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(506) 2223-1327                     Published  Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 188                          Email us
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Here's a super deal for a mere $2 billion or so
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats with an extra few billion might want to qualify for the Hacienda Pinilla auction Nov. 15. That's dollars, not colons.

The sprawling Guanacaste project is on the block in multiple parcels. The auction is being handled by United Country Real Estate in Texas.

The property, which is more like a town, contains abut 4,450 acres, an 18-hole golf course, a hotel and three miles of titled beachfront, according to the auction Web site. Central Valley expats know it as the place to go for a luxury Pacific coast vacation.
The company said it is auctioning off shares in the company that owned the project, Agroganadera Pinilla, S.A. 

If the auction is successful, the deal will be the largest real estate transaction in recent years.

H.G. Pattillo, started building on the site in the early 1970s. That was before the 1977 maritime law took effect, and Hacienda Pinilla owned beach land to the high tide line, said the Web site.

The real estate firm calls the project the premier established beach and residential resort community in Central America.


Heredia university students rally to save fig tree
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students at the Universidad Nacional are rallying to protect an old fig tree on the campus.

The Federación de Estudiantes outlined the situation Wednesday night in a press release and referenced a YouTube video featuring German Rivera Coto, an expert in tree diseases at the university.

The tree, called a higuerón in Spanish is a Ficus elastica. Members of this species are impressive trees and can be found all around the Central Valley as well as around the world.

In the video Rivera contradicts what appears to be the administration claim that the tree is infected fatally with fungus. The tree occupies a spot on the 11 de April Esplanade at the campus in Heredia. The students said it is an historical part of the legacy of the university.
fig tree
German Rivera Coto discusses the tree in a video

The text with the video suggested that there is a hidden agenda of remodeling that involved getting rid of the tree.

The student federation said its members want information from experts with credible credentials.


Student project irks and shoos dengue mosquitoes
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Engineers at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica including project leader Arys Carrasquilla have created a device that will combat one of the country's most prevalent diseases, dengue.

Dengue- off, as the device is called, uses ultrasonic frequencies that target the Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that carries the virus.  The frequency is harmless to humans and animals, but disturbs the mosquito in a way that makes it leave the area, according to the institute, one of the country's public universities. The device is a small, black box.

Since there is no vaccine for the virus, the way to prevent the virus from attacking persons is to reduce the mosquitos and the number of mosquitos around.  Without mosquitos, persons can't receive bites, a spokesperson said.

In the Americas and Asia, 50 million people are
 infected each year with dengue and 20,000 die. 

The technology seeks to help curb this effect.

“Dengue has become a global problem since the Second World War, and is an epidemic in over 110 countries,” said a video presentation about the virus.  “This means that 2,500 million people are living in risk areas around the world. Dengue fever has presence in Americas and Asia and all of this generates health, economic and environmental problems.”
 
To further the advancement of the device, creators have entered Dengue – off in Desafío Intel and is currently a finalist.  The purpose of the competition is to develop Latin American entrepreneurs.

Winners of the challenge will receive opportunities for consulting, exposure to media and the possibility to compete in the Intel Global Challenge at the University of California at Berkeley in  November, which offers prizes up for $50,000.

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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.


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Our reader's opinion
Accountability required
in testing of all products

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Science and belief are both imperfect. Very often one contradicts the other. This is why newspapers (both online and hard copy) have editorial sections and letters to the editor. It is important to recognize which is which in our daily lives, and to carefully express the caveats that accompany each.

Man has been genetically engineering plants and animals (and indeed mankind itself!) since he/she was intelligent to make choices, by selecting some and rejecting other members of the species. People who condemn the entire process do so out of misplaced belief. They are ignorant of the facts.

We have also been finding ways to protect ourselves against diseases whenever science has advanced enough, by a variety of means, including vaccinations. Some people condemn all vaccinations out of misplaced belief. They are ignorant of the facts.

Science has advanced and discovered information of service to all of us through its understanding of evolution. Some people believe evolution does not exist as science demonstrates. They are ignorant of the facts.

I have noticed that in such cases, some people get disturbed when their beliefs are challenged. Beliefs can be tested, using science, and access to scientific information is available to all. Science itself can be tested, but tests of science based solely on belief simply do not stand up. Science tests itself, but only if we demand it.

We must learn to demand accountability through independent testing of all products produced by both private industry and by government. And do the same for all claims made by various religious groups and those who proclaim healing powers outside the realm of science. Demand accountability.

John French
Heredia.

 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 188
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It's time to begin work on annual tax return and other forms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

September may be the patriotic month when Costa Ricans celebrate their independence, but October and November are the paperwork months.

That's because the country's fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and those who are in business hustle during October and November to submit their tax forms to the Dirección General de Tributación, the nation's tax agency.

This year the agency is tightening up, and the government's need for money trumps the usual lax enforcement of previous years.

The 2011-2012 tax form and payment is not due until Dec. 15, but there are filings leading up to that date.

For example, taxpayers are supposed to make partial payments of estimated tax. The third such payment for the year is due Sept. 28. Calculations are not at all based on what might actually be owed. The amount due is figured on a formula based on previous years taxes. So a company that is showing a big loss this year still might have to make partial payments.

The problem then becomes getting the money back from Tributación, which is not known for its speed in this area.

Dec. 15 is a Saturday this year. Usually when a governmental deadline falls on a weekend, the cutoff is moved to the next workday. That may not be the case this year because the tax law specifically says payment is due two months and 15 natural days from the end of the fiscal year.

Nov. 30 is the date when taxpayers have to file the pesky D-151 on which they are supposed to list all their major income, big purchases and professional fees paid. Tributación is supposed to use this to double check the reports of the firms with which the taxpayer may have done business. This is also why there are a flurry of calls in November from other business firms seeking the cédula number of the taxpayer or of his or her firm. Taxpayers have to report payments of about $100 to professionals like lawyers, physicians and dentists. They also have to report purchases from one source in excess of 2.5 million colons and income from a single source in the same amount.

The legislature passed a law that required commercial entities to file this form several times a year. But Tributación objected, and now that law is ignored. Tax officials in the United States also are considering an annual report of major income and expenses outside the usual tax return.

Persons in certain businesses have many more forms to file. Sales tax reports are due on the 15th of every month. Certain other types of business have reports specific to their operation. Then there is the monthly report to the Caja
tax forms


Costarricense de Seguro Social and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, which handles the bulk of the on-the-job insurance.

In addition, persons and firms with employees are supposed to withhold part of the salary of high earners in anticipation of taxes.

If tax officials had their way, every transaction would be done with a credit card because they can track these better. They also take a small bite from each credit card sale in anticipation of taxes.

The tax deadline each year also coincides with the period in which employers have to pay the aguinaldo to employees.

This is one-twelfth of the money the workers have earned during the year from December through November. Basically this is a legally required Christmas bonus mandated by the legislature.

For even the smallest of businesses, the paperwork demands of the government are ample and challenging enough to require the services of a professional accountant.  The business persons must remember to list the accountant on the D-151 form.

More information is available on the Tributación Web site when it is working. The site seems to have a mind of its own.

For example Wednesday night there were many broken links in the Web site, including the one to the tax calendar.

Tributación has moved to a system of electronic reporting. Taxpayers or their accountant have to download a program that calculates the various taxes and then submits the forms via the Internet. The agency has been working to eliminate the bugs and to get a solid system that does not fail at critical times.

Once the annual income tax form is filed and the taxes paid, expats can enjoy Christmas, but within a month, mid all the Yule bills, the new corporation tax has to be paid.


Father and son with gambling ties here sentenced to U.S. prison
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two more former operators of online gambling sites in Costa Rica have been sentenced to prison.

They are Dominic Buttitta, 69, and his son, Anthony, 43. The father got 18 months, and the son received 30 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago.

The case was less about illegal gambling than what the U.S. government said was $4.6 million in unreported income.

They operated an adult entertainment club in Elgin, Illinois, as well as the Costa Rican gambling businesses, identified as Skybook.com, Largejoe.com, Theredhotel.com, and others, said the government.

In addition to the prison terms, which are to start Jan. 8, the pair were also ordered to pay $1,306,187 in restitution to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and forfeit an additional $400,000 to the United States, said the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The case was in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The U.S. Attorney's Office there gave this summary:

According to their guilty pleas, both men filed false federal corporate tax returns for calendar years 2002 through 2009,
and false federal individual income tax returns for calendar years 2002 through 2008 that under-reported by $4,664,959 the total income they received from the operation of the adult club Blackjacks and the gambling business. They concealed the diverted funds from their tax preparers and the IRS and used the unreported income to acquire personal property and to pay personal expenses. The diversion resulted in a federal tax loss of more than $1.3 million.

The defendants admitted that they skimmed approximately $3,704,959 in cash from the operation of Blackjacks, and later destroyed records of the cash they diverted from the business. They also placed agents of their Internet gambling business on the payroll of another company to provide the employees with the appearance of a legitimate source of income and benefits. In return, they solicited and received kickbacks in the form of cash from the agents and concealed the payments from their tax preparers, bookkeepers and the IRS.

The defendants admitted they received approximately $1 million in gross wagers from the gambling business between 2005 and 2009, and made approximately $400,000 in net profits, which is the amount of the forfeiture judgment.

In addition to the sentence imposed earlier this month, defendants remain liable to the IRS for any and all back taxes, as well as a civil fraud penalty of 75 percent of the underpayment plus interest, the Department of Justice said.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 188
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Small and medium firms to get help to export goods to Europe
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Commerce officials said Wednesday that they would make changes to help small- and medium-sized enterprises sell their products to the European Union.

The new program is designed to simplify rules, identify businesses with international potential and improving quality.

While this program specifically deals with Costa Rica's commercial relationship with the European Union, it is part of an inter-ministry effort to strengthen Costa Rica's businesses nationally and internationally. The Ministerio de Economía, Industría y Comercio is the lead agency.

“The inclusion of smaller productive entities will permit the democratization of economic processes,” said Luis Álvarez,  a vice-minister, after he spoke at a conference outlining the program.

Álvarez said that small- and medium-sized businesses account for 98 percent of all of Costa Rica's commercial institutions and employ 52 percent of workers in the private sector.
Álvarez listed three components of the plan. One piece is to compile all of the trade rules and regulations of both the European Union and Costa Rica in one platform. Secondly, ministry employees working on the project will study Costa Rica's regulations and inspection organizations to ease international trade for these businesses.

The third key part of the program is to identify industries that have potential to export products and to locate businesses in those sectors. In a Powerpoint presentation, ministry officials specifically mentioned the food, metallurgy, natural products and medical tourism industries as possible candidates.
From these sectors, the ministry will select businesses to be a part of the pilot program.

The program is geared towards businesses that already have the wherewithal to export their products. Officials did not mention plans to provide these businesses with financial assistance.

More than 100 people attended the conference where the ministry unveiled that plan. The majority of those people were government employees and interested persons who stayed for speeches from experts in the field to hear more specific details about the program, according to a ministry spokesperson.


Region's foreign trade expected to suffer from eurozone woes
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Foreign trade in Latin America and the Caribbean will suffer from the economic slowdown that started in the second half of 2011. The value of regional exports will increase by 4 percent in 2012, whereas imports will grow 3 percent, according to estimates presented in a new study Wednesday.

In its annual report entitled "Latin America and the Caribbean in the World Economy 2011-2012," a U.N. organization states that the current recession in the eurozone, the lack of economic dynamism in the United States and Japan and the modernization in China's and other emerging economies' growth will affect trade in the region - which, in 2012, will be 20 percentage points lower than expansion rates shown last year. The agency is the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The prospects for 2012 show that foreign trade value in Mexico and Central America will grow above the regional average (7.3 percent in exports and 5 percent in imports), whereas South
 America will see lower rates (1.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively). The Caribbean countries will witness a fall in their trade exchange (-0.7 percent in exports and -2.1 percent in imports), a fact that can be explained by their strong linkages to the European Union.

According to the economic commission, Latin America and the Caribbean was the region with the highest export volumes growth in the last quarter of 2011 and the first four months of 2012, amidst the global trade slowdown. Nonetheless, the European crisis and a global risk aversion affected its export performance in the months afterwards, it said.

This slowdown has affected the exchange with the main trade partners in the region - especially regarding exports to the European Union, which fell by 5 percent in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, the commission added. The weak export performance to the European Union will prevail for the rest of the year, although there will be differences among subregions, the report said.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 188
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

French magazine cartoons
cause overseas precautions


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Leaders of the Muslim community in France have expressed their anger after a French magazine published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Amid fears of a backlash over the cartoons, the French government has responded by planning to close schools and embassies in Muslim countries.

On the front cover of Wednesday’s publication, a French satirical magazine showed a cartoon of an orthodox Jew pushing the Prophet Mohammad in a wheelchair. On the inside pages, the prophet is depicted naked in a number of caricatures.

French authorities sent riot police protection to the offices of the weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, amid fears of a reprisal. The government also said it would temporarily close French embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in 20 countries Friday as a precaution, in case protests break out after weekly Muslim prayers.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for calm and said freedom of expression is guaranteed in France. He said those who are offended by the cartoons should turn to French courts to resolve the issue legally.

Last year, the satirical magazine published an edition that it described as having been guest edited by the Prophet Mohammad. Its offices were later firebombed.

One of the magazine’s cartoonists, who works by the name Tignous, defended the cartoons. It is just a drawing, he said. It is not a provocation.

But the publication comes while anger is widespread in many Muslim communities over an overtly offensive, low-budget Internet video produced by an extremist in the United States. In the backlash following the video’s release, some two dozen people have been killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

French Muslim leaders called for calm after meeting with the country’s interior minister. The president of the French Council of Muslims, Mohammed Moussaoui, described the indignation and anger Muslims feel, but said the response would be serene.

He said Muslims would not respond to provocation. He said that French authorities, however, should send out strong messages to appease and reassure Muslims that they have a right to the same respect as their fellow citizens.

France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Saturday, police in the French capital, Paris, made dozens of arrests at an unauthorized protest near the U.S. Embassy, which drew about 150 people.

Ayrault told French radio that authorities had rejected a request to hold a further demonstration this coming Saturday.


New book addresses future
in production of food


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Decades after the Green Revolution took place in many parts of the world, food shortages, high prices, hunger and poverty are major problems. It’s estimated there are about one billion chronically hungry people. Now, a new book poses the question – can we feed the world?

Sir Gordon Conway is the author of "One Billion Hungry." He says the answer to the question – can we feed the world? – is yes, but a qualified yes.

“We can feed the world if we focus our efforts. If we provide sufficient aid and investment. If we utilize new technologies. If we create fair and efficient markets. If we really utilize the power of women as farmers and as mothers as nutritionists, as it were, and if we tackle climate change,” he said.

Conway described hunger as not having enough food of the right nutritious quality to lead a reasonable active life.

However, he added, “It varies of course in terms of whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re old or young. I think the worst hunger is child malnutrition. We’ve got about 170  to 180 million children in the world under the age of 5 who are stunted in their growth. In other words, they’re below the height they ought to be for their age. And that comes about because they don’t get enough micronutrients. They don’t get enough Vitamin A. They don’t get enough zinc. They don’t get enough iron.”

The Green Revolution saw increased agricultural research and technology, much of which occurred in the late 1960s. The development of high yield crops, modern farming techniques, fertilizers and hybrid seeds have been credited with helping to save the lives of over a billion people.

Conway said, “It was a success because it allowed food production to keep pace with population growth. And it was particularly successful in India and south Asia, generally. You have to realize that at the time of the Green Revolution India was highly dependent on shipments of grain from the United States. And they wanted to gain independence. So they wanted to be able to produce their own grain and that’s what the Green Revolution did for them.”

But it had its limitations.

“It only focused on the best lands in India. It was over-reliant on pesticides and fertilizers. Only some of the poor really benefitted. There were many poor who were left out, even in India and South Asia, generally. And of course it passed Africa by. So those were big limitations,” he said.

Conway calls for a new Doubly Green Revolution. A revolution that produces just as much food, but takes it a few steps further.

“To ensure that productivity goes to the poor and, in particular, that it doesn’t have a negative effect on the environment. So it’s green in two ways. It’s green because you’ve got fields of green wheat and rice, and it’s green because it’s environmentally friendly,” he said.

During the Green Revolution, the environment often took a back seat to productivity. Conway says there are four routes that should be pursued to ensure food security: innovation, markets, focusing on people and political leadership.

“If we take innovation first, what we’re trying to do there is to produce appropriate innovations — innovations that bring about high productivity, but don’t have the side effects that maybe occurred in the past. And with markets, we want fair markets and efficient markets. With people, it’s particularly about engaging women, because a large number of farmers in Africa and the developing world as a whole are women. And political leadership – it’ll only work if leaders really focus on agricultural development and food security,” he said.

The Imperial College London professor said this also hinges on mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

The U.N. estimates world population will rise to more than nine billion by 2050. That’s about two billion more than now.

Conway’s book, "One Billion Hungry: Can We feed the World?," will be published Oct. 9th.
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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 188
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Latin America news
Coffee with mushroom
is basis for new business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Laura Lang is pretty confident that she has a winner. To the
Ms. Lang
Laura Lang
casual observer she is just another one of those multi-level marketers promoting hope and an unusual product.

A close look shows she might be on the cutting end of a winning idea. Multi-level marketing has a bad name. Usually it is seen as a way of getting stuck with boxes of product no one wants to buy.

Yet, some of the more successful business ventures, such as Amway, are that type of business. Defenders of the concept say the biggest critics are those who did
not work hard and did not make money.

Ms. Lang, a Costa Rican-Panamanian dual national, is involved with Organo Gold, a Canadian company that markets coffee that contains Ganoderma lucidum, a mushroom considered for 2,000 years in Asia as delivering health benefits with no side effects.

Ms. Lang is no novice to coffee. She has a strong background in agriculture, starting with an agricultural engineering degree from EARTH University where she was graduated with honors in1998.

She also has a strong background in organic agriculture, a history as a coffee consultant and a relationship with the  Rain Forest Alliance. She most recently was executive director of the Climate Change Allies Program. Ms. Lang also has an M.B.A. from ULACIT awarded in 2004.

Consequently, her opinion would seem to carry weight when she characterizes the mushroom as  having the healthiest properties ever found on Earth

"I have always loved coffee and saw in this business to which a close friend referred me, a great opportunity to help me and others towards the goal of financial freedom, something really hard to obtain in Latin America where only 4 percent of the population is financially free.

"I have also tried to think out of the box and convinced foundations and non-profits to be part of this coffee business, as an alternative way of having economic sustainability, and not to depend in a 10 percent of charity and philanthropy."

Organo Gold is a Canadian company that has estimated 2012 income of $300 million. Worldwide there are 350,000 distributors of a family of organic products that make use of the Asian mushroom.

Ms. Lang's short-term goal is to build a sales network. So she is seeking associates. More information is HERE!











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