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Published  Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 168
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poark stamp
This is the two-stamp set that is available on Correo's Internet virtual store.
Parque las Baulas and nation's rangers share honors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

National parks were the center of attention Wednesday as Costa Rica marked the Día de los Parques Nacionales.

Correos de Costa Rica came out with its annual national park stamp.  This year the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas on the Pacific coast is featured as well as the leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that frequent the park.

The stamps have face values of 1,379 and 2,100 colons. Environmental groups participated in the design.

In another parks-related development, President Luis Guillermo Solís announced a 25 percent pay raise for park rangers and forest fire fighters to compensate for time outside of normal work hours when they have to protect the environment. The increase for those who work 

in the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de
Conservación will begin in October, officials said. The executive branch also hopes to create 130 new positions.

The central government also said that about 5 billion colons, about $9.2 million, will be invested in national parks and protected areas.
The money will come from a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.

In the legislature, Frente Amplio presented a bill Wednesday to tax non-returnable plastic bottles and those cardboard containers for other drinks. The sliding scale tax would benefit the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación.  The political party said that Costa Rica uses 622 million plastic bottles a year and that only a small percentage is recycled.

The tax would not apply to milk or medicine containers, a summary said.

An A.M. Costa Rica editorial
Costa Rica should not be a patsy for U.S. drug policy

We are suggesting that Costa Rica just say no to the war on drugs. And we renew our call to have the country legalize marijuana, cocaine and the related substances.

The last straw is the donations by the United States of aircraft, interceptor boats, coast guard stations, radar and similar gifts that will not help the average Costa Rican in any way. The sole purpose is to tighten up the surveillance of the oceans and highways to interdict drugs going north.

We concede that these substances are unhealthy and can lead to addiction. But so can Johnny Walker.

There is no reason for Costa Rica to continue to be a pawn of the United States and its failed drug policy. Obviously there is a big market for these drugs here and in the United States.

Police here are busy each day bagging smugglers and ripping the metal gates off the 

home of neighborhood drug dealers. Talk about
spinning your wheels. The ministry complains there are not enough cops and is pushing hard for yet another tax.

We wonder what the results would be of Monday morning drug tests of members of the U.S. Congress, Costa Rica’s legislature and even staffers at the U.S. Embassy here. We already know that the U.S. commander in chief is no marijuana virgin.

Marijuana would be a great cash crop for Costa Rica as U.S. states lower the drug barriers. And taxing marijuana and cocaine would go a long way to solving the national deficits of both countries.

And there is so much cocaine out there that if all of it reached the United States prices would fall dramatically and drug lords would be hitting the streets with tin cups.

Or maybe that is the concern.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 168
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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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Uber case
Ministerio de Seguirdad Pública photo
Motorcycle patrolmen stop the licensed taxi driver

Taxista’s temper gets him in trouble

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

To say licensed taxi drivers are unhappy with the Uber ride service is an understatement. There have been shouts, objects thrown at Uber vehicles and, of course, the taxi driver blockades that have paralyzed the Central Valley.

An example of taxi driver anger ended up being taped near Hospital Calderón Guardia Tuesday.  Local television stations aired the video.

A licensed taxi driver got out of his vehicle and approached the driver door of the Uber car. There were words and the taxi driver pulled open the door. The Uber driver told police he thought the man had a firearm.

Most taxi drivers carry some kind of weapon for self-protection and police said they found a pistol when they stopped the man several blocks away.

The Uber driver was going to file a complaint. And the taxi driver at least faces a charge of carrying a handgun.

Public officials have been unable to handle the arrival of Uber, although there are some pending Sala IV constitutional court cases. Taxi drivers have substantial investments in their businesses, and they say Uber is providing unfair competition.

An organization of taxi drivers plans to come out with a smartphone app that duplicates that used by Uber. They also plan to route payments electronically from the customer to their accounts, something Uber does now.

Ousted lawyers get police assistance

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rebelling lawyers forgot to put their board of directors on a plane to Miami. That is the usual procedure for overthrowing a Latin government.

So the ousted parties, also lawyers, did the closest thing to calling on the military. They went to the Sala IV and received legal relief and a promise of police.

The constitutional court ruled that the Fuerza Pública appear at the Colegio de Abogados so that the ousted board members, elected in December, can be seated for the next meeting.

The decision was pretty speedy. The lawyers appealed Thursday, and the decision was announced Wednesday. But magistrates are lawyers, too.

There were no tanks or even machetes at the last general meeting of lawyers. But the gathering, upset over how pensions were being handled, installed a new board of directors. Local Spanish-language newspapers called this a golpe de estado, the term for a coup d'état. There were tapes of the meeting that showed no violence but plenty of shouting in the colegio auditorium that was filled to capacity.

Talamanca seeks items for major festival

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radio Cultural La Voz de Talamanca is seeking donations for the Jala de Piedra, the major cultural-religious event among the BriBri in the Talamancas. The festival will be Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 1 and 2.

The ceremony Oct. 1 involves residents of the area carrying a giant boulder a kilometer or more over fields, mountains and rivers. Ostensibly the boulder is taken to a place where it is used to help process food for the festival, but there also is a religious aspect because the boulder, like those who carry it, are creations of God, according the event’s theme.

Sometimes the festival is used to commemorate the execution by the Spanish of  Pablo Presbere, a BriBri leader who waged war against the invaders.

The radio station said that it is seeking donations of  baskets of food, footballs, machetes, files, soccer gloves, and soccer shoes, sizes N-41 and 42, for prizes.

The radio station noted that it has limited resources and receives no government assistance. Danilo Layan, chairman of the station board, can be reached at 8319-8757 and 8390-0035.

Blaze planned to evacuate bank building

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats should plan to do their banking at Banco Nacional early today because the management has scheduled a fire.

The blaze really is a drill at the bank’s office tower in downtown San José. The structure will be evacuated at 10 a.m., the bank said in an announcement Wednesday.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 168
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The field is full of volunteers who managed to plant 5,000 saplings of native trees.
tree planting
Rios Tropicales/Mariela Chaves and Shannon Farley,

Marathon tree planting to offset carbon emission from tourism event
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A lot of sweat is needed to offset carbon emissions.  More than  350 volunteers found this out when they planted 5,000 native trees.

The tree planting in Costa Rica was to offset carbon generated by the Adventure Travel World Summit 2016 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Rios Tropicales and the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves partnered with Visit Anchorage Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Adventure Travel Trade Association to make world adventure travel conference carbon neutral.

One of the country’s largest tree planting events in one day took place on a private reserve in Bajos del Tigre in Santa Marta, Siquirres, in Limón province. The International Carbon Neutral Project Alaska-Costa Rica seeks to offset the carbon emissions generated by the summit of the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

That will be Sept. 19 to 22 in Anchorage.

The colossal tree planting event was organized by the Costa Rican whitewater rafting tour company Rios Tropicales, and the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves, in partnership with Visit Anchorage, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Alaska Airlines, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, and EARTH University. The university in Siquirres verified the tree planting and will ensure that the level of carbon compensation accurately offsets the carbon emissions generated by travel to the Anchorage summit, organizers said.

“It’s a great step toward showing the rest of the world what can be done.  This is a good example of how two countries can work together and will show other cities having conferences that they

can do things to take care of the environment,” said Rafael
Gallo, co-founder and president of Rios Tropicales and president of the Costa Rican Network of Natural Reserves. “It can be reciprocated anywhere in the world. Planting trees in Costa Rica by an adventure tour company shows the whole world how to be carbon neutral.”

Gallo and representatives from the tourism institute will represent Costa Rica at the summit.

The trees were planted on a finca owned by Gallo and his partner Jimmy Nixon, co-founder of Rios Tropicales. They offered 10 acres of their 247-acre (100-hectare) farm for the tree planting project. It is part of the large Rios Tropicales private reserve that protects 1,977 acres (800 hectares) of primary rainforest and pasture land being converted back to rainforest.

Gallo and Nixon have already reforested more than 44 acres (18 hectares) on their farm since 2008, and said they plan to reforest the entire property over the next 10 years.

Volunteers organized by the Costa Rican Network of Private Nature Reserves came from San José. Other volunteers, including 113 local schoolchildren from Jabillos, El Tigre, Tres Equis and Linda Vista, came from other areas of Costa Rica.

The saplings are 10 kinds of native hardwoods like pilon, guapinol and mountain almond that are proven to be good for climate in that region of Costa Rica. The 3,000 mountain almond trees planted will eventually provide shelter for endangered great green macaws, that live in the Caribbean region.

In about 12 to 14 years, these trees will capture the approximately 1,200 tons of carbon estimated to be produced during the Anchorage event by people traveling to the conference, principally on flights, according to Edmundo Castro, head of carbon neutrality for EARTH University.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 168
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Water techniques might have ill-served Mayans during a major drought
By the Technische Universitat Wien news staff

Something really drastic must have happened to the ancient Maya at the end of the Classic Period in the 9th century. Within a short period, this advanced civilization in Central America went from flourishing to collapsing. The population dwindling rapidly and monumental stone structures, like the ones built at Yucatán, were no longer being constructed.

The reason for this demise remains the subject of debate even today. Model calculations by Technische Universitat Wien in Vienna, Austria, may have found the explanation: the irrigation technology that served the Mayans well during periods of drought may have actually made their society more vulnerable to major catastrophes.

The lessons learned may also suggest important conclusions for the future.

"Water influences society and society influences water," says Linda Kuil, one of Günter Blöschl's doctoral students of the program on water resource systems at the university. "The water supply determines how much food is available, so in turn affects the growth of the population. Conversely, population increases may interfere with the natural water cycle through the construction of reservoirs, for example."

Researchers at the university explored the interactions between sociology and hydrology and represented them by coupled mathematical models. The emerging field of socio-hydrology establishes mathematical interrelationships, such as between food availability and birth rate, or between recent water shortages and society's plans for building water reservoirs. These kinds of interrelationships, combined with a large amount of historical and current data, ultimately yield a complex system that produces different scenarios of human–nature interactions.

"It's well-known that the Mayans built water reservoirs in preparation for dry spells," Ms. Kuil says. "With our model, we can now analyze the effects of the Mayans' water engineering on their society. It is also possible to simulate scenarios with and without water reservoirs and compare the consequences of such decisions."

As it turns out, water reservoirs can actually provide substantial relief during short periods of drought. In the simulations without reservoirs the Mayan population declines after a drought, whereas it continues to grow if reservoirs provide extra water. However, the reservoirs may also make

Technische Universitat Wien photo
Water is one of the principal needs in order to build temples like this one at Tikal.

the population more vulnerable during prolonged dry spells. The water management behavior may remain the same, and the water demand per person does not decrease, but the population continues to grow. This may then prove fatal if another drought occurs resulting in a decline in population that is more dramatic than without reservoirs.

Researchers will probably never know all the reasons for the decline of the Mayans.  Wars or epidemics may have played their part, too. The socio-hydrological model developed by the university researchers at TU Wien does, however, say that droughts and water issues are one possible explanation for their demise and shows just how vulnerable an engineered society can be.

The University of Southampton reported in 2012 that rather modest rainfall reductions between times when the Classic Maya Civilization flourished and its collapse, between 800 and 950 A.D., seems to have caused the collapse. These reductions amount to only 25 to 40 per cent in annual rainfall, but they were large enough for evaporation to become dominant over rainfall, and availability was rapidly reduced, researchers there said.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 168
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Axiom new ad

Colombia, rebel negotiators
reach historic peace accord

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The longest-running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere appears to be ending as the Colombian government reached an historic peace accord with rebel leaders Wednesday in Cuba.

The government's accord with the Fuerzas Armandas Revolucionarias de Colombia still must be ratified by voters in a referendum scheduled for Oct. 2. Analysts expect the pact to be approved easily.

"The termination of armed confrontation signifies, most importantly, the end of the enormous suffering the conflict has caused," the negotiators read from the joint statement in Havana. "We do not want there to be one more victim in Colombia. The end of the conflict will open a new chapter in our history."

The announcement of a deal after four years of talks opened the possibility for Colombians to put behind them bloodshed that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and driven more than 5 million people from their homes.

U.S. President Barack Obama called Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to congratulate him on the peace deal. The White House said, "The president recognized this historic day as a critical juncture in what will be a long process to fully implement a just and lasting peace agreement."

The accord commits Colombia's government to carrying out aggressive land reform, overhauling its anti-narcotics strategy and greatly expanding state administration of traditionally neglected rural areas of the country.

The rebel army was forced to the negotiating table after a decade of heavy battlefield losses that saw a succession of top rebel commanders killed by the U.S.-backed military and its ranks thinned by half to the current 7,000 troops.

Opponents of Santos and some human rights groups have criticized a key part of the deal that says guerrillas who confess their crimes won't spend any time in prison and will instead be allowed to serve out reduced sentences of no more than eight years by helping rebuild communities hit by the conflict.

Another toad to swallow, as Santos calls the concessions he's had to make, will be the sight of former rebel leaders occupying seats in congress specially reserved for the rebels’ still-unnamed political movement. The exact number of such seats was among the last details being decided in marathon 18-hour sessions taking place in recent days.

Nearby earth-like planet
jacks up odds of many more

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An international team of astronomers have discovered a rocky earth-like exoplanet, orbiting Proxima Centauri the closest star, other than the Sun, to the Earth. A mere 4.2 light years away.

The report was published this week in Nature, and this news is changing the world of astronomy, not only because the planet is so close, but because its existence suggests Earth like planets may be literally everywhere in our galaxy.

The planet is a little larger than the Earth, and scientists have named it Proxima b. It orbits its red dwarf sun every 11 days, and it's warm enough that if there is water on the planet, it can exist in liquid form.

Scientists have long thought that the keys to life are a warm, but not too warm planet, and water. This makes Proxima b a prime candidate in the search for life beyond earth.

Alan Boss, the chairman of NASA's advisory group for Exoplanet exploration, said the discovery of Proxima b adds to the mounting and astounding evidence that there are a lot of earth-like planets out there, more than even the most optimistic scientists could have ever hoped for.

In 1961 radio astronomer Frank Drake showed some very speculative math to another group of scientists about how many intelligent civilizations should be hanging around in the Milky Way.

It's called the Drake equation, and it's just a series of estimates that begins with a single number: how many stars are born in the Milky Way each year. Drake said it's about 10 a year, which gives an estimated 250-500 billion stars in the Milky Way.

From there Drake suggested that only a tiny fraction of those stars have planets around them and that a tiny fraction of those planets might support life. Each fraction gives a smaller and smaller number until the final value estimates the number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way.

It's speculative, but astronomers have been using telescopes like NASA's Kepler, and a host of other tools to try to put some flesh on the bones of Drake's list of unknowns. Kepler, for instance measures the tiny decreases of light that happen when a planet goes in front of its star. It's been looking for earth-like planets for years and as recently as 2013 scientists best guesses suggested that there are about a billion earths out there.

Scientists refer to the number of possible earths out there as eta-earths, and it's one of the factors in the Drake equation.

Proxima b not only confirms the discovery of a new planet, but according to Boss jacks up the number of eta-earths by a huge amount.

"Eta sub Earth is close to unity," Boss said. In math, unity means one. What Boss is saying is that it's possible, even likely that most stars may have at least one earth-like planet orbiting their sun, "which is astounding," he says. "Even the most optimistic of us would never guess 20 years ago that eta sub Earth would be that high."

So from early estimates of a billion, this new work suggests there may be as many possible earths as there are stars in the galaxy, anywhere from 250 to 500 billion, which makes the possibility of life increasingly likely. In fact, Boss says he believes human beings will prove that life isn't unique to earth in his lifetime.

"I am 65," he said, "but I expect to still be alive when it happens."

In that sense it's not just the discovery of Proxima b that's important. According to Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institute "the discovery of Proxima takes us from this vague fuzzy statistical abstraction, where we think potentially habitable planets are common, and makes the case concrete. "

The confirmation of Proxima b was made by a team of astronomers that called themselves The Pale Red Dot Campaign, led by Guillem Anglada-Escude' of Queen Mary University in London. The campaign got its name from Proxima Centauri itself which is a red dwarf, a pale red dot in the sky. The project looks for planets near Proxima Centauri based on a tiny back-and-forth wobble in the star, possibly caused by the pull of an orbiting planet.

Paul Butler from the Carnegie Institute worked with Englada-Escude' on a new program for the HARPS spectrograph on a European Southern Observatory’s telescope that made the results much more sensitive. Using the new program the team was able to find this wobble in the red dwarf. From there, Butler said the Red Dot team used the HARPS to observe Proxima Centauri at the end of the night, every night, from January through March of this year.

Proxima Centauri wobbles about 120 kilometers either towards or away from Earth every 24 hours. Astronomers using the HARPS spectrograph were able to detect that wobble from about 45 trillion kilometers away.

But they still weren't sure. The astronomers were afraid the observed wobble could just be the star's natural changes in brightness. So they did more work with the ASH2 telescope in Chile and the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network until they were sure that Proxima b really is there. For Butler, "This is the culmination of 30 years of work."

Boss says humans might be able to get a robotic spacecraft there, equipped with a camera in about 50 or so years, if it were to leave tomorrow. Of course, to do that scientists would need to get a spacecraft moving really fast, about 10 percent of the speed of light. But once the probe is there, the pictures could come back at the speed of light so its possible the next generation might see the first pictures of a planet beyond our solar system.

For the moment, Butler says the discovery of Proxima b is world changing.

“This work has resulted in the discovery of hundreds of planets around the nearest stars, and now a potentially habitable planet around the nearest star in the sky," he said. "This work confirms, that potentially habitable planets are common, and points the way to the future when such planets will be directly observed with giant ground- and space-based telescopes.”

Trump cites independence
with British exit visitor

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brought out a special guest at a rally Wednesday night in Jackson, Mississippi. He was former British Independence Party chief Nigel Farage.

Farage was a leader of the so-called Brexit campaign in which British voters chose to pull the country out of the European Union in a June referendum.

Trump was a strong supporter of Brexit, calling it Britain's independence day. As he trotted Farage onto the stage in Jackson, Trump said it is time for the U.S. to declare its independence from what he said is corporate control of the government, special interests and a rigged system.

Trump's campaign has said he plans to modify his immigration proposals in which he had promised to bar Muslims from coming to the U.S., while deporting millions of others who entered the country illegally.

He told Fox News he will soften his immigration proposals by working with illegals without granting them amnesty. But there was no sign of any softening Wednesday night.

He accused Hillary Clinton of supporting policies to help illegal immigrants while ignoring U.S. citizens and embracing globalism.

Earlier Wednesday in Tampa, Florida, Trump said he would impose tariffs on Chinese imports to the U.S. to level the field on trade.

China has to understand "we're not playing games anymore," he said.

Mrs. Clinton finally responded to Trump's repeated allegations of improprieties stemming from her affiliation with the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of State. During a nationally televised interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, her first in almost a month, Mrs. Clinton called Trump's comments ridiculous, and said her work as secretary of State was not influenced by outside sources.

Emails recently released from Mrs. Clinton's tenure at the State Department appear to show how donors to the foundation asked for and occasionally received face time with Mrs. Clinton or her staff at the State Department. Trump has seized on the issue and accused Hillary and former president Bill Clinton of setting up the charity as a business to profit from public office.

An Associated Press report from Monday shows that more than half of the non-government meetings Mrs. Clinton took as secretary of State were with donors to the Clinton Foundation. Though the meetings did not appear to violate legal agreements, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged the appearance of impropriety and dismissed it.

"I know there's a lot of smoke. There's no fire," she said during the CNN interview.

Also Wednesday, Hillary Clinton's campaign proposed a Public Health Rapid Response Fund, which would give the president authority to release millions of dollars to immediately tackle a health emergency without having to wait for Congress to approve the money.

Democrats have complained that Republicans went on summer recess without authorizing the millions of dollars the White House wants to fight a zika outbreak.

Zika has turned up in Florida and federal health experts warn that the hot and sticky Gulf states, where mosquitoes thrive, could be the next ground zero for an outbreak.

Italian death toll reaches
159 with more still missing

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Italian officials have raised the death toll from Wednesday's earthquake to at least 159 people.

Italy's civil protection agency announced the new count late Wednesday, up from 124 earlier in the day. Rescuers are continuing to search through the night for victims buried in the debris.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi traveled by helicopter to the affected areas and shook hands with the rescue volunteers. Renzi also spoke with the minister of infrastructure and the head of the civil protection agency.

He declined to make any statement to reporters, saying it was not the time to talk. Earlier, Renzi said, "No family, no city, no town will be left alone.''

The earthquake struck the region just after 3:30 a.m. local time Wednesday, causing extensive damage to three cities near the epicenter. Children were among the dead.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the epicenter of the magnitude-6.2 quake about 10 kilometers southeast of the town of Norcia.

The shaking was also felt across a large part of the Umbria region, including the capital, Rome, 150 kilometers away.

The hardest-hit areas included the towns of Amatrice and Accumoli, which was largely reduced to rubble.

"Three-quarters of the town is not there anymore,'' Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state-run broadcaster RAI. "The aim now is to save as many lives as possible. There are voices under the rubble; we have to save the people there."

The civil protection agency confirmed that 53 of the dead were in Amatrice alone, and about 150 people were still unaccounted for.

"The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me," Amatrice resident Maria Gianni said. "I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn't hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg."

Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home, said she did not know what might have happened to her loved ones.

"It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there's nothing left,'' she said.

The Rev. Savino D'Amelio, a parish priest in Amatrice, called the situation an "immense tragedy."

In the neighboring province of Marche, the earthquake was felt at 3:36 a.m. In Montefiore dell'Aso, about 90 minutes away by car from Norcia, the epicenter, the shock lasted about 30 seconds, Voice of America’s Jamie Dettmer said.

Dettmer said residents at the Hotel Magnolia, perched above a picturesque valley running into the Adriatic, were shocked by the quake's strength and duration as they evacuated the building, fearing aftershocks.

"The hotel creaked and groaned . . . as the prolonged jolt tested the building, which held up well. There was only a slight and small superficial crack in the masonry," he said.

Outside the hotel, guests trawled the internet for news and called family and friends to find out if they were all safe.

About 45 minutes later, a second, weaker temblor lasted about 20 seconds. And later on, another aftershock was felt, also lasting about 20 seconds.

Dettmer said more than 80 aftershocks have been felt since the initial large tremor in different parts of Italy.

"Italians in the central provinces of Lazio, Marche and Umbria are on edge," he said. "Many people are fearful of a repeat of the devastation caused in the 2009 earthquake that wrecked the city of L'Aquila, in which 309 people died. So far it is smaller villages that have been mostly affected."

Wednesday's quake was not far from L'Aquila.

Another village to the southeast of Norcia, Pescara del Tronto, was leveled.

Several days earlier, central Italy had experienced slight tremors.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the people and cities affected and canceled part of his general audience to pray for the victims.

German leaders have offered condolences and assistance to Italy. France is also offering Italy all the help "that might be necessary" after the deadly earthquake in Umbria.

Christos Stylianides, the European Union's crisis management commissioner, said the EU emergency response center is in contact with Italian civil protection authorities to see what additional help might be required.

Italy's civil protection agency said several hundred people were injured and many others are in need of temporary housing.

"Quakes of this magnitude at this depth in our territory in general create building collapses, which can result in deaths," said the agency's head, Fabrizio Curcio.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 168
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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
Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo
Highway officials began the demolition of this display and 105 more of the street advertising standards called mupis. Officials said that more than 400 will be eliminated because they have been erected without permission on the public right-of-way or because they are in the way of construction of  the Circunvalación Norte.

Tax fraud measure is out of committee

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee Wednesday approved, 9 to 1, a revised bill addressing tax fraud.

A benefit for expats will be that the bill, if passed in its present form by the full legislature, will require merchants to accept credit cards for all purchases. That would seem to eliminate the practice of charging more to offset bank charges. The Ministerio de Hacienda likes this requirement because it can keep track of income of private firms.

The measure also requires corporations to provide the Banco Central a list of those who benefit from the income of the firm. This is something the government wants to have to meet international standards.

The law also requires all businesses that seek licensing or other permits from municipalities to show that they are registered with the tax authorities.

The measure seeks to combat terrorism, money laundering and other forms of organized crime that involve the movement of money.

Helio Fallas, the first vice president and minister of Hacienda, expects the bill to increase tax income. The Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas also has access to the data generated by this bill.

Ministry says zika cases reach 708

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The health ministry now is reporting 708 confirmed cases of the zika virus, up from 521 the week before. Garabito and the community of Jacó still lead the totals with 147 cases and with eight new ones in the last two weeks.

Puntarenas Centro with 10 new cases ranks second with a total of  78. It is followed by Orotina with 77 of which 16 are listed as new. Esparza and Santa Cruz both have 13 new cases added to the 66 in Esparza and 60 in Santa Cruz. Quepos with 39 total cases did not show any new ones in the last two weeks. Limón added 12 to its previous total of 21.

The Ministerio de Salud said that both chikungunya and dengue infections appear to be tapering off. They are in the thousands.
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From Page 7:

Investment conference planned for Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The management of the Limón Roots magazine and local business leaders are hosting an investment conference Monday and Tuesday in Limón Centro.

The event is part of the Festival Afrocultural Limón Roots 2016. It will be in the  Westfalia Beach Events Center. This is the third such conference.

The goal of the international event is to foster development in the Caribbean port city and surrounding area.

Limón is getting an economic boost by the construction of a $1 billion container handling terminal. Not only will the terminal provide jobs but the concession payments by the Dutch firm, APM Terminals, doing the construction will be used to enhance the living conditions in the province of Limón. The government has an elaborate plan.