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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 226       Email us
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Poverty and jobs survey has something for everyone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new report on employment and poverty was more fodder for the spin doctors. Competing economic interests had their own views.

For the business chamber, the figures were cause for concern. The chamber, the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado, cited an increase in unemployment and poverty and called upon public officials to move to reactivate the economy.

The survey by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos showed a tiny rise in unemployment from 7.3 percent in 2010 to 7.7 percent this year. Some 6.4 percent of householders were in extreme poverty, the survey report said.

In all, the survey said that 287,367 householders, some 21.6 percent, had per capita incomes of less than 92,122 colons ($181.16) per month for urban dwellers, what the institute considered the poverty level. For rural households the figure was 70,970 colons ($141.09). Extreme poverty was considered to be a monthly per capita income of less than  41,842 colons ($83.19) in urban areas and 34,921 colons ($69.43) in rural zones.

Casa Presidencial quickly announced that the increase in poverty confirmed that need for new
taxes. President Laura Chinchilla Miranda was quoted as saying that her administration was more concerned about the apparent inequality in an economy that is growing at 4 percent a year. Those who have will have to give up some for those who do not, said Casa Presidencial.

The administration is trying to put through a major tax increase that includes a value-added tax.

In fact, the unemployment and poverty figures are relatively stable. The differences this year are within the range of the statistical margin as the institute tries to infer findings from 13,440 households to the entire nation. The survey on which the results are based took place in July.

Women's groups quickly cited reports that 72.2 percent of the men have jobs while only 41 percent of the women are employed. The institute said that this shows the difficulty of women participating in the labor market. Male unemployment was reported at 6 percent while that for women was 10.3 percent, the institute said.

As with all such surveys everywhere, the survey may or may not have considered the underground labor market. Those in such businesses, illegal or tax avoiding, generally are not candid in surveys. In addition, some respondents lie when asked questions about household size and income.


Minister breaks with adminstration on free zone tax
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anabel González, the minister of Comercio Exterior, warned lawmakers Monday that changing the rules of the game for industrial free zones could have major consequences.

She appeared before a special committee studying the measure that would assess a 15 percent tax on the distribution of dividends sent outside the country by companies located in the free zones. That would take affect in 2015. The tax proposal also authorizes municipalities to assess up to $100,000 in taxes against free zone firms. Most firms are subsidiaries of companies located elsewhere.

Nearly all of the firms here produce products for export.

Although Costa Rica has a good climate for investment, said Ms. González, there are other countries that offer such firms free land and buildings and also pay part of the company's salaries. She said bringing investments to Costa
Rica was not an easy job.

She noted that lawmakers just reformed the free zone law in 2010.

The testimony of Ms. González is about as far as any member of President Laura Chinchilla's government has gone in opposing the proposed tax package.

Also Monday the special committee approved a motion to exempt some 264 products from the proposed 14 percent value-added tax. Most are food products in the so-called basic basket. The motion increases by 36 the number of products that would be exempted. Among these is baby formula.
The committee also exempted ferry service from the tax. Other forms of transportation, such as taxi fares, already are exempted.

The committee also exempted wheelchairs, certain other medical equipment, protheses, equipment for programs of rehabilitation and vehicles for persons with physical limitations.

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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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Controversial 7 Wonders list
fails to include Costa Rica


By Andrew Rulseh Kasper
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A provisional selection of the so called new seven wonders of the natural world was compiled after worldwide voting on the subject ended Friday. Costa Rica's Coco Island had made it into the top 77 nominees but was vetted out when that list was narrowed down to 28.

The organization's Web site, New7Wonders, states the winners were chosen by worldwide voters via the Internet or text. The final votes are still being verified and the official selection ceremony will take place during early 2012.

The campaign to find new natural wonders of the world was started several years ago by a private entrepreneur, Bernard Weber, running a non-profit operation in Switzerland. But after the final list was revealed days ago, controversy erupted with officials from several countries claiming the organization used extortion in an attempt to essentially sell the top spots.

When the natural wonders contest began in 2007, the U. N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization distanced itself from the organization.  Agency members also disagreed with the voting scheme.

“The list of the '7 New Wonders of the World' will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the Internet and not the entire world,” a press release on UNESCO website says. “There is no comparison between Mr Weber's mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List.”

Tourism officials declined to comment on the final selection of the New7Wonders campaign.

But around the same time UNESCO's statement was released, Costa Ricans took it into their own hands to select their own seven national wonders. The survey was conducted by the leading newspaper La Nación and includes some of the more favorable spots sought out by global tourists and nationals alike.

The campaign had previously selected seven wonders of the ancient world. Currently, the New7Wonders organization is conducting voting for the seven top cities in the world.

Costa Rica's seven wonders

  Volcano Arenal
  Cerro Chirripo
  Rio Celeste
  Tortuguero
  Poas Volcano
  Monteverde
  Isla del Coco

New Seven Wonders

  Komodo, Indonesia
  The Amazon, South America
  Table Mountain, South Africa
  Jeju Island, South Korea
  Halong Bay, Vietnam
  Puerto Princesa underground river, The Philippines
  Iguazu Falls, between Brazil and Argentina.

 
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's
Third newspage
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 226
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New cell telephone companies face false campaign via email
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone is spreading false information about Costa Rica's new, private cell telephone services. An email distribution with a graphic claims that by accepting a telephone call from Movistar or Claro, the telephone user will assume a charge.

Movistar can be identified because telephone numbers from that firm begin with 6. Those from Claro begin with 7.

The nation's regulatory agency quickly disavowed the emails, and said that the caller pays all charges. The emails began to circulate over the weekend. The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos put out a press release Monday.
Emails receive by A.M. Costa Rica originated with the Registro Nacional server becasue they carried a disclaimer that the contents were confidential. Several names on the email had links to the Universidad de Costa Rica, although they could have been forged.

The graphic said that the sender of the email would not answer calls coming from the private firms because they are too expensive.

The new cell telephone firms are just going into business, and there is lingering unhappiness among supports of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, once the nation's telephone monopoly, and among opponents of the free trade treaty with the United States that caused the market to be opened.


Costa Rica to seek a trade treaty with four European nations
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Council of Ministers from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland met, in Geneva, Switzrland, with representatives from Costa Rica, Honduras and Panamá, the Ministerio de Comercio Exterior said Monday.

After the meeting, negotiators officially announced the launch of talks towards a free trade agreement between Central American countries and the European Free Trade Area.

"The negotiation of an FTA with EFTA,¨ said Anabel Gonzalez, Costa Rica´s foreign trade minister, ¨is a complement to the association agreement between Central America and the European Union.¨

Costa Rica could expand its foreign trade platform to some of the most developed in the world, according to Ms. Gonzalez. ¨This treaty would strengthen our relationship
with the European continent," she said.

In the last decade Costa Rica with the European Free Trade Area trade grew about 168 percent, from $54 million in 2000 to $144.5 million in 2010. The average annual growth rate of exports was 13.7 percent and imports 12.9 percent, said the ministry. Switzerland became the main trading partner among the four countries that make up this bloc, the ministry said.

The goal is to start negotiations in the first quarter of 2012, the announcement said.

"Costa Rica as well as the EFTA countries share a common vision about the role of trade on growth and development and have had to look outside their borders to enhance this development," said Ronald Saborío, Costa Rica´s ambassador to the World Trade Organization, as quoted by the ministry.

He participated in the Geneva meeting.


Low pressure brings a return to cloudy, rainy weather
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unstable weather remains over Costa Rica as a low pressure area slowly moves across the country.

The forecast is for rain today on the Pacific coast all day with possible showers in the Central Valley. Conditions in the northern zone and on the Caribbean coast show improvement, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The weather institute issued an alert early Monday when
the low pressure system was over Panamá and was moving north in the province of Limón.

The weather institute warned of possible slides and rising streams if the rains are hard.

In Santa Rita de San Carlos, a 76-year-old man died Sunday when he fell from a mamón chino tree where he was gathering the fruit.

The accident may have been weather-related.

Del Rey green season

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U.S. will sponsors exchange program to empower women
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The University for Peace and the University of Connecticut have teamed up to establish and promote Empoderando Mujeres a través del Emprendedurismo Social, “Empowerment for women through social entrepreneurship,” a two-year program that will enable a cultural and educational exchange between both countries by 10 Ticas and 10 Americans.

The program begins early next year, but selection is this year. The leadership program has a focus to promote health, environmental sustainability and economic development.

“We are very excited for this program. This will provide all participants a knowledge of women empowerment through a social entrepreneurial model,” said Laurel Gaylor, representative for the University for Peace in Ciudad Colón.

The program for Costa Rican women consists of four
consecutive weeks in the United States, including a two-week internship with an organization based on their current employment. And when they return to Costa Rica, they will take an online six-week course and continue to work on an online effort between the exchange students for a team-based project enabling social change in an Afro-Costa Rican or native group. The 10 Americans will spend two weeks in Costa Rica in August.

The program is sponsored by the Professional Fellows Division of the U.S. State Department.

The selection criteria for the Costa Rican women requires the applicants to be female between the ages of 24 and 40, fluent in English, computer and internet literate, and with the desire to work with women empowerment. They must also have to be working for a government job, working in an area of health, working for a female-owned business, an educational institution, or with a non-profit organization.


Local landscape artist folllowing in footsteps of the greats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An established U.S. landscape painter who left all to live and work in Costa Rica has a show starting Saturday at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery west of Liberia.

He is Joseph E. Kaknes, and the exhibition is titled "Passion as Color: Guanacaste 2011."

Kaknes said he worked for 10 years alongside great landscape painters Robert C. Gruppe and James P. Kerr in the United States.

“Once I started to paint in Guanacaste, I realized that it would be best to cut my ties to the art industry in the States so I closed my gallery and the studio, moved to Islita, and threw myself into my work here with missionary zeal,” he said. “When an artist cuts his prior ties and goes to a foreign land with the sole purpose to push themselves and their paintings, they blossom. It happened to Van Gogh and to Gauguin and it is happening to me in Costa Rica.  Here I am alone to press the limits of color and light while developing a passionate style of painting that is solely my own.

The artist picked 30 works that he says gives an overview of what he is trying to achieve.
 
“Much influenced by the bold brush strokes and expressive effects of the post-impressionists, Kaknes has nonetheless
landscape work
This is an example of the artist's work

developed his own style, portraying sea- and landscapes from his native New England or his new home in Islita, Costa
Rica,” said fellow artist Victoria Longland.

The show opens at 10 a.m. Saturday at the gallery which is 5 kilometers west of Daniel Oduber airport.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Obama links U.S. economy
to growing Pacific region


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama has closed the summit in his home state of Hawaii of the 21 member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.  The organization agreed on steps aimed at boosting growth and simplifying trade. Obama also discussed bilateral issues with China and Iran's controversial nuclear program.

A U.S. statement said leaders agreed on a comprehensive set of measures designed to increase growth, create jobs and expand trade and investment in a region representing more than half of the world's economic output and 44 percent of world trade.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group commits to enhance market-driven innovation policies, reduce or eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in environmental goods and services, and take steps to help businesses through regulatory reforms.

President Obama again drew a link between the U.S. economic recovery and the Pacific, saying the region is the key to America's future.

"Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers are beyond our borders.  I want them to be buying goods with three words stamped on them:  Made in America.  So I have been doing everything I can to make sure that the U.S. is competing aggressively for the jobs and the markets of the future," Obama said.

Other decisions include steps to ease travel, reduce tariffs on so-called environmental goods and services, encourage so-called green jobs, and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

With China objecting, the United States and eight other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group economies committed in Honolulu to finalize a new free trade zone called the Trans-Pacific Partnership by next year.

The summit came amid ongoing global anxiety about Europe's ability to resolve the debt crisis affecting such nations as Greece and Italy.

Obama said the ultimate goal for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group is to create a seamless regional economy, saying the U.S. needs to be an aggressive competitor in the region. "If we are not playing out here in the world's largest regional economy and the world's fastest regional economy, if we have abandoned the field and we are not engaged, American businesses will lose out and those jobs won't be in the United States of America," he said.

Obama again called on China to change policies he said disadvantage the United States and other trading partners, allow further appreciation of its currency and move toward a more domestic demand-oriented economy. 

He also faced questions about the recent International Atomic Energy Agency report that provided evidence of secret Iranian nuclear weapons development efforts.

The U.S., China and Russia, Obama said, are united on this major objective.

"All three of us entirely agree on the objective, which is making sure that Iran does not weaponize nuclear power and that we don't trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.  That is in the interests of all of us," Obama said.

Obama said representatives of the three countries will be consulting closely in coming weeks on other available options building on existing sanctions.  He said the United States takes no options off the table but will pursue every avenue for a negotiated solution.

The president also used the news conference to urge Democrats and Republicans on a special U.S. deficit committee to move off rigid positions and reach an agreement by Nov. 23 on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions.

He said he hopes they will do what needs to be done, adding he is prepared to sign balanced fair legislation that spreads sacrifice, including asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a bit more to help address U.S. deficit problems.

Cocaine was in saddles
airport agents report

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican was given three months preventative detention after being detained when anti-drug agents inspected two horse saddles they said were filled with cocaine. The man was headed for Valencia, Spain, when anti-drug authorities apprehended him Wednesday in Juan Santamaría airport.

The man is 50 and identified with the last names of Navarro Mendoza by the Poder Judicial.  Authorities said cocaine was hidden in small packets inside the saddles.

In a case earlier this month, the Tribunal de Alajuela sentenced an Italian national with the last name Biachi to five years and four months in prison for attempting to smuggle 1,500 grams, or just over 3 pounds, of narcotics. That incident occurred at the same airport in the middle of June. Biachi was headed for Genova, Italy, carrying the drugs, distributed into 190 little containers, in his carry-on bag.


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Latin America news
Power outages planned
for maintenance, new lines


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz has three outages scheduled for today.

One is in San José extending along Avenida 10 from the Cementerio General to the facilities of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. The outage is supposed to be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A second outage is planned for La Unión in San Rafael de Tres Rios. The area is small and includes just the area known locally as Finca Muñoz. The outage is supposed to begin at 7 a.m.

The company also said power would be cut in Sabanilla and Cedros de Montes de Oca from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The area includes a number of facilities of the Universidad de Costa Rica, including the nursing school. Also included is the Mas x Menos in Sabanilla, Banco Nacional in Sabanilla and the Colegio de Cedros, the company said.

Th outages are for maintenance and for running new lines, the company said.


Pre-Christmas shopping
has started already in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The day after Thanksgiving in America, or what is called Black Friday, which falls on Nov. 25 this year, traditionally marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. 

What retailers hope will be lusty consumer spending during the winter holidays is fueled, in part, by cozy images of the season. Nathaniel Currier and James Ives’ 19th-century lithographs of snow-crusted fields, frosty farmhouse windows, and families bundled on one-horse sleighs still adorn holiday cards. 

Each year on television, viewers fall in love again with the snow-dappled town of Bedford Falls in the beloved 1946 Christmas movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And they re-introduce our children to Clement Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit From Saint Nicholas.”

While holiday images are warm and fuzzy, the reality of the shopping crunch is something else entirely. Retailers, nervous about the state of the economy, aren’t waiting for Thanksgiving weekend to put up tinsel and Christmas trees. The decorations are already up in thousands of towns across the country. The National Retail Federation is projecting a modest 2.8-percent gain in shopper spending this holiday season.

Today’s Currier and Ives would have to depict crowded airports and harried shoppers driving from mall to mall. With more than one-third of Americans now ordering holiday gifts on the Internet rather than fighting the crowds, retailers have reason to be nervous.






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