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June 20, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 121
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Organ transplant report recalls prior illicit practices
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The health ministry sent out its latest report on organ transplants and their use with high marks being given to 2016 as a year of greater efficiency and usage of donated organs.

According to comparisons by the Ministerio de Salud in the last two years, 1.8 transplants per donor were performed for 2015 while 2.5 transplants were made per donor. That represents an increase in utilization by nearly 40 percent.

Since 2014, the country has had new legislation on the issues of transplants and donating organs suspiciously coming after a string of scandals involving illegal transplant procedures and selling of organs were conducted. A.M. Costa Rica reported on this very phenomenon back in 2013.

Some expats may recall the interesting case of Francisco Mora Palma, the former chief of nephrology at Hospital Calderón Guardia, who was detained on illegal trafficking of organs.

Drugs and contraband may be more commonly known articles of transnational crime, but organ harvesting and distribution is a very real and very vibrant part of the underworld economy.

Prominent news publications throughout the globe have reported on this issue. All it takes is a simple search on the subject to find a plethora of articles worldwide.

This newspaper noted that Mora had done over 550 transplants with nearly all occurring at the private Hospital Hotel La Católica in Guadelupe.

One elderly U.S. resident has disclosed that he paid $150,000 for a kidney and that Mora did the operation. The man could not get a transplant in the United States because of his age and physical condition. He later died.

Those who received the organ transplants were mainly foreigners, according to the Poder Judicial at the time.

Costa Rica is noted as a prominent destination among medical tourism circles.

More arrests occurred in October 2013 after a pizza parlor owner and three more physicians were swept up in a probe on illegal organ transplants.

Purchasing an organ is illegal in Costa Rica. Many other countries have similar laws as well. Paying organ donors was made illegal by a 1994 law that specifically addressed organ transplants.

Kilgour & Matas report graphic
2006 report on the organ trade with prices.

Article 5 of that law forbids the commercialization of human organs. Both receiving and giving a human organ is forbidden. The penalty for violation is three to 10 years in prison.

The 1994 law also creates a commission to regulate transplants and urges the construction of a hospital dedicated to transplants. A law passed in October 2012 forbids illicit extraction of organs. But that law does not define illicit. The 2012 law mentioned organ transplants in passing because the main thrust of the law was trafficking in persons.

The murkiness was apparently cleared up in 2014 when the country made new legislation under the Ley 9222 on the donation and transplantation of organs or human tissues. According to Ministerio de Salud, the law provides a regulatory framework in coordination with the establishments authorized to conduct these operations.

To the most recent report, the health ministry is calling on those to donate corneas for the respective transplants as the availability is not enough to meet demand, officials said.

The most recent data said that over 229 transplants were made for corneas from both public and private authorized establishments. Coming in at second place were kidney transplants. These numbers include both living donors and cadaver donations, according to the health ministry.

For the period of 2009 to 2016, there was an average of 4.5 cadaveric donors per million people in the country. The peak year of that was a 34 per million in 2015 just after the most recent legislation was passed, the data said.

People can register their willingness to be an organ and tissue donor in any of the country's 81 health areas, where they will receive a card that identifies them as a donor, the health ministry said.

Rights groups denounce Costa Rica before U.N.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On Monday, the Feminist Coalition for the Advancement of Women's Human Rights presented an alternative report in comparison to the government's before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

According to Larissa Arroyo, one of the leaders for the Coalition and spokeswoman of the Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios, this report has been written with the help of several other organizations and seeks to provide a real picture of the current discrimination issues women in Costa Rica face.

“Any government will stand up before the committee and say how great everything is and what wonderful  steps it is taking against women's discrimination,” Ms. Arroyo said.

“Therefore, we collected information more based on reality than diplomacy and sent it to the organization, so that it can asks some questions to the government.”

The official report will be defended by a government representative before the committee next July 7. It is expected to be a member of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, the spokeswoman said.

In order to even out the officials claims on the matter, Ms. Arroyo said she will be in the meeting ready to correct of clarify any misunderstanding.

“This is personal expense because we work with little to no money,” she said.
“However, many people has donated their time and work to make this report possible.”

The document stresses what the organizations consider to be serious problems that encourage discrimination.

One of them is the fact Catholic Church has a  privileged role in the discussions about the sexual and reproductive rights of women, and also into the sex education contents at the public sector.

“This situation has been worsened with the arrival of a fundamentalist christian pastor to the presidency of the Legislative Assembly,” the report reads.

Last May 1, the Legislative Assembly elected Gonzalo Ramírez as its president. He is an evangelical pastor and lawmaker from the Renovación Costarricense Party.

The document also denounces an increased number of female murders, averaging three per month and the subsequent silence from the state. Another complaint is the lack of financial support to the sexually diverse population.

The document mentions the fact that many lesbian couples are forced to live in poverty because women`s salaries are lower than their male counterparts.

Some of the organizations that wrote the report are Iglesia Luterana de Costa Rica, Beso Diverso, Centro para la Investigación en Asuntos de las Mujeres de la Universidad de Costa Rica and Transvida.

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Published || Tuesday Edition, June 20, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 121
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Hurry-up reform on bill approval made

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In order to improve the efficiency of the Legislative Assembly, Sandra Piszk, legislator of the Partido Liberación Nacional has submitted a new bill to reform article 131 of the Reglamento de la Asamblea and thus, speed up the voting times for first time bills.

The legislator seeks to establish a tighter deadline to either to approve of disapprove new legislation that arrives into the assembly from the very first time it is discussed.

According to Ms. Piszk, the current regulation that allow a bill to be sent back and forth and discussed several times leads to unnecessary delays and abuses that dramatically hinder the functioning of the Costa Rican state.

According to data from the Legislative Assembly, the average voting time for a single bill takes around 750 calendar days. In 1962, several reforms gave birth to the Ordinary Permanent Commissions, small legislature chambers with the authority to discuss and approve of disapprove bills.

However, further amendments through the years also opened the possibility for legislators outside the commissions to make changes to the draft even though they have already been ruled by the said commissions. The scope of these commissions, where the content and timing of the projects would be widely discussed.

"This project does not, in any way, limit the powers of legislators to process and amend projects, but it does help to avoid abuses that hurts timely decision-making," said Ms. Piszk.

In the cases where the legislature itself call for the discussion of a bill, the time granted will take into consideration whether it is under discussion or sent for clarification to other departments.

The Costa Rican constitution establishes a special legislative period where only bills sent by the executive branch can be discussed. If Ms. Pisk’s plan is approved, the time granted to discuss bills sent by the presidency can only be count when effective discussion takes places.

Jacó police stop alleged drug dealer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police officers in Jacó detained a man on suspicion of selling drugs to tourists at the bus stop for San José.

According to a report provided by the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública, the officers on duty made several approaches to the bus stop and noted the man’s nervous attitude as he came and went from the bus stop. Apparently, when one of the buses arrived the suspect tried talking to several people and the Fuerza Pública approached him.

A search by police yielded a small bag containing at least 50 doses of crack cocaine and several baggies of marijuana. The drug was offered to tourists arriving in Jacó, police said. The suspect detained has a prior criminal record in relation to drug violations and theft, a preliminary report said.

The detention comes in addition to two others in Quepos and one in Puntarenas with all for the sale of drugs. The men arrested in Quepos had a warrant out for their arrest, police said.

More traffic lights to be solar-powered

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The public works ministry plans to have at least 76 more intersections with solar-powered stoplights by December.

According to a statement released by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, those additions would make a total of 235 intersections located in San José powered and running with clean energy. Diego Rugama, an engineer with public works, said that this number would represent half of all the traffic signals within the capital, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.

The official explained that, ideally, the order to go ahead with the plans will be given between July and August. In addition to the solar panel, the system has two lithium batteries that store energy for up to 14 hours on average in the absence of sunlight, the ministry said. The switch is automatically connected to the electrical system so that operation is not interrupted.

In the studies that are carried out before each stage of the project, two fundamental aspects are evaluated: solar radiation at the point and obstacles that could inhibit the system such as trees and buildings. That study then determines the amount of panels and batteries to be placed at each intersection, public works said.

The ministry wants to have all the traffic signals making up the centralized system to be fully solar-powered by 2022. That system includes the aforementioned cities.

Solis and
Casa Presidencial photo      
President Solís and Minister Hendricks meet.

Germany gives 15 million euros

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Germany is giving away 15 million euros to Costa Rica in support of the country’s continued efforts on mitigation and adaptation on climate change.

The German environmental ministry and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía signed a memorandum of understanding to recognize the two countries’ cooperation in environmental protection and sustainable development. According to a statement by Casa Presidencial, the priority areas are in the mitigation of greenhouse gases and to create a carbon-free economy.

The Federal Republic of Germany was represented by Barbara Hendricks, the minister for the environment and conservation. The cooperation program also intends to assist in the areas such as electric transport.

“Both sides also stress the importance of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 as a benchmark for global transformation towards sustainable economies and lifestyles, as well as the long-term vision of keeping the world average temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius with respect to the preindustrial levels and to follow the efforts to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the Costa Rican environmental ministry said in a statement.

Science ministry offers doctorate grants

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A competition by the science ministry has begun to get funds and obtain certain doctorates abroad.

The funding is part of the Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Telecomunicaciones’ national plan for scientific or technological innovation. Costa Rican citizens, naturalized or born, and foreigners with permanent residency can compete for funding in areas such as: energy, food, health, agriculture, big data, biomaterials, physics and nanotechnology among others.

“The objective of this call is to meet the needs of advanced human capital, high level and to implement innovation activities in companies and, at the same time, offer better environmental conditions that allow to attract new investments of high added value,” a statement from the ministry said.

To get these funds, the beneficiaries need to be admitted to the university where they are going to study the doctorate and must be professionals with at least one year experience in one of those strategic areas of the plan. Professionals already active in a doctoral program cannot receive the funds, the ministry said.

The start dates for the program must be between September and December 2017 or January and March 2018. The maximum amount of funds allotted towards financial aid applications would be around 115 million colons, or around $204,000, for the maximum four-year funding program for a doctorate.

The funding, however, is selective based on the school as well. Applicants need to study abroad in one of the 500 best universities according to rankings determined by the Times Higher Education, QS and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Upon completing the doctorate, the person must work in Costa Rica in a related job field and keep the ministry informed.

“Whoever breaches this obligation must return the financing received,” the ministry warned.

Applications must be signed and completed electronically. It can be accessed through the ministry’s website.

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Published || Tuesday Edition, June 20, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 121
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The Church and the Caja: How it got involved in the pension hike
By Rommel Téllez of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The ongoing meetings to determine how to save the Costa Rican social security system include representatives coming from unions, employers associations, government officials and the Catholic Church.

Yes, the Catholic Church still hold a big deal of power in the political affairs of the country, partly because it is constitutionally established as the state's official religion and partly because the historical ties it has woven within the Costa Rican society.

Ever since the independence movements, Catholic priests were either involved with the secessionist groups or were part of the elite that wanted Central America to join the Mexican Iturbide Empire.

During the Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, an inviable alliance between the Communist Party and the the Church allowed for workers rights and the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social to be protected under the constitutions.

Those are just two examples of an influence that has normalized the fact that over the decades, bishops and archbishops are invited to political inaugurations as guests, into social turmoil as mediators and traditional festivities as local heroes.

In the case of the social security negotiations, the board of directors of the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social sent the Church a direct invitation to witness the discussions.

They are represented by José Rafael Fernández, legal director of the Conferencia Episcopal de Costa Rica and the Universidad Católica.

“I know it may sound strange to foreigners but I will say it is part of the Costa Rican identity to include the Church criteria in very important affairs, it has alwas been like that,” said Fernández.

He explains that, at the beginning of those meetings, the employer's union filed a request of silence for the Church and other invitees to witness the process.

Aside from government, workers and employers representatives, other organizations such as Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres and the International Labor Organization have also been invited to the meetings.

The proposal was approved but after the second meeting it was revoked. As of now, the Church and observers are granted 10 minutes per meeting to explain their point of views.

Church and social
La Nación archive photo
1941 photo showing clergyman and others at time of Caja founding.

“The role of the Church in these meetings is to enlighten the conversations and be a reminder of solidarity, which is what we are known for,” said Fernández.

“Right now, I have not spoke except a couple of times because the decision is on a very technical level, so I listen and do reports to the archbishop.”

When asked if the Church position towards the reform of the social security is that of workers, Fernández said its position of that of its Social Doctrine, and that's what they abide by.

Right now, the country faces an imminent general strike due to the hike in the contributions workers should pay to the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social.

The hike was approved at the end of may and it caused the resignation of the then-head of the Junta Directiva, María Saénz. This was a resignation pushed by President Luis Guillermo Solís.

The hike will be enforced as of July 1 and it implies that every salaried and independent worker has to pay 0.5 percent more from his or her income.

In that context, the Archbishop of San José, José Rafael Quirós sent a public statement where he encourages another discussion about that hike, which he consider could affect the most vulnerable families.

“The common good requires social peace which cannot happen without a distributive justice,” Quirós said in the statement.

Work at home as solution to rural unemployment flawed logically
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Work from home should also be seen as a very important tool for combating unemployment in rural areas, where poverty  generally concentrates due to less developed market.

This is one of the main conclusions shown in the first report on that type of employment in Costa Rica, developed by the International Center for the Development of Working From Home.

Authorities at the Ministerio del Trabajo said working from home is more than a mechanism to reduce employer costs and improve employee time.

"Through it, you have the possibility to support the most vulnerable groups in society, so that they can be integrated into the labor market with the help of institutions such as the Ministerio de Trabajo, Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología and Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social.” Alfredo Hasbum, the labor minister, said at the presentation of the report.

“We are also seeing work from home from a social perspective, one that promotes labor insertion in remote regions," said Andrea Acuña, the president of the center.

 According to the report, the government has issued four decrees to promote this type of work.The first was issued in 2008. In 2009 the second was issued to prevent the spread of AH1N1influenza. The following decree was issued in 2013 and then in 2015.

"Ten years ago, the level of Internet coverage was 10.2 percent, today it is 56 percent. The population with cell phones was 48 percent, today it is 89.4 percent. Houses with computers reached 27 percent, while today that figure is 56.4 percent,” said Jorge Lluvere, the coordinator of the National Work from Home Program.
“The digital signature did not exist, WhatsApp and social networks did not exist either and the concept of cloud computing was practically unknown,” added Lluvere, implying Costa Rica does have the proper conditions nowadays.

According to the report, the country also shows an important progress in adapting labor laws to the nature of that kind of job type of activity. There are currently 2,624 people working from home in the public sector.

These people are part of the 41 institutions that have work from home program going on the private sector, there are at least 24 large companies that allow their employees to work from home, the study says.
According to another survey of the Center, carried out in August 2016 among public officials, 93.5 percent, considered that working from home adds value to the respective institution.

96 percent consider that it helps modernization processes and 92 percent the agreed the current conditions are just right to expand its implementation.  

However, only 29.7 percent stated their workplace really supports these initiatives.

"While working from home is perceived positively and as a generator of value in the institutions, it does not present the implementation levels consistent with perception," the report says.

The other issue is also its largest one: access to Internet. The implication that rural, unemployed people have access to Internet is not entirely true despite a government plan to plug in the country over the next few years.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

Published || Tuesday Edition, June 20, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 121
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Bird watching in Costa Rica finds species unite in hunt for food
By the Drexel University press staff

Army ants scare up a lot of food when they’re on the move, which makes following them valuable for predator birds. But instead of competing and chasing each other off from the ant raids, as scientists had thought, birds actually give each other a heads up when the ants are marching, according to a new Drexel University study conducted in Costa Rica.

For more than a decade, from 2005 until 2016, Sean O’Donnell, a professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, observed army ant raids and the birds that follow them.

He hoped to find out whether birds really were aggressive toward each other during the ant marches or whether they actually cooperated to access the food that ants rustle out of hiding.

After observing 74 swarms in Costa Rica, it seems birds are much more likely to play nice with each other.

“Overall, the results strongly supported facilitation. Species help each other to exploit shared resources,” O’Donnell said of his study that was recently published in “Biotropica.”

In watching for the raids and the flocks that attend them, a key to avian cooperation may be what are termed bivouac-checking birds.

These are birds that perch near the sites where army ants make their nests and watch to see where and when the ants move. Birds that fall into that category include the ocellated antbird and the blue-diademed motmot.

The prevailing thought has been that these specialized birds liked to keep the ant colonies they watched to themselves, not allowing other species to horn in on their finds. But a frequent high diversity of species in flocks following the ant columns showed O’Donnell that birds that didn’t specialize in tracking army ants, like the migrant species Kentucky warbler, were allowed to join and hunt.

So when bivouac-checking birds see the movement of the columns and take off, other birds take the cue. They either know birds like the ocellated antbird follow ant columns or recognize vocalizations the specialized birds make when chasing the colonies.

“Birds may use each other as a way of finding army ant raids, which are very hard to locate in the forest because they are widely spaced and the ants are mobile,” O’Donnell said.

“Observations suggest some birds are attracted to other birds at raids, and birds may even follow each other when moving among raids of different ant colonies.”

However, there did seem to be some bullies. O’Donnell noticed some pairs of species were almost never found in flocks together despite, independently, being ant-chasers.

Blue-diademed motmot
Drexel University photo
One of the birds banning together to hunt ants.

That indicated that these bird species might chase each other off as competition, or just avoid each other entirely.

Pairs that seemed to be unable to be around each other included the blue-throated toucanet and the brown jay, as well as the wood thrush and the white-eared ground sparrow.

“These antagonistic pairs were often species of very similar body size or feeding behavior,” O’Donnell explained. “Perhaps these species do compete very strongly at army ant raids.”

All in all, finding that birds largely work together to forage at army ant raids seems to demonstrate that cooperation is a better survival strategy than trying to keep food from the raids for their own species.

“Having other birds around may be an advantage because there are more eyes and ears to detect predators,” O’Donnell said.

“If the raid is hard to monopolize, and food is very abundant there, then the costs of allowing other birds to attend may be low, further favoring positive species interactions.”

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Salsa Lizano
Published || Tuesday Edition, June 20, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 121
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OAS meeting
OAS photo        
OAS representative from Costa Rica at meet.

Venezuela crisis looms
over OAS meeting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Even before the Organization of American States’ annual General Assembly formally opened Monday evening in Cancun, México, Venezuela’s political and economic crisis commanded center stage.

At a morning news conference, OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro denounced the erosion of legislative and judicial independence and human rights under Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. It would be prudent to resolve those problems as soon as possible, Almagro said.

México’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, announced that his country would seek backing for an OAS consensus resolution on how to stabilize the South American country.

Anti-government protests have rocked Venezuela almost daily for more than two months, with demonstrators demanding that Maduro schedule elections, free political prisoners and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to ease widespread shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods. More than 60 people have died in the demonstrations.

The OAS had taken up Venezuela’s volatility in a special session last month at its Washington headquarters but failed to reach agreement among its 34 member nations about how to proceed.

Venezuela and some of its allies, mostly poor countries that have benefited from discounted Venezuelan oil, accused the OAS and the United States of trying to interfere with its domestic affairs.

With foreign delegations arriving from throughout the Western Hemisphere, security was tight at the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, the assembly site. Outside its entrance, troops with helmets and shields stood shoulder to shoulder in the Monday morning rain. The conference will continue through Wednesday.

The U.S. delegation includes Francisco Palmieri, acting assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Kevin Sullivan, representative to the OAS. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week cancelled his plans to attend, instead focusing on de-escalating Middle East tensions involving Qatar.

Almagro, at the morning news conference, said the OAS needed to address regional problems including drug trafficking and illegal migration.

But Venezuela loomed large.

“The OAS has to react. It has to issue a stronger statement,” Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Luis Florido said at the gathering.

He added that it was very important for all countries in the Caribbean to understand that if Venezuela isn’t stable, isn’t peaceful, isn’t prosperous, it will be impossible for our country to support their countries.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez wrote Saturday on her Twitter account that the U.S. State Department deployed its ambassadors in the region to attack Venezuela.

In Venezuela, anti-government protesters continued demonstrating Monday in the capital city of Caracas. Lilian Tintori, wife of imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, said, “We are in the street so that they do not take away the country.”

Cuba calls Trump’s policy
a grotesque spectacle

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez called U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent speech on Cuba a grotesque spectacle that will only serve to strengthen the revolution, and criticized the Trump administration’s decision to roll back some Obama-era policies toward the island nation.

“Cuba will make no concessions on its sovereignty and its independence,” Rodriguez told reporters in Vienna on Monday. “We will not negotiate over its principles and will never accept conditions.”

The comments were in response to Trump’s speech last Friday in Miami, which is home to a large Cuban exile community. Standing next to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents are Cuban immigrants, Trump vowed to cancel the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.

To raucous applause, Trump delineated his new policies, including a prohibition on American financial engagement with firms tied to the Cuban military conglomerate GAESA, and tighter rules for Americans traveling to the Caribbean island.

Trump also demanded that Cuba return fugitives wanted by the United States, but Rodriguez said Cuba would not comply.

“Cuba conceded political asylum or refuge to U.S. fighters for civil rights,” Rodriguez said. “These persons will not be returned to the United States.

Despite criticizing the Obama administration’s Cuba policies, Trump will leave many of his predecessor’s policies untouched. Commercial flights will continue and the U.S. embassy in Havana will remain open.

At length, Rodriguez also criticized alleged U.S. human rights abuses.
“There are many and systematic murders, brutality and abuses by the police, particularly against African Americans,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying.

Supreme Court strikes down
law banning offensive tags

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Asian-American band has the right to call itself an offensive name.

The Portland, Oregon-based group could not register its name, The Slants, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of the word's derogatory reference to Asian people's eyes.

But the U.S. high court threw out a federal ban on disparaging trademarks, saying it violated free speech rights.

The ruling could have a broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases. It could mean a victory for the Washington Redskins football team in its efforts to protect trademarks covering the team's name.

The team's trademarks were cancelled in 2014, following complaints by Native Americans who found the name offensive.

A lower court put the case on hold, pending the high court's decision on the rock band.

Tensions rise in Syria
between U.S. and Russia

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States has responded forcefully to Russia’s threat to treat U.S.-led coalition planes in the skies over Syria as targets, as tensions escalate in the 6-year Syrian conflict.

“We’re going to do what we can to protect our interests,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday, defending the decision to shoot down a Syrian SU-22 jet that had bombed coalition partnered forces near the Syrian town of Tabqah.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the shoot down an act of aggression. A ministry statement issued in Moscow warned that coalition planes would be viewed as targets, and said a hotline for preventing accidental military engagement would be shut off.

Spicer said Monday that Washington would work to keep lines of communication open to, in his words, de-conflict potential issues.

Earlier, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said officials are trying to re-establish the communications link to prevent potentially deadly accidents, and that the de-confliction efforts have worked well in the past.

“The Russian Federation has indicated that their purpose in Syria, like ours, is to defeat ISIS," Dunford told reporters. "And we’ll see if that’s true here in the coming hours, because all of our operations in and around Raqqa and southern Syria are designed specifically to get after ISIS.

“We have agreed in the past, that is we and the Russian Federation Pro-Regime Forces, that operations that the coalition were conducting in Syria were effectively degrading ISIS capability, and will work to restore that de-confliction chain in the next few hours,” Dunford said.

The Russian military alleged that in Sunday’s incident, the command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace.

Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the defense committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the defense ministry statement does not mean there will be war with the U.S. in Syria, but rather that Moscow will not accept attacks on its Syrian allies.

Earlier, Syrian forces attacked coalition fighters in Ja'Din, wounding a number of fighters and driving them from the town. Coalition aircraft stopped the pro-regime forces from advancing on Ja'Din.

The coalition said it contacted Russian commanders to set up a de-confliction line to prevent the fighting from worsening.

The dispute over the Syrian attack on the U.S.-backed fighters and the American response came as Iran launched ballistic missiles at Islamic State strongholds in eastern Syria in retaliation for a pair of attacks by extremists in Tehran earlier this month that killed 17 people.

France now driving force
in EU defense integration

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Talks begin this week on Britain’s exit from the European Union, which will leave the bloc with only one heavyweight military power: France. EU moves towards a common defense policy have raised fears in Britain that it could be frozen out of future security arrangements.

Europe’s security is at a turning point. Threatened by Russian aggression in Ukraine and Islamist militancy on its southern and eastern borders, the bloc is about to lose one its major military powers.

Currently 4,000 French troops are fighting Islamist militancy in North Africa.

President Emmanuel Macron wants EU allies to do more.

Speaking on a trip to visit French forces in Mali last month, he said he wanted to strengthen European partnerships, in particular with Germany, and ensure the German engagement intensifies.

The European Union is establishing a command center and $560 million defense fund, part of an emerging common defense policy. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini says it will compliment existing military structures.

“We are not suggesting in any way to substitute duplicate or compete with NATO. This has to be clear," she said.

NATO has deployed several thousand troops in Eastern Europe to deter Russia. The European Union is no substitute, says Michael Wolffsohn of the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich..

“Most of the continental European armies are simply unprepared for any military intervention with the possible exception of the French armed forces. But the Bundeswehr is completely overloaded, underfinanced and under-equipped,” he said.

Britain has long objected to an EU military force . But as Brexit talks begin, closer military integration is already underway, and France is taking the lead.

Tech titans gather together
to modernize government

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday announced he wants to see up to $1 trillion of tax savings over the next decade by a sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology.

Trump told the American Technology Advisory Council in the White House State Dining Room that it is embracing big change, bold thinking and outsider perspectives to transform government and make it the way it should be and at far less cost.

A slew of high-tech heavyweights, some of whom have criticized President Donald Trump’s policies, huddled at the White House on Monday as the administration kicked off its technology week.

The chief executive officers of 18 companies held meetings with White House and other Trump administration officials to generate ideas to attempt to transform and modernize government services.

One of the world’s most successful venture capitalists, John Doerr, contended that there is also a trillion dollars of value locked up in government databases. The Kleiner Perkins chairman told the president that if you set the data free the entrepreneurs are going to do the rest.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, the world’s largest online shopping retailer, recommended government, for its transformation, use commercial technologies whenever possible to save taxpayers’ money. He also said it was impossible to overstate that investment is needed in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also agreed, saying increasing competitiveness could be achieved through government spending in research. And the native of India told the president the United States should maintain an enlightened immigration policy, noting he was the beneficiary of such a policy.

The corporate leaders at the table with the president on Monday cumulatively represented more than $3.5 trillion in market value, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.

There is outside skepticism about whether the president’s goal, at least in monetary terms, can be achieved.

“I do not understand how or where that trillion-dollar number comes from,” veteran Silicon Valley engineer Leslie Miley said. “There is no basis for that claim so, as an engineer, I would not believe it until I saw a breakdown.”

The sprawling federal government maintains more than 6,000 data centers, some of the systems stretching back more than a half century.

The Department of Defense is still using floppy disks in some of its computer systems, Kushner noted.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told Trump that computer coding should be a required subject in every public school and that the U.S. should have the most modern government in the world, and today it doesn’t.

Monday’s White House event included working sessions over four hours focused on citizen services, cloud computing, analytics, cybersecurity, big data, purchasing and contract reform, talent recruitment and retraining, government and private sector partnerships, H1-B Visas and future trends.

Notably absent from this second meeting was Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, who recently quit as an outside economic advisor to the president in protest of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Different outcomes in cases
of detainees in North Korea

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the winter of 2016, as word spread that North Korean authorities were holding 22-year-old American Otto Warmbier for hostile acts, 58 year-old Jeffrey Fowle was watching news reports about the incident, perhaps more closely than most Americans.

“I was surprised that there was someone else getting caught up in the system again already,” he said at his home in rural Ohio.

But Fowle and Otto Warmbier have more in common than just the state they call home.

The system Fowle refers to is North Korea, where in 2014, he participated in a tour sanctioned by the reclusive communist government, similar to the one Warmbier joined in 2016.

“The North Koreans lure Americans to travel to North Korea via tour groups operating in China, who advertise slick ads on the internet proclaiming no American ever gets detained off of our tours, and this is a safe place to go,” Otto’s father Fred Warmbier told journalists at a press conference last week, detailing what he knew about his son’s detention.

On Fowle’s North Korea itinerary was the northern port city of Chongjin, where he decided to leave a Korean-English bible in the bathroom of a nightclub.

He was questioned the next day by the tour group operator and North Korean guides, but Fowle wasn’t immediately arrested, and continued on the rest of the tour. Two days later, he was stopped at the airport in Pyongyang on his way out of the country.

He was whisked away to confinement, first at the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang, then several weeks later at a North Korean guest house somewhere near the capital city, where he says he was isolated, but not mistreated, while authorities interrogated him about his bible, and coerced his confession.

His friends and family gained some assurance of his condition during the limited public appearances North Korean orchestrated with the media .

But away from the cameras, Fowle remained in isolation with almost no contact with the outside world.

Ultimately, it was not a raid, but Swedish diplomacy that led to his release in October 2014, after spending six months in North Korea.

In the dark of night, the U.S. government jet that escorted him from North Korea delivered him back to his waiting family at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, not far from his Miamisburg, Ohio, home.

He was eventually welcomed back to his job as an employee of the city of Moraine, Ohio, and eagerly returned to his church that helped his family through the ordeal.

Three years later, Fowle reflects that the episode brought his family closer together, and today, he has no regrets.

Fowle believes the North Koreans never intended to harm him, or the other Americans detained during his time there. But in the wake of Otto Warmbier's humanitarian release by North Korea on June 13, Fowle is struggling to come to terms with what happened during the college student's detention that led to severe brain damage, and ultimately, his death.

Fowle says Otto Warmbier’s ordeal should be a cautionary tale for Americans considering traveling to North Korea.

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Atenas home
Atenas Best climate, best views. Top of the mountain, Nestled on a two acre coffee farm with tropical gardens and fruit trees. 1200 meters. 

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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:  (please link that email)
Check out slide show HERE!

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 In Costa Rica call Liz Guegan at 506-7187-8577.
CODE: 9216-8/11/17

Puriscal home
REDUCED $40K - $355,000
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
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       * 2-car closed garage w/large paved driveway
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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.
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In Costa Rica, Jeffrey Sandi Murray:
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For more information Click Here:

Etlinger Farm
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 and photo album can be found at

horse ranch
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  Call Darin Ricco, phone +619-846-8249 or email:

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 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 

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:

Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)

Century 21

A Name You Trust,
Professionalism You Deserve

Tom Ghormley and the dream team!
in CR since 1979

Buying? Selling? Renting?
We Can Do It!
Let us help you live your dreams!
Beachfront, Views, Mountains,
Beaches, Houses, Condos,
Hotels, Restaurants, Projects,
Commercial, Investments and more

 Century 21 Jacó Beach Realty
Playa Jacó, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
U. S. A. phone numbers:  (213) 283-5168 
or Toll Free: (877) 746-3868
Costa Rica phone number: (506) 2643-3356

Tamarindo 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:  or click here

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

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


Real estate-related services (paid category)

A-1 graphic
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
     For more info also see our sites: 

Costa Rica

Serving Atenas and Surroundings Areas

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.  Fully Guaranteed!

Office: 506-2446-0543
Andre 506-8314-8090
Paul 506-8898-9398



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 help you find a buyer or renter.

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Published || Tuesday Edition, June 20, 2017 || Vol. 17, No. 121
Real estate
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News from the BBC up to the minute

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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute

Autonomous car
Tecnológico de Costa Rica photo       
A closeup look at the autonomous car created.

Autonomous car engineered for $97

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some mechanical engineering students at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica created an autonomous model car on a budget of $200.

To do this, the students relied on simple materials such as a remote control car and a cell phone, according to a statement from the institute. The remote control car functioned as the structural basis for the small vehicle, while the cell phone was used as a guide using its GPS. After choosing the design for the vehicle, the students began what they said was the hardest part: the mechanics.

“Adapting new parts to the cart was challenging,” the students said. “There were some complications to get the elements and reception of the location data, since we had to adjust to a fairly low budget.”

They also needed to create and combine a light as much as provide an aesthetically pleasing system, the institute said. The car clocked in at five kilometers per hour when powered by batteries and their best ability was to dodge obstacles that were placed in its route.

The students only used $97 to create this autonomous car, while some universities spend up to thousands of dollars for something similar, the students said.

Tibás bans pesticides in public spaces

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The use of herbicides and pesticides containing gliphosphate is now forbidden across all Tibás public spaces after a unanimous consensus reached by the municipal council last week.

This marks Tibás as the fifth municipality to enforce some sort of agrochemical ban in its jurisdiction. As of now the municipalities of Peréz Zeledón, Belén, Montes de Oca and Santo Domingo have taken similar measures.

The Municipalidad de Tibás agreed to stop the use of that substance in public spaces such as gardens, parks,  residents are aware of this decision.

According to data from the Promotora de Comercio Exterior, as of December 2016, Costa Rica had imported $35 million in herbicides.

Costa Rican News
Retire NOW in Costa Rica
Fine Dining in Costa Rica
The CAFTA Report
Fish fabulous Costa Rica

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Real Estate
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From page 7:

ICE to host a vehicle auction all this week

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Whoever is looking for a car, a motorcycle, an ATV, a pick-up, a truck and other vehicles, may be interested in the next vehicular auction carried out by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad this coming July 6.

The auction is organized as part of the regular vehicular renovation program at the Instituto, which expects to collect at least $1.2 million for future purchases.

The auction lot includes 340 goods that will be on exposition for potential buyers from June 19 to 28 at the Instituto facilities located in Rincón Grande de Pavas.

The auction is open for both nationals and residents. The latter should have their Cédula de Residencia up to date. In any case, a $200 participation fee should be deposited in advance.

Further information can be found HERE.