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Published Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 212
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Some politicians want more info from inactive firms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats who own inactive corporations to protect assets like vehicles and homes are being put in a bad light by a new proposal.

The Frente Amplio political party proposed Tuesday that inactive corporations be registered with the fiscal authorities to avoid having the country listed as a tax paradise. Such corporations, said the party in a summary, are a means to launder money and avoid payment of taxes. The statement was attributed to Edgardo Araya Sibaja, who heads the party in the legislature.

He was quoted saying that revelations by the hacked Panamá papers showed that inactive corporations are used to hide wealth and for money laundering for drug traffickers and other illegal activity.

In Costa Rica inactive corporations are those that have no economic activity and do not file annual tax returns, but they are useful in property ownership.

Araya cited concerns by Global Forum officials

suggesting that the country would be designated a fiscal paradise if action were not taken to learn more about inactive corporations.

The Global Forum says it has become the key international body working on the implementation of the international standards on tax transparency.

It is an agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Another lawmaker, José Ramírez, said that Frente Amplio wants all corporations to be listed with tax authorities and that all keep financial books and that this requirement would not affect those who use the entities for legitimate purposes.

Still, with a new law designed to fight tax fraud, corporate owners now have to report the full list of shareholders to tax officials every year.

The lawmakers did not put their proposal into a law. They spoke before the Comisión de Hacendarios, and the concept might be rolled into existing legislation as it passes through the committee.

Officials in Ostional brace for wave of turtle lovers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pacific coast conservation area is encouraging tourism to the beaches at  Ostional for the future arrival of the olive ridley sea turtle but with strict supervision.

The conservation offices based in Tempisque said Tuesday that visitors must be accompanied by guides for which there are two groups working on the Pacific beaches. There also is a list of prohibited items, such as flashlights that may disturb the nesting turtles.

The Asociación de Desarrollo de Ostional is allowed to collect and pack turtle eggs. This permission has generated some bad press worldwide, but the association responds that only eggs of early arriving turtles are taken and they would be destroyed by later arrivals anyway.

The rationale is not accepted fully in Costa Rica, but the association has official support. Turtle egg collecting elsewhere is a crime.

Access to the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Ostional is permitted from 6 a.m. until midnight, but the park officials say the best times to see turtles when they arrive is from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 10 p.m., depending on tides.

egg collecting
Unidentified email graphic
This is one of the photos that gave Ostional a bad reputation worldwide.

The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is one of six turtle species that nest on Costa Rican beaches.

The Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación said Tuesday that the arrival of the turtles has not yet taken place and it recognized that a number of tourism operators are waiting anxiously.

As many as 200,000 sea turtles have been counted nesting on the beaches over three to five days, the conservation agency noted.

Ostional is on the north Pacific coast north of Nosara.

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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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Blood shed at two different bus stops

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a tale about separate deaths at two separate bus stops.

Such stops are prime hunting ground for bandits. And that is what happened Monday night in Barrio California when four thugs pulled up in a car and began demanding personal effects from seven persons awaiting transportation.

Unfortunately for the crooks, one of the would-be bus passengers was a judicial agent waiting there with his wife. The Judicial Investigating Organization said he pulled his gun, identified himself and pumped three bullets into one robber who turned out to be a 17 year old. The robber did not survive long because one of the bullets hit him in the head. He fell to the ground still holding the silver butcher knife with which he had demanded possessions.

In Pozos de Santa Ana, the story was different early Tuesday. There a 20 year old with the last name of Altamirano was waiting at a bus shelter on the Caldera highway, Ruta 27. 

Three men pulled up in a car with the intentions of robbing him. The man bolted and fled into traffic where he was cut down by a vehicle whose driver then fled.

Consejo Nacional de Vialidad photo
Highway officials blame recent heavy rains for the damage done here to Ruta 225 in Jiménez, Tucurrique, Cartago. This is one of a half dozen places where roadways were damaged. There also were landslides that blocked some routes.

Solís says he’s creating a national accord

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ottón Solís said Tuesday that he is weaving an accord among heads of legislative committees and leaders of the political parties in the Asamblea Legislativa.

His statements were seconded by some of the leading politicians who also showed up at a press conference.

The so-called national accord would consider solutions to security, poverty, unemployment, taxes, health, education and infrastructure, according to a summary of his position.

Setting such priorities usually is the job of the chief executive, but President Luis Guillermo Solís and his administration have lost a lot of influence with the lawmakers.

Ottón Solís is a former presidential candidate and founder of the Partido Acción Ciudadana to which the president belongs. But they do not always see eye to eye.

World Bank
World Bank graphic
Region's countries compared with First World, OECD.

World Bank cites similar business climate

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country maintained a spot in the top third of 190 nations in the World Bank Doing Business 2017 report.

The country slipped two spots to 62nd place from its rank last year, but the change is not significant. Casa Presidencial prefers to say that the country is in the top five of Latin American nations. México was in first place in Latin America.

The World Bank said that this year’s index contained 190 countries or economies, a few more than last year.

The index is the total of a number of factors. The higher the ranking number the worse is the business climate. Costa Rica was in 60th place last year. Individual factors that affected Costa Rica negatively were the ease of obtaining construction permits and tax payments.

Afternoon quake rattles Pacific coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An afternoon quake, estimated from 4.3 to 4.4 magnitude, took place just five kilometers south of Quepos at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday. The quake was felt in the Central Valley but the intensity depended on the local soil. Naturally the effect was much stronger near the Pacific coast.

The report came from the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

The quake seemed to trigger several smaller quakes later in the evening in the area of Jacó.

Germany to celebrate unity with Sunday concert

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Germany will celebrate the nation’s unity by sponsoring a free performance of the Banda de Conciertos de San José in the Museo Nacional Sunday at 11 a.m.

 The program consists of works by German composers, including Richard Wagner and Jacques Offenbach.

Germany is celebrating 26 years of unity after having been split into West and East Germany at the end of World War II.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 212
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Budget battle in legislature is just the preliminary round
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government is complaining that a reduction by the legislature in the 2017 budget will affect essential services.

A parade of ministries have been stressing the need this week that their budget lines remain intact. They are assisted by an army of public relations staffers.

The legislature’s Comisión de Hacendarios has made cuts to the executive branch’s proposed budget. The budget is now in the full legislature, and the various ministries are lobbying the full panel of 57 lawmakers to restore the money that has been cut.

This budget battle is the preliminary round. The government will find borrowing money harder and harder due to rising international interest rates, an increasing value of the U.S. dollar and its own international deficit. Already nearly half the national budget is borrowed.

The executive branch has little latitude in preparing the budget.
 Laws and constitutional mandates eat up the bulk of the budget. And some efforts to rein in expenses are bound to fail.

Lawmakers and President Luis Guillermo Solís agreed this year to limit extravagant pensions, but at least one of the recipients already is going to court to prevent cuts in his monthly check.

Then there are the aggressive unions. So far only workers for the Patronato Nacional de Infancia have been responding to the budget cuts for that agency. This is the child welfare organization that has been the object of some criticism.

The government says that budget cuts will jeopardize child care programs. The legislative committee transferred some of the money cut from the Patronato budget to the security ministry, but the minister there, Gustavo Mata, came to the Patronato’s support.  He and the central government still are lobbying to have a tax on corporations reinstated.

Some lawmakers continue to be miffed that the president submitted a budget 12 percent higher than this year’s.

These individuals in masks have nothing to do with Halloween
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local foes of the status quo plan to hold a Costa Rican Million Mask March Nov. 5 in or near the
Estadio Nacional in la Sabana.

This event is part of the worldwide protest engineered by the organization Anonymous, which is known for adopting Guy Fawkes masks and hacking. The masks were popularized in a 2006 movie “V” that depicted a man battling against authoritarian government in Britain.

The Nov. 5 day is significant because early on that date in 1605 Fawkes was discovered guarding a stash of gunpowder beneath the British parliament building.  The claim was that he and his Catholic associates were going to blow up the building.

Guy Fawkes Day is widely celebrated in Britain and even in Costa Rica when a dummy representing Fawkes is put to the torch. He is frequently called the most reviled British villain although he was not the originator of the Gunpowder Plot.

Anonymous said that since 2013 there have been gatherings around the globe  to protest against mass government surveillance, internet censorship, and the corrupt politicians who put capitalism before the people.

“With every year, our numbers grow, and so do the causes we fight for,” the Anonymous Movement says on its Web page.

“With true journalism in its death throes and the manipulation in the mainstream media, it’s now up to the people to act as citizen-journalists and record history as it actually happens, rather than accepting the government-spun fairy tales that will be shoved down our children’s throats 20 years from now,” it adds.

The protest gathering appears to have no relationship to the Día de la Mascarada Tradicional, which is Monday.

This is the Costa Rican answer to North American Halloween that was decreed in 1996. These mascaradas are those oversized heads that frequently appear in street parades.

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Palermo Hotel

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 211
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Genetic study says that human ancestry is more complex than expected
By the American Society of Human Genetics news staff

Relationships between the ancestors of modern humans and other archaic populations such as Neanderthals and Denisovans were likely more complex than previously thought, involving interbreeding within and outside Africa, according to a new estimator developed by geneticists. Findings were reported at the American Society of Human Genetics 2016 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In recent years, genetics has led to the revision of many assumptions about archaic populations, explained Ryan J. Bohlender, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas and first author on the research. For example, the 2010 release of the Neanderthal genome led to the discovery that Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern Europeans interbred. A few years later, scientists discovered the existence of Denisovans, a population known of only through genetics, through a fossilized sample of DNA.

“My colleagues and I set out to find out what we might share with these ancient populations and how our histories interacted,” Bohlender said. They developed an estimation tool to model these interactions based on parameters such as current estimates of population size and dates when populations separated – how long ago they stopped interbreeding – and look for inconsistencies with information known from genetic studies about the overlap between the modern human genome and those of ancient populations.

Compared to previous estimators, this one made increased use of genetic data to cut down on statistical bias. The researchers then allowed estimates of population size and separation dates to vary in a series of simulations, in order to find out if adjusting these parameters better fit the genetic data.

“Using this process, we found that the population in Africa was likely about 50 percent larger than previously thought. We also found that an archaic-modern human separation date of 440,000 years ago was the best fit, suggesting that Neanderthals diverged from our lineage 100,000 years more recently than we thought,” Bohlender said.

“We got the same separation date using data from multiple modern human populations, which is a good sign.”

In addition, their results suggest that throughout Eurasia, ancient populations interbred less than previously believed, and that, contrary to previous findings, the level of mixing with Neanderthals did not differ significantly between Europe and East Asia.

The findings bring up many new questions, including to what extent the new estimator can be trusted, why it produces results that differ from prevailing estimates, and how to reconcile these differences.

“Overall, our findings confirm the human family tree is more complicated than we think it is,” Bohlender said. “For example, other archaic populations are likely to have existed, like the Denisovans, who we didn’t know about except through genetics.”

They plan to try out simulations with multiple other populations, to see if this adds some clarity to the results.

Bohlender also believes that more detailed studies of African populations may shed some light. “Africans have been underrepresented in genetics research. They’re not as well studied as European and Asian populations, yet they are more diverse genetically than any other group,” he said.

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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.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 212
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Presidential candidates seek votes in battleground states

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

In U.S. presidential politics, not all states are treated equally. In the final days before the Nov. 8 election, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are focused on a small handful of so called battleground or swing states that will determine who will be the next president of the United States. About two-thirds of the 50 states generally lean toward one party or the other, leaving a dozen or so states that are up for grabs every four years.

The U.S. elects a president through the state-by-state accumulation of votes through the Electoral College, where the candidate who wins the popular vote in a given state is then awarded all of that state’s electoral votes. There are two minor exceptions in Maine and Nebraska where some of the electoral votes are awarded by congressional district.

In the final days of the campaign, Mrs. Clinton and Trump repeatedly target the same handful of states, which is why both White House hopefuls are making frequent visits to Ohio, Florida and North Carolina and small groups of other states that loom pivotal on election day.

For several years the United States has been sharply divided politically, with many states in presidential elections leaning toward one party or the other. “In many states, one party has a very big lead and there is no sense in spending a lot of resources at the presidential level in that state,” said Georgetown University analyst Stephen Wayne.

That leaves about a dozen so-called battleground  states where Trump and Mrs. Clinton spend most of their time, said George Mason University expert Jeremy Mayer. “In the modern presidential campaign, you run campaigns only in about 12 states. The list can change from year to year, although in the last three election cycles, it is fairly stable.”

The swing states that get the most attention include large states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado, as well as smaller ones like North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. And Mayer adds voters in those states get the brunt of the political ad blitz. “It makes those 12 states really the targets of this whole election discourse. So both campaigns in a normal year would have massive ground operations, would have endless TV ads and would be phone-calling and robot-calling voters in those 12 states.”

This year, the Clinton campaign is trying to make history by expanding the competitive map to historically Republican states like Arizona, Georgia and even Texas. Polls show a fairly close race in Arizona in particular and Mrs. Clinton is within striking distance in both Georgia and Texas. Arizona last voted for a Democrat in 1996 and Texas supported Democrat Jimmy Carter back in 1976.

Since the 1992 election won by Bill Clinton, Democrats have been able to count on winning 18 states plus the District of Columbia, with a combined total of 242 electoral votes. It takes 270 out of the 538 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Republicans, on the other hand, have been able to count on 13 mostly smaller states with a combined electoral vote total of just 102. The remainder are the so-called battleground states where the election outcome is usually decided.

This year, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats appear to have a decided advantage with Mrs. Clinton leading in key states like Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia and battling Trump in close races in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.

This year’s electoral map has put Trump at a disadvantage, said American University analyst Austin Hart. “He’s got to win voters in Florida, Ohio, perhaps Colorado and Nevada. He’s got to shore up things in Pennsylvania if he can. So he has a heavy load in front of him.”

Most of the scenarios that would project a Trump victory involve him winning most of the swing states up for grabs including Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and even Pennsylvania, which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.

Changing demographics also loom as a growing challenge for Republicans. White voters are likely to make up about 70 percent of all voters in this year’s election, as the country continues to diversify. In 1980, whites made up 88 percent of the electorate. The Cook Political Report also notes that in 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan won 56 percent of white voters and won in a landslide. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney improved on that number. He won 59 percent of white voters, but lost to President Barack Obama by four points overall.

Republican strategist John Feehery sees the two parties headed in different directions. “It is a liberal, progressive party of coalitions, ethnic coalitions. And the Republican Party is a coalition of basically white voters of various stripes of conservatism.”

Vatican wants person's ashes
kept in just one sacred place

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Vatican has issued new guidelines recommending that the cremated remains of Catholics be buried in cemeteries rather than be kept at home, scattered or divided among family members.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued updated instructions Tuesday on rules for cremation. The church reiterated its approval of cremation, but emphasized the need to bury the ashes all in one place in cemeteries or other sacred places.

"It is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects," the instructions say.

The church says the goal is to keep the ashes together at a location where the departed won't be excluded from prayers and remembrances of other Christians.

Cremation has been steadily growing in popularity in the United States. According to the Cremation Association of North America, an industry group for cremation-related businesses, nearly half of all people who died in 2015 in the U.S. were cremated, up from about 25 percent in 2000.

But ever since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, the official position of the church has been that cremation, while not preferable, is also not banned as long as the choice was not made as a reproach of the church.

American wins major prize
in English language literature

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Paul Beatty has become the first American writer to win the prestigious Man Booker prize.

Beatty’s “The Sellout,” a caustic satire on U.S. race relations, won the $61,000 prize, which was previously open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, an alliance of countries that used to be part of the British Empire.

Historian Amanda Foreman, who chaired the judging panel, said the book “plunges into the heart of contemporary American society, and with absolutely savage wit — the kind I haven’t seen since Swift or Twain.”

“The Sellout” is set in a rundown Los Angeles suburb called Dickens, where the residents include the last survivor of the Little Rascals television show and the book’s narrator, Bonbon. Bonbon is an African-American man on trial at the U.S. Supreme Court for attempting to reinstate slavery and racial segregation.

Beatty has admitted readers might find it a difficult book to digest, but Foreman said that was no bad thing.

“Fiction should not be comfortable,” Foreman said. “The truth is rarely pretty and this is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon . . . . That is why the novel works.”

Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Eileen,” a character study set in small-town America and also written by a U.S. national, was also in the final running for the prize. The final field included six novels.

Founded in 1969, the Booker expanded in 2014 to include all English-language authors. There were fears in Britain’s literary world that the change would bring U.S. dominance to a prize whose previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel. But the 2014 and 2015 winners were Australia’s Richard Flanagan and Jamaica’s Marlon James.

Chinese electronics firm recalls its hackable devices

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Chinese electronics maker that has recalled millions of products sold in the U.S. said Tuesday it did all it could to prevent a massive cyberattack that briefly blocked access to Web sites including Twitter and Netflix.

Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology has said millions of web-connected cameras and digital recorders became compromised because customers failed to change their default passwords.

Liu Yuexin, Xiongmai's marketing director, said that Xiongmai and other companies across the home surveillance equipment industry were made aware of the vulnerability in April 2015. Liu said Xiongmai moved quickly to plug the gaps and should not be singled out for criticism.

“We don't know why there is a spear squarely pointed at our chest,” Liu said.

The hack has heightened long-standing fears among security experts that the rising number of interconnected home gadgets, appliances and even automobiles represent a cybersecurity nightmare. The convenience of being able to control home electronics via the Web also leaves them more vulnerable to malicious intruders, experts say.

Unidentified hackers seized control of gadgets including Xiongmai's on Friday and directed them to launch an attack that temporarily disrupted access to a host of sites, ranging from Twitter and Netflix to Amazon and Spotify, according to U.S. web security researchers.

The distributed denial-of-service attack targeted servers run by Dyn Inc., an internet company located in Manchester, New Hampshire. These types of attacks work by overwhelming targeted computers with junk data so that legitimate traffic can't get through.

“The issue with the consumer-connected device is that there is nearly no firewall between devices and the public internet,” said Tracy Tsai, an analyst at Gartner, adding that many consumers leave the default setting on devices for ease of use without knowing the dangers.

Researchers at the New York-based cybersecurity firm Flashpoint said most of the junk traffic heaped on Dyn came from internet-connected cameras and video-recording devices that had components made by Xiongmai. Those components had little security protection, so devices they went into became easy to exploit.

In an acknowledgement of its products' role in the hack, Xiongmai said in a statement Monday that it would recall products sold in the U.S. before April 2015 to demonstrate social responsibility. It said products sold after that date had been patched and no longer constitute a danger.

The company, which also makes dashboard cameras and computer chips, said it would recall more than 4 million Web-connected cameras and has offered customers a software security fix. The recall will apply only to devices sold under Xiongmai's name. As an original equipment manufacturer, close to 95 percent of the company's products are sold by other firms that repackage its devices under their own brand names, said Liu, the marketing director.

Mark James, an expert with Slovakia-based security company ESET, said that he doubted Xiongmai could be held liable for an attack such as Friday's, but that the company's officials “obviously recognize a concern here.”

“Hopefully other manufacturers will follow suit and take a look at what they can do to increase security of their own products,” he said.

Two women convicted of aid
to Somali insurgent group

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two women who U.S. prosecutors say led an online group in raising money to support the Somali insurgent group al-Shabab were convicted by a federal judge Tuesday following a trial in U.S. District Court in Virginia.

Muna Osman Jama, 36, and Hinda Osman Dhirane, 46, were found guilty of organizing the so-called Group of Fifteen women from eight countries that helped finance al-Shabab military operations and safehouses in Somalia and Kenya, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Virginia.

"These women funneled money to a terrorist organization which was conducting a violent insurgency campaign in Somalia," U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said in a written statement.

"National security is the top priority in this office and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who provide material support to terrorists," Boente said.

It was not clear who represented the two women in the proceedings.

Prosecutors said Ms. Jama and Ms. Dhirane sent the money they raised through the chat room to financiers of al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya.

Ms. Jama of Reston, Virginia, and Ms. Dhirane of Kent, Washington, were arrested in July 2014, along with a third woman, Farhia Hassan, who was taken into custody in the Netherlands.

The Group of Fifteen included women from Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as Minneapolis, according to evidence at trial.

Ms. Jama and Ms. Dhirane were each convicted of conspiracy and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and face a maximum of 15 years in prison when they are sentenced in January.

Al-Shabab, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government and drive out African peacekeepers made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African nations.

Tuesday the group claimed credit for ramming a military base with a suicide truck bomb, shooting dead an intelligence officer and killing 12 people in a Kenyan border town in a series of strikes over 24 hours.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 212
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Expert outraged at U.N. stand on cholera

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An independent United Nations expert is bitterly condemning the world body for refusing to accept legal responsibility for a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed more than 9,300 and sickened 800,000.

A U.N. expert on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, calls the U.N. stance a disgrace and a debacle.

"If the United Nations bluntly refuses to hold itself accountable for human rights violations, it makes a mockery of its efforts to hold governments and others to account," Alston wrote in a report to the General Assembly.

Haiti's severe cholera epidemic is traced to U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal dumping raw sewage into a river after the 2010 earthquake. There are still about 500 new cases of cholera reported every week in Haiti.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the U.N. is morally responsible for the outbreak and announced a $200 million aid package to help affected families. Another $200 million from money raised in a trust fund would help pay for cholera eradication and improved sanitation in Haiti.

But on the advice of U.N. lawyers, Ban and other top officials have not admitted legal responsibility and offered a settlement, which Alston says is required under international law.

Some victims have tried to sue the U.N. in U.S. courts, but lawyers claimed diplomatic immunity.

Pope and Argentina to open dirty war data

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Vatican and Argentina's Catholic Church announced in a joint statement Tuesday they will open their archives from the country's brutal dirty war in the near future.

Although no date was set, the statement said that they had finished organization and digitalization of the document pertaining to the Argentine government-sponsored crackdown on leftist dissidents during the so-called dirty war from about 1974 to 1983.

The archives will become available to victims and their relatives, who have long accused the church of complicity with the military dictatorship.

The statement said the decision to open the archives was made at the express direction of Pope Francis, “in the service of truth, justice and peace, in the continuation of the wish for dialogue and a culture of encounter.''

The related documents are held in the archives of the Vatican secretariat of state, the Vatican's Buenos Aires embassy and the Argentine bishops' conference.

Francis was the Jesuit superior in Argentina during the country's 1976 to 1983 dictatorship. When pressed by relatives of Argentina's desaparecidos, particularly the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Francis had promised to open the archives.

Human rights groups have accused many senior Argentinean clerics of complicity with the regime.

According to official estimates, about 13,000 people were killed or disappeared during Argentina's dirty war. Human rights activists maintain that the real number was as high as 30,000.

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Wallonia is sole Canadian-EU trade holdout

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

European Union and Canadian leaders say they are still hopeful their trans-Atlantic free trade deal will be approved despite opposition from one small region in Belgium.

All 28 EU members must sign off on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement for it to take effect. Belgium, the only outstanding country, needs the support of its five regional parliaments, one of which, Wallonia, is the lone holdout.

Despite weeks of talks, Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel said he couldn’t persuade the Socialist-controlled, French-speaking region of Wallonia to give its approval.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter that there’s still time to reach a deal ahead of the scheduled joint summit Thursday.

Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “We're ready to sign the agreement on October 27 as planned. It’s now up to the Europeans to be ready to sign on the 27th, as well.”

The collapse of the deal would be yet another negative signal to world leaders trying to open trade borders. Like others around the world, Wallonia politicians say the agreement would undermine labor, environment and consumer standards, and the local meat industry is worried about a surge in Canadian pork and beef imports.

Similar fears have threatened to derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been agreed to but not yet ratified by the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada one of the worst deals ever signed, says he would never back the Pacific trade deal. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who initially supported the agreement, said she opposed it once she learned the full terms of the deal.

The failure of the Canadian-European trade deal would also complicate similar negotiations with the U.S., Japan and other countries as a wave of populist parties around the world challenges the benefits of free trade.