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Published Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 183
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Congratulations, Costa Rica!

Messen school
Ministerio de Educación Pública photo
Students at the Escuela Calle Mesén en La Unión de Cartago got a jump on the Día de la Independencia Wednesday when their new school was inaugurated. Among other problems the old school suffered from flooding. The  280 students will join nearly a million others all over the country today to celebrate the 195th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Student parade today will step off at 9 o'clock
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is a national holiday, but there will be no day off for nearly a million public school children who will participate in activities marking the Dia de la Independencia.

In San José students and 15 school bands will gather at the Iglesia La Merced at 8:30 to prepare for a 9 a.m. march to the Teatro Nacional. Then President Luis Guillermo Solís will deliver his independence day message at 10 a.m. in Parque Nacional a few blocks away.

Students elsewhere have other obligatory activities today to mark the holiday.

Private schools, too, have various patriotic festivals planned.

Wednesday night saw the parades of faroles by school children. These are the street lanterns that evoke a colonial atmosphere. The night also was when the torch of liberty arrived after a relay by school children. There was a ceremony at Parque Central in San José to welcome the torch, which then traveled via young runners to Cartago and a pre-independence day ceremony.

Today is a legal holiday, and many residents will skip work Friday, too, and enjoy a four-day weekend. The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones officially is closed Friday, as are some other public offices.

All but critical service workers have the day off today, although some will participate in parades. Embassies also are closed.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 183
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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
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U.S. put two newsmen on secret no-fly list

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Not only U.S. citizens are kept off aircraft because of the national government’s secret no-fly list.

A well-known British newsman and one from Spain also are grounded, according to the advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders. The organization said it called upon the U.S. government to immediately resolve Karl Penhaul’s situation, which has had extremely grave consequences on freedom of the press.

Both cases appear to be an effort to hamper the reporting activities of the individuals. They certainly are not terrorists.

The British journalist is Karl Penhaul, who spent years in Latin America. He  was placed on the no-fly List on or before January 2014 as a result of U.S. authorities' suspicions generated by his work as a reporter and news contacts in Colombia, said Reporters Without Borders. He worked with CNN and Univision, among others.

The no-fly list is a product of the U.S. government response to jihadist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. There are tens of thousands of persons on the list and there may be more than 100,000. The list is secret, and the U.S. government never explains the reasoning why individuals are placed on the list.  At least one student who graduated from the University for Peace in Ciudad Colon had to find alternate transportation when he learned he was on the list as he prepared to fly home to California.

He was in good company. Many leading Americans, including the late U.S. senator Edward Kennedy have been stymied because their names or similar names were on the list.

The Department of Homeland Security told Penhaul it had corrected his record, but he still cannot obtain a new U.S. visa, Reporters Without Borders said. Penhaul lived and worked in Colombia from September 1996 until mid-2014.

The Spanish newsman is Manuel Martorell, an historian who was editor in chief of national newspapers in his country. He specializes in covering Kurdish issues and was refused a tourist visa for a trip to the United States with his family in May 2015,  Reporters Without Borders said. The U.S. Department of State told him later that his visa application had been denied because he participated in terrorist activities, said Reporters Without Borders.

Art City Tour offers free visits Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Art City Tour returns Wednesday evening to give residents and visitors free glimpses at top cultural spots.

A number of museums, galleries and private establishments open their doors, and organizers even provide bus service. The healthy can join the hundred or so bikers who travel the circuit every month.

A schedule is available at

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, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 183
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Government land and resources are just there for the taking
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are plenty of ways to make money illegally here without delving into the dangerous drug trade.

Although President Luis Guillermo Solís wants to hire many more park guards, the nation’s resources are wide open for the taking.

Every once in awhile, police manage to stop a load of logs or swoop down on an illegal gravel mining operation. In most cases, the arrests are from complaints.

But the misuse of public property goes further than that. Apparently someone has planted African palms and set up a rice field in Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Palms are especially destructive to the soil. That discovery was made by Channel 7 Teletica.

Then there is the gold. Costa Rica is in international arbitration over a proposed open pit commercial mining project in the northern part of the country. And once in awhile police will arrest so-called oreros who seek gold ore on the Osa peninsula. These are destructive and uncontrolled activities in remote areas. The use of a sluice to extract placer gold from stream beds and nearby sand and gravel can even alter the course of waterways.

Ministerio de Seguridad Pública photo
Policía de Fronteras officers guard a truckload of logs that had been confiscated in Sarapiquí, Heredia. The 20 logs are worth more than 2 million colons, police said.

Costa Rica always had turned a blind eye to much of this activity because these efforts feed families.

But in tough economic times more and more persons turn to these illegal activities, including poaching game and bulldozing mangroves to create farm fields or even hotels.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 183
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Fragment of textile from Perú shows sophisticated ancient technology
By the George Washington University news staff

A researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Perú, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue.

The discovery marks the earliest use of indigo as a dye, a technically challenging color to produce. According to Jeffrey Splitstoser, lead author of a paper on the discovery and assistant research professor of anthropology at the George Washington University, the finding speaks to the sophisticated textile technology ancient Andean people developed 6,200 years ago.

“Some of the world’s most significant technological achievements were developed first in the New World,” said Splitstoser. “Many people, however, remain mostly unaware of the important technological contributions made by Native Americans, perhaps because so many of these technologies were replaced by European systems during the conquest. However, the fine fibers and sophisticated dyeing, spinning and weaving practices developed by ancient South Americans were quickly co-opted by Europeans.”

The textile was discovered during a 2009 excavation at Huaca Prieta, a desert area that offers nearly pristine archaeological preservation on the north coast of Perú. Experts believe the site was likely a temple where a variety of textiles and other offerings were placed, possibly as part of a ritual.

The well-preserved artifacts give a glimpse into ancient civilization and lifestyle and offer an unexpected connection to the 21st century.

The development of indigo dye was critical for future trends in fashion, fabrics and textile arts, Splitstoser said.

George Washington University/Lauren Urana
This is the 6.200-year-old fragment that was found in Perú

“The cotton used in Huaca Prieta fabrics, Gossypium barbadense, is the same species grown today known as Egyptian cotton,” Splitstoser said. “And that’s not the only cotton connection we made in this excavation. We may well not have had blue jeans if it weren’t for the ancient South Americans.”

The textile is now in the Cao Museum collection in Perú. The paper, “Early Pre-Hispanic Use of Indigo Blue in Peru,” was published in Science Advances Tuesday.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
Salsa Lizano
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 183
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Afghanistan mission hurt
by corruption, report says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Widespread corruption in Afghanistan has substantially undermined U.S. efforts to rebuild the country, according to a report released Wednesday.

John Sopko, the U.S. government's special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said corruption has fueled grievances against the Afghan government and channeled material support to the insurgency from the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sopko's report says corruption remains an enormous challenge to security, political stability, and development, and urges the U.S. mission to make anticorruption efforts a top priority.

The report offers a number of recommendations for implementing a U.S. interagency anticorruption strategy in Afghanistan.

Although the United States injected tens of billions of dollars into the Afghan economy, it contributed to the growth of corruption by being slow to recognize the magnitude of the problem, the role of corrupt patronage networks and the ways in which corruption threatened core U.S. goals. It said certain U.S. policies and practices exacerbated the problem.

The report titled, "Corruption in Conflict: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,'' quoted Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who re-opened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and served again as ambassador in 2011-2012 as saying that "the ultimate point of failure for our efforts . . . wasn't an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption.''

"The corruption lens has got to be in place at the outset, and even before the outset, in the formulation of reconstruction and development strategy, because once it gets to the level I saw, it's somewhere between unbelievably hard and outright impossible to fix,'' Crocker said.

Mrs. Clinton’s doctor says
allergies made candidate ill

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hillary Clinton's doctor says the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate is recovering well from pneumonia and remains fit to serve as president of the United States.

In a letter released Wednesday by the Clinton campaign, the candidate's doctor, Lisa Bardack, said the Democratic contender underwent a chest scan that revealed she had "mild, non-contagious bacterial pneumonia." Dr. Bardack added that the candidate is recovering well with antibiotics and rest."

Mrs. Clinton plans to resume campaigning today. Her illness became public after she left a 9/11 memorial service in New York City and was seen on video staggering while getting into a van.

The episode added fuel to questions about Mrs. Clinton's health and provided a fresh line of attack for her Republican rival, Donald Trump, who has frequently questioned whether Mrs. Clinton has the stamina to serve as commander in chief.

Dr. Bardack's letter said Mrs. Clinton's illness stemmed from a bout of seasonal allergies that developed into an upper respiratory tract infection.

Meanwhile, Trump said he was just like many other Americans. He wants to lose weight.

He told Mehmet Oz at the taping Wednesday of the physician's popular television show that he would like to lose 7 to 9 kilograms (15 to 20 pounds). Trump, who is tall at 1.9 meters (6 feet 3 inches), said he weighs 107 kilograms (236 pounds), which is overweight by U.S. health care standards.

The program was not for broadcast until today, but people who attended the taping confirmed details for journalists. They said Trump handed Oz a one-page summary of the physical exam he had last week. His campaign said more information about his health would be made public today. It is known that he takes statin drugs to treat high cholesterol.

If Trump, 70, wins the Nov. 8 election, he would be the oldest person to be elected U.S. president. Mrs. Clinton, who will turn 69 Oct. 26, would be the second oldest if she won and became the country's first female president.

The oldest president to take office was Ronald Reagan, who was nearly 70 when he was sworn in.

Libertarian is working hard
to get on the debate panel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

With the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election fast approaching, preparations are underway for the first of three televised debates featuring Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The presidential candidates who will participate in the first debate have not yet been announced. Although Trump and Clinton are certainties, not so certain are Libertarian Party candidate and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

Candidates must meet selection criteria established by the Commission of Presidential Debates, a non-profit organization that says its mission is to provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.

The purpose of the criteria, according to the debate commission, is to “identify candidates whose support among the electorate places them among the candidates who have a realistic chance of being elected” president.

The Johnson campaign has embarked on a push to be included in the debates. It has proposed a plan that would allow him to participate in the first presidential debate by initially circumventing the selection criteria. The proposal calls for placing a third podium on stage and simply allow Johnson to take part in the debate. If Johnson does not meet the criteria for subsequent debates, the Libertarian Party would abandon efforts for continued inclusion.

With a full page advertisement in the Wednesday edition of The New York Times, Johnson has taken his proposal to a national audience, with an advertisement written in the form of a letter to the commission.

Johnson’s advertisement follows a recent announcement that his campaign will be on the ballot in all 50 U.S. states, the only candidate outside of Clinton and Trump to make that claim.

Johnson’s quest to appear in the presidential debates appears to have broad public support. In an Aug. 25 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 63 percent of the likely voters surveyed responded yes to the question: Do you think that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, should be included in the presidential debates this year, or not?

Johnson is currently polling at 9 percent in the national polls, according to RealClear Politics’ national average. This compares to national averages of nearly 42 percent for Clinton and almost 40 percent for Trump.

Hundreds of people declare their candidacy for the U.S. presidency each general election period. Many of them are not associated with a major political party. To ensure orderly presidential debates, the commission established the selection criteria to ensure participation is limited to the most viable candidates.

In order to participate, Johnson and Stein must meet the pre-established criteria, which are as follows: Be constitutionally eligible; appear on enough state ballots to have a chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected public opinion polls.

Georgia’s registration rules
challenged as burden for poor

 By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Georgia's voter registration process violates the Voting Rights Act and has prevented tens of thousands of residents, mostly minorities, from registering to vote, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Under a policy implemented in 2010, people aren't added to the voter rolls if identifying information on their applications doesn't exactly match information in databases maintained by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration, the lawsuit says.

“What Georgia is doing is denying people the ability to make it onto the registration rolls at the outset, which is what's so problematic about this matching program,'' said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The organization said it filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Gainesville, in north Georgia, along with other legal organizations on behalf of a coalition of civil rights groups.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state's top elections official, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. His office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.

The state told the Department of Justice in 2010 that the verification process is designed to assure the identity and eligibility of voters and to prevent fraudulent or erroneous registrations,' according to a letter included as an exhibit to the lawsuit.

Georgia is among a small and shrinking number of states with such policies, said Julie Houk, one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit. Some other states that had similar policies have made changes to give people more time to fix the problems, or they flag an applicant's name so that when the person shows up to vote he or she is asked for ID to remedy the problem.

Federal law requires Georgia to keep an electronic statewide voter registration database that includes information collected by local election officials. The state must also verify the information against databases kept by the Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

Georgia law requires the Secretary of State's Office to match voter registration information with the Department of Driver Services database to verify its accuracy.

For multiple reasons the records may not match, including many that aren't the fault of the potential voter, the lawsuit says. For example, data entry errors, typos or misread handwriting can cause mismatches. Hyphenated and maiden names or initials, as well as transposed digits in a driver's license or Social Security number, can also cause problems.

These issues disproportionately affect African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants, in part because they are more likely to have hyphens or other symbols in their names or to have multiple or compound last names, Ms. Houk said.

Federal and state laws do not require that the information fields match exactly, nor do they require mismatched applications to be canceled, the lawsuit says.

Under the Georgia policy, if any of the information is found not to match a letter notifies the applicant of the problem. If the applicant doesn't respond within 40 days, the application is automatically canceled and the person must start over.

Minorities generally have higher poverty rates and less education, Ms. Houk said, meaning they may not understand what must be done if they get a letter or they may not have a flexible work schedule or access to transportation allowing them to fix the problems.

The lawsuit asks a judge to rule that Georgia's voter registration protocol violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the constitutional rights to free speech and association, equal protection and due process. It asks a judge to order the state to stop canceling the applications of those who don't respond to a notification letter within 40 days and to allow those whose applications haven't been processed or were canceled to cast a ballot if they present the appropriate ID.

NASA plans to budge rock
with new type of spacecraft

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

If all goes well, NASA will launch one of its most audacious missions in less than a decade.

It's called the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA and White House officials gave an online preview of the mission and also explained how it folds into the larger goal of getting humans to Mars.

The mission vehicle is a robotic spacecraft that officials hope will be launched into space in the next few years and make its way to a near-Earth asteroid. To that end, the mission is similar to the OSIRIS-REx mission that was launched last week and is headed toward the potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu.

But the Asteroid Redirect Mission is much larger in scale, and will be testing a number of new NASA technologies that will be part of the greater manned Mars mission.

The engines on the Asteroid Redirect Mission spacecraft represent the first big step forward. They employ a new propulsion system called solar electric propulsion, which will use the energy of the sun to create electromagnetic fields that will "accelerate and expel charged atoms" to push the craft toward the asteroid.

Solar technology uses a lot less chemical propellant than the engines NASA used on the shuttle, for instance.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission will land on the selected asteroid to collect samples, which NASA scientist Michele Gates said may be as much as 20 percent water. The asteroid's makeup will help in the continuing study of the early days of the solar system, and Gates says the samples could be volatile rich, containing nitrogen, carbon dioxide and ammonia.

The planned landing site is directly on top of a boulder, perhaps as heavy as 20 tons. The spacecraft will wrap three metal arms around the big rock, lift it off the surface and blast back off into space.

And then, in a test of technology NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said would prove that we're "smarter than the dinosaurs," the spacecraft will attempt to alter the trajectory of the asteroid. It is a test to see if we can avoid getting hit by a massive asteroid like the one that struck Earth millions of years ago and ended the age of the dinosaurs.

The spacecraft, now dragging the huge boulder, will spin around the asteroid, NASA says, and use "the mass of the spacecraft to impart a gravitational force on the asteroid, slowly altering the asteroid’s trajectory."

If it works, it could prove the simplest way to protect the planet from what Bolden called those one-in-a-century asteroid events like the 1908 Tunguska meteor that exploded in the atmosphere and flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest in Siberia.

Once ARM is done with that attempt to change the orbit of a large body in space, it will head back towards the earth and deposit the boulder it's been carrying in a safe orbit around the moon. The boulder would simply burn up in the atmosphere if it were to accidentally fall to earth.

Once the boulder is circling the moon, sometime in the 2030's, NASA will send a manned mission to collect samples from it using the new Orion spacecraft, and bring them safely back to Earth. This mission and the technologies created by it could open the way for what Bolden calls the potentially lucrative commercial mining of asteroids.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission mission accomplishes another important step in the movement into space, while testing solar electric propulsion, the Orion spacecraft, and a new space launch system for the Mars mission.

NASA Administrator Bolden calls it the second phase of the journey beyond Earth. The first is what he calls the Earth reliant phase, where everything we do in space starts and ends on Earth.

This new generation of spacecraft will establish humans in what he calls a cis-lunar phase, where they can use a stable orbit around the moon and its gentle gravity as a jumping off point for any missions beyond Earth. In the final earth-independent phase of planning to go to Mars, Bolden says, we either "need to take stuff with us, get it on the way or make it wherever you go."

Bolden says that third phase is so close he can taste it. And if the timeline stays on target and the expected $1.4 billion worth of funding gets approved, the Earth might have a new rocky neighbor orbiting the moon within a decade.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 183
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Zarela Villanueva Monge presents the budget to lawmakers

Judiciary seeks $772.7 million budget

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The judiciary want a budget for 2017 of  421,886,962,460 colons, which is 1.6 percent higher than this year. At the current rate of exchange the amount is about $772.7 million.  
By contrast, the central government budget is 12 percent higher this year.

Zarela Villanueva Monge, the president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, presented the budget to lawmakers on the Comisión de Asuntos Hacendarios Wednesday. She said that there were no additional employees planned. The Poder Judicial said the increase is the lowest in the last four years.

The budget includes money for the Judicial Investigating Organization, judicial administration and the courts, the Ministerio Publico, Defense Pública and the program to protect victims and witnesses.

The court president noted that there were new laws that were imposing more responsibilities on the judiciary, including the so-called Ley Yearlong, named after Yearlong Guzmán, a child from Heredia who vanished July 11, 2014. The law sets up a notification system for missing youngsters. There also are added efforts against organized crime.

New zika cases seems to be declining

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health officials have identified 25 more cases of zika in Puntarenas Centro, according to a report Wednesday. Every other canton in Costa Rica with an active zika problem, except Matina on the Caribbean coast, showed no new cases or only an increase in the single digits, according to the report from the Ministerio de Salud.

Matina added 11 new cases to the three reported earlier. Adjacent Limón canton added just one new case to its exiting 41. New cases are considered to be those reported in the last two full weeks. Total cases are 1,018.

The statistics show a significant dropoff in zika cases for the last complete week. The health ministry said that 54 new cases were reported. By contrast the previous week had 99 new cases, and the week before that 122.

Garabito and its community of Jacó continues to have the most reported cases with 161, but there were just four new cases in the last week.

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From Page 7

Life science forum designed to promote country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country seeks to increase economic activity in the health sector with the Life Sciences Forum 2016.

The Coalición Costarricense de Iniciativas de Desarrollo is organizing the forum, which is expected to attract 350 persons Oct. 9 and10. The location is the Hotel Intercontinental in Escazú.

The goal is to strengthen the image of the country as a place to operate a medical science business, according to Alexander Mora, minister of Commerce Exterior. The country already hosts a number of medical device manufacturers. More than 18,000 residents work in this sector.

The keynote address on opening day will be by Kristin Pothier, partner and managing director, global head at Parthenon-EY Life Sciences, Her topic will be “What Does the Future Hold for Life Sciences?”