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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 221       Email us
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Section of San José will be without power today, Fuerza y Luz says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The power company is shutting off electricity in an eight block section of San Jose's downtown today.

The section is from Calle 0 to Calle 2 and from Avenida 3 to Avenida 9, said the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz.

The power company said that a large number of popular businesses would be included in the power outage, including the Hotel Europa,
 McDonald's on Avenida 3, the Farmacia Fischel, and the Coronado bus station.

The company said that the outage would be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the purpose is supposed to be preventative maintenance of the underground electrical distribution system.

The company said that the outage would not affect Banco Nacional, the main offices of Radiográphic Costarricense S.A., the central offices of BAC San José and its own main offices east of the area.

Expat may have been victim of deadly pneumonia
By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After taking a brief trip to Panamá, an American citizen living in Costa Rica returned to San José and died a week later under what his good friend is calling mysterious circumstances, possibly due to a deadly form of pneumonia found in the neighboring country.

The U.S. Citizen, William Lee Camerer, 68, died Oct. 28 in Hospital Calderón Guardia and his cremated remains were shipped back to the United States Friday. According to his friend and landlord, Benjamin Over, Camerer's autopsy report listed three causes of death including lung cancer, septic shock and pneumonia.

After watching Camerer fall deathly ill inside of a few weeks, Over said he believes his friend contracted the deadly form of pneumonia, called Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase, from a Panamanian hospital in David. Ten cases of the disease have been reported by Panamanian press in the regional Rafael Hernández Hospital there, but it is unclear if Camerer was receiving treatment in that specific location.

A spokesperson for the Ministerio de Salud did not respond to whether Camerer was tested for the deadly bacteria. Previously, a ministry spokesperson said no case had been reported in Costa Rica as of Oct. 28.
Over said Camerer left for Panamá from San José for what was supposed to be a three-week stay but returned only a week later.

He was barely able to get out of the taxi that brought him to his residence, Over said.

“When he come back he couldn't function,” Over said. “I had to help him out of the taxi and he said 'I think I'm dying.' He was coughing up blood when I called the ambulance.”

Over said Camerer was placed in the quarantine at the hospital and was dead a week later. Over said his friend had been in poor health suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes breathing difficult. But he said he was surprised at the rate in which the man fell deathly ill.

Individuals with a compromised immune system and those with lung ailments are more prone to pneumonia. Klebsiella pneumoniae Carbapenemase has a fatality rate of over 50 percent. The bacteria is considered to be resistent to certain antibiotics.

“My personal opinion is he picked up pneumonia in the clinic or hospital where he went,” Over said.

“Within one week he was totally different health-wise. Lung cancer will kill you, but you won't deteriorate to that level in one week,” he added.

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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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Our readers' opinions
Change will take place
in Cuba at their pace

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Before anyone starts throwing stones at Castro's Cuba they should take a look at the history and the era.

When so few, have so much, at the expense of so many, change must occur.  There are many good books that report the history of the time, some written by U.S. authors.  The younger generation has no idea about what happened during that time and that the media was very much controlled. There was also no Internet or social media to expose conditions of the time, thereby limiting the options available those trying to make social changes.

Changes will happen in Cuba, as they will elsewhere, and part of that will be because of the Internet. Some of it will be slow, but it will change, and it has to be on their terms.

Patti Fraser
Alberta Canada

Country needs to resolve
its local problems first

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

There is no such thing as 100 percent pure air or 100 percent pure water.  There are always different levels of impurities and different levels of consequences.  Is it practical to spend a fortune on minute quantities of atmospheric CO2 in order to meet a world environmental goal while breathing in San José or drinking/swimming in raw sewage?  Is reality optional?

Mary Jay

No taxes for San Jose's
shameful opportunists

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The baby has to be thrown out with the bath water because it is as dirty as the suds. Decentralize government. Do I need to say it again? Look, my municipality is effective and efficient. We have a growing tax base because they do a good job of keeping the streets paved and the lights on, so people want to live here. The local property tax is paid to the municipality, and, guess what, the people who sit in the municipality offices are neighbors. That’s right, they live among us. They are not faceless people that can hide in the big government crowd. If they steal or cheat, their family suffers the shame inside OUR community.
When will people realize that big cumbersome centralized governments should do no more than provide a basic structure for municipal cohesiveness. When the money is spent locally by local people, you can keep track of it, and the local politicians have a face in the community. Therefore they are less likely to steal. Its like the difference between running a series of small restaurants versus one gigantic “too big to fail” restaurant. When the little restaurants screw up, they go out of business. They eliminate themselves, and this strengthens the good restaurants. No more dysfunction in the herd.
It’s like when you say you are pro motherhood, people think you are anti woman, and when you say you are pro local government people say you are anti government. When will people learn the difference between effective local government and centralized federal government, which is nothing but a hazy playing field for federal politician to pillage the participants.
Reduce the federal government and give those responsibilities to local government. My local government works great. In fact, they just paved the street, put in new sidewalks and remodeled the high school and the elementary school. Every time I drive by and see the progress, I don’t regret paying my taxes.
The piggish politicians of San José are nothing but a national tragedy. Self serving shameful opportunists the bunch of them and that goes all the way to the top. They can’t even get the traffic fines right. I mean really if you cannot do that, then what can you do? And they want more money? Well just color me stupid for not wanting to give it to them. Civil disobedience anyone.  The occupy set might not be able to verbalize why they are protesting, but they intuitively know that the centralized government sham is rotten. Its time to occupy San José and the corrupt people that milk the citizenry.
Phil Baker
Costa Rica
(for a little while longer anyways)
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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A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald
A variety of taxes raise the price of these products by as much as 116 percent
Duty-free purchases turn out to be a pretty good idea
By Shahrazad Encinias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists come to Costa Rica to escape the daily life of bills, work, and responsibility. They come in droves to relax, explore and have fun. But there is something that is not in the advertisements to come to this country, and that's taxes. Costa Rica, jokingly referred by some as “Taxa Rica,” has become the land of tariffs. The presumed inexpensive vacation has evolved into such; a presumption.

Liquor is a holiday staple, and buying bottles at the duty-free stores inside Juan Santamaría airport is cheaper by far than purchasing them inside the country. And that includes Costa Rica national liquor.

International liquor importers (and eventually the consumer) have to pay at least five different taxes before selling a product in Costa Rica. The only exception are goods that enter and remain in the duty-free area of Golfito.

All foreign beer, spirits, and wines are assessed a 15 percent tariff. All alcohol beverage products then face a 13 percent sales tax plus a 10 percent consumption tax. On top of that, for liquors alone, there is a 10 percent tax from the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoria Municipal Descentralización Democrática y Fortalecimiento Local and a final 8 percent tax from the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario.

A one liter bottle of the famous Stolichnaya, Russian vodka costs $10 at the duty-free and sells for 11,020 colons at a local grocery in San José. That's  approximately $21.59. The store price is 116 per cent more than at the duty-free shop.
Duty free
San José
grocery price
colons (dollars)
1 liter
11,020 ($21.59)
759 milliliter
7,022 ($13.76)
1 liter
17,730 ($34.73)
Johnny Walker
red 1 liter
18,035 ($35.33)
Captain Morgan
750 millilieters
7,200 ($14,10
Flor de Caña
750 milliliters
7,195 ($14.09)
Ron Zacapa
23 years old
750 milliliters
28,500 ($55.83)
Ron Centenario
7 years old
750 milliliters
8,120 ($15.91)
Source: reporter survey

A reporter survey validates the idea that prices at the duty-free store are considerably less than the price in groceries, something that is not always the case.

Substantial taxes give smugglers a profitable opportunity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nearly every week Costa Rican police discover a shipment of untaxed alcohol and confiscate the load.

Smugglers find that the substantial taxes imposed by Costa Rica give them a profitable opportunity. Most of the imported alcohol comes from Panamá. However, there are home-grown bootleggers, too.

The bootleggers can produce a bottle that appears to be the true liquor. But there is a danger because backyard stills do not have the quality controls of commercial operations. Health officials periodically warn of adulterated or fake alcohol in the marketplace.

Two man ran afoul of police on Ruta 32 from Limón in the latest case of presumed smuggling. The men had 12 cases of various types of alcohol in their vehicle, but they lacked a sales receipt. That is why the Fuerza Pública and the Policía de Tránsito confiscated the load and turned the men over to prosecutors.

Officers assumed that the alcohol somehow came across the border from Panamá at the loosely controlled border south of Sixaola.

Meanwhile, health officials are still seeking the
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía
y Seguridad Pública/Paul Gamboa
This is part of the load that was confiscated on Ruta 32.

manufacturers of bottles of Azteca vodka because the alcohol contained a percentage of methanol that was too high for human consumption. The maker could not be located at the address written on the bottle label, and officials presume the bottles were bootlegged.

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ICE says it will begin offering television channels via Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said Monday that it would begin offering 85 digital television channels and video on demand in Escazú, Santa Ana, San Pedro de Montes de Oca and Rohrmoser.

The service would be offered via the Internet and the company's fiber optic lines. The company, known as ICE, said it is the first to do this via a system called Internet Protocol television.

Eventually the area of coverage for the service would be expanded, the company said.
Also included would be seven channels of high definition television.

The service is being called Kölbi TV Digital, after the company's brand name used for cell telephones. Many cell telephones have Internet capacity. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that the basic package would cost $38 a month and $45 for the high-definition option. Customers also would have to have an Internet connection with the firm. For an additional $4, a second television set can be added to the package.

The company with this service goes into competition with the cable television providers like Amnet and Cable Tica.

Operator of ARCOS-1 cable reports system has been upgraded
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In yet another sign of the rapidly growing telecommunications market in Central America, Xtera Communications, Inc. announced Monday that Columbus Networks upgraded the Americas Region Caribbean Optical-ring System (ARCOS-1) using its technology. The upgrade provides a higher capacity for bandwidth to meet demands of the expanding telecommunications market. ARCOS-1 is one of the undersea cables that connects Costa Rica with the world.

The 8,600 kilometer submarine cable network connects the Caribbean and Central and South America to the United States.

Neither Xtera nor Columbus were available to comment on if the upgrade would be capable of handling the future surge of users in Central America, but Jon Hopper, president and chief executive officer of Xtera, said in a press release that ¨Xtera is pleased to continue supporting growth on the ARCOS-1 cable.¨  ¨This is another example of how continued technical
advancements benefit not only new, but also existing networks,” he said

Columbus Networks is a wholesale communications service provider that offers advanced, high-speed bandwidth capacity to telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers. Columbus Networks is the largest subsea fiber optic communications company connecting the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Xtera Communications says it specializes in network infrastructure that delivers maximum capacity, reach and value. Providing solutions for enterprise and telecom companies, Xtera offers an extensive portfolio of optical and IP networking solutions for submarine, long-haul, regional and enterprise applications. With deployments across five continents, Xtera’s optical transport solutions help service providers expand and accelerate their market reach with new deployments and extend the life of existing network assets with cost-effective upgrades.

Human use of nitrogen reported affecting tropical forests
By the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
news staff

Scientists braved ticks and a tiger to discover how human activities have perturbed the nitrogen cycle in tropical forests. Studies at two remote Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory sites in Panamá and Thailand show the first evidence of long-term effects of nitrogen pollution in tropical trees.

“Air pollution is fertilizing tropical forests with one of the most important nutrients for growth,” said S. Joseph Wright, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “We compared nitrogen in leaves from dried specimens collected in 1968 with nitrogen in samples of new leaves collected in 2007. Leaf nitrogen concentration and the proportion of heavy to light nitrogen isotopes increased in the last 40 years, just as they did in another experiment when we applied fertilizer to the forest floor.”

Nitrogen is an element created in stars under high temperatures and pressures. Under normal conditions, it is a colorless, odorless gas that does not readily react with other substances. Air consists of more than 75 percent nitrogen. But nitrogen also plays a big role in life as an essential component of proteins. When nitrogen gas is zapped by lightning, or absorbed by soil bacteria called nitrogen fixers, it is converted into other active forms that can be used by animals and plants. Humans fix nitrogen by the industrial Haber process, which converts nitrogen gas into ammonia — now a principal ingredient in fertilizers. Today, nitrogen fixation by humans has approximately doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen emitted.

Nitrogen comes in two forms or isotopes: atoms that have the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. In the case of nitrogen, the isotopes are 14N and 15N, although only about one in 300 nitrogen atoms is the heavier form. The research institute likened nitrogen in the ecosystem like a bowl of popcorn. Normally the ratio of popped (light) to unpopped (heavy) kernels stays the same, but when someone starts to eat the popcorn, the lighter, popped kernels get used up first, increasing the ratio of heavy to light kernels (or 15N/14N in the case of the ecosystem). Light nitrogen is lost through 
nitrate leaching and as gases such as N2, and various forms of nitrous oxides or noxides, some of which can be important greenhouse gases. In the fertilization study in Panamá, N2O emissions were tripled.

“Tree rings provide a handy timeline for measuring changes in wood nitrogen content,” said Peter Hietz from the Institute of Botany at the University of Natural Resources and Life
Sciences in Vienna, who faced down a tiger when sampling trees in a monsoon forest on the Thailand-Myanmar border. “We find that over the last century, there’s an increase in the heavier form of nitrogen over the lighter form, which tells us that there is more nitrogen going into this system and higher losses. We also got the same result in an earlier study of tree rings in Brazilian rainforests, so it looks like nitrogen fixed by humans now affects some of the most remote areas in the world.”

“The results have a number of important implications,” said Ben Turner, staff scientist at research institute. “The most obvious is for trees in the bean family (Fabaceae), a major group in tropical forests that fix their own nitrogen in association with soil bacteria. Increased nitrogen from outside could take away their competitive advantage and make them less common, changing the composition of tree communities.”

“There are also implications for global change models, which are beginning to include nitrogen availability as a factor affecting the response of plants to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations,” said Turner. “Most models assume that higher nitrogen equals more plant growth, which would remove carbon from the atmosphere and offset future warming. However a challenge for the models is that there is no evidence that trees are growing faster in Panamá, despite the long-term increases in nitrogen deposition and atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

Decades of atmospheric nitrogen deposition have caused major changes in the plants and soils of temperate forests in the U.S. and Europe.

Whether tropical forests will face similar consequences is an important question for future research, the institute said.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.N. sets up food center
in Brasilia for the world

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United Nations World Food Programme and the Brazilian Government have launched a new initiative to help countries run their own national school meal programs to advance the nutrition and education of children.

The Centre of Excellence Against Hunger, located in the capital, Brasilia, will assist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America by drawing on the expertise of the World Food Programme and Brazil in the fight against hunger, while promoting sustainable school feeding models and other food and nutrition safety nets.

"As a world champion in the fight against hunger, Brazil has a wealth of experience that can be shared with governments eager to learn how they achieved that success and adapt it to their own countries," said Josette Sheeran, who is on an official visit to the country. She is executive director of the World Food Programme.

The center will provide a unique "South-South bridge" to ending hunger, she noted in a news release issued by the agency.

"Brazil has taken the fight against hunger and malnutrition seriously and is now among those defeating hunger faster than any nation on earth. We will partner to leverage this success to other nations seeking to end hunger and malnutrition."

The South American nation has been recognized for its Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) strategy for reducing poverty and food insecurity and its school meals program, which reaches about 45 million children per year.

The new center will be headed by Daniel Balaban, who has helped to provide school meals to millions of children when he was the president of the Brazilian National Education Development Fund.

During her visit to Brazil, Ms. Sheeran will also meet with President Dilma Rousseff, and commend the country for its resolve to continue the fight against hunger at home and abroad.

Funded entirely through voluntary donations, the World Food Programme is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger. Each day in 60 countries around the world, the agency provides school meals to around 22 million children.

Ex-president Carter says
Haiti's poor overlooked

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter says he has not seen many homes built for the poor following the deadly earthquake that rocked Haiti nearly two years ago.

Carter made his comments in interviews Monday as he visited the Caribbean nation, which is struggling to recover from the January 2010 temblor. In one interview, he was quoted as saying he sees the reconstruction of very large houses where rich people live.

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are in Haiti to join 500 volunteers from the group Habitat for Humanity in building homes for families displaced by the 7.0-magnitude quake. The homes are to be built in the western town of Leogane, one of the areas devastated by the quake.

The Haiti earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and hundreds of thousands of people still live in tent camps.

Even before the quake struck, Haiti was the Western Hemisphere's poorest country and was plagued by political violence, lawlessness, corruption and natural disasters.

Big asteroid flies by
Earth today, NASA says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A huge asteroid will fly past Earth within the moon's orbit today, the closest such a large object has passed by the planet since 1976.

Asteroid 2005 YU55 will come within 324,000 kilometers (about 200,800 miles) of Earth at 23:28 Universal Time, or UTC, today. That is about 5:28 p.m. in Costa Rica. The close encounter will give scientists a rare chance to study a near-Earth object without launching a space probe. The U.S. space agency says there is no chance that the spherical asteroid will collide with Earth or the moon.

NASA scientists plan to bounce radio waves off the asteroid and analyze the radar echoes. Those images should reveal details about the rock's surface features.

YU55 is about 400 meters (1,312 feet) in diameter and should be visible from the northern hemisphere with telescopes. Its path will be too dim to be seen with the naked eye, scientists said.

The asteroid's close encounter is not expected to have any detectable effect on earth.

Scientists believe 2005 YU55 has been passing by Earth for thousands of years. It is one of about 8,500 near-Earth objects that NASA has catalogued.

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Renegotiation of Canadian trade agreement begins this week
By Zach McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Technical teams from Costa Rica and Canada, starting this week in Ottawa, begin the first round of negotiations to modernize the free trade agreement between the two countries in force since 2002.

This process will streamline the regulatory part of the agreement and fit current production. The upgrade is intended to provide greater opportunities for exporters and importers.

In 2010, the two countries held exploratory meetings to identify possible areas of interest: e-commerce, financial services, investment, government procurement and market access, among others.

During the official visit to Costa Rica last August, the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper and President Laura Chinchilla reaffirmed their interest in deepening commercial ties. Trade ministers of both countries were instructed to launch the process of modernization during this month, with a view to finalizing the framework of the 10th anniversary of entry into the trade agreement.

"When we negotiated this agreement, in 1999,¨ said Federico Valerio, director general of foreign trade ¨the global environment and the country's conditions were different. Therefore, it is desirable to incorporate new rules and disciplines to better fit our current situation and continue to
open new and better opportunities for Costa Ricans.¨ He heads the Costa Rican delegation. Valerio said that the goal of the negotiations will be to finalize the process next year following four rounds of negotiations.

Meetings will begin with experts in different fields from both countries. This includes six new chapters that were not in the initial agreements in 2001, such as media services and telecommunications. Four chapters of consumer and supplier services will be renegotiated, and a chapter regarding e-commerce will be evaluated on its own, according to Tomas Quesada, an adviser of services for the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

Studies of bilateral trade flow showed an increase of 2.6 times, since the passing of the trade agreement between both countries, from $206 million in 2002 to $530 million in 2010, according to statistics from Trade Map.

In the case of Costa Rica, exports to Canada, from the enactment of the treaty, grew by an annual average of 13.2 percent. The fastest growing exports during 2010 include: bananas, sugar cane, electrical conductors, pineapples, prosthetic limbs, tires, coffee, medical instruments and devices, needles, catheters and cannulas for medical use, cotton panties and rubber gaskets.

During last year, 29 Costa Rican companies began exporting to the Canadian market for the first time, according to the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior.

Agreement provides for electronic monitoring of both oceans
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Top Costa Rican officials from two separate ministries met Monday and made a formal commitment to coordinate law enforcement in Costa Rica's protected coastal and terrestrial areas.

The agreement was signed by the Mario Zamora Cordero, minster of Seguridad Publica, and Rene Castro Salazar of the Ministro de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones. The agreement sets out the goals of implementing maritime patrols and establishing a radar and electronic monitoring system for boats and law enforcement in the Pacific and Atlantic coastal areas protected by Costa Rica.

The efforts would be used to counteract fraudulent maritime activities such as illegal fishing, but also narcotics trafficking.

The ministry officials said they hope to make the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta, boarder police and park rangers more aware and better trained to enforce environmental protection laws.
Moreover the additional maritime waters designated by President Laura Chinchilla to include Isla de Coco further extends the space water patrols must cover. In total, ocean areas under the control of the Costa Rican government exceed 580,000 square kilometers and account for about 4 percent of the global biodiversity, officials said. Costa Rica's national parks also represent a large swath of area, roughly 26 percent of the country's land.

The contract does not designate any specific funding for the purpose of coordinating law enforcement nor is an additional influx of money provided by the central government but rather it sets out strategies for cooperation between the two ministries and other non-governmental and international agencies with similar goals, such as Costa Rica Por Siempre.

The ministry officials claim elevated enforcement and monitoring will help protect the livelihoods of law-abiding fisherman, promote tourism and protect national resources.

The ministries hope to have a specific strategy for the maritime monitoring networks in place by December.

Latin America news
quake location
U.S. Geological Survey graphic
Star is the estimated location of the quake epicenter. Circles show from where residents reported feeling the tremor. Only in Costa Rica did residents report a moderate quake, which is indicated by the green color.

Quake in Nicaragua felt
strongest in Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a 5.9 earthquake hit north of Rivas in Nicaragua Monday afternoon, it appears that residents in northern Costa Rica felt more of a shock than those living closer to the epicenter.

The  U.S. Geological Survey showed that residents in Liberia and in Nicoya reported a light to moderate quake.  Residents in El Crucero and San Juan de Sur in Nicaragua reported only a light quake.

The epicenter was in the west side of Lago Nicaragua north of Rivas. San José residents felt a light quake at 4:38 p.m.

The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica of the Universidad de Costa Rica said that the quake registered at sensors in  Paquera, Nosara and Santa Cruz.

The unusual distribution of the intensity may have been because the quake was at a depth of 183.4 km (114 miles).

Friday is day for veterans

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. Veteran's Day is Friday. The day is observed as Remembrance day in Commonwealth countries.

This the anniversary of when the guns fell silent at the end of World War I. However, the current remembrance incorporates veterans of all wars.

The various embassies will be closed Friday. No special ceremonies have been announced, although local veteran groups usually mark the day.

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