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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 207                          Email us
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Jo Stuart

Mar Vista

Real estate group to seek legislation over profession
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A chamber of commerce representing the real estate industry will unveil a new proposal that the chamber will present to the legislature regarding new regulations and reorganization of the real estate industry.

A press release about the conference indicates that this law will include an institution organizing real estate brokers in the country, but a chamber spokesperson would not give specifics.

Presumably, this institution may be similar to the recent project by the chamber of Costa Rican tourism in order to legally change itself from a chamber to a colegio. That would make it the gatekeeper for employees and businesses looking to enter the industry.

This is one of several areas that the Cámara Costarricense de Corredores de Bienes Raíces will address at the conference.

The chamber will also present an index of how to
price property based on location and geography as well as an update of all the rules and regulations that apply to real estate brokers and the industry.

Additionally, the chamber will give an update on its annual real estate development awards, which will be presented at a gala next week Friday.

Real state organizations have been seeking legislation for years that would set up a licensing scheme. Now in Costa Rica anyone can call him or herself a broker and collect a commission on a real estate transaction. Naturally this had led to confusion among potential real estate purchasers.

Some brokers with experience in Canada seek a system similar to that in the north that would restrict licensing to those who have completed a four-year university degree in real estate. Others seek a more liberal system that would mirror licensing as found in U.S. states. That would require some training but not to the extent of a four-year university degree.

Another problem in Costa Rica is that some real estate sales people are working here illegally on tourism visas.

Pura vida raises some eyebrows in state of Maine
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The folks in the U.S. State of Maine are not real happy with pura vida.

The words may be the informal national slogan of Costa Rica, but in Kennebunk, Maine, the Pura Vida Dance Studio is a major scandal.

That is because police allege that a lot of the dancing was of the horizontal variety. Such things are not acceptable Down East.

There is a big legal fight going on about the release of names of those who patronized the dance studio. It seems that zumba professional Alexis Wright, 29,  was a professional in other realms.

Such things are treated lightly in the real pura vida
land of Costa Rica, where prostitution by adults is not a criminal activity. But in Maine where 150 or so business and political figures have been linked to the horizontal zumba dancing local prosecutors are preparing criminal charges. At least those prosecutors who have not been linked to zumba dancing.

To make matters worse, Ms. Wright, if that is her real name, was a bit of an exhibitionist and secretly taped videos of her encounters with her middle-aged male friends and neighbors. Then she posted them to various video sites. Consequently she is neck and neck with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for popularity on the Internet. However, Obama and Romney are more fully clothed.

So far no one has been able to explain why the 29-year-old dancer named her studio pura vida.

Water accident claims the lives of three children
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three children drowned in a boating accident off the coast near Quepos Tuesday morning after the boat they traveled in with their families capsized from a strong rip current, according to a police report.

The incident involved two boats and, in all, nine persons were plunged into the water. They were five adults and four children. Neither boat carried life vests.

Guardacostas officers rescued the survivors and recovered the bodies of the dead children. Eight people were on a single vessel, and the captain of that boat was taken into police custody.

Officials from the security ministry said that the incident occurred in a particularly treacherous stretch of coastline along Isla Damas, a small peninsula that forms the river mouth of the Río Cotos. The peninsula's base starts at the outer limits of Puerto Quepos and stretches about five kilometers northwest. 

Ministry officials also pointed out that the accident occurred three years to the day after two Guardacostas officers drowned in a similar incident on that same stretch of coastline.

According to the police report, eight people were on a single ferry, owned and piloted by a man with the name of  Jimmy Pérez Garita. His passengers included three women and four children, all of whom are Nicaraguan citizens living in San Carlos, Alajuela.
At around 6:30 a.m., the boat hit a strong rip current and capsized, casting all occupants into the water. The boat was not equipped with life vests and none of the passengers had one.

Another man with his own boat, Dani Duarte Peraza, saw the event and attempted to rescue those in the water until his vessel also capsized and he was thrown overboard himself, the ministry said.

The coast guard was able to rescue all five adults, but only managed to pull one of the three children from the water alive.

That one child was Keori Duarte Jiménez, the 1-year-old daughter of Arelis Jiménez, 30, who is now in a hospital in Quepos. However, she lost her five-year-old brother, Carlos.

Mother Ana Raquel Jiménez Murillo lost both her 4-year-old daughter, Silvia, and her 3-year-old son, Dilan, said police.

A ministry spokesperson said that the two families are not related to one another. The other passenger was Maikelin Duarte Sandoval.

According to the report, the passengers of the ferry planned to take a public bus back home to San Carlos that day.

After rescuing the surviving passengers and recovering the bodies, Guardacostas officers took Pérez into custody. A ministry spokesperson confirmed that it is illegal to not carry life vests in a boat, especially when it is a commercial ferry.

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New fire station in Nandayure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The fire fighting agency, the Cuerpo de Bomberos will inaugurate a new station Sunday in Nandayure on the Nicoya peninsula.

The station is one of those that has been built in anticipation of funds from a law that assesses a small tax on water utility fees.

Embassy items on the block

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy has items left over from its auction last month. The Rematico online auction service is the monopoly vendor of used U.S. Embassy items. They include computers and household items. Those interested can see the items Friday at the auction service's warehouse in Pavas and bid on the items until Sunday, said a release.

Veterans group to meet

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new Guanacaste Veterans Association plans a meeting Saturday at Coconutz in Playa del Coco.  A representative of Hospital CIMA will be there to discuss services for veterans. For more information potential members can contact, Karen and Quinn Slack at 8938-3251, 8708-1325 and, or Dave Reynolds at

Find out what the papers
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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
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 207
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Ho, ho ho. The Christmas lottery tickets are on the streets
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A sure sign of Christmas is the announcement that the seasonal lottery is available. The gordo navideño or fat Christmas lottery is a traditional event.

The selection of the winning numbers is prime time television material, and the news media is full of human interest stories for days: Who sold the winning tickets? Who won? How will it change their lives?

The government agency that runs the lottery, the Junta de Protección Social, said Tuesday that the top lottery prize will be worth $2.4 million or about 1,2 billion colons. That's tax-free. Expats can purchase a full ticket or one of 40 pieces.
The prize is proportional.
There are five sets of tickets with the same number and 500,000 full lottery tickets will be in the streets.

The drawing Dec. 16 is a big deal, and it is even bigger if viewers have a ticket. There are three of those roulette baskets. One produces a three-digit number for the series and one produces a two-digit ticket number. Then an operator of a third basket produces a ball that gives the prize.

So someone could have both the series number and the ticket number yet still get a small prize.

In a country where the hand of God is important and fate is revered, the lottery is a major event. Frequently pieces of a winning ticket are held by a number of persons in a community.  So when they win, the fortunes of the community are changed.

Business leaders meeting today to discuss the future of nation
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce and the international financial consulting firm Deloitte will host a full-day summit on international business competition today at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú.

President Laura Chinchilla will give a speech to close the event late in the afternoon.

Before that, experts on international business will take part in three separate panels on issues that businesses in Costa Rica face.

This is the third time the chamber has hosted the “AmCham  Competitiveness Summit.” This year the theme of the
 conference is “the Costa Rica we need by 2020.”

Three panels of experts will address three key topics to this end. These panels will feature political, government officials, managers of large international companies and other experts.

The first panel will be about setting a national model to develop Costa Rica's competitiveness. The second panel will be about how to make necessary policy changes and define priorities.

The final panel will be specifically devoted to developing the law regarding electrical energy.

With a $250 fee to attend the conference, the event caters to businesses and not to the general public. Registration for the event closed Monday.

A.M. Costa Rica announces an adjustment in advertising rates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica announces a small increase in display advertising rates as of Nov. 1.

The increase will be from 6 to 9 percent to compensate for additional expenses in salaries, rents, utilities, government fees and the estimated 6 percent increase in the cost of living. Current advertising contracts will not be affected.

As has always been the case, the newspaper will continue to place advertising at the current rates until Nov. 1, and
advertising executives have been instructed to contact their clients with this information. Classified rates remain unchanged.

Advertising with A.M. Costa Rica still is a great deal because the company does not have to buy paper and the pages are in at least 90 countries every day.  Every weekday the newspaper serves up about 32,000 pages to readers. Independent statistical monitors report that there are about 10,000 to 12,000 unique visitors a day. Advertising executives are authorized to display the latest statistics to customers and potential customers. Most sophisticated business operators want to see those statistics.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Oct. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 207
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They have been out for awhile, but Correos de Costa Rica still has a series of postcards showing various scenes of the country. The face value is 500 colons, about $1.

Correos de Costa Rica

Tax agency has a new system to evaluate real estate in country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tax agency is using software and air photos to set up a system of evaluation of the properties in the country.

The agency, the Dirección General de Tributación says it no longer will go door to door to determine values. instead the agency is using a new system that already has established values for some 90 percent of the properties in the country.

The project is an effort to overcome the tax cheating that has been rampant in the country. For years, lawyers would declare a small value on properties when they were transferred. This was the so-called fiscal value. More correctly it was the value
on  which  land owners wanted to be taxed.

The agency said that a pilot project identified 180 properties that were listed at about 8 percent of their estimated value. Instead of being worth 538 million colons or a bit more than $1 million, the properties were evaluated at 7.3 billion colons or about $14.6 million, said the agency.

The system also will be used to identify homes whose owners should pay the luxury tax that is due in January, said the agency.

The new system also will be of use to municipalities that depend on property tax for income.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday Oct. 17, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 207
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Under-represented groups
urged to cast Nov. 6 ballots

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. presidential election is approaching, and political parties and advocacy groups across the nation are making a final push to get people registered to vote and to the polls for the Nov. 6 contest.  Groups are mobilizing to get an under-represented group of eligible voters involved in the process.

Shakei Haynes is helping college students register to vote in the November election.

He's been doing this since 2005 when he was 16 years old.  Now he's a political science student at Howard University in Washington. He says the job is getting easier.

"Mobilizing individuals to get registered to vote has not been hard at all because people understand the urgency.  In this election, you have two different contrasting views of what America should look like over the next four years," said Haynes.

Some of these young African-American students will be first-time voters.  Nearly half of the seven million African Americans ages 18 to 30 were unregistered and therefore not eligible to vote, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Shakei says that is unacceptable and young people, especially minorities, should not be underrepresented in the political process.

"A democracy should be reflective of the people who are in it. If we can, you know, make that process a little easier for students then that is our job, and that is the reward at the end of the day," he said.

Howard student Jai Dungey is from New Jersey. She says everyone should know their vote matters.

"Voting is a right, it is a right.  People need to realize that it is not a privilege. We should come together and just take advantage of this right we have been given and people have worked so hard to give us," said Dungey.

Corion Jones is voting for the first time. He's from the battleground state of Ohio.  He feels his vote could help determine the outcome of the election.

"Everyone should be able to express what they want or what they feel in their own country, so the opportunity and the ability to vote is highly important," said Jones.

"Just encourage sort of those last few remaining folks we are trying to reach," said Gail Kitch.

Ms. Kitch is chief operating officer with the non-partisan Voter Participation Center in Washington.  Her group launched a voter-registration campaign by mail last year targeting young people of color and unmarried women.

"The young person is sort of primed to think they are ready to participate now, and this kind of a document mailed straight to them is exactly the kind of thing they are going to respond to," she said.

Now the push is on to make sure newly registered voters actually cast ballots in November.

Leadership hope to stem
Russia's smoking tradition

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Russia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world, with an estimated 40 percent of the country's adults lighting up. As a result, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is proposing a ban on smoking in public places by 2015 and is calling for a ban on all tobacco ads in a country where a pack can cost less than $1.

Medvedev addressed the issue in a video on his blog, saying it’s imperative that Russians stop smoking because every year some 400,000 die as a result of smoking-related causes.

He said that every year the equivalent of a large city disappears from the country's map because of tobacco. He said that these are usually painful and long deaths from cancer or emphysema, or sudden deaths from a heart attack or stroke.

The World Health Organization claims that some 40 percent of Russians smoke, second only to China. According to the latest statistics, women are increasingly taking up the habit, with some 22 percent smoking in 2009, compared to only 7 percent in 1992.

So now Russia’s Health Ministry is readying a bill that would forbid cigarette smoking in public places, ban tobacco advertising altogether and increase taxes on cigarette sales significantly.

Despite this expected opposition, Medvedev says the bill is needed now.

The bill still has to pass both the upper and lower houses of parliament before it becomes law. Many analysts say even if that does happen, the government does not have the infrastructure to enforce, or even implement, the new anti-smoking measures.

Osama's driver exonerated
by U.S. appeals court ruling

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. federal appeals court has overturned the terrorism conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama Bin Laden.

In Tuesday's unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel said material support for terrorism was not a crime under international law at the time of Hamdan's conviction.

Hamdan was convicted by a military tribunal at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in connection to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

He was transferred to his native Yemen in late 2008 after receiving credit for time served.  Yemeni authorities released him from prison in January 2009.

Meanwhile, a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay began pre-trial hearings Monday for five alleged terrorists accused of conspiring in the 9/11 attacks.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, and four co-defendants face charges of terrorism, conspiracy and nearly 3,000 counts of murder, one for each known victim of the attacks on the U.S., including New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon near Washington.

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Teen who angered Taliban
reported making progress

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Doctors at the British hospital in London where Malala Yousafzai is being treated, say the 14-year-old Pakistani girl is making good progress.  Analysts say the attempt on her life by Taliban gunmen last week has raised the profile of her campaign for female education in Pakistan.

It seems Yousafzai is more than just strong-willed.  British doctors say they are impressed by her physical strength and resilience too.  The 14-year-old was flown Monday to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England.

Hospital Medical Director David Rosser says doctors are optimistic about her recovery.

"Well, it very clearly says that the doctors, some of whom were people from here in the children's hospital, believed that she has a chance of making a good recovery, as it clearly would have been inappropriate on every level, not least for her, to put her through all this, if there was no hope of a decent recovery," Rosser said.  "As I say, I have not seen her, but it is clear they believe there is a chance of a decent recovery."

Yousafzai received initial treatment in Pakistan after being shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen  a week ago in the Swat Valley.  The Taliban said it attacked the young teenager for speaking out against the militant group.

In Pakistan, thousands have rallied on the streets to show their support for the schoolgirl, who has been campaigning for female rights in Pakistan since she was 11 years old.  In 2009 she wrote a blog for the BBC about her life in the Swat Valley under the Taliban, when girls were banned from going to school.

Pakistan expert Gareth Price of the London-based research group Chatham House says the assassination attempt has focused global attention on Yousafzai’s campaign to give girls greater access to education. 

“This attack on her has highlighted the issue, has sparked public outrage and the next step seems to me to move away from her story - and obviously we hope she recovers - and to the government of Pakistan," Price said.  "And the question is, can they take advantage, can the military take advantage of demonstrated public sentiment against the Taliban to take some bold initiatives?”

He says the public support shown for Yousafzai may encourage the government to push harder for female education. 

“The question of girls’ education in Pakistan does go beyond the simple fact of the Taliban targeting schools and particularly in Swat, but also elsewhere in Northwest Frontier Province," Price said.  "Underspending is rife.  In some of the tribal areas of Pakistan, female literacy is below 3 percent, which is pretty minimal.  So whilst this does present an opportunity, the starting point is very low, and I think it is going to be a long-term fight, and that is presuming that the government does take the initiative.”

Malala Yousafzai is in a special hospital unit for complex trauma cases, where hundreds of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have also been treated.  Rosser says the girl will need reconstructive surgery, and the hospital has international experts in that field.

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