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National survey will measure access to culture
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government is sending workers with questionnaires door-to-door to measure public participation in cultural activities.

The survey will last until sometime in January with the goal of visiting 3,000 households and interviewing 7,200 persons, said the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.  The Programa Estado de la Nación is involved as is the Consejo Nacional de Rectores with the help of the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos.

The government of Spain is providing financing, and the government of Colombia is providing technical help.

High on the list of what the ministry seeks to find out is the access that citizens have to culture, it said.

The project is being called the Encuesta Nacional de Cultura or the national cultural survey.

The questionnaire covers a lot of ground, from participation in music to cultural practices such as
 participating in folk dancing. Also sought is an assessment of participation in Costa Rican traditions and cultural media exposure.

This last includes movies, television, radio, video games, books, magazines and newspapers and how often citizens attend cultural events or visit public spaces like parks.

An announcement said that this initial survey will seek to establish a base line of cultural accessibility and that the survey will be repeated every two years.

There have been questionnaires that sought answers to cultural questions in the past. The last was in 2010, but the annual survey of households obtains some of this information.

The ministry said that those conducting survey interviews will be fully identifiable with a distinctive jacket and name tags. The national census employes a number of teachers and since school will be in recess soon, many of the survey workers probably will come from this group.

The ministry did not say how much the effort costs. 


coral
Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste S.C. photos
      Porites panamesis                                Pocillopora                                Pocillopora1
Coral in Pacific reported to be adapting to pH change
By the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas
del Noroeste S.C. news staff

Unlike other marine species, the corals are still capable of adapting under current circumstances of declining sea alkalinity, according to researchers at the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste S.C. “The first models indicated that the coral reefs would disappear mid-century, but our study reveals that corals are adapting to the ocean’s acidification that has increased since the industrial revolution,” said Eduardo Balart Páez, head of research at the Mexican institution.

The project covers the Gulf of California and the coast of the Mexican Pacific. The scientists analyzed colonies of Porites and Pocillopora, which are the more important species in the reefs of the eastern Pacific Ocean. 

Through radiographic plates taken from samples of Porites panamensis of up to 22 years of age, changes in extension, density and calcification were visualized through time in the coral skeleton. DNA was also extracted from both species to learn their genetic diversity.

These studies helped identify that the ocean’s reduction in alkalinity is affecting the coral’s growth but not dramatically. Moreover the impact is different between males and females, said researchers. The corals of the Pocillopora genus are hermaphrodites but not Porites, hence the answer is
not the same for all, they added.

“This marine organisms are healthy for the moment because of a bigger energetic expense given by a genetic adaptation. However as the acidification levels rise there can be a disturbance in the sexual proportions,” warned Balart Páez.

The researcher specified that the species Porites panamensis is a massive coral that is frequently found from the shore to a depth of 30 meters. Meanwhile, the Pocillopora, ramified corals, require a great quantity of light given to their great dependence to the photosynthesis of their symbionts, and that is why they are found in shallow waters.

The current decrease in alkalinity of the oceans is a consequence of the rise of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. The average pH of ocean waters was of 8.15 during preindustrial period, and now it has dropped to 8.05, meaning that, the ocean is turning less alkaline. The level 7.0 is neutral.

Finally, the researcher said that the threat of acidity over the reefs has not diminished. It will be necessary to do more research in order to find which coral species are the most prone to adapt, how the fragmentation of populations is affecting them and study the phenomenon in the laboratory to forecast possible future scenarios.

The center is associated with the Instituto Politécnico Nacional in La Paz, Baja California.


Government agrees to $35 million San Ramón buyout
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government has agreed to a payoff of about $35 million to a Brazilian firm that had a concession to build a highway from San José to San Ramón.

President Laura Chinchilla pulled the plug on the project last April, and the firm that had held the concession since 2004, OAS, was seeking $46 million in indemnification.

Roberto Gallardo, minister of Planificación, announced the accord Monday afternoon. The company had agreed to settle for the lesser amount.

Gallardo pointed out in a statement on the Casa Presidencial Web site that OAS had assumed cost of a previous contractor. He also said that the
government has until mid-March to come up with
the money. If there is no payment, the agreement is off, and OAS probably will seek international arbitration or another agreement with whichever president wins the February elections.

Gallardo noted that OAS had a valid concession that had been approved by the Contraloría General de la República. The government will end up having plans for the new road and also expropriated property and various technical studies that will be needed to build the road in the future.  There are various proposals in the legislature to find the financing for the job.

The residents of the area objected to the proposed road tolls that the company would charge once the job was finished. The situation generated protests including some at a speech given by the president.

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Homeland
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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública     
Certificates bear the name of U.S. agency

U.S. border agents providing
training for frontier police

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry has graduated 27 members of the Policía de Fronteras who completed a course taught by members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The course began in September.

Topics included investigation of dubious documents, physical conditioning and border inspections.

The students were some who graduated from a basic course at the Escuela Nacional de Policía earlier this year.

The U.S. agency has been involved in such courses since 2010 under the regional security initiative.

The ministry continues to beef up its border security and officials have been embarrassed recently by disclosures that helicopters have been transporting drugs from this country to the north. Police managed to locate some of the secluded landing spots and make some arrests.

The drugs appear to have been brought into Costa Rica by fastboat and transported by air from the Limón area to staging locations in the northern part of the country where the crafts were refueled.


Another plan to fix bridge
will cost about $9 million


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bridge over the Río Virilla will be rebuilt for 4.5 billion colons, about $9 million.

This is the troubled span on the General Cañas Autopista that has been the subject of multiple attempts at repair. At one point officials said they thought they would have to build a new bridge.

The 53-year-old span will be reinforced to handle 40 tons. The current limit is 24.5 tons. Some 90,000 drivers use the bridge each day. It is one of the main connections between San Jose's downtown and Juan Santamaría airport, Alajuela and points west.

The Japanese Agency for International Cooperation is providing technical advice on reinforcing the bridge.

The main problem with the current span is that it is too flexible and the concrete deck becomes broken by heavy traffic.

This is the so-called platina bridge because a metal plate over an expansion joint continually becomes loose. At first the situation was a joke because the bridge defied efforts to fix it. Then the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad set contractors to work over one holiday, and a motorist killed a highway employee. The problem lost its humorous aspects long ago.


Sala IV constitutional court
receives a new magistrate


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nancy Hernández López has been named to the Sala IV of the Corte Suprema de Justicia by lawmakers. She received 44 votes Monday. She only needed 38. The term is for eight years.

The new magistrate worked for years in close association with Luis Paulino Mora Mora, the president of the court, who left the vacancy when he died. Ms. Hernández was supported by a legislative nominating committee.


Finance minister leaves post
for surgery until Jan 6


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministerio de Hacienda said Monday that the minster, Edgar Ayales, would soon undergo surgery.

A vice minister, José Luis Araya, will hold the job until the minister returns.

The exact nature of the medical problem was not disclosed. Nor did the ministry say where the procedure would take place.

Ayales is schedule to return Jan. 6.

He is the Chinchilla administration point man for tax reform and recently completed what was called the national dialogue in which public comment was sought on the financial crisis facing the country due to unbridled spending.

Ayales is expected to unveil a number of new taxes that the administration will submit to the legislature. Among these is a proposed value added tax.


Venezuela faces yet another
major electrical power outage

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's second massive power outage of the year plunged much of the nation into darkness on Monday night, prompting renewed talk of sabotage from President Nicolas Maduro's government and cries of incompetence from its foes.
 
Power went off in Caracas and other cities around the country soon after 8 p.m. local time to the intense annoyance of residents and commuters.
 
“I feel so frustrated, angry and impotent,” said sales adviser Aneudys Acosta, 29, trudging through the rain along a street in the capital after having to leave the disrupted underground transport system. “I live far away and here I am stuck under the rain. Something's going wrong that they're not sorting out. The government needs a Plan B. This is just not normal.”
 
Monday's outage appeared similar to a massive Sept. 5 blackout that was one of the worst in the South American country's history.
 
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver who narrowly won a presidential election this year after the death of his mentor and former leader Hugo Chávez, accused the opposition then of deliberately sabotaging the grid to discredit him.
 
His powerful ally and national assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, repeated the same accusation after Monday's blackout.
 
“I have no doubt that today's electricity sabotage is part of the right-wing's plan,” Cabello said on Twitter.
 
In some wealthier parts of Caracas, where opposition to the socialist government is strongest, people began banging pots and pans out their windows in a traditional form of protest.
 
Some shouted, “Maduro, resign!”
 
Venezuela has been suffering periodic electricity cuts around the country for several years, although the capital has been spared the worst outages.
 
Critics say the power problems symbolize the failure of the government and its 15 years of socialist policies in resource-rich Venezuela.
 
The country has the world's largest crude oil reserves and is blessed with big rivers that feed hydroelectric facilities generating two-thirds of its power.
 
The blackouts, sometimes due to planned power rationing and at others to utility failures, have not affected the oil refineries, which are powered by separate generator plants.
 
Electricity Minister Jesse Chacón said the same major transmission line that went down in September and carries about 60 percent of national supply had again been affected.
 
He said power would return to Caracas within an hour. Parts of the capital were slowly regaining power during the evening, according to residents.
 

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3,000 police officers begin annual campaign against fireworks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security ministry is sending 3,000 police officers out to keep an eye on stores that might be selling illegal fireworks.

The basic rule in Costa Rica is if it explodes, it is illegal. Notwithstanding that, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve is a junior version of shock and awe with thousands of rockets lighting the sky.

The Fuerza Pública mainly is interested in keeping children safe.  So Mario Zamora Cordero, the minister of Gobernación,
Policía y Seguridad Pública, said that even 20 mounted police officers will be among those checking on the possible fireworks, presumably at parks and open spaces.
Juan José Andrade Morales, the director general of the police force, called upon parents to protect their children.

The police continue to find shipments of explosive fireworks coming into the country from Panamá and Nicaragua. However, there also are local manufacturers. There are stiff prison terms on the books for selling fireworks and for selling fireworks to minors, but there are seldom any arrests. The effort to eliminate fireworks is an annual campaign.

The police have been successful in reducing the number of youngsters injured during the holiday season.

They have worked with the Hospital del Niños, where most serious injured children go.


Traffic officer and test monitor held in driving license bribery
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents have detained a traffic officer and a driving test monitor on allegations that they accepted money to help would-be motorists pass the written test. Both were detained Monday afternoon in Paso Ancho.

The Judicial Investigating Oganization has a special unit for traffic offenses like these. The agency said that the traffic
officer would solicit money from persons who worried about their ability to pass the written test. The officer is accused of then conspiring with the monitor of the written test to provide help to the license candidate during the examination.

Both men are in their 50s.

The judicial agency said the going rate for a passing grade was between 100,000 and 150,000 colons, about $200 to $300.


Holiday will begin in earnest this week with free events
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is a big week for Christmas.

Wednesday is the Museo de los Niños illumination. The fiesta at the museum will start at 4:30 p.m. The museum said that it expected 12,000 to see the show, which is designed for children. The museum staff will turn on the lights that bathe the facade, and fireworks are planned. Area police are blocking off downtown streets so that pedestrians will have a safe and easy hike to the museum, the former national prison.
Motorists would be advised to find another route instead of traveling on avenidas 5, 7 and 9.

Thursday is the tree lighting at the Hospital de Niños in San José. The festival begins at 6 p.m. when dusk falls. The tall, live evergreen holds more than 25,000 bulbs.

Teatro Melico Salazar also will have its doors open for passers-by Thursday and Friday. This is the first year for a celebration at the theater north of Parque Central. The series of events is called Navidad en el Melico.

The theater will have Christmas programs each Thursday and Friday through Dec. 13. They start at 4 p.m. Planned are choruses, Christmas stories, distribution of the traditional tamales and movies. The event is free. The theater staff has decorated its facade for the occasions.

Friday also is when the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz will turn on the holiday lighting all over town and in other communities. That event is at 6 p.m. at Parque Central.

And Saturday is the Festival de la Luz Nicoya Brilla that begins at noon with an evening parade. Nicoya also will be celebrating its 165th anniversary as a canton.


Teatro Meico Salazar
Teatro Melico Salazar photo
The classic facade of the theater has been decorated for the holiday season.

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Trying to eliminate Latin vampire bats colonies disperses them, study says
By the University of Michigan news service

Culling vampire bat colonies to stem the transmission of rabies in Latin America does little to slow the spread of the virus and could even have the reverse effect, according to University of Michigan researchers and their colleagues.
 
Vampire bats transmit rabies virus throughout Latin America, causing thousands of livestock deaths each year, as well as occasional human fatalities. Poison and even explosives have been used since the 1960s in attempts to control vampire bat populations, but those culling efforts have generally failed.
 
Last year, a team of university researchers and their University of Georgia colleagues reported the results of a long-term vampire bat field study in Perú. Now, the same team has combined the field findings with new computer models of rabies transmission and data from infection studies using captive vampire bats to show that culling has minimal effect on containing the virus, and can, in some cases, actually increase its spread by driving infected bats into neighboring colonies.
 
The findings suggest that geographic coordination of vampire bat control efforts in Latin America — taking into account the interconnectedness of seemingly isolated colonies — might reduce transmission to humans and domestic animals. The team's new paper, scheduled for online publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, also establishes that rabies is usually not lethal among vampire bats.
 
"In the paper last year, we demonstrated that bat colony size wasn't a predictor of rabies prevalence, which indicated that culling hadn't reduced transmission," said university population ecologist and epidemiologist Pejman Rohani, senior author of the paper
 
Developing effective control strategies for vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus in Latin America requires an understanding of the mechanisms that have allowed the highly virulent pathogen to persist despite control efforts, said the paper. But understanding the persistence has proved elusive, despite recognition of the virus and its health risks since the early 1900s, it added.
 
To determine those persistence mechanisms, Rohani and colleagues created four mathematical models of rabies transmission, each representing an alternative hypothesis for the biology of rabies infection.
 
Then they tested the models against data from the University of Georgia-led field study of rabies exposures in wild vampire bat colonies across Perú. That study tracked rabies exposures in individually marked Desmodus rotundus vampire bats from 17 colonies in four regions of Peru between 2007 and 2010 and yielded the most complete dataset on rabies exposure patterns ever collected for any bat species, according to the authors of the paper.
 
Thousands of computer simulations were run, and the most successful models demonstrated that a single, isolated vampire bat colony cannot
Vampire
University of Michigan/Daniel Streicker
Close-up of a common vampire bat.


maintain the rabies virus over time. Frequent movement of infectious bats between colonies is needed to keep the rabies virus at levels consistent with the field observations.
 
The critical role of immigration between bat colonies predicted by their analysis indicates that current culling practices, often reactive to outbreaks in livestock or haphazardly implemented, are unlikely to eliminate vampire bat-transmitted rabies virus, the researchers said.
 
The bat study's other main finding is that the vast majority of rabies virus exposures among vampire bats are nonlethal and actually immunize the bitten bat, thus helping to prevent colony extinction and sustain the virus.
 
The probability of a vampire bat developing a lethal infection upon exposure to rabies is around 10 percent, much lower than the 50-to-90 percent mortality rate seen in previous experimental studies that involved inoculating vampire bats with rabies virus, according to the researchers.
 
In Latin America, coordinated efforts to eliminate human rabies transmitted by dogs began in 1983 and led to a roughly 90 percent reduction in human and canine rabies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000, vampire bats have been the leading cause of human rabies there, especially in remote areas of the Amazon region in Perú, Ecuador and Brazil, according to the CDC.
 
Of more than 1,200 species of bats worldwide, only three are vampires, and all three live in Latin America, according to Bat Conservation International. Two of the species feed primarily on the blood of birds and one— the common vampire bat, D. rotundus — prefers mammals, especially livestock.

 
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Lundquist patio
Exotic gardens next to one
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San Pedro, Lourdes:  Furnished four-bedroom house for  rent near U. Latina.  3 bathrooms.  Two bedrooms have private bath.  TV with cable, wireless Internet, washer, microwave, all linens on beds, phone, garage with electric door opener.  Front yard and back patio.  Minimum 6-month contract.  $800 a month. Call Rick at 2280-3548 or write to rastern@racsa.co.cr.  Owner pays cable and internet.
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Beautiful 2-bedroom 2-bathroom American-style apartments with an elevator to your front door in a secure building located in Gringo Gulch the American Section of downtown San José. Costa Rica. Located between the Hotel Del Rey, the Hotel Mona Lisa and the Sportsman's Lodge and The Zona Blue (AKA) Little Habana across the street from Harry's Poas Bar, and next to the Holiday Inn.
apartment view
 There are 15 restaurants and American- style bars on this block and four supermarkets within a few blocks. There are 5 casinos within 2 blocks and dozens of hotels around this apartment. Included in your rental price, fast Internet, the best they have in Costa Rica, cable TV with 80
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prime
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Tropical Homes of Costa Rica is offering the best selection of vacation homes, condos and long-term rental homes in Playa Flamingo, Playa Potrero and Playa Brasilito on  the Pacific Gold Coast of Guanacaste. A wide selection of private residencies is providing an excellent choice for your stay in this beautiful part 
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8054-2/16/14


7875-4/11/13

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Dec. 3, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 239
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Cafetales



croc
Voice of America/Valdimir Dinets
A well-camouflaged mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) shows stick-displaying behavior in India.

Crocs seen using sticks
to lure their feathery meals

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Egrets and other birds building nests near ponds that harbor crocodiles or alligators should be suspicious of sticks they see floating in the water. That twig or branch may be bait for a trap set by the reptiles. New research suggests Crocs and their cousins may have joined the few species that use tools to lure prey.

According to Valdimir Dinets, a zoologist known for his studies of crocodile and alligator behavior, two species of the large reptiles have been observed using twigs and sticks as bird lures.

“At least one of them uses this method predominantly during the nest-building season of its prey,” he writes in a paper published in the journal Ethology Ecology & Evolution. “This is the first known case of a predator not just using objects as lures, but also taking into account the seasonality of prey behavior." It provides a surprising insight into previously unrecognized complexity of extinct reptile behavior, he said

According to the study, the use of objects as hunting lures is very rare among animals, only seen in captive capuchin monkeys, a few bird species and one insect.

Writing in the study, Dinets states that “it is common for some bird species to preferentially nest in trees growing in ponds with large numbers of crocodiles or alligators, apparently using the crocodilians as protection against tree-climbing nest predators such as snakes, monkeys and raccoons.”

But, he says, the birds have to pay for the protection because their chicks can sometimes fall into the water where they are usually devoured by crocodilians.

“But the protection seems to be worth the cost,” Dinets writes. “Almost any crocodile farm or alligator park with appropriate trees will sooner or later become the location of an egret rookery.”

Dinets says he repeatedly saw crocodilians laying in shallow water with small sticks or twigs across their snouts around rookeries.

“The crocodiles remained perfectly still for hours, and if they did move to change position, they did it in such a way that the sticks remained balanced on their snouts,” he writes.

Dinets says the predators get the sticks onto their snouts by submerging under them.

“Then it takes some balancing act to keep the sticks in place,” he said in an email.

Observing alligators at two egret nesting sites for a year, Dinets said he saw stick displaying mostly during the bird’s breeding season, between March and June and more frequently during nest building, from late March and April.

Dinets noted that the increase in the behavior could be explained by higher amounts of sticks in the water, either because of nest building or trees shedding. He thinks, however that that explanation seems unlikely.

“Virtually no freely floating sticks or twigs were seen by the observer at that time, and none are visible in photographs of rookery ponds made at that time,” writes Dinets. “Any available sticks were probably quickly picked up by birds looking for nest material.”

Also, he notes that the most common trees around the waters don’t often shed branches.

Dinets says it’s unknown what factors lead to the stick-displaying behavior at particular locations and at certain times of the year.

“The predators might be reacting to the presence of large numbers of wading birds flying low over water, to the sounds made by courting birds, or to some other environmental clue,” he writes.

He also doesn’t know if the behavior is a learned behavior or an evolved instinct.

While Dinets says crocodilians have historically been viewed as lethargic, stupid and boring, the new research adds to the complex behavior already known such as signaling, advanced parental care and highly coordinated group hunting tactics.

“These discoveries are interesting not just because they show how easy it is to underestimate the intelligence of even relatively familiar animals, but also because crocodilians are a sister taxon of dinosaurs and flying reptiles,” he concluded.


Amazon's drone delivery plan
faces plenty of major obstacles

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Amazon.com, Inc., Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos made a splash Sunday with his radical plan to deliver goods to millions of its customers' doors by using a fleet of unmanned drones, but the bold vision is not likely to become a reality this decade.
 
By Bezos' own admission, the technology that would enable electric-powered octocopters to fly to pre-programmed addresses unaided by humans is still early in development, and the United States is not likely to establish rules for civilian unmanned aircraft systems until 2015 at the earliest.
 
On top of that, the idea faces privacy concerns and was derided by some as merely a publicity stunt.
 
“I know this looks like science fiction. It's not,” Bezos told Charlie Rose on CBS News' “60 Minutes” show Sunday night, demonstrating video of a buzzing, toy-sized chopper delicately dropping a small package on a customer's patio.
 
The piece was aired on the eve of Cyber Monday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year when it helps Amazon to be on the minds of customers.
 
Dubbed Prime Air by Amazon, the vehicles could be used to deliver packages up to five pounds (2.3 kg) in less than 30 minutes within a 10-mile (16-km) radius of Amazon's so-called fulfillment centers, said Bezos.
 
“This is still years away . . . . I don't want anyone to think this is just around the corner,” said Bezos on "60 Minutes,” acknowledging that the technology needs years of work, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration won't likely have rules on unmanned vehicles until 2015 at the earliest.
 
But Bezos, renowned for his patience on long-term projects, said he was optimistic on making it a reality sooner rather than later.
 
“Could it be four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it's going to be a lot of fun,” he added.
 
The idea of deliveries by unmanned vehicles is not completely new. Tech news site The Verge reported last month that Australian textbook rental firm Zookal plans to use drones to deliver books in that country next year, possibly expanding the service to the United States later.
 
But that company and Bezos are up against a raft of real-world challenges.
 
The U.K.-based Institution of Engineering and Technology immediately warned that the technology needs refinement.
 
“There are many challenges to overcome,” said the institution's  Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, who is pushing for wider use of unmanned aircraft worldwide. “Top of the list is the need to mature the technologies and demonstrate to the regulators that unmanned aircraft can operate safely in our airspace.”
 
U.S. authorities have recognized the commercial applications of drones, but appear to be in no hurry to set the rules. The FAA currently only allows the use of unmanned aircraft systems by public entities on a case-by-case basis.
 
“Over the next several years the FAA will establish regulations and standards for the safe integration of remote piloted UAS to meet increased demand,” the FAA said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.
 
The FAA plans to begin tests on commercial unmanned aircraft systems by the end of this year and to propose a rule for small craft next year, which means no firm regulations will be set before 2015. So far, only a single commercial unmanned aircraft systems operator has been approved, in the Arctic.
 
Broader reaction to Bezos' plan was mixed.
 
Mark Udall, a Democrat and Colorado senator who is pushing legislation that would outlaw domestic surveillance by unmanned aircraft systems, raised concerns about privacy.
 
“Coloradans will accept this technology only if they are certain their privacy is protected and that Americans won't be victims of surveillance or privacy abuse by private unmanned aerial system operators,” he said in a statement.
 
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry expert and analyst at Teal Group, was more blunt.
 
“It's such an appallingly dumb idea that I presume they're talking about it as a form of clever satire,” he said Monday.


Sizzled comet considered
just a cloud of space dust


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The last vestiges of Comet ISON are fading from view after a sizzling close encounter with the sun, scientists said Monday.
 
“Comet ISON is now just a cloud of dust,” astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on SpaceWeather.com, a NASA-backed Web site.
 
“Experienced astrophotographers might be able to capture the comet's fading ghost in the pre-dawn sky of early December, but a naked-eye spectacle is out of the question,” he wrote.
 
Scientists believe the comet broke apart as it passed through the sun's corona Thursday. At closest approach, the comet flew just 730,000 miles (1.2 million km) above the surface of the sun, a hair's breadth by astronomical measuring sticks.
 
The comet emerged from behind the sun a remnant of its former self, Phillips said.
 
For a couple of days, astronomers held out hope that a sliver of the comet's nucleus had survived and was brightening, but by Monday it was apparent ISON's brush with the sun was fatal.
 
“Comet ISON leaves behind an unprecedented legacy for astronomers, and the eternal gratitude of an enthralled global audience,” astrophysicist Karl Battams, with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., wrote in a blog post titled “In Memoriam.”
 
The comet was discovered last year by two amateur astronomers using Russia's International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON.
 
Comets are believed to be frozen remains left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.
 
The family of comets that ISON was from resides in the Oort Cloud, which is located about 10,000 times farther away from the sun than Earth, halfway to the next star.
 
Computer models show ISON left the outer edge of the solar system about 5.5 million years ago and began journeying toward the sun.
 
“Never one to follow convention, ISON lived a dynamic and unpredictable life, alternating between periods of quiet reflection and violent outburst,” Battams wrote.
 
“Its toughened exterior belied a complex and delicate inner working that only now we are just beginning to understand,” he added.


FM reflections being used
to track junk in earth orbit


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Scientists in Australia are planning on listening to local FM radio stations with a very sensitive radio telescope.

The researchers will be listening to the reflected radio waves that bounce off the tons of space junk that circles the planet in the hopes of helping to prevent possible catastrophic, multi-billion-dollar collisions in space.

So far, the researchers have been able to track FM radio waves that bounced off the International Space Station, some 400 or so kilometers from the Earth’s surface, as it passed over western Australia.

"We have shown that we are able to detect approximately 10 pieces of space junk simultaneously. Over time this means we are in a position to monitor a significant fraction of the space junk that is in Earth orbits," said the research team leader Steven Tingay, of the Murchison Widefield Array at Curtin University and the Australian Research Council Center for All-sky Astrophysics.

The idea of using reflected FM radio signals with the Murchison Widefield Array to track space debris came from a previous study conducted by a graduate student from the Australian National University. Ben McKinley imaged the moon in 2012 by using reflected FM signals that bounced off of the orbiting satellite.

NASA says that there are over 500,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth.  That junkyard of space debris circling Earth has been growing since the 1950s when the Space Age first began.

Space junk can range in size from very large items such as old rocket bodies and dead satellites to very tiny particles that can even include bits of paint that were on the surfaces of various spacecraft. There’s even a screwdriver which slipped from an astronaut's hand during a spacewalk to do some repair work.

Some of that space debris, especially those that are in low-Earth orbit, fall back to the planet, and much of it burns up during re-entry.

But the dangers of collisions with space junk are quite real with hundreds of the satellites in serious jeopardy.  Even a two-millimeter fleck of paint zooming at speeds of between seven to eight kilometers per second, can seriously harm or possibly kill space travelers or destroy a billion-dollar communications satellite.

While major collisions between large pieces of space debris are rare such incidents have happened. Back in Feb. 10, 2009, two large satellites, the Iridium 33 and the Kosmos 2251, collided at a speed of about 42,000 kilometers per hour. The collision spread about 1,000 pieces of debris capable of being tracked across the skies, where much of it remains.

To avoid harm from potentially dangerous space debris, the International Space Station conducts a number of collision avoidance maneuvers each year.

"An early warning system has the potential to protect the billions of dollars’ worth of vital infrastructure orbiting the earth but also prevent collisions that will result in even more space debris being generated…” said Tingay.

This new space junk detection and tracking effort from Australia joins other programs like those run by space agencies such as NASA and Europeans.


New report says investments
can eliminate health gap

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Health disparities between rich and poor nations could be banished in a generation by investment in research, vaccines and drugs to combat diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, global health experts said Tuesday.
 
In a report setting out a plan for a grand convergence in health, the experts said world leaders needed to press for a concerted increase in research and development investment to develop new medicines, vaccines and health technologies.
 
“For the first time in human history, we are on the verge of being able to achieve a milestone for humanity: eliminating major health inequalities...so that every person on earth has an equal chance at a healthy and productive life,” said Larry Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary who co-chaired a commission on global health.
 
The report also recommended taking bold preventative steps in public health, such as increasing taxes on tobacco and other substances that can be harmful, like alcohol and sugar.
 
Taking China as an example, it said a 50 percent tax on tobacco could prevent 20 million premature deaths and generate an extra $20 billion annually over the next 50 years.
 
Summers said effective drugs and vaccines now available “make reaching this milestone affordable” and urged world leaders to take on what he called “our generation's unique opportunity to invest in making this vision real.”
 
The report, called “Global Health 2035: A World Converging within a Generation” was written by 25 leading international health experts and economists, chaired by Summers, of Harvard University, and published in The Lancet health journal.
 
It said spending should be prioritized in key areas, including aggressively scaling up new and existing medicines and policies for HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and maternal and child health.
 
The report's authors said that if their recommendations were followed, roughly 10 million lives could be saved in low-income and middle-income countries in the year 2035 alone, progress that would bring enormous social and economic gains for the countries most affected.
 
To get to such a point, global investment in research and development needs to be at least doubled, the experts said, from around $3 billion a year now to $6 billion by 2020. Half of that increased investment would need to come from middle-income countries.
 
“The role of international assistance, while still vital, is going to increasingly emphasize scientific research, provide templates and models that can be emulated, and focus on development of techniques and dissemination of information,” Summers said in a statement issued with the report.
 
He said while aid would remain critical it should become “less about financial support to individual countries and more about the provision of global public goods”.
 
Richard Horton, The Lancet's editor and another of the report's authors, said the world should recognize that investing in health is also an investment in prosperity, social and financial protection, and national security.
 
“Investing in health means investing in a quality human beings value deeply, but which we do not capture well in our usual measures of development,” he said.


Congressional reforms advance
as part of Mexican energy deal


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexican congressional committees on Monday gave the green light to an electoral reform demanded by the opposition, paving the way for lawmakers to push ahead with the energy sector overhaul at the center of President Enrique Peña Nieto's reform agenda.
 
The reform will allow federal lawmakers to serve consecutive terms, sets out rules for coalition governments and should strengthen congress at the expense of the president. It is the last major hurdle to approval of the energy reform.
 
The senate committees gave the reform general approval, and must now deal with various reservations to the bill before it passes to the floor of the upper chamber for a general vote. It would then move to the lower house for approval.
 
The progress on the electoral bill comes after Mexico's main leftist party pulled out of a political pact that Peña Nieto's ruling Partido Revolucionario Institutional, known as PRI, forged a year ago with opposition leaders to push through economic reforms.
 
To reverse almost a decade of declining crude output, Peña Nieto wants to open up the state-controlled oil sector to allow private investors to team up with oil monopoly Pemex and share in profits of exploration and production.
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This is the BIGGEST DEAL of the month now at $850.000: HERE!
30,000 square meters of land and 750 square-meters of construction.
Grecia 792
300 square meters of land, 195 square meters of construction HERE
Grecia 807
  18,000 square meters of land and 300 square meters of construction. HERE!
  Send us your request to our email: info@greciarealestate.com
8142-2/11/13

Real estate for sale (paid category)


For Sale By Owner
1 lot (1.5 acres)  at SIBU (8 lots total) amongst 50 acres of protected jungle gardens with sunset ocean views of Playa Nosara. Underground electric and water.13 minutes from Playa Guiones. Gated. In house financing available. Home of SIBU Sanctuary. jungalow@gmail.com.
8166-5/29/13

long view

200 miles of panoramic views over the Gulf of Nicoya and from Nicaragua along the volcanoes of the Cordillera de Guanacaste down to Jacó and around the southern Nicoya Peninsula to the open Pacific. 55 acres located at an altitude of about 2,800 feet in a fresh eternal spring climate, forest and pasture plus an old avocado forest. Many home sites, hidden entrance, property roads, spring waters.  195,000 USD   axelspecial@gmail.com
8164-12/28/13

NOW REDUCED TO $680,000
ALAJUELA – PRIVATE COMPOUND OF 4 HOMES - $850,000 TURNKEY
Spectacular view property on a ridge near Alajuela.  Large home and 3 rental homes totaling 7,300 square feet (678 square meters) live-in construction.  Property area is 3,376 square meters (0.83 acres) including a vacant lot for expansion options.  In total there are 10 bedrooms, each with an ensuite bath.  Property has pool, rancho, mirador, courtyard and covered parking.  Homes have romantic fireplaces, built-ins, storage, other luxury features.  Turnkey sale includes all appliances, furniture, fixtures, equipment.  Call Gerry at (506) 2441-8796 or e-mail at gerrybuilt2000@yahoo.com.  See property video here:

See virtual tour of accommodations here:

For more details go to:
8162-1/11/14

Five bedroom home
Five bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths plus guest house
Price reduced $100,000 for quick sale. Features include out door BBQ, swimming pool, plus on the beach. The home is completely furnished with U.S. products. Each room is individually air conditioned.  Hot water in bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room.  Fully furnished. Includes TV’s, refrigerator/freezer, dish washer, microwave, electric stove/oven, washer & dryer and many “as seen on TV” appliances.  To see more, go to YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/user/CasaDelSolCostaRica
Asking  $250,000.    Call Gary 8784-2945 or email combrokers@aol.com
8157-2/22/13

Becker montage
Beach property on the Pacific Ocean in Guanacaste.

House and guest house on adjacent half acre lots. Each with separate electric,  private septic and well. Each can be sold stand alone or packaged. Modern kitchen, granite counters, Viking stove, large separate frig and freezer. Private commercial grade septic and well. No water shortages even in dry season. High speed internet and U.S. standard electric. Center of the beach -- NEVER floods. Estuary at each end of the beach with excellent kayaking and bird watching through the mangroves. Excellent fishing right off the shore. Great surfing, horseback riding, bicycling or Turtle watching. Groceries three miles away. Mentioned in "The Lonely Planet" Page 301. "Two of the most beautiful and least visited beaches in Costa Rica. Wilderness beaches of fine silver-grey sand." Despite opportunities for great surfing, kayaking and just about anything else you want to do on a sandy strip of paradise, the beaches are nearly always abandoned. $500K Will finance.  More pictures available at: http://www.rebecker.com/journal102006a.htm.  Contact information: ginbecker@gmail.com,  US: 001-612-599-0205 or Costa Rica 011-506-2655-1202.

condors

HIGH SECURITY Condo
ULatina, UCR, & U Fidelitas San Pedro, San Jose. $185,000.
Quietly located behind The Foundation Costa Rica Canada, 500 meters north of Iglesia Lourdes, San Pedro. ULatina, UCR, U. Fidelitas, bus & new train station are within five minutes Four-bedroom, three and half-bath unit within a secure complex of 40 condos with high cement outside walls with secure entrance manned by an armed guard 24 hours per day. Security fencing with electric wire, and a CCTV recorded security camera system is monitored within the guard house.  For additional peace of mind, this residence equipped with an independently wired security system, iron bars on windows and patio doors, a telephone communication system to contact the guard house and secure parking at your front door.   Beautiful mountain view from roof covered 3rd floor terraza. A green park area inside the complex for your children to safely play and an outside parking area in from of guard house for visitors. Cable TV/Internet lines and 220-volt service for hot water heater, stove and dryer. Water storage tank with pump maintains high pressure to bathrooms on all three floors. American style washer and electric dryer, refrigerator, glass top stove, and kitchen cabinets included. Other furniture items may be available. Call Bill   (English) C.R. Phone: (506) 6011-6987   or  U.S. Phone:  (630) 886-4458  or   (305) 848-5577. C.R. Spanish  phone number: (506) 8799-4041  or  (506) 8363-9898.  Email: sjogringo@yahoo.com
6141-2/11/14

Med house
Mediterranean inspired home overlooking the Bay of Nicoya and Pacific Ocean. This design allows for barrier free living, yet maximizes views from every room in the house . Vaulted ceiling over the living area and kitchen give the great room it’s spacious, open feeling with a natural stone fireplace and imported Spanish tile floors. $365,000.   Property: 22,000 m2 or 5.5 acres. Construction: 4,500 sq. ft. including porches and garage. 3 nedrooms, 2 baths, full dining room, separate office. Custom wrought iron gates, custom exotic wood cabinets, high-end stainless steel appliances, Granite countertops.    Slide show at  www.picturetrail.com/sfx/album/view/24055899   
For more information contact:  deeday214@gmail.com
8135-2/5/14

beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West, maryandjerre@aol.com, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603
8123-4/22/2104

montage
For sale is a beautiful 50-acre property located in Los Alpes, just 15 minutes outside of San Ramon. At about 4,000 feet above sea level, this finca provides gorgeous views of the Central Valley as well as the Pacific Ocean in the distance while also offering a wonderful climate year around. The main house is two stories with three bedrooms and two full baths. High quality construction using exotic hardwoods such as almond, which covers the ceilings throughout the entire house. There are also two corrals and a small casita on the property. This location is perfect for a farm-style home or for beginning an agricultural business. This truly is a rare piece of property and is available for $399,999. Price is somewhat negotiable and we will be happy to work with the buyer to make it work! Please call 8816-2478 or e-mail bmcart3@gmail.com for more information ¡y se habla español!
8097-xxx

Samara church and lot
Commercial lot with great visibility in heart of Playa Sámara commercial district. Located alongside town's largest church, bank, hardware store/lumber yard, mini shopping plaza, and Pali (Sámara's largest supermarket). This lot has a large elevated building platform shaded with mature treees. All this makes for many commercial options.  One block from stunning "blue flag" beach. This is a perfect location for a eco/boutique hotel, restaurant/catering, apartments, or condominium. All utilities to this property. Lot size 1,414m2. Price 325K. Email: mwk350@yahoo.com
8082-10/9/13

humming bird nest

Bed & Breakfast for sale and personal home with 2 houses on property of 3/4 acre (3,030 m2) and buildings w/verandas & carport approximately 350 m2. One house at entrance is central to village w/gated parking lot and a 3-bedroom house for rental or employees/family w/carport/yard/gardens. A 50-meter sendero winds to the top among lush gardens where the main house is situated w/2 buildings attached by verandas & stairway to second floor.  There are 2 bedrooms, sala, 4 baths, large kitchen, laundry rooms, work bodega, storage bodega and hot tub on veranda w/tiled shower room.  Home is surrounded by tropical gardens, views of Arenal Volcano, panoramic views of Lake Arenal, private w/school owned property on one side, pasture land on back side and connecting entry gate on other side to Cabinas El Castillo & Fusion Restaurant.  A bird watcher's paradise w/hummingbirds, Montezuma, toucans, butterflies and visits from howler monkeys.  The B&B is listed four consecutive editions of Lonely Planet and the first established B&B in this area.  Photos can be viewed on the Web site: www.hummingbirdnestbb.com.  Make your dream come true with a slice of paradise in a quiet, private setting. Call Ellen Neely at  8835-8711.  Email: nidocolibri@hotmail.com
8058-11/15/13

Guiones retreat
SURFERS PARADISE on PLAYA GUIONES, NOSARA
Approximately half acre on the beach with private path to the surf. Very private three-home complex with pool, spacious patios with two wet bars, barbeque and yoga area. Featuring a three-bedroom ranch style home plus a two story Mexican villa style home with two master suites, large kitchen and living area with ocean views and breezes upstairs and a garden apartment downstairs with separate entrance. A caretaker's or teenager's cottage and lots of space for expansion. PRICED FOR QUICK SALE: $899,000.  Call 506 8867-8883 or heidebob2@gmail.com
8027-1/12/14

Real estate services
Real estate for sale
Businesses for sale

Business for sale or lease (paid category)
71
Jaco station
Gas Station/Auto Plaza
Located on the Pan American Highway, Jacó Beach, Costa Rica, Central America This property is  45,000  square feet or  18,000  meters Add a liquor and convenience store, automotive service, car wash, restaurant, pharmacy, Lotto sales, tour sales, ATMs,  etc, for a real money maker. Also future plans for a 80-unit auto motel and casino. See on YouTube at:  http://youtu.be/iDXurhJ4fCk Asking price  $4.5 million. Email costaricapropertysales@gmail.com or call: 8899-9870.
8153-112/22/13

beach scenes
Established Hotel/Resort -Great Business Opportunity:
The owner/manager of a successful hotel on the Gold Coast of Costa Rica has listed their property with us. It is a successful and ongoing concern. The property and buildings are well built and maintained. The property has a history of repeat clients. To protect the business for the current and future owners, detailed information of the listing will only be shared after an expression of interest and a non-disclosure confidentiality agreement is executed. It is located about one hour of Liberia airport and less than 500 meters to beach. The land is over 1 hectare allowing room for expansion. There are 18 bedrooms in a variety of apartments, cabinas and houses, A/C, bar restaurant and shop. Near golf, horses, tennis, world class surf and more. Listing Price of $US2.4 million. Mary or Jerre West, maryandjerre@aol.com, 8879-0235 or (303) 317-6603
8123-4/22/2
11

DIGITS RESOURCE GUIDE is for sale!
In the nine years of operation, DIGITS Resource Guide has grown to cover the entire Southern Pacific Zone, and opened the door to further penetration in San Jose, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, and Osa Peninsula areas.  DIGITS is the only one of its kind with no comparable competition. With the extensive groundwork that has already been achieved, the business is now poised to expand into an even greater level of success. Operating since 2005, the owner is retiring to another Latin American country. For a preview of the magazine, go to www.everydigit.com, or simply go to a local Distributor for a copy. Details on the business, its history, a strategic analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as a Pro-Forma Income Statement from 2008 through to 2013 are available upon request to aha_jm@yahoo.
8115-11/18/13

Live the dream!
Several profitable businesses, including a regional radio station, are for sale in Costa Rica. Certain purchases can provide the new owner with residency as well as a great lifestyle. So live your dream while making a profit. Contact: manager@crbusiness.biz.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
sixth news page


San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Dec. 3, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 239
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News from the BBC up to the minute


















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Latin news from the BBC up to the minute
Santos tells Miami crowd
peace talks progress well

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, bound for Washington on an official visit, said Monday he remains cautiously optimistic about peace talks with Marxist rebels taking place in Cuba.
 
“I think the conditions are there” for a successful conclusion to the talks, Santos told an audience of academics, students and diplomats at the University of Miami. “Things are moving hopefully in the correct direction.”
 
But he quoted a Colombian proverb as a cautionary note, saying, “The bread can very well burn right at the door of the oven.”
 
Santos, a Harvard-educated journalist, spoke eloquently in English about his hopes for peace and economic growth in Colombia during a 30-minute speech at the invitation of University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who awarded him the school's President's Medal for service to society.
 
Santos, on his second official visit to the United States since taking office in 2010, hailed both the year-old peace talks as well as economic progress at home.
 
“It's a different scenario” when the president of Colombia visits the United States these days, he said, comparing conditions at home to a decade ago when a guerrilla insurgency was raging on the outskirts of the capital Bogota and Washington was pouring in military aid to back the government.
 
Since then the war had dramatically turned in the government's favor.

“We are now being respected internationally,” Santos said, noting that his meeting with Barack Obama scheduled for today would not be focused on military aid but rather on education and technology, as well as regional security.
 
“Usually when the president came to the United States he would have gone to the Southern Command,” he said referring to the U.S. regional military headquarters based in Miami. “Now he will come to the University of Miami. In a way this shows how things have changed.”
 
While the United States and Colombia enjoy close ties, Santos said things could be better between Washington and the rest of Latin America, where left-wing governments led by Venezuela have shunned the United States.
 
Half a century after President John F. Kennedy started the Alliance for Progress to forge better ties between the United States and Latin America, Santos said he planned to ask Obama to launch something similar to help rebuild frayed relations with the region.
 
“Maybe it's time to launch another Alliance for Progress,” he said, suggesting it be called an Alliance for Progress and Peace.
 
Santos, 62, is making his first foreign trip since he announced Nov. 20 that he plans to seek a second term in next May's presidential election. He will face opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a campaign likely to focus on the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia peace process and the future of the country after five decades of rebellion.
 
Obama will raise U.S. concerns that Colombia needs to do more to settle labor issues and address human rights challenges, the official added.
 
Zuluaga, a one-time senator and provincial mayor, accuses Santos of offering the rebels too many concessions.
 
Meeting in Havana this week, government mediators are working through a five-point agenda with some three dozen rebel leaders, seeking to stop bloodshed that has killed more than 200,000 people since it began in 1964.
 
Earlier this month the two sides reached agreement on one of the toughest items on the agenda: rebel political participation. While details of the accord have not yet been revealed, the rebels are expected to be allowed to hold some sort of public office and possibly gain access to Congress.
 
Both sides are now working on resolving the third leg of the process: drug trafficking. Santos said he hoped the peace process would turn Colombia, once the world's largest producer of cocaine, into a “coca-free country.”

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From Page 7:

Awards given for top projects by business students

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three businesses won awards at the Feria del Técnico en Administración de Empresas in Cartago.

The projects were done by business administration students at the Tecnológico de Costa Rica.

The top prize went to a proposal to develop a day care center that not only would mind children but also stimulate their intellectual development.

Second place was a company that offers products in biodegradable packaging that will disintegrate within 180 days of contact with air or water.

Third place went to a proposal to cultivate and sell ostra mushrooms in Heredia.

This was the seventh annual fair.

Many of the students are employed in Costa Rican businesses and have enrolled in a program that includes 12 courses, two each semester. The classes are held in many locations in the country, not just on the Cartago campus.