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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 189       E-mail us
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Beach trash and plastic becoming a bigger concern
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Trash being dumped into the oceans is getting more official and unofficial recognition as a growing danger. Efforts are being made to stop the practice.

Guanacaste beach communities participated in a worldwide cleanup over the weekend, according to Tanya Buxton at the Ocotal Beach Resort on the Pacific coast. She said the majority of the items collected were food-related and plastic bags, but volunteers found one car battery. The volunteers were joining others in 100 countries to keep the beaches clean as part of the two-day International Coastal Cleanup, organized by The Ocean Conservancy organization.

In Washington Monday the National Research Council said that current measures to prevent and reduce marine debris are inadequate, and the problem will likely worsen.

That prediction was in a new congressionally mandated report that also said the United States and the international maritime community should adopt a goal of zero discharge of waste into the marine environment and that a system to assess the effectiveness of existing and future marine debris prevention and reduction actions should be implemented.

Meanwhile in Esterillos Oeste on the Central Pacific coast John and Brenda Fullerton contacted A.M. Costa Rica Monday to express their concern that plastics are invading the oceans. Mrs. Fullerton has been doing some personal research and said "I have always been sensitive to trash in our environment but never realized what an impact it (plastics specifically) has on the oceanic environment.  Plastic never biodegrades.  It only breaks down into small little balls of plastic which the marine life ingests, and which never leaves our oceans."

Her concern finds support in the National Research Council findings: "Marine debris, man-made materials that intentionally or accidentally enter and pollute the ocean, can cause significant harm.  For instance, birds, fish, and marine mammals ingest debris, especially plastics, which can lead to digestive problems and uptake of toxic compounds.  Animals can also suffer injuries or die after becoming entangled in fishing-related debris such as plastic net fragments, rope, and packing straps. 

"Marine debris also poses a health and safety hazard to beachgoers and divers, and could impact coastal recreation and tourism revenue."

While marine debris comes from sources both on land and at sea, the research council focused on debris discharged at sea for the purposes of its report.

Mother Nature also can put hundreds of tons of debris into the oceans. Anyone who has visited the eastern Nicoya coast after a heavy storm has hit the mainland will see tons of trees and other materials piled up after being discharged from Costa Ricans major rivers. But most is biodegradable.

Ms. Buxton in Ocotal has supplied a list of man-made materials that pollute the beaches. In first place are those aluminum tabs used to open beer and soda cans, she said.

"The results worldwide showed the sources of debris consisting of 57.4 percent from land-based shoreline and recreational activities and 33.6 percent from smoking-related activities," she said.  "These results show the need for more consciousness on the part of people to properly dispose of their trash."
pop tops
The No. 1 contributor to beach trash.

Top ten debris items collected in Costa Rica*

     1. Pull tabs (to open cans)

     2. Straws and stirrers

     3. Cigarettes and cigarette filters

     4. Food wrappers and containers

     5. Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons

     6. Bags

     7. Beverage bottles (plastic)

     8. Beverage cans

     9. Cigarette lighters

     10. Toys

* based on reports from 2007 cleanup.

In 2007 1,315 pounds of trash were removed from just 3.7 miles of shoreline in Costa Rica, she said.  Full data on the weekend cleanup is not yet available.

The U.S. research council report said that a national framework to identify priorities for dealing with marine debris and its removal efforts should be established.  Additionally, Congress should designate a lead agency to expand programs to comprehensively address the problem, including land-based marine litter, derelict fishing gear, shipborne waste, and abandoned vessels, it said.

In Esterillos Oeste, the Fullertons are taking a personal approach.

"My husband and I have started taking a bag with us on our walks and picking up plastic off the beach here in Esterillos," said Mrs. Fullerton.  "If everyone who cares pitched in, think what a difference it would make.  We enjoy walking the next day along the same route and not seeing the plastic on our beautiful beach.  So if nothing else, we are getting the benefit of enjoying our walks more!"

She cited a Discovery Channel special and the Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, as sources of information about the effects of beach litter. 

In Ocotal Beach Resort, the Ecological Blue Flag Committee holds beach cleanups every month inviting children from various schools in the area to participate and learn about the importance of the oceans and trash management, said Ms. Buxton, adding:

“The Blue Flag Committee and Ocotal Beach Resort have chosen to take responsibility and regularly clean the beach after beachgoers and even initiate a public recycling program, but that is just the start.  The most important is educating the kids we bring here.”

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Some top officials must
give up their positions

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican election laws will cause a few resignations by February. As the potential candidates line up, there is at least one vice president and one cabinet minister. Both of these will be ineligible if they service in the office within 12 months of the election.

That's the rule set down in the Costa Rican Constitution. And that is why Laura Chinchilla, the country's vice president, and at least one minister probably will be handing in their papers after Christmas.

The Constitution also prohibits any one related to the president from running. That includes "any ancestor or descendant by consanguinity or affinity or sibling of the person occupying the presidency of the Republic at the time of the election, or of any person who has held such office for any period during the six months preceding that date," according to Article 132 (3).

Also forbidden to run are heads of state institutions who held the job closer than 12 months to the election and supreme court magistrates, the head of the Registro Civil and persons in several other high positions. The ruling party now is Liberación Nacional, and the ministers are members of that party.

So far Liberación has at least four persons who may announce as candidates. In addition to Ms. Chinchilla, and Guillermo Zúñiga, minister of Hacienda, the budget agency, Fernando Berrocal has been included in the speculation. He doesn't have to worry about the constitutional rule. President Óscar Arias Sánchez fired him in late March after he said — correctly, it seems —  that Costa Ricans had been involved  with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Johnny Araya, the mayor of San José also has been included in the speculation.

Our reader's opinion
Article was propaganda,
and Panamá is way better

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am a loyal reader and married to a beautiful Tica. I moved to Costa Rica because of the title of this article! [Costa Rica is affordable even for low-budget folks]
I now live just across the border in Panama because Costa Rica is not affordable any more, and I receive more then twice the $700 a month you're suggesting someone can squeak by on. Panama is way better expense wise and by living by the border and having Paso Canoas as our main shoping area, we enjoy the best of both countries.
Costa Rica has significantly increased the monthly income required to obtain pension residency status because you can not live on $700 a month!  Almost 3 times that for a couple.

You correctly state that Costa Rica is a socialist country and, thus, the medical insurance is truthfully worthless ! This is not my opinion. This is my wife's and every other Tico's opinion. If you have a serious condition and you're told your treatment date is years away, what good is having insurance?

Expats can pay (usually) the doctors and thus get the treatment, but the ones who have $ 700 a month use a credit card and go back to the States within a few years!

You have published articles telling the story of how many expats return home. You have also published articles telling of the rampant crime directed twards Americans. I felt very uncomfortable reading this article on the front page. Total propaganda!!!!
You mention a rental price and some utility costs, but you don't mention the horrible reliability of these services. And, even the specific rental unit your citing won't leave enough to live on if you're only getting $ 700.

Just to let you know and maybe your readers if this letter is shown, Panama rentals are much less money if you put even a little effort in finding one, and the public services are much more dependable.

I am renting a 1-year-old NICE 3-bedroom house in Pedregal, David, for $100 a month and my net/tv/phone combo package from Cable Onda is $73 and the electric and water is about 40 bucks.

I pay $ 86 per month for medical insurance, and it is good worldwide for $2 million coverage and $10,000 as a tourist in Costa Rica.  If you're on the Panamanian socialized medical system, you get full coverage for much less and treated right away !!  I just wanted coverage that would be good in both countries and also when I traveled back to Florida.
I meet expats every day down here and many considered Costa Rica and correctly chose Panama. Many I've met also moved from Costa Rica like we did and many from Costa Rica come here to shop and sneak back across the border with their goods. They plan to move here.

Panama is a socialist country, but almost everything is inexpensive. Food is MUCH less than Costa Rica.  Panama wants expats ! Costa Rica does not, and Arias and other politicians constantly bad mouth America as it is popular to do. I am married to a Tica and am still waiting for my cédular for years, and in 94 days already have my Panamanian carnet.

It is a very difficult deal to obtain residency in Costa Rica, and you get different answers from every official you ask. You correctly point out that China and other countries are where it's at for Costa Rica's future and I agree with that choice. America is on the path to a major decline.

Please publish an article with some cons to the true costs of living in C/R because this article is nowhere near the truth.

Bob Shakerdge
Pedregal, David Panamá

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 189

Legislative committee presents three options on trade bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A legislative committee presented three plans Monday so that the final measure related to the free trade treaty with the United States is approved.

The committee, the Comisión de Consulta de Constitucionalidad, is trying to make changes that conform to requirements laid down by the Sala IV constitutional court that found two flaws in the original legislation.

The committee suggested first that the section that the constitutional court found flawed could simply be eliminated from the legislation.

The court said that there was a section in the proposed law that required consultation with the country's native tribes under an international treaty. Lawmakers did not do this. The measure is about protecting intellectual property like patents, authorships and trademarks.

The court also said that lawmakers had made substantial changes to the original legislation and the whole measure should have been published again in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

José Luis Valenciano said by eliminating the offending section, which was an amendment, lawmakers could go ahead and pass the bill for the second and final time. This is
the recommendation that the committee made to the full legislature.

Failing that, the committee said that the full legislature could either return the entire bill to a committee for more study or it could make the required consultations with native groups, a long process.

At Casa Presidencial, Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia and brother to the president, was urging lawmakers to move ahead. "We can't continue sending negative signals to the world over our capacity to work together . . . ," Rodrigo Arias said. He noted that 11 months have passed since the Costa Rican people approved the treaty in a nationwide referendum. The margin was about 1 percentage point.

He also asked the opposition parties in the Asamblea Legislativa to refrain from using their legislative rights to slow down passage or to refer the legislation to the Sala IV again.

Costa Rica had an Oct. 1 deadline to pass the measure related to the treaty. The situation is an embarrassment for President Óscar Arias Sánchez because his administration long ago stitched together a 38-vote two-thirds majority in the assembly. Still the process has continued slowly. President Arias is now in Washington seeking yet more time to get the treaty approved.

Acquittals confirmed in magazine editor's murder case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala III supreme criminal court has upheld the acquittal of six men in the hitman-style murder of a Costa Rican magazine editor Dec. 23, 2003.

The six have been cleared by a trial panel Nov. 20, 2006, but the prosecution appealed the decision to the higher court. The appeals court vote was 3 to 2, according to the Poder Judicial.

The principal suspect was the woman's former boss,  Eugenio Millot, publisher of a business magazine. Ms. Mora, then 33, had resigned to work at a competing publication.

The prosecution contended that Millot conspired to have
the woman killed because she had been hired away from his Red Castle Publishing Group to work on the competing publication. The five other men are Nelson Alexander López Giraldo, Edward Molina Serna, John Nielson Nievas Beltran, Freddy Alexander Cortés Fernández and Edgardo Martínez de la Cruz.

The prosecution alleged that the other men were either intermediaries or were involved in the shooting. The prosecution's case suffered a reverse when judges ruled that testimony taken in Colombia had not been done correctly and could not be introduced as evidence.

Ms. Mora was driving her car when she stopped at a traffic light in Curridabat about 8:30 p.m. Two men on a motorcycle drove up alongside and one shot her with two bullets.

Two men here illegally
found carrying pistols

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers set up a checkpoint on the road from Bribri near Puerto Viejo de Limón over the weekend, and four Jamaican men were found to be in the country without proper paperwork.

Fuerza Pública officers said the four men carried $1,500 and 500,000 colons, some $910. Two of them also carried pistols, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. They did not have the permits to do so, officials said. The men drove a Hummer and a BMW.

One of the four men is being processed for deportation because he did not have the legal right to be in Costa Rica, officials said.  Another had a tourist visa dating from 2006, but he is married to a Costa Rican woman, officers said.

A third man who entered the country illegally also is married to a Costa Rican, officers said. The fourth man entered legally in 2006 on a tourist visa, officials said.

Three of the men were set free Sunday afternoon and the money was returned to them, police said.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 189

Judicial plan seeks swift justice for those caught in the act
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial officials unveiled a plan Monday that would mean quicker trials for persons caught in the act of committing a crime.

The pilot plan covers the metropolitan area and has been drawn up by the judiciary, the Fuerza Pública and the Ministerio Público, the prosecutorial agency. The plan goes into effect in a week.

José Manuel Arroyo Gutiérrez, president of the Sala III high criminal court, said that defendants would be taken with the relevant evidence and witnesses and presented before the prosecutors and then to an oral trial where sentence would be handed down. The full outline of the proposal, drafted June 16, envisions an immediate hearing, followed in a few days by a preliminary hearing and then followed by a full oral trial with immediate determination of guilt or innocence.

Officials said that defendants rights would be protected.
Officials plan to enlarge the pilot plan to include Limón and Puntarenas next year.

The plan is in response to concerns by citizens that many crimes and defendants are lost in the system and no trial ever is held.
Officials said that 17 billion colons, about $37 million, has been allocated for the plan. At least 15 judges will be assigned to the project as well as prosecutors, defense lawyers and investigators.

Also planned are court sessions operating 24-hours a day at the II Circuito Judicial in Goicoechea.

For purposes of the plan, a suspect is caught in the act if he is surprised while committing a crime, if he is chased from the scene or if he has in his possession items that clearly show participation in a crime, said the plan.

The decision of the judge can be appealed by the defendant, but officials are hoping that by making much of the proceedings oral instead of the traditional written declarations, justice will be swifter.

Included in the plan are steps where judges will seek to reach a conciliation with the victim.

In Costa Rica the crimes are considered to be against individuals, and criminals can avoid prosecution if they pay off or otherwise placate victims.

The new system is designed to handle crimes like pickpocketing, street robberies and those cases traditionally handled by the Fuerza Pública.

Haiti observes national mourning over hundreds killed in series of hurricanes
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Haiti is observing three days of mourning for the victims of a series of hurricanes and tropical storms that ravaged the impoverished nation in recent weeks.

Flags began flying at half-staff Monday.

The death toll from the storms in Haiti is estimated to be
about 500, including 70 from the latest storm, Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Gustav passed over Haiti late last month.

In addition, the United Nations says some 800,000 people, or almost 10 percent of Haiti's population, are in dire need of emergency assistance.

The United States has announced it is providing $10 million for disaster assistance.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 189

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users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us
Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

Study praises video games
to help youngsters relate

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Several times a year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project releases detailed research findings about the ways in which Americans use computers and the Internet.

And wait till you hear what the latest Pew report has to say.

It's called Teens, Video Games, and Civics.

It seems that playing video games has a connection to what the report calls social interaction and civic engagement.  Imagine that! Playing games like Dragon Quest, Guitar Hero, or Warhammer on their computers or game consoles leads to community involvement.

Video-game enthusiasts who play with others develop curiosity and awareness that can lead to involvement in the community, the Pew report finds.

Not surprisingly, the researchers report that 97 percent of teens play computer games, usually for an hour or more a day.  They say the social interaction comes from playing the games with others in the room, as 65 percent of teens do.

So role-playing the popular but violent video game Grand Theft Auto with your buddies can be social interaction. But civic engagement?

Playing video games isn't the waste of time that many adults believe it to be, according to a new report from the folks who monitor Internet behavior.

Pew finds that video game play parallels civic activities such as helping others and debating ethical issues. It calls these civic gaming experiences.

The researchers determined that teens who play video games with others seek more information about politics, are a tad more likely to raise money for charity, or may persuade others how to vote, than teenagers who don't play video games or who play them by themselves.

So what's the lesson for parents who want to get their kids involved in the community?

Go out and get them that Halo Three or Dance Dance Revolution video game? And make sure they invite some friends over to play it with?

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 189

Low carb diet appears to be best based on long-term studies
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Obesity is a worldwide problem and is getting worse. Losing weight is difficult for most people. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports fewer than 25 percent of Americans who try diets actually lose weight and a majority who do lose weight have difficulty maintaining the loss. Billions of dollars are spent on weight loss programs.

Recent findings may put to rest the argument about which diet works the best.

The World Health Organization estimates there are more than one billion adults who are overweight, and 400 million others considered obese. 

Another 20 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. So why can't we lose weight?

Fad diets often run their course and disappear from popularity as people lose, then regain. But three diets seem to be the most generally accepted:

• The low fat diet promotes whole grains, fruit and vegetables. 

• A diet low in carbohydrates is based primarily on protein such as eggs, red meat, chicken and fish and some vegetables.

• And lastly a diet based on the Mediterranean style of cooking.
That includes smaller portions of meat and fish, and larger portions of fruit, vegetables, grains, along with nuts, seeds as well as olive oil.

In the studies published recently, several hundred overweight and obese patients were asked to follow one of these three diets. After a period of two years, patients on the low carb diet lost the most.

"It's not surprising that the low carbohydrate diet led to greater weight loss, because when you're eating protein and fat it makes you feel full so you don't want to eat as much," Dr. Eric Westman said. He is one of the researchers with the Duke University Medical School.

Fat laden foods lead to high cholesterol and insulin levels, which often lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Researchers found the diet low in carbohydrates helped to lower those levels.

"A low carb diet — one that foregoes rice and pasta and bread and potatoes — works by lowering insulin levels in the body," Westman said. "And then with this lower insulin level, the body makes less of harmful cholesterol."

In previous clinical trials, it has been difficult to measure the effectiveness of weight loss diets over the long term. These recent studies in Israel and the United States have been the longest controlled trials to date.

Focus on the tight players late in the tournament
It’s in the late stages of a tournament when the men are separated from the boys.  Players who consistently win on the poker circuit do so by taking full advantage of the opportunities available to them at this time.

One particularly important tactic they use to reach the final table is focusing on opponents who tighten up their play.

Playing tight late in a tournament turns out to be a fairly common mistake even among skilled players.   Yes, adjustments need to be made in terms of hand selection in later rounds.  But too often players take it to the extreme and fold hands they should be playing.

While a hand like 6h-7h is well suited for early rounds when blinds are low and chipstacks are still high, don’t automatically abandon this type of hand late in the game just because the blinds and the cost of playing are more substantial. 

For example, if the players in the blinds are tight and you’re in late position with no other players entering the pot, it would be a mistake to fold a hand like Jh-9h.  Recognize the fact that many players tend to tighten up late in a tournament.  As that happens, your success rate at stealing blinds will increase.  This is simply not the time to reduce the number of hands you attempt to steal blinds with. 

On the contrary, this situation frequently presents a raising opportunity specifically designed to exploit tight players. 

If you do elect to raise, the small ball approach will be most effective against tight opponents.  These players will often neglect to focus on the amount of your raise.  Instead, they’ll zero in on the fact that they just don’t have a strong hand themselves.

Let’s look at another example.

With blinds at 400-800 and a 100 ante, most players will fold a hand like 9-7 offsuit regardless if you make it 2,000, 2,200, or 2,400 to go.  With that in mind, you can safely reduce your risk by choosing to raise the lower amount.

For the most part, if you continue to use the same game strategy late in tournaments as you would early on, the adjustments your opponents make will actually render the small ball approach even more effective.  Why?  Because

winning blinds and antes becomes increasingly more valuable as a tournament progresses.

That’s not only because the value of blinds and antes continue to escalate.  It’s also because stack sizes in relation to the blinds decrease.

The blinds in a typical big buy-in event may start out at 25-50 with a 10,000 stack.  By the second level, however, blinds would increase to 50-100 whereas the average stack would be much less than 20,000 -- probably closer to 12,000.

The deeper you get into the tournament, the more extreme this imbalance becomes.  So, when the blinds get to 500-1,000, the average stack will likely be around 50,000.  On a percentage basis, that’s a significant increase when compared to early stage conditions.

Here’s the bottom line:  Paranoia is likely to set in among tight players late in a tournament when blinds escalate to a point where they represent a large percentage of their stack.  These players will tend to sit on their hands while more aggressive players rob them blind by relentlessly attacking the blinds with a barrage of small raises.

Tight players simply get gun shy late in a tournament.  Don’t make that mistake.  Instead, be the player who takes advantage of opponents who play not to lose.  Playing to win is the name of the game.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s newest book, More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

animal art
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas   
Two-tone anteater of Guayacán real and other free-standing animals sculpted from wood.
Animals emerge from wood for new Museo Nacional exhibit
By Melissa Hinkley
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Animals of all kinds have invaded the Museo Nacional, and they will make themselves cozy until Dec. 14. 

The animals are part of a wooden art exhibit constructed by José Sancho called Flora y Fauna.”
The exhibit contains 18 animal sculptures carved from the Guayacán real, a species of tree originating from the dry tropical areas.  The wood is known to have a two tone color which Sancho creatively incorporates into his work. 

His purposeful strokes are evident on the intricately designed sculptures of snakes, bats, owls and other various animals. His animal sculptures are not quite abstract, but they are sculpted in a way that caters to the viewers imagination. 
The wood is not overly detailed, but rather is characterized by simple, stylized lines.  

Sancho was born in Puntarenas in 1935 and has been dedicated to his work with sculptures since 1982.  He studied economy and visited locations which most likely affected his style, including México, Perú, India, Italy, Argentina, China, the Galapagos, Antarctica and Africa. 

He has won many awards including the Áncora award presented by La Nación, the  Nacional de Escultura award in 1985 and the Bienal de Escultura award in 1997.  He has also had many exhibitions around the country.   

The exhibition at the Museo Nacional can be seen during normal hours of the museum, from Tuesday to Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  His sculptures are permanently displayed in his workshop, gallery and garden in Escazú.     

Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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