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(506) 2223-1327           Published Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 162          Email us
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Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto photo
Youth camp appears to be five or six structures on the south bank of the Río San Juan
Ortega again appears to be baiting country on Calero
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaraguan presidential elections are Nov. 6, so the  Daniel Ortega administration is trying to drum up more patriotism. Members of his Sandinista youth movement have set up camp on the disputed Isla Calero in the face of an International Court of Justice prohibition.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto distributed photos of the incursion Wednesday. The youth appear to have set up shacks on the island's side of the Río San Juan.

The dispute began in October when Ortega associate Eden Pastora directed an effort to construct a new mouth for the river through the island.

Costa Rica brought the situation before the Organization of American States and then to the international court in The Netherlands. The court has not issued a final ruling but did instruct both countries to keep off the disputed land. There is a question if such a ruling applies to young citizens who have no official standing.

There is little doubt that the Isla Calero is Costa Rican property. It is on the south side of the main channel of the river and has been considered Costa
Rican land even by Nicaragua as late as a 2007 International Court of Justice case.

Two weeks ago Ortega suggested a joint patrol of the area, but Costa Rica rejected that idea.

Costa Rica reinforced its police presence near the island but has backed off on constructing a road network that would make the area more accessible.

The south bank of the river is the international border, not the middle, so Nicaragua can control passage on the river. The Costa Rican government has filed a protest with Managua over the new intrusion. Apparently the youth camp has been operating for at least 10 days but the government only announced the fact Wednesday.

Some Ortega opponents in Nicaragua are concerned that the work on the river, disguised as a dredging project, was never subject to the governmental bidding process as the law requires. The $2.5 million for the project is believed to come from Venezuela.

There also is concern that the project is not to develop the San Juan as a transport route but to create a location for an expensive marina for foreign interests in which Ortega and the director of river operations, Pastora, will share.

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Casa Presidencial photo
Yerlin María Juárez Soto and one of her children are seen with President Laura Chinchilla

Imprisoned woman awarded
delayed mother's day gift

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Consejo de Gobierno, the president's cabinet, awarded a pardon Tuesday to a women convicted of trying to smuggle drugs into prison.

She is Yerlin María Juárez Soto, 26, who was facing more than five years in jail.

President Laura Chinchilla characterized the pardon as a mother's day present. Ms. Juárez has four children, including one who is a year old and ill with a degenerative spinal illness.

Such pardons are traditional at major holidays.

Corporate tax measure
fails to get its final OK

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposal to tax corporations ran into trouble in the Asamblea Legislativa Tuesday, the day lawmakers were expected to pass the bill for the second and final time.

The bill never came to a vote, but several legislators heaped criticism on the measure, which had passed on first reading easily with 39 votes. There was a second vote planned for Thursday but it never materialized as lawmakers ran out of time.

One lawmaker Tuesday called the measure unjust because it taxes a small corporation the same amount as a large one.

Meanwhile lawmakers became involved in budgetary discussions.

President Laura Chinchilla is counting on passage to raise 37 billion colons to pay for a police school and other security expenses. Some opposition lawmakers are reluctant to provide any new funding for the central administration.

The proposal would tax a corporation or other forms of ownership about $316 and an inactive corporation about half that. The bill is important to expats because many hold their vehicles and homes in corporate ownership.

One lawmaker expressed concern over a provision that would allow corporate owners to remove property from the legal entity without paying a transfer tax. The provision was included to give corporation owners a chance to put the properties or vehicles in their own name and kill the corporation.

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!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 162

Prisma dental

Newspapers frequently are targeted by crooks, scammers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who may have been trapped by a suspect full-page ad for cell telephones in The Tico Times have learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes newspapers publish material that is not correct or is fraudulent, usually by mistake.

That has been true for nearly 170 years when the newspaper for the general public appeared. Almost immediately ads appeared for medicines designed to cure everything. In fact, several newspaper empires were built specifically to serve the patent medicine demand.

The Tico Times ad appears to have been placed by Nigerians offering to sell cut-rate cell telephones and other electronic devices. The same individuals based in Lagos sought to place ads in A.M. Costa Rica.

Publishers walk a fine line when they accept advertising. A newspaper is more or less a place of public accommodation. If someone comes in with money, they usually can place an ad.

Because of the proliferation of free classified Web pages, like Craig's List, not many true scammers try to inject their ads into traditional newspapers and news Web pages. Some of the free sites are full of scamming ads and some that are dangerous. There are no gatekeepers on what is posted.

A.M. Costa Rica runs free ads, too. Employment ads are free. Frequently persons with Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail addresses seek to place ads. If they do not have a local connection and cannot prove it, the ad is rejected. About once a week, someone tries to place an ad in this newspaper's Web page and the printed edition. Because A.M. Costa Rica does not use expensive print technology, the ad is suspect immediately. Advertising workers have a reader to thank for alerting them that an ad for a teacup Yorkie was a scam. Such an ad was placed once, and a reader alerted the ad staff that it was a fake, an effort to steal money from readers.

Typically scam paid ads are placed using fake certified checks or stolen credit cards. The Nigerian telephone sales scheme presented A.M. Costa Rica with two credit card numbers. Each bore a name unrelated to the transaction. Scammers collect, market and resell credit card info.

Scammers recognize that a newspaper ad carries more prestige than a mere email message.

Local hotel owners constantly complain about approaches made by scammers in which they seek to make reservations via email for a group of visitors from a far place. A party of 10 for two weeks is an attractive sale for most hotel operators. But the scammer plans to pay for the reservations with faked or stolen credit cards and then seek refunds with real money when the deal is canceled.

Email is fertile ground for scammers. Investigators report that Internet cafes in Lagos and other Nigerian cities are open 24 hours a day to accommodate the many scammers and their schemes. Nigeria is notorious, but it would be unfair to think all scam email comes from there. Russia, Poland, China and even the United States produce millions of scam emails a day.
partners in crime
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Partners in crime

One fake email Tuesday purports to come from the U.S. Embassy in Lagos. It offers $9.5 million to those who have been scammed by Nigerians. Another email, this one via Dubai, claims in broken English that a hotel made an error and the recipient is due $1,785. “In the attachment you will find expense sheet with the sum of wrong transaction writing-down,” it says. Instead of a scam this may be an effort to infect computers with viruses that can be used later by the emailer.

A.M. Costa Rica has published ads editors wished they did not. One long-running real estate ad promoted a Pacific project that was no more than a fancy entry gate. When sales of lots slowed, the operators vanished with buyers' money.

Of course, there also were the ads placed in A.M. Costa Rica and The Tico Times by Roy Taylor and his Vault operation. Taylor shot himself when investigators detained him in his Avenida Central offices. That was in 2003.

In a curious situation, the Tico Times ran big ads promoting Taylor's enterprises while a reporter in the same offices was writing articles highly critical of the faltering firm.

A.M. Costa Rica also published ads for Paragon Properties. Editors personally inspected the Paragon properties near Parrita and kept track of the legal documents that were being issued to would-be expats who purchased lots. Still, nearly all purchasers lost their investments when the business collapsed in the face of a market downturn.

That case has generated U.S. court actions.

The frequency of scam emails seems to have increased, perhaps because of economic contraction. And scammers are getting more sophisticated. Some construct Web pages to support their claims to be a legitimate business and suck readers in.

Meanwhile, the individual in Nigeria known as Billy Kasht says he is not a scammer. In response to an A.M. Costa Rica story featuring his operation Tuesday he wrote: “We have branch in Nigeria,Uk,US.Our email have been hacker by internet hacker before we trace them down.Believe in us.We are not for scam.Waiting your reply now.”

eddi system
Tributación placed a small notice on its Web site about the change.
Tax collection agency pulls a fast one on sales tax reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In another example of the government slogan “We make easy hard,” the tax collecting agency has quietly changed the rules on presenting sales tax reports and now requires citizens to have a personal computer with a special download.

Hundreds of expats were left in the lurch when banks refused to accept the three part D-104 form that has been used in the past. Workers at the Dirección General de Tributación warned those who complained that they had to file the paperwork by the end of business Wednesday or be subjected to a 64,000-colón fine, about $128.

Tributación is the same agency in charge of collecting the luxury home tax and will be involved in any new taxes passed by the legislature, except the tax on corporations, which will be sent to the Registro Nacional.

Efforts to teleohone Tributación officials Wednesday afternoon were met with a recording of “Ode to Joy.”

The decree making the change was published in the La Gaceta official newspaper June 15 and covers tax reports for July and thereafter. The decree was by Francisco Villalobos Brenes, director general.

The tax collecting department has updated its EDDI-7 online system to handle Windows 7. Those who use Macintosh or other computers that do not run a Microsoft
operating system are out of luck. The agency decided to have taxpayers download the programs rather than using a more modern Web-based program.

Tributación workers said that in addition to the La Gaceta publication, ads were taken in a few Spanish-language newspapers. There were no press releases that were received by A.M. Costa Rica. There was no advertising in English. There was no distribution of the decree, except, perhaps, to accountancy organizations.

Strangely after a taxpayer has downloaded the programs and filled out the form, it still must be printed and hand carried to a bank for filing. Eventually the EDDI system will accept the filings online but not now.

Downloads appeared to be taking hours Wednesday afternoon because the agency's computers could barely handle the demand. The programs need 200 megabytes of space on individual computers. The agency said that disks containing the program are available at its offices.

In addition to the monthly report on sales tax collection, the system also must now be used for the annual income tax report.

The agency said that the EDDi system automatically calculates taxes due for companies and individuals.
Tributación placed a small notice on its Web site about the change.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 162

Christmas season has arrived already in some retail outlets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ho, Ho Ho! It is not too early for those little words. Christmas is just around the corner. Actually, it is here at PriceSmart.

The retailer had Christmas goodies on its shelves Monday.

The ornaments and train sets are awaiting early shoppers. Also on display are dolls and candle holders. The full weight of the Christmas inventory is not yet on the shelves, but some shoppers were surprised by how early the store is beginning to push the holiday.
Universal usually erects a giant Santa at its La Sabana branch sometime in September. Christmas is still four months way.

U.S. citizens usually expect to begin the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 24 this year. But even there retailers are pushing the start of the holiday earlier and earlier. This is particularly true this year when economic uncertainties might jeopardize the shopping frenzy.

Costa Rica still has its independence day in September and the Día de la Cultura in October before most eyes turn to Christmas.

Mineral extraction and other ocean threats concern scientists
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A team of international scientists is urging measures to protect the Earth's most vast and uncharted territory: the deep sea. The deep sea and its denizens are already facing threats from human activities such as resource exploitation and global warming. Experts say even more threats lie ahead and they warn that while the deep sea environment may be out of sight and out of mind, the consequences of its destruction could be far-reaching and irreversible.

The Census of Marine Life was a scientific survey of the flora and fauna in the world's oceans, including five deep-sea ecosystems. Cindy Van Dover, professor of biological oceanography at Duke University, explains the purpose of the census.

"It was designed to explore what creatures live in the sea, what are they doing there, what were they like in the past, what will they be like in the future," said Ms. Van Dover.  "It was an effort to bring an international community together to ask questions, where there were synergies that could be developed from working with people from different countries different assets, and begin to build our understanding of what lives in the sea and what will live in the sea."

During the 10-year survey, which ended in 2010, Ms. Van Dover and other scientists began to see the threats facing marine biodiversity, especially near the ocean floor.  They highlight some of those concerns about the human impact on the deep sea in a newly published paper. Ms. Van Dover is particularly worried about the exploitation of the deep sea's mineral resources.

"There are mining companies that want to extract the minerals on which these animals live," Van Dover added.  "So if you were to take away the substratum, you also would take away the animal. How many habitats could you remove? They would re-colonize, but there'll be a tipping point where there's not enough brood stock left to populate the site. It's real easy to very quickly exhaust a resource because the reproductive rates aren't fast enough to replenish."

Ms. Van Dover says widespread mining of ocean-bottom muds containing valuable rare earth elements, manganese nodules and sulphide deposits is inevitable. But she warns that unless these operations are carefully executed, with restoration programs in place, marine biodiversity will be lost.

Lisa Levin is a professor of biological oceanography at the
Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California. She worries
about how rising temperatures in the atmosphere also bring about change in the ocean. Among the likely scenarios, she says, are stratification, acidification, and changes in nutrient distribution, temperature profiles, and oxygen levels. So how will these changes affect deep sea creatures?

"We don't actually know! The jury is out. People haven't done the studies," said Ms. Levin who is worried about species extinction, and notes that extinctions have their own set of consequences.  "We almost certainly will see some changes in range distributions and when one species appears or disappears, of course its predators and its prey, also have changing interactions."

Experts say species that are narrowly distributed and do not have high reproductive rates are very sensitive to small disturbances. Unfortunately, this applies to many species in the deep ocean.

But scientists point out that the ocean is not just the most diverse habitat on earth, it is also the evolutionary starting point for all life on Earth. Craig Smith, professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii, says that's why the deep sea is so vulnerable and valuable to us today.

"It actually contains a lot of unique evolutionary information and a lot of that information may be valuable in terms of biotechnology," explained Smith.  "Extinction is permanent, when you cause reduced biodiversity through extinction, you're changing the course of life of evolution on this planet which is the most unique thing about our planet and to be changing that is a pretty undesirable thing to be doing."

Smith says maintaining the biodiversity and health of the deep ocean is just as important as extracting its commodities. And he hopes policymakers understand that. He and the other scientists involved in the Census of Marine Life program hope that their reports do more than just synthesize their data.  They want it to capture the attention of the world's scientists, private citizens, and the myriad industries that value the ocean's resources.

The goal, Ms. Van Dover says, is to promote ocean stewardship, restoration, mitigation and conservation.

"I'd like for someone 50 years from now someone to look back at how we've regulated the deep ocean industry and say 'man, these guys got it right when they first started.' And that's a tough thing to do and I don't know if we're going to get it right.  But we sure have to try," said Ms. Van Dover.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 162

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Fitch does not reduce
U.S. credit rating of AAA

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Fitch rating agency is keeping its top-level credit rating on the United States. Fitch says it kept the AAA credit rating in place because the U.S. economy is flexible, diversified, and wealthy, which helps the nation adjust to marketplace shocks.

The rating decision by Fitch follows an Aug. 5 downgrade of U.S. debt by rival Standard & Poor's that sparked a sharp drop in global stock markets. 

In the meantime, a series of reports paint a mixed picture of the U.S. economy. Tuesday's data from the Commerce Department says the number of housing starts dropped 1.5 percent in July. If construction continued at the same pace for a full year, just 604,000 homes would be built. Experts say that is far below the level seen in a healthy housing market.

A separate report showed industrial production rose in July as carmakers started to recover from the supply disruptions caused by Japan's natural disasters. The U.S. central bank says production at factories, mines and utilities gained nine-tenths of a percent in July, which is a bigger gain than the previous month.

Still another report showed that the costs of goods imported to the United States rose three-tenths of a percent in July, in part due to increasing oil costs.

And U.S.-based WalMart, the world's largest retailer, has not yet been able to boost sales in its home market. But WalMart's international sales helped the store's overall profits grow by 5.7 percent in April, May, and June.

DNA links Argentine guide
to dead French tourist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Authorities in Argentina say DNA evidence has linked a 24-year-old Argentine tour guide to the recent murder of two French tourists.

A spokesman from the prosecutor's office in the province of Salta Tuesday said DNA taken from the body of 24-year-old Moumni Houria matches that of suspect Gustavo Lasi.  He is one of eight suspects arrested in the case.

Separately, one suspect, María Canizares, was found to be in possession of a cell phone and a camera belonging to one of the victims, but Canizares said the items had been given to her by Lasi, her boyfriend.

The remains of Ms. Houria and her traveling companion, 29-year-old Cassandra Bouvier, were discovered last month in a tourist area in northern Argentina's Salta province.  Both tourists had been shot, and authorities say one of the women was sexually assaulted.  The two were last seen alive at an area hostel July 16.

Smoking contributes more
to bladder cancer, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Experts have known for some time that cigarette smoking causes a variety of cancers. A new analysis points to smoking as the cause of about half of all cases of bladder cancer in both men and women, more than previously believed. 

More than 350,000 people around the world are diagnosed each year with cancer of the bladder, the organ in the lower abdomen that stores and releases urine.

A 2009 study of smokers in the U.S. state of New Hampshire caught the attention of Neal Freedman, a scientific investigator at the U.S. National Cancer Institute. He and colleagues noticed an unusually high number of cases of bladder cancer attributed to smoking.

They investigated the connection further by analyzing data collected on 500,000 people taking part in the National Institutes of Health's Diet and Health Study. Participants in the long-term study, which began in 1995, were between the ages of 50 and 71 at the start.

When Freedman looked at follow-up data on the participants gathered in 2006, he found that 4,500 of the men and women had developed bladder cancer.

“In our study, current smokers had four times the risk of bladder cancer than never-smokers.  And this was higher than observed in previous cohorts which were established in earlier time periods, between the 1960s, 70s and 80s," he said.

Freedman says in those earlier studies of cohorts, or participants, smokers' risk of bladder cancer was just three times higher. “The other interesting finding that we saw was that smoking explained approximately 50 percent of bladder cancer in both men and women in our study.  Previous studies were performed in populations where women smoked less than men.  And in those studies smoking explained about 50 percent of bladder cancer in men but only between 20 and 30 percent in women," he said.

In addition, Freedman says the composition of cigarettes has changed since the 1960s.  While levels of tar and nicotine have been reduced, the researcher says it appears there’s been an increase in a number of known cancer-causing chemicals, including beta napthylamine, which has been linked to bladder cancer.

The new study also found an increased risk of bladder cancer in former smokers.

An article featuring the bladder cancer study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 162

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Principal Services president
on trial in San José courtroom

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Elwyn Ralph Jacobs, the former president of Principal Services S.A., is on trial in a San José court. The case is expected to continue until Sept. 17.

Jacobs is one of two men who had been sought on fraud allegations related to the high interest firm. Jacobs is in his 80s, but one investor denies he had a passive role in the company. He signed the introductory letter back in 2000, and he signed the promissory notes to repay the investments, said one Canadian investor who is in town to testify.

Not on trial is Gerard Latulippe, who also had been arrested in the United States. He is reported to be ill.

Principal closed its doors in March 2003. Investors had been promised a 4 percent monthly return on investments. They were told that their money would be used for venture capital projects. Some investors had put more than $1 million in the business.

A salesman, Michael James Forrest, was acquitted in an earlier trial in which a judicial panel placed the bulk of the blame on the company and its officers.

The Principal case dragged on, in part because the English translations of arrest warrants issued here were faulty. That delayed the extradition process.

Fugitive from Costa Rica
returned from United States

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Costa Rican national wanted on an International Criminal Police Organization red notice for indecent assault, sexual abuse of a minor and corruption of minors in his native country has been deported from the United States by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Enforcement and Removal Operations officers.

The man, Gerardo Cajina Badilla, 49, was removed to San José, Costa Rica, from Newark Liberty International Airport. Upon his arrival in San Jose, U.S. officers turned him over to Costa Rican law enforcement authorities. He faces up to 15 years in prison for these offenses.

Cajina Badilla was the subject of a Costa Rican arrest warrant and red notice since May 2006. He fled Costa Rica to avoid prosecution and entered the United States illegally in February 2005. He remained in the United States without authorization. Cajina Badilla was placed in removal proceedings, and on June 15, 2005, an immigration judge ordered him removed from the United States in absentia. On July 26, fugitive operations officers took Cajina Badilla into custody at Newark Liberty International Airport. He has remained in custody in New Jersey since his arrest.

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