With chronic pain, physical mobility can also be affected. And she said she has found that the Centers' findings are true, patients dependent on opiates actually have less pain, as well as a better quality of life, when they come off the drugs.

"We're introducing other things -- we may use some non-opiate medicines that help with pain," she said. "Many of them have been inactive. So we get them moving, we strengthen muscles, work with physical therapists, with personal trainers to improve physical fitness. We make acupuncture available to them. Massage is also part of the program."

Patients also get counseling.
Real estate-related services (paid category)
Container homes
New shipping containers for sale:
20 ft. (model year 2015) Containers:  $3,500
40 ft. HQ (model year 2015) Containers: $5,000
We also have a 40-ft. HQ Shipping Container Home
for sale: $23,000

And a 40-ft HQ Reefer basic home model: $12,000.
Both with kitchen, bathroom, fully finished electricity. Turnkey.
Our Web site is www.containerhomes.net
9018-8/25/16

SellATimeshare.com
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. Buy, sell or rent a timeshare at SellATimeshare.com. 
9004-4/26/17

COSTA RICA SOLAR
Solr array
SOON with the coming of new power company regulations, we'll be installing PV (photo voltaic) for solar electricity. Yes, at last!
* 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.
Solar logo
CALL US TODAY!

Office phone: 506-2446-0543
Cell phone: 506-8898-9398
or 506-8314-8090
OUR EMAIL: Paul.Furlong@CR-Solar.com

VISIT OUR WEB: www.CR-Solar.com

Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)


Re-Max
If you are looking for information on condos, homes, lots, commercial real estate or development properties our award-winning team of professional agents are ready to help you buying property in Costa Rica. We have over 18 years of experience to educate our buyers in all aspects of purchasing property. Call us or email us today for more information on how to purchase that perfect piece of Costa Rica Real Estate.

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

8935-2/7/17

Remax logo
Re/Max Ocean Surf and Sun:

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 sCosta Rica properties, including condos, homes, lots and commercial real estate.  Call us: Ocean Surf and Sun Int. Realty Ldta at 011 (506) 2653-0073 or send us an email at: info@remax-oceansurf-cr.com
8927-1/28/17

Axiom one

Sierra Collection. Meridian House or Chateau Montage.
Near Parque Nacional Marino Ballena,
Pacific Coast. 
For more i
nformation 

Click
HERE!
Axiom two
The Terraces at San Martin.  Discover the essence of Costa Rica on our Luxury Ocean View Villas . Near Dominicalito Beach and Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.
For more information
Click HERE!

Axiom three
Ellan At Ballena Beach.  Welcome to a world of endless adventure on our beachside condominiums at Ballena Beach, Pacific Coast.  For more information click  HERE!
We will be happy to give all the information you need. Contact:

AXIOM DEVELOPMENT GROUP SRL
Costa Rica Office: +506.4001-2343
Mobile: +506.8367-2466
USA Office: +1.786233-1579
sales@axiomcostarica.com
www.axiomcostarica.com
8906-2/21/16


Rich Coast
                                  Rollover
Costa Rica Real Estate
    2.47 acre ocean view property w/ 2 houses & 2 unfinished apartments $249k!!!
    2 houses and pool furnished, great rental potential walk to the beach $327k w/ owner financing
    2-bedroom furnished condo 400 feet from Jacó beach $179,000

and lots of other great properties! Property listings in Escazú, Herradura, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Dominical and beyond. We offer efficient, personalized service always protecting our client’s interests. Contact us today with your questions about buying property in Costa Rica. With 11 years experience in Costa Rica real estate.

Have a Property For Sale? Contact Us!
USA Toll Free 1 866 833-4005
CR Cell 011 506 8718-9891
Brendan@RichCoastRealty.com
www.RichCoastRealty.com
8953-8/29/16

Real estate for sale (paid category)


updated
                                  photo
Jacó beach unique home. First time offered
This house has never been listed.  It is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home approx. 100 feet above sea level on the only hill in Jacó one mile to the beach.  Totally remodeled to a Gringo house.Has great fenced yard for dogs and a huge screened porch with  great views all around, including a small ocean view.  New in the last two years includes: new kitchen with granite counter, cedar cabinets, all new windows, tile, water system, updated electric & plumbing, superb new AC units (low electric bill), This is half of a duplex with a platted yard.  Other side is the chief of police.  Secure & private.  $169.900. Call Glenn at 506-6214-0056 or goodbuyflorida@yahoo.com.
9020-8/3/16

Excazu
                                  condo
House for Sale in Escazu Downtown
Condo near downtown Escazú Centro, Country Day School and Paco Shopping Center. 2 floors, 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Maid's quarters, patio, 24-hour guard,   clubhouse and pool  Price $170,000 or best offer Call Lewis at 506 2288-2250 or 506 8828-6749.
Email:  visoer1937@gmail.com or oervis@hotmail.com
9011-8/11/16

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.  More information
go to www.ranchforsalecostarica.com  Call Darin Ricco, phone +619-846-8249 or email:  darin_ricco@hotmail.com
9010-6/10/16

Condo
                                  rollover

Luxury condominium apartments for sale in Escazú
The property located in Trejos Montealegre, has three apartments for sale. Excellent location, 400 meters east of Avenida Escazú, next to Village (new commercial and office project), Plaza Tempo, Wal-Mart, CIMA Hospital. To enter and exit Trejos Montealegre no need to pay toll. The condominium is few minutes from San José

♦ Apartment No. 1: 180 square meters, 3 bedrooms, cement walls, two floors, 1 utility room, 3 bathrooms, TV room, living room, kitchen with breakfast bar and island kitchen furniture, garage, electric gate.
 
♦ Apartment No. 2: 180. square meters,  3 bedrooms, cement walls, two floors, 1 utility room, 3 bathrooms, TV room, living room, kitchen with breakfast bar and island kitchen furniture, garage, electric gate.
 
♦ Apartment No. 3: This is the largest one. 250. square meters,  3 bedrooms, cement walls, two floors, 1 utility room, 3 bathrooms, living room, kitchen with breakfast bar  island kitchen furniture, 2 garages, electric gate. Total property measures 529 square meters.  Unique opportunity to buy it for $ 750,000 (Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars).  For more information contact Adrian, cell phone  506-8598-9898  Email:  parqueos@gmail.com
8936-8/6/16

Pavo onr
FOR SALE - $270,000
Exceptional 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, fully furnished luxury apartment for sale at the exclusive Terrazas de Escazú highrise complex in Escazú near La Paco Commerical Center.  Situated on the third floor, this apartment has an exceptional layout with stunning views of the Central Valley. 140 m2 bright and spacious floor plan with open sky terrace with 180-degree unobstructed view of the Escazú mountains and Central Valley.  One covered parking spot with additional guest parking available. HOA fee:  $250/month. Held in Costa Rica corporation for easy property transfer. Building features: 12-meter atrium with controlled access entrance to the building, surrounding landscaping, lower level pool, communal rooftop terrace and small rooftop gym. 24-hour security. Contact: José Granados in Costa Rica, phone 506- 6051-5249  email: jsaba00@hotmail.com.
8997-6/22/16
paco two

first image
B&B for sale in Costa Rica $650,000

I believe this is the finest area of Costa Rica in which to live and, with a lock on 80percent of all tourists visiting Costa Rica, to invest. There are birds and flowers of every description, terrific neighbors, incredible views, wonderful weather with a healthy climate, visits by sloth, deer, monkeys, a very good business that can expand and grow, if desired, or simply a beautiful place to live. Please look at my Web site and the guest reviews, the people's reaction to the property, and you'll see just what a wonderful opportunity this is

There is about 7,000 square meters of land included (over 1 3/4 acres) as well as another smaller home and an apartment above the carport, designed as maid's quarters but usually rented out to tourists. The rear of the property is bordered by a small and very clean spring-fed creek/river. Across the river there is jungle, which makes for a great deal of all around privacy and which will never be developed. Restaurants, a supermarket, services, and many natural attractions are just a short distance away. The property was appraised at over $1.7 million (US) a few years ago, which might indicate what an incredible bargain this is.

It can also include a franchise for Best Western Hotel, if interested in growing with the tourism business, and a small hobby farm bordering Arenal National Park with spectacular views of Lake Arenal, is also available. All is available at an excellent price for the right person (people) and a package price can certainly be arranged. Email me at: grantchy@yahoo.com For more photos and info click HERE!
8996-7/20/16

anothiner

Grecia
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UNIQUE OFFER !!!!
Negotiable price. Thirty thousand seventy square meters. The house is seven hundred fifty squared meters, built three years ago. Five bedrooms plus servant's room with bathroom. Each bedroom includes private bathroom. Master's room includes Jacuzzi and hidromassage. Two main living rooms plus visitor's parlor and hall, two furnished kitchens, all ceramic. Nineteen rooms total counting three offices, eight-car garage. Has 220-volt current with three distribution panels. First-quality water plus well, decorated stone walls, recreational area, second house eighty squared meters, hot water systems, cable, telephone, light system throughout property, river, part forest..

For health situation, the owner make a INCREDIBLE DISCOUNT!!!!

ORIGINAL PRICE: $1.800.000    OFFER PRICE: $1.200.000
FINANCING AVAILABLE !!!
 For more information click HERE!
To see more photos click HERE!  To see house video click HERE!

English language contact:
Christian Arce
Phone: (506) 2494-0016
Cell phone: (506) 8309-0173
Email:

Spanish language contact:
Luis Gustavo Jiménez
Phone: (506) 2494-0016
Cell phone: (506) 8707-4016
Email:

Lantz
                                      home
A beautiful American style suburban home just reduced.

A beautiful American style suburban home, 2,700 sq. ft. of living space with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, front and rear living rooms, laundry area, kitchen and small attached library nook, arched windows and doors and connected hallways, exotic wood interior ceilings and trim, tile floors thru-out. The lot is 835 m2 with mature landscape and orchid nurseries surrounding the house. There is an enclosed workshop and BBQ area in the backyard with lots of storage under roof, plus a nursery for an herb/vegetable garden. This is a very well-kept property with many upgrades, a private feel but yet only 5 minutes from the center of town. Pérez Zeledón is the commercial hub of the southern zone and considered to be one of the best places to live in all of Costa Rica, the perfect size town, not too big and not too small. The beach is 45 minutes to the west and a short drive to the cool mountains is to the east. In between, this large valley has a moderate climate. Pérez has plenty of modern goods and services, an excellent farmers market, private schools, private doctors and clinics, all you need without having to go to the crazy madness of San José. Just reduced to $199,000. Call Jeff: 8725-8176. Email: angelsdad@me.com

8972-6/15/16

San Rmon
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Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
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 
Check out slide show HERE!
8962-6/3/16

Ocean View Property for Sale in San Ramón
1.5-acre lot with spectacular ocean views. Ready to build. Mild climate year round with an average temperature a cool 74 degrees. Spectacular panoramic views of
land
                                for sale
the ocean and port of Puntarenas during the day, breathtaking views of Esparza at night. Fully titled and owned under a Costa Rican corporation. Price reduced to $45,000. Short-term owner financing available. For more info: www.condojaco.com Contact: Frank condojaco1@gmail.com
8942-9/1/

updated
                                  photo
Jacó beach unique home. First time offered
This house has never been listed.  It is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home approx. 100 feet above sea level on the only hill in Jacó one mile to the beach.  Totally remodeled to a Gringo house.Has great fenced yard for dogs and a huge screened porch with  great views all around, including a small ocean view.  New in the last two years includes: new kitchen with granite counter, cedar cabinets, all new windows, tile, water system, updated electric & plumbing, superb new AC units (low electric bill), This is half of a duplex with a platted yard.  Other side is the chief of police.  Secure & private.  $169.900. Call Glenn at 506-6214-0056 or goodbuyflorida@yahoo.com.
8933-5/2/16

Cohen
For sale 5,200 m2 Escazú
Fantastic location for condo, hotel, restaurant.
Large lower lot, incredible views. Flexible zoning.
Easy to get liquor license. Low interest financing.
www.hotel4salecostarica.com
www.hotelsescazu.com
hotelescazu@aol.com
Toll free US phone 877-778-8515
410-975-6703
In Costa Rica 8307-0164
8916-7/22/16

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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.

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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 30, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 105
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
The gardener's personality check list

There are meticulous gardeners out there, I know there are. Meticulous gardeners keep their tools sharpened and they know where every tool is.

Victoria Torley
The tools have their own spots in the garden shed or basement right next to the WD-40 and the chain bar oil.

The gasoline can has a nice secure lid and a nearby siphon. The lawn mower or weed whacker is wiped down after every use and looks pristine. Power tools are all in
working order. Nothing, repeat nothing, is ever left out in the rain as each tool has its own space on a tool belt, while the handles are taped in neon orange, just in case a tool is set down for a moment by a startled gardener. The meticulous gardener sets a task in the morning and it is finished in time for lunch.

I am not a meticulous gardener.

Nope, I am the other kind of gardener. Some call it the lazy, slothful, or lethargic gardener, but I call myself a disorganized gardener. I am the kind of gardener who takes out three tools and comes back with two (yes, yes, sometimes one). I am the kind of gardener who only remembers the chain saw after it starts to rain. My kind of gardener dumps all the hand tools into one bucket and misplaces the bucket.

My kind of gardener never (almost never) washes off the shovel before putting it away (if we remember where away is). We are often surprised when we find a lost pair of clippers in the hedge, now so rusted that it takes 30 minutes to get them to open and close. We like to buy things that are rust resistant or rust-proof for that reason. We lost the neon orange tape somewhere, so we try to find tools with bright handles but that doesn’t always help. We spend a lot of time murmuring, “now where did I put that.” We are easily distracted from the task we headed out to do. We sharpen tools after we discover that the clippers won’t even cut vetiver, let alone a twig.

So there you have it. The A.) meticulous gardener with tool neatly outlined on a pegboard and the B.) distracted gardener who can’t remember what’s where. If you are an A stay away from us, we will drive you nuts. If you are a B, stay away from those other guys. They will drive you bonkers.

mystery tree

Plant of the Week

I was back at Eden Atenas B&B this past week and found the most amazing small tree in bloom. Sadly, Jan has no better idea of what it is than I did, but here is a picture. At present, the tree is about 3 meters (10 feet) tall with multiple trunks (I love multiple trunks) and lightly fragrant flowers. Jan was kind enough to let me take cuttings and they are in morning sun and afternoon shade, which seems to be the preferred environment. Take a look at that bud. What a great specimen tree!


If you would like to suggest a topic for this column, simply send a letter to the editor.  And, for more garden tips, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Arenal-Gardeners/413220712106845
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From Page 7:


Tax agreement reached with Italian officials

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has agreed to exchange financial information with the government of Italy. The foreign minister, Manuel González., signed the agreement Friday.

Government officials, including President Luis Guillermo Solís were in Italy, in part, to drum up trade and investment.

The tax agreement will formalize the exchange of information between the two countries.

So far Costa Rica has negotiated similar agreements with Argentina, Canada, the United States, Finland, France, Holland, Mėxico, Norway and Sweden, said the Ministerio de Hacienda. An agreement also is being negotiated with Panamá.

The latest agreement needs to be ratified by the Asamblea Legislative.

President Solís and the rest of the delegation were expected to be back in Costa Rica Sunday night. The delegation met with Pope Francis and visited with business leaders in Britain. The president also delivered two speeches in the United States.

Some lawmakers have branded the trip a junket.