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Published Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 241
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Yikes! Another election year is approaching rapidly
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expats who may be sick of elections will be unhappy to learn that the drums are starting to beat for Costa Rica's presidential vote in February 2018. So the year that starts in less than a month will be filled with electioneering and campaigns.

Former president José María Figueres Olsen is the presumed frontrunner, but that position so early in the race sometimes comes with a curse.

He is being opposed within his own party, and other parties are beginning to field candidates.

In Costa Rica those seeking the nomination are called pre-candidates. Selections are made by party assemblies. There also are a host of municipal and regional parties that do not field presidential candidates.

The entire process is under the jurisdiction of the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. That grip is so tight that as the general election approaches, the election tribunal even will have control of the police forces.

The tribunal already is advertising for Costa Ricans oversea to register. Unlike in the United
States, Costa Ricans overseas, like citizens of many other countries, can vote at their embassy or consulate. There is a registration process that the tribunal outlines on its Web page.

Unlike the recent elections in the United States, aggressive campaigning is frowned upon. The tribunal has the power to step in and make changes in pitches by political parties and ban political advertising. So expats will not hear allegations of crookedness or even allusions to sex scandals, except perhaps on the social media networks. That happened in 2014 when fake news showed up on Twitter and Facebook just before the initial voting.

The tribunal has no control of these sites.

Costa Ricans love their elections, and there still are outdoor rallies with flags, music and baby-kissing candidates. More than 3 million citizens turned out to vote in 2014, and that was about 68 percent of the electorate, according to the tribunal. Voting is encouraged but not mandatory.

In fact, Costa Ricans like voting so much, that there were two elections in 2014. No one got a majority the first time around, so a runoff was held.

Museum show will result in street closings again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another Ruta Segura or safe route will close streets to provide passage for pedestrians going to the illumination of the Museo de los Niños event happening Wednesday.

The closures are expected to begin around 2 p.m. at Calle 4, from where it intersects with Avenida Segunda all the way to the main entrance in front of the Museo de los Niños north of Avenida 9, traffic officials said. The Policía de Tránsito also said that the closures could be extended to include Calle 2 and Calle 6.

The avenues will remain open for normal car traffic, however there is expected to be a partial closure of pedestrian traffic at certain points in the afternoon, officials said.

Ruta Segura, as it is called, is being organized by the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública, the Sistema de Emergencias del 911, the Policía de Tránsito, the Cuerpo de Bomberos, the Cruz Roja, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the Policía Municipal, the Ministerio de Salud, and the museum. The pedestrian route is secured each year for the Christmas event because officials know that the area usually is unsafe.

According to the officials, over 15,000 people are expected to attend this event. During the actual lighting ceremony at 6:30, p.m. more than 4,000 bulbs will illuminate the facade of the museum. There also will be fireworks and performances from actors and dancers.

Around Calle 4, there will include a parade happening once the roads are closed with
Children's museum
Museo de los Niños photo
The spectacle from a previous year.

participation from the Cimarrona La Gallo Pinto in Christmas regalia and the Grupo Estudiantil del Circo Social del Parque La Libertad. The parade will also have acrobatics from the Extreme Bike group as well as a show by the JungleCats, the band of the Colegio Técnico Profesional de Puriscal, organizers said.

To help those affected by Hurricane Otto, the Cruz Roja is setting up two donation centers during the event to collect non-perishable food, toiletries, and household cleaning items. One will be on Calle 4 in front of the Banco Central and the other on the main stage opposite the facade of the Museo de los Niños.

Donations will be accepted from 2 to 5 p.m. representatives said.

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Controversial lion now in La Garita

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After being on display to the public for 18 years, Kivú the lion has been moved to a new home.

He has been living at the Simon Bolivar Parque Zoologico y Jardin Botanico Nacional in north San José.

Officials from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía together with the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería transferred the lion to Zoo Ave in La Garita in what appeared to be a made-for-television event.

Zoo officials had wanted to move the lion to its Centro de Conservación Santa Ana and a new enclosure for Kivú. But the lion became a pawn for a power struggle between government officials and the foundation that operates the zoo, Fundación Pro Zoológicos. There also had been public protests by animal rights activists.

The zoo is nearly 100 years old, but it has become the target of the animal rights groups who protest the idea of caged animals. The lion was one of two confiscated by a traveling circus 18 years ago. It is a major attraction at the zoo, but the animal's mate died several years ago, and he is a senior citizen by any measurement.

The fuss over the aged lion is the latest in an effort by the environmental ministry to close down the place.

The new home for the lion is an area with vegetation, logs, a cave, platforms, and a water pit, based on the international standards in place for maintaining wild animals, said officials as they moved the lion.

The government owner the land on which the zoo is located, and the environmental ministry has hopes of turning what is now the zoo into a botanical garden. There have been continual court fights.

Artist's moods go from ecstatic to furious

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The relationship between light and nature is key to the work of British artist Deirdre Hyde.

Ms. Hyde, who maintains an extensive consultation record spanning three
decades and serves on the board of directors for Fundación Amigos de Isla del Coco, will be opening an exhibit of her work Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Hidden Garden Art Gallery.

The exhibit, scheduled to run through to Feb. 15, is being opened under the title of “Pacific Light.”

The gallery is located

Artist at work
Hidden Garden Art Gallery photo
Deirdre Hyde at work.
about 5 kilometers west of the Daniel Oduber airport.

“Light is the key moving me to paint. It is my inspiration,” Ms. Hyde said in a release regarding her exhibition, “The moods of the landscapes go from ecstatic morning sunshine to furious monumental storms, many times within the same day.”

According to her release, Ms. Hyde has had multiple exhibits at the Teatro Nacional, Museo Nacional, and Museo de Arte Costarricense. She credits her association with civic groups such as the World Wildlife Foundation and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and association as a consultant with organizations like National Geographic for honing her art’s purpose beyond self-expression.

The opening for “Pacific Light” will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Museum to celebrate Christmas Friday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A one-stop shop for a fair, food, and entertainment will be happening at the Museo Nacional’s Christmas celebration.

The museum is hosting a Festival Navideño from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Friday. Visitors can expect a host of different items being sold by the Costa Rican artisans offering their products along with a multicultural array of food, officials said. Attendance is free and open to the public with the first 200 people to enter receiving a free book from the Museo Nacional’s collection.

The products being sold range from hand painted boxes, leather handbags, and wooden figurines to traditional toys and quilt-work as well. The emphasis will be especially on finding those gifts for Christmas, the museum said.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. and lasting to the end of the celebration will be performances from various choirs, cimarronas, student groups, and concert bands in addition to the sale of food and handicrafts. The complete schedule of performances can be found at the Museo Nacional’s Web site.

Murder-suicide theorized in Cartago

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators have not made an official determination yet, but the deaths of a couple in Caballo Blanco de Cartago appears to be a murder-suicide.

Police were called by a family member and the owner of the living quarters Monday morning when they could not receive a response at the couple's home. Police found the entry door blocked by a chair, but they managed to get inside anyway. There they found the two bodies, both the victim of stab wounds.

The dead were identified as Sonia Inces Fernández, 52, and Guillermo Antonio Marín Velásquez, 37. Investigators are speculating that the man killed the woman and then inflicted a fatal wound to his own neck.

European cyber gang reported smashed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said it has arrested five people in an online criminal enterprise and seized 39 computer servers following a four-year-long international investigation.

Police agencies spanning the globe and representing 30 countries participated in the effort, which closed down a criminal group that has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage through online cyberattacks, according to a written statement released by Europol.

"The operation marks the largest-ever use of sinkholing to combat botnet infrastructures and is unprecedented in its scale, with over 800,000 domains seized, sinkholed or blocked," the statement read.

Sinkholing refers to a technique used by police that redirects internet traffic coming from criminals to servers controlled by law enforcement.

Eurojust President Michele Coninsx called the cybercrime group, known as Avalanche, "one of the world's largest and most malicious botnet infrastructures" and said its take-down by authorities was one of the biggest to date.

According to Europol, the Avalanche network contained around 500,000 infected computers around the world on any given day.

News from the Spanish-language press
Translated into English

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 241
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United Nations seeking to boost taxes to pay for its 2030 agenda
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The principal obstacles for development in Costa Rica are poverty and inequality, lack of education, gender imbalance, low productivity and innovation, weak infrastructure and low taxes, according to a United Nations regional organization.

The organization said it will outline and prioritize these obstacles in an analysis to be made public Thursday morning. The presentation has the support of Casa Presidencial and various ministries.

The organization is the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the regional bodies created by the United Nations. The session is in the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The goal of the session Thursday is to develop a national agency of cooperation for development to address what are being called structural gaps that impede progress.

The report is being made when the Costa Rican legislature is considering a series of tax packages, including a value-added tax to replace the existing sales tax, a corporation tax and increases in income taxes.

The head of the U.N. regional organization, Alicia Bárcena, has been outspoken in the need to prevent what she calls aggressive tax practices and financial secrecy. She has praised the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and similar laws in other countries that, she said, recognize tax evasion, tax avoidance and illicit capital flows as global problems that demand global solutions.
The United Nations has set up a sustainable development agenda for 2030. To find money for the project, the international body seeks to generate more tax for governments. It called dealing with tax havens a matter of increasing urgency. The

international organization is seeking  a worldwide agreement on taxes it would run.

Ms. Bárcena said in a Nov. 30 op-ed:

"The importance of tax havens has grown in recent decades as a result of economic and financial globalization, which has generated vast crossborder flows of trade and finance in a framework of growing financial deregulation, major increases in foreign direct investment and the consolidation of transnational corporations. These factors, together with recent technological advances, have allowed large national and transnational corporations and wealthy individuals to use aggressive tax-planning mechanisms, including tax havens, to take advantage of the lack of regulation, the legal vacuums that exist and the scant information available to national tax authorities. At the same time, financial deregulation, bank secrecy and a lack of transparency have enabled illicit flows of capital to pass through tax havens as well."

She said her agency has calculated that income tax and value-added tax evasion by companies and individuals in Latin America accounted for $340 billion in 2015.

Because such activities are multinational, they must be addressed with a multilateral approach within the United Nations. she said. "Ensuring a genuine multilateral approach requires the creation, under the aegis of the U.N., of an intergovernmental forum to design a global fiscal compact that would allow the discussion of global and regional tax issues," she said.

She identified Luxembourg and the Netherlands as developed countries that hold substantial funds for foreigners.

In the Caribbean, she identified the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands as main players.

Some changes are possible in how expats obtain their residency cédulas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The post office plans to announce Thursday an expansion of the immigration services it now provides. The service, Correos de Costa Rica, already delivers residency identifications, cédulas, to expats from the Dirección General de Migración Extranjería. These are the so-called DIMEX cards.

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., the state internet company, also is involved in the announcement, so some form of service from it is likely.

The announcement is to be at the main post office at 10 a.m. The session specifically is for a service for foreigners, including those who are seeking residency for the first time and also for those who need to renew their immigration status.

The fact that the Banco de Costa Rica will not be represented suggests that the internet company, RACSA, might be taking over some of the work in accepting the documentation for residency work.

The bank now does that work.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 241
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Researchers find new ways to serve sweet potatoes, pejibayes and yuca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Food researchers have taken easily obtainable agricultural products and changed them into nutritional treats from the young and old alike.

The work was done at Technológico de Costa Rica, and researchers used sweet potatoes,  pejibayes and yuca or cassava, as it is known in English.

According to Patricia Arguedas, project coordinator for the Escuela de Agronegocios, the intention of the foods was to directly aid the populations in most desperate need of high-quality, nutritious diets.

The three types of products presented were specifically geared towards being consumed by a particular audience:

or a type of baby food made from strained sweet potato was geared towards children under 2; snacks made of sweet potato and pejibayes targeted school-age children, and cassava cakes are for the elderly.

Based on several surveys and market studies from representatives at the Escuela de Administración de Empresas, the viability of these products in terms of profit and
Technológico de Costa Rica photo
Purée made from sweet potatoes is designed for infants.

marketability was verified, they said. Pejibayes are those small palm fruits that are high in vegetable fats.

A presentation last week was attended by farmers and others who could potentially produce the materials necessary for the creation of these foods and who the researchers sought to encourage in the products’ viability.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

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Visit many rental options to actually experience the price/amenity options available in more of the areas chosen by Expats for security, comfort, and quality of life.

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Fully Furnished American Style Apartment for Rent

San Jose Central 2-1/2-bedroom 2-bathroom apartment on the 2nd floor. Fully furnished American-style apartments with elevator in a secure building in Barrio Amón. Large balcony. Adult Building. Free cable television with two television both in the living room and in the main bedroom. High speed internet cable, WiFi, fully equipped large kitchen with microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, water cooler, total utensils. King-sized bed in the principal bedroom, all bedding, sheets, towels, etc. It has an over-sized soaking tub off of the second bathroom. Water included. Free laundry rooms on all floors. Convenient to Parque Morazán, 100 meters north of downtown Holiday Inn, other hotels, restaurants, casinos, city government, National Registry. For a single individual it is $650 per month plus your electric usage just inside your apartment. $300 security deposit promptly refunded except your final electric bill. For personal inspection and more information contact: Hilda or Frank at 506-2221-7161.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 241
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fake embassy
Voice of America photo  
This is the alleged U.S. embassy in Accra.

State Department rejects idea
that fake passports were used

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department said Monday that no one is known to have entered the United States on visas issued by a fake U.S. embassy that operated in Accra, Ghana, for a decade.

"They were duped. They were conned," the State Department's deputy spokesman, Mark Toner, said of those who paid thousands of dollars for the documents.

Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings ran the operation in collusion with a local immigration and criminal law attorney, according to officials in Washington.

U.S. officials learned about the operation this year, despite the bogus diplomatic facility being in existence for 10 years, Toner told reporters.

An American flag flew outside the dilapidated pink building every Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 7:30 a.m. until noon. There were signs for the U.S. embassy in Ghana, and a photo of President Barack Obama was displayed inside. Posing as U.S. consular officials, who spoke English and Dutch, were Turkish citizens, according to State Department officials.

Authorities say corrupt local officials were paid off to look the other way and, even more alarming, the bogus embassy managed to obtain legitimate blank documents.

Some of the services the embassy provided for these customers included issuance of fraudulently obtained, legitimate U.S. visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents including bank records, education records, birth certificates, and others for a cost of $6,000, according to a report written by Jennifer Froetschel in the State Department's diplomatic security public affairs office.

It was revealed late last week that the fake embassy was finally shut down earlier this year as part of Operation Spartan Vanguard run by Diplomatic Security Service agents at the real U.S. Embassy in Accra.

The operation is designed to crack down on trafficking and fraud plaguing American embassies throughout the region.

"Visa fraud has been a persistent security concern for years," said Fred Burton, chief security officer at Stratfor, a global intelligence company.

Burton, a former Diplomatic Security deputy chief of counter-terrorism, praised his former colleagues for getting the fake embassy shut down once it was identified, but notes the case also shows that many intelligence gaps on document fraud exist.

The gangs in Accra also utilized a dress shop and an apartment building and advertised their services through billboards and fliers to people in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo.

Walk-in visa appointments were not accepted. The standard practice was for the conspirators to drive to remote parts of West Africa to find customers who then would be brought to Accra.

Raids by a task force of Ghanaian and U.S. authorities led to the arrest of several suspects, and the seizure of 150 passports from 10 countries, and legitimate and counterfeit visas from the United States, Europe, India and South Africa, as well as counterfeit identity documents, according to the State Department.

The dress shop acted as a front, with an industrial sewing machine used to re-create the binding on the fake passports.

Several suspects remain at large, but Ghanaian police have warrants for their arrest and plan to pursue them, according to U.S. officials who say the search for the Turkish organized crime group is also ongoing.

Officials say it would have been virtually impossible to use the fake documents to enter the United States because officers of Customs and Border Protection must match travelers' biometric information in a database that would have been recorded by legitimate embassies issuing visas.

China becoming a bit wary
due to uncertainty of Trump

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Many in China initially welcomed the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, viewing it as a win for Beijing and believing that as a businessman his approach would be more straightforward than that of his opponent.

But a phone call and a few tweets later, that view is starting to change as many realize Trump's presidency may not be as predictable as some originally hoped. And talk about possible diplomatic and economic blowback from Beijing is growing.

Friday, president-elect Trump broke with decades of diplomatic tip-toeing and spoke directly with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on the phone. The call shocked Beijing not only because Trump was the first president-elect to make such a call, but also because in his tweet, Trump referred to her as President Tsai.

The United States switched diplomatic ties to Beijing in 1979, and China claims the democratically-ruled island as part of its own territory. Under agreements made as part of that shift in diplomatic recognition, Washington agreed to cut political ties with Taiwan.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that U.S. officials are in touch with Beijing to reiterate the One China policy after Trump's recent phone call.

But just as Beijing was recovering from last Friday's assault on its diplomatic senses, Trump released two more tweets early Monday, Beijing time.

“Did China ask us if it was ok to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..” he said in one tweet and continued in another… “their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don’t think so!”

Wang Dong, a political science professor at Peking University, says Trump’s tweets appear to be bluffing and in line with his purported ability as a good negotiator. But, he adds, it is also clear Trump is surrounding himself with individuals in the Republican Party who have hawkish views on China.

Stephen Yates, a China expert who was deputy national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney, said the call's timing makes it less diplomatically consequential.

Yates, a Trump supporter and chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, emphasized what he calls Trump's clear distinction between substantive strategic issues and symbolic topics.

“Answering the phone is just a symbolic topic, but when Trump mentioned the sale of defense weapons and the threat of China in his Twitter, it is a very practical consideration," Yates said. “Perhaps his Taiwan policy will become a challenge to the Taiwanese government, but he will represent a greater political challenge for the leaders of mainland China. The next U.S. government will adopt a very competitive attitude when conducting trade and financial negotiations with China.”

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, another official who served under former President George W. Bush, also downplayed the call's potential diplomatic fallout. Expressing praise for President Tsai, he called it too soon to anticipate the call's long-term impact on U.S.-China policy.

Ambassador Christopher Hill, former assistant secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs, expressed fear, however, that the phone call only underscore's Trump's lack of detailed knowledge of one China policy.

So far, Beijing has kept criticism of Trump to a minimum, and China’s response to the call has been less harsh than many had anticipated. China’s foreign minister has called the phone conversation nothing more than a petty trick by Taiwan. It has also issued stern representations to relevant parties in the United States and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Somali car attacker's family
said to be silent and mystified

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The lawyer representing the family of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the man who wounded 11 people at Ohio State University last week, has said U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the attack shocked the family and kept them silent and mystified.

In the tweet early Wednesday morning, Trump said, “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”

The family attorney, Robert Fitrakis, said the family is still in a tremendous shock.

“They are very afraid, and they expected to be attacked when they go to school or in the community. There is a great fear up there. With the statement of the president-elect Trump, to some extent I am not sure they want their faces on camera,” he said.

“Me? I do not care, I believe in the American values. I don’t believe in corruption of the blood and guilty by association," he added. "This family is innocent, shocked and traumatized. They really want an answer.”

Artan’s family, who fled from Somalia's chronic violence and poverty, lived in Pakistan for two years and came to the United States in 2014 through a refugee program.

Many Muslims have expressed fear and uncertainty following Trump’s election campaign statement promising a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his car into a group of students on the Ohio State campus, then got out of the car and began stabbing people before he was shot dead by a police officer.

Minutes before the attack, Artan published a post on Facebook in which he blamed America for killing Muslims abroad and praised al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a hero.

But attorney Fitrakis said the family could not believe their son had committed such a crime and wanted law enforcement agencies investigating the case to present proof.

“They believed something influenced their son or their brother and they want to get to the bottom of it. They want to make sure that nobody else has to go through the pain, the suffering and the trauma they are going through," said Fitrakis.

“The mother, Faduma Saeed Abdullahi, is a single mother who was raising seven children including Artan. She was really very obsessed with education and the father of the family is still in Somalia to my understanding,” Fitrakis said.

Federal and state investigators have found no strong evidence to link his attack to any terrorist group, and Fitrakis said the nature of the attack did not represent the son and the brother this family knew.

“Abdul graduated from the Ohio community college last summer with cum laude. He was a polite and hard working person who was spending most of the time either working at Home Depot or studying,” Fitrakis said.

Somali community leaders and law enforcement sources say the last terrorism case tied to Columbus was that of Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was arrested in 2015 after returning from Syria. Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, was charged with providing material support to terrorists.

But Artan’s recent attack at Ohio State University is the first violent such attack.

Artan's family told their lawyer that when they were in Pakistan Artan had few friends and they were isolated since there were not many Somalis.

The only time Artan's family suspected him of possible violence was when he posted messages on Facebook minutes before the attack in Ohio.

Ben Carson gets HUD spot
but there are some concerns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has picked one of his former Republican rivals, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, to be his Housing and Urban Development chief.

Trump said Monday that Carson "has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities."

The 65-year-old Carson has no expertise in housing policy, but did spend part of his childhood living in public housing, which the Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees. In the past, he has voiced opposition to government programs that encourage what he says is dependency, and touted the virtues of individual effort in becoming successful.

Carson briefly led Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but support for him waned and he eventually dropped out and endorsed Trump. He is the first African-American Trump has named to his cabinet.

Nancy Pelosi, leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives, called Carson's appointment a disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice, saying there was no evidence that he had the necessary credentials to lead the housing agency.

Carson's appointment came as the president-elect continued to meet in New York with other possible cabinet members, with a spokesman saying more selections will be announced this week. Trump is still weighing his choice for secretary of State, the country's top foreign affairs post, but aides said that choice may not come until next week.

Trump also met with former Democratic vice president Al Gore, who said he had a productive meeting with the president-elect. Gore, a leading global advocate for controlling the effects of man-made climate change, called the discussions a sincere search for common ground.

Trump has called man-made climate change a hoax, but said recently that he has an open mind on continued U.S. compliance with the worldwide Paris climate pact that took effect a month ago.

Big immigration battle looms
if new president keeps vows

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. lawmakers are bracing for thunderous and emotion-laden battles next year over president-elect Donald Trump's plans to crack down on illegal immigration to the United States.

“It's going to be extremely contentious," said Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, "Anytime you get into an immigration battle, it's difficult no matter who is president.”

Asked to what lengths Democrats were prepared to go to oppose Trump's immigration plans, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut had a succinct response.

“We'll stop at nothing to prevent the mass-deportation of undocumented residents and a wall being built with Mexico,” Murphy said.

Trump's transition Web site features a 10-point plan, from constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, to punishing communities that shield undocumented immigrants, to restricting travel to the United States from certain war-torn regions where screening visa applicants is a challenge.

“The most important thing for the Trump administration is to regain the public's confidence in the security of our borders and our commitment to enforce the law,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas. “And I think we've got a long way to go.”

President Barack Obama issued executive orders that shielded millions of undocumented immigrants from potential deportation. Trump has pledged to rescind those orders when he becomes president and could issue new ones that take federal immigration policy in the opposite direction.

Advocacy groups that cheered Obama's immigration orders are pledging to fight tooth and nail against what they fear will be an onslaught of heavy-handed moves by Trump.

“Definitely protests, definitely civil disobedience,” predicted Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of the pro-immigrant rights group America's Voice. “If they want to start mass-deportations, we're coming after them.”

Ms. Tramonte added that America's Voice will join with other groups to mount every legal challenge possible to undercut what Trump does through executive orders.

But Republican lawmakers note that as president, Trump will have vast executive authority that, ironically, Obama sought to broaden over the objections of Republicans.

“Yes, Donald Trump does have wide latitude,” Ms. Tramonte conceded. “But that doesn't mean that we're going to sit back and let him terrorize our communities.”

So far, Trump's immigration proposals amount to bullet-point agenda items and a vast array of promises made in campaign speeches. As such, senators of both parties said they cannot fully analyze what the president-elect intends to do or how much it would cost.

Groups favoring more restrictive immigration policies expect Trump to implement most, if not all, of his proposed ideas in one form or another.

“Most of it can be accomplished, a lot of it through his own authority,” said Steven Camarota of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. “I think there will be pushback everywhere. America's a very litigious society.”

Trump will benefit from having Republican majorities in both houses of Congress to help propel immigration proposals that require legislative approval, as well as funding for various initiatives.

Social media sites are acting
to squash terror recruiting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The top social media networks in the United States say they are working together to quickly identify and take down photos and video that are used to recruit people into terrorism.

Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube announced Monday that they will create a shared database that identifies flagged images and video using unique "fingerprints," making it easier for the companies to review and potentially remove the content.

They said each company will then determine whether the material violates their terms of service.

The internet giants have come under increasing pressure from governments around the world to do more to remove extremist material.

In the United States, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require social media companies to report to police any online terrorist activities they learn about.

Most social media services have terms of agreement that prohibit content that supports violent or illegal activities. The companies typically rely on users to flag inappropriate content, which is then reviewed by editors.

Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts between February and August this year and has expanded the teams reviewing reports of extremist content.

The new database will be up and running by early 2017, and more companies could be brought into the partnership.
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 241
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Researchers say that all these are healthy choices.

Nuts being considered new wonder food

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The next time you’re hungry for a snack, you may want to grab a handful of nuts, as new research suggests they lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Specifically, the research suggests at least 20 grams per day of nuts can cut people's risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30 percent, their risk of cancer by 15 percent and their risk of premature death by 22 percent.

Researchers said eating the nuts also reduced the risk of dying from respiratory disease by about a half as well as reducing the risk of diabetes by nearly 40 percent, although they added there is less data to support the effect of consuming nuts on those ailments.

Writing in the journal BMC Medicine, researchers from Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed 29 previous studies from around the world on the health benefits of nuts.

"In nutritional studies, so far much of the research has been on the big killers such as heart diseases, stroke and cancer, but now we're starting to see data for other diseases, said study co-author Dagfinn Aune from the School of Public Health at Imperial.

"We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication that there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes. It's quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food," he added.

Researchers say the study included all kinds of tree nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts, which are legumes.

"Nuts and peanuts are high in fiber, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fats, nutrients that are beneficial for cutting cardiovascular disease risk and which can reduce cholesterol levels,” said Aune. "Some nuts, particularly walnuts and pecan nuts, are also high in antioxidants, which can fight oxidative stress and possibly reduce cancer risk. Even though nuts are quite high in fat, they are also high in fiber and protein, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time."

The study also found that more than 20 grams of nut consumption a day did not increase the health benefits.

Highway death toll reported to be lower

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Only 20 motorists died in November, and highway officials said the number was the lowest since February 2014. In contrast, 56 persons died on the nation's highways in October.

Although pleased with the statistics, Mario Calderón, director of the Policía de Tránsito, noted that December is a month of parties and alcohol abuse that could cause more accidents.
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From Page 7:

Amazon pioneers grocery sans checkout

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Online retailer Amazon has unveiled a new kind of store with no checkout lines.

The store, which is located in Seattle, Washington, where Amazon is headquartered, sells grocery essentials, according to a video about the store posted by Amazon.

Shoppers simply use the Amazon Go app, which the company claims can track items you want to purchase. Once you are done with your shopping, you simply walk out.

Amazon says that by not having much of the staff of a normal store, it can keep prices low.

Amazon Go will also allow the company to collect a treasure trove of data about shopping habits, both in real life and online.

"Four years ago we asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go?" according to a statement on the Amazon Go Web site.

Amazon Go is not the first foray into physical shops. The company experimented with brick and mortar book stores a year ago.

But it may be a while before an Amazon store pops up nearby. For now, the Seattle store is only open to Amazon employees, but plans to open to the public early in 2017.