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(506) 2223-1327                     Published Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012,  in Vol. 12, No. 257                   Email us
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 What a headache!
injured
Photo by Rolf Sommer
The very adult croc took a sharp object to the head as he plied the Río Nosara near Santa Marta. Residents Angela and Rolf Sommer spotted the creature and expressed amazement that he still lives. They are certain he is in great
pain. Such crocodiles are not very amiable animals, and the injury is sure to make this one very ill-tempered. They are seeking environmental experts or a veterinarian to remove the object, if possible.


Part of U.S. facing snow and blizzard conditions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States and Canada are experiencing snow with blizzard warnings posted in the New England States and New York. But so far air flights here have not been affected seriously. United Airlines was late in flights from Newark, New Jersey, to Juan Santamaría airport and to Liberia's Daniel Oduber airport, but there was no confirmation that the delays were caused by weather.

There was snow Wednesday night over Utah and western Colorado as well as northern Nevada and southern Idaho. Another storm was passing over central Nebraska, southern South Dakota and western Wisconsin. There were pockets of snow along the eastern mountains but the big storm was in Pennsylvania, New York and the New England states. There also were coastal flood advisories posted. There were reports of freezing rain near Boston.

The U.S. National Weather Service said that additional heavy snowfall will be focused from Upstate New York and Lake Ontario into New England through tonight or Friday morning, where widespread accumulations over a foot are expected. As much as two feet of total snow was possible in central Maine, said the service. This will lead to hazardous travel conditions.

A reader sent a photo Wednesday of snow-covered Southern Illinois which saw snow Tuesday.

A.M. Costa Rica's wire services said that hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled, snarling
storm
                        clouds
National Aeronautics and Space Administration photo
 Storm clouds are seen on the east coast of the
 United States in this satellite image taken
 Wednesday afternoon.


plans for people traveling over the Christmas holiday.
Several deaths were reported after the storm swept through the southern United States on Christmas Day.

Tornadoes touched down in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, damaging homes and leaving tens of thousands of residents without power. The system also caused winter storms in Oklahoma, leading to a 21-car accident on a major interstate.

The fatalities include a 25-year-old man in Texas who was killed when a tree toppled onto his pickup truck, and a person in Oklahoma killed in a car crash on a snow-covered highway.

The Weather Service said that strong winds were expected around the Great Lakes and that travel would be difficult and hazardous.

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A.M. Costa Rica's  Second news page
San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 257
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Professional Directory
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.


Real estate agents and services

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Legal services

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6822-5/8/12
Our reader's opinion
Population problem is a ruse
to decrease minorities

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

I would like to address the misguided concerns of Mr. Herndon, where he calls for a significant decrease of world population in order to combat hunger and environmental damage. 

I encourage all readers to research the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, a movement of elitists mainly from the United States and Britain, who called for population control through contraception and sterilization (forced or voluntary). 

Whereas the beginning of the eugenics movement had "purity of the race" as its objective, after the horrors of the holocaust (the logical conclusion of eugenics), the movement was rebranded as a way to save the environment.

The overall philosophy of the eugenics movement has always been the same — there are too many brown and black people in this world (Latin America and Africa, specifically), not to mention the poor of every race. 

Human life is being reduced to economics whereas their right to life is weighed against our desire to maintain our way of life, for most people who call for population control have not applied those same restrictions on their own lives. For instance, Ted Turner is an advocate for a worldwide one-child policy although he has five children.

There are poor and hungry people in this world because of warfare, famine, and selfishness. Stopping people from reproducing is much easier than asking ourselves to change our ways or to go without a particular comfort or "toy" in exchange for sending that money to help the poor.  The truth is that study after study has shown that nearly every nation is experiencing a demographic winter, with their replacement rates much lower than the needed 2.33 children per household. 

The overpopulation alarm was first rung in the mid-1800s and repeated again in the late 20th century, and yet a significant portion of the Western world has not experienced these "inevitable" food shortages; we (especially in the U.S.) are the fattest we've ever been.  Time after time, the overpopulation alarmists have been proven wrong because we've never produced as much food, we've never been so obese, and we've never been so rich as the West is right now.  Therefore, eugenicists have latched onto the environmentalist movement because the claims are mostly unverifiable. For every research paper that "proves" climate change is man-made, there are papers that claim it's a natural occurrence.  In the meantime, they all tend to agree that the cause is from poor minorities having too many babies.

Simply put, we can help the poor by reducing how materialistic we are in the West, offering alms to lift them out of their poverty.  Instead of spending billions of dollars in sending them contraception, those billions can be used to provide them medicine and clean water, to build them schools and hospitals, to teach them modern farming techniques, and to help them construct a viable and modern infrastructure. 

We can indeed learn how to live in an environmentally-responsible manner, being good stewards of the environment instead of exploiting it for wealth and selfish control of resources.  But blaming human life as the source of the world's ills is misguided and faulty.  God asked us to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth, but He also asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Preventing our neighbor from being born is not love, it's the very definition of selfishness and must be rejected.  The problems we are facing are due to human life, it's from our narcissistic behavior.
Jason A. Edwards
South Bound Brook, New Jersey
 
 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
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, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 257
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Baptist Church

Tope
                scenes
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Thousands risked sunburn Wednesday to view or participate in the 2012 Tope Nacional that brought thousands of horses and riders to the downtown. There even were buffalo being ridden and pulling carts. There was less beer in evidence this year despite partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 80s or about 27 C. Public drinking is
supposed to be illegal now. Participants from the Tesoro del Mar tuna brand had problems with a balky horse pulling its wagon. While East met West as horse and riders passed the new city landmark, the entrance to Calle Chino. The best seats were at a local bar in front of a wide-screen television with the air conditioning on high.


Anti-drug stategists think Caribbean will see more trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Regional anti-drug officials are trying to anticipate a shift in drug trafficking to the Caribbean.

Although there have been some smuggling crafts detected east of Costa Rica, the majority of cocaine moves from South America by sea and overland mainly along Pacific routes.

Currently, traffickers have much less of a presence in the Caribbean compared to other parts of the region, according to a recent U.S. Senate report, cited by the U.S. Southern Command.  But in a region suffering economic instability, some nations lack modern equipment and capabilities to patrol the vast waters in their area, the military agency said.

The Southern Command and anti-drug forces of a number of countries are engaged in Operation Martillo, which is designed to disrupt networks and trafficking routes, the command noted. Consequently, U.S. officials said they expect that traffickers will make shifts in their activities to what they call more permissive environments.

The traditional Caribbean drug smuggling routes are far from the Costa Rican coastline, although a semi-submersible craft  was stopped Dec. 4  about 40 miles off the Caribbean coast at Sixaola.

Anti-drug agents also have found stashes of cocaine on an island just offshore from Limón Centro and on beaches in extreme northeastern Costa Rica.

The amount still is small compared to the quantity of drugs moving via Pacific routes.

The Southern Command said that defense and security leaders from 15 nations, including the United States, met this month for an annual Caribbean region security conference, and the main topic of discussion was the strengthening of multinational security efforts so that traffickers can’t effectively shift operations to the Caribbean — a favorite corridor for the movement of drugs three decades ago.
 
At the conclusion of the conference, participating nations committed to the implementation of a Caribbean Counter Illicit
Trafficking Strategy and took steps in the development of a Caribbean maritime security initiative, said the Southern Command.

The effort involves the development of a joint, regional strategy to disrupt transnational organized crime networks that include the illicit trafficking of drugs, humans and weapons in the waters of the Caribbean, said the Southern command.

The U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South is the organization responsible for overseeing U.S. detection and monitoring operations and interdiction of illicit trafficking in a 42 million-square-mile area with the support, cooperation and participation of international partners, officials noted. Part of this area is off the Costa Rican coasts.

Charles Michel said that a specific part of Operation Martillo is to sense changes in trafficking trends and then immediately shift assets into those areas “to never allow the traffickers to have the initiative again.” He is a U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral and director of the joint task force.
 
The United States has a program of providing patrol boats and other gear to countries, including Costa Rica, along the drug trafficking routes.

An example of the international efforts was the capture of the semi-submersible. 

A U.S. patrol plane crew alerted Costa Rican and Panamanian law enforcement and set off an international collaboration that ended in the sinking of the semi-submersible drug ship and the death of its captain, said security officials at the time.

Three men on the craft were saved by the Costa Rican Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, whose patrol boat, "Punta Burica 65-4" was first on the scene. Later a U.S. craft arrived as well as one from Panamá. Since the sinking happened in waters of Panamá, the three suspects and some 74 kilos of cocaine found floating near the scene were turned over to law enforcement in Panamá. Most of the cocaine sunk with the boat, officials said.

This was a typical operation when U.S. patrol planes of vessels locate the smugglers and drive them inshore into the hands of patrol crews of participating countries.


Here's what's open and what's closed for the New Year's holiday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is a list of what is open and what is closed for the holidays.

Museo de Jade
The country's jade museum will be closed to Jan. 2.  For more information call 2287-6034.

Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica
The central bank museums located underneath Plaza de la Cultura will be closed New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  The museums will be open normal hours from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. on other days.

Museo Nacional
Museo Nacional will be closed New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  It will be open today through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Teatro Nacional
Teatro Nacional is closed.  It will reopen New Year's Day.

Museo de Arte Costarricense
The Museo de Arte Costarricense will be closed until Jan. 2.

Poder Judicial
The administrative offices of Poder Judicial  are closed until  Jan. 7.  All other offices are open except New Year's Day, Jan. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.   However, New Year's Eve the offices will only open in the mornings. 

Municipalidad de San José
The administrative offices for the San José municipality will be closed until Jan. 7.  Special sections such as business licensing, construction, Policia Municipal, cobros, cemetery services, street cleaning and park guards will only close Christmas and New Year's Day.   For more information, call 2547-6000.

Municipalidad de Escazú
The Escazú municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Curridabat
The Curridabat municipality will be closed on  Jan. 1.  For more information, call 2272-0126.

Municipalidad de Liberia, Guanacaste
The Liberia municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz municipality will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Carrillo, Guanacaste
The Carrillo municipality in Guanacaste will be closed until Jan. 7. 

Municipalidad de Montes de Oca (including San Pedro)
The Montes de Oca municipality will be closed New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  For more information, call 2280-5589.

Banco Nacional
Banco Nacional will be closed New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  The Desamparados branch will be closed today for the carnival in that canton.  For more information, call 2212-2000.

Banco de Costa Rica
Bank employees will maintain normal hours until Saturday. The bank will be closed Jan. 1.

Pricesmart
Pricesmart will be closed New Year's Day.  For this holiday week it will have revised hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A.M. Costa Rica
The country's most successful English-language newspaper will publish every weekday except New Year's Day and will update readers on the Web site and by email in case of emergencies. The Barrio Otoya offices are closed and will reopen Jan. 2. In case of emergencies, the number 8832-5564 will be available the entire vacation.

Despite the office being closed, advertising will be accepted as well as news items and tips. All emails will be monitored, but the preferred address is editor@amcostarica.com.

U.S. Embassy
The American Embassy will be closed New Year's Day.  For the rest of the holiday season the embassy will be open its regular hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Instituto Nacional de Seguros
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros will be closed until New Year's Day.  Health services will be closed New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.  However the services for Casa de Salud and call centers will not close.  Services will return to the regular hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 2.

Farmacia Sucre
Farmacia Sucre will be closed New Year's Day. The rest of the holiday season the pharmacy will follow its normal schedule of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Walmart
Walmart will not close for the holidays but will have special hours. Until Dec. 30, the store will operate its normal hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. On New Year's Eve, the store will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on New Year's Day the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Multiplaza
The Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be closed New Year's Day.  On New Year's Eve the Multiplaza will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad
The 112 agencies of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will have normal hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except that they will be closed New Year's Day. An exception is the the agency in Sabana Norte that will be closed to Jan. 7. Agencies in commercial centers, such as Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be open during the times established by the mall management. The bulk of the telephone services like international calls, electrical outages and other services will be in operation 24 hours a day.


Episcopal Parish of The Good Shepherd
Anglican/Episcopal services:
Friday, Holy Innocents 2 p.m. bilingual service.
Sunday, Dec. 30, first Sunday of Christmas: English 8:30 a.m.
         and Español 11 a.m.
Monday, Dec. 31, New Year's Eve: Bilingual 6 p.m.
The Church of the Good Shepherd is on Avenida 4 between Calles 3 and 5 opposite the Colegio Superior de Señoritas. Further information is available via e-mail to pbuenpastor@hotmail.com or by calling 2222-1560.

International Baptist Church
The Guachipelín, Escazú, church will hold a concert at 4 p.m. Dec. 31.

Del Rey nightlife

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
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Unhappy Flamingo residents get less action than they had hoped
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court stopped short of shutting down the annual Playa Flamingo New Year's party that is expected to bring in more than 5,000 people for seven days.

The Asociación Pro Mejoras de Flamingo sought relief from the constitutional court, but in a preliminary order released Friday and sent to reporters by the association, the court simply told officials to keep an eye on the event.

Residents are irked by the continual noise, the boisterous crowds, the trash and the blockage of a main access road.

The location is the Bar Restaurant Ambares, but that business
 has leased its facilities to a San José party organization, which brings in the young crowd.

Hotel owners say that they are losing business because the upscale tourists who frequent places like Flamingo are not happy with the noise.

The Sala IV preliminary order said that health officials should keep an eye on pollution, environmental damage and the obstruction of the public right-of-way.

Unhappy residents also are expected to be documenting what transpires at the long-running party. Although they were unable to half the party this year, presumably the Sala IV will use the evidence gathered to adjudicate the case.


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A.M. Costa Rica's
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George H.W. Bush remains
hospitalized in Houston


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Doctors in the southern U.S. city of Houston, Texas say former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care and in guarded condition at the Methodist Hospital.

The 88-year-old Bush is battling what doctors call a stubborn fever. He entered the hospital last month with a severe cough.

Bush served one term as U.S. president from 1989 until 1993, after spending eight years as Ronald Reagan's vice president. He led the international coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

He is the father of the 43rd president, George W. Bush.


China takes new steps
to control Internet postings

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

China may require Internet users to register with their real names when signing up to network providers, state media said Tuesday, extending a policy already in force with microblogs in a bid to curb what officials call rumors and vulgarity.

A law being discussed this week would mean people would have to present their government-issued identity cards when signing contracts for fixed line and mobile internet access, state-run newspapers said.

"The law should escort the development of the Internet to protect people's interest," Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily said in a front page commentary, echoing similar calls carried in state media over the past week.

"Only that way can our Internet be healthier, more cultured and safer."

Many users say the restrictions are clearly aimed at further muzzling the often scathing, raucous — and perhaps most significantly, anonymous — online chatter in a country where the Internet offers a rare opportunity for open debate.

It could also prevent people from exposing corruption online if they fear retribution from officials, said some users.

It was unclear how the rules would be different from existing regulations as state media has provided only vague details and in practice customers have long had to present identity papers when signing contracts with Internet providers.

Earlier this year, the government began forcing users of Sina Corp's wildly successful Weibo microblogging platform to register their real names.

The government says such a system is needed to prevent people making malicious and anonymous accusations online and that many other countries already have such rules.

"It would also be the biggest step backwards since 1989," wrote one indignant Weibo user, in apparent reference to the 1989 pro-democracy protests bloodily suppressed by the army.

Chinese Internet users have long had to cope with extensive censorship, especially over politically sensitive topics like human rights, and popular foreign sites Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube are blocked.

Despite periodic calls for political reform, the ruling Communist Party has shown no sign of loosening its grip on power and brooks no dissent to its authority.


Chávez reported better
and continuing to improve


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro has reassured the nation that ailing President Hugo Chávez continues to recover from cancer surgery.

While touring a pediatric hospital in the capital, Caracas, Sunday Maduro told reporters that Chavez's health is improving with each day.

"Our commander Hugo Chávez is receiving our prayers and those prayers are helping the work being done by the medical group - which we can say is the best in the world from the scientific, academic and clinical practice point of view," Maduro said. "That is where the convergence that has precisely allowed for those difficult and complex moments to pass and to be improving towards a process of recuperation that fills us with joy.''

Chavez underwent a six-hour surgical procedure nearly two weeks ago in Havana, Cuba, his fourth since he was diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011.  He has never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer.

This latest re-occurrence was discovered following the 58-year-old socialist leader's overwhelming re-election back in October.  Chávez named Maduro as his successor if he is unable to resume his duties.  The president is scheduled to be sworn in to a new six-year term in office on Jan. 10.

Under the country's constitution, if the president dies or is declared incapacitated, a new presidential election must be held within 30 days.  But Diosdado Cabello, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, said Saturday he will not call for a new election if Chavez is unable to be sworn in. 

Opposition leaders believe they would have a better chance against Vice President Maduro in a new election than the charismatic Chávez.

Some Chávez critics believe the Supreme Court, which is run by allies of the president, will allow him to extend his current term without being sworn-in until he fully recovers.
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asparagus
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One would probably want to skip the white wine.

Koreans nominate asparagus
as a super hangover cure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

New Year's Eve is the night of the amateur drinkers, so New Year's morning can be a grim time for them.

But help is on the way. The Institute of Food Technologists says it has an antidote to hangovers.

The amino acids and minerals found in asparagus extract may alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells against toxins, it said. Asparagus also has antifungal, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties, said the institute.

The original work by the Institute of Medical Science and Jeju National University in Korea saw publication in 2009. But the institute dusted off the summary and issued it as a press release in anticipation of all that excessive drinking next Monday night.

Chronic alcohol use causes oxidative stress on the liver as well as unpleasant physical effects associated with a hangover. “Cellular toxicities were significantly alleviated in response to treatment with the extracts of asparagus leaves and shoots,” says B. Y. Kim, the study's lead author. “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.”

Having a steaming plate of asparagus Tuesday morning would seem to be a pleasant alternative to some of the other hangover remedies, which run from raw eggs to a bloody mary.

The famed Mayo Clinic said that as a general rule, the more alcohol someone drinks, the more likely he or she is to have a hangover the next day. But there's no magic formula to tell you how much an individual can safely drink and still avoid a hangover, it said.

However unpleasant, most hangovers go away on their own, though they can last up to 24 hours, said the clinic, urging individuals to drink responsibly.



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U.S. financial deadline draws near

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Less than a week remains before a still-recovering U.S. economy confronts a draconian austerity regime of automatic, across-the-board tax increases and deep cuts to federal spending.  Hopes of averting the so-called fiscal cliff by Jan. 1 are dimming with each passing day.

Call it Washington’s version of "Mission Impossible."

​​A politically-divided and chronically-gridlocked Congress has just days to forge a deficit reduction package acceptable to legislators of both parties and President Barack Obama.  The package would have to pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law by midnight New Year’s Eve, or the United States will, indeed, step off the fiscal cliff.

In other words, Washington must accomplish in a few days what years of intensive negotiations have failed to produce: a blueprint for stabilizing America’s runaway national debt, which stands at $16 trillion and is projected to top $20 trillion in a few years.

“I do not want us to go over the cliff.  I want to find a solution," said Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, on Fox News Sunday.

His words were echoed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, on ABC’s This Week program.

“It is time to get back to the table,” she said.

For more than a month, negotiations were led by President Obama, a Democrat, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner.  Now, Boehner has all but removed himself from the talks.  After failing to narrow differences with Obama, Boehner last week sought to pass legislation on his own that would save all but millionaires from a federal tax increase.  But ultra-conservative Republicans refused to back the measure, and Boehner canceled the vote and adjourned the House until further notice.  Boehner said the burden of forging a deal now falls to President Obama and Senate leaders.

The Senate convenes today and presumably will stand ready to vote on any deal that may materialize.  Some Senate Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, say they would be willing to vote for higher taxes on top earners, as Democrats demand.

“I would vote for revenues, including tax rate hikes, even though I do not like them, to save the country from becoming Greece,” he said.

Graham spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press program.  Meanwhile, some Democratic senators, like Amy Klobuchar, advocate a large-scale deal that addresses taxes as well as federal spending, including reforms to costly programs that provide health care and other benefits to retirees.

“I would love to see a bigger deal.  I would like nothing more, and there are always miracles," she said. "It is Christmas.”

Before heading to Hawaii for a Christmas vacation, President Obama suggested a scaled-back package of tax relief for America’s middle class may be the only remaining viable option ahead of the fiscal cliff.

“There is absolutely no reason, none, not to protect these Americans from a tax hike,” he said.

Some political analysts believe lawmakers will find the political will to compromise only after Jan. 1, when they will face the wrath of constituents angry over higher taxes and lower take-home pay combined with reduced government services brought on by federal spending cuts.  In the meantime, financial markets could be thrown into turmoil, consumers may limit spending, and businesses may scale back operations in anticipation of austerity measures, putting the nation’s fragile economic recovery at risk.


Starbucks CEO speaks out on impasse

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Starbucks Corp will use its ubiquitous coffee cups to tell U.S. lawmakers to come up with a deal to avoid going over the fiscal cliff of automatic tax hikes and government spending cuts.
 
Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write ``come together'' on customers' cups today and Friday, as President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday.
 
Whether members of Congress actually drink in the message is another matter. While the concentration of Starbucks cafes is high in the vicinity of the White House, it's relatively low near the U.S. Capitol. Members of the House and Senate enjoy private dining facilities, and many of their offices have coffee machines.
 
Starbucks' cup campaign aims to send a message to sharply divided politicians and serve as a rallying cry for the public in the days leading up to the Jan. 1 deadline to avert harsh across-the-board government spending reductions and tax increases that could send the United States back into recession.
 
"We're paying attention, we're greatly disappointed in what's going on and we deserve better," Schultz said.
 
The CEO said he has joined a growing list of high-powered business leaders, politicians and financial experts in endorsing the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a well-funded non-partisan group that is leaning on lawmakers to put the United States' financial house in order.
 
Starbucks plans to amplify its "come together'' message via new and old media, including Twitter and Facebook posts, coverage on AOL's local news Web sites and advertisements in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
 
If the talks do not progress, "we will make this much bigger," Schultz said of the messaging campaign, which he said is voluntary for cafe employees.
 
Given the number of Starbucks cafes in the Washington area and the number of workers on Capitol Hill, "I wouldn't be surprised if a cup of 'come together' finds its way into the White House and into the speaker's house,'' Schultz said in reference to Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who are at the center of the fiscal cliff talks.
 
"Our political system is not functioning in a way that is representative of what the country needs," he said. "This is the one time where politics should be put aside and what we're witness to is the exact opposite."
 
Schultz recently led the world's biggest coffee chain through a painful but successful restructuring that returned it to growth. He is no stranger to using Starbucks as a platform to advocate for an end to the political stalemate in Washington.
 
During the debt ceiling debate in August 2011, he made a splash by calling for a boycott of political contributions to U.S. lawmakers until they struck a fair and bipartisan deal on the country's debt, revenue and spending.
 
"We are facing such dysfunction, irresponsibility and lack of leadership" less than two years after the debt ceiling crisis, Schultz said.
 
Washington narrowly avoided a U.S. government default, but not before down-to-the-wire wrangling prompted the country's first-ever debt rating downgrade.
 
"There is something so wrong that we can be here again and not have the ability to put party aside for the betterment of the country," said Schultz. "We have the same language and rhetoric. Unfortunately we aren't learning much."


Weather hampers sowing in Argentina

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Christmas rainstorms in Argentina further delayed soy and corn planting, keeping markets guessing about whether the grains powerhouse can produce enough this season to help bring high-flying global food prices down to earth.
 
The South American country is the world's No. 2 corn exporter after the United States and its No. 1 soyoil and soymeal supplier. But sowing in the central Pampas farm belt lags last season's tempo by about 20 percentage points, said Tomas Parenti, an agronomist with the Rosario grains exchange.
 
Up to 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) of rain fell late on Monday and early Tuesday, forcing some growers once again to park their seeding machines lest they sink in the mud.
 
Any more harsh rains at this point — following an unusual August-October wet spell that turned prime Argentine farmland into unplantable mush — will add to the problem, Parenti said.
 
"There is excessive moisture in low-lying areas throughout the central farm belt," he said, referring to an area including parts of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Cordoba provinces.
 
Benchmark Chicago soy futures are up 20 percent over the last 12 months, with corn up 9 percent and wheat 22 percent.

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