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Published Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 151
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Festival inauguration will be Friday in Ciudad Neily
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Festival Nacional de las Artes 2016 begins Friday for a 10-day run in southern Costa Rica.

The principal locations will be Golfito and Ciudad Neily. Events also will take place one day each at San Vito, Agua Buena, La Cuesta, Comte, Rey Curré, Río Claro, Ciudad Cortés and Palmar Norte.

The Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud says that 600 artists will participate in 250 events during the 10 days.
The inauguration of the festival will be Friday in the Parque Central, the Catholic church, the Liceo and the fairgrounds of the Cámara de Ganaderos Independientes in Ciudad Neily.

Saturday and until Aug. 14 events will be in Golfito in the Parque Central, the Gimnasio del Pueblo Civil, the Colegio Técnico Profesional  and the concert area at the Hotel Samoa.

The festival this year also is sponsored by the  Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur. The festival is the largest cultural undertaking of the year.



pilgrims
Cruz Roja photo
The flood of participants in the annual pilgrimage has to be seen to be believed.
Mass today in Cartago follows a chilly night
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Most pilgrims walk to Cartago and the basilica there. There have been cases of pilgrims on horseback and others on skates.

Another traditional way to reach the basilica plaza today in time for Mass is by running. Police officers and other members of the  Ministerio de Seguridad Pública do that every year. They will be leaving the Parque Central in Curridabat at 7 a.m.

They will join tens of thousands who spent a chilly night there in prayer and enjoying entertainment provided by the Basilica de Los Ángeles.

The Mass today features speeches by high church and government officials. Typically, the

bishops are critical of the government for not doing enough for the poor, and the current president and others defend the state.

Traffic officials closed some of the main roads leading to Cartago Monday to provide space for the thousands of pilgrims.

At the basilica they waited in line in order to traverse the center aisle on their knees, sometimes five abreast.

Buses and the valley train will be waiting later this morning to begin bringing the many thousands back to their homes.

There have been no serious incidents. The security ministry said that 1,000 officers were on duty and that they confiscated just one knife and small amounts of drugs since July 22.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 151
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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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What did we do to deserve this?

By the A.M. Costa Rica humor staff

What an election.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president she might have some trouble finding ambassadors.

And the presidential race is far more important for her. If Donald Trump loses, he will just go back to being a billionaire living with the lovely Melania. If Mrs. Clinton loses, she probably will go to jail.

Of course if she is president, she can pardon herself and Bill, and probably Barack Obama for his Social Security card caper.

Trump presents an interesting case. Why would he ever want to become president, except as an exercise in ego. We know he at least gets the vote of the White House staff. The last thing they want is to get Hillary back. Ditto Secret Service.

Tom Kaine did a good job mixing Spanish with his speech Wednesday night. But we fear that after four years as vice president he will be using another: bruja.

You have to give Mrs. Clinton credit, however, for her strength of will. Any other person who was read out so strongly by the FBI director would have gone home and fallen on a sword.

If Trump wins, he will have to tap into his extended family to fill all the cabinet spots.  And he will have to get a new dry cleaner in Washington to handle his hair. And it won’t be long before he comes out with a line of White House products with his photo on the label. But first he will need an atlas and a high school history book.

A lot of folks say they will leave the U.S. and come to Costa Rica if their candidate fails to win in November. Have they studied the politics here?

Many accuse Trump of being egocentric. The problem is that the entire political system appears to be going that way. Voters seem to be influenced by what they seek to gain instead of the common good. That attitude is very prevalent in Latin America where the family comes first and the heck with the rest.

And then there is the problem with the dumb. YouTube is full of videos showing voters young and old being stumped by the simplest political and historical questions. Shouldn’t voters at least have to know that World War I came before World War II?

But then again, politicians of both parties like dumb voters.


Our readers’ opinions
U.S. saw more than one internal conflict

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It really struck me as odd that Bob Piazza would state that the U.S.A. has only had one armed conflict in its own country. He compared this with the history of Europe.  This prompted me to look that up since I was sure I could think of three right off the bat, and I am not from the U.S.A.

This led me to the site  history guy.com.  After reading the list of armed conflicts the U.S.A. has been involved in on its own soil and its neighbors it is definitely more than one.

The world does look at the U.S.A. as a military power, but that power is to look after their own interests in the conflicted region.

Saying that, your political broadcasts are like watching a soap opera unfold. It seems to take the whole four years between elections to get the next one started. It is like the U.S.A. is obsessed with government. I just wish it didn’t mess up my TV shows.
P. Fraser
Tamarindo


What about the lies told by Mrs. Clinton?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Realizing it is his opinion, the piece by Piazza about Trump has some obvious half truths and a few outright lies compared to known facts.  Such a writer who completely avoids FBI-proven lies of Clinton, loses credibility from the start. The piece by Joyce is somewhat reasoned. 

The point is informed readers with a conscience bent toward truth know the Piazza piece is mostly worthless fabrication.  The ill informed reader may accept Piazza's piece as completely accurate, which in time, will undermine the credibility of your daily news.
Joe Roberson
Columbia, Tennessee

EDITOR’S NOTE: While we appreciate reader comments, we would like those writing about politics to try to do so in 300 words or less.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 151
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Forest fragmentation shown to hurt many amphibians and reptiles
By the Newcastle University news staff

Breaking up the rain forest into small forest islands means more species are being forced to live on the forest edge, prompting a decline in species sensitive to changes in light, moisture and temperature.

Studying over 100 species of reptiles and amphibians living in nine fragmented forest landscapes in Central and South America, scientists found that over 90 percent of all species were affected by the forest edge effect.

While those already adapted to living at the forest boundary actually increased in abundance, the majority of species declined and the negative impact on them extended far into the forest interior.

Sampling in areas where the forests had been divided to make way for farming or roads, the research team led by Newcastle University in the United Kingdom showed the average edge effect extended more than 250 meters into the forest. This means a forest island with a diameter of less than 500 meters would contain no viable core area for many forest species.

Publishing their findings in the academic journal Biological Conservation, the research team, involving experts from Imperial College, the University of East Anglia and Colombia University, are calling for a new approach to forest conservation and management.

Marion Pfeifer, one of the lead authors and a lecturer in ecology, conservation and management at Newcastle University, explained:

“The rapid decline in the world’s rain forests is having a devastating effect on species numbers and diversity but until now there has been little information about the additional impact of forest fragmentation.

“In our study, we found the majority of amphibian and reptile species were negatively impacted the closer we got to the forest edge and in some cases, species disappeared altogether.

“The findings have strong implications for conservation in fragmented tropical landscapes and suggest large forest patches will need to be conserved to protect forest-dependent species and avoid loss of biodiversity.”

Forest fragmentation acts on top of forest loss, as habitats are broken up into increasingly smaller, isolated patches. This in turn reduces the core area of favorable habitat for forest species.

In the Brazilian Atlantic forest, for example, more than 80 percent of the fragments are less than 50 hectares and half of the remaining forest is closer than 100 meters from an edge,

tree frog
Newcastle University photo
Two guesses on why this is a Red-eyed Amazon tree frog

much smaller than the minimum 250 meters needed to preserve species diversity.

“These edge zones differ structurally and functionally from the original forest,” explained Pfeifer.

“Edges are typically characterized by more open canopies, leading to reduced moisture, increased light, wind and maximum daily temperatures. This compares to the core where the dense canopies can filter up to 95 percent of the solar radiation, and the environment is more constant.

“Some species, such as many amphibians and reptiles, are more sensitive than others to changes in the microclimate so this edge zone effect will significantly impact their ability to survive.

“Also, while many species may decline, some others may actually benefit, particularly those species that are less sensitive to temperature, light and moisture variability.”

Amphibians are the world’s most threatened group.

Assessing the abundance of 104 species of amphibians and reptiles in nine fragmented forest regions in the Neotropics, the team found that only two amphibians and eight reptiles were not sensitive to the edge effect.

Now the team is looking at the impact of the edge effect caused by fragmentation on other species, from insects to birds and mammals, and how this information might be used to assist future conservation and management strategies in fragmented forested landscapes.


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The graphic shows the top 10 countries rated by expats for the best weather and the bottom 10, which mainly are northern European and Asian with cold, snow and dark winters.
weather sites
InterNations graphic

Expats worldwide see Costa Rica as having the best weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An international survey of expats puts Costa Rica first in having the best weather.

The survey comes as no surprise. The organization InterNations asked the question about weather in its survey of expats in 195 countries.  There were 14,000 respondents.

“If you move to Costa Rica, Cyprus or Greece, you can be sure to enjoy the outdoors almost every day of the year,” said InterNations. “Other destinations with fine temperatures include Malta, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Portugal and Mexico.”

Said the organization about Costa Rica:

“The country clinches the 12th spot out of 64 countries in the

overall ranking of the survey. One prominent factor for its high rank is the weather and climate, with 71 percent of the respondents living there rating it as very good. The friendly locals and great work-life balance are just some of the reasons why expats decide to move to this tropical paradise. Unlike many other destinations that are mostly career-focused, the most popular reasons for moving to Costa Rica are for a better quality of life and a thirst for adventure.”

Other countries with great weather scored poorly in security. That included Uganda and Kenya.

“North America, Oceania and Asia, let alone Antarctica, the seventh continent, did not receive much appraisal when it comes to good climate,” said InterNations.

Ireland rated in the bottom 10 because despite having outstanding beer and whiskey, there is a lot of rain.

Vacation, travel and hospitality


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

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A.M. Costa Rica's
  
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Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 151
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Axiom new ad

California man will plead
to hiding money overseas


 Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Los Angeles, California, businessman admitted Monday that he maintains undisclosed bank accounts overseas.

He is Masud Sarshar, who owned and operated Apparel Limited, Inc., a business that designed, manufactured, and sold clothing and other apparel. He admitted that he maintained several undeclared bank accounts at Bank Leumi and two other Israeli banks, both in his name and in the names of entities that he created, said the U.S. Justice Department. 

For decades, with the assistance of at least two managers from Bank Leumi and a second Israeli bank, Sarshar hid tens of millions of dollars in assets in these accounts in an effort to conceal income and obstruct the Internal Revenue Service, the department said. 

A court allegation said that between 2006 and 2009, Sarshar diverted more than $21 million in untaxed gross business income to these undeclared bank accounts.  Between 2007 and 2012, Sarshar also earned more than $2.5 million in interest income from these accounts, the allegation added.  Sarshar omitted all of this income from his 2006 through 2011 individual and corporate tax returns and he failed to report his authority over and ownership of these bank accounts in false Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts that he submitted to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Justice Department said.

Sarshar agreed to plead guilty and pay more than $8.3 million in restitution to the IRS.  If the court accepts the parties’ agreement, Sarshar will be sentenced to 24 months in prison.  In addition, Sarshar stipulated to a civil penalty in the amount of 50 percent of the high balance of his undeclared accounts to resolve his civil liability for not disclosing the existence of his Israeli bank accounts, the Justice Department said.

Sarshar obtained Israeli and Iranian passports in an effort to avoid being flagged as a U.S. citizen by the compliance departments at both banks, the Justice Department said. 


Technician for FBI admits
working as spy for Chinese


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. electronics technician with the Federal Bureau of Investigation has pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the Chinese government.

The man, Kun Shan Chun, who was born in China and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, admitted in federal court Monday in New York City to giving sensitive information to China.

The Justice Department said that information included an FBI organizational chart, the identity and travel plans of an FBI agent, and photos Chun took of documents displayed in a restricted area of the FBI related to surveillance.

Chun, 46, faces up to 27 months in prison. He was released on bail Monday and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2.

The Justice Department said Chun has worked for the FBI since 1997 and was given a top secret security clearance in 1998, which enabled him to access sensitive information.

Prosecutors accuse Chun of passing classified information to the Chinese from 2011 to 2016 through a printer manufacturing company in China that one of Chun's parents had invested in.

They say the company, Zhuhai Kolion Technology Company Ltd., paid for part of Chun's international travel to China. Chun was initially charged in March for making false statements to the FBI to hide his contact with the Chinese company.


Obama says he’s confident
Pacific trade pact will pass


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama says he is optimistic that Congress will eventually approve the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal even though both 2016 presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, oppose it.

Obama, who leaves office next January, offered his prediction Monday in an interview with The Straits Times ahead of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's state visit to Washington, culminating in a White House state dinner Tuesday night.

But Obama acknowledged that congressional approval of the sweeping pact will be difficult in the U.S., where many workers have suffered as employers move operations overseas or take advantage of technological advances in manufacturing to increase production while cutting their workforces.

"The politics around trade can be very difficult especially in an election year," Obama said. "There are legitimate concerns and anxieties that the forces of globalization are leaving too many people behind, and we have to take those concerns seriously and address them."

"But the answer isn't to turn inward and embrace protectionism," Obama said. "We can't just walk away from trade. In a global economy where our economies and supply chains are deeply integrated, it's not even possible."

The American leader said he remains committed to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership "because it's a good deal for America, for the region and for the world. TPP advances America's economic and our strategic interests. It would eliminate 18,000 tariffs, basically taxes, on American products and help us sell more American exports to the Asia Pacific."

"It will help strengthen our relationships with partners like Singapore and lay the foundation for even greater cooperation in other areas," Obama said. "It will make sure that we're writing the rules for trade in the 21st century."

Mrs. Clinton, as Obama's first-term secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, was a staunch trade pact advocate, saying it sets the gold standard in trade agreements.

But last year, in the months-long campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, she said the details in the agreement did not meet her standards and turned against it. Mrs. Clinton said it did not clamp down on currency manipulation and lacked patent protection provisions for drug companies in poorer countries.

Mrs. Clinton said she wants "more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, 'This will help raise your wages.' And I concluded I could not."

Trump has built his support among blue-collar workers by opposing trade deals, the pending Pacific deal, as well as the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada enacted when Mrs. Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, was in the White House.


Islamic State seen seeking
to cause Christian backlash


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Islamic State is inciting supporters to mount more attacks on Christians just days after two of the terror group’s sympathizers slit the throat of an 85-year-old French priest as he was celebrating Mass, a killing French officials fear was a deliberate tactic to provoke a Christian backlash in France against Muslims.

The latest issue of the Islamic State’s online magazine Dabiq, widely read by supporters and sympathizers, focuses on the theme of “Break the Cross.” In a series of interviews, foreign fighters who have converted from Christianity are used as mouthpieces to urge supporters in the West to destroy arrogant Christian disbelievers. They exhort Muslims to “pray for Allah's curse to be upon the liars.”

Pope Francis, as well as Orthodox and Coptic church leaders, is among those singled as targets in the 15th issue of Dabiq, released Sunday. Propagandists mock the Pope, saying the Pontiff only condemned the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando “because he comes from long line of boy rapists.”

The Catholic Church condemned forthrightly the Orlando terror attack in June, in which gunman Omar Mateen who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, killed 49 people and wounded another 53. After the slaughter the church issued a statement, saying: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”

Fighter Abu Sa’d al-Trinidadi, a former Christian from Trinidad and Tobago, references recent terror attacks in the West and urges supporters in a Dabiq interview to “follow the example of the lions in France and Belgium, the example of the blessed couple in California, and the examples of the knights in Orlando and Nice.”

He tells Islamic State supporters in the West that they have the “ability to terrify the disbelievers in their own homes and make their streets run with their blood.” He adds Christians are legitimate targets due to their mere disbelief, adding, “for this reason, amongst others, the Islamic State leadership emphasized the importance not to differentiate between disbelieving soldiers and their so-called civilians.”

This is not the first time the Islamic State has exhorted followers to target Christians in the West or threaten to destroy Christianity. In February 2015, the terror group released a shocking five-minute video documenting the barbaric mass execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on the shoreline of Libya. In the video a militant spokesman points northward after the killings, saying: “We will conquer Rome by Allah’s permission.”

And the terror group has targeted and terrorized Christians in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq with rapes, abductions, forced conversions, desecration of churches and forced evictions. In 2014 Pope Francis warned, “In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war, the war against the church.”

But the redoubled focus on Western Christianity now, analysts say, is powered by a highly dangerous, macabre logic. They warn that Islamic State strategists are aiming to provoke an overreaction by Western governments and enraged citizens, hoping to drive young Muslims into their arms and away from what the jihadists call the gray zone.

The gray zone was defined in a January 2015 issue of Dabiq as a “twilight area occupied by most Muslims between good and evil, the Caliphate and the Infidel.”

Last November, in the wake of the Paris attacks anthropologist Scott Atran said that the Islamic State is “seeking to provoke deeper divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, forcing the latter to overreact as the terror becomes ever wilder and more extreme, thereby leaving the former with no choice but to join the jihadist camp.”

And to exacerbate antagonism toward Muslims in Europe, the more outrageous the targets, the more likely the terror will provoke Western governments to overreact or fuel the rise of populist nationalist parties or prompt revenge attacks.

The murder last week of the Rev. Jacques Hamel in the Norman village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen differed from previous attacks in France. They targeted people and places that symbolized freedom of speech, Western liberalism, the ideals of the French Revolution, and Jews. Some analysts see the killing of Hamel as the first act of war on European soil against Christianity by the Islamic State

French officials were already alarmed before the release of Dabiq at the prospect of  attacks causing a war against communities. Last week, a French official said that one of the highest priorities of the Élysée Palace is to prevent a clash between Muslims and Christians.


California firemen facing
multiple massive blazes


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services


Crews continued to battle a massive wildfire near California’s Big Sur area that is threatening thousands of homes and has forced hundreds of evacuations.

While cooler weather gave firefighters a break as they battled a 10-day-old blaze on the coast, a newer fire northeast of Fresno damaged some of the 400 homes that were evacuated just outside the Sierra National Forest.

The combination of steep, mountainous landscape and extremely hot, dry conditions have hampered efforts to quell the so-called Soberanes Fire, which erupted on July 22 just south of the picturesque oceanside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

More than 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze that has already destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings.  It has grown to more than 160 square kilometers, about the size of the city of San Francisco.

On the outskirts of Los Angeles, firefighters have nearly surrounded a 168-square-kilometer blaze that killed one man and destroyed 18 homes. The fire was 93 percent contained Sunday, 10 days after it broke out.


Bikers returning the ashes
of long-dead Civil War vet


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A veteran of the U.S. Civil War is making his way across the country nearly 100 years after his death.

Monday, the cremated remains of Jewett Williams were handed over at a ceremony to a group of motorcycle-riding military veterans for a journey back to his home state of Maine.

Williams, who was 21 years old in 1864, joined the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the tail end of the war. The regiment was reportedly part of the Union force that accepted Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

Hospital records show Williams died in 1922 at an insane asylum in Oregon, just a few months after being admitted.

The asylum, now called Oregon State Hospital, used to cremate patients whose bodies were not claimed by family. The ashes were put in canisters and stored in a shed.

The Patriot Guard Riders, a nonprofit organization that performs services for fallen military heroes and deceased veterans, will provide Private Williams a long-awaited escort back home.

The Oregon chapter of the group received the remains Monday. They will ferry the ashes east, passing them from one state's club to the next.

Williams' journey home will wind through at least 19 states and cover more than 3,200 miles.

 
Pregnant women warned
away from Florida zika area


 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned pregnant women Monday not to travel to an area in the southeastern state of Florida where new cases of zika virus infections have been identified.

Florida officials have discovered ten more cases of the zika virus, increasing the total there to 14 and prompting Gov. Rick Scott to ask for federal help to fight the spread of the virus.

“A team is being deployed by the CDC in short order so that we will be able to work with Governor Scott’s team on the ground in South Florida,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters Monday.

Scott said all known cases of zika in Florida were caused locally by mosquitos.

State health officials believe the spread of the zika virus is limited to a square mile area in Miami-Dade County, just north of downtown Miami. The area is rapidly gentrifying and has numerous construction sites where standing water can collect and serve as a breeding area for mosquitos.

In addition to the travel warning aimed at pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control said pregnant women in the Miami area should make every effort to avoid mosquito bites.

Officials identified six of the new cases by conducting door-to-door community surveys.  

Friday, officials announced four cases of the zika virus, believed to be the first cases contracted from mosquitos within the 50 U.S. states.

More than 1,650 people in the mainland U.S. have contracted the virus in recent months, nearly all while traveling in other countries.

U.S. officials have said they do not expect broad outbreaks like those in Brazil and in some other Latin American countries.

Aggressive mosquito control efforts in Florida were announced Friday but the Centers for Disease Control said mosquito control efforts are not working as well as expected.

Health officials have reminded the public that most people with zika don't know they are sick and that infection during pregnancy can cause babies to develop birth defects.
 



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Real estate brokers and agents (paid category)


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Costa Rica Real Estate
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Real estate for sale (paid category)


Pavo onr
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9034-8/23/16
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9024-9/4/16

Kennedy
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Jacó Beach - Super Views - Priced Right
This is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath home located at about 100-foot elevation one mile from the beach.  Remodeled 2 years ago. Everything is new including total new kitchen, windows, floors, AC units, electric, plumbing, etc.  Super fenced yard for dogs.  Very low electric bill even with the AC.  This is a zero lot line property but with room to expand up and out.  Very secure & private.  Police chief next door. $149,900.  Call Glenn at 506 6214-0056.
9022-9/8/16

Penthouse
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Costa Rica penthouse for sale
 5 -story penthouse for sale.  One of a kind penthouse on top of the Corobici Hotel in Sabana overlooking the Central Park and new Soccer Stadium in San José.  Excellent location provides you easy access to everywhere.  Other benefits include 24-hour security, 2 restaurants inside the hotel providing 1st class room service plus shared common areas in the hotel. Commercial license is in place. Seller will consider owner financing.  Asking $895K U.S.  Go to www.ThePenthouseCostaRica.com  Owners U.S. cell phone: 813 310-7402  Email crstratton@ymail.com
9017-12/1/16

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9023-9/13/16

Condo
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Ocean View Property for Sale in San Ramón
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Cohen
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Real estate services
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Business for sale or lease (paid category)

Great opportunity for investor
Amount  $250,000, 100% ROI. Trucking company parts manufacturing and sales in Florida, proof of funds required. Call Jack Budd at La Habra, Calif., U.S.A. Phones 714-871-5821, 714-930-5265. Email: cookjack3@yahoo.com.
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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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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Study links depression to 15 gene sites

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In a major development toward the understanding of the biology of depression, researchers have identified 15 regions of the human genome associated with depressive illness.

Investigators conducted what's known as genome-wide association studies involving nearly 500,000 people, comparing genetic variations of those who said they had suffered from depressive symptoms with people who said they had not.

The newly discovered regions will give scientists places to look in the human genome where specific depression genes may lurk.

Until now, it's been a challenge identifying genes that are responsible for mood disorders because of the hundreds of thousands of genetic variants that scientists suspect are involved.

Each gene confers a small amount of risk of developing depression, said Roy Perlis, director of the Center for Experimental Drugs and Diagnosis at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and a co-author of the study, published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Healthy people have some of these variations, he said, but if enough genes are involved, depression can be the result.

"Our primary interest is how do we go from finding these genes, to making new kinds of treatments so we can better treat depression," Perlis said.

The lifetime risk of developing a major depressive disorder, experts say, is anywhere from 15 to 20 percent. Symptoms of depression range from sadness, loss of appetite and lack of enjoyment in life to mood swings.

Until now, Perlis says research has focused on a small number of targets in the brain.

The data involved in the latest study came from an organization called 23andMe, a company that specializes in creating genetic profiles for people wanting to learn more about their ancestry.

In this case, the information was from individuals of European descent who agreed to participate in the studies.

Investigators sifted through the entire genomes of the participants, comparing genetic variations between the two groups.

A detailed analysis revealed more than a dozen genomic regions that increase a person's risk for depression, including 17 specific sites containing genes implicated in the mood disorder.

Some of the sites pinpointed by researchers are located in or near genes involved in brain development.

Two gene regions had been previously identified. One of the regions for depression had been associated with epilepsy and intellectual disability. Another contained a poorly understood gene in the brain. The latest analysis identified them as being significantly associated with depression.

The next step, Perlis says, is to look at other ethnic groups to try to identify brain regions that play a role in development of mood disorders. Perlis said he hopes the findings begin to change society's negative perceptions about mental illness.

"Because the more we can illustrate to people that these are brain diseases, that they are affected by genes that influence brain development, my hope is that it will start to reduce the stigma that goes along with depression,” he said. “So that in this sense, I hope this will have an immediate impact."

But don't expect new treatments for mood disorders anytime soon. According to Perlis, the discoveries are only the beginning of what will continue to be an ongoing exploration for the biological underpinnings of depression.

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Trade treaty with Colombia goes into effect

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s free trade treaty with Colombia has entered into force, according to the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

The treaty allows Costa Rica firms to export into Colombia banana purée, ornamental plants, medical devices, medicines, tires for buses and some alcoholic beverages free of import duties, according to the ministry.

Colombia is the top importer of Costa Rica products in South America, said the ministry. Trade between the two countries totaled $383 million in 2015.