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(506) 2223-1327           Published Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, in Vol. 11, No. 231       Email us
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Turkey is traditional, but the bird is no bargain
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Need a quick turkey to complete the Thanksgiving menu?

This is a pricey purchase in Costa Rica even though the turkey was a traditional food of the pre-Columbian peoples.

A 14- to 16-pound U.S. Butterball turkey at PriceSmart goes for 14,495 colons. That's about $29.  For something less, shoppers can pick up a three-pound Butterball turkey breast for 5,195 colons. That's about $10.50.

The prices at PriceSmart compare favorably with what can be found at other supermarkets. Automercado has frozen turkeys for 2,995 a kilo or about $6 or about $2.73 a pound.  That price is just 60 colons a kilo more than the Butterball premium at Walmart in Curridabat. Walmart sells Honeysuckle White brand at the same price.

For those who might be challenged in the kitchen with tackling the holiday turkey, Walmart also sells pre-cooked birds for 5,085 colons per kilo or $4.63 a pound. Other meat speciality stores also sell pre-cooked or smoked turkeys, but shoppers need to bring their Visa card.

Shoppers also will find variations on the usual turkey. Flavored turkey breasts can be found with cajun or herb spices in some of the supermarkets.

Of course, one of the downsides of being an expat in another land is missing the loss leaders
turkey with sign

put forth by U.S. supermarkets where the holiday bird sometimes is priced at pennies a pound. Not so this year.  Walmart sold birds in the United States for 40 cents a pound in 2010. But short supplies boosted prices this year to more than $1 a pound there.

There's always the chicken, which is the staple of the Costa Rican menu.

Plenty of restaurants are offering Thanksgiving meals. Some of the local expat bars are combining the big dinner with football spectaculars.

Unfortunately turkey is not a usual meal here, and some Costa Rican chefs confront a big bird just once or twice a year. Even in a multi-star hotel-restaurant in Escazú, reporters have found birds undercooked because the chef was deceived by the crispy, glowing skin.



Injured expat, stranded by strike, going home today
By Zack McDonald
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ed Hansen is expected to leave Hospital Hotel la Católica today.

His improved health comes in spite of the continued strike by Caja Costarricense anesthesiologists. Hansen, 62, waited five days for treatment in Hospital Calderón Guardia before being transferred to the private Hospital Catolica.

The morning of Nov. 12 Hansen was on his way to get breakfast supplies for his girlfriend and kids. He was struck by a motorcycle while crossing Avenida 7 in front of Casa Amarilla at Parque España. The impact broke his pelvis in three places, he said.

Rescue workers took the former Atlanta policeman to Hospital Calderón Guardia to await surgery. He was unaware of the strike by anesthesiologists.
 Even though Hansen, an expat, purchases Caja insurance, he was allowed to remain in the hospital uniformed. After he realized he was not going to receive speedy treatment, he asked to be transferred to Hospital Católica in Goicoechea.

After a disagreement between the hospital and his private insurance provider, Kaiser Permanete, six hours of surgery, three plates in his hip and, according to Hansen, ¨a whole bunch of screws,¨ he will be released. His doctor has advised him to stay off the leg for at least four weeks, he said.

¨Dr. Juan Carlos Calero did a very good job,¨ Hansen said of the long-awaited surgery. ¨I just feel sorry for the people in a position that have to wait to get attention,¨  he added.

Meanwhile, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social reported it had to cancel more than 1,000 surgeries over the last week because of the strike.

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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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Sala IV says cell towers
are a national matter


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV has placed the construction of cell towers above local zoning regulations and municipal control.

In a decision announced Tuesday the constitutional court said that telecom towers were in the national interest and should be regulated by national authorities. Municipalities were instructed not to delay their construction despite what may be in the local zoning plan.

The decision is a major victory for new telecom companies and firms that are providing towers for the cell telephone signals. Some residents objected to the proximity of cell telephone towers and complained that they were eyesores and were health hazards.

Some municipalities had begun to pass laws restricting the location of towers in response to local complaints.

The court said that communications was key in bringing to all persons universal access and to improve services.


Two writers groups plan
open meeting for all

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Writers groups from Atenas and Escazú are holding an open meeting Dec. 14 to which they are inviting all who are or seek to be authors.

The meeting is at the International Baptist Church at 1 p.m., said Sharon Wildey of Escazú, who is among those organizing the event.

“We are trying to build an active writers group with an eye toward sponsoring an international event or seminary or maybe a national contest,” she said.

She asked that those who want to attend to email here to confirm attendance at wildeysharon@yahoo.com. She said a confirmation is not necessary, but she will use the information to arrange for refreshments.



Quake hits near Ciudad Quesada

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As 3.8 magnitude earthquake took place Monday at 9:15 a.m. west of Ciudad Quesada and north of Buenavista, said the Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

There were no reports of serious injuries.

 
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!
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A.M. Costa Rica's
Third newspage
Light speed
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 231
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More than half of professionals said they had no income
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 63 percent of the professionals who filed a tax return in 2010 said they had no income.

That was a report from the Contraloría General de la República, which studied six years of tax activity involving lawyers, accountants, veterinarians, medical professionals and architects. The report was released Tuesday.

The Contraloría, the budgetary watchdog agency, said that 1.4 percent of those who filed returns paid 66 percent of the tax.

The report covers individuals and corporations in these  professions. Those filing returns grew 15 percent from
 7,924 in 2007 to 9,073 in 2010.

In 2007, the average professional taxpayer paid an average of 202,927 colons. In 2010, the amount was 298,024 colons or about $600.

The report said that 29,585 of 46,795 professionals reported no income and did not file a return in 2010. That is 63.2 percent, said the report.

Although the Contraloría is an agency of the legislature, the report comes at a time when the central government is trying to put through a 14 percent value-added tax. The central government seeks to extend the 14 percent value-added tax to professional services that are not now covered.


Taxi drivers promise another protest blockade for today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers said they will take to the streets today to protest the continuing presence of so-called pirate operators.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte and the traffic police promised strong action to keep the Central Valley roads open.

The taxi drivers typically engage in slow movements on the principal highways. The protests by taxi drivers have been frequent for the last five years. When the taxi drivers are
not protesting, the blockades were set up by the portedores, the contract drivers. However, the central government appears to have reached a settlement between those two rival economic interests.

The ministry said that nearly 2,500 pirate taxi drivers have been given tickets this year. The fine is 411,060 colons, the ministry reported.  That is about $825.

Vice Minister Rodrigo Rivera said that the ministry already has agreed to 90 percent of what the taxi drivers seek. That includes the widow of a deceased driver being able to inherit the taxi permit.


Proposed tax plan runs into some trouble in the legislature
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some lawmakers are beginning to have second thoughts about their support of the central government value-added tax proposal.

Members of the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión said Monday that it was withdrawing support of the plan as approved by a legislative committee. The party had joined with Liberación Nacional and Acción Ciudadana to support the measure. 

But now Accesibilidad Sin Exclusión wants to negotiate
more exemptions to benefit the disabled and the average shopper. The president of the party's executive committee, Oscar López, held a press conference Monday to outline the concerns.

On another front Monday, the Asociación de Importadores de Vehículos y Maquinaria came out against the plan.

There was no action Monday on the floor of the legislature. Lawmakers with Liberación Nacional did not show up for the afternoon session because they knew proposals would be advanced to cut the proposed national budget. Without a quorum no action could be taken.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fourth news page
renes law firm
San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 231
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Researchers think that ozone emissions might predict quakes
By the University of Virginia news staff

New research suggests that ozone gas emitted from fracturing rocks could serve as an indicator of impending earthquakes. Ozone is a natural gas, a byproduct of electrical discharges into the air from several sources, such as from lightning, or, according to the new research, from rocks breaking under pressure.

Scientists in the lab of Raúl A. Baragiola, a professor of engineering physics in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, set up experiments to measure ozone produced by crushing or drilling into different igneous and metamorphic rocks, including granite, basalt, gneiss, rhyolite and quartz. Different rocks produced different amounts of ozone, with rhyolite producing the strongest ozone emission.

Some time prior to an earthquake, pressures begin to build in underground faults. These pressures fracture rocks, and presumably, would produce detectable ozone.

To distinguish whether the ozone was coming from the rocks or from reactions in the atmosphere, the researchers conducted experiments in pure oxygen, nitrogen, helium and carbon dioxide. They found that ozone was produced by fracturing rocks only in conditions containing oxygen atoms, such as air, carbon dioxide and pure oxygen molecules, indicating that it
came from reactions in the gas. This suggests that rock fractures may be detectable by measuring ozone.

Baragiola began the study by wondering if animals, which seem – at least anecdotally – to be capable of anticipating earthquakes, may be sensitive to changing levels of ozone, and therefore able to react in advance to an earthquake. It occurred to him that if fracturing rocks create ozone, then ozone detectors might be used as warning devices in the same way that animal behavioral changes might be indicators of seismic activity.

He said the research has several implications.

"If future research shows a positive correlation between ground-level ozone near geological faults and earthquakes, an array of interconnected ozone detectors could monitor anomalous patterns when rock fracture induces the release of ozone from underground and surface cracks," he said.

"Such an array, located away from areas with high levels of ground ozone, could be useful for giving early warning to earthquakes."

He added that detection of an increase of ground ozone might also be useful in anticipating disasters in tunnel excavation, landslides and underground mines. The research were published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.


Casa Hogar kids will benefit from biker clubs' annual toy run
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bikers and bike clubs of Costa Rica are scheduled to embark on their annual toy run Dec. 4, at 10 a.m.

Los de Xibalba MC, along with the Steel Angels MC, H.O.G. - Harley Owners Group, Harley Davidson and Motor Psychos Bar, Grill and Shop will join for the sixth annual toy run. They will start at The Harley Davidson Shop at the Centro Comercial Trejos Montealegre in San Rafael de Escazú.

To join the ride, all bikers must bring a toy, preferably unwrapped and attached to their bike securely for the ride. The bikers will be leaving from Harley Davidson at 11 a.m. and riding to Casa Hogar, San Lazaro in Rio Azul, Desamparados, where the toys and clothing for the children will be presented.

The toy run is a way to collect and deliver toys and needed items to the under-privileged children in Costa Rica, the clubs said. This year the ride will be in benefit of the Casa Hogar. The goal is to provide clothing and toys to the more than 360 children there.

Los de Xibalba MC, The Steel Angels MC, and H.O.G. Costa
 Rica will be providing new clothing for all the children, and they ask the rest of the biker community to join and help by providing toys for all the children.

Last Year the Toy Run was for the benefit of the Hospital Nacional de Niños in San José and provided over 300 toys for the children, the clubs reported. Organizers hope to surpass that number this year.

Non-bikers who are interested can also participate by dropping off toys at:

• Motor Psychos in Santa Ana, 1.8 kms west of the Cruz Roja;

• Psycho Choppers in Heredia , 150 meters south of the fire station in Heredia;

• Biker's Shop in San José. 150 meters west of the Sala Garbo. Avenida 2, calles 30-32, and

• the Harley Davidson dealer

An after-party for participants and toy donors will be held at Motor Psychos Bar in Santa Ana, starting at 4 p.m.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
Fifth news page
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 231
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Chevron faces big fine
from Brazilian oil leak


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil is fining U.S. oil giant Chevron $28 million in connection with an oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, saying the company could face more fines in the coming days.

Brazilian officials also said Monday that the national government will ask the California-based company to pay for damages caused by the spill near the Frade oil field. Chevron was drilling an appraisal well about 370 kilometers off the northeastern coast of Rio when the spill occurred.

A Chevron official says the company underestimated the pressure in the reservoir being targeted. Chevron has taken responsibility for the leak, saying the problem was discovered Nov. 8 and the situation brought under control a few days later. A company statement said Chevron will continue to cooperate fully with authorities. It is estimated that the leak caused 200 to 330 barrels of oil per day to seep into the Atlantic Ocean over a period of about one week.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also called a meeting with her energy and environment ministers to discuss the issue.

News reports say the spill is a test for Brazil, as huge offshore oil fields have been announced, with estimates they could hold at least 50 billion barrels of oil.


Supercommittee on deficit
says it is unable to agree


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A special congressional supercommittee announced late Monday that it was unable to reach an agreement on cutting the U.S. federal deficit by $1.2 trillion during the next decade. 

After months of deliberations and much anticipation, there was no joint press conference on Capitol Hill.  The co-chairmen of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, released a written statement, saying it will not be possible to issue a bipartisan agreement before the deadline.  The statement said that despite their significant differences, the panel is united in their belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and not left for the next generation.

Before the announcement, Democratic and Republican lawmakers had begun to blame each other for the failure.

Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a member of the supercommittee, said there was only one reason for not reaching an agreement, and pointed to Republicans' refusal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

"It is the insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the vast majority of Americans do not think we should do," said Kerry.

Ideological differences have kept Democrats and Republicans from agreeing on how to rein in the country's budget deficits for much of the past year.  Democrats refuse to accept major cuts to the social welfare programs; Republicans refuse to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is not a member of the supercommittee, said he had never held high hopes for the panel, which met mostly in secret, to tackle the crucial issue of the nation's debt.

"I think what Congress should do is fulfill its responsibility, to publicly, openly debate these serious issues, the most incredible issue of our time," said Sessions.

The supercommittee was created in August when the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives were unable to resolve a dispute on raising the U.S. debt ceiling.   


Researchers seek to develop
drought-resistant maize


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Maize crops withered in Texas this year in a season of record-breaking heat and drought. In the Texas High Plains region, crops struggled to survive on as little as one-tenth of the normal rainfall.

“Matter of fact, it may be the all-time driest year on record,” says Thomas Marek, an irrigation expert with Texas A&M University.

Experts warn that climate change is likely to threaten world food supplies as temperature extremes cut harvests of important food crops. Scientists are working to develop new varieties that are adapted to a changing climate.

So, while this was a terrible year for farmers, for Marek and his colleagues, it was just about perfect. At a research station an hour north of Amarillo, they work to prepare farmers for hotter, drier years ahead.

Hot weather and drought turn maize plants brown. That means the end of photosynthesis, which is how maize plants turn sunlight into starchy kernels.

But researchers identified genes that help some tropical maize varieties stay green longer under these conditions.

Plants that stay green longer produce bigger kernels in a drought year. The team mated maize with the stay-green genes with other high-producing varieties to find offspring with the best of both. They used traditional breeding rather than genetic engineering, which is more heavily regulated.
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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, Vol. 11, No. 231
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Latin America news
State of the nation report
to be presented tonight


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The program Estado de la Nación will give its annual report today at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the Dr. Franklin Chang Díaz building in Pavas.

The state of the nation program is designed to give an annual reading on economic, social, environmental and political conditions the year before. This is the 17th annual report.

The program uses an academic approach and unites 280 variables and 50 data bases to place Costa Rica in temporal and regional contexts.

The program is associated with major universities, the  Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional, the Universidad Estatal a Distancia and the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica as well as the Defensoría de los Habitantes.

The report is expected to reflect what a recent analysis by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos said: that employment is off, poverty is up slightly and the percentages are basically stable from the previous year.


Interamericana work begins
in southern Costa Rica


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency, said that it is beginning major repairs on the Interamericana highway in the southern part of the country.

The highway was damaged by Hurricane Tomas in 2010 and subsequent storms. Work in the 40-kilometer (25-mile) stretch is expected to cost 4.5 billion colons or about $9 million. The work includes putting in a cement base.

The Interamericana job will join with a rebuilt road from Rincón de Osa to Puerta Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula. That was a $29 million project of 32 kilometers or about 20 miles.

The work is part of a package to improve transport in the southern part of the country.


Legion plans feast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

American Legion Post 16 is sponsoring a holiday feast Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at the Del Mar restaurant on Avenida Primera in San José. The event is open to veterans, relatives and anyone else who wishes to support the organization. Tickets are 10,000 colons each, about $20. Information is available at 8308-0404.


Intruder sought something

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators believe that an intruder was seeking something when he or she entered the dwelling of a 74-year-old woman, tied her up and then smothered her. That took place Sunday in Mollejones de Coyolar de Orotina. The dead woman was identified by the last name of Vásquez. She was found in the afternoon. Agents said the items in the home were in great disorder suggesting that the intruder was seeking something.










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