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Published Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 177
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Drug war escalates into death off the Isla de Coco
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Coast Guard appears to have moved its policy of shooting at the boats of smugglers further south.

The latest reported incident, a fatal one, happened in the Pacific west of Costa Rica’s  Isla de Coco last week.

There have been reports for a long time that members of the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter patrols would fire bullets into the outboard engines of suspected smugglers’ crafts. In fact, smugglers have been known to throw their bodies over the outboards to protect them with the belief that the U.S. Coast Guard would not fire on a human.

The Coast Guard was believed to have declined to carry out this policy when involved with chases in or near Costa Rican waters.

The encounter west of the Isla de Coco involved a helicopter operating from a Coast Guard cutter patrolling the area.

The U.S. agency said that a marksman aboard the helicopter fired warning shots in front of a vessel that was being chased and the shots were ignored by the vessel’s crew.  The marksman then fired rounds into the vessel's outboard engines, disabling the vessel and bringing the pursuit to a halt, the agency said in a report.

When a Coast Guard crew boarded the boat, they said they found that one of the individuals there was injured. He died.

An investigation is underway to review and to determine what caused the suspected smuggler’s fatal injuries, the Coast Guard said.

The agency did not say if any drugs were found.

Greek adaptation as opera to be major March event
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three government agencies are joining with the Teatro Nacional to present an opera in March based on the Fifth Century B.C. Greek trilogy “Oresteia.”

Representatives from the Corte Suprema de Justicia, the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud and the Corte Suprema de Justicia signed an agreement to that effect Tuesday at the theater.

Although the original plays by Aeschylus were dramas, the proposed opera is one work and has a cast of 25.

The president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Zarela Villanueva Monge, said that the agreement supports the Costa Rican culture and the system of justice.

In the third play, Orestes is put on trial for the murder of his mother, Clytemnestra, because she killed his father, the Trojan war hero and king Agamemnon because he killed their daughter, Iphigenia, as a sacrifice before going to war.  Agamemnon’s Trojan slave Cassandra also dies.

Greek dramas are not for the faint of heart. A playgoer was reported to have dropped dead at the plays’ debut in 458 B.C.

A 19th century Russian opera of the same name tip-toed around the bloodletting by having all the crimes take place off-stage.  Aeschylus added in other murders and even

The Furies
 ‘Orestes Pursued by the Furies’ is an 1862
 work by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

cannibalism, gods, Furies and a ghost.

In the murder trial, Orestes is defended by Apollo, and Athena is the chief judge of the 13-member tribunal.  Orestes is acquitted when Athena breaks a tie vote and rules that ties henceforth will mean acquittal. The play is considered a contrast between vengeance, the eye for an eye concept, and modern justice.

The director of the original work is Luis Fernando Gómez, and the debut is March 9. In Spanish the work is called “La Orestiada” de Esquilo, with the latter word being the translation of Aeschylus. The original Greek works are the only existing example of a trilogy.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 177
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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.


Dr. Gray
Dr. Lucinda Gray
California Licensed
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Residency experts

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Search follows complaint of degree sales

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators searched a private university Tuesday in what they described as an investigation of the sale of advanced degrees.

The location was the Universidad de San José in San Francisco de Dos Ríos. The university said Tuesday evening that seven files were involved and that it cooperated with investigators.

The university said on its Facebook page that in an open society everyone is open to malintentioned allegations.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the complaint involved master’s and licenciaturas degrees in law, accounting, nutrition, administration and others. The judicial agency said that files were obtained as were backups of electronic documents.

The 24-year-old university said it promised to defend its name and noted that no criminal charges have been filed.

University degrees are more important in Costa Rica than elsewhere because they are directly linked to salary steps on the minimum wage scale.

Father dies at daughter’s wedding

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A South Carolina man died in Costa Rica Saturday from an apparent heart attack while he was attending the reception following his daughter’s marriage.

The man was Timothy Buchanan, 54, a detective with the York County Sheriff's Office in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The death has been reported internationally because a family friend created an online funding page to seek money to bring the body home. The page says that more than half of the requested $20,000 had been raised already.

The news story also included a photograph of the man kissing his daughter, Michele, after dancing with her. The daughter lives in Costa Rica. The man’s wife, Jeni, a professional wedding photographer, took the photo.

The York County Sheriff's Office confirmed the death and expressed its sympathy.

Time to register to vote

The U.S. Federal government’s overseas voting agency has issued a reminder that Nov. 8 is the presidential election.

“It is time for Americans living, working or traveling abroad to take steps to vote,” said the agency,” the Federal Overseas Voting Program.

Helping overseas Americans is difficult because each state has its own rule, and expats are supposed to vote in the U.S. state where they last were a resident.

Many overseas voters will receive absentee ballots from their registered county of residency. Others may elect to file a federal absentee ballot just for federal offices.

In addition to the federal program, the Overseas Voting Foundation can assist voters. The Web site gives deadlines for each state, plus other information.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 177
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Government seeking opinions
on where there is corruption

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The open government initiative, Gobierno Abierto, is asking residents to give their opinions on where they find corruption in their daily lives.

The initiative has put a survey form online.

The responses will help eliminate corruption completely and take the corrective actions, said the summary.

The administration created Gobierno Abierto in December. The goal, it said, is to transform the culture and try to improve the relations of public institutions with the citizenry as well as to make it easy for people to exercise their rights effectively.

Among other questions, the survey asked whether they face corruption more in the public or private sector.

The summary said that eventually Gobierno Abierto will propose laws and other legal reforms to detect and penalize corruption. The survey form is HERE!


Circunvalación will pass under those traffic-snarling circles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those remaining traffic circles on the southern Circunvalación will remain because highway officials plan to put underpasses below.

The projects are at the Garantías Sociales and la Bandera circles and the Guadalupe intersection.

Bids for the Garantías Sociales job in Zapote are expected to be sought in October. Plans also call for an elevated section of the highway near the Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro.

In all, these represent $207 million in work, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.

The traffic circles have long been a source of tie ups, and the government has been working for years to eliminate them.

The most recent project was at Paso Ancho where an underpass opened last month. In that project, the traffic circle

traffic circle
Ministerio de  Obras Públicas y Transportes graphic
This is a rendering of the Garantías Sociales traffic circle showing the main highway passing beneath.

was removed and replaced with the underpass and access ramps.

The Circunvalación Norte project that will loop around the capital from La Uruca to Tibás will cost an additional $147 million, the ministry said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 177
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Some ants have not domesticated their garden fungus, researcher finds
By the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute news staff

Skinny lines of ants snake through the rainforest carrying leaves and flowers above their heads, fertilizer for industrial-scale, underground fungus farms. Soon after the dinosaur extinctions 60 million years ago, the ancestors of leaf-cutter ants swapped a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for this bucolic existence on small-scale subsistence farms.

A new study at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá revealed that living relatives of the earliest fungus-farming ants still have not domesticated their crop, a challenge also faced by early human farmers.

Modern leaf-cutter ants cannot live without their fungus, and the fungus cannot live without the ants. In fact, young queens carry a bit from the nests where they were born when they fly out to establish a new nest. The fungus, in turn, does not waste energy-producing spores to reproduce itself.

“For this sort of tight mutual relationship to develop, the interests of the ants and the fungi have to be completely aligned, like when business partners agree on all the terms in a contract,” said Bill Wcislo, deputy director at the institute and co-author of the new publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We found that the selfish interests of more primitive ancestors of leaf-cutting ants are still not in line with the selfish interests of their fungal partner, so complete domestication hasn’t really happened yet.”

Just as human farmers harvest their vegetables before they go to seed, ants want their fungus to minimize the amount of energy it puts into creating inedible mushrooms full of spores. It is best for the ants if the fungus grows more of the fungal hyphae that fill up the chambers in their underground gardens and serve as food for the ants and their larvae.

In a study of Mycocepurus smithii, an ancestor of the leaf cutters that has not yet domesticated its fungal crop, at the Smithsonian research center in Gamboa, Panamá, Jonathan Shik of the University of Copenhagen, and collaborators discovered that the ants adjust the protein and carbohydrate concentration of the mulch they provide to minimize the amount of mushrooms that their non-domesticated fungal cultivars produce. When they provide mulches rich in carbohydrates, the fungus can produce both hyphae and

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute photo
Costa Rican gardeners do not like leaf-cutters. This one is climbing on the mycelium of the fungus.

mushrooms, but carefully provisioned doses of protein can prevent the fungi from making mushrooms. However, this strategy of keeping their fungus in line requires that the total output of their fungus gardens remain low.

“The parallels between ant fungus farming and human agriculture are uncanny,” Shik said. “Human agriculture evolved in the past 10,000 years.”

“It took 30 million years of natural selection until the higher attine ants fully domesticated one of their fungal symbiont lineages. We think that finally resolved this farmer-crop conflict and removed constraints on increased productivity, producing the modern leaf-cutter ants 15 million years ago,” Boomsma said. “In contrast, it took human farmers relatively little time to domesticate fruit crops and to select for seedless grapes, bananas and oranges.”

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 177
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Axiom new ad

Presidential race appears
to be a tie based on poll

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In the U.S. presidential race, a new CNN-ORC poll shows Republican Donald Trump with a two-point (45-43) lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton continues to lead in most surveys, but the CNN poll is the latest of several recent national and state polls that indicate the race for the White House is tightening with about two months to go until Election Day.

Republican Donald Trump recently discussed foreign policy in Virginia but could not resist highlighting the good news in the latest poll.

“CNN came out with a big poll. Their big poll came out today that Trump is winning. It’s good psychology. I know that for a fact because people that didn’t call me yesterday, they are calling me today. So that’s the way life works, right?” said Trump.

Mrs. Clinton still leads in most national polls and in most of the key battleground states where both campaigns will focus over these final two months.

She went after Trump during a rally in Florida.

“And he demeans Muslims and attacks a Gold Star family whose son died in action in Iraq. That’s not who we are. So yes, we have a lot of plans, but we also have values, my friends, and we are going to stand up for American values!” said Mrs. Clinton.

The race is tightening in part because Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses are in the spotlight, said expert Stephen Wayne.

“There are a number of people who don’t think she is honest and trustworthy. She seems to be a very authentic politician in an anti-politician age,” said Wayne.

But Trump also suffers from high disapproval ratings, said Gallup pollster Frank Newport.

“It’s troublesome for both people. I think the Hillary Clinton campaign thinks about it a lot, how can we change her image? But that is hard to do, you know. It is kind of baked-in at this point,” said Newport.

Mrs. Clinton hopes to hold on to what was a big lead in the polls after the party conventions, helped in part by a number of Trump controversies, said analyst Jeremy Mayer.

“It is possible that Donald Trump will win this race. But in order to do so he will have to come back from a larger deficit than any presidential candidate in the modern era of polling. No one has come back as far and as quickly as he now needs to do,” said Mayer.

Trump and Mrs. Clinton are already preparing for the next major event in the race, the first presidential debate, set for Sept. 26.

Trump says refugee risks
are just too great to accept

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Tuesday that the American people have big hearts but cannot take the risk of refugees.

Trump answered questions before a primarily pro-military crowd in Virginia Beach, Virginia with retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a strong Trump supporter, doing the asking.

Trump said the U.S. could not allow thousands of refugees from the Mideast and South Asia into the country until it knew what's going on.

He said migrants had been a disaster for Germany and France, because of an increase in crime. But German police have said the numbers of crimes committed by Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis are much lower than acts committed by other groups seeking asylum.

Trump accused Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton of wanting a 500 percent increase in the number of migrants allowed to enter the country, calling it unacceptable, and said Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama wanted to treat illegal immigrants better than U.S. military veterans.

He said the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and five other world powers turned Iran itself into a world power overnight.

He assailed Secretary of State John Kerry for negotiating what he called a dumb deal, and said that thanks to what he called incompetence by Obama and Mrs. Clinton, Iran and Islamic State militants would share Iraq's oil.

Appearing in Tampa, Florida, Mrs. Clinton said it was Trump who had turned his back on U.S. service members, calling his campaign one long insult to those who have worn the uniform to protect American values.

She said Trump-owned companies had fired veterans who took time off to fulfill their military obligations. And she reminded voters of his public feud with the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.

Mrs. Clinton called it mind-boggling that Trump has hinted at using nuclear weapons against terrorists, saying he had no clue what he was talking about.

She accused Trump of calling global warming a Chinese-created hoax, while asking for sea walls to protect his golf courses from rising tides.

Trump won the endorsement Tuesday of 88 retired generals and admirals who said they believed he would rebuild the country's military and secure its borders But he got a major blow when the traditionally conservative Dallas Morning News refused to endorse him for president.

The newspaper published an editorial saying "Trump doesn't reflect Republican ideals of the past. We are certain he shouldn't reflect the GOP of the future. Donald Trump is not qualified to serve as president and does not deserve your vote."

This was the first time since 1964 that the Dallas Morning News had declined to endorse a Republican for the White House.

Bill Cosby trial set for June 5
in a 2004 sex assault case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Pennsylvania judge has set June 5 as the date for the sexual assault trial of American comedy icon Bill Cosby.

Cosby and his lawyers appeared at a hearing Tuesday in another effort to avoid bringing the criminal case to trial or having it moved out of the Philadelphia suburbs, where the alleged crimes took place.

Cosby is accused of sexually assaulting a college basketball team manager in 2004.

Prosecutors at Tuesday's hearing say they want at least 13 other women who have accused Cosby of attacking them to testify.

If convicted, Cosby could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He already pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing and is free on $1 million bail.

Cosby is accused of sexually assaulting former Temple University basketball team manager Andrea Constand in his Philadelphia home, where she had visited the comic seeking career advice.

According to a police report, Cosby gave her pills and wine that made her legs feel like jelly, leaving her dizzy, nauseous and unable to fight back when Cosby allegedly fondled her.

Cosby told police he gave her Benadryl, an over-the-counter medicine used for allergies and insomnia, and insisted that any sexual relations with Constand were consensual.

Ms. Constand settled a civil suit against Cosby in 2006.

More than 50 women allege that Cosby sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1960s when he emerged as a major comedy star. The Constand case is the only one set for a criminal trial.

Cosby is known for his stand-up comedy routines focusing on his Philadelphia childhood and growing up in a middle class African-American family.

He played a genial and wise doctor in his 1980’s television comedy series “The Cosby Show.” It was the country's most popular television series for several years, but is scarcely rebroadcast anymore.

Thousands pass by the urn
holding Juan Gabriel ashes

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Thousands of fans have paid their final respects to singer Juan Gabriel in Mexico City, many traveling from across the country to bid farewell to the entertainer who died late last month from a heart attack at the age of 66.

Crowds lined up Monday at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts, filing past an urn holding Gabriel's ashes.

"Juan Gabriel is not dead. Juan Gabriel continues on in the hearts of all Mexicans and we're going to continue to remember him through his songs," fan Juan Duran said.

Born in 1950 into a poor family in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, Gabriel, whose real name was Alberto Aguilera, rose to stardom, selling millions of albums internationally.

Chicago facing an increase
in the city’s murder rate

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The midwestern U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois is reeling from a deadly Labor Day holiday weekend in which 13 people were shot to death, pushing the homicide rate this year to levels not seen in two decades.

The Chicago Police Department said 488 people have been killed this year, mostly by gunfire, a homicide count the nation's third largest city has not experienced since the 1990's, when homicides peaked at more than 900 a year.

The Chicago Tribune reports there were 512 homicides this year, higher than police department numbers, which do not include killings on area expressways and homicides that were determined to be justifiable.

The city's homicide total last year was 481.

The Labor Day weekend killings follow 90 homicides in August, the most in Chicago since June 1993. If the killings go unabated, homicides there could top 600 for the first time since 2003.

Homicides in Chicago this year exceed combined totals in New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in the United States.

Chicago police blame the surge in killings on repeat offenders and the widespread availability of illegal guns.

Although crime rates in Chicago and the rest of the U.S. remain well below those between 1990 and 1995, homicides began to surge in numerous large cities last year.

First face transplantee dies
11 years after operation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Frenchwoman who received the world's first partial face transplant has died, 11 years after the surgery that opened the way for dozens of other transplants worldwide.

The Amiens University Hospital in northern France announced Tuesday that Isabelle Dinoire succumbed to cancer in April.

Her family wanted the 49-year-old's death kept private. The hospital did not release further details and it is not clear if her illness was related to the transplant.

But heavy use of immunosuppressant drugs had weakened her system.

In 2005, French doctors Bernard Devauchelle and Jean-Michel Dubernard stunned the world by announcing they had given Ms. Dinoire a donor's nose, lips, chin and parts of her cheek. She had been disfigured in a dog attack.

Ms. Dinoire's partial face transplant sparked worldwide controversy. Critics questioned the ethics and the long-term consequences of the operation.

Astronaut and two Russians
return from space station

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts wrapped up a 172-day mission aboard the International Space Station with a parachute descent and landing at dawn Wednesday on the steppes of Kazakhstan, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

The capsule made a parachute descent southeast of Zhezkazgan, disappearing into a layer of haze as it neared the ground.

It was several minutes until NASA could confirm the landing at 7:13 a.m. local time.

Station commander Jeff Williams, with the U.S. space agency, and flight engineers Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka, both with Russia's Roscosmos agency, pulled away from the space station at 5:51 p.m. as the ships sailed 258 miles (415 km) over eastern Mongolia, said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.

"I will certainly miss this view!" Williams tweeted earlier Tuesday, posting a picture of sunlight glinting off the planet.

"Vast gratitude toward my crewmates, ground teams, supporting friends, and family," Williams added.

The mission's end came as a U.S. space probe was cleared for launch Thursday to collect and return samples from an asteroid in hopes of learning more about the origins of life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system, NASA said.

Williams, 58, returned to Earth with a career total of 534 days in orbit, more time than any other astronaut in U.S. history and 14th in the world.

The Russians remain champions of long-duration spaceflight, with cosmonaut Gennady Padalka currently the world record-holder with 878 days in space over five missions.

A few pre-teens entering
classes at major universities

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Like other 12 year olds, Cendikiawan Suryaatmadja is getting ready for a new school year.

But unlike other 12 year olds, Diki will study physics and take additional classes in math, chemistry and economics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

He is one of a growing number of youngsters enrolling in universities.

"I'm very excited to meet the new students and make new friends," said the pre-teen in an interview with CBC News.

Diki, who is from West Java, a province in Indonesia, will be living with his father in an apartment near the university. The boy taught himself English in about six months by living in Singapore, reading English articles and watching subtitled English movies, especially comedies.

"Little by little, through osmosis, you can learn language," he told CBC.

South of the border, Cornell University in New York also welcomed 12-year-old first-year student Jeremy Shuler this week.

American Michael Kearney, born in 1984, remains the youngest ever to have graduated with a college degree, at age 8. He went on to teach college while still a teenager.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 177
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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Rule changed on zika and sexual contact

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The World Health Organization says it is changing its zika virus advice, telling travelers that anyone who has visited a place experiencing an outbreak should practice safe sex or abstinence for six months.

The United Nations health agency released the new guideline Tuesday, revising guidance from June that advised men to practice safe sex or abstain for eight weeks after a trip to a zika-infected location.

The revision comes as more emerging evidence shows how zika, a mosquito-borne virus, can be transmitted from person to person.

A strain found in Latin American countries has been linked to birth defects in babies born to zika-infected pregnant women.

Also a paper written by scholars at Washington University St. Louis says they have found genetic fragments of zika in the tears of infected mice, increasing concerns that there are still undiscovered ways for humans to contract the virus.

The researchers say their findings raise the possibility that human tears could carry the virus, but caution that they have not yet undertaken research to figure out whether their findings on mice are also applicable to humans. The paper is published in the journal Cell Reports.

A.M. Costa Rica archives
The old rail bridge is now used by pedestrians, and the new one-lane bailey bridge is for vehicles.

Bid award due soon for Sixaola bridge

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government expects that a successful bidder will be chosen this month for the new bridge at Sixaola. Construction would then start in February with completion expected by the end of next year.

The bridge will be part of what is called the Red Internacional de Carreteras Mesoamericanas, which is a regional integration project promoted by México.

For years, the only bridge was the former railway span, built in 1908, that now is used for pedestrians. A temporary bailey bridge carries traffic.

The United Nations Office for Project Services is coordinating the $15 million job.

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From Page 7:

Purdy donates car parts for training programs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo Purdy Motor has donated 214 car parts to students in training programs.

The parts go to the Fundación Hedwig y Robert Samuel, which works to provide training opportunities for low-income youngsters. Most of the students have not completed high school.

By using the parts they improve their knowledge of automobile repair.

This is a continuing project for the automobile dealer. The firm said it has been donating car parts since 2012 and already has given material worth 147 million colons to technical programs. That is about $270,000.