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Published Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, in Vol. 17, No. 254
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Horse and riders take over the city streets today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A flood of horsemen will flow down Avenida Segunda and Paseo Colón today replacing the blaring of horns and screech of vehicular traffic with neighing and clopping of hooves.

The Tope Nacional begins at noon at Plaza Víquez before continuing down the main drags of San José to end at Parque La Sabana. All estimates point to around 4,000 horses participating with their riders, known in Spanish as jinetes, proudly displaying their best mounts to the public.

The tradition began, according to event organizers, at the beginning of the 20th century when horsemen, hired on as hands for the United Fruit Co., traveled to the ports to pick up imported stock. Cattle were being used on the company’s banana plantations and, along

the way, these jinetes would bump, or topar in Spanish, the cattle to keep them in line and together. After a time, it became a parade of horses dressed with their finest saddles.

According to the tope website, the most common breeds of horses in Costa Rica are the Iberoamerican, Spanish purebred, and the Costa Rican criollo. They are also highly expensive with prices ranging between $18,000 to $64,000, depending on the breed and the horse itself. The event continues as part of the wider celebrations of Costa Rican rural tradition and culture.

Happening Tuesday, after an absence of 11 years, the carnival parade will fill the streets of San José with colorful costumes and pageantry.

The carnival parade will begin at 1 p.m. and continue down the Paseo Colón.

Major upgrade projected for Limón cruise ship port
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism ministry and the agency that runs the Caribbean ports have plans to turn the Limón docks into a home port for passenger ships.

One step will be in 2018 when cargo handling will be moved to Moín, said the Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica.

The transformation means money for the government because tourists from cruise ships pay a landing fee, and then they spend an average of $83 in food, day trips and other activities in the province of Limón, said the port agency.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has come to an agreement to help finance remodeling part of the Limón docks for the benefit of tourists, said the port agency. Included are new bathrooms. The port agency
cruise ships
Casa Presidencial photo
The port authority wants more of these.

expects to see a big increase in cruise ships this year, from 60 in 2013-2014 to 133 this year and early next year. Officials said that the Spanish firm Pullmantur Cruises S.L. has expressed interest in using Limón as a home port.

Representatives from the port agency plan to visit Quintana Roo, Cozumel and the Isla Mujeres, all in México, to see how the cruiser ports work there.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 254
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Happy                                      child
Ministerio de Seguridad Pública/Alonso Alvarez
Surprise mixed with astonishment seems to be the expression on this tot’s face after she received a Christmas gift. The air arm of the  Ministerio de Seguridad Pública brought gifts and school supplies to isolated areas where native populations live. The little girl lives in Punta Burica in extreme southwest Costa Rica.

Judiciary says time cut for handling rapes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

With special rooms, use of smartphone apps, and less time wasted undergoing multiple layers of processing, the judiciary is seeking to change the way it handles and attends to victims of sexual assault and rape.  The situation in Alajuela is offered as an example.

These rapid response teams were organized by the Poder Judicial at the request of the Costa Rican supreme court and with the support of the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social in 2013. The goal of the program is to avoid a re-victimization of the people who experienced these crimes. That means care for the victims ideally in the first 72 hours after the crime occurs and a lot of cutting through bureaucratic procedure, long lines and repetition, the Poder Judicial said.

This all represents what is fast becoming a nationwide effort of the Programa Nacional de Equipos de Respuesta Rápida a Víctimas de Violación y Delitos Sexuales.

The coordinated effort of communication between Alajuela’s response team along with the prosecutor’s office, judicial agents, and health officials at the local level, has achieved a drop in the amount of time victims spend in legal proceedings and declarations. Officials in the Alajuela branch claim that, originally, victims underwent an excruciating nine hours of processing. Now the time is only between 45 minutes and two hours maximum.

“They do not have to wait in lines. They do not have to repeat their stories over and over. They do not have to be held in common rooms. In short, the Costa Rican state is guaranteeing access to justice and health in a humane and effective way,” a report declared.

A lot of this coordination and communicating between different entities is conducted over the popular smartphone app Whatsapp, a medium of texting and calling and video chatting that only requires an Internet Wi-Fi connection in order to communicate with anyone worldwide.

Hospital and medical officials will send a message to agents and investigators in the judiciary so that they come to the victim in the hospital as quickly as they are able in order to shorten the time taken to create a formal report, said a summary by the judiciary.

If the victim goes directly to judiciary authorities however, they will be immediately transferred to medical facilities, officials said. If the victim arrives at the medical center, judicial authorities are sent directly to them. The following reports are then conducted in special rooms within Hospital San Rafael in Alajuela. These rooms were specifically created so the victim need not be transferred to judicial facilities, the judiciary said.

With this, the prosecutor’s office has trained the medical staff on how to properly handle and not to lose any kind of evidence of the crime in the event a victim seeks care. The victim is also placed under police protection in addition to the social workers who also provide help.

The response teams began conducting operations in Puntarenas, San José, Liberia, and Cartago. This year, the program expanded to include: Heredia, Goicoechea, Nicoya, Santa Cruz, San Carlos, Upala, Limón and Guápiles, as well as Alajuela. Officials said that new teams would be established in Pérez Zeledón, Corredores, and Turrialba next year.

Security ministry addresses fugitive rumors

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Stories have been circulating within México that the former governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, has fled to Costa Rica.

Duarte is a controversial figure in Mexican politics. The ex-governor of Veracruz, a state that hugs the eastern coast of Mexico, resigned in the wake of corruption scandals and alleged association with certain organized crime and narco-trafficking affiliates. He had served as governor of that notoriously dangerous state from 2010 until his resignation Oct. 12.

The Ministerio de Seguridad Pública here declared that if Duarte were found in any part of Costa Rica, he would be immediately repatriated back to Mexico. According to immigration officials, Duarte does not have a recent migratory record and the last time he officially entered Costa Rica was six years ago in 2010.

He appears to have only stayed in Costa Rican territory for a day arriving at Juan Santamaría airport Oct. 7 and leaving the next day.

Raúl Cervantes, the attorney general in México, has offered a reward of 15 million Mexican pesos for information leading to the man’s arrest. That amount is about $735,000.

Ojochal vehicle bandit suspects caught 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers caught a man and a minor accused of stealing a vehicle by force on the Pacific coast.

According to the police, the two supposedly used a method of thievery known as bajonazo in the community of Ojochal. Fuerza Pública units were deployed to block the vehicle’s escape and shut the road down in the adjacent cantons. The vehicle was stopped at the Pejibaye area.

The adult in question has an extensive criminal record for various offenses, according to officials. The police did not provide any information as to the accused minor.

A type of hold-up at gunpoint, a bajonazo usually occurs when a motorist is stopped at a traffic signal or parked and the bandit appears at the window or door with a firearm. In Costa Rica, this type of crime is suggestive of forcing all the passengers and driver to get down, or bajarse for the Spanish verb, out of the car.

News from the Spanish-language press
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 254
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Government makes an effort to capitalize on Hurricane Otto windfall
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Hurricane Otto left millions of dollars of fallen timber in its wake Nov. 24.

The government has set up a program for using the downed timber, but this will not be easy. The procedures seem to mean that most of the downed timber will be left in the woods or moved illegally.

Any landowner cutting up more than 15 trees on his or her own property will need approval of the Administración Forestal del Estado, part of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación, according to Casa Presidencial.

Any downed trees being used by birds or animals are off limits, according to the decree announced Friday.

Any landowner who wants to take lumber to a sawmill would also need transportation permits from the forestry administration, the decree said.

The Ministero de Ambiente y Energía will set up rules for extracting timber on public land, said the decree.

The decree is valid in Upala, Guatuso, Los Chiles, Aguas Zarcas, Cutris and Pocosol in San Carlos; Río Cuarto in  Grecia and Peñas Blancas de San Ramón, all in Alajuela; Sarapiquí in Heredia; Bagaces and La Cruz in Guanacaste;

Casa Presidencial photo
There are thousands of downed trees like this one.

Osa, Golfito and Corredores in Puntarenas, and Pococí in Limón.

Getting the timber out of the forest has to be done with human or animal power or any other method that minimizes impact on the environment, said the decree.

There are a lot of additional rules in the decree, and those who want to cut timber need to see a full copy that was published in the La Gaceta official newspaper. The measure is Decreto Ejecutivo N° 40027-MP.

Agents grab shoes called fakes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial investigators have raided seven outlets and the warehouse of the chain bestbrands because part of the inventory is suspected of being misbranded. The complaint came from the local representative of a shoe manufacturer who said that shoes on display were counterfeit.

Agents said they confiscated more than 7,000 pairs in Paseo Colón, San José Centro, Calle Blancos, Guadalupe, Tibas, Moravia, Alajuela and two stores in Heredia.

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Boxes of suspected misbranded shoes were confiscated.

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A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page

San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 254
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Modified crop foes seek ruling government's application form
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Frente Amplio political party and environmental activists are seeking to set back government approval of a new type of cotton.

The political party said Friday that its legislative members had filed a Sala IV action saying that the form they used as part of its approval process is unconstitutional. The form does not contain a section where applicants state the possible environmental risks, the appeal said.

This is another battle against genetically modified crops. If the Sala IV finds that the application form is inadequate, Bayer S.A. probably would have to reapply to plant the cotton. The form is No. Bio-05, one of a handful that companies must fill out. This one is also published in a newspaper of general circulation, and the Sala IV appeal says that the public has not been adequately informed.

The same political party and the activist, the Federación Ecologista Costarricense, have filed similar appeals in the past, including one against Dow AgroSciences de Costa Rica S. A., which also sought to plant genetically modified crops.

As the environmental federation has noted, since 1991 nearly 10,000 hectares of genetically modified crops have been planted. The cotton and soybeans are cultivated mainly to produce seeds for export.

Consequently, the opponents to the modified crops would be
hard-pressed to attack the plantings on their merits because there does not seem to have been any problems. Instead, the attacks are leveled at the government procedures.

More applications are coming, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week that it had completed its evaluation of a variety of pineapple genetically engineered by Del Monte Fresh Produce to have pink flesh, concluding that there are no unresolved safety or regulatory questions about the pineapple. The company plans to plant these genetically modified pineapples in Costa Rica, the U.S. agency said.

The pineapple flesh is pink because researchers have engineered the plant to produce lower levels of an enzyme that converts the pink pigment to yellow, said the Food and Drug Administration.

Cotton is modified to resist herbicides and to resist insect pests.

Both Frente Amplio and the federation note that 74 of the country’s 81 cantons have declared themselves free of genetically modified crops. That does not apply to food products because nearly all the corn-based snack foods use modified corn grown in the United States. Those local declarations may not have an effect because the approval of modified crops comes from the Comisión Técnica Nacional de Bioseguridad of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía and the Ministerio de Salud have representatives on the technical commission. The government maintains an informational website on the subject, the Sistema digital para el manejo de información de Organismos Vivos Modificados.

Vacation, travel and hospitality

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Put Costa Rica on your walls
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The Relocation/Retirement tour with the

 (as reported by the moving companies)
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.

Meet many Expats who are willing to share their experiences and how the tour has value long after the “lust” wears off.
See how to choose a Retirement tour video by past guest!

Ask the others what you get for your money, and then compare the quality of accommodations, quality, quantity and variety of food and drink to measure the best value for your money. 

Learn how others “talk the talk” and learn who really can “walk the walk”

Please visit my Web site  to contact my references.
George Lundquist, retirement, relocation columnist, Guide & Developer/Builder.

George Lundquist

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 254
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U.S. economy’s third quarter
shows temporary growth spike

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate in the July to September quarter, the fastest pace in two years and more than the government had previously estimated. But the growth spurt isn't expected to last.

The gain in the gross domestic product, the economy's total output of goods and services, came from added strength in consumer spending, business investment and the government sector, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The government had previously estimated last quarter's annual growth rate at 3.2 percent.

The economy's acceleration last quarter marked a sharp pickup from the tepid annual growth of 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 1.4 percent in the second. Still, growth is expected to slow to a roughly 1.5 percent annual rate in the October to December quarter, reflecting in part less consumer spending and less business stockpiling.

Growth for the entire year, economists say, is likely to be around 1.5 percent. That would be down from 2.6 percent in 2015 and would be the weakest performance since the economy shrank 2.8 percent in 2009 at the depths of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. The recovery began in mid-2009, but growth has averaged just over 2 percent, the weakest expansion in the post-World War II period.

President-elect Donald Trump had criticized the sluggish pace of growth during the campaign and said his economic policies would accelerate annual GDP growth to 4 percent or better. To do that, Trump said he would eliminate many government regulations, boost spending on the nation's aging infrastructure and slash taxes.

Most economists don't think 4 percent growth is realistic, given a chronic slowdown in worker productivity and a slower-growing U.S. workforce due in part to retiring baby boomers.

Most forecasters expect growth of around 2.5 percent next year, though they say those estimates could rise if Trump wins congressional support for much of his economic program. Stock markets have risen sharply since Trump's election, partly a reflection of optimism that his proposals would boost growth and corporate profits.

Thursday's report was the government's third and final estimate of GDP growth for the July-September quarter. The upward revision mainly reflected stronger consumer spending, which grew at a 3 percent annual rate, more than the 2.8 percent pace that was estimated a month ago. Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

The Federal Reserve last week boosted a key interest rate by a quarter-point, just the second increase in the past decade. Fed officials say they think they can begin to gradually raise interest rates as they near their goals for full employment, and inflation increases by about 2 percent a year.

Trump's German bankers
settle $14 billion civil suit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Justice Department has settled a multi-billion-dollar civil lawsuit against Deutsche Bank, which ethics experts have cited as a potential conflict of interest for president-elect Donald Trump.

Germany’s largest bank is a major lender to Trump’s real estate empire, providing at least $364 million for Trump hotel and golf course developments in the last four years.

The Justice Department took Deutsche Bank to court, alleging it had defrauded investors into buying risky mortgage securities before the U.S. housing market collapse in 2008.

Deutsche Bank and the department have been in settlement talks for months. The case is one of two involving the bank that ethics experts say pose a dilemma for the incoming administration. The other is an ongoing inquiry into the bank’s role in enabling Russian investors to move billions of dollars out of that country using stock transactions called mirror trades.

In a statement released Friday, Deutsche Bank said it agreed to pay $7.2 billion, including a $3.1 billion penalty, or half the $14 billion the department had demanded to settle the mortgage security allegations. The agency has settled similar cases with other banks and filed a new one Thursday against Britain's Barclays Bank.

Deutsche Bank has long served as a dependable lender to the Trump Organization, the umbrella company for president-elect Trump’s myriad commercial real estate and other businesses.

According to a 2016 financial disclosure Trump filed with government ethics authorities in connection with his presidential run, his organization owes Deutsche Bank at least $364 million, including a $170 million loan to redevelop Washington’s Old Post Office Building for his line of Trump-branded luxury hotels.

Trump has said he'll hand over control of his company to his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump, Jr., but has resisted growing calls to put his assets in a blind trust while he serves in the White House. A press conference that had been scheduled to address the conflicts was postponed until next month.

Trump hopes to fold charity,
but New York says he can’t

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President-elect Donald Trump said Saturday he intends to dissolve his charitable foundation, which is currently under investigation in New York, in an effort to avoid any conflicts of interest before he takes office in January.

Trump gave no timeline for closing the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Since he won the presidential election, Trump's vast portfolio of business interests and his foundation have come under increased scrutiny.

"The foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children," Trump said in a statement Saturday, "However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways," it continued.

In October, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had ordered Trump's charitable foundation to immediately stop soliciting contributions because it was not registered in the state to seek public donations.

The state order followed a series of reports in The Washington Post that suggested improprieties by the foundation, including using its funds to settle legal disputes involving Trump businesses, and how much money he has actually given away.

Trump said he has directed his counsel to take the necessary steps to implement the charity's dissolution.

Saturday, however, Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman's office, said the president-elect cannot shutter the foundation while the investigation is ongoing.

"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," Ms. Spitalnick said,

Don’t cut umbilical cords
too quickly, doctors urged

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Doctors shouldn't be too hasty to cut the umbilical cords of babies who've just been delivered, a physicians group says.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in an opinion from its Committee on Obstetric Practice that was published on its website, said that instead of quickly clamping off the cord that connects the newborn to its placental sac, doctors should wait an additional 30 to 60 seconds. Those extra seconds for babies born at term are associated with an increase in hemoglobin levels in newborns, the statement said.

Hemoglobin is a red cell protein that carries oxygen throughout the body and improves iron stores for several months.

The statement said good hemoglobin levels prevent iron deficiency anemia during the first year of life. Iron deficiency has been linked to cognitive delays and impaired motor and behavioral development in the child.

Waiting several seconds more to clamp off the umbilical cord also has benefits for premature babies, the organization said. The practice improves circulation in the newborn just after birth and decreases the need for blood transfusion due to a decrease in red blood cell volume. In addition, delaying clamping lowers the risk of brain hemorrhage and intestinal disease.

While there are various recommendations for times to cut the cord, Maria Mascola, the lead author of the new guidance, said there is increasing evidence that waiting an additional 30 to 60 seconds to clamp the umbilical cord has clear health benefits.

Ms. Mascola said that the practice does not interfere with early care of the newborn, and that it does stimulate breathing and skin-to-skin bonding between mother and child immediately after birth.

The opinion issued by the group on delayed clamping noted that there is a slight risk of jaundice in the newborn. But the problem is manageable, and doctors and other health care professionals should have proper procedures in place to handle it.

Jaundice is a temporary yellowing of the newborn baby's skin and eyes because of excess bilirubin, a yellow pigment of red blood cells.

The group noted that delaying clamping does reduce the amount of blood from the newborn that is available for banking for future use, and families considering banking the blood should be counseled accordingly. Banked cord blood contains potentially lifesaving stem cells for use in the event that the infant becomes sick with leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell anemia, to name a few conditions.

Navarro, the new trade chief,
raises trade concerns in China

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President-elect Donald Trump's selection of China critic Peter Navarro as the head of a new White House position focusing on trade is being seen by many in China as confirmation that the Republican leader is determined to implement his election promises to impose trade restrictions on Chinese goods.

Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine who has been a fierce critic of China's trade and economic policies through books such as "Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — A Global Call to Action," which was also made into a documentary film.

Trump has praised Navarro's books, which accuse China's trade and other policies of harming the American middle class. Trump said he thought Navarro could chart a way to bring back jobs and boost American incomes.

But in China, the pick is being seen as a further sign of what could be a dramatic shift in U.S. policy under a Trump administration.

"Trump's Navarro pick is regarded as a signal that he will take more aggressive actions to promote his American-interests-first agenda. It's likely that the U.S. will adopt reckless trade protectionist policies in the future, causing changes to the pattern of the benefits distribution between the U.S. and other countries," Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party's organ, said late Thursday.

The state-run China Daily said Friday there is a real cause for concern.

The Chinese government itself is being cautious and is reluctant to reveal its plans for possible retaliatory actions.

Chinese economist Zhang Yunling was more frank about what may lay ahead.

"If Trump imposes high tariffs on Chinese goods, China will surely retaliate," said Zhang, a member of the National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, one of the two houses of the Chinese parliament. "The international system will be in danger if that happens."

Trump named Navarro to head the newly created White House National Trade Council, which the Trump transition team said would advise the president on innovative strategies in trade negotiations, coordinate with other agencies to assess U.S. manufacturing capabilities and the defense industrial base, and help match unemployed American workers with new opportunities in the skilled manufacturing sector.

During the election campaign, Trump promised a tougher stance toward China, vowing he would declare the country a currency manipulator and promising to impose a 45 percent tax on Chinese goods.

Proposals like that threaten to disrupt the U.S.-China trade relationship, and even lead some analysts to question whether a trade war could break out between the world's two largest economies.

Navarro has voiced support for Trump's tough proposals, including the proposed 45 percent tariff, though he and others have also suggested such proposals be viewed as the opening bid in a negotiation.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced a new challenge over Beijing's trade barriers to importing American rice, wheat and corn. The action at the World Trade Organization alleged that Beijing had structured complex import barriers to harm U.S. farmers. Also, the U.S. trade representative this week put China-based Alibaba Group's online shopping site, Taobao, on the blacklist of notorious marketplaces for allowing the sale of counterfeit goods.

The U.S. trade deficit with China stood at $42.6 billion in October 2016. Chinese officials think the deficit would give the next president sufficient opportunity to curb Chinese imports.

GOP zeros in on Obamacare
in the new legislative agenda

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Washington is bracing for a burst of legislative activity at the start of 2017. Topping the agenda for the Republican party, which will control both houses of Congress and the White House, is a full assault on President Barack Obama’s health care law that has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured Americans but failed to keep the cost of health care premiums in check.

Nearly seven years after Obamacare became law, a record number Americans have health insurance. More than six million have signed up this year alone, even as the law’s future has been in doubt. But not everyone is happy.

“Unfortunately, it’s not affordable,” said Pennsylvania retail worker Kristy Burgina. “Everybody’s health insurance, their health premiums keep going up, keep going up.”

Large premium increases were common before Obamacare. But the law’s premise that younger, healthier Americans would buy health care plans and offset the cost of insuring the elderly has not panned out. Major health insurance providers have dropped out of the program, with those remaining boosting premiums by an average of 25 percent for next year.

“We will repeal the disaster known as Obamacare and create new health care, all sorts of reforms that work for you and your family,” president-elect Donald Trump told supporters at a post-election rally last week.

Democrats insist Obamacare should be saved rather than scrapped.

“We want to try to improve the bill. We know it could be improved,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada earlier this month.

For years, Republicans promised to end Obamacare. Once Trump is president, they believe they will have their chance.

“We will move right after the first of the year on an Obamacare replacement resolution,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “And then we will work expeditiously to come up with a better proposal than current law. Doing nothing is not an option.”

Democrats note that, so far, Republicans have not provided exact details of their replacement plan. When pressed by reporters, Sen. McConnell would say only that a Republican proposal would be produced at a later date.

"What do you want to replace it with?” asked Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who will replace Reid as minority leader next year. “They can’t come up with an answer. We’re certainly not going to be part of this idea of repeal and put nothing in its place.”

Democrats are betting any Republican plan to replace Obamacare will anger just as many Americans as Obamacare itself.

Health care spending accounts for more than 17 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, which is the highest level in any advanced industrialized nation.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 254
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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
The jade vine becomes a reluctant parent

It’s amazing what a rainy season will do for your plants. We have a jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) that obscures part of the deck, then creeps across the interior roof and goes down to sprawl across the rosebushes. The inflorescence of the jade vine can be almost a meter long

Victoria Torley
and covered with blue green flowers that look a bit like Aladdin’s shoes with their turned up toes. It is an amazing flower. But in all the time that it has flowered for us I have never once seen a seed.

Now the jade vine is extremely difficult to propagate. I have tried
to propagate it with cuttings and with air layering but neither has worked. A friend of ours did take some cuttings and she says that three of them began to grow but I haven’t seen them (seeing is believing).

Before we got the vine, I was told that not every inflorescence produces a seed. This seemed very odd to me. Then about four weeks ago, I was exploring my jade vine trying to find a bird nest when I bumped into something that looked like a small hockey puck. From one side of the mini-puck there was a small sprout and the mini-puck was attached to the tree! Could this be a seed? I very carefully clipped it from the vine and put it in its own pot of dirt. Not a plastic bag, a real pot. Then we waited.

It took about a week, but the sprout began to grow. With all the beautiful rain and intermittent sunshine that we had had recently that mini-puck has grown about an inch (2.5 cm) a day every day. It is crawling up an old broom handle right now, but we have plans for a huge trellis.

Why huge? Well, remember that the inflorescence is almost a meter long. If you want a trellis you can walk through without banging into the inflorescence it has to be at least 10 feet tall. Metric Man is not happy.

The jade vine has turned into a project, and Metric Man does not like projects. He suggested that instead we simply build an open latticework somewhere and let the vine spread on its own. But if you look closely on the web, you will see jade vines on wide trellises, inflorescences dangling from an overhead series of latticework. They are magnificent and I have no intention of doing anything less. The trellis has been planned, 6 feet wide 12 feet long and 10 feet high. My jade vine will be very happy there.

I’m not too sure if happy will describe Metric Man.

A.M. Costa Rica/Victoria Torley

Plant of the Week

It may surprise you, but the poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is originally from Mexico and is found wild as far south as Guatemala. It became associated with Christmas in the 16th century in Mexico but wasn’t introduced into the U.S. until 1900. Wikipedia has a history of the plant’s association with the holiday and the family that made it a must have for Christmas. Me? I just love it that we can enjoy poinsettias all year ‘round.

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From Page 7:

Casa presidencial
Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad photo
Public employees gather to view the completed pool system.

Casa Presidencial wiring gets a major upgrade

By the A.M Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial, the executive branch office building in Zapote, has had an electrical makeover.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said it did the job after inspectors in 2012 and 2014 said the system was dangerously flawed.

The job included upgrades to telecommunications, said the state electric distributor.

No figures were mentioned when the state power distributor announced completion of the work. The current administration encourages work among government agencies because these are not subject to lengthy solicitations for bids.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad also said that a pool and fountain on the first floor of the structure was redone so that the water would be recycled.

Many expats do not realize that the pool takes up a big percentage of the first floor of the leased structure.