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Published Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 179
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Proposed law would make discrimination a crime
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers are considering a bill that, if passed, will have an impact on society by outlawing discrimination. For the first time, discrimination would be a criminal offense drawing prison terms.

One article of the bill outlines discrimination in general terms and provides a penalty for violation of from one to three years in prison. A second article lists specific types of discrimination and provides for a two- to four-year prison penalty.

By outlawing discrimination in broad terms, the bill would seem to permit same-sex marriages and equal pay and perhaps, unintentionally by the author, prohibit scholarships to poor students based on their economic situation. It might also prohibit charging tourists and foreigners more than residents for the same services.

The bill, however, retains selection based on achievement, such as education levels, competency and experience. The bill continues citizenship under the current definition.

Montserrat Solano Carboni, the defensora de los habitantes, appeared at the Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos Thursday to support the bill, No. 18740. She said that Costa Rica needs such a measure to halt discrimination in all aspects of  society.

She noted that the bill would be the first to apply sanctions against discrimination. She noted that the labor code does not contain a definition of discrimination now. In addition, she said that most discrimination is indirect, adding that some national policies foster indirect discrimination.

Discrimination is defined broadly in the bill to include exclusion, restrictions or preferences based on parenthood, national origin, ethnicity, color, language, religion, political opinions, social origin, economic position, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, civil state, health status, handicap, physical aspects or any other condition that impedes enjoying or exercising in equal conditions the rights, liberties and guarantees as specified in the Costa Rica Constitution.

The Constitution also includes an article mandating equality, but there are no penalties.

The defensora said that discrimination is found in access to health care, education, employment, culture, sports and recreation.

José Joaquín Porras Contreras, a former lawmaker, presented the bill in April 2013. He represented the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión.

Specifically, the bill prohibits discrimination in employment and would establish equal pay for equal work. Outlawed would be tests of pregnancy for employment unless the job was such that an unborn baby might be harmed. Also prohibited are tests for HIV. The bill text also says that disabled persons should benefit from affirmative action.

Public employees would face a 33 percent greater penalty if they are found guilty of discrimination. There also is a one or two-year prison penalty for inciting a discriminatory act. Corporations would be also penalized for acts committed by employees.

The bill also says that organizations, political parties and movements can be dissolved if they promote discrimination.

It's been 15 years since the whole world changed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday marks 15 years of a tumultuous period following jihadist attacks in the United States.

The initial impact on Costa Rica affected exports and tourism. The long-term impact is still to be documented. Individuals with Costa Rican ties have died fighting in the Middle East, and the series of wars there has cast a shadow over life here.

The Flag comes home

Most notably are the restrictions on travel and the international exchange of money. Some staying in Costa Rica have fallen victim to the infamous U.S. no-fly list. Nearly everyone else has had to take their shoes off in the U.S. and stumble in stocking feet to return home.

Costa Rica requires passports now from visiting North Americans, in part at the request of the United States.

Life has changes, but gradually. So much so that there is no public announcement for any commemorative ceremony this year to honor those thousands who died in the attacks or those who died in response.

A.M. Costa Rica archives photo 
Costa Ricans showed support and sorrow by placing floral tributes at the U.S. Embassy.

President Barack Obama will mark the day at
the Pentagon where an American Airlines crashed into the building killing more than 100 persons.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 179
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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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Business consulting to facilitate working in Costa Rica.

Telephone 8305-3149 or 2256-8620

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Whale tail
The wise tourist will not get to close to a frolicking whale.

This is the weekend for whale watching

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is the big weekend for the VIII Festival de las Ballenas y Delfines in the Bahía Ballena in southwestern Costa Rica.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas has urged those on boats to refrain from approaching or blocking the direction of the humpback whales that have traveled from Antartica.

Considering that the whales may weigh in at 40 tons, staying out of the way is a good idea.

Naturally local merchants in the vicinity of the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena also are thrilled. Among these are the boat captains who carry tourists closer to the whales. The Guardacostas will be on duty and urged those taking such rides to make sure they have the proper safety equipment, including lifejackets.

The Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía will have representatives on the beach to provide assistance and keep track of visitors there.

This is a major attraction for Costa Rica, and tourists come from great distances to see the whales congregate in the bay.

For those wanting to skip the whales, the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral plans a jocote festival at  San Gabriel de Aserrí starting today and running through Sept. 18.

In addition to the seasonal fruit, there will be music, food, rides and the usual trappings of a local Costa Rican festival.

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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 179
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Tax fraud bill includes plan to give consumers a rebate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers gave initial passage Thursday to a bill that tightens tax collections and gives consumers a 1 percentage point reward for using credit cards and other electronic means of payment.

This is the so-called fiscal fraud bill that has been strongly pushed by the administration. The vote was 40 to 4.

The measure is now expected to go to the Sala VI constitutional court for a review.

The passage was the result of agreement among the various parties in the legislature.

The bill, if passed a second and final time, requires operators of corporations to provide a list of those who are the beneficial recipients. In most cases this would be the shareholders who receive dividends. For companies that do not do business with the government, that information has been private.

Those firms that are providers for government agencies have had to disclose their ownerships for years under a different measure that was supposed to prevent self-dealing.
The fraud bill will put the maintenance of the list in the hands of the Banco Central, which will share the information with the Ministerio de Hacienda and its tax collectors and the Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas.

The goal is to track money laundering and tax evasion.

The 1 percent rebate comes from the sales tax, according to a summary of the bill. This is a new aspect. The idea is to encourage the use of credit cards, which vendors will be required to accept. That gives the tax collectors another tool to follow the money.

The bill was introduced also to conform to rules of the Grupo de Acción Financiera Internacional and the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development.

The two international organizations have been pushing for financial transparency and cross-border transfer of information on taxes and income.

Another new aspect of the bill is that there are penalties for those who help prepare fraudulent tax returns, mainly accountants and other financial workers.

Day for children includes instructions for parents via videos
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the Día Internacional de la Niñez or children’s day, and the youngsters are expecting a present.

Parents can expect instructions from officials. For example, the Defensoría de los Habitantes is expected to issue a message calling violence a grave issue for children.

In the violence category, the Defensoría puts physical punishment such as spanking. The Defensoría also said

Thursday that another problem affecting children is the lack of control over what they can see on the internet.

Montserrat Solano Carboni the defensora, prepared a video in which she said that punishment was not necessary to educate a child. And her agency put together a series of videos featuring experts addressing other issues with children. They are HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

The last one features Vilma Leandro from the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

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Palermo Hotel




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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 179
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NASA launches space probe to sample big rock that might hit Earth
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NASA spacecraft is on a mission to literally scrape up some material from the surface of a potentially dangerous asteroid named Bennu and bring it back to earth to study.

The six-meter long OSIRIS-REx lifted off to space late Thursday onboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. State of Florida.

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for, Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer, which is a fairly self-explanatory name for what NASA is hoping the spacecraft will accomplish. The mission will give NASA information about the origins and makeup of carbon-rich asteroids like Bennu.

Once it's out of Earth's orbit, OSIRIS-REx, will spend a few years in space and make contact with Bennu in 2018. Once there, the spacecraft will perform a touch-and-go maneuver on the surface to grab about 60 grams of the asteroid's surface and return a sample to Earth.

That tiny bit of Bennu, will head back to earth in the Sample Return Capsule, the only part of OSIRIS-REx to make it back to earth.  It should land safely in the Utah desert in September 2023.

Another goal of the mission is to help NASA determine the threat that asteroids like Bennu might pose for us here on earth.

Bennu is no little space rock, it has a diameter taller than New York City's Empire State Building. It is traveling at more than 100,000 kilometers per hour and weighs 60 million tons. Bennu comes within 500,000 kilometers of Earth every six years or so. If it hits the planet, it could do the same amount of damage as the asteroid that almost scoured all life some 60 million years ago.

NASA says it has a reasonably high chance of bashing into us sometime in the next century. So learning all that we can about Bennu, is in our best interests.

NASA photo
An Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

HIdden Garden graphic
Put Costa Rica on your walls
The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is the perfect place to find quality Costa Rican and international art for your home or office.  With over 60 artists and 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we have been your source for fine art since 2010.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever. Located just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport (towards the beaches).

Visit our Web site at:
Contact us by email:  
Find us on Trip Advisor, Facebook, Twitter,
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Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tel.  8386-6872 / 2667-0592; U.S. telephone 702-953-7073
International shipping available.

Click photo for another video

The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

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

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

George Lundquist

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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Consultantes Río Colorado S.A. 2016 and may not be reproduced anywhere without permission. 
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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 179
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Air China issues apology
for its London travel tip

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Air China has apologized for safety tips to London-bound travelers that have been called racist and that sparked outrage among some British politicians, one of whom invited airline officials to see for themselves how safe his multi-ethnic district is.

Thursday, China's flagship state-run airline issued a statement regarding the incident, calling some of the commentary featured in cabin magazines, “Wings of China,” inappropriate and not representative of the company's views.

"London is generally a safe place to travel," safety tips in the seat-pocket magazine say in both Chinese and English. "However, precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people."

Another tip: "We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when traveling."

Haze Fan, a Beijing-based journalist working for CNBC who was aboard the flight, was among the first passengers to photograph and Tweet portions of the text Wednesday.

"The advice is at odds with the London promoted by its Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Brit with Pakistani parents, who in July launched a #LondonisOpen campaign and frequently blogs about his favorite places to eat and drink in his South London Indian-Pakistani neighborhood of Tooting," Ms. Fan reported about her personal experience.

An Evening Standard article described the magazine passages as triggering racist storm in London, citing Rosena Allin-Khan, a parliament member for the constituency of Tooting that has a large Indian and Pakistan population, as saying the safety tips are outrageous and offensive to all Londoners.

Florence Eshalomi, London assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, told the newspaper: "You couldn't make up these outdated and near-on racist views," she said. "I keep thinking, is this 2016?"

After issuing its Thursday statement, Air China announced that all copies of the publications had been discarded and that airline officials demanded that its magazine producer acknowledge and learn from the incident.

In their own letter of apology, magazine editors said the incident was due to an editorial mistake, which is at odds with the article's initial intent to promote London's beauty and has caused misinterpretation by some media and readers.

"We would also like to send sincere apology via Air China to passengers and readers who feel uncomfortable because of this," the letter said.

This is not the first time that Chinese companies made controversial expressions via promotional materials. In May, an online detergent ad, which shows an African man coming out of the washing machine as a whiter Asian guy, triggered criticism.

U.S. anti-jihadist program
to target social media, Web

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United States is working with partners in the private sector on a program to combat the Islamic State group's extremist message on social media and the internet.

Despite military defeats across Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State continues to expand its online presence, using the Web to recruit members and spread its violent ideology, especially through the encrypted app Telegram. U.S. officials have tried varying strategies to counter that message with admittedly mixed results.

One of the Obama administration's latest approaches, initiated by an affiliate of Google, seeks to disrupt Islamic State online recruiting efforts by targeted advertising algorithms and the use of YouTube's video platform to dissuade people from enlisting with the terrorists.

Some details of the pilot program were discussed this week during a meeting at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The program, to officially launch later this month, will place advertisements on computer users' screens when certain keywords are searched. The goal is to target those who have already developed an interest in online content disseminated by the Islamic State, experts said. The ads will present the voices of influential people countering Islamic State's message.

"Citizen journalists, imams and defectors are credible voices that can answer questions that IS is raising," said Yasmin Green, head of research and development at Jigsaw, a Google-owned company spearheading the project.

The goal is to present a targeted audience with a counter-message for each message the Islamic State produces online, developers say.

"We take online content and synthesize it into a more coherent narrative," said Ross Frenett, director of Moonshot CVE, a tech startup involved in the new program that specializes in countering violent extremism.

U.S. government officials say the effort shows the importance of involving the private sector in the counter-messaging campaign against the Islamic state and other extremist groups.

"There is a tremendous overlap interest between the U.S. government and tech companies," said Richard Stengel, the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Twitter recently announced it has suspended more than 360,000 of its users' accounts during the past year because they were associated with terrorist groups or messages.

Donald Trump, Mrs. Clinton
engage in name-calling sprees

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton unleashed some of their harshest criticisms about each other to date on Thursday, a day after a televised forum on national security put each under a strong spotlight.

Appearing at a school in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump said Mrs. Clinton's performance Wednesday night provided more evidence that she was unfit to be commander in chief. Trump said Mrs. Clinton continued to refuse to take responsibility for her failed Middle East policies as secretary of State.

He called Mrs. Clinton trigger-happy in a race to invade countries and topple regimes, resulting in ruin and death in Libya, Iraq and Syria.

When she was secretary, Mrs. Clinton ran a criminal enterprise, Trump asserted, by granting favors to donors to the Clinton Foundation charity, and he accused her of smashing telephones with hammers to hide evidence from investigators.

Trump intimated that those who backed Mrs. Clinton for president were suckers.

Mrs. Clinton told a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, that Trump's comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin was far more of a leader than President Barack Obama shocked her.

"That is not just unpatriotic, it's not just insulting to the office and to the man who holds the office. It is scary, it is dangerous," she said.

Mrs. Clinton also derided Trump's so-called secret plan to defeat Islamic State. She said it was a secret because he had no plan. She also took Trump to task for commenting in public Wednesday night on a confidential national security briefing given to presidential candidates.

Trump and Clinton will square off directly in their first presidential debate on Sept. 26, with two more scheduled before the Nov. 8 election.

Another presidential candidate ran into trouble Thursday because of his apparent lack of knowledge about Syria. Libertarian Gary Johnson was asked about the city of Aleppo on MSNBC television.

"What is Aleppo?" he replied.

Johnson later said he blanked and that he knew all about the fighting and tragic humanitarian crisis in Syria's largest city.

Johnson is struggling to reach 15 percent approval in voter polls, which would allow him to take part in the debates between Trump and Clinton.

Obama denounces Trump
again as unfit to command

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

From Laos, U.S. President Barack Obama denounced Donald Trump as unfit to be the American commander-in-chief, after the Republican presidential candidate said Russian President Vladimir Putin has been more of a leader than Obama.

"I do not think the guy's qualified to be president of the United States, and every time he speaks, that opinion is confirmed," Obama said in what was an unusually caustic comment about the U.S. presidential contest while he was traveling overseas.

Late Wednesday, Trump said at a nationally televised candidate forum that Putin was "far more than our president has been a leader" and that U.S. military generals have been "reduced to rubble" under Obama.

Obama, at the end of his last presidential trip to Asia, said as president, "You actually have to know what you are talking about and you actually have to have done your homework. When you speak, it should actually reflect thought out policy you can implement."

Obama, who staunchly supports Trump's Democratic candidate, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said, "The most important thing for the public and the press is to just listen to what he says and follow up and ask questions to what appear to be either contradictory or uninformed or outright wacky ideas."

During an NBC News forum Wednesday in which Trump was interviewed separately from Clinton, Trump said he thinks if he is elected and succeeds Obama as president, he would have a "very good relationship with Putin." He said Russia and the United States have a joint interest in defeating Islamic State jihadists.

"Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do," he said. "If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS?"

He further criticized U.S. military action in Iraq under Obama, saying generals have not been successful. Trump repeated his assertion the United States should have seized oil from Iraq.

"If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn't have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and wealth of that oil," Trump contended.

As a major party candidate, Trump has received confidential intelligence briefings meant to ensure that the next leader is knowledgeable about U.S. foreign policies when their term begins. When asked if he was shocked by anything he heard, Trump said Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry did the opposite of what intelligence experts told them.

"I am very good with body language. I could tell they were not happy our leaders did not follow what they were recommending," he said.

Trump said he was qualified to be commander-in-chief because “I built a great company. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve dealt with foreign countries . . . I have great judgment. I know what’s going on.”

Trump also said he was totally against the war in Iraq, a claim that is contradicted by his initial support for the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Mrs. Clinton said that her vote for the Iraq war when she was a U.S. senator was a mistake, but that it was important to learn from mistakes. She also pushed back against Trump's repeated assertions during the campaign that he opposed the U.S. attack on Iraq.

National September 11 Museum/Thomas E. Franklin          
This is the famous photo of the flag raising.

Iconic American Flag back
at September 11th  ground

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An American flag raised at ground zero on Sept. 11 in a defining moment of patriotic resolve took its place at the site Thursday after disappearing for over a decade.

The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag took a symbolic and curious journey from a yacht moored in lower Manhattan to the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center, then to a firehouse about 2,400 miles away in Everett, Washington and now to a glass case at the National September 11 Museum. A TV show, a mysterious man and two years of detective work helped re-establish its whereabouts.

"In a museum that's filled with such deeply powerful artifacts, this newest of artifacts is certainly one of the most emotionally and historically powerful," museum President Joe Daniels said as the display was unveiled Thursday, three days before the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks.

The flag's absence, he said, "just felt like a hole in the history of this site."

The flag is the centerpiece of one of the most resonant images of American fortitude on 9/11. After plucking the flag from a nearby boat, three firefighters hoisted it amid the ashen destruction as photographer Thomas E. Franklin of The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey, captured the scene. The Pulitzer Prize-winning picture inspired a postage stamp, sculpture and other tributes.

Meanwhile, the flag was signed by New York's governor and two mayors and flown at Yankee Stadium, outside City Hall and on an aircraft carrier near Afghanistan, except it wasn't the right flag. It was bigger, and by 2004, the yacht's owners had publicly broached the error.

By then, officials had no idea what had happened to the real flag.

They were in the dark until November 2014, when a man turned up at an Everett fire station with what is now the museum's flag, saying he'd seen a recent History channel piece about the mystery, according to Everett Police Detective Mike Atwood and his former colleague Jim Massingale.

The man, who gave firefighters only the name Brian, said he'd gotten it as a gift from an unnamed National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration worker who'd gotten it from an unidentified 9/11 widow.

The detectives gathered surveillance video and circulated a police sketch, but they haven't found the man or been able to confirm his explanation of the flag's provenance. DNA tests of material found on electrical tape wrapped around the flag's halyard didn't match the firefighters or other people known to have handled the flag.

But a forensic expert analyzed dust on the flag and halyard and found it consistent with ground zero debris. Meanwhile, the detectives scrutinized photos and videos of the flag-raising and consulted one of the yacht's former crew members to compare the flag's size, material, stitching, hardware and halyard.

Taking all the evidence together, "we feel it's very likely the one captured in the photo," said Massingale, now with the Stillaguamish Police Department on the Stillaguamish Tribe's reservation in Washington.

The yacht's owners, Shirley Dreifus and Spiros E. Kopelakis, were so surprised when first told the flag might have resurfaced that Kopelakis wondered whether the call was a prank, Ms. Dreifus said. She and Chubb insurance donated the flag to the museum.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 179
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Zika cases here are approaching 1,000

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As Costa Rica approaches 1,000 reported cases of zika infection, health officials can be sure that the situation could be much worse. Wire services report that officials in Haiti are bracing for a major epidemic.

Widespread fumigation that has limited the virus' spread in other Caribbean nations such as Cuba and Costa Rica only began in Haiti last month. Publicity campaigns have been all but invisible, and hospital workers were on strike for much of the year.

Such an epidemic could severely strain Haiti's fragile healthcare system, battered by an earthquake in 2010 that killed 300,000, and still struggling with a cholera epidemic that has sickened nearly 800,000 people.

World Health Organization data show 5,000 suspected cases have been reported in more prosperous neighbor Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and has a similar population and climate. Haiti by contrast, has reported 3,000 suspected cases, according to numbers shared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers are more than academic in Costa Rica where hundreds of refugees from Haiti have entered the country illegally and more are presumed on the way. The refugees are seeking to sneak into the United States but they have been frustrated by Nicaragua’s refusal to let them enter. So many are stuck here.

Some residents have worried that refugees with infectious diseases can pass them to local mosquitoes, which will then infect others.

The zika report this week from the Ministerio de Salud here showed 946 total cases. Of course, many who have been infected by zika show no symptoms.

Garabito and its community of Jacó continue to lead the totals with 159 cases, including three new ones. Puntarenas Centro with 25 new cases this week is fast catching up with a 143 total. Nandayure with 13 new cases has a total of 27. Other cantons had new cases in the single digits, if at all. Throughout the country there were 91 new cases reported last week.

A count of the most total cases puts Orotina with 93 in third place and Esparza with 82 fourth. Other cantons with substantial numbers of cases are Santa Cruz, 72, Limón, 40, Quepos, 40, Carrillo with 33 and then Nandayure.

In the Central Valley San José Centro and Desamparados each have 21 and Santa Ana has 13.

Health officials continue to follow the 36 women who contracted zika while pregnant. Some already have given birth. There is just one case of possible neurological problems, and that was the child of a woman infected in Nicaragua but who gave birth in Costa Rica. There have been no cases of microcephaly, a defect in which babies' heads and brains are undersized.

Gabriel Thimothe, a senior health official in Haiti, said the impact of an explosion of microcephaly cases would be devastating, but denied the condition was more widespread than thought, even though many Haitian women give birth at home rather than in clinics.

His position is supported by data through June, which did not show an uptick in microcephaly or Guillain-Barre syndrome, the neurological disorder that can cause temporary paralysis and has also been linked to zika.

But Louise Ivers, the senior health and policy advisor for Partners in Health, which along with Haitian organization Zanmi Lasante runs a hospital in the central town of Mirebalais, said she had seen at least 12 cases this year of Guillain-Barre, normally a rare condition.

The same hospital registered two microcephaly cases, including one confirmed to be linked to zika, this summer, she said.

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Equifax plans to add 200 more employees

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Equifax Inc., the consumer credit reporting firm, has announced the opening of its second shared services center in Costa Rica. With this new site, the company expects to add 200 employees by the end of 2017.

The company, which has been operating in Costa Rica since 1995, is continuing to its expansion plan, which was launched in 2015.

The new two-story building, which is approximately 4,400 square meters, is located in the Metro Free Zone in Barreal de Heredia, and represents a $4.5 million investment for Equifax.

President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera expressed satisfaction about Equifax's growing presence in Costa Rica and its positive impact on the country's developing economy. He noted he visited the Equifax headquarters in Atlanta, where he met with executives there in May 2015 to discuss business expansion and other topics.

"We are very pleased to have collaborated with Equifax on this project in order to generate quality jobs for many Costa Ricans,” said Solís. “From our standpoint, we have been championing government policies which attract investment, and last year we were able to meet with company representatives to enable this new process, which has become a reality. Equifax is a strong global company which has had a presence here in Costa Rica for many years, and we are honored by this sign of confidence in our country."

The new shared services center will support Equifax operations in over 15 countries in North America, Latin America and Europe, in areas such as cyber security, finance and accounting, information technologies and customer service.

According to Jairo Quirós, director of shared services at Equifax, the rapid growth of the company has accelerated the hiring of many new employees, which will reach 1,000 total headcount at a much earlier date than expected. That number now is more than 800.