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(506) 2223-1327                       Published  Friday, Dec. 14, 2012,  in Vol. 12, No. 249                        Email us
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The Municipalidad de San José may have made a tactical error when it decked the main streets with green lights. Motorists are complaining that they cannot tell the Christmas decorations from
the traffic signals. So far there only have been near misses, they said. But the lights will be up well past New Year's. As the above photo shows, there is plenty of room for confusion.

Two men held in probe of teak investment project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two individuals involved in a green business have been detained on suspicion of defrauding foreign investors with a teak scheme.

The Poder Judicial said that the arrests Thursday were based on the complaints of two individuals who had
Global Green
invested money. But investigators said that there may be 75 persons whom the agency described as victims who have not yet traveled to
Costa Rica to put in complaints.

The arrests came during raids in Ciudad Colón, Rohrmoser, Pavas, as well as a house and office in Heredia, a house in Santa Ana and a property in San Carlos.

Those arrested were identified by the last name of Vranken, believed to be Frank Vranken, a Belgium national, and Sjerps, believed to be Maurice Sjerps, a Dutch citizen.

Some of the locations raided were offices and homes of notaries. The Poder Judicial said that the notaries were not detained but that investigators were seeking evidence in the case, such as contracts.

The Poder Judicial said that the business involved markets teak trees via the Internet. The company involved is Global Green Services S.A., said the Poder Judicial. This company via its Web site offers up to a 25-year lease to investors on land on which trees are planted.
Vranken also is a principal in F E Forestry and Environment Corporation LLC, which offers forestry maintenance. The firm is located in Ciudad Colón, and it is recommended by Global Green Services.

Global Green on its Web site said that it has been in business since 1994. The Web site itself has been active since March 2004. The Poder Judicial said that the activities that generated allegations began in 2009.

Both Vranken and  Sjerps also are believed to be involved in forestry operations and carbon storage projects in Panamá.

Global Green lists its office in the Oficentro la Sabana, but the firm does not say where its tree plantations are located except that they are on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

The prosecutor in charge is Mariela Villalobos in the fraud office.

The two English investors are said to have lost 320,000 British pounds in the teak tree project.

The two men were being questioned formally by prosecutors Thursday afternoon, and a court appearance was expected later.

A.M. Costa Rica has published interviews with experts who said that teak grown here is not of the best quality. Local woodworkers who produce teak furniture usually import the wood. However, the Global Green plan, as outlined on its Web site, also included reforestation.

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Regulating agency ducks
fixing car inspection fees

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The nation's regulatory agency has ducked the job of deciding if motorists should face an increase in vehicle inspection fees.

The firm that has the national monopoly on the inspections, Riteve S y C,  S.A., asked for a 157 percent increase last Nov. 16. But the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said that it cannot decide because there is no methodology approved to evaluate the rates.

Such a mathematical device was supposed to have been created by the Consejo de Transportes Público, but there also is political infighting. The Consejo and the Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes think it should be they who establish rates. The Authoridad is the entity that decides on utility rates and gasoline prices.

The inspection firm, known by the shorter name of Riteve, took over the inspection job from local service stations. The company has elaborate inspection stations with high technology to evaluate automobiles.

Passenger vehicles have to be inspected once a year. Taxis need inspections twice a year. Currently the price for an inspection for a passenger vehicle is a bit more than 10,000 colons or about $20.

Action urged on measure
to control domestic labor

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, was not just a day of repetitive numbers, but also a day of global action where different child advocacy agencies urged governments to accept Convention 189.  This recommendation addresses the issue of children doing domestic work, and it was put forth by the International Labor organization in 2011. 

The Defensa de los Niñas y Niños-Internacional gave the example of Adriana.  She is a 16-year-old who works every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. cleaning, cooking and caring for two children ages 3 and 6.

Although Adriana signed up for night school, she is not allowed to attend because her classes prevent her from serving the home, the organization said.

According to the defense advocacy group, Adriana is just one of thousands of Costa Rican teenagers who do domestic work under conditions of exploitation and a lack of labor rights.

Working adolescence that way is against the law, but such situations still exist, said the organization.

“This is in part due to the type of work they do,” said spokespersons.  “The work is invisible, devalued, in hiding, behind closed doors and where the employers define the rules of the game.”

However the problem goes beyond Costa Rica.  For this reason, the International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 adopted recommendation No. 201 on decent work for domestic workers with the intention of putting a stop to ill-treatment, violence and abuse.

Recently the Comisión de Asuntos Jurídicos of the Asamblea Legislativa signed out the measure, which now goes to all the lawmakers for a possible vote.

Costa Rica is one of 12 countries that has made this step. 

Teatro Jacó to give show
based on Tico legends

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Teatro Jacó will present "Tico Tales," a musical that presents traditional Costa Rican stories in both English and Spanish.

The musical was written by Michael Sgouros and Brenda Bell.  The two were inspired by Costa Rican culture last December when they brought their version of "A Christmas Carol" to the theater.

The work includes dance, music and nature to explain folk tales and legends of the country.

"Enter the rain forest as the rhymes and legends of an ancient culture sweep you away to a long-forgotten land," said a release. "Hear the call of the beautiful Quetzal bird, stump your foot as the cast and musicians play a drumming tale, sneak a peek into a traditional tribal dance while the little devils chase away the bull and celebrate love with the Indian princess Cira as she is transformed into a volcano.

Tico Tales is directed by Darren Lee Cole and choreographed by Carlos Ovares.  The production will take place Wednesday to Dec. 23 and Dec. 26 to Dec. 30. at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for children and $20 for general entry and $30 for VIP.  Persons can make reservations at 2630-9812.

"This show will captivate your heart and make your heart beat to a new, but ancient drum,” said the theater.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica Third News Page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 249
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Baptist Church

Ministry warns that most Christmas lighting is dangerous
By Aaron Knapp
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Analysts from the Ministerio de Economia, Industría y Comercio found that nearly nine out of 10 varieties of Christmas lights made for home use pose a risk of causing a fire.

According to a press release from the ministry, 17 out the 19
varieties that officials tested and analyzed failed to meet international standards, which makes them prone to short circuits.

These findings were part of the ministry's annual Christmas survey that tracks the best and worst prices on toys and tamale ingredients as well as which stores are and are not following trade rules.

This is the first time that the
old tag
That is reassuring!
ministry has given any attention to Christmas lights.

The survey is one of many similar projects that ministry officials complete each year in which they keep watch over the best prices and which stores are not following the rules on behalf of consumers.

The 19 types of Christmas lights that the analysts tested were purchased at 10 different stores including Ekono, Cemaco, Simán, El Rey, Walmart, Librería Universal, Pricemart, Aliss, Pequeño Mundo and El Sol Naciente.

A ministry spokesperson could neither specify which brands of Christmas lights are safe and which are not, nor where staffers purchased the safe lights. However, she said that the important thing is that safe lights will have a certification attached to them saying they have been tested in a laboratory.

With the 17 unsafe brands, the size of the wire did not meet international standards, which ministry analysts said makes these brands more likely to short circuit. They also found the extension plugs in these 17 brands were not adequately able to handle electrical surges.

Additionally, two extensions had extremely small conductor prongs making these brands even more susceptible to overheating, according to the ministry's release.

Ministry officials urged that people replace lights with ones that contain labels verifying that they are safe. However, assuming that many people have already purchased and put up unsafe Christmas lights, the ministry obtained a list of safety recommendations from the Cuerpo de Bomberos.
Ministerio de Economia, Industría y Comercio photo
 This set of wires carries the approval of the Underwriters
 Laboratories, a safety organization that checks electrical
 devices. But there is no guarantee that the tag is legitimate.

Firefighters gave such recommendations as that lights should not be left on all night or unattended, they should not be covered by rugs, they should not be held up by nails or objects that may damage the wires, they should not be exposed to elements they are not meant to handle and they should not be combined with homemade electrical devices.

Christmas lights is only one small part of the survey. Ministry officials put far more focus on the prices of toys and ingredients for making tamales, finding that cost depends on both the brand and the retail outlet.

As with most of the ministry's surveys that have come before, these results are unlikely to surprise any shoppers.

Ministry officials found that the same set of Fisher Price pyramid rings ranged 44 percent between the highest price of 6,500 colons at the Libreria Universal on Avenida Central and the lowest price of 4,500 colons at Cemaco Multiplaza.  The best deals for board games like Pictionary and Jenga were at Aliss Zapote.

Analysts found an even wider range of prices between similar toys from different brands, as much as 1,268 percent between Barbie-like dolls (950 and 13,000 colons at extremes).

As for tamal ingredients, price differences on identical products between stores was more important for ministry officials. The cheapest stores to shop for tamale ingredients were overall the Mercado franchises, especially Mercado Cartago, Mercado Heredia and Mercado San José. The tamal, a dough baked and then reheated inside banana leaves, is a traditional Christmas dish.

World is full of chemicals and fallout that damage our genes
NASA scientists have assured us that contrary to the supposed prediction of the Mayans, the end of the world will not occur this month.  The comfort of knowing that is marred by some recent news and some things I read in a book I have had for probably 30 years. 

Robert Charroux, who hypothesized in his book "One Hundred Thousand Years of Man’s Unknown History" that former civilizations destroyed themselves, wrote, “In 1945 a catastrophic course was adopted by the politicians who had the
task of reconstituting a society that had been torn apart by war . . . They advocated development of atomic military science, encouragement of higher birth rates, class struggle, international competition for power and prestige – when the only real solution would have been world union, in spite of all difficulties, for the preservation of mankind.”

Later, biologist Jean Rostand said, “Radioactive fallout is a veritable pollen of death causing an
increase in mutations.  Atomic and chemical industries add their powerful effects to these nuclear explosions.  In fact, they now constitute the main source of radiation . . . By damaging genes we do something worse than killing; we create bad life.”

I wouldn’t say bad life, but we are producing many more vulnerable people.

Researchers in Canada have found that the young women who worked in a canning factory were contracting cancer far above the norm (in 1977 one of 17 women was expected to get cancer. Today it is one in eight.) The villain appeared to be the chemicals used both in the canning process and the pesticides used on the foods being canned.  Meanwhile, women who work in automotive factories have a five-fold greater chance of getting breast cancer than those in other industries.  Bisphenol A, also used in both industries, has been declared by the Canadian government to be a toxic chemical.

Environmental estrogen is a term that covers the chemicals used in pesticides, plastics, detergents, food additives and preservatives.  They mimic, in a damaging way, the hormones in humans that control the reproductive functions of both sexes. Research hints that they may even be connected to the increase in obesity.

Other researchers are finding that food allergies among young people increased by18 percent between 1997 and 2007.  They have concluded that it is the chemicals used in agricultural
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

pesticides and the chlorine in water that is causing this increase. This also may be responsible for what is called adult onset allergies. 

What seems to be happening in the world is that the more bountiful and beautiful, bug and blemish-free foods we eat, are doing us more harm than good, and affecting future generations, by mutating our genes.  Add to all of this, the damage being done to our oceans, the fallout from wars to all living things, and the increasing occurrence of natural catastrophes. The world may not be coming to an end, but those of us who live on it are being more and more threatened.

So I do hope the campaign against using genetically doctored corn in Costa Rica succeeds.  The less we tamper with what nature has given us, the healthier we are. 

And finally, I must comment on my concern last week, in hoping the Latin countries would at least legalize marijuana.  Evidently, nothing came of their conference.  Their decision might have influenced the United States’ stance on drugs.  Instead, the U.S. government is fining the HSBC bank for laundering $7 billion in Mexican drug money, (along with doing business with its current enemies).

The bank apologized for its mistakes. There were no arrests or threats of prison time to individuals.  In short, the government has taken its cut from the drug trade.

Meanwhile, thousands of young people, and not so young, are spending years in prison – many of them in private, for-profit, prisons -- in the United States for simply having marijuana in their possession. No accepted apologies, token fines and slaps on the wrist for them.

Humans are the only animals that tamper with the food they eat, wage wars with organized militaries and interfere with another’s attempt to enjoy a different reality, 

The world no doubt will continue, but we civilized humans may be destroying ourselves and it will once again be the meek (the patient and peaceful ones, who live outside civilization) who shall inherit the earth.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 249
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Sunday night is when everyone prays for lighting to strike
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sunday night five persons or groups of persons will defy statistics and become wealthy instantly when the numbers are drawn for the big Christmas lottery.

The top prize is 1.2 billion colons or about $2.4 million tax-free. There are five such prizes because there are five copies of each big lottery ticket.

Each ticket has 40 pieces that may be sold or exchanged individually. The 40-piece entero frequently is broken up among families or even friends and persons in the same community.

The lottery agency is the Junta de Protection Social de San José. Those ticket holders who are not winners can at least feel pleased that they have contributed to the Junta's many social programs.

The odds of winning the top prize are slim. The winning ticket must have the correct three-digit series number and the correct two-digit ticket number. Even if a ticket is selected, it may only qualify for a smaller prize.

The drawing will be at the Museo de Arte Costarricense in Parque La Sabana at 6 p.m. Sunday. The event will be televised and there will be a crowd. Everyone will be praying for lighting to strike.

There will be three roulette-style cages or baskets. One will contain balls representing the series numbers. A smaller cage will contain balls representing the two-digit ticket number. A third and even smaller cage will contain balls representing the prize.

So one Junta worker will spin the cage and announce a series number. A second worker will spin and draw a ticket number. Then a third worker will announce the prize. All of the lotteries are under strict control and supervision.

But there was some grumbling and surprise two weeks ago when the same number and series won second and third prize in the regular weekly lottery. That was reported to be the first time this has happened in the 4,000 or more lottery drawings.

An entero for Sunday costs 60,000 colons or about $120. There are lesser prizes than the $2.4 million. For example a ticket with the same series number but a different ticket number for the big winner gets 1 million colons or about $2,000.

Expats who want to play the lottery do not have to purchase a full 40-piece entero. Each of the 40 fractions sells for 1,500 colons or about $3. Of course if that fractional ticket is a winner, the holder gets just 30 million colons or about $60,000. Many Costa Ricans like to buy fractions so they have multiple chances of winning.

There were plenty of lottery tickets still available in the downtown Thursday night. But there were many purchasers, too, Vendors receive money if they sell a winner, and they receive a commission on each ticket sold.

Each year the week following the lottery is filled with stories about the winners. Although the big news will be the top winners, there are a number of human interest articles with lottery themes. One year a lottery vendor held a ticket in trust for a purchaser, and that ticket turned out to be a big winner.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
One more lottery ticket is sold.

second lottery
A.M. Costa Rica photo
There were no shortage of tickets Thursday night.

The vendor dutifully turned over the ticket to the purchaser.

Less well covered is what happens to the winners. Anton Chekhov, the Russian writer, described the personal disruption of a big win in his short story "The Lottery Ticket." That happens in Costa Rica, too.

Nearly every family has a tale about a relative who was a lottery winner and managed to blow the cash in a short period in a manner that could endanger health.

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Twin probes circling moon
will crash to surface Monday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NASA is going to crash two lunar probes into the moon this Monday.

The U.S. space agency's twin spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, will fly low over the moon's surface and crash into the rim of a crater, the final move of a successful lunar-mapping mission.
These controlled crashes have been part of the plan from the mission's outset, but there will not be any live visuals because the impacts are going to happen in the dark.

The mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says people should not expect a dramatic, fiery end for the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission spacecraft.

"We are not expecting a big flash or a big explosion, okay?  These are two small spacecraft," Zuber told reporters during a NASA news conference Thursday.  "They are, I will use the term 'apartment-sized washer and dryer-sized' spacecraft with empty fuel tanks, so we're not expecting a flash that is visible from Earth."

Zuber says researchers will rely on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, which has very sensitive instruments, to provide data about the crashes.  That orbiter has sent images of the planned impact site and will do so again after the crash so that scientists can try to identify the impact points.
Ebb and Flow will be traveling about 1.7 kilometers per second when they crash into the lunar surface, about 20 seconds apart.  Mission managers say they do not expect the crashes to disturb any historic lunar landing sites.
GRAIL's twin probes began orbiting the moon one year ago.  Zuber says they have significantly contributed to science by providing valuable information about the moon's structure and composition.  The mission also provided a high-resolution gravity field map of the moon.
"We now will be able to navigate extremely precisely to the moon in ways such that if there is a particular place that a future robotic or human mission wanted to land, you would be able to do that extremely precisely, which will facilitate future exploration," said Zuber.
Ebb and Flow will not be the first crafts to crash into the moon.  NASA's GRAIL mission Web page says 12 U.S., Soviet and Japanese spacecraft crashed into the moon's surface between 1959 and 1993.

Obama and top Republican
have another chat on finances

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama and the top House Republican have met again to discuss a looming fiscal crisis. Thursday’s visit to the White House by John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, was the second this week.

Obama and Boehner met for 50 minutes, with the so-called fiscal cliff less than three weeks away.

Afterward, both the White House and Boehner’s office described the meeting as frank.  An administration official said lines of communication between the two sides remain open.

An estimated $600 billion in tax increases and drastic government spending cuts will take effect on Jan. 1, unless legislation is passed and signed to prevent that from happening.

​​Neither the Democratic Obama administration nor top Republicans in Congress has given any indication of progress in the talks in recent days.

The White House is insisting on raising taxes on the richest Americans to help reduce the nation’s debt.  Press secretary Jay Carney said the administration is hoping Republicans will give in on the issue.

“We still believe that a big deal is possible.  We believe the parameters are there, and we remain confident that if Republicans agree with the basic idea that rates have to go up for the wealthiest while we extend tax cuts for everyone else, that we can reach a deal fairly quickly,” Carney said.

Before the meeting, Obama told a Minnesota television station he was hoping for a change in attitude by Republicans on the tax issue.

Earlier Thursday, Boehner said the president was delaying the talks, and was not concerned enough about cutting government spending.

“But here we are, at the 11th hour, and the president still is not serious about dealing with this issue right here.  It is this issue — spending,” Boehner said.

Boehner has been planning to leave Washington to spend several days at his home in Ohio.

México would take a hit
if U.S. chooses austerity

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

If negotiations aimed at preventing the United States from making drastic budget cuts fail, the impact could be devastating to Mexico, America's third-largest trading partner.

The U.S. and its southern neighbor had $500 billion worth of trade in goods and services last year, mostly in electrical machinery, vehicles and crude oil. Mexico exported $15.8 billion worth of agricultural products to the United States in 2011, making it the second-largest supplier of such goods.

If U.S. President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress fail to compromise on a deficit-cutting package of revenue increases and spending cuts, it could spark a recession, which could mean layoffs for some Mexican workers.

"While Mexico is doing relatively well economically, the country would take a hit if debt talks fail," said Eduardo Garcia, with the Mexican financial Web site Sentido Común.

"Mexico's economy would suffer quite a bit if the U.S. fails to reach an agreement and these automatic fiscal measures go into effect because Mexico is so integrated into the U.S. economy," he said. Thirty percent of the Mexican economy is export-based and the U.S. consumes 80 percent of those products, he added.

The Mexican economy contracted more than 6 percent during the 2008-09 U.S. financial crisis. While Garcia does not foresee such a large problem this time, he said the impact of any U.S. austerity measures would likely be immediate.

"Economies now react very quickly to these fiscal policies that are implemented," Garcia said. "So there's no doubt that as soon as it happens Mexico will start feeling the pain and the Mexican government will probably have to implement a few extraordinary programs to contain the blow," he said.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 249
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Phone company stays open
to sell the new iPhone 5

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The state telephone company kept 16 retail outlets open Thursday night so they could begin selling the iPhone 5.
The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad is offering the cell phone with three memory sizes up to 64 gigabytes.

Sales were to begin at 10 p.m. The company also had connection plans for those who purchase the telephone.

The phone has been available in other countries since September.

The iPhone 5 is said to be lighter and with a better display than previous versions.

Child support payments
also generate aguinaldo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who thought that Christmas bonuses were only given to traditional employees are wrong.  Men and women have until Saturday to pay the mandatory aguinaldo that goes with child support payments, according to Poder Judicial.

If the mother or father does not pay, the person in charge of the minor has the option to file a court order Monday.

Judge Elizabeth Picado Arguedas reported that there has been an increase in child support request for October, November and December and many of these persons will forget to pay the Christmas bonus.  This will result in arrests at the beginning of the year, she said.

The judicial administration also clarified that even if a person does not have a job or has recently started a job, he or she must still pay the bonus that equates one month's payment.

An arrest warrant will result from failure to pay, judicial workers said.

Panamá newspaper Web site
victim of hacker attack

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An online attack on the Panama newspaper La Estrella that upset its normal functioning and access to information brought a strong protest Thursday from the Inter American Press Association, which called on the authorities to conduct an immediate investigation.

The president of the newspaper corporation, Eduardo Quirós, told the press advocacy organization that La Estrella’s Web site,, was hacked Wednesday starting at 5:50 p.m. and for three long hours visitors were not able to access the news.

Quirós stressed that this was “an attack on freedom of the press which does not scare us in the slightest.”

The attack occurred following the publication on Dec. 10 on the paper’s Web site of a controversial video containing unedited images of the return to Panama of former dictator Manuel Noriega.

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Lives are longer but disease-ridden

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

People are living longer, but they are also living more years in poor health. That’s according to the most thorough look to date at the global burden of disease.

On average, men worldwide can expect to live 67 years and women, 73, according to the new research in the journal The Lancet.   

That’s about a five-year increase over 1990.

The findings are part of a seven-article series looking at global disease and disability, involving nearly 500 researchers in 50 countries.

“All of us in the world of health focus on diseases and often bad news. Actually, the global burden of disease 2010 study broadly presents very good news,” said Richard Horton, The Lancet’s editor-in-chief.

The new research found far fewer people died of measles, tetanus, respiratory and diarrheal diseases in 2010 than in 1990. Overall, deaths from infections, complications from childbirth, and malnutrition fell about 17 percent, to 13.2 million.

Global efforts have focused on reducing HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. But these diseases still kill more than a million people per year each, and malaria has actually increased by nearly 20 percent.

“Those three big, big diseases are not just going to go away,” said Mike Cohen, who heads global health research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was not involved in the studies. He says the report notes declines in HIV/AIDS deaths since 2006. Tuberculosis deaths are down nearly 20 percent as well.

But the research highlights a major transition taking place worldwide, Cohen says.

“As infectious diseases have been better controlled and people live longer, and as their diets change and lifestyles change, the inevitable consequence in health is, you have to deal much more broadly with hypertension, heart disease,” he said.

In fact, the report found these kinds of non-communicable diseases accounted for more than half of the global burden of disease in 2010, surpassing infections, maternal and childhood ailments, and malnutrition.

For example, in 1990, the top cause of death was childhood underweight. In 2010, that dropped to number eight, and high blood pressure topped the list.
But while people are living longer, they are also spending more time in poor health, says Joshua Salomon, professor of global health at Harvard University and co-author of the section on disability.

“I think in general we’ve been more successful at reducing mortality and less successful at actually addressing chronic disability,” Salomon said.

Physical conditions such as arthritis and back issues, and mental and behavioral problems like depression, anxiety and substance abuse were the top causes of disability.

And while much has changed in global health in the past two decades, one thing has stayed the same: smoking remained a top-three cause of death.

Susan Rice withdraws her name

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has asked President Barack Obama to withdraw her name from consideration to replace outgoing Hillary Clinton as secretary of State.

Obama issued a statement Thursday saying that he accepts her decision. He said Rice will continue to serve as U.N. envoy and as a key member of his cabinet.

Ms. Rice told Obama in a letter that she is highly honored to be considered, but that it is a position that should not be politicized as it has been.

Ms. Rice has been one of the leading contenders for the position until she faced a barrage of criticism of her interpretation of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was among four Americans killed in the attack.

Republican lawmakers have accused Rice of misinterpreting the intelligence on who orchestrated the attack when she said the violence grew out spontaneously from a protest against a U.S.-made amateur movie that ridiculed Islam.

Sen. John McCain, one of Rice's harshest critics, claimed that there was compelling and overwhelming evidence that it was a terrorist attack.

He accused her of incompetence and said he would do everything in his power to block her nomination for secretary of State.

The intelligence community later confirmed that the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi was planned by terrorists and some reports said that an Islamist group called Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility.

Ms. Rice subsequently issued a statement saying: “We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.”

President Obama has defended Rice saying that she spoke on the information available at the time and that the attack on her is misleading.

Following Rice's withdrawal, Sen. John Kerry becomes a leading contender for the next secretary of state.

U.N. agency marks a billion tourists

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

As the estimated number of tourists traveling this year hits a record one billion, the United Nations agency focused on world tourism unveiled a tip-laden campaign aimed at letting travelers know how they can best benefit the people and places they visit.

The "One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities" campaign of the U.N. World Tourism Organization shows tourists that respecting local culture, preserving heritage or buying local goods when traveling can make a big difference.

"Today, we welcome the symbolic arrival of the one-billionth tourist," said Taleb Rifai, according to a news release from the agency. "Your actions count. That is our message to the one billion tourists." He is the secretary general.

People worldwide helped prioritize the campaign's travel tips by voting for the ones they believed would best boost local populations.

"Buy Local" emerged as the winning piece of advice, while a close second was "Respect Local Culture," said the agency. Voters were asked to pledge to follow the tips they endorsed.

"Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more sustainable future," Rifai said.

The campaign is in line with Madrid-based agency's mandate to promote the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

As such, the World Tourism Organization said "Buy Local" is a call for tourists to buy food and souvenirs locally or hire local guides to ensure their spending translates into jobs and income for host communities.

It said "Respect Local Culture" aims to encourage tourists to learn more about their destination's traditions, or some words in the local language, before leaving home.

The World Tourism Organization serves as a global forum and source of tourism know-how for its membership, which includes 155 countries.

It said in its release that, despite global economic uncertainty, international tourism continued to grow in 2012, with the symbolic one-billionth tourist cementing the industry's position as one of the world's largest economic sectors.

Tourism accounted for 9 per cent of global gross domestic product when totaling its direct, indirect and induced impact, the agency said, noting that one in every 12 jobs and up to 8 per cent of the total exports of the world's U.N.-designated least developed countries depend on tourism.

While it was impossible to know exactly where the one-billionth tourist would arrive Thursday, the agency said many countries were celebrating the occasion by welcoming arriving vacationers.

The World Tourism Organization added that it was celebrating in Madrid by welcoming the symbolic one-billionth tourist in the Museo del Prado, the Spanish capital's most-visited tourism attraction.
Useful links
Foreign Embassies
in Costa Rica
Ave Central at Calle 120
Pavas, San José. 920-1200
San José, Costa Rica
Call 506 2519-2000
after hours call
506 8863-4895

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Apartado 815-1007
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San José
506 2258 2025

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Box: 351-1007,  San José
506 2242-4400
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San José
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