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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 157           Email us
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avenida reconstruction
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Construction crews do not seem to lack workers
Downtown street reconstruction felt all over city
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas will be a merry one if the firm reconstructing Avenida 3 in the heart of the downtown finishes on time.

Until then, the ripple from the section of closed road reverberates all over the city.

Avenida 3 is a main drag for motorists headed west. But not these days. Workmen have ripped up the street for a two-block stretch just west of the Banco Nacional headquarters and the Correos de Costa Rica main installation. This is the area populated by hardware stores and even the Mercado Borbón famous for its vegetables.

The crews have jacked out the entire roadway and left sidewalks dangling uncomfortably on either side. Some stores have closed to wait out the siege.

The project is much more than just resurfacing a city street. The contract calls for CEMEX and its subcontractors to replace water, sewer and storm sewers as well as the sidewalks.

The work started July 11, and downtown traffic immediately showed the results. At peak hours traffic many blocks away is slowed to a crawl. Now traffic officers are on key corners blocks away from the construction to keep vehicles moving.

An uninformed motorist will run into barricades at Calle 6 and be forced to make a left turn. That street is heavily traveled, too.  So the jam is continuous most of the day and into the peak traffic
no hay paso
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Avenida 3 ends at this point at Calle 6

hour. The situation is so bad that some taxi drivers will not venture into the area and drop their fares several blocks away. Some complain that the contractor should have instituted around the clock shifts to speed up the work.

The job comes on the heels of reconstructing Avenida 8 that was another nightmare of traffic jams, detours and unhappy motorists.

But for every inconvenience, there may be a bright side. Some of the merchants along the torn up blocks said they were enjoying the peace and quiet of the absence of vehicles. Eventually the avenue will get a new roadbed of long-lasting concrete.

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Our readers' opinions
Story had too much info
that could attract crooks

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading the article on the Atenas robbery, I have to question the information that was written by the reporter.
Yes, the story is of great importance, if for anything to remind us never to get to relaxed because we are barred into our homes.

I do not feel the listing of the area of where the robbery took place nor the cost of the homes and the fact that there are mostly expats living there was of any value. Why not wave a red flag, hand some other SOBs guns to continue doing what they do best: robbing, killing, raping etc. This country is going to hell in a hand basket and we all seem helpless to do anything about changing it. With no help from the government y the judges this circle will just continue.

Thank God the homeowner wasn't physically injured.
Cathy Knorr
Santa Ana

U.S tea party is equated
to political whistleblowers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The tea party is the modern day political equivalent of the whistleblower. As is often the case the whistleblower is persecuted for telling the truth and exposing a fraud. One has to have a lot of courage and conviction to be a whistleblower. It’s not for the faint of heart.

In this latest political dog fight over the debt ceiling/spending increase, the tea party has been called every negative name in the book including obstructionists, self serving, uncompromising terrorists. Their crime was exposing the truth which is the U.S. out-of-control spending binge which amounts to nothing more than a governmental sanctioned ponzi scheme. And their crime is also having the audacity of going the extra step to actually put America first rather than their own self reelection interests as is the case with their political accusers.

The tea party is nothing more than a reflection of caring Americans who voted them into office and who want to live financially honest lives for themselves and their country. The politicians who hold to the core tea party values are not perfect; they’re just doing what they were elected to do. I know that’s a shock to many Washington insiders. 

The tea party has only one issue; to live within our means as a people and a country.

Washington doesn’t know how to deal with that. The Washington paradigm has shifted. Tea party politicians, so far at least, have shown they can’t be bought and sold like run of the mill Republicans and Democrats who have enjoyed a political and power monopoly up until now. And that’s really scary to the traditional Washington power brokers.

Patrick McCormick
Costa Rica

Writer had blinders on

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Dean Barbour's opinion dated Aug . 9 (Far right cash conspiracy designed to hurt Obama) reminds me of going to the race track and watching the trotters always going around in a circle wearing their blinders and never seen on the peripheral.
Russell Ordiway
Costa Rica

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!

From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 157

Prisma dental

Economics ministry gets ready for a flood of tax exemptions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 4,061 firms already have registered as a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise and the first two categories will be exempt from the new tax on corporations approved on first reading by the legislature Monday.

In anticipation of a flood of applicants, the Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio outlined the requirements Tuesday.

Registering with the ministry would seem to be a good deal for any small business. Not only will the operators not have to pay the estimated $316 annual tax, but the government has set up a number of programs for small business, including cut-rate loans.

Individuals can register, too, but as of now persons in business will not be obligated to pay the tax that is just for corporations. The ministry said Tuesday that there are 77 business persons who have registered.

The programs for small business are nine years old, but they are in the news now because the firms can duck the new tax, which will be assessed beginning Jan. 1, according to a statement Tuesday by Casa Presidencial. The tax will have to be paid within the first 10 days of the month, according to the text.

Law 8262 and regulations issued in a decree published in May 2002 establish the ground rules for being a micro, small- or medium-sized business eligible for government assistance. In Spanish these firms are known as pequeñas y medianas empresas and frequently referred to as PYMES.

Enrollment can be done in person at ministry offices or via the Internet at a special Web page. The key requirement is that the firm actually has to be in business, agricultural, industrial or commercial. And it has to have met its obligations with the government.

This includes being enrolled at Tributación Directa as a tax-paying entity, being enrolled with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for employee benefits and holding a valid workmen's compensation policy, known as riesgo de trabajo insurance, for employees.

A decree listing regulations says that a firm has to be in business for six months and that the operator has to have two years experience in the business that is being undertaken.

The regulations also contain elaborate mathematical formulas to determine if a firm qualifies. The formula awards points based on the number of employees and the gross income of the enterprise. The formula also determines if the enterprise is a small business. Medium-sized businesses still will pay the tax.
The rules also say that no more than 25 percent of the ownership of an enrolled firm can be in the hands of a large company.

Generally a micro enterprise is one with five or fewer employees. Small firms have from six to 30 workers, and a medium firm can have up to 100 employees.

Ministry workers are also going to want to see a copy of the most recent tax return to assess the gross income of the firm. Most firms operated by expats are well within the eligible range.

Once a firm is certified as a micro or small operation, the ministry will send the notification to the Registro Nacional, the agency in charge of collecting the tax.

Expats who have inactive corporations will only be paying one half the amount paid by an active corporation.

Technically that will be 25 percent of a base salary, which is now 316,200 colons. A base salary is used for taxes and for court fines to adjust the amount for any inflation in the colón. So the holder of an inactive corporation will pay about 79,000 colons or about $158.

Many expats hold cell telephones, cars and houses in inactive corporations.

With the current base salary, a functioning corporation will pay about $316. Considering the paperwork and expense involved, an expat would have to think long and hard before trying to turn an inactive corporation into an exempt micro or small enterprise just to duck the annual fee.

The ministry noted that enrollment as a micro, small or medium business has to be done each year. Day-to-day involvement with small business is by the Dirección General de la Pequeña y Mediana Empresa at the ministry. Registration is possible HERE.

Casa Presidencial said that the new tax in addition to providing funds to ease the country's financial situation also controls the creation of corporations which are used many times for evasion.

The legislative leadership said that the final vote on the bill will be Thursday. Lawmakers said that there are 532,870 corporations of various types listed in the Registro Nacional. Some 31,373 are micro, small and medium-sized firms.

Lawmakers said that 95 percent of the money raised will go to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública for more resources. Some 5 percent will go to the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, which operates the prisons.

Officials expect to raise $72 million.

suspects in robberies
          Zapote                         San José                   San José                   San José                        Teledollar
Here are five persons expats probably would not like to meet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If any reader has been stuck up recently, one or more of the above faces might seem familiar.

The Sección de Asaltos of the Judicial Investigating Organization released these sketches with the hope that residents would come forward to identify possible suspects.

The sketches are called retratos hablados in Spanish. This translates to a “spoken portrait.” The technique is used the world over as witnesses try to give a description of their attacker.

The sketch on the left is of a man who works with other crooks to rob pedestrians in Zapote and Quesada Durán in east San José. He is armed.
The three faces in the middle are believed to resemble those individuals who have been sticking up commercial establishments in the center of San José. There has been a wave of such crimes during the daylight hours.

If the witness descriptions can be trusted, at least two of the crooks look like they are high on drugs.

The sketch on the right is reported to resemble a man who participated in the robbery of the Teledollar firm April 20.  Anyone who may recognize these individuals are asked to call the judicial police's Centro de Información Confidencial at 800-8000-645.

However, most expats might not know the individuals but they may have been victims. They can make investigators aware of the crime, too.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 157
Tiny four-eyed Central American fish is a genetic anomaly
By The University of British Columbia news service

A four-eyed fish that sees simultaneously above and below the water line has offered up a dramatic example of how gene expression allows organisms to adapt to their environment.

Gregory L. Owens, a University of British Columbia graduate student, found a sharp divide between the upper and lower sections of the eyes of Anableps anableps, a six- to 12-inch fish closely related to guppies. The findings were published online in Biology Letters.

The four-eyed fish spends most of its life at the water surface, feeding on flying insects as well as algae, in the mangrove swamps of Central America and northern South America. The upper half of its eyes penetrate the water line, while the lower half of its eyes are submerged.

Its opsin genes, which code for light receptors in the eye, closely resemble those of other fish species that don’t see above water, so it was unknown if the four-eyed fish’s eyes were adapted to both aerial and aquatic light.

Owens, while conducting research for a master’s degree at the University of Victoria, sought an answer in how the opsin genes were expressed. He made several molecular probes that, when applied to the retina, would bind to specific opsin gene messenger RNA, the molecules that translate DNA into protein synthesis.

By determining the type and distribution of the messenger in the retina, Owens discovered that the eye was clearly divided in sensitivity. One part of the retina, exposed to aerial light, has cones, neurons that convert light into brain signals, that
are sensitive to the green wavelengths that predominate in the air. The other part of the retina, exposed to aquatic light, has cones more attuned to the yellow wavelengths of muddy water. The whole eye, meanwhile, is sensitive to other wavelengths, from ultraviolet to blue.
four-eyed fish
University of British Columbia/Alan Wolf 
Anableps anableps has its own version of bifocals

“We expected some difference between different parts of the eye, but not as dramatic as this,” says Owens, who is now earning his doctorate at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Botany.

John Taylor, an associate professor of biology at the University of Victoria who supervised Owens’ work, said the study is part of a larger fish opsin research program that examines gene duplication.

Usually, duplicated genes are rendered non-functional by mutations, but not in this case.

“Greg’s study illuminates how gene duplication can lead to innovation – in this case each half of the eye gets its own duplicate, tailored to its particular needs,” Taylor says.

The research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 157

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

New virus approach targets
some HIV-infected cells

By the University of Southern California news services

In what represents an important step toward curing HIV, a University of Southern California scientist has created a virus that hunts down HIV-infected cells.

Pin Wang’s lentiviral vector latches onto HIV-infected cells, flagging them with what is called suicide gene therapy - allowing drugs to later target and destroy them.

“If you deplete all of the HIV-infected cells, you can at least partially solve the problem,” said Wang, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering.

The process is analogous to the military practice of buddy lasing, that is, having a soldier on the ground illuminate a target with a laser to guide a precision bombing strike from an aircraft.

Like a precision bombing raid, the lentiviral vector approach to targeting HIV has the advantage of avoiding collateral damage, keeping cells that are not infected by HIV out of harm’s way. Such accuracy has not been achieved by using drugs alone, Wang said.

So far, the lentiviral vector has only been tested in culture dishes and has resulted in the destruction of about 35 percent of existing HIV cells. While that may not sound like a large percentage, if this treatment were to be used in humans, it likely would be repeated several times to maximize effectiveness.

Among the next steps will be to test the procedure in mice. While this is an important breakthrough, it is not yet a cure, Wang said.

“This is an early stage of research, but certainly it is one of the options in that direction,” he said.

Wang’s research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, appeared in the July 23 issue of Virus Research.

Swimmer gives up effort
to reach Florida from Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has ended her second attempt in 33 years to swim from Havana, Cuba, to the Florida Keys.

After nearly 30 hours in the water, the 61-year-old athlete abandoned her effort Tuesday because of asthma, shoulder pain and battering wind and waves. The swim was expected to take 60 hours and cover 166 kilometers. Ms. Nyad was swimming without a shark cage. 

Instead, she was protected by an electronic field from equipment towed by kayakers to repel the predators. Five other boats, along with a 45-person support team, accompanied her. Ms. Nyad swam without a wetsuit or special equipment. 

She had called the swim a symbolic moment for increasing understanding between Cuba and the United States, which do not have formal diplomatic relations. Ms. Nyad said she does not intend to attempt the swim a third time.

While expressing disappointment at the outcome, Ms. Nyad said she does not regret trying to complete the journey. She attempted the same feat back in 1978 when she was 28 years old, but ended it because of high winds and rough seas.

Australian swimmer Susan Maroney completed the swim in 1997 with the help of a shark cage. Ms. Maroney was 22-years-old at the time.

Salvadoran suspects held
in case of murdered priests

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nine former Salvadoran soldiers were in custody Monday for the 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests and two others during El Salvador's civil war.  Five of the priests were Spaniards.

The Salvadoran Defense Ministry said Monday the nine soldiers turned themselves in at a military base before being handed over to a Salvadoran court.

A Salvadoran judge must now decide whether to extradite the accused to Spain.  Salvadoran officials have said it is not likely the Salvadoran supreme court will vote to extradite the men.

A 10th suspect in the case has since died.  Ten other suspects remain at-large.

Spanish courts have used international jurisdiction doctrines to prosecute the killings of the priests.

The Salvadoran civil war occurred during the 1980s resulting in some 70,000 deaths.  Peace was finally reached in 1992.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 157

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Agents finally do searches
in killing of Facundo Cabral

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly a month after a Costa Rican was identified as the intellectual author of an assassination attempt in Guatemala, judicial police and prosecutors conducted raids on the man's properties.

The assassination led to the death of famed Argentine singer  Facundo Cabral, who was gunned down as collateral damage. The target of the attempt was promoter and businessman  Henry Fariñas, who was taking Cabral to the airport.

Costa Rican officials identified the main suspect here as Alejandro Jiménez González, 37, and said that they had been investigating him since 2009 for drug smuggling and money laundering. They said that his family was involved and listed more than a dozen corporations that were controlled by Jiménez or family members.

A series of raids resulted in a search of the Alajuela home of Jiménez and other locations.

At a press conference the fiscal general, Jorge Chavarría, and Jorge Rojas, head of the Judicial Investigating Organization, were candid and identified the members of the family who were under investigation. They also distributed photographs of those who appear to be suspects.

A short time later, the Poder Judicial sent an email to the news media saying that none of the persons had been charged and that they would use the photos at their own risk.

Cabral died July 9, and Guatemalan newspapers quickly identified Jiménez as a possible suspect. Three persons who were taped conducting the fatal ambush were arrested quickly. Jiménez is reported to have left the country.

If he is arrested in Costa Rica, he could not be extradited because the Constitution forbids forcing citizens to leave the country.

Costa Rican investigators have ben in close contact with their counterparts in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Cabral had such a high profile in Latin American music that the case is being reported all over the world.

Costa Rican law enforcement officers will attempt to confiscate any possessions that they can link to Jiménez.

The reason for the assassination attempt on Fariñas has not been made clear, but some police officials suspect that he was a business partner of Jiménez.  Fariñas, a Nicaraguan, is reported to have holdings in Costa Rica. One theory is that Jiménez wanted to purchase nightclubs owned by the Nicaraguan. However, employees of certain night clubs in Costa Rica deny that they have any link to Fariñas.

Buying gifts for mom might
put purchaser in credit trap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Monday is the Día de la Madre, a legal holiday in Costa Rica, and the Dirección de Apoyo al Consumidor of the economics ministry is warning about the pitfalls of purchasing gifts.

The Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio routinely does surveys around major holiday. Traditionally retailers jack up the prices of kitchen appliances and other items that mothers would like to receive.

The ministry this year warned about the pitfalls of high interest credit buying. They said that unwise shoppers could pay three times the retail cost of an item with high-interest credit schemes. In the past the ministry has reported that some credit card firms charge interest in excess of 50 percent a year.

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