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Another big pre-Christmas event will be Nov. 25
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The time is here to give a little extra grain to the bueyes so they are sleek and shiny for the Entrada de los Santos to San José.

Those lacking a team of bueyes, might consider checking on the video camera, the broad-brimmed hat and the sunscreen.

The event is the big parade of the lumbering animals Sunday, Nov. 25, along Paseo de Colón and Avenida 2.

The oxen and the iconic painted carts are on the U.N. world heritage list. At the start of every Christmas season, the oxen, the drivers and the carts evoke historical links to the past for Costa Ricans. Since the arrival of the Spanish, the oxen have been the muscle that made the country move.

Long lines of oxen and their carts carried coffee beans to Puntarenas. The first steam locomotive was carried by oxen and carts from Puntarenas to the Central Valley.

Today the oxen are mostly a hobby, although some farmers still use the beasts for plowing and other heavy chores. Bankers, lawyers and teachers by day don their rubber boots and campesino hats to lead their oxen in various parades all year. The Nov. 25 parade is one of the top two events for oxcart drivers. The other is on the Día Nacional de Boyero, as the oxcart drivers are called.

The entry of the saints is a highly photogenic event. Oxen pull carts that contain wooden
saints and bueyes
San José, 'Saint Joseph,' patron of the capital, is usually the first to lead the parade, seen here with young Jesus in a parade flyer photo.

statues of Roman Catholic saints. They pass a reviewing stand, and there are prizes for various categories. For most boyeros, the parade is the reason, not the prizes.

The animals usually pass before a priest who gives them a blessing. One year the priest was Archbishop Pierre Nguyễn Văn Tốt, papal representative in Costa Rica.

The parade Nov. 25 begins at 10 a.m. under skies that are likely to be blue and sunny. Hence the hat and sunscreen.

Appeals judge affirms expat's acquittal in land dispute
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An expat who has been facing a forgery allegation has been cleared by an appeals judge.

For the expat, Sheldon Hazeltine, the decision was the third in a series of three hearing and three appeals. Two previous appeals judges remanded the case back for a new hearing.

In a written decision, Verónica Elizondo Murillo, the judge in Puntarenas, said she could find little evidence against Hazeltine or his lawyer, Horacio Mejias Portuguez. Both had been accused.

The allegations were brought by well-known businessman Armando González Fonseca and Martha Sandoval Fernández, a woman who once lived on land that is the subject of a civil dispute.

The forgery allegation was criminal. Gozález and his lawyer, Otto Giovanny Ceciliano Mora, said that the men forged a document that allowed them to represent a company in the civil case.

The decision in the third hearing was handed down Oct. 9.  That decision was the third to absolve the two men of the criminal allegation. But the decisions in two previous hearings were overturned on appeal.
Hazeltine has become a poster boy of sorts for expats involved in property disputes. He has been fighting over ownership of land near Los Sueños for nearly two decades.

The appeals judge upheld a money decision against Ms. Sandoval for 15.2 million colons or about $30,600. The judge overturned a money award against González and left the amount for future litigation.

Hazeltine was the man who posted a YouTube video critical of property fraud in Costa Rica. The nine-page decision mostly addressed legal issues that were raised in the appeal.

González had challenged a document that carried the seal of the Costa Rican consul in The Bahamas that related to a Panamá company owned by Hazeltine and his partners in the civil case. That the document was legitimate was established in each of the three trials.

Had the document been voided as being fraudulent, González would have had a strong advantage in the civil case. Hazeltine had contended for a long time that the criminal case was strategic and linked to the civil trial. The judge had the option to move the case forward for a full trial.

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New Hampshire towns first
as U.S. voting begins today

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Millions of voters across the United States have already cast ballots under early-voting rules. But the vast majority of the electorate will still head to polling places today in schools, firehouses, churches and elsewhere.

Voters in the small New Hampshire towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location cast their ballots at midnight, keeping with tradition in being the first locations in the nation to vote on Election Day. U.S. President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney tied at five votes each in Dixville Notch. In Hart's Location, the president won 23 votes while Romney finished with nine.

Obama, a Democrat, and Romney, a Republican have made their final arguments to voters in key political battleground states on the eve of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama made campaign stops Monday in Wisconsin and Ohio, before holding a final rally in Iowa, the state that gave him his first primary victory in his 2008 White House campaign. The Democratic incumbent boasted of his accomplishments during his presidency, including the bailout of the U.S. auto industry and the killing of Osama bin Laden, but said he needed another term to complete his agenda.

Romney started his day in Florida, Virginia and Ohio, before ending with a rousing late night rally at an arena in New Hampshire, where he launched his campaign more than a year ago. The former Massachusetts governor said his record as both a businessman and politician shows he, and not Obama, would bring about real change for the nation.

Romney will vote in his hometown near Boston today, and has scheduled two last-minute Election Day events in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The president and his wife, Michelle, will spend Tuesday in their home in Chicago.

U.S. political analysts say a handful of the country's 50 states will decide Tuesday's election, with the remainder leaning toward or firmly in the grasp of either the president or Romney. U.S. presidential elections are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by an electoral college system in which the importance of each state on the outcome is roughly equivalent to its population.

A wide collection of polls shows the two candidates in a very close race nationally. But state-by-state polls show Obama with steady, but narrow leads in most of the closely contested states likely to determine the outcome.

Along with the race for president, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 Senate seats are being contested in Tuesday's election. Analysts generally say Republicans will continue to hold their majority in the House, while the president's Democratic party could maintain their slim majority in the Senate.

State of nation organization
will give its report on country

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Programa Estado de la Nación will deliver its 18th report today. The organization supported by four universities and the Defensoría de los Habitantes usually addresses poverty, education and a host of other socioeconomic problems.

The result is an extensive written document.

The public is invited to hear the presentation at 5 p.m. at the officers of the Consejo Nacional de Rectores about 1.3 kilometers north of the U.S. Embassy in Pavas.

Given the current state of the economy, the state of the nation report promises to be grimmer than normal with an emphasis on unemployment, government spending and the health situation involving the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

Suspect in Quepos murder
identified by Poder Judicial

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Poder Judicial has identified the suspect in the murder of a woman in Quepos by the last names of González Araya. He was ordered held for three months preventative detention Monday after a hearing in the Juzgado Penal de Aguirre y Parrita.

The victim was identified as María Magdalena Alfaro López, believed to be 22.

The woman's body turned up off the Costanera Sur highway Friday morning near the Quepos airport, investigators said. Her hands and feet were tied and she had been strangled with a piece of cloth, said the Poder Judicial Monday.

Agents said over the weekend that they believed that the woman and her accused killer had had a relationship.

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
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Lawmaker wants to expand Turrialba park to help farmers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A lawmaker is proposing the government buy up the private land within a five-kilometer radius of Volcán Turrialba.

This is the area that was highlighted last week by an emergency commission report. The commission recommended removing all agricultural use from the five-kilometer zone and turning the outer three kilometers to forest.

The volcano and its acid fumes have caused extensive damage to vegetation in the area. There are some farms within the two kilometer red zone. There are a number within five kilometers.

The proposal by Alfonso Pérez Gómez of the Partido
Liberación Nacional, would be to extend the limits of Parque Nacional Turrialba to include the threatened area. If that is done, the government would be obligated to buy the land.

Many of the agricultural operations are dairy farms. The pastures have been affected by the acid rains. The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias created a map of the threatened areas. That map is HERE!

Pérez did not say that the park boundaries should follow the emergency commission's map. He suggested that experts should fix the actual limits.

The commission also said that emergency routes from the volcano should be improved.

Government agencies rake in the cash from confiscated goods
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican officials said Monday that they have raised more than 150 million colons in two years by auctioning confiscated automobiles and other miscellaneous items.

They also announced that they will auction 45 more cars in November and 20 luxury vehicles in December.

All of the proceeds from these auctions will be put into the government's efforts to fight organized crime and drug trafficking, a press release said.

The majority of these funds will go towards preventing people from starting on drugs and alcohol as well as rehabilitating addicts. Less than a third of the money will go towards the police agencies that fight organized crime.

A Casa Presidencial spokesperson explained that when a drug trafficker is arrested, all of his property is confiscated by the investigators. If a judge eventually says that the trafficker is guilty, then the government sells that person's property.

A revision of this law in 2009 requires that assets confiscated from criminals be sold and the proceeds divided among numerous governmental organizations. The Instituto Costarricense sobre Drogas is one of these groups and is one of the primary beneficiaries.

The institute is a task force in the executive branch. Its purpose is to implement policies and strategies to prevent people from using drugs in addition to treating and rehabilitating people who are on drugs. The institute attempts to do this mostly by organizing education programs for students.

An institute press release says that over the past two years the institute has sold 31 cars, 24 trucks and vans and other items for a total profit of almost 162 million colons, or about $324,000. This only lists some of the property confiscated and sold.

Just shy of 100 million colons came from the automobiles, but the group also sold 28 tons of confiscated scrap metal and 22 tons of confiscated fish. They also sold 18 horses for more than 55 million colons.

horse auction
 Casa Presidencial released this undated photo of a
horse being auctioned.

Although the drug law dictates specific instructions for certain kinds of items, overall 60 percent of the proceeds will go to prevention programs, 30 percent to repressive programs, 10 percent to the institute and 10 to maintaining the confiscated property.

The lion's share of the prevention program money will go to the Instituto sobre Alcoholismo y Fármacodependencia, a task force in the health ministry. This institute is very similar to the drug institute except that it focuses on preventing people from abusing alcohol and prescription drugs.

The repressive program funding goes to the security ministry, which is in charge of many police agencies in the country. This money will be what goes to the police forces that are fighting organized and drug crime.

A spokesperson said that dates for the two auctions have yet to be determined. They will auction 45 cars sometime this month and 20 luxury vehicles in December.

Individuals or companies are able to participate in the auctions, but those who are buying a vehicle from these auctions must register on the institute's Web site. Those looking to participate must also submit a photocopy of their identification card, personal crime records, a utilities bill and a notarized affidavit that there is not a drug trafficking case pending against him or her.

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Plant seen as biofuel source found to have yet another use
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Several firms in Costa Rica are cultivating  Jatropha curcas as a potential source for biodiesel. Now U.S. scientists are finding out what folks in Africa have known for some time.

The oil from the plant's seeds also can be an effective repellant of mosquitoes.

Agricultural Research Service scientist Charles Cantrell has identified the first mosquito-repelling triglyceride, which he found in Jatropha curcas seed oil, a folk remedy commonly burned in lamps in Africa and India to drive off bugs, said the parent U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The service's Natural Products Utilization Research Unit checks out all kinds of folk remedies and gathers many plants in the wilds.

After learning that people in India burn the seed oil in lamps to keep insects out of their homes and other areas, Cantrell, a chemist with the research unit, extracted smoke from the plant in a laboratory and analyzed its properties. Free fatty acids and triglycerides were among a number of active compounds found to be effective at preventing mosquitoes from biting, said the Agriculture Department in announcing the find.
University of Florida
University of Florida photo
The dried fruit and seeds of the Jatropha curcas

Researchers have known for some time that fatty acids repel insects, but this was the first known report that identified triglycerides as having mosquito repellent activity, according to Cantrell, as quoted by the department.

The seeds are used as a folk remedy in many other countries. They even are being considered a good source of animal feed, although they must be treated to remove highly toxic materials.

Police agencies sweep Quepos and Manuel Antonio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourist police and the Fuerza Pública in conjunction with other agencies swept Quepos and Manuel Antonio over the weekend.

Officers stopped and searched 38 buses, checked other vehicles for compliance with the new traffic law and visited night clubs.

Officers were accompanied by immigration agents and agents from the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

For all their work, police detained just one man who was the subject of an arrest warrant. However, marijuana, crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia were confiscated, officers said.

The sweep was Friday and all day Saturday. Police also set up checkpoints on the highway. Involved were the dogs of the  Unidad Canina, officers said. They are skilled at sniffing out drugs.

Some 62 motorists got tickets. A motorcycle that has been reported stolen turned up, officers said.

Bus stop
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública
Bus passengers were subject to searches.

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Presidential predictions fly
as election day dawns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is a tough business. Political parties, news agencies and pundits have been sifting through public opinion polls for months, trying to figure out a likely winner.

But no matter how good the calculations, forecasting the future is never a sure thing. For election observers seeking relief from the traditional number crunching, there are plenty of alternatives, so long as you have a sense of humor and a bit of imagination.
Coffee drinkers who get their caffeine fix at the popular convenience store 7-Eleven have successfully predicted the presidential winner since 2000. The so-called "7-Election" offers voters, or coffee drinkers in this case, a chance to support their favorite candidate by choosing either a blue cup for President Barack Obama or a red cup for Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney. Regular, "nonpartisan" cups are available for drinkers who can't make up their mind.
The unapologetically unscientific poll has a few different rules than the official election. Coffee drinkers can vote as often as they like, and early voting starts in September. In each of the past three elections, 7-Eleven says more than six million candidate cups were cast.

Who's winning the coffee vote this year? Obama so far has 59 percent of the cups, while Romney has 41 percent in the 34 participating states. Voters who stay up all night watching the results come in on Tuesday might just have to buy an apolitical cup of coffee to stay awake the day after the election.

The presidential election falls just days after Halloween, which means candidate masks are always a popular costume choice for revelers on the American holiday. The online store says sales of its paper candidates' masks have accurately forecasted the next president of the United States since 2000. Again, this poll isn't scientific. The company's election motto is, "1 mask = 1 vote. This poll can be bought!"

The race is close in the costume poll, but Romney's Republican Party will be happy to see it has 51 percent of mask sales, while Obama has 49 percent.
It is football season in the United States, which means millions of Americans are captivated each Sunday and Monday night watching heavyweight players battle it out on the field. Come election time, one football team becomes even more important: the Washington Redskins. The so-called "Redskins rule" suggests if the team wins its last home game before Election Day, the incumbent party will have another turn at the White House. If it loses, the opposition candidate becomes the next president of the United States.

It sounds ridiculous, but the "rule" has proven true for 17 of the past 18 presidential elections, since 1937. If Obama was watching Sunday night's game, he might be a little nervous. The Redskins lost to the Carolina Panthers.

American citizens can't vote until they're 18 years old, but that hasn't stopped young students from choosing their favorite candidate in an informal ballot held by the children's book publisher, Scholastic.
The Scholastic Student Vote has correctly named the next president in 15 of the past 17 votes, since 1940. This year, the kids have spoken, and they're saying Obama should stay in office. The Democratic nominee won 51 percent of the votes cast by nearly a quarter-million young people across the country. Romney won 45 percent of them, while alternative candidates claimed 4 percent of the kids' vote.
Astrology isn't a science, but if done well, the reading of celestial charts can often deliver predictions that seem too true to be chance. If that's the case, the planets are aligning for Obama, according to a panel of five astrologists who gathered in New Orleans last May for the international United Astrology Conference.

Each of the astrologists used different techniques to come up with their forecast — from reading Indian Vedic charts to studying Aries ingress charts. They all said the president would have a second term. There are, of course, astrologists who are reading the candidates' natal charts differently and predicting a win for Romney.
All agree that whoever wins, Election Day and the weeks to follow likely will be a time of chaos and confusion because Mercury goes retrograde Nov. 6, the very same day as the vote. Astrologer Susan Miller writes on her blog this is not good news.
"I expect legal challenges, calls for recounts, broken voting machines, and a host of other problems with the ballots," Ms. Miller writes, noting that the last time Mercury was retrograde during a presidential election was the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

U.S. expresses unhappiness
with elections in Nicaragua

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States Department of State condemned the municipal elections that took place in Nicaragua Sunday for not being sufficiently transparent.

A press release says that Nicaragua's supreme electoral council mismanaged the campaign season and the elections in ways that benefited the Sandinista ruling party.

The release also reports incidents in which polling officials denied some people the ability to vote, allowed others to vote multiple times, and did not respect voters' rights to a secret ballot.

The Web site of the Nicaragua's Consejo Supremo Electoral says that Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional took more than 80 percent of the vote overall. These elections were for mayors, vice mayors and municipal council seats.

Nicaragua also invited the Organization of American States to observe the elections. The Sandinista party has been widely suspected of rigging elections in its favor.

Election observers from the organization released their own report of the elections Monday. That report says that the elections were not perfectly run and the government can do more to ensure more democratic elections. However, observers did not report any instances of fraud or voters being turned away.

The Department of State did not indicate from where the reports of fraud, denial of privacy and the denial of voters came.
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INS plans fourth auction
of recovered vehicles

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Nacional de Seguros, known as INS, plans to auction off 55 vehicles and 18 motorcycles Nov. 14.

The vehicles will be on display for potential buyers from Wednesday until a week from today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Zapote near the carnival grounds. These are vehicles that have been recovered from robberies and accidents in which the owners were covered by the INS insurance, the agency said.

The auction itself will start at 9 a.m. in the auditorium of the central offices in San José.

Some of the vehicles are in the salvage category.  This is the fourth auction of the year, the former government monopoly insurance agency said.

Banco National opens ATMs
to Chinese credit cards

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Banco Nacional said Monday it has reached agreement with a Chinese credit card company to allow use in some 456 of the bank's automatic tellers.

The card company, UnionPay, has 1.6 billion cardholders. Banco Nacional said it was reading the signs of the times in opening its machines to Chinese customers.

Anti-drug agents again find
cocaine in spare truck tires

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug agents found another truck in which two spare tires were filled with cocaine, the agency reported.

The confiscation was made in Peñas Blancas at the northern border crossing.

Agents said they confiscated 89 kilos of cocaine Friday. The truck cab was registered in Costa Rica, they said. The police action took place about 11:40 p.m.

The driver, identified by the last names of Duarte Vargas, was detained. He is 42, agents said.

This is the second time in two weeks that agents found cocaine in spare tires, they said.

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