Expat to market new water processing system

A Minnesota inventor and water advocate has set up shop in Playa Negra as La Compania del Agua.

He is Clint Elston, who has a water and wastewater polyethylene manufacturing operation. He said he also is moving to create economic development and improve water and sanitation throughout Costa Rica.

Playa Negra is in Guanacaste, a province that has a continual shortage of water. Elston, formerly of Afton, Minnesota, said he spent the last year getting a system set  up for demonstration.

The system he uses separates sewage or blackwater from graywater discharges such as from laundry machines, dishwashers, sinks and showers as well as harvested rainwater. The sewage is processed for agricultural use. The greywater is treated  aerobically and subjected to a reverse osmosis filtering that produces drinking quality water. The goal is to use much less total water, perhaps as little as three gallons a person per day.

Elston said he once vacationed in Tamarindo, which is why he chose to return to Costa Rica.

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Just 26 being accused in Río San Juan job

At least 22 persons are off the hook because anti-corruption prosecutors, racing against a Jan 27 deadline, say they will accuse just 26 persons in the bribery, theft, corruption and money laundering case that has been called the Troche.

This is the 5-year-old case that developed from irregularities in the construction of a 160-kilometer roadway along the Río San Juan after Nicaraguan troops invaded the country in 2010. Prosecutors are to present the case to the Juzgado Penal de Hacienda. However years may pass before the case actually goes to trial.

Not named in the allegations was former president Laura Chinchilla, who authorized the construction of the roadway where none had existed in the remote northern zone. This was Ruta 1856, a number that reminded Nicaraguans of the war against filibusters William Walker in that year. Ms. Chinchilla had gone public in 2012 to demand an investigation of the project.

Jorge Chavarría Guzmán, the chief prosecutor, said last September that 48 persons would be accused and that the case would be presented before the end of 2016.

Carlos Acosta Monge, who was head of the road agency, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, at the time, and two of his subordinates in charge of the project are being accused of crimes that included illegal enrichment, the Poder Judicial said Tuesday. Three persons are accused of pretending to be construction inspectors, and they also are being accused. Also listed were 18 persons who operated construction companies that did work on the roadway. The allegations also named two of their wives, the Poder Judicial said.

The highway was a hurry-up job done without bidding. The allegations say that the contractors and public officials colluded to present fake bills and claim that work was done when it was not. The sarcastic Spanish word troche means that the job was done at least haphazardly.

The highway itself was a disaster. Large numbers of trees were cut for the right of way, and the timber vanished. In some cases metal shipping containers were used as bridges over creeks and other waterways. Nicaragua complained of soil slipping into the river.

Judicial investigators interviewed 250 witnesses, prosecutors said. The  Procuraduría General de la República is presenting a separate case for civil damages.

Some of those named Monday already have been brought to court after being detained.

The criminal code established the deadline of Jan. 27.

Environmental investigators worried about silt from the Ruta 1856 damaging this wetland

Environmental investigators worried about silt from the Ruta 1856 damaging this wetland

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In tiny steps the retail world is undergoing massive changes

The postal service is hosting a gathering Wednesday at a local retailer with the clear intent to gain some business from online deliveries. The Correos de Costa Rica invitation for Arenas Skate & Surf is another tiny step into the future of retailing.

No one can predict the future, even Walmart CEO Doug McMillon who concludes this month that the only certainty is that shopping will be very different in 10 years than it is today.

“Ten years ago most customers were reading about the original iPhone, and wondering whether it would be useful,” he said on the firm’s website. “Now they expect to order something on their mobiles, have it delivered or pick it up in store – often on the same day, in a few hours, or even in a few minutes.”

He also called upon retailers to adapt to these changes and in some areas even lead the way. Otherwise, he warned, they’ll fall behind and disappear.

The World Economic Forum, in a new report, says that over the next decade, the line between online and offline
will continue to blur.

This can be seen in Costa Rica. One clue is the growth of imports. The Dirección General de Aduanas  reported Monday that it collected nearly 2 billion colons, some $3.5 million, on imported goods after audits. The Ministerio de Hacienda agency is on the front lines of imports and has said that thousands of packages have been frozen due to disputes over import duties. That shows the scope of the current online market for foreign products, the bulk from China.

The downtown of the capital of San José seems to have survived until now the pressure from a ring of shopping malls that have been constructed around it. In some First World countries, the malls and even Walmart stores spell doom to the downtown retailers. Costa Ricans are more traditional and perhaps not as mobile as shoppers in other countries, and the municipality takes steps to promote downtown events.

Tourists, too, are more interested in a location like the Mercado Central than a mall, which probably is no different than the ones back home.

But change is inevitable, and it may be those glitzy shopping malls that suffer the most when customers increase their internet purchases. Local supermarkets already will shop for e-commerce customers and make home deliveries of groceries.

Even Walmart will accept internet purchases and hold them for pickup.

Amazon, of course, is experimenting with drone delivery elsewhere.

The World Economic Forum report is called “Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries.”  It sees what it calls eight disruptive technologies that will shape the future. Included are drones, but also other types of robots, 3D printing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The forum said it expected the physical store to survive but:

“In the future, e-commerce penetration is projected to grow from approximately 10 percent today to greater than 40 percent in 2026. Averages, however, can be deceiving, and some product categories are likely to register penetration rates of 50 percent or more, while others may not grow beyond 20 percent.”

Examples might be seen in the travel industry, music and book businesses where online outlets have captured the market to the detriment of the local travel agency, book and record stores.

Walmart’s McMillon seems to agree. He says: “The historic trade-off between price and service has been altered by technology and customers expect to save time and enjoy the experience while saving money. They’ll fulfill their everyday needs – items like laundry detergent, paper, light bulbs, grocery staples and shampoo – in the easiest way possible through a combination of stores, e-commerce, pick-up, delivery and supported by artificial intelligence. Customer desires – think emerging fashion, fresh produce, and items they’ve never seen before – will still be fun to explore in stores as well as with technology (think virtual reality).”

The World Economics Forum report warns: “Industry participants will only succeed if they have a relentless focus on using technology to increase the value added to consumers.”

This is the cover photo of the World Economic forum report

This is the cover photo of the World Economic forum report

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Bank freeze planned for Sunday morning

The country’s banking system will take the first step toward using unique international numbers early Sunday.

The Banco Central said that at that time technical steps will be taken to set up the new system. As a result, bank customers will be unable to make money transfers to accounts in other banks until noon.

The second step comes in the second half of 2018 when all bank accounts will begin to be identified by the 22-digit IBAN number, said the central bank.

IBAN is short for International Bank Account Number. It is very common in Europe. An IBAN uniquely identifies an account held at a bank. Their use is optional now in Costa Rica for international transfers.

More information is available HERE!

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Water tank planned for Londres

Continuous access to clean water received a boost from the Embassy of Japan Tuesday with its new grant devoted to fixing the water storage for a rural community near Quepos.

The embassy signed a contract with the Asociación Acueducto Rural de Londres in Quepos granting them $82,978 for the construction of a storage tank. This falls under an umbrella of development programs sponsored by the government of Japan that give grants to different projects.

The idea of the Quepos project is that the grant will be used to provide continuous and safer access to water for the residents of Londres. During his speech, the Japanese ambassador to Costa Rica, Mamoru Shinohara, noted the project was selected because improvement in water provision is essential to improving the quality of life.

According to 2015 statistics provided by the World Health Organization, 663 million people do not have access to a safe water source. At least 1.8 billion people use a drinking-water source that has been contaminated with fecal matter and by 2025, the organization predicted that half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

The World Economic Forum stated in January 2015 that the water crisis is the number one global risk based on its impact to society in terms of devastation potential. Unlike some countries in Latin America, the water that comes out of most faucets in Costa Rica is safe to drink.

This country, unlike places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, has only 2.2 percent of its population with an unimproved drinking water source, according to 2015 estimates.  Of that 2.2 percent, the majority of those cases occur in rural areas.

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Nosara residents to march against Trump

A march to protest the inauguration of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump is planned for 7:30 a.m. Saturday in Playa Guiones, near Nosara.

Members of the expat community are the organizers for the march beginning in front of Casa Romántica. While this event is being conducted in solidarity with many other protests happening around the world, the march at Playa Guiones is the brainchild of members who double as participants in the local book club and the non-profit organization Friends of Nosara.

One of the people who will be marching Saturday will be Pamela Lancaster. Following the defeat of Democratic party candidate Hillary Clinton, Ms. Lancaster and other residents of the community were up calling each other expressing shock as to the election results, she said. The comments that Trump has made against women and other minorities were catalysts towards organizing their own march, Ms. Lancaster said.

For some, the march will be protesting the legitimacy of Trump assuming the presidency while for others the march is simply to protest against those comments made by Trump during the campaign. The comments could turn into the foundation of the public policy of the new administration, protesters fear.

The march is scheduled early to avoid the heat and all are encouraged to attend, Ms. Lancaster said.

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Latest killing ignites protest through the downtown

Chinese-Costa Ricans took to the streets of the capital Tuesday after what some called the last straw in lawlessness. The murder of a Chinese store clerk in La Teresa de Guápiles de Pococí ignited the protest.

But, the anger among the crowd went beyond the latest killing. The target also was other crimes perpetrated particularly against their fellow community members.

The protest came on the same day judicial investigators rolled up what it said was a 12-person murder and drug gang, the latest string of arrests in the current murder epidemic.

The protest by as many as 300 Chinese residents was unusual. Some complained that law enforcement does not vigorously investigate crimes against Chinese-Costa Ricans. They said that happened after the Monday morning murder of Oscar Liang, the grocery clerk. A suspect in that case was detained Tuesday.

Judicial agents arrested the 12 persons Tuesday morning in raids across the country. They are suspected of both killing people or at least trying to kill them, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. Agents said that this group of 12 formed a criminal gang back in 2015 when the creator of the gang was attacked and sought revenge.

The investigation alleges that members of the group were involved in a hit on an alleged drug trafficker nicknamed Tupac. On Oct. 9, 2015, in San Francisco de Dos Ríos four men in a black vehicle intercepted the taxi containing the man.

They pulled up and shot him multiple times. Tupac died, and the group of four gunmen also injured his girlfriend and the taxi driver who were caught in the crossfire.

The group is suspected in the murder of a traveling salesman at San Sebastián last Sept. 15, according to investigators. Judicial agents believe that the purpose of this murder was to break into the man’s house and steal.

Among the detainees is an ex-member of the police force alleged to be one of the group’s collaborators. This former officer may have been the one who originally collected the group of four accused in the murder at San Francisco de Dos Ríos.

The latest arrests have come in the wake of the two other murders that occurred Sunday and Monday. The 23-year-old cashier Liang was shot and killed Monday by men attempting to steal money from his register around 8 in the morning. A security camera recorded the incident and the faces of the killers. The location was incorrectly reported

in Monday’s newspaper as Guácimo.

The protest Tuesday afternoon was organized by the Enping association in San José that says it is an organized voice for issues and actions important to the large Chinese community in Costa Rica. Most of these protesters said they were Chinese who arrived from the Guápiles area in Limón province.

Henry Fong, a member of Enping, said a meeting was held Monday night in which around 40 persons decided to form a peaceful protest following the latest in many killings of people of Asian descent and the lack of action being taken by members of the Fuerza Pública and the Judicial Investigating Organization in the case.

Many protesters, including Fong and other marchers like José Feng and a young man named Sai, said that law enforcement officials are not doing enough to seek justice for this latest killing. This comes despite the fact that the killer of this latest victim was caught on camera committing the murder, Fong said.

In spite of the ethnic background of the majority of marchers, all expressed the belief that this march was not simply for the Chinese-Costa Rican community. Protest organizers like Feng and Fong insisted that this was against all violence perpetrated against anyone as shouts of “Against the violence! Give me peace!” rang down the line of hundreds of other marchers.

The U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Advisory Council noted in its 2016 Crime and Safety Report for Costa Rica that, overall, crime has steadily increased over the past few years. According to their statistics, the homicide rate passed the threshold for what the World Health Organization considers to be an endemic level of homicide by the end of 2015. In that instance, the murder rate was 11.5 per every 100,000 people passing the requirement of 10 per 100,000 people.

While Costa Rica is not yet in the same ranking as Honduras or El Salvador, 577 murders occurred in 2016, a record high, according to previous statements from the Poder Judicial.

Marchers, many of them from Guápiles, pass by the Museo Nacional with the goal of focusing attention on law enforcement and the murder of a community member.

Marchers, many of them from Guápiles, pass by the Museo Nacional with the goal of focusing attention on law enforcement and the murder of a community member.

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Canada’s west coast foods to be analyzed

The institution which promotes Costa Rican exports is hosting a conference to analyze different food stuffs and marketing strategies from businesses on Canada’s west coast. The event will be on Jan. 26.

Officials from the Promotora de Comercio Exterior de Costa Rica said the event is free, but space is limited. It will run from 1:45 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the organization’s offices located at Plaza Tempo in Escazú. This conference is aimed at companies or organizations in the agri-food sector, marketing and sales management, according to organizers.

The purpose is to identify marketing strategies and consumer trends from this area of Canada in order to determine if there are any ideas that could be taken from those businesses.

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Another round planned in Hague court

The Costa Rican government is going back to the International Court of Justice with more complaints and a new case on the territorial dispute with Nicaragua.

Costa Rica alleges a violation of territorial sovereignty as the reason for this new case against Nicaragua. A Nicaraguan military camp was established on Isla Portillos, according to Costa Rican officials. The court had previously declared that area as Costa Rican territory after a ruling made in December 2015.

With this new military build-up, Costa Rica is calling for the court to delimit a sand bar that separates the Laguna Los Portillos, or Harbor Head Lagoon as it is known in Nicaragua, from Costa Rican territory. The lagoon is located in the north of Isla Portillos and is part of Nicaraguan territory, but the land surrounding it on all three sides is Costa Rican.

Manuel González, the Costa Rican minister for foreign affairs, emphasized that the government will ask the court to expedite both this case and one begun in 2014 over the establishment of a maritime boundary together in one ruling.

Costa Rica is also requesting the court to determine the amount of compensation owed by Nicaragua as a result of the most recent decision made in December 2015. The government of Costa Rica brought this case over a 2011 violation of national sovereignty by Nicaragua that sent troops to substantiate its claim to an area around the mouth of the Río San Juan.

The conflict escalated into a running legal battle as Nicaragua pushed a countersuit that Costa Rica had failed to assess the environmental impact of constructing that road near protected wetlands.

The court ruled that Nicaragua’s countersuit of environmental violations was valid, however the territorial violation of Costa Rican national sovereignty by Nicaragua was the only aspect warranting monetary compensation.

The two governments accepted the ruling of the court and had a deadline of Dec. 16 to set up an agreement to the specifics of the compensation. That deadline passed with neither side reaching an agreement and prompting this most recent request by Costa Rica.

A proposal sent back in June 2016 by Costa Rica to Nicaragua called for $6.7 million to be paid as compensation. Nicaragua rejected this proposal in November and requested more documentation. The Costa Rican government claims that, although the Dec. 16 deadline passed with no response, it gave Nicaragua extra time to reconsider or present a counteroffer as a gesture of good faith.

Daniel Ortega, the longtime president of Nicaragua, made overtures to Costa Rica back in December suggesting he would accept the ruling and pay, but has since done nothing else.

As a result of the December 2015 ruling, the International Court of Justice in The Hague must now determine the compensation Nicaragua should pay for violation of territorial sovereignty. Costa Rica expects the decision on the amount of compensation to be made by the end of 2017.

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A simple recipe can give a big lift to passers-by in the downtown

Street vendors are a hit or miss when it comes to their wares, and with food it becomes an even bigger success or failure depending on what you get.

Joaquín Jiménez, lifelong resident of San José, has been selling his street treats for about 40 years. With a smile and a wink, he said it is because he likes to talk to people, whether foreigner or Costa Rican. One can find him out every morning and afternoon from Monday thru Friday selling his snack for 500 colons a square. That snack is a Costa Rican comida típica, or common food, called cajetas de coco.

Cajetas are sold in many different forms, but with the same core ingredients. These treats can be found throughout Central America, but are very common in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The recipe for traditional cajetas de coco is simple.

Other recipes may add butter and other ingredients to turn it into something more closely resembling a brownie or fudge, but Jiménez insisted that his own recipe only calls for the three core ingredients. “Water, sugar, and coconut,” he said. He uses raw, brown sugar, called tapa de dulce.

Jiménez elaborated on those instructions to say that the cajetas should be laid out on the table to cool off and harden before being cut into the square treat he sells on the streets. Jiménez said that his total cooking effort lasts around four hours.

The basic result is raw coconut with some sugar thrown in to sweeten it. The taste is like the filling for a Mounds or Almond Joy candy bar, but it looks more like some cereal taken out of the breakfast bowl and molded into a square. The texture is a little rougher than the candy bar filling, and one can discern the brown sugar from factory-produced sweeteners.

Jiménez claims to sell out every day to around 80-100 people. He gets regulars because of his location. One can find his set-up across from the bus stop along Avenida 3 above Parque de España between the Registro Civil and Calle 9 in downtown San José.

He has been at the same spot for five years, by his own

Joaquín Jiménez expresses his optimism with a friend.

Joaquín Jiménez expresses his optimism with a friend.

estimate. He does this intentionally, he said, to get a lot of business from pedestrians and commuters walking along the streets. He even gets customers in cars honking their horns as they pull off to the side. Usually when people head home during afternoon rush hour, so is Jiménez albeit with a folded table, a lot more coins and a lot fewer cajetas.

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Lawmakers OK international sales pact

Lawmakers have approved the country’s adoption of a United Nations convention on international sales.

The agreement, adopted in 1980 and entered into force elsewhere in 1988 provides  a modern, uniform and fair regime for contracts for the international sale of goods, the United Nations says.

The agreement is known as the The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods  or the Vienna Convention.

The agreement overrides Costa Rican law in the cases of international sales because the country gives a higher judicial ranking to international treaties than the Costa Rican Constitution.

Small and medium-sized enterprises as well as traders located in developing countries typically have reduced access to legal advice when negotiating a contract, the United Nations noted in a summary of the law. Thus, they are more vulnerable to problems caused by inadequate treatment in the contract of issues relating to applicable law, it added, noting that the same enterprises and traders may also be the weaker contractual parties and could have difficulties in ensuring that the contractual balance is kept. Those merchants would therefore derive particular benefit from the default application of the fair and uniform regime, the U.N. added

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Drug violations top Palmares arrest list

Out of 275 arrests made during the Fiestas de Palmares, 244 of those were for drug violations.

The Fuerza Pública confiscated around 98 joints, 168 pouches, and 28 grams of marijuana since Thursday when the fiestas began. In addition, small amounts of cocaine and crack were confiscated. Police only made 12 arrests of people disturbing the peace, according to officials.

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Clerk dies in market holdup

Officials reported a murder and an attack in supermarkets Sunday and Monday.

At La Teresa in Guácimo, a 23-year old cashier was shot in the chest by two men attempting to steal money from his register around 8 in the morning on Monday. The man died a few minutes later at a nearby clinic from the store where he was working.

Agents are still investigating witness accounts that a getaway car may have been present.

In another case, a 38-year old man was stabbed in the chest by two others who had followed him into the supermarket around 9 p.m. on Sunday. The attack occurred at the supermarket near the intersection of Avenida 5 and Calle 8 in San José Centro. His attackers fled and have still not been found, according to agents. The injured man went to Hospital San Juan de Dios.

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Law would benefit private teachers

A proposed law would allow private school teachers to affiliate with the financial arm of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores.

The Caja de Ahorro y Préstamos de la Asociación Nacional de Educadores is a type of credit union. But now only public school employees are allowed to affiliate.

The proposed measure, presented Monday, would expand the membership. Belonging to the financial entity does not mean being required to join the  Asociación Nacional de Educadores, which is a union, said sponsors of the bill.

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Ruta 32 being closed for simulation

The prosecutor’s office in Pococí is closing part of Ruta 32 for two hours Jan. 24.

Attorneys for a man who collided with a motorcycle at that spot in La Marina de Guápiles had their request approved to recreate the accident. The person driving the motorcycle is suing the defendant whose vehicle hit him because injuries sustained during the accident resulted in the amputation of his leg. The closing will be between 1 and 3 p.m.

The victim and witnesses are expected to participate in this reconstruction of the scene. This case occurred in June 13, 2013. According to judicial workers, transit authorities have already been notified of the order to close the road.

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Country second in LatAm innovation

Costa Rica is in second place among Latin American and Caribbean countries for innovation.

Published annually since 2007, the Global Innovation Index measures and ranks using a complex system of indicators of around 128 countries’ innovation capabilities. Using around 82 data tables from 30 public and private sources worldwide, the index examines factors such as education expenditures by governments, taxes, regulations for businesses, gross domestic product, environmental performance, protections for investors, and intensity of local market competition.

It also looks at patent law as well as collaboration between different industries or education institutes in business enterprise along with very specific indicators such as the number of women with advanced degrees who are employed. The methodology is a complex computation that is then aggregated and calculated before being reanalyzed again in an examination of year-by-year changes from the previous indexes.

Based on the data, Costa Rica was ranked 45th overall behind Chile that was rated 44th in the world. Chile did however score the top placement for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the index. Mexico received the third place in the region.

Speaking of Latin America, the report stated: “. . . local economies have not significantly improved relative to other regions in recent years, and no country in the region currently shows a performance higher than its GDP.”

Fifteen of the top 25 total countries examined in the survey come from Europe including the top three ranked: Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The United States placed fourth in the index overall and first in the region of North America.

The report came from Cornell University, the INSEAD world business school and the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization.

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Feds reject plan to simplify tax reporting for expats

The U.S. Treasury Department has declined to adopt the same country exemption that would free many expats from burdensome reporting requirements.

The announcement of the decision comes at the same time that the National Taxpayer Advocate said the tax-collecting Internal Revenue has in some cases imposed unnecessary burdens and failed to protect the rights of affected taxpayers. That criticism was in reference to enforcing the 2010  Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

The tax advocate, Nina Olson, in her annual report to Congress characterized these burdens as additional tax preparation fees and the unwillingness of some foreign financial institutions to do business with U.S. expatriates.

The private advocacy organization, the  American Citizens Abroad, was more blunt. The Treasury Department slams the door on same country exemption for Americans abroad, it said. The Internal Revenue Service is affiliated with the Treasury Department.

The exemption would have eliminated IRS reporting requirements for expats who bank in the same country in which they live.

American Citizens Abroad noted it had worked on the exemption proposal for two years but it said the Treasury officials declined to make changes for fear of the risk of tax avoidance involving money in foreign accounts.

American Citizens Abroad said that tax cheats were a relatively small population of U.S. taxpayers residing in a foreign country and het011717banking at their local bank to evade U.S. tax.

The expat advocacy association and similar groups also are working to change the U.S. Tax Code to use a geographical rule instead of a citizenship rule. Now U.S. citizens must pay taxes on money earned abroad, too, although there are some exemptions. The association prefers the way nearly all other countries tax their citizens on just money earned within the national borders.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requires U.S. citizens to report their assets held abroad each year when they file a tax return. The law also requires foreign banks to file reports on their U.S. citizen customers, which is why some of the banks have declined to do business with expats. The rule also applies to green card holders, those with double citizenship and spouses of U.S. citizens.

American Citizens Abroad said that the Treasury Department either missed the point or failed reasonably to balance the considerations when it declined to make changes in the regulations.

It said it hopes to bring up the subject again with the new administration.

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About 20,000 to be without water today

Some 20,000 customers will be without water today in parts of Escazú, Alajuelita and Desamparados, the state water company said.

The company, the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, said it is installing 300 meters of a water line connection over the Río Bermúdez. The outage is supposed to be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The locations that will be affected in Escazú are Trejos Montealegre, San Rafael de Escazú, Bajo Los Anonos, Los Elíseos, Calle Los Alemanes, Altos de Bello Horizonte and Barrio Los Ángeles.

In Alajuelita Centro the locations are San Felipe, La Aurora, Tejarcillos,
San Josecito, Calle El Alto, Concepción and El Tejar.

In Desamparados, the locations are Novedades, Alpino, Méndez, Los Ángeles,
Santa Cecilia, Tolima, Maiquetía and San Juan de Dios.

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