Business show to feature technical discussions

The Costa Rica Business Show begins a two-day run Wednesday at the  Centro de Eventos Pedregal. This is the second annual edition sponsored by Eka Consultores Internacional.

Although there is expected to be 52 display stands, the heart of the event is a series of some 60 discussions by business leaders on a variety of themes.

The event is from  9 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. The sponsor says these are technical discussions directed to business operators or executives who want to obtain more information for effective management. Some 600 businesses are expected to be represented.

More information is HERE!

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So-so wine is focus of the annual French promotional celebration

Expats once again this year can enjoy the highly successful promotion of French wine with the Fiesta Francesa del Beaujolais Nouveau.

This is an international event that will be in its 10th year in Costa Rica.  The festivities promotes the red wine produced in the Province of Beaujolais.

The wine is more hype than taste. The Chambres de Commerce et d’Industrie has promoted a less than unusual local wine into a worldwide event since World War II.

In Costa Rica, the celebration will be a week late on Nov. 24. Typically,  Beaujolais nouveau is released with much fanfare on the third Thursday of November. The event here this year is on the fourth Thursday, which also happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving.

Liking the fruity, slightly chilled Beaujolais is not obligatory. The event in the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú features many other drinks, including Grand Marnier, Johnny Walker, Don Julio tequila and Taqueray gin.

And the meal is what one would expect at a French gathering, ending up with crème brûlée. The $120-a-couple admission includes dancing to the Son de Tikizi and a complimentary bottle of  Beaujolais nouveau.

The wine is unusual in that it is bottled only six to eight weeks after harvest. And fermentation is done anaerobically with carbon dioxide to enhance the taste.

France is the traditional home of great wine, but Italy produces more.

Growers in Europe this year faced floods, drought, frost and

hail, but they say the quality of the 2016 vintage shouldn’t unduly suffer. They are not talking about Beaujolais nouveau, because that wine does not improve with age and probably should be consumed within a year of harvest.

Overall global wine production fell 5 percent from 2015 levels to 259 million hectoliters, one of the weakest levels of the past 20 years, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine, wire services said. U.S. production is up 2 percent.

Beaujolais can only be produced in Beaujolais, and the gamay grapes are not very popular in the U.S. And certainly not in California where nearly all of the U.S. fine wine originates.

Map shows location of Beaujolais north of Lyon.

Map shows location of Beaujolais north of Lyon.

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Former Cartago home hailed as a classic Victorian structure

They didn’t have in the early part of the 20th century, but when a Cartago woman sought to replace a home destroyed by the 1910 earthquake, she went through a catalog and picked a prefabricated Victorian dwelling to be imported from Europe.

The woman was Micaela Sancho Oreamuno, who hosted so many religious events and figures in the home that it received the nickname The Vatican. It faces the convent of the Franciscan Order. The building was declared historic in 1985.

The home also was called Casa Jiménez Sancho after the mid-19th century president who lived on the site in a building that was demolished by the earthquake.

The current owner, the Universidad Estatal a Distancia, purchased the property in 1992 and has been conducting restoration work under the supervision of the Centro de Patrimonio del Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

The centro invested 100 million colons in restoration in 2012, and the university invested 82 million colons this year, said the

centro. Among other improvements, air conditioning was installed and the electrical system was upgraded.

The centro considers the building to be an excellent example of Victorian style and also a product of Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Curiously, although the parts were imported from Europe, much of the interior is American pine.

Home shows how the upper class lived 100 years ago.

Home shows how the upper class lived 100 years ago.

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Teatro Nacional floor being moved to create platform for orchestra

The Orquesta Sinfónica de Heredia will celebrate the 119th anniversary of the Teatro Nacional tonight with a concert at 8 o’clock.  On the program are works by the Costa Rican Alejandro Cardona, the Spanish composer Lorenzo Palomo and Aaron Copland of the United States.

Theater officials said that the audience tonight is in for a treat.

The movable floor of the theater will be activated to make a level platform for the orchestra. In use will be the mechanism put in place by the Italian designer Cesare Saldin in 1896 and 1897.

Theater officials said this is the first time this year that the floor would be moved.

Usually the floor level is changed for events like state dinners. And at those times the theater usually is off limits, so not many Costa Ricans or even frequent theater goers have seen the floor in this position.

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Incineration toxins can be gender benders

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest your article about endocrine disrupters. (“Gender Benders”)  I first became aware of these chemicals and their prevalence in our environment as a chemist and an activist protesting the garbage burning incinerators.

We learned that some of the most dangerous chemicals escaped all efforts to remove them from the waste stream and were incredibly toxic in small amounts.  These dioxins and furans and related organochlorides were caused by burning plastics with other things and making many, many new products of incomplete combustion.

More dramatic effects of the organochlorides can be seen in the he-she fish of Lake Apopka, Florida, fish with both male and female characteristics after a pesticide spill.  They are called gender benders because they disrupt the endocrine system.

Already because of the worldwide prevalence of these chemicals the sperm count in men worldwide is half of that of the sperm count of men in their grandfather’s generation and at the critical level for procreation.  Women have a special concern because these chemicals seek out fat and as they bio-accumulate up the food chain the dioxins are contaminating the mother’s milk to such a level that the La Leche League in Sweden took notice.

Carol Meeds
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
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Voter fraud probably unlikely here

Some expats have praised Costa Rica for setting up a voting system where fraud is unlikely.

Although voter identification laws are controversial in the United States, the expats note that the procedure is common here. When a Costa Rican goes to vote, the poll workers have full identification and even a photo that originated with the national identification card.

Venezuela and some other Latin countries take anti-fraud one step further. As Venezuelans vote, the pinky is dipped in ink that will not wear off for several days.

The issue comes up because Donald Trump, the U.S. presidential candidate and some of his associates are suggesting that the Nov. 8 general elections are rigged.

Their claims are quickly rejected by most sources, including both Chicago newspapers.

Historically, however, voter fraud was common. The joke in Chicago is to vote early and often. In fact, then mayor Richard J. Daley is credited with generating an unusually high Chicago area total for John Kennedy in the 1960 elections. The votes were enough to put Illinois in the Kennedy column.

More recently, members of the New Black Panther Party were accused of trying to intimidate voters at a polling place in the 2008 elections. The  charges did not stick, and some claimed the Obama administration should have prosecuted more vigorously.

Also in Illinois, the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s office said this month it is investigating allegations after three people said they had been offered bribes for votes, according to a newspaper there.

The Kankakee allegations involve absentee ballots which are easy for fraudsters to check before they pay bribes.

A Democratic operative was videotaped in a recent presidential election telling an undercover investigator that she could vote twice because she was registered in two states. Thousands of Americans are registered in multiple locations because they have moved.

And just this week, two high ranking Democratic workers quit after undercover video showed them talking about how they disrupted Trump campaign events and also discussing ways to effect voter fraud.

The Chicago Sun-Times was one newspaper that said this week that Trump was wrong on his claims about voter fraud. But the same newspaper won acclaim several decades ago when an unknown copy editor infiltrated the Chicago election board and wrote about massive irregularities.

But also true is that voter fraud is an allegation that many Latin American candidates spew out after they have lost an election. In one case, a Venezuelan morning newspaper favorable to a candidate had two front pages set up awaiting vote totals. One page that was ready to be printed said their candidate won. The second carried the blaring headline in Spanish saying “Fraud at polls.”

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Legislative committee axes budget requests

A legislative commission Thursday cut 40 billion colons, some $73 million, from the 2017 budget of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. The vote was 6 to 5.

The Patronato is the child welfare organization, but the committee, the  Comisión de Asuntos Hacendarios, decided to give 25 billion colons to the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública to add 1,500 officers to its law enforcement.

The Poder Judicial and the Ministerio de Trabajo received some of the money, too.

Meanwhile, the Patronato raised the issue of a previous Sala IV decision, suggesting that it might go to court again.

The committee does not have the last word. The entire budget has to pass the full legislature, and nearly every governmental organization is complaining about cuts.

The Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Telecomunicaciones said that cuts in its budget line jeopardize a number of programs.

The Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía said 700 million colons, about $1.28 million, was cut from its budget and this jeopardizes a number of strategic programs.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said a proposed cut of $7.2 million in its budget will leave the Policía de Tránsito without resources for anti-alcohol operations and also leave vehicles without fuel.

By way of making its point, the Ministerio de Seguridad Pública held a meeting of the nation’s mayors Thursday where the municipal officials were expected to push for more local security efforts.

Despite the efforts of lawmakers, there are problems. For example, the Costa Rica Constitution says that the annual budget must include an amount equal to 8 percent of gross domestic product. The estimated percentage in the proposed 2017 budget is 7.63 percent.

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Costa Ricans pull together in face of bus disaster

The response Thursday to a bus disaster showed the country at its best. Not only did the Cruz Roja, fire fighters, hospital workers and police demonstrate their training, but even farm workers and hotel employees pitched in.

The mishap claimed 12 lives and injured the rest of the 31 persons on the bus. The northbound bus went out of control on a two-lane highway known for dangerous curves just a kilometer short of  Cariblanco in the mountains north of Heredia.

The bus passengers were Universidad Nacional retirees who were planning to do social work on a native reserve near Guatuso. They experienced some seconds of panic as the bus weaved to both sides of the highway before it slipped off a steep drop and rolled.

The crash tore the roof off the bus and exposed the dead and injured inside.

The Cruz Roja rescue workers faced a confusing situation as they arrived. So did fire fighters who frequently respond to such incidents.

The injured were sorted, and those severely hurt were transported to the Hospital de San Carlos or by air to other hospitals. Others were treated temporarily at the scene.

At Hospital México in La Uruca, the medical staff and attendants were participating in a disaster drill involving helicopter transportation. So there were plenty of hands when the five of the most badly hurt began arriving by helicopter. Two patients went to Hospital San Juan de Dios in San José.

Some of the air transportation was by private medical helicopters whose crews pitched in.

One woman victim died after arrival at the San Carlos hospital. There were four men and seven women dead at the scene. Judicial investigators said later they were having

trouble verifying names of the dead because most of the passengers did not carry identification. By late evening the Morgue Judicial said that all but one person, a woman, had been identified. The youngest was 42 and the oldest was 85.

Many of the dead suffered severe head injuries as the bus rolled down a slope that was estimated to be about 40 meters, about 130 feet, and the impact tore off the roof.

Even before the last of the injured were removed from the scene, the call went out for blood. The Banco Nacional de Sangre said that the immediate need for blood was met in a short time as donors showed up. But staffers said they would work Saturday, too.

The government has declared three days of national mourning. President Luis Guillermo Solís ordered that the nation’s flags be flown at half staff for three days, starting Thursday.

The driver of the commercial bus has not been identified. A Universidad Nacional official said that the trip was a private one arranged by an association of retirees. The group left from Heredia Cento.

The investigation most certainly will include a detailed study of the bus steering system as well as the brakes.

Crash tore the roof off bus.

Crash tore the roof off bus.

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Lawmaker seeks to restructure the woman’s advocacy agency, INAMU

An Evangelical lawmaker wants to transform the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres into the Instituto para la Familia y la Equidad de Género. The proposal is more than a name change, and his idea has become controversial.

The lawmaker, Gerardo Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, represents the Partido Renovación Costarricense in the legislature. In the preface to his bill, No. 20.126, he cites a negative review of the

institute by the Contraloría General de la República. He said that the government agency has lost its way.

The women’s institute, known as INAMU, has long been considered a source of advocacy for women, but it has many other services, including legal help for battered women.

The lawmaker’s proposal faces a lot of resistance in the legislature where some of the members have been closely associated with the women’s institute.

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Pilot and four tourists survive a crash into the Gulf of Nicoya

our British tourists went for a chilly dip in the Gulf of Nicoya Wednesday afternoon when their pilot failed to land at the Tambor airport and crashed into the sea.

The four tourists and the pilot were rescued by the crew of a Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas patrol boat. They were not injured seriously, although one woman was reported to have suffered a gash in the leg.

They were examined at the Hospital Monseñor Sanabria in Puntarenas Centro after they were brought to shore Wednesday evening.  There were two men and two women as well as the male pilot.

Enrique Alvarado, the Guardacostas officer in charge, attributed the crash to bad weather. The area has been hit with heavy rains.  The aircraft was a Cessna that had departed Juan Santamaría airport. The craft had a single engine.

There was no indication that divers would try to recover the aircraft. It was about five miles off the east coast of the peninsula.

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The social contract has unraveled

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It’s a challenge to find an educated and rational perspective on the current state of political affairs in the States during these polarized times. Pedro J. Solis’s article, “The Social Conservative Has Gone to War Against Everybody,” is eloquent and illuminating in its portrayal of the bigger picture.

While the public at large is focused, if not obsessed, with one incendiary issue after another, the issue that should demand our attention is the behavior of those whose views are so rigid that they can no longer distinguish between right and wrong or feel compassion or any moral obligation towards members of society that aren’t members of their tribes.

The social contract that maintains civility has unraveled. It is indeed a “terrifying landscape” and one that will be as challenging if not more so to overcome than many of the issues that would not be issues if social conservatives as a political movement had consulted their moral compass.

Pamela Ellsworth
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Major arrest made in Limón shootings

Judicial agents rearrested Wednesday a man who had been set free Saturday due to lack of evidence. The man has been linked to bloodshed that has terrified residents of Limón Centro.

He was identified as Keylor Jacob Cole Kelly, 25. He faces charges of attempted murder and money laundering, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was detained briefly at a mall in Moravia Saturday, but police did not have enough evidence to hold him. Some of his associates were detained then.

Wednesday the judicial tactical squad went to the man’s home in Guápiles.

Investigators say he is specifically linked to a shooting in the center of Limón Oct. 3 where a passenger car was sprayed with bullets. The two persons inside survived. Still unclear is if the victims were involved in illegal activity or if gunmen made a mistake.

Investigators say that at least three major gangs are struggling for dominance in Limón where quality marijuana is smuggled in from Jamaica and cocaine is moved from Colombia.

Walter Espinoza, the director of the judicial agency, said that investigators have linked Cole to three separate drug smuggling cases this year.

Two persons with Cole when he was detained were released because they face no charges, said police.

Fatal shootings in Limón galvanized police response to along-festering problem. The Fuerza Pública sent in 200 more officers, nearly doubling the number on patrol there.

Wednesday President Luis Guillermo Solís and the president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Zarela Villanueva Monge, announced more investments in police agencies. The Judicial Investigating Organization is under the supervision of the courts. It has received 15 vehicles, said Casa Presidencial.

Also making the announcement were Antonio Álvarez Desanti, president of the Asamblea Legislativa, and Luis Antonio Sobrado, president of the  Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

The Ministerio Público, the Dirección de Inteligencia and Policía de Control de Drogas also will share in vehicles purchased through an upcoming bidding process, the officials said.

A man with the last name of  Cole is detained

A man with the last name of Cole is detained

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State lottery dangles a big prize for a hefty price

There is a pretty good chance that neither you nor anyone you know will win the big prizes in the Gordo Navideño, the official Christmas lottery.

The top prize is 1.6 billion colons, about $2.9 million. For Costa Ricans and non-U.S. expats, there is no tax.

The downside is that each 40-fraction ticket costs 80,000 colons, about $146.

Of course, someone could buy just one fraction for 2,000 colons or about $3.66. But then the winnings would just be a mere $72,500, a good reason to go all in.

The price of a full 40-ticket entero this year is up 10,000 colons over last year, but the prizes have increased, too.

Some would consider investing in a lottery ticket just a voluntary tax on stupidity. After all, the chance of winning the top prize is one in 100,000.  But someone has to, as the promoters say.

And the nay-sayers have not sat with a ticket clutched in their hands while lottery workers spin the baskets on Sunday night television. The heart races, and for a time, there are dreams of shiny cars, a villa in the south of France and maybe even a Guanacaste horse ranch.

In fact this year, for some struggling tourism operations, winning the lottery is a major component of the annual business plan.

The drawing this year is Dec. 19, and the lottery agency, the Junta de Protección Social plans consolation drawings into the new year for the losing tickets.

The Gordo tickets went on sale Wednesday.

The big winner is the lottery agency because it expects to net more than 3 billion colons after paying 12,246 prizes and sales agent commissions. The 151-year-old state lottery distributes its winnings to a host of social agencies and non-profits.lottery102016

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Plan to put surcharge on Poás park entries advances

A legislative committee has approved a proposal to apply a 10 percent tax on admission fees for Parque Nacional Volcán Poás.

The additional money would go to the Municipalidad de Poás where officials would have wide latitude on how to use it.

The admission for the popular national park 16 kilometers north of  Alajuela Central is $15 for adult tourists. So the new levy would be an additional $1.50.

Costa Ricans and residents pay 1,000 colons, so they would face an increase of 100 colons, about 18 U.S. Cents.

A legislative summary said that in 2015 some 365,244 persons visited the park, which is known for the overlook into the volcano caldera. The Sistema Nacional de Áreas de

Conservación took in 1.5 billion colons, about $2.9 million based on the exchange rate for the year.

The major entry to the park and volcano is in the Municipalidad de Poás even though only 9 percent of the park area is in that canton. Alajuela Centro has 41 percent.  Valverde Vega has 30 percent of the park area, and Grecia has 20 percent. Legislative staffers have suggested that these political subdivisions also will want a surcharge on park admissions.

The summary by the legislative technical staff said that an additional $1.50 probably would not affect attendance. Many tourists come on tours and they do not know how their payments are distributed.

The Comisión Permanente Especial de Asuntos Municipales y Desarrollo Local Participativo approved the bill. No. 19.556, and sent it to the full legislature for consideration.

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Country featured in negative fake stories

Some tourists might think twice before coming to Costa Rica, and fake news stories might be the reason.

Among other purported news stories making the rounds on the Web is one that says Islamic terrorists are planning to kidnap President Luis Guillermo Solís and his cabinet. And there is one that says the country is under a terror alert because the Islamic State is planning a full-scale invasion.

Some of the articles are dated, but internet copy has a long life. The date or veracity mean little when bloggers are trying to fill Web site with copy.

The articles also show an intimate knowledge of Costa Rica and these and others probably were written by individuals who had lived here for a long time or live here now.

Although characterized as satire, the articles do not have a critical point of view that is required of good satire. They simply are fake stories.

Costa Rica seems to be immune to any terrorism. The Muslim population here is about a tenth of a percent, and there does not seem to be any efforts at recruiting of future Islamic State fighters.

In fact, the Islamic State seems to be getting less and less manpower from Latin America.

Navy Admiral Kurt Tidd, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, said Tuesday that the flow of foreign fighters from Latin America to the Middle East has been curtailed significantly.

At best, intelligence sources have said, only about 100 to 150 foreign fighters from Latin America have joined the Islamic State. Argentina with 700,000, Brazil with 1.5 million and Venezuela have much larger Muslim populations. Officials in many countries are concerned by the return of Islamic State fighters.

Still, Tidd said that many U.S. partners in Latin America now recognize that attacks by self-radicalized individuals can pop up almost anywhere and with little warning, according to a wire service report.

“I don’t think it’s safe for anybody to now say, ‘Well, it will never happen here,’ ” Tidd told reporters. “It’s a phenomenon that we’re just going to have to wrestle with.”

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Pair rescued from fire by police

Police officials say that officers on patrol in Hatillo heard cries for help and broke down a door to rescue a woman, 67, and a 15-year-old boy from a house fire.

Both persons suffered from smoke inhalation, police said. The home was full of smoke when police entered Monday afternoon, officials said.

The pair appeared to have been trapped in a room in the house.

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Low-level emergency declared as rain inundates the country

October renewed its reputation as the wettest month with flooding and as much as five inches of rain in some areas in just a few hours.

The Nicoya peninsula was among the areas hardest hit. There at least 125 millimeters of rain fell beginning Monday night. By early Tuesday, much of the area was awash, including the Barceló Playa Tambor hotel where there were inches of water in the lobby.

Some of the nearby luxury homes were flooded when rivers overflowed and inundated the entire area.

Nosara, further north on the peninsula also had its troubles when the landscape just could not handle the downpours.

Tuesday night an additional 30 millimeters fell on the Pacific coast and also on the Caribbean coast. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional blamed a low pressure area over the country and said the rain would continue though today and perhaps into Thursday.

The national emergency commission declared an alert for the entire country.

There also was flooding in communities around Cartago and in some urban areas where the problem was trash in the drainage systems.

Flooding problems also were reported on the southern Pacific coast around Golfito.

The was some lightning and wind, so some trees fell. Trees were blamed for an outage of electricity that affected 350

persons near Puriscal and between Naranjo and Llano Bonito, in Alajuela where 2,500 customers were affected, said the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. A landslide blocked one lane of Ruta 27, the Caldera highway, Tuesday afternoon and that resulted in delays of up to an hour and a half for motorists and bus passengers.

The weather institute predicted that the rains would taper off on the Caribbean coast later today but continue on the Pacific side.

A man observes the mess at the Pochote bridge near Tambor after heavy rains

A man observes the mess at the Pochote bridge near Tambor after heavy rains

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Two held in murder of elderly woman

Agents have detained two men, 18 and 21, in the murder of an 86-year-old Guatuso resident. Agents said one of the suspects is a former employee of the victim, identified by the last name of Alvarez.

The murder happened Aug. 25.  The motive appears to be robbery.  The elderly woman suffered knife wounds and bullet wounds. She lived alone, and her body was found by relatives, said the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The suspects were detained in El Abanico de Peñas Blancas de San Ramón, agents said.

The robbers took 15,000 colons in cash from the home, about $27.50, as well as a firearm and a cell telephone.

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