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(506) 2223-1327                                Published Oct. 8, 2014, in Vol. 14, No. 199                         Email us
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Here's some expat problems that need to be fixed
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

No legislator nor anyone in Casa Presidential has addressed topics yet that negatively affect expats and would-be expats.

A letter writer last week brought up again the problem with snowbirds who wish to stay in the country more than 90 days. They may have invested $450,000 in their ocean view condo, but they still have to pack up and make a trek to Nicaragua or Panamá if they want to renew their 90-day visa.

Note to lawmakers: The winter in Canada last more than 90 days!

When the immigration bill that passed in 2006 was being considered, there appeared to be an option to renew tourism visas for 90 more days for $100. This made complete sense, which maybe is why legislative staffers messed up the wording in the final draft that eliminated this option.

Then there is the relatively new traffic law that prevents anyone who does not have a cédula or a DIMEX card from obtaining a driver's license. In the past anyone with a valid license from a U.S. state, Canada or some European countries could simply present it and get a Costa Rican license.

The government, of course, was trying to cut down on the number of illegals holding valid licenses. But officials went too far. Expats who have completed all the requirements for the several forms of residency cannot get a driver's license. So to keep their foreign license active, they must make the same trek to another country to renew their visa.

That would not be so bad if the Direccion General de Migración y Extranjería were anywhere near efficient in approving residencies. Sometimes, through, the wait may be more than a year.

Then there is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social into which every legal expat must pay. No one ever said the fee would be more than $400 a month! For that monthly price an expat has the privilege of getting up at 3 a.m. to wait in line with all the Ticos to get a slip that entitles he or she to seek an appointment at a later date.

Then if they are lucky they can have a date to see a second-year medical student who is under instruction that whatever the ailment,
the prescription is acetaminophen. This is why any expat who can goes to one of the private hospitals.

At the very least, the law much be changed to allow those with valid medical insurance from another source to skip the obligatory Caja enrollment.

Meanwhile, the Caja clinics have adopted an unusual way of determining who is married. They want a marriage license not more than 30 days old to enroll a spouse. The clerks are under the impression that foreign lands work in the same way as the local Registro Civil that keeps a close eye on marriage.

The Registro knows if a Tico or Tica is married because the documents are filed there. But the 
tourist choice
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The new expat's obligation

How to complain

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Good manners says that expats should stay out of Costa Rican politics. But this is not true when the expat is affected directly.

Such is the case with the arbitrary and counter productive regulations described on this page.

Here is a list of legislators by province and their email addresses. If a reader feels affected by one of these situations, he or she has a perfect right to let a lawmaker know.

Click HERE!

State of New York or California takes the signed marriage license and just files it. Forever. So a copy does not reflect the current situation.

The humor is that the Caja is considering extending spousal benefits to gay partners while expat couples who have proved their marital bond to the immigration service are forced to do so again for the Caja enrollment they probably will never use.

These are situations that would cost the country nothing or very little to change. Some expats have said they are surrendering their residency status to become perpetual tourists simply to avoid the Caja fees and similar bureaucracy.

They may be wrong to do so. The status of a perpetual tourist is tenuous. There always is the possibility of deportation. Yet thousands of foreigners hold this informal status and try to leave the country every 90 days. Many also have jobs.

When thousands reject a certain law or regulation, the suspicious in that there is something wrong with the rule. Costa Rica should consider the actual situation and take action to bring these perpetual tourists into a legal condition. And that would generate tax money, too, because many are employed under the table. Need it be mentioned that immigration inspectors routinely overlook the large numbers of illegal workers in sports books, call centers and betting sites. That probably is not by accident.

There is no doubt that these irritants are affecting immigration to Costa Rica and, by extension, real estate sales and other economic pursuits that depend on expats.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 199

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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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Real estate agents and services

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Our reader's opinion
Manuel Antonio raid was heavy-handed

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest and irritation the article on the latest raid on vendors on Manuel Antonio beach which took place on or about Friday, Oct. 3.

I happened to have gone down to the beach at the old Mar y Sombra area where the raid occurred from my residence in Quepos about noon on that day. I was greeted by dozens of uniformed and un-uniformed police, OIJ agents and assorted workmen who brought along a front-end loader to be used to level the stalls of the vendors deemed out of compliance with the law. I was reminded of an attack of the same ilk and at the same location that occurred in June of 2009 when the same array of forces obliterated a couple of makeshift restaurants near the oval turnabout at the south end of the beach. They also moved many of the vendors at Mar Y Sombra to the alley that runs to the park near the oval (my guess is the authorities left the few that were at Mar Y Sombra to be destroyed this time because there wasn’t enough room down by the park to accommodate them all – poor planning on their part).

These heavy-handed authorities gave no warning and made no attempt to reconcile the permit and tax problems before showing up at 6 a.m., ordering the vendors to vacate and then knocked down everything by the end of the day. Wouldn’t it have been better to work out the permit and tax problems with the vendors by using a fiscal rep with a OIJ backup to persuade them to get with the system and show payment of taxes and a valid permit? They’ve had five years since the last raid to do so.

The point about having a sanitary permit is a red herring; Do they really believe a 9’ x 12’ booth should provide a bathroom for its customers? For that matter, where are the public bathrooms along a one-mile-plus beach for anyone to use? Non-existent. I suspect you could construct at least one unit for the cost of running the small army of police and authorities up to Manuel Antonio from San José to conduct the raid.

One suspects the restaurants and merchants along the main beach to be behind this, complaining enough to the unknowing politicos in San José until they launch a police operation. I guess we should be grateful that we had five years between attacks and at least had peace for that long. The irony is that these vendors are largely arts and craft people not in direct competition to the “permanent” establishments in the center. We also lost the few remaining walking beach vendors who plied such threatening products as fresh coconut water and ceviche to beach bums like me.

As a guest resident here for six years, I am still surprised that an essentially gentled-souled people like the Ticos can sometime act in draconian ways like this. We are losing an important part of our local culture here just to satisfy the politicos and opportunists. It’s sad to watch.

Bob Normand

Clouds manage to hide full eclipse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Early today was not a good time for watching an eclipse.

The bulk of the national territory was draped in clouds or clouds and rain. A low pressure area that had been in the Caribbean had moved inland and stretched from the Pacific to southeastern Nicaragua.

Perhaps some air passengers got a look at what is called a blood moon. In this type of  total lunar eclipse the face of the moon is illuminated with reflected light from earth. So it is not dark. It just has an orange color.

The eclipse was supposed to begin at 2 a.m. Costa Rican time and continue until sunrise, according to the National Aeronautical and Space Administration.

The agency's  Marshall Space Flight Center  was offering a live stream for early risers.

The total eclipse is the second of four over a two-year period that began April 15 and concludes on Sept. 28, 2015, said NASA.

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A.M. Costa Rica

Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 199
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Everyone loves higher education after students conduct march
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As expected, students mostly from the Universidad de Costa Rica and Universidad Nacional in Heredia marched Tuesday to the legislature to defend a proposed budget that is 14 percent higher than last year.

The threat of a student march already had caused the Partido Liberación Nacional to pull a proposal for reductions in the higher education budget. But the party said after the march that it still was going to seek cuts in other parts of the budget.
Sandra Piszk of Liberación accused Presidentis Guillermo Solís and Asemblea Legislativa President Henry Mora of encouraging the march. Nothing like that has been seen in the history of Costa Rica, she said, adding that marches should only come after dialogue is exhausted.

Solís is a university professor, and a lot of his support in the presidential election came from academics and students.

Other lawmakers in the afternoon legislative session reconfirmed their commitment to high education. Representatives of other political parties said they still would seek to cut the educational budget.

Ruta 142
Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
Heavy equipment works to open a pedestrian pat at the slide site.
Where did the road go?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ruta 142 about 17 kilometers south of Nuevo Arenal was the site of a slide that road officials hope to have cleared by Thursday.

They were working Tuesday to maker a pedestrian path through the debris.  A lot depends on the weather, said the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

This is the much troubled route that connect Nuevo Arenal with La Fortuna by running along the northeast side of Lake Arenal. The Consejo said that Nuevo Arenal was not cut off, and said that access was possible through Venado via a gravel road,

Bringing the roadway back to two lanes will take a major investment and effort.

Accountants say tax agency's Web program is intimidating, confusing
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Several government agencies use specialized computer software to receive reports from citizens.

They also seem to update and change the software without any notice.  Such was the case Tuesday with the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. Employers have to report wages paid to their workers so the institute can figure the premium for the riesgo de trabajo or workman's compensation insurance.

Never mind that exactly the same information is reported online to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The technicians at the institute known as INS made substantial changes in the software, and those trying to use the system Tuesday had to obtain a new user name and password.
There is a bigger problem at the Ministerio de Hacienda. That agency receives sales tax reports each month electronically and also receives the annual tax return that way. Hacienda also hosts the most unresponsive Web page in local government.
No less an organization than the Colegio de Contadores Públicos said Tuesday that the new system that Hacienda has installed is confusing to the average person. It still is confusing even after Hacienda workers tried to fix the problem, the accountants said. 

Hacienda uses the Programa para la Elaboración Digital de Declaraciones de Impuestos, known as the EDDI-7. But the technicians also are continually updating that program.

The national accountant's organization issued the comments as a form of a warning and said that the existing platform is likely to intimidate users. The accountants included some screen shots that were, if not intimidating, inscrutable.

The responsible agency is really the  Dirección General de Tributación  the tax collector.

Accountants are meeting today with tax agency staffers to learn about new rules issued by Hacienda and Tributación. The new rules are designed to improve collection.

The annual income tax report and payment, if any, are due Dec. 15.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 199
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European report outlines undersea archaeological efforts there
By the European Science Foundation news staff

A specialist group of European researchers are studying the remains of prehistoric human settlements which are now submerged beneath coastal seas. Some of these drowned sites are tens of thousands of years old. From the progressive discovery and analysis of these prehistoric remains, a new scientific field has emerged, combining the expertise from many disciplines including archaeology, oceanography and the geosciences. The new field is called continental shelf prehistoric research.

This rapidly evolving research field is the focus of a new European Marine Board position paper titled "Land Beneath the Waves: Submerged Landscapes and Sea-Level Change." The paper describes how during the successive ice ages of the last 1 million years, the sea level dropped at times by up to 120 meters and the exposed area of the continental shelf added 40 percent to the land area of Europe. It was a terrain occupied by vegetation, fauna, and people. Consequently, many of the remains and artifacts of Europe’s prehistory are now underwater. Considering that pre-humans inhabited the Black Sea coast 1.8 million years ago, the coast of northern Spain over 1 million years ago and the coast of Britain at least 800,000 years ago, the drowned land includes some of the earliest routes from Africa into Europe and the areas where people survived during the multiple Ice Ages.

More than 2,500 submerged prehistoric artifact assemblages, ranging in age from 5,000 to 300,000 years, have been found in the coastal waters and open sea basins around Europe. Only a few have been properly mapped by divers or assessed for preservation or excavation. These remains contain information on ancient seafaring and the social structures and exploitation technologies of coastal resources before the introduction of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. To understand how prehistoric people responded to changing sea level, researchers combine examinations of these deposits with paleoclimate models, reconstructions of ice-cap and sea level curves and sophisticated survey and excavation techniques.

The Marine Board paper reports that seabed prehistoric remains are being destroyed by natural erosion and industrial disturbance. The paper stresses that Europe’s submerged prehistory needs to be studied at a sea basin scale, and integrated at European level, which cannot be funded adequately by universities and national agencies alone. Compliance with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization's convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage and other treaties and directives can only be ensured by collaboration and funding at European level.
European Marine Board graphic
From the 'Land Beneath the Waves' cover page

The existing research community is sparse and scattered, and a new emphasis is needed for training marine archaeologists in continental shelf prehistoric research, while promoting collaboration with engineers, climate change experts and numerical modellers, said the report. Many initial findings are made by industrial operations, whose role can be strengthened by improving collaboration with national cultural heritage agencies and academics, both to encourage the reporting of findings and to map, protect, and where appropriate, excavate the archaeological materials such as hut foundations, hearths, food remains, skeletons, shaped flint tools, hand axes, and paddles for canoes embedded in the sediments on the sea floor, it said.

The Marine Board Working Group, comprising experts from 11 European nations and chaired by Nicholas Flemming of the UK National Oceanography Centre, presented its recommendations after discussions over 12 months. The new position paper provides a comprehensive overview of recent progress in the study of submerged cultural heritage and sets out key research questions and policy priorities needed to support this research in the future.

Jan Mees, chairman of the European Marine Board, explains its importance: “Our submerged cultural heritage is not a renewable resource. It is a unique irreplaceable cultural asset which can provide answers to many research questions about our prehistoric ancestors, landscapes and climate.”

Vacation, travel and hospitality

La Fortuna
Comfort of your home in the campo, 5 minutes from Fortuna Centro of San Carlos, in the shadow of Volcano Arenal, Flat screen TV, AC, refrigerator, free coffee. Local area activities like four-wheeling, horse riding, zip lining, hot springs, jungle walking tours. Bring your camera for great photos of nature, fishing and swimming, canyoning and wireless internet. Harry Hart, proprietor.  Call for reservations  (506) 2479-8670   and (506) 8682-9219  Email:

Will Costa Rica Retirement Work For You?
Find out for yourself on Live In Costa Rica Tours

When you visit Costa Rica, you'll want to discover what you need to know to  make the right choice about moving to this tropical paradise.  Our familiarization tours have won hard-earned credentials that prove general excellence and the right focus.  These are the only retirement tours that are licensed and approved by the Costa Rican government and tourism institute  (ICT). In 2006 we were featured on the NBC Today Show and World News.  In 2010, we won the  prestigious Latin America-Asia Travel Excellence Award for the Best and Most Unique Tour in Latin America.

   * Discover how to make the right choices about moving here
   * Find out how to live affordably
   * See how other expats live. Meet other expats who have made
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   * Informative two-day seminar given by local experts in their
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   * Tours led by Christopher Howard, 34-year resident, citizen,
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Click HERE  to learn all about our Association of Residents (ARCR)  approved tours at

Anywhere Costa Rica plans custom vacations, and has the most comprehensive travel services in the country including travel guides, resorts and vacation homesCosta Rica tours
and car rentals.  
Call 1-888.456.3212 or 2479-8811 locally.

Largest art gallery in Guanacaste
Drop in to see some of Costa Rica's finest art
at the largest gallery in Guanacaste.

The Hidden Garden Art Gallery near the Liberia airport is a great place to find quality remembrances of Costa Rica to take home or to decorate your home or office in Costa Rica.  We also offer commissioned pieces so you can create your own unique masterpiece to cherish forever.  With more than 60 artists on exhibit and fine art in 15 rooms full of paintings, prints, sculptures, and diverse artistic expressions, we are easy to locate just 5 kms west of the Daniel Oduber International Airport. Visit our Web site at
or contact us by email:   
Gallery hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tel. 2667-0592 / 8386-6872; 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.


Here's reasonable medical care
Costa Rica's world class medical specialists are at your command. Get the top care for much less than U.S. prices. It is really a great way to spend a vacation. See our list of recommended professionals HERE!amcr-prom

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See our listing of real estate brokers on the for-sale page.

Real estate for rent (paid category)
Beautiful 2-bedroom 2-bathroom American-style apartments with an elevator to your front door in a secure building located in Gringo Gulch the American Section of downtown San José. Costa Rica. Located between the Hotel Del Rey, the Hotel Mona Lisa and the Sportsman's Lodge and The Zona Blue (AKA) Little Habana across the street from Harry's Poas Bar, and next to the Holiday Inn.
apartment view
 There are 15 restaurants and American- style bars on this block and four supermarkets within a few blocks. There are 5 casinos within 2 blocks and dozens of hotels around this apartment. Included in your rental price, fast Internet, the best they have in Costa Rica, cable TV with 80 stations, water, washer
 and dryer. All you pay extra for is electricity. You have your own meter and receive a bill from the electric company every month.  This apartment has a American-style hot water system, hot water in both bathrooms and the kitchen. There is a 25-foot balcony to sit on and watch the people in San José walk by. The neighborhood Barrio Amón is the safest in San José For photos and more information contact:

Beautiful fully furnished two floor house for rent
in La Guacima

Guacima montage
La Guacima, Alajuela. 20 minutes from airport, San José or Alajuela Centro and 30 minutes from Heredia. Near highway 27. $1,200 a month. All services included (Internet, water, electricity, security). Very private, very quiet, green areas, fully furnished. Must like animals (we have three gentle dogs), look at high resolution pics HERE! U.S. citizens or Europeans preferred. No children. Call to inquiry and for appointment to visit. Available for rent in December. Contact phone number:  (506)  8839-4315.

Organic farm home
$800 plus utilities.
Two-bedroom, two-bath house, fully furnished, Internet included, cable TV available. Inside organic farm, safe and secure. In the country but close to town. Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Email for more info and pictures. Long term, NO DOGS.

Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for your stay in this beautiful part of Costa Rica.
We are offering homes for every budget and every need.
Please visit our Web page at or contact us at
or call at (506) 2654-5442.

MONTHLY $800 TO $1,200

Villas Casa Loma has everything you are looking for.  Best vistas, climate, value.  Four unique homes in a secure private compound on a ridge near Alajuela overlooking the entire Central Valley.  Two are available fully furnished and equipped, each a complete home accommodating 4 persons in two bedrooms with ensuite baths.  Pool, rancho, mirador, other features.  Ask about part-month rates.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See virtual tour of accommodations HERE!
Get to know the real Costa Rica – you may want to live here someday.

HP Cattle rentals
Mountain homes or farm for rent
Barva volcano, Heredia province
We offer for rent a gorgeous two-bedroom mountain chalet and a one-bedroom mountain home located on the slopes of the Barva Volcano, Heredia Province. The homes are situated at 7,300 feet altitude and within a working horse ranch just three kilometers from the Braulio Carrillo National Park entrance. From our homes one can hike to the Barva volcano crater-lake.  Enjoy a spacious living room, kitchen, fireplace and breathtaking views of the Irazú volcano and the Central Valley. Observe dozens of cloud forest bird species to include the resplendent quetzal.  The homes are incomparable in beauty and attention to detail within the Barva highland area.  We are only 35-55 minutes from Costa Rica’s three principal cities (Heredia, Alajuela, and San José), less than two hours from the central Pacific beaches, and three hours from the Caribbean beaches. Enjoy the tranquility of the mountains while maintaining quick access to the conveniences of the city and rapid access to other eco-tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Additionally, we can board your horses at a reasonable fee.  We can also offer our clients rental of a small and fully functional farm complete with stables, pasture, and office space.
Mountain chalet: $750.  Basic mountain home: $400.
Boutique mountain home: One-bedroom $850. Two-bedroom $1,000.
Small Farm that includes a chalet, basic mountain home, stables, and 8,000m2 of pasture/green areas: $1,500.

Apartments Lemur
Apartment Lemur for rent
San Francisco de Dos Rios, El Bosque, furnished, 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment, quiet area, free cable TV, WiFi. large patio area, swimming pool, parking, security. Close to San José. $440/month. Retired persons preferred. Call 8375-6838.

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A.M. Costa Rica's   Fifth news page

cat trees
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 199
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American infected with ebola
said to be reincarnated lama

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The American infected with ebola while working as a freelance cameraman for NBC News in Liberia reportedly has close ties with Tibet and is a reincarnation of a Tibetan spiritual leader, known as a lama.

According to reports by The Associated Press, Ashoka Mukpo was just a few months old in 1981 when he was recognized by another Buddhist lama as the ninth Khamnyon Tulku, or reincarnated lama. Mukpo's older half-brother, Gesar, also was named a tulku.

Mukpo was raised in the U.S. by his British mother, Diana Mukpo, and her then-husband, the late Tibetan Buddhist leader Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Diana married Trungpa, founder of the Shambhala community that spread Buddhism in the West, when she was just 16 years old.

While Mukpo's biological father was Mitchell Levy — a follower of Trungpa who had a romantic relationship with Diana — the two did not marry until after Trungpa's death in 1987.

While alive, Trungpa raised Mukpo as his own son.

NBC News hired Mukpo in Liberia just last Tuesday. No stranger to the country, Mukpo spent two years working with a human rights group in the West African nation, but he had returned home to the northeastern U.S. state of Rhode Island during the summer.

His mother says her son was compelled to cover scene on the ground in Liberia.

"When he heard about the ebola breakout, he thought the most important thing he could do would be to go back there and to film it, so he could document the problem to bring the attention to people in the United States, so that they would get more help in Liberia," she said.

What Mukpo did not realize then is that the attention he would bring would be focused on his own battle against the disease.

His mother said her son believes he may have contracted the virus while helping disinfect a car in which someone had died from Ebola.

"Even though he had protective clothing on," she said, "he thinks a splash might have come through."

Mukpo was transferred from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to a hospital in the central U.S. state of Nebraska, where he is now undergoing treatment. He arrived in Nebraska by private plane Monday, and was able to walk out and wave to his parents and girlfriend as he was loaded into an ambulance.

The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha is the same facility that successfully treated an American doctor infected with ebola last month, but his mother says her son is not being given the same experimental drug administered to Rick Sacra. Sacra was hospitalized again Saturday in Massachusetts with a fever and cough, but he was released on Monday after being treated for respiratory problems. Doctors said he tested negative for the Ebola virus.

Meanwhile, his mother says she and her husband were able to talk to their son, still struggling with Ebola, via video link. She said he is scared but determined to recover.

Panetta is critical of Obama
and his Mideast strategies

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A former U.S. intelligence and defense chief says President Barack Obama lost his way in setting the country's military policies in the Middle East in the past few years.

In a new book published Tuesday, "Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace," Leon Panetta faults the president as too often relying on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.

Panetta led the Central Intelligence Agency and then the Defense Department between 2009 and 2013. 

Panetta praised Obama for authorizing the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. But Panetta said the U.S. president made several mistakes in setting policy in Iraq and Syria, which he says contributed to the Islamic State takeover of vast swaths of land in both countries in recent months.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama is continuing to assert his leadership in the Middle East with the U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants.

Panetta's memoir has drawn the ire of the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden saying it is inappropriate for former officials to write books about their accounts of Washington policy disputes so soon after leaving their jobs and while presidents whom they served are still in office.

In the book, Panetta faulted Obama for not pushing former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow the United States to keep a residual force in the country when the U.S. withdrew its combat troops in 2011 after a nearly nine-year war. 

The former official also criticized Obama for rejecting his advice and that of former secretary of State Hillary Clinton to train and arm Syrian rebels in 2012 in their fight to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a tactic that Obama only recently adopted.

In addition, Panetta said Obama should have attacked Syria when it crossed his self-described red line and used chemical weapons against opposition forces, rather than seeking congressional approval, which never materialized.

In interviews about the book, Panetta said the U.S. leader now has made the right decisions on U.S. strategy in the Middle East. But he says the policies should have been carried out two years ago, and that Obama should not have ruled out the use of U.S. ground troops in fighting Islamic State militants.

Four VA officials are fired
as a result of agency scandal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. agency that oversees health care for the country's 21 million military veterans has fired four senior executives as it attempts to end long wait times for patients seeking medical care.

The firings at the Department of Veterans Affairs are the first since Congress made it easier for the agency to get rid of officials suspected of wrongdoing.

One top official at the veterans' agency said authorities "will actively and aggressively pursue disciplinary action" against officials "who violate our values."

One of the officials fired was John Goldman, director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia, where employees admitted they falsified records to hide long wait times for veterans who sought appointments with doctors.

Another of those fired, James Talton, director of the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System, led a facility where hundreds of X-rays of patients went unread and more patient records were manipulated.

Another executive being fired is Susan Taylor, the deputy chief procurement officer with the VHA who oversees $15 billion a year in federal contracts.

A report by the VA's Office of Inspector General found that Ms. Taylor helped steer contracts to a private company that championed so-called reverse auctions, in which sellers compete with each other to offer the lowest bids, The Associated Press reported.

The VA's report also said Ms. Taylor advocated for the company, Virginia-based FedBid, and worked to discredit a senior VA official who had declared a moratorium on reverse auctions while the government studied them, according to the AP.

Terry Gerigk Wolf, director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System, is being fired for unspecified "conduct unbecoming a senior executive," the AP reported.

The veterans' agency has acknowledged that the slow access to health care may have contributed to the deaths of some patients in recent years.

As the veterans' health care scandal erupted several months ago, the agency chief resigned.

President Barack Obama named a new leader, Robert McDonald, a retired chief executive at one of the country's biggest consumer products companies, Proctor & Gamble.

Giant solar storm could kill
most of earth's power grid

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The powerful solar winds that buffet the earth’s atmosphere cause the shimmering northern lights of the aurora borealis, as well as many of the blackouts that plague electrical systems. 

“We’ve seen back in March of 1989, a powerful geomagnetic storm brought the grid down in Montreal and Quebec," recalled William Murtagh at the National Space Weather Prediction Center. "We had issues with some of our nuclear power plants in 1991. As recently as 2003, a big geomagnetic storm during that period we call the Halloween Storms produced a blackout in Malmo, Sweden, and damaged transformers in the Escombe Network in South Africa.”

The Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, keeps an eye on the sun, and provides continually updated forecasts to more than 40,000 utility companies, government agencies, the satellite industry, commercial aviation and GPS users.

The typical solar forecast is hot, sunny and worry-free. But sometimes, satellites positioned near the sun observe giant orange geysers. These eruptions can generate magnetized winds, called coronal mass ejections, which blast into space. 

It generally takes at least half a day for one of these solar storms to reach the earth, so at first, forecasters issue a watch. Murtagh compares it to a terrestrial storm watch, "somewhat like a hurricane watch when there’s a hurricane sitting somewhere off shore of Miami, and it’s a couple of days out.”

In the final hour of its journey toward Earth, the storm engulfs a special satellite that provides crucial new data about its power and scope. Then, Murtagh says, forecasters race to send an update.

“So we can give all the folks that we gave a heads-up to a day or two earlier, we can say okay, it’s worse than we expected, it’s as expected, or maybe it’s a bit of a dud and is not going to be the impact we thought it might have here on earth.”

On a scale of 1 to 5, most solar storms are Class 2 or lower, so a bit of a dud, and last less than a day.  For Class 5 storms, utility companies route power away from sensitive equipment and intensive geomagnetic activity. Because short-term blackouts are possible in powerful storms, hospitals, airports and other emergency centers are urged to keep backup generators ready.

But these procedures might not be enough to get us through a Class 5 PLUS storm. Murtagh points to the Carrington Event, a massive solar storm that hit the earth in 1859. It created Aurora lights that were seen not only near the poles, but close to the equator -- in Cuba, Santiago, Chile, and Hawaii. And it wreaked havoc with telegraphs, the main electrical device of the time.

“The geomagnetic storm might have been three times, four, or up to 10 times as big as anything we’ve seen since. So what does that mean? What does that translate to, in our critical infrastructure, especially the power grid?”

To investigate concerns like these, the Idaho National Laboratory maintains high voltage transformers, so massive, they stand twice as tall as a man.  Cyber Security Researcher Scott McBride said his teams occasionally zap these transformers with geomagnetic currents. Their experiments indicate that technicians could monitor individual transformers during solar storms, to reduce the chance that they’ll be harmed.

But if a Carrington-sized event hit next week, all bets are off. “It could be several continents," McBride said. "It could be planetary in scale.”

An event that size would be so overwhelming, McBride predicts that fluctuating current loads would destroy many transformers and it would take a long time to replace them.

“Extra high voltage transformers have lead times typically from 18 to 24 months, so if we lost 10 extra high voltage transformers in the U.S., we could have people out of power for six months, a year, up to two years.”

McBride says engineers are developing a transformer that could replace a damaged unit in days, rather than months. And sophisticated grounding systems can protect equipment.  But these steps will cost time and money. 

So what if, next week, the Space Weather Prediction Center issues a red alert - a Carrington Event - 30 minutes from earth? McBride said there’s one more backup plan: “Turning the power grid off would certainly protect it from a geomagnetic disturbance, but the socioeconomic impacts of de-energizing the power grid are so huge, it would actually be very difficult for someone to make that decision.”

All together, these experts say, it’s time for world leaders, power companies and major power users to plan ahead, so that a world that depends on electricity can come together, to weather a solar superstorm. 

Appeals court strikes down
more same-sex prohibitions

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A U.S. federal appeals court has struck down a ban on same-sex marriages in the western states of Idaho and Nevada, a day after the country's highest court let stand a similar ruling in five other states.

The ruling Tuesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will also negate bans in Alaska, Arizona and Montana that fall within the court's jurisdiction.

Once the 9th district court's ruling goes into effect, same-sex marriages will be legal in 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. They remain against the law in 15 U.S. states.

Gay marriage advocates say the Supreme Court ruling Monday has sent a clear message of support for marriage equality by making it easier for appeals courts to strike down similar bans.

After the Supreme Court decision, a White House spokesman said a majority of Americans recognize that same sex couples deserve fair treatment under the law. Spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment specifically on the Supreme Court's decision, but said U.S. President Barack Obama believes gay marriage should be the law of the land.

State officials who defend gay marriage bans say the Constitution does not dictate how states should define marriage and say there is no legal tradition that supports a right to gay marriage.

Just more than a year ago, the Supreme Court ruled to strike down a federal law that restricted the definition of marriage to heterosexual couples for the purpose of federal government benefits.

Marijuana fog is excuse
in Boston evidence case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A young man who U.S. federal prosecutors say initially lied about removing evidence from the dorm room of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cannot remember the alleged event because his memory was hampered by marijuana, according to his lawyer.

On the first day of trial Monday in Boston, 21-year-old Robel Phillipos' attorney said he was “a kid high out of his mind” when any dorm room visit took place three days after the April 2013 attack.

According to prosecutors, Phillipos eventually signed a confession that he and two others went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room and removed evidence, including a backpack with fireworks tubes that was later discarded.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin said Phillipos “could not have been much more accurate if he had used a ruler” when describing the fireworks in his statement. But Phillipos’ attorney said the confession was coerced.

Phillipos is one of four men charged in connection with alleged actions in the aftermath of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. The attack killed three people and wounded more than 200. If convicted, he could face close to a decade in federal prison.

The two others said to have gone with Phillipos on the dorm room excursion are awaiting sentencing. A jury convicted Azamat Tazhayakov in July, and Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty a month later.

Tsarnaev is set to go to trial in January on charges he carried out the bombings with his older brother who died days later in a shootout with police. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors also have charged a taxi driver with misleading investigators and seeking to destroy evidence about how well he knew the Tsarnaevs. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial next year.

Report summarizes studies
on effects of marijuana use

By the John Wiley & Sons, Inc., news staff

In the past 20 years recreational cannabis use has grown tremendously, becoming almost as common as tobacco use among adolescents and young adults, and so has the research evidence.   A major new review in the scientific journal Addiction sets out the latest information on the effects of cannabis use on mental and physical health.

Wayne Hall.’s report was published online Tuesday in the scientific journal Addition. He is professor and director of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland.

The key conclusions are:

Adverse effects of acute cannabis use

    * Cannabis does not produce fatal overdoses.
    * Driving while cannabis-intoxicated doubles the risk of a car crash. This risk increases substantially if users are also alcohol-intoxicated.
    * Cannabis use during pregnancy slightly reduces birth weight of the baby.

Adverse effects of chronic cannabis use

    * Regular cannabis users can develop a dependence syndrome, the risks of which are around 1 in 10 of all cannabis users and 1 in 6 among those who start in adolescence.
    * Regular cannabis users double their risks of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders, especially if they have a personal or family history of psychotic disorders, and if they start using cannabis in their mid-teens.
    * Regular adolescent cannabis users have lower educational attainment than non-using peers but not known is whether the link is causal.
    * Regular adolescent cannabis users are more likely to use other illicit drugs, but not known is whether the link is causal.
    * Regular cannabis use that begins in adolescence and continues throughout young adulthood appears to produce intellectual impairment, but the mechanism and reversibility of the impairment is unclear.
    * Regular cannabis use in adolescence approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or reporting psychotic symptoms in adulthood.
    * Regular cannabis smokers have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis.
    * Cannabis smoking by middle aged adults probably increases the risk of myocardial infarction.
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For those looking for quality properties and service at quality prices. Central Valley Rentals. Offering honesty, experience and knowledge. Your Villa Real Expert. Call us now  Toll Free (877) 845-4533. In Costa Rica 4030-5480 or 8339-2112.

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Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
The undiscovered jewel of Central America, 35 square miles of blue, pristine, clear water ideal for fishing, swimming, boating, Real estate values still low.
Great lake front, river front land, farms, homes, condos and commercial property. Some with owner financing
This is far and away the most beautiful place in all Central America — cool climate. Try our two-day, all-inclusive discovery tour for $299.

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Houses, lots and farms in Grecia,
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Great climate
and safe communities.

Visit our Web Site:

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house 865
Beautiful chalet in Grecia, with the best fresh natural weather, 1.040 m2 of land, Price $135.000. Click HERE!
House 868
Beautiful house  in Grecia, with the best fresh natural weather, 810 m2 of land, Price $178.000. Click HERE!
House 866
Beautiful large house  in Grecia, with the best fresh natural weather,1.006 m2 of land, Price $290.000.  HERE!
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Outrageous blowout prices on oceanfront condos in Los Sueños!

Located in the private Bay Residence enclave overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Los Sueños Resort and Marina, there are three gorgeous units available at unbelievable bargain pricing from $589,000.  All of these beautiful units are three bedrooms and two baths, 2,200 square feet, fully furnished and ready to move in.  Development includes a gym, access to 3 pools, jacuzzis, BBQ areas and the Beach Club.  If you’ve always wanted to own in Los Sueños, now is the time!  Contact  or call Nate @ 8635-9320.
From the US call 209-482-1788.
Top floor unit: $649,000   Second floor unit: $675,000  Garden unit: $589,000

Newly available in Roca Verde
Well-built home of 215 m2, 3 bedrooms, two bath on 1,150 m2 of lot, with attractive rock retaining wall, carport, and a pool. Indoors there are high, vaulted hardwood ceiling, bright rooms, a laundry room.  The floor is ceramic tile in pastel shades. $247,000. Photos: 2446-5587.

San Ramon
Mountain home w/million dollar view near San Ramón
Beautiful home in the mountains near San Ramón with 180-degree view of the gulf of Nicoya.7 miles from San Ramón, 1 mile from Interamericana highway. 3,200 ft. elevation so temp is 65 to 75 year around. Electric gate, private drive. house built in 2010. 2 bedrooms, 1 baths, appliances included. High-speed internet iinstalled, Direct TV via sling box on Internet. $199,000 Contact   Check out slide show HERE!

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Cariari luxury condo for sale
This is not an ordinary condo.
Completed one year ago, a $45,000 renovating made it an exquisite dwelling. As soon as you walk in you know it is a special home. No detail has been overlooked, even minuscule ones. The owner has a need to move on, and someone lucky will be the beneficiary of the fine detailed work. The home itself has three bedrooms, two and half bathrooms plus a maid’s quarters with its own bathroom. Also, it has a living room, dining room and a gorgeous kitchen with a kitchenette. There’s also a small outdoor patio. Being the end unit of this four-home condo complex, there’s parking space for three vehicles.  Approximately 240 sq. meters. All this near the Cariari Golf and Country Club and its renowned Tom Facio golf course. The club also has amenities such as a fitness centre, exercise room, Olympic swimming pool, sauna, 12 tennis courts and many other benefits. Tel:  8384-9608 or 2293-9054  Price $214,500.

Two lovely homes on one big lot in Esterillos Oeste, (Central Pacific)
Located on a breezy hill just 4 minutes walk to the beach, surf and tide-pools, only 20 minutes drive north to Jacó nightlife and shopping or south to the rural town of Parrita.

First, a 2-story, 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1½-bathroom house with big kitchen and living room.  Full-width verandah with eating and sitting areas, overlooking lawn, pool and gazebo. Sitting balcony at upper, bedroom level.  Carport and laundry. 

Second, a completely private single-story 2-bedroom (sleeps 4), 1-bathroom home with big back yard at a lower level on the same, big fully titled 1,100M2 lot. Full security bars at all doors and windows, plus locking vehicle access and pedestrian gates at the street. In a very safe neighborhood, with private and natural surroundings

Well maintained, fully and tastefully furnished and equipped, hot water, local phone, cable TV/DVD and high speed wireless internet.   The houses have been rented for both long-term and vacation for $100/$80 per day and $1,500/$1,200 per month respectively. See this place, you will love it! Then make an offer. E-mail or call (506) 8386-8825.  Rodney, asking $350,000.

house photo
More photos HERE!
Another 'live in the view' home in Puriscal
$179,900 includes:
Lot on river, concrete road, custom kitchen & bath with granite counter tops, PEX plumbing, 2” Styrofoam, sandwiched in steel roof, 4” concrete/recycled Styrofoam & steel walls, laminated, bronzed windows, custom wood doors, appliances and all transfer taxes, and fees.

2, 900 sq feet under roof, 1,250 sq feet inside walls, 2 bedroom, 2 ½ baths, laundry room, three separate patio areas, covered carport, shade trees, in upscale, secure project.  This project has river with protected areas & walkways. It is only 10 minutes on all paved roads to Santiago de Puriscal, 45 minutes to La Plaza Mall/Hospital CIMA and SJO airport, and 1 ½ hours to Pacific Beaches. It has recently upgraded public water supply and dependable ICE electric and high-speed internet.
Please come visit our projects and meet four new homeowners who have recently moved into their new “live in the view” homes to verify how happy they are and that they all came in under budget. CONTACT: George Lundquist  Home phone: 2417-1041 Cell phone: 8888 4543 Skype glundquist.
To see more Photos of this house, click HERE!

Beautiful home and separate apartment
The land is 289 square meters with  329 square meters of construction. Three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, 2 floors, covered parking, with room for  a second parking space. A first floor patio and a second floor balcony with view. Attached apartment rented for $500 per month. Live free. House valued, @ $330,000. asking price with agents is $295,000. With no agent, asking $279,000, negotiable. Must see to appreciate,  Contact: Wayne Winstead,, 8820-1501/8379-7947


Beach Front Home - Central Pacific Coast
Pristine condition, recently renovated. The best surfing and boogie boarding in the country. The most magnificent ocean and sunset view. New 20-year, fully registered concession on one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Easy access from San José (1 hour 25 minutes) located between Jacó and Manuel Antonio, in Esterillos Oeste.  2 or 3 bedrooms. Center room can be living room. House with 2 1/2 baths. Separated rancho with kitchen and large entertainment patio. Landscaped garden with no water shortage. Has both municipal and well water with automatic watering system. Direct access to the beach as no road is in front of property. Protected land on one side of the property for additional privacy.  Alarm system and complete shutters for security while away. Lot approximately 1,725 square meters, Asking price: $385.000.  Contact to Paul at local phone 506- 2637-8858  Cell phone 506- 8823-8550 .  US Mobile 908-400-9772  Emails:  and


Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at  See property video here:

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ARenal property
Location: Near Arenal        Price: $2.7 million
Size: 113 acres
Web site:

The farm is at the highest point on a stunning ridge bordered by pristine Costa Rican primary forest on all sides of the property, with active wildlife all throughout the area. On each of its gently rolling terraced lomas you get a glimpse of Volcán Arenal from a distance. This property has four different lagunas, a working organic farm and nursery, mature fruit trees, sheep corral, ideal for grazing horses with stunning views from all the hillsides. The Northern Zone of Costa Rica is the country's best kept secret, providing a perfect home base location to travel the country's many destinations while still maintaining the best climate at 400 meters above sea level.

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13 work stations, good equipment, good location, Rohrmoser, two blocks from Plaza Mayor. $4.000 per month. Call Kevin 8366-6861.

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Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact:

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, Vol. 14, No. 199
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Cases of beer are as tall as a police officer

Smuggling case generates bribe allegation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The wording on the vehicle said it contained seafood, but when police checked they said they found a large shipment of alcohol and beer.

This was yet another load of bottles and cans smuggled to duck Costa Rica's taxes. But the woman passenger made a mistake.

The Fuerza Pública said that the woman, identified by the last name of  Ramírez, offered police officers 500,000 colons, nearly $1,000, to ignore the alcohol. She faces a bribery allegation and was remanded to the local prosecutor in Limón

The confiscation took place in Westfalia on the Caribbean coast. The shipment contained many cartons of beer but also bottles of rum, whisky and tequila,

In another smuggling case reported Tuesday police at San Dimas de La Cruz intercepted a Nicaraguan-registered pickup in which a passenger carried a briefcase with 1,500 various types of medicines and pills.  They were confiscated, too.

Amazon will inaugurate Heredia facility

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Amazon will be inaugurating a new service center today in the Parque Industrial Parque Lag in Legunilla de Heredia, Casa Presidencial said.

The facility had been announced a year ago. The inauguration comes in time for the Christmas season.

Amazon is pasting ads in English seeking employees. The company is believed also to seek speakers of other languages.

New border crossing opening in April

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government said Tuesday that it hopes to open the Las Tablillas boarder crossing post near Los Chiles de Alajuela by April 15.

This will provide another legal crossing point to and from Nicaragua, and the project is considered to be a tourist innovation, too.

The crossing will be opened with some temporary infrastructure while the permanent construction is being finished, said the government. The project is a big one because it includes bringing electricity and telephone lines to the facility.

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From Page 7:

Insurance institute wants to unload vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national insurance company will be getting rid of 22 vehicles and five motorcycles with an auction Monday at the central headquarters in San José.

The company, the Instituto Nacional de Seguros, got the vehicles by paying off the owners in cases of theft or of accidents. Only five of the vehicles are fit for the road. The rest are for parts, as are the motorcycles, said the company.

The vehicles can be inspected from today until Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the institute's facilities in Curridabat near the arena where bull fights were held during carnival. The auction itself is at 10 a.m. in the first floor auditorium of the institute on Avenida 7.

Such auctions are periodic when the institute needs to unload vehicles.