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(506) 2223-1327                    Published Monday, Dec. 31, 2012,  in Vol. 12, No. 259                   Email us
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Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica graphic 
Each dot represents a 2012 earthquake epicenter.
This year saw double the usual number of quakes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In this year, 2012, Costa Rica experienced double the normal amount of earthquakes.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica said that there were 11,049 quakes detected this year compared with 5,483 in 2011 and 6,245 in 2010.

And the scientists said that there were 115 events that were characterized as felt earthquakes.

The Observatorio said these are quakes greater than 2.0 magnitude.

In addition, the Observatorio, which is an agency of the Universidad Nacional in Heredia, said that the Sept. 5 quake at Sámara this year was the second most powerful one in Costa Rica's history. The quake registered a magnitude of 7.6. That is surpassed only by the 1950 Nicoya quake that had a
7.8 magnitude, said the Observatorio. Other quakes  did more damage and took more lives, but simply in magnitude, these are the two greatest.

The effects of the Sept. 5 quake can be seen clearly in the number of felt quakes by month. Typically there are from five to seven such quakes a month. But in September there were 28 felt quakes, and in October there were 20, said the Observatorio. November saw 21, but the number dropped to six in December, according to the report.

In fact, there have been slightly more quakes because the Observatorio report was prepared by Floribeth Vega Solano and Victor González Salas on Dec. 10, and it predates quakes since then. There were nine felt quakes from Friday through Sunday, for example.

The bulk of the felt quakes were along the Pacific coast and in the central mountains. Most are the result of subduction of the Coco tectonic plate under the lighter Caribbean plate on which Costa Rica rides.

Plenty of locations are ready today to accept marchamo payments
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A number of agencies will be open today to receive payments of vehicle circulation tax. And Servimás said its agencies would be open New Year's Day in Walmart and some supermarkets.

The Instituto National de Seguros said it would be open today for payments of the marchamo from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Banks and even the Instituto National de Seguros are accepting payments online, but that means motorists  will have to pick up the paperwork and windshield sticker after Jan. 1.
Some private banks will be open today, although Banco Nacional said it would not be. However, the bank Web site still is available for payment.

Those who pay by Jan. 1 avoid fines and surcharges for being tardy.

Sometimes the lines at payment windows are challenging. One office connected with lawyers and fiduciaries is open today 150 meters west of the rear door of Mall San Pedro.  There is likely to be a small or no line.

Some points of payment are even holding raffles to encourage customers.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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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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Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía  
y Segruidad Pública photo  
These are the dynamite sticks police confiscated.

As New Year approaches,
police find more explosives

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are some serious fireworks out there.

Fuerza Pública officers said they confiscated what they described as 27 quarter sticks of dynamite at a checkpoint in La Unión Saturday.

The dynamite has to be the most heavy duty confiscation yet this year. However, police also have found plenty of fireworks at supermarkets and small stores.

Selling, transporting or storing fireworks is a major crime this year, thanks to changes in the law. The two men found transporting there dynamite could face up to two to five years under the law.

Police are more interested in preventing injuries, mainly to children. They are involved in a campaign with the Hospital de Niños where seriously injured youngsters end up.
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, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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Fuerza Pública makes a dent in the Flamingo holiday party
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers moved in Saturday afternoon to crack down on open beer cans and a blocked road in Flamingo.

Officers caused an exodus of young men and women who came to the Pacific beach town for a five-day party, called Sonambulo Pscicotropico.

Residents who oppose the party have filed complaint after complaint. But Sunday they were happy in that the throng of partygoers had been reduced significantly.

Until the police arrived, residents voiced via email a litany of complaints. The party did not have sanitary facilities sufficient for the crowd, and visitors were using the street as a bathroom, they said. In addition, the residents provided photos of a tent set up off the street in the mangroves, a clear violation of environmental rules.

Ulrik N. Oldenburg, in his capacity as secretary of the Asociacion Pro Mejoras Playa Flamingo, said he was starting a publicity campaign with the Spanish-language newspapers in an effort to get justice. The association filed a Sala IV appeal, but the constitutional court, in a preliminary ruling, only asked public officials and agencies to observe the long-running party. Oldenburg, a former hotel manager, and others also complain about the continual noise and the implications for tourism.

The party centers on the Ambares drinking establishment, but with a crowd like the 5,000 persons who partied last year, most of the activity is in the public street. A private firm is sponsoring the party and using the Ambares facilities.

That was what happened Friday, and residents sent photos of the crowd blocking the street. Similar photos from Saturday show a much more subdued event with far fewer participants.
That was the result of the Fuerza Pública enforcement of the public drinking laws.

When police arrived Saturday afternoon, they prohibited parking on the public streets near the event and zeroed in on coolers full of beer that had been set up on the roadway, said residents.

Many party participants left, and many were turned away before they arrived, residents said. Police confiscated open containers and dumped the contents. In some cases, this drew angry responses from the beer drinkers. The music still was loud Saturday night and into early Sunday, but the crowd was much smaller, residents said.

Police in the past had been reluctant to interfere with the event, perhaps because they feared a riot. But residents credit the Sala IV provisional ruling as having spurred the police into action.
This was the crowd Friday night.

tent in
Partygoers have a tent set up in the mangroves.

Youngster appears to object to the actions of police.

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 until Wednesday. 

Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica
The central bank museums located underneath Plaza de la Cultura will be closed today, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. 

Museo Nacional
Museo Nacional will be closed today, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

Teatro Nacional
Teatro Nacional is closed today.

Museo de Arte Costarricense
The Museo de Arte Costarricense will be closed until Wednesday.

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, today, 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 for 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. 

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 today, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. 

Banco Nacional
Banco Nacional will be closed today, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. 
A.M. Costa Rica
The country's most successful English-language newspaper will not publish New Year's Day, but stafffers will update readers on the Web site and by email in case of emergencies. The Barrio Otoya offices are closed and will reopen Wwednesday. In case of emergencies, the number 8832-5564 is available.

Pricesmart will be closed New Year's Day.

U.S. Embassy
The American Embassy will be closed New Year's Day. 

Instituto Nacional de Seguros
The Instituto Nacional de Seguros will be closed through New Year's Day. 

Farmacia Sucre
Farmacia Sucre will be closed New Year's Day.

Walmart will not close for the holidays but will have special hours. Today, 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.

The Centro Comercial Multiplaza Escazú will be closed New Year's Day.  Today, New Year's Eve, 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 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:
Today, 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 or by calling 2222-1560.

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

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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Senate OKs again warrantless intercepts of overseas messages
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension that allows the U.S. government to intercept, record and file telephone calls and email messages of expats overseas and U.S. citizens communicating to points outside the United States.

That is part of the 2008 amendment added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that was soon to expire. The extension is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.

The Senate took the action even though some lawmakers argued that there is no adequate oversight procedures in place. That also is the argument of the Electronic Privacy Information Center that seeks to have increased transparency and new public reporting of the government's surveillance activities. Under current law, U.S. citizens overseas may never know that the U.S. government is spying on them until they are charged with a crime.

That was one of the central arguments when a host of civil rights and privacy organizations carried a case to the U.S. Supreme Court at the end of October.

The case is James R. Clapper, Jr., vs. Amnesty International. Clapper is director of national intelligence. The retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general is basically the coordinator of U.S. intelligence-gathering activities.

The current Supreme Court case is not about the constitutionality of the law, just the right of the individuals to bring a legal challenge. In addition to rights and privacy organizations, some news reporters and lawyers are seeking to challenge the amendment.

The U.S. government's lawyer, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., solicitor general, argued that in order to have standing to bring a challenge to the law a person would have to get notice that the government intends to introduce information in a proceeding against them, according to a transcript of the oral arguments before the court. That's because the intelligence community will not notify persons who are being monitored.

He also said that there is a possibility that if the court ruled in
favor of the challengers that the government would halt the litigation by calling the information state secrets.

Some justices expressed concern that the law gives the government the right to eavesdrop on lawyers and their discussions with foreign clients who face terrorist charges.

Jameel Jaffers, the lawyer for Amnesty, said that "plaintiffs  have standing here because there is a substantial risk that their communications will be acquired under the act and because this substantial risk has effectively compelled them to take immediate measures to protect information that is sensitive or privileged. Plaintiffs are lawyers, journalists and human rights researchers who routinely engage in communications that the act is designed to allow the government to acquire." The quote comes from the transcript.

The plaintiffs claim the law violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment because it allows surveillance without a judicial warrant. Warrants are required to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens within the United States, and a special court has been set up to issue such warrants in terrorism cases.

The original article stemmed from the Bush administration admission that it was illegally conducting surveillance without warrants. The measure was designed to make that legal in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Senate vote Friday was 73 to 23. The same body rejected a clause that would have required the U.S. government to at least provide statistics on how many U.S. citizens were being monitored.

The 2008 measure and the extension basically allows the U.S. government to monitor U.S. citizens when they communicate electronically overseas.

Although the U.S. government says it is using the eavesdropping power selectively in terrorism cases, privacy advocates argue that the acres of computers maintained by U.S. intelligence-gathering operations are recording every overseas telephone call and email message. The National Security Agency is expected to open a new $2 billion surveillance facility in Utah this year.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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Obama pledges major effort
to curb violence with guns

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. President Barack Obama is pledging to put the full weight of the White House behind efforts to curb American gun violence.

Obama said Sunday, in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, an assault two weeks ago at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children and six adults dead was the worst day of his four-year presidency.

The president said he would rally Americans behind proposals to increase background checks on people trying to buy guns and ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.  Vice President Joe Biden is to head a panel to develop legislation aimed at ending mass shootings in the United States, where gun ownership rights are enshrined in the country's Constitution.

Obama said new curbs on gun ownership will be controversial, but the United States has to decide whether it has the resolve to adopt more controls, rather than let the memory of the schoolhouse attack fade as time passes.

"The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away," he said.  "It certainly will not feel like that to me.  This is something that — you know, that was the worst day of my presidency.  And it's not something that I want to see repeated."

But Obama said he was skeptical of a call by the nation's most prominent gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, to put armed guards in all of the nearly 100,000 public schools in the United States.

"I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem,'' he said.

On another issue, the president said there were "severe problems in diplomatic security" that led to the Sept. 11 killing of four U.S. envoys at the country's consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  He said the assault is still under investigation, but declined to say who U.S. officials believe carried out the attack.

Mrs. Clinton being treated
for blood clot from fall

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been hospitalized with a blood clot after a recent concussion.

The State Department says Mrs. Clinton's doctors found the clot in a follow-up exam Sunday. They said it was connected to the concussion she suffered after a fall several weeks ago.

Mrs. Clinton is being treated with anti-clotting medication at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. She is expected to remain there under observation for the next two days.

The statement said Mrs. Clinton's doctors will continue to assess her condition and determine if any further action is required.

Mrs. Clinton has been ill in recent weeks, struggling with a stomach virus that forced her to cancel some public appearances and travel plans. On Dec. 21, she became dehydrated and fainted, suffering a concussion in the fall.

Until Sunday, she had been recovering at home.

U.S. issues strong warning
on crime, disease in Haiti

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Americans living in or traveling to Haiti, citing numerous hazards, including murder, robbery and infectious disease, mainly in the Port-au-Prince area. 

The advisory issued Friday said "no one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age." 

The warning said recent travelers have been attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince airport.

At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents this year.

The warning said Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate violent acts, or prosecute assailants.

The advisory says cholera persists in many areas of the country. 

The warning encouraged visitors to Haiti to purchase evacuation insurance because some travelers to Haiti who have been injured in accidents or have other serious health concerns have not been able to find medical care in Haiti.  They end up having to pay for medical evacuation to the U.S.

The advisory described ambulance services in Haiti as particularly weak.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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Woman's Club sets book sale
for its educational programs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Women’s Club of Costa Rica will hold its used book and bake sale Jan. 19.

This is the fundraiser where the Women's Club generates money for its various educational programs.

Said the club: All proceeds will go to community programs funded by the Women’s Club of Costa Rica, a philanthropic organization supporting education through scholarships and development of school libraries for children in Costa Rica.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pan-American School, 300 meters south of El Rodeo Hotel/Restaurant, San Antonio de Belén.

The club said that visitors can browse for gently used books, DVDs, CDs and current magazines: treasures that you always wanted but never got round to purchasing, or that you never even knew existed.  They can nibble on home-made sweets while you shop, and then take home some delicious, freshly-baked goods along with your favorite authors and new finds.

The club also is interested in receiving donations of books, DVDs and CDs in advance of the event, it said. It said it also will accept board games, puzzles and current magazines in good condition and even monetary donations.

Founded in 1940, the Women's Club is one of the longest continuously operating community service organizations in Costa Rica. The club has an English-speaking membership of 300 women of all ages and nationalities representing 25 countries of the world.

For more information and convenient drop-off locations those interested can call 2589-2037 or visit

Major road repair project
will begin this Wednesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national road agency said contractors will begin replacing the concrete with asphalt on Ruta 32 north of San José Wednesday.

This is a 2.6 billion colon ($5.2 million) job that will take three months. The work area is from the heavily traveled intersection near the offices of La República, the financial newspaper, to the bridge over the Río Virilla.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes and its Consejo Nacional de Vialidad are encouraging motorists to use alternate routes.

The job will be in six stages and covers more than five kilometers. The four lanes of the highway are involved.

Some 60,000 vehicles a day travel this stretch, and the ministry said that workmen will be on the job 24 hours a day.

For most of the time only one lane will be open in each direction.

This is the major route from San José to points north and to Limón and the Caribbean coast.

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Seventh Newspage

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 259
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Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas/Ángel Vale Rojas
This is Encyclia navarroi with its large flower

Research in Cuba yields two orchids

By the Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas.

Researchers from the University of Vigo, in collaboration with the Environmental Services Unit at the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in Cuba, have discovered two new species of Caribbean orchid.

A Spanish research team from the University of Vigo has discovered two new species belonging to the orchid family Orchidaceae: Laeliinae. They have been called Tetramicra riparia and Encyclia navarroi. One plant was found in the eastern zone of the island and one was in the western zone.

"The first species described, Encyclia navarroi, is an orchid with considerably large flowers. A year later we discovered the Tetramicra riparia species, with very small flowers. The latter is so named because it grows on the banks of stony streams in the mountains of Baracoa, one of the rainiest and least explored areas in Cuba," as Ángel Vale Rojas explained. Vale is a researcher at the University of Vigo and co-author of the studies published by the journals Systematic Botany and Annales Botanici Fennici.

The University of Vigo Plant Ecology and Evolution research team, which Vale belongs to, is studying the ecological and evolutionary consequences of pollination in orchids that are endemic to the Greater Antilles: Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.

Vale and his team are drawing up studies in the Antilles not only to reconstruct the evolutionary history of orchids but also to analyse the effect of pollinators in the reproduction of plants, and how this interaction has modelled the colourful aspect of these Caribbean flowers.

U.S. Senate session fails to reach deal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Senate leaders have called a recess until today after a long day of little progress trying to negotiate a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that would take effect Jan. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said significant differences remain between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, despite a rare Sunday session to try to reach a deal.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he is concerned about a lack of urgency in the last-minute negotiations. He said the sticking point appears to be "a willingness, an interest or courage" among lawmakers to arrive at a deal.

Democratic Leader Reid said he has so far failed to come up with a counteroffer to a Republican proposal made late Saturday. He said McConnell has shown absolutely good faith in negotiations, but he said the two parties remain far apart on big issues.

Resolution of tax and spending problems has long stymied Washington leaders, with President Barack Obama's Democratic Party colleagues mostly favoring higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for benefits for retirees and the impoverished. Republican Party lawmakers adamantly oppose any tax increases.

Congressional and White House negotiators also are grappling with decisions on other key issues, including unemployment benefits, taxes on large inheritances and possible cuts in payments to doctors who treat elderly Americans.

Even if the Democratic-controlled Senate votes for a compromise deal, the Republican-led House would have to approve the measure. Passage of tax-and-spending legislation there is far from certain.

If Congress can agree on a compromise, the president could sign the measure today, which would avoid having automatic tax increases on nearly all Americans kick in Tuesday.

Earlier Sunday, Obama urged Congress to avert impending sharp tax increases for most American workers and government spending cuts that could plunge the country into another recession if a compromise is not reached.

Obama said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" that lawmakers need to act quickly to keep tax rates at their current level for all but the wealthiest wage earners, rather than have them revert on New Year's Day to much higher levels set in the 1990s.

He said such legislation would avert the worst economic outcome for the country. He said more negotiations could then be held in the coming weeks to reduce the country's chronic budget deficits and growing national debt and how to boost job growth.

"If we can get that done, that takes a big bite out of the fiscal cliff. It avoids the worst outcomes. And we're then going to have some tough negotiations in terms of how we continue to reduce the deficit, grow the economy, create jobs," he said.

The president said his offer to curb government spending on popular social welfare programs has been so fair that some of his Democratic colleagues have balked. But Obama said his Republican opponents in Congress have had difficulty agreeing to any tax increases, including increasing rates on the wealthiest households, such as those making $250,000 or more a year, about 2 percent of U.S. taxpayers.

"The offers that I've made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me," he said.

The leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, blamed Obama for the impasse. He said the president has been unwilling to agree to big enough cuts in government spending.

Even if a deal is reached, however, it is unlikely to increase the U.S. government's current borrowing limit of $16.4 trillion. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the nation's debt ceiling will be reached Monday, New Year's Eve.  The ceiling is a cap on how much money the government can borrow to avoid defaulting on its debt.

Geithner says Treasury officials will take what he calls extraordinary measures under the law to avoid default.

The Congress and White House are then expected to negotiate a new limit in the next couple of months, although it, too, likely will produce a contentious debate about Washington's spending priorities.

Food allergies and bullying can be fatal

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

School bullying is a well-known problem, but one particular type is raising fresh concern. It involves children with food allergies. Students, parents and teachers may not be aware that the consequences can be fatal.

Nearly one-third of students diagnosed with food allergies are bullied at school as a result of their condition.

That is according to a new study by researchers at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Results of the study, involving 251 sets of children and parents, appear in the latest online issue of the Pediatrics medical journal.

Students who are teasing their allergic classmates, by doing such things as putting a peanut in their mouths, do not realize that the body's immunological reaction to the food can be life threatening.

In the worst scenario, the children go into anaphylactic shock and die.

The New York researchers say as many of 8 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with food allergies.

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