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(506) 2223-1327           Published Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 209       Email us
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Dixon family plans to meet top British official today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Dixon family is back in town in their so-far futile pursuit of information on their missing son and brother.

The family is scheduled to meet with Jeremy Browne today. He is the British minster of State
Michael Dixon
Michael Dixon
who happens to be visiting Costa Rica. They have been unsuccessful in their efforts to get Costa Rican investigators to issue a formal request for help from the British police, something international diplomacy requires. They hope Browne can apply some pressure while he is visiting here with local
politicians. They have appealed to him previously.

The son and brother is Michael Dixon. He was the tourist who checking into a Tamarindo hotel in October 2009 and vanished. The famous north Pacific beach is about an hour west of Liberia in Guanacaste.

The Dixon family is long past trying to bring someone to justice if a crime were committed. The mother, Lynn Dixon, said Thursday that the family just wants to know what happened.

“How can we push anymore,” she asked.

The case is perplexing, and one of a handful involving missing tourists and Costa Ricans.

David Dixon also is frustrated, and quickly dismisses a number of theories that have been floated in the case. He also believes that Costa Rican investigators can do more. He said in an interview at a Los Yoses hotel that a new director of the Judicial Investigating Organization in the regional center of Santa Cruz knows little about the case. He has gone as far as the No. 2 man in the investigating organization without getting the answers or actions he wants.

Investigators quickly said in October 2009 that Michael Dixon vanished in the sea while going for a swim. They based this theory on statements from a maid who said she saw someone with a blue beach towel leave the hotel early Oct. 19, 2009. In subsequent questioning, David Dixon said the woman was more uncertain. In addition, a wallet and a raincoat found in his brother's room suggest that the brother went elsewhere the night he arrived in Tamarindo and then returned to his room. Witness testimony says he was seen in a local bar.

The frustration is obvious when he talks about how investigators handled the case. Prints were not lifted from a bottle of water and a bottle of soda found in the room. In fact, the bottles probably had been discarded. Although Michael Dixon is believed to have vanished the night of Oct. 18-19, the family did not find out until a receptionist at Villa Macondo sent an email to the missing man's account asking about his well being. That message was not discovered until Oct. 26, the day Michael was supposed to report back to work as a journalist in Brussels, Belgium. Basically agents did not treat the room as a possible crime scene.

David Dixon doubts that his brother ever went swimming. He said no one at the hotel remembers giving Michael Dixon a distinctive blue hotel beach towel.

David Dixon has been in Costa Rica four times, once for a month. He said he and friends have developed significant leads that local police are not interested in pursuing. “And we are not even professional investigators,” he said.

The family is seeking closure. They expressed interest in the discovery of bones on a beach further down the coast Wednesday, but the judicial police said they are not even sure if the bones are human. The bones were exposed by the heavy rains, agents said. The family will not find out more information while they are here. The parents leave later today.
The Dixon family
A.M. Costa Rica photo
The Dixon family: David, father Hubert and wife Lynn.

David Dixon leaves Saturday. The bones are awaiting tests at the forensic medical lab.

David Dixon also is frustrated because no police investigator here ever sought an easily obtainable DNA sample from the family for use if a body is found. In the family's view, the case has been filed away in the minds of investigators.

On his visit here, David Dixon has been in contact with Gabriel Orozco, the husband of Kim Paris. She was seen last peddling away from the Hotel Latitude 10 Resort where she worked on the Nicoya Peninsula. That was in August 2010. Her family has put up a Web page and expressed frustration with the lack of development in the case.

There was a resolution of sorts in the case of missing Australian student Brendan Dobbins. He vanished in Tamarindo, too, shortly after walking away from friends on the beach. That was March 4, 2005.

Dobbins, then 24 and a senior at the University of Florida, traveled to Costa Rica with several of his classmates over spring break. The man's parents and the Australian diplomatic service instigated a massive search that failed to find clues.

In mid-June of the same year the bones of an adult male were found in mangroves near the beach. DNA tests confirmed the identity.

Like Michael Dixon, Dobbins, too, was thought to be carrying little money and no passport. Tamarindo is about 35 miles from Liberia. That's about 56 kilometers, but the drive takes about an hour because of road conditions.

Illinois resident David Gimelfarb, 28, vanished Aug. 11, 2009,  after he went hiking alone in Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja north and east of Liberia. There was an extensive search and a local private investigator was called in.

A resident reported seeing a man who may have been Gimelfarb living off the land, but a search that included dogs never turned up more than matted grass. Gimelfarb was a doctoral student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

The national park where the man vanished is about 25 kilometers from Liberia, the provincial capital. That's about 16 miles.

Gimelfarb's parents have posted a reward, but there have been no takers.

David Dixon also cites the disappearance of Barbara Struncova, a Czech citizen who vanished in Playa Langosta near Tamarindo Dec. 5, 2010. Her friends also have posted a Web page.

There also are two young Costa Rican men who vanished in separate incidents while hiking in national parks.

David Dixon has been aggressive in generating news coverage and keeping his brother's case in the public eye. He works in information technology. His father, Hubert, is retired as a statistician for the World Health Organization. He and his wife live near Geneva, Switzerland. David Dixon lives in England. His efforts have required sacrifice, he admitted Thursday.

There is more information on the family's Web page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 209

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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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Yellow sections are low-pressure areas.

Despite sunshine Thursday
another system is on the way

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The dose of sunlight in many areas of the country Thursday was more a tease than an indication of the days to come.

Another low-pressure area has sprung up like a mushroom in the southern Caribbean, and weather forecasters say this will influence conditions later today and over the weekend.

Meanwhile, there still are predictions for high winds generated by a high-pressure area over the Yucatan peninsula. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the winds also intensify rain in the Caribbean coast and the northern zone. In the afternoon and evening the Pacific and the Valley Central will see rain, it said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that the broad low-pressure area is about 150 miles east southeast of the Honduras-Nicaragua border. Further development of the system is expected to be slow,in part because the air is dry. However, conditions are expected to be more conducive for development in a few days as it drifts southward.

There is another patch of disturbed air heading west in the mid-Atlantic. Forecasters have their eye on this, too.

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad said that officials were forced to close a 55-kilometer section of Ruta 239 between Santa Marta and Salitrales Thursday afternoon.

The Interamericana Sur was still closed at Casa Mata. The Consejo reported advances in trying to reopen the stretch. Much of the roadbed collapsed into an adjacent ravine. The Consejo said that utility poles were being moved and workers were excavating the shoulder opposite the collapsed part to create a traffic lane. Even when the job is done, only one lane will be available, said officials

Pipelines also have to be rebuilt in new locations, and gutters and other systems for carrying off rain water have to be built, they said.

As of 10 p.m. Thursday there still were roads closed by slides, flooding or damaged pavement in the Nicoya peninsula, Santa Bárbara de Heredia, Parrita, Acosta, Puriscal, Desamparados, Turrubares and Pérez Zeledón.

In all, there were 22 roadways closed and 93 where traffic was either one way or facing some other delays. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said it had resolved 163 problem areas.

The telephone lines for road conditions still is active. The numbers are 2202-5577 and 2202-5567.

The national emergency commission was continuing its alert for Guanacaste. Emergency officials said they expected the nearly 1,000 persons in public shelters to begin returning to their homes Thursday as the water continues to recede.

The commission said that its priority for Friday was to continue to provide food and water. It said that Santa Cruz and Carrillo in Guanacaste were key points because many sections had been cut off by flooding.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 209

U.S. tax form

New U.S. reporting rule is roadmap to assets of expats
By Daniel Woodall
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Individuals who are required to file federal tax returns, and who have financial assets in Costa Rica will soon face a new requirement coming in IRS Tax Form 8939. The latest drafts of the form and its instructions have been published on the Web site of the Internal Revenue Service. Foreign banks will also be obligated to assist the IRS in the hunt for financial assets under the requirements of federal law known as FATCA  signed by President Barack Obama March 18, 2010.

Expats should not confuse the proposed IRS tax form with the long standing Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts or FBAR that must be filed with the U. S. Treasury Department once a year for bank accounts that exceed $10,000. IRS Form 8939 is much more detailed, and is nothing short of a complete roadmap to the entirety of a person’s foreign financial holdings.

The current draft requires calculating the values of financial assets that it defines as bank accounts, stocks, securities, interests, and financial instruments. Detailed information about the assets such as names of trusts, corporations, and account numbers must also be provided.

Thresholds for unmarried taxpayers who are required to file the form vary between $50,000 and $200,000 depending on residence. Those who actually live abroad full time get a bit of a break as their threshold is the higher one. Thresholds also have nothing to do with income so even those with unproductive or inactive assets would fall within its requirements.

America’s tax collectors are also getting a new weapon to track the foreign financial assets of tax filers. The same federal law that authorizes the new tax form also places requirements on banks worldwide to forward the details on the accounts of U.S. tax filers. The current time frame
requires every bank in the world defined as foreign financial institutions to sign the agreement with the IRS by June 30, 2013.

The IRS will in 2014 begin to order banks in the United States to withhold assets for foreign financial institutions that fail to sign the agreement. Institutions that enter into the IRS agreement will be required to turn over details of account holders with U.S. filing requirements on an ongoing basis.

Slipping through the cracks in Costa Rica with a corporate bank account is not likely to succeed. Local banking regulations have for years required corporate account holders to identify beneficial owners and the IRS rules would ensnare any company with 10 percent ownership or more held by a United States person. Since the requirements are being applied worldwide, expats who leave Costa Rica or shift their assets elsewhere could expect to encounter the same requirements.

Those who have amassed substantial foreign assets and have failed to pay the required taxes in previous years could also face problems. At the very least the IRS will be able to quickly determine who has failed to file financial reports with their individual tax returns for active corporations earning income in Costa Rica.

Dual citizenship in Costa Rica is also likely to be of little value in escaping FATCA. The law requires the banks to turn over information for any “United States person,” The legal definition includes those with dual nationality, as well as citizens of Costa Rica who hold legal residency in the United States.

Those who visit the U. S. Embassy in Costa Rica will notice there is a bin for residents to deposit the required form I-407 to abandon their United States residency. Renouncing United States citizenship is a more complicated process that requires getting current with the tax returns for previous years.

Plaza gathering
Photos by Steve Harrington
A woman makes a sign and others listen to speeches Saturday in San José
Crimes of supremacy enter the lexicon of the 99 percent
First it was free trade going global, then the corporations went global, able to operate from any country in the world that offered the best location for profit, then the real estate financing bubble and credit spree went global followed by a global recession, and now the protests from those who call themselves the 99 percent, and OWS (Occupy Wall Street) have gone global.

Even in Costa Rica, people, in support of the OWS, and with their own dissatisfactions, met in the Plaza de la Cultura Saturday.  At least 200 gathered to listen to others and hold up signs.  While I was there, no one had a bull horn or microphone, so we circled six or seven deep to hear impromptu speakers.  And just as on Wall Street, the crowd raised its arms and wiggled its fingers to silently applaud the speakers. Some people came with signs, others printed them there. Even the children got involved. It was so cordial and peaceful, at least while I was there, that the two policemen stationed nearby looked bored to tears.

Also last week, Hunter College in New York City, held a conference to honor the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill’s testimony at the congressional hearing to ratify the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.  It was the first time that a woman nationally accused someone in a position of power of sexual harassment.  She gave many women who, since then,  have endured sexual harassment or rape the courage to speak out.  They’ve lost their fear.

Gloria Steinem gave a brilliant overview of the history of sexual harassment and abuse over the years.  Whether it has been domestic violence, rape, or sexual harassment in the employment place, she has called them “crimes of supremacy.” The term right now, of course, does not exist as a crime.

Historically, she said, these crimes, were committed mainly by certain white males who had been brought up to believe either through the advantage of birth, or the accumulation of wealth or because they were in positions of authority, that they were superior. (And as such, had a right of a master over others.) They controlled through fear.  When a rebellious woman or uppity inferior got out of line, the ‘entitled’ punished them to put them in their place.  This thinking has not disappeared.
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

While greed often possesses the powerful so that they lose
their sense of humanity, their victims are paralyzed by fear . . . not only of pain, but fear of losing all freedom, fear of not being able to make a living, fear of the loss of their own human dignity, even fear of dying.

Then there came the tipping point.  And, as Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

Soon, in country after country in the Middle East, where unpunished crimes of supremacy, often committed by the leaders, are so prevalent, men and women, and even children were no longer afraid of the alternative.

And elsewhere, for the first time, corporations, like people, are having their crimes of supremacy, if not punished, at least revealed, as are those of the governments that have been in their thrall.  Now hundreds of thousands of the little guys are protesting publicly and persistently, the injustice.

Much of what the people all over the world are saying was in a paragraph of a flyer handed to me in the Plaza de la Cultura.  “In the new global reality, only a framework that considers the happiness and well being of everybody equally, will we have a sustainable and prosperous world.  We need to build a new system and a new society together, founded on the principle of mutual help.”  (My translation).

But we must be cautious.  You need not be white or even male to be guilty of a crime of supremacy. Being born into wealth, privilege, or of a certain religion, race or sex, or even wearing a uniform, does not give anyone the right to abuse, sexually or otherwise, another being. So beware that you are not both part of the 99 percent and guilty of a crime over someone just because you feel superior to them.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 209

Two engineering winners
José Miguel González of the Colegio Técnico Profesional Don Bosco and his braille machine.
  Picado Ureña and Bryan Herrera Piñar of the Colegio Vocacional 
  Monseñor Sanabria with their device to recapture gases.

Young inventors gain honors at Intel's engineering exposition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 56 students or teams of students from ninth to 12th year brought their creations to the ExpoINGENIERÍA which is run by the Intel Corp.

The five top projects have the chance to compete in January to attend the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in the United States.

The top creation was by three students from the Colegio Técnico Profesional Don Bosco: Melina Jiménez Porras, Angie Marín Acuña and Maylín Valverde Torres. They developed a system for ambulances so that the emergency technician can consult with physicians while en route with a patient. This is an informational software system that uses a cell phone. Information can be exchanged between the hospital and the ambulance.

The winner in the electrical engineering category was José Miguel González of the same school who developed a machine that prints in braille.

In the electromechanical category,  Luis Gerardo León Vega of the Colegio José María Gutiérrez in Guanacaste was the winner for an intelligent device or robot that can help persons with disabilities. The robot can interpret facial movements or eye movements as commands.

Two students from the Colegio Vocacional Monseñor Sanabria, de Desamparados took the mechanical engineering category with a device that can be used in a gasoline station that captures the evaporated fuel from the air and condenses it for reuse. The device has an environmental benefit as well as a financial one.
mouse tool
Ana Victoria Solís García and Karen Zúñiga Calvo of the  Colegio Técnico Profesional Don Bosco, demostrate their techno mouse tool.

In the final top category, the winners were Ana Victoria Solís García and Karen Zúñiga Calvo of the Colegio Técnico Profesional Don Bosco, who created a tiara-like device that is worn on the head.

Head movements can control a computer like a desktop mouse.

There were a host of other winners in various categories.

Readers can pick finalists for name for sloth mascot
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ready to vote for your favorite name that we will award the tourism institute's new mascot? You can see a list of names HERE!

The mascot is the animated sloth that promotes the trip giveaway raffle being run by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. A.M. Costa Rica has taken it upon itself to find a name for the spokes sloth because neither the institute nor its  advertising agency in Atlanta, Georgia, did.
Readers submitted a long list of creative names, and some also listed their reason. But some also reported that they had problems Tuesday sending in their choices of the top three names because of email problems.

That situation has been remedied.

Readers can send their names to 
The top five selections will be presented again for a final vote by readers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 209

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Study-abroad programs
try to be more challenging

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Each year, about a quarter of a million Americans study abroad. For many of them, a summer or a semester in a foreign country involves more than just sitting in classrooms and hanging out with other American students. Instead, they are required to be involved in the local communities where they are studying.

On his first morning in Beijing, one American study-abroad student was dropped off in a distant part of the Chinese capital with $5 and instructions to find his way back home on his own. It took a while, but he made it.

That’s one example of how American students are being pushed out of their comfort zone in order to fully experience another culture.

“It’s absolutely crucial that they know something about how people in other parts of the world live and think and how they behave," says William Finlay, head of the sociology department at the University of Georgia. “Often those students go in large groups. They hang around each other. We felt that they really weren’t getting to know the local inhabitants as well as they could.”

In 2008, he co-founded a study abroad program with South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. It combines traditional academic in-class learning with community involvement. The program partners with a local non-profit organization which runs daycare centers for children of working parents and a library with computers available for patrons to use.

"Our students typically work either with the little kids in the daycares or they work in the library and teach basic computer skills to mostly young adults,” said Finlay.

The three-week program proved to be a transformative experience for Hillary Kinsey.

“It was interesting to learn the history of the area and the recent development with democracy and that sort of thing," she says, "and then talk to these people and see what the social dynamics were, what the ethnic divisions were, how certain groups felt about other groups.”

When the international affairs major returned from South Africa a few weeks ago, she and other students in the program established a non-profit.

“We called it Ubuntu, which is a South African concept coined by Desmond Tutu," she explains. "It means ‘I am, because we are.’ The idea is based around the relationships within the society and what generates prosperity for all. We took that notion and translated it into a larger international community.”

The group hopes to contribute to advancing education and development in South Africa.

“We have a lot of people that did not go to South Africa, but they are interested in this," she says. "And one of the purposes of our organization is that we hope to raise money and awareness for the situation of these people and try to facilitate building daycares there and helping to promote any sort of educational development we could through donations and fundraisers and that sort of thing.”

While many study abroad programs focus on helping Americans learn foreign languages, others take a more intensive approach.

“In all of our locations, we place students with local roommates," says Mark Lenhart, executive director of CET Academic Programs. The organization sends more than 1,000 students to China, Jordan, the Czech Republic and other countries each year.

He says American students benefit from such one-on-one interactions, in spite of the challenges they face.

“Not just in terms of language learning, but they also find the local culture can present challenges, and perhaps misunderstandings," Lenhart says. "They have to adjust to local life. It’s no longer okay just to have a little Chinese, for instance. If the student is studying Chinese, they want to come home from a program like this fluent in Chinese. So this will enable students to become more employable when they graduate.”

Preparing American students to be more competitive in the global job market is one of the goals of the recent trends in study abroad.

Allen Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, which promotes educational exchange, says study abroad also prepares young people to become global citizens.

“You really can’t have that global citizen perspective by just reading a book or just connecting to someone who lives in Egypt on the Internet," Goodman says. "You have to go and see the reality of another place. That’s what study abroad promotes.”

He predicts study abroad programs will continue to evolve and attract more students who find it to be a unique and valuable opportunity to learn about themselves and the world in which they live.

Venezuela's Chávez says
he has beaten his cancer

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, 57, says he has beaten cancer.

Chávez returned home Thursday after traveling to Cuba for medical testing.  He told reporters in La Fria the tests show he is now free of illness.

Chávez spoke before a planned pilgrimage to La Fria's Catholic shrine.

Chávez underwent surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic area in June followed by chemotherapy treatments. 

The type of cancer he suffered from has not been made public, but the socialist leader has vowed to be well enough to win another six-year term next year.

President Chávez has been in power since 1999.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 209

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Tourism chamber honors
leaders of the industry

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

For four years Cámara Nacional de Turismo has recognized the merit of companies and employers through the Premios a la Industria Turística or the tourism industry awards. The event was at the Hotel Costa Rica Marriott and attended by over 300 entrepreneurs, including President Laura Chinchilla.

The process of being nominated began with an online survey.

The seven requirements for nomination included: being a legally constituted operation; at least five years of operation; having demonstrated efforts for Certification for Sustainable Tourism, having a blue flag, subscribing to the code of conduct and holding ISO certification. Winners also had to have direct involvement in corporate social responsibility programs, contributed to sector development and be affiliated with the chamber and/or other similar organizations.

From the requirements, 66 people and businesses were nominated. Out of 14 varying fields these were awarded by the chamber:

 City hotel – Radisson in north San José;
 Beach hotel -- Hotel Punta Leona north of Jacó;
 Mountain hotel -- Hacienda Pozo Azul in the Sarapiquí
 Rural Inn -- El Manantial Lodge in San Gerardo
 Tour Operator -- Ríos Tropicales, San José;
 Travel Agents – Fast Travel in San José;
 Airlines -- Sansa Regional;
 Rent a car -- Mapache Rent a Car;
 Restaurants – Jurgen’s in Los Yoses;
 Region tourism chambers – Guanacaste;
 Medical tourism -- Clínica Bíblica;
 Journalism –;
 Social responsibility -- Red Costarricense de Reservas
 Touristic entrepreneurship -- Rafael Gallo.

Business chamber cites
difficulty of starting business

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nine out of 10 business operators report great difficulty in starting a new business in Costa Rica, according to the  Unión de Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. The chamber blamed the problem on the Costa Rican obsession with pushing papers. The organization called it tramitomanía.

The chamber did a survey and 84 percent of the respondents cited the difficulty of opening a new business due to the many licenses, permits and other approvals needed. The results coincides with the World Economic Forum index that said one of the problems is an inefficient bureaucracy, said the chamber.

Tramite is the Spanish word for some kind of encounter with officialdom, such as filing a sales tax report or seeking a business license.

Costa Rica is known for the time needed to establish a corporation. That can be up to 10 weeks and requires the efforts of a lawyer. 

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