Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First confirmed case of swine flu detected in Costa Rica

An immigration official wears a surgical mask while checking passports from arriving tourists at the Juan Santamaria International airport near San Jose, Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Costa Rica's Health Ministry announced the first case of suspected swine flu in Costa Rica, and said that samples have been sent to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert) San Jose, Costa Rica, (DPA) - Costa Rican authorities confirmed Tuesday the first case of swine flu in the country, which would also be the first in Central America.

Costa Rican Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said the life of the patient - a 21-year-old woman who lives in the San Jose metropolitan area - was not at risk. Doctors were following her progress and the health and that of her relatives, the minister said.

The woman was said to have returned from Mexico Saturday. The authorities were planning to evaluate all passengers aboard the commercial flight that brought her back to Costa Rica.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Costa Rica free of swine flu, but maintains alert

Costa Rica's Minister of Health Maria Luis Avila holds surgical face masks during a news conference in San Jose April 28, 2009. Costa Rica found a San Jose, Costa Rica, (Inside Costa Rica) -As of now, no cases of swine flu have been documented in Costa Rica, as health officials face the possible arrival of the influenza. Sunday afternoon, the Costa Rican Health Ministry ruled out nine potential cases of swine flu, while five others are under observation.

In total 14 threats, all the cases involving adults, are under the watchful eye of health officials, although one case is under close observation.

Costa Rica's Health Minister, Maria Luisa Avila, confirmed yesterday that the swine flu has not reached Costa Rica, but authorities cannot let down their guard.

The health minister said that health authorities will immediately take samples for laboratory testing of any person arriving to Costa Rica or anyone who has suspicious symptoms, but it takes up to 24 hours to have the results.

The health minister said that all medical clinics and hospitals have their prevention protocols activated and are on full alert.

Avila, on live television this morning, said that if people travel to Mexico the should take appropriate measures to minimize the risk of contagion and that Costa Rican immigration officials at the airports are on full alert.

The minister said, that although people should not let their guard down, they should continue with their lives normally.

"The virus that has hit the U.S and Mexico has shown to be sensitive to the antivirals, which means if the antivirals are taken in time and not when in need, resistance to the virus begins", said minister Avila.

Asked about consuming pork or not, the minister was emphatic that consuming pork does not represent any risk as long as the pork meat is fully cooked and there is no alert of any type that indicates not to consume pork.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Uruguayan president visits Costa Rica

Students from Costa Rica's Republic of Uruguay School give a warm, Tico flag-waving welcome to Dr. Tabare Vasquez, left, president of Uruguay. The Uruguayan is visiting Oscar Arias, his Costa Rican counterpart, Thursday at Casa Presidencial in the southeastern San Jose district of Zapote. Vazquez is in Costa Rica to at strengthen bilateral relations.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Singapore, Costa Rica hold free trade talks

Singapore (AFP)- Singapore and Costa Rica held the first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement, the city-state's trade ministry said Wednesday.

"Both sides discussed the setting up of a general framework to look at measures that will liberalize trade in goods and services as well as the investment regime," the ministry said in a statement.

They also plan to simplify customs procedures, among other measures to tear down other trade barriers.

The first round of talks was held in Singapore this week and negotiators are expected to meet in Costa Rica later this year for the next session, the statement said.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blagojevich can't go to Costa Rica for TV show

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)(Chicago Tribune) - A federal judge today denied permission to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to travel to Costa Rica to participate in a reality TV show.

U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel called modifying the terms of Blagojevich's bail on political corruption charges "a bad idea."

Prosecutors voiced fears that the indicted ex-governor might flee if allowed to go to Costa Rica, noting that he faces 25 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said television show producer NBC was willing to pay for two security guards to watch Blagjojevich around the clock. But Zagel noted that such personal monitors would have no authority to arrest him. He also said Blagojevich needs to stick around to read the government's evidence, because only then will he be able to understand the jeopardy he is in.

Zagel added that he was sympathetic to Blagojevich's financial condition, but said there were others ways for him to earn money.

Outside court, after the hearing, Blagojevich told swarming reporters: "This is another day in the big city. I know what the truth is when it concerns me, and I know that I've done absolutely nothing wrong. ...I'm actually looking forward to this day in court. ...I want to prove my innocence, I want to vindicate myself."

He stopped several times to greet non-media onlookers and curiosity seekers.

"I didn't let you down," he said to one woman.

"Want to get on TV? Come on in!" he yelled at another man.

Asked by a reporter how active he will be legally in his own defense, the former governor replied: "I'm going to be very active. I know a lot of things about me."

Before this morning's hearing, as he arrived at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, Blagojevich said participating in the reality show would be "a way to earn a living and support my children.

"It's not my first choice, but it's a living," he said.

Asked later if his client was really broke, Sorosky said: "It shows he is an honest man."

Blagojevich's lawyers had asked permission for their client to travel to Costa Rica in June to be a contestant on NBC's "I'm a Celebrity ... Get me Out of Here!" They said he could have made up to $123,250 on the 12-episode show if not voted off by viewers.

NBC issued a statement this afternoon saying the production would move forward without the indicted politician. There had been rumors that the network would move the reality show to a U.S. location to accommodate the governor's travel restrictions, but the network said the show will be shot in Costa Rica this summer as planned.

"NBC is disappointed in the court's decision today regarding Rod Blagojevich's participation on 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!,' but excited about the casting announcement for the show this Friday," the network said in a statement.

Blagojevich would have joined other cast members -- including journalist Geraldo Rivera, reality TV star Heidi Montag, and American Idol reject Sanjaya Malakar -- in a jungle adventure.

In a short-lived 2003 version of the show, contestants, among other things, had to put insects, worms and rats in their pants, sit in a tank of leeches and wade through a swamp populated by snakes and eels.

Blagojevich also is seeking the court's okay to use more than $2 million in his campaign fund to pay for his legal expenses. Zagel encouraged his attorneys to file a motion to that effect but said he believed Blagojevich should be allowed to do so. A hearing on that issue was set for May 1.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Costa Rica's Arias praises Obama as ‘president who listens'

By Alex Leff
Tico Times Staff

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said Central America has high hopes after Sunday morning's much anticipated sit-down meeting in Trinidad and Tobago between fellow heads of state from this region and U.S. President Barack Obama.

"Now there's a different president in Washington, a president who listens, who wants to learn," said Arias, according to a government press release issued shortly after the meeting of Obama and leaders from the Central American Integration System (SICA). The meeting came just at the end of the weekend-long Summit of the Americas.

"Without a doubt we have big expectations that relations between the United States and Latin America, and particularly with Central America, will be stronger, where … everything achieved will be done through respectful dialogue," Arias said.

Joining Arias and Obama Sunday were leaders of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador, who discussed issues such as immigration, the global economic crisis and drug- and weapons-trafficking.

Obama said the U.S. is committed to engaging the region, and listening some more.

"I'm looking forward to hearing more about how the United States can be an effective partner with all the countries represented," Obama said, according to several news reports citing a White House statement.

The U.S. president also delighted Costa Ricans by giving the "small country" special mention.

"We recognize that other countries have good ideas, too, and we want to hear them," Obama said, according to the newswire Associated Press. The fact that an idea comes "from a small country, like Costa Rica," should not diminish its benefit, he added.

Costa Rica president's plea to curtail arms trafficking gets positive response

President Barack Obama, front left, greets Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias during the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas on Friday, April 17, 2009 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff

Top on President Oscar Arias' agenda when he arrived for the fifth Summit of the Americas on Friday was convincing his peers in neighboring countries to reduce the flow of weapons through Latin America.

He began his campaign with a statement on Wednesday, calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to halt all sales of arms to Latin American countries.

“Every time a country spends its resources on arms, it's a hospital that can't be built, it's one university fewer, one highway fewer and one school fewer …” Arias said.

As if he had been listening, Obama announced on Thursday in the company of Mexican President Felipe Calderon that he would press the U.S. Senate for a ratification of a Latin American arms trafficking treaty, which has been stalled in the senate since President Bill Clinton signed it in 1997.

The treaty would work to reduce the illicit sale of firearms by establishing a system for importing, exporting and transferring firearms and would increase coordination by law enforcement agencies investigating illegal arms trafficking.

“I feel very pleased with the decision of President Obama,” Arias said in response. “Without a doubt, this goes in the right direction to recoup levels of security within Latin America and to reinforce a message of cooperation and responsibility adopted by the Obama administration.

Bruce Bagley, chairman of international studies at the University of Miami, in a conversation with The Tico Times on Wednesday, estimated that 90 percent of the weapons in Latin America are sold through the United States.

But Arias took his plea a step further this weekend, asking fellow leaders to reduce the amount of money spent on their militaries. He said the world spends $300 billion each year to support armed forces, which is 13 times more than international development aid granted to the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“More artillery helicopters, more combat airplanes, more rockets and more soldiers will not bring one crust of bread to our families, nor one desk for our schools, nor one (container) of medicine for our clinics…” Arias said, urging countries in the Americas to redirect state funding.

Monster Jam action in Tiquicia

Lupe Soza lands his truck "El Toro Loco" on top of wrecked cars at Monster Jam, a monster truck competition at Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San Jose, Costa Rica, April 19, 2009. (Photo: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama meets Central American leaders

By Jacqueline Charles
Miami Herald

Port of Spain, Trinidad - President Barack Obama, beginning his final day of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, told Central American leaders that their region is important and the United States wanted to be a true partner.

''I'm looking forward to hearing more about how the United States can be an effective partner with all the countries represented,'' Obama told them at a gathering Sunday morning.

Obama met with the presidents of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.

Obama sat at the head of a U-shaped table, with Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega on his right and Costa Rica's Oscar Arias on his left. Before the meeting, Obama shook hands with Ortega, whose 47-minute speech during the opening ceremony Saturday remained the subject of chatter among summit participants.

Obama told leaders that he's aware it's easy to get overlooked in a summit with 34 leaders, but the region was important to him and he wanted to hear their concerns.

''Obviously when you're in a (large) group ... it's more difficult to focus just on the regional issues. So this gives me an opportunity to hear more directly about both challenges and opportunities in the region,'' Obama said, according to a White House report on his remarks.

On Saturday evening, before Obama and leaders attended a summit dinner, the president appeared to be in deep conversation with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Obama also has been trying to spend some time with Haiti's Rene Preval to discuss that nation's struggles.

Arias remains above 50 percent mark in Costa Rica

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Oscar Arias Sanchez maintains a positive approval rating in Costa Rica. According to a poll by CID-Gallup 53 percent of respondents in the Central American country rate their president’s performance as good or very good, down seven points since October 2007.

Arias won the February 2006 presidential election with 40.92 percent of all cast ballots as the candidate for the National Liberation Party (PLN). Arias had headed the government from 1986 to 1990, and was able to run again after the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly opted to bring back presidential re-election in 2003. He was sworn in for the second time in May 2006.

On Apr. 14, Arias discussed the upcoming Summit of the Americas, saying, "We know that assistance to Latin America will be small, but a very noble way in which the United States can help (...) is to stop the sale of weapons to Latin American countries. Every time a country spends on weapons, it means one fewer hospital can be built."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Arias asks Obama to stop sales of arms to Latin America

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (R) looks on during an official photograph session at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, April 18, 2009. On Wednesday, Arias called on Obama to halt all sales of arms to Latin American countries. (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fifth Summit of the Americas gets going

U.S. President Barack Obama reaches out to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias (R) at the start of the opening ceremonies of the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain April 17, 2009. Leaders from across the Americas gathered on Friday for a summit overshadowed by an intense debate over a possible reconciliation between the United States and Cuba and how this could be achieved. (Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Costa Rica demand for fuel falling fast

(Photo: Jose Venegas/Al Dia)(Tico Times) - Costa Ricans are buying and burning considerably less fuel than last year, according to the nation's oil authority, which registered a 23 percent drop in demand last month from March 2008.

The fall in demand has been gaining speed throughout the first three months of the year, the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE) said in a press release Wednesday. January saw a 6.28 percent decrease in fuel consumption from the same month in 2008, and February dropped 14 percent. All told, in the first quarter of 2009 oil demand was 15.13 percent below that of first quarter 2008 – down to just under 4.2 million barrels from 4.9 million.

Fueling the fall most was consumption of diesel fuel for the generation of electricity, which plummeted 99.64 percent in March compared with the same month last year. Fuels for ships (IFO) and planes (JET A-1) have also been on the decrease, down 67.58 percent and 31.74 percent in March respectively.

Bucking the trend, however, demand for super gasoline rose 5.86 percent last month from the prior March.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blagojevich wants to tape Costa Rica show

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrives at his home after pleading not guilty to federal racketeering and fraud in federal court in Chicago, Tuesday, April 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)By Mike Robinson, Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO – An attorney close to Rod Blagojevich's (blah-GOY'-uh-vich-is) legal team says the ousted Illinois governor wants permission to leave the country to appear on a reality TV show in Costa Rica.

Blagojevich, who pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering and fraud charges Tuesday, could tape the show in June if given permission by Judge James B. Zagel. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the plan was confidential.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky declined to confirm the reality show idea.

NBC confirms it wants Blagojevich to appear on "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" A network statement says 10 celebrities will be dropped into the Costa Rican jungle "to face challenges designed to test their skills in adapting to the wilderness."

Blagojevich's bond doesn't allow him to leave the country.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

U.S National Guard troops to train in Costa Rica

1st Sgt. Jason Riley, of the New Mexico National Guard's Combat Arms Training Company, takes up a firing position on a live-fire obstacle course during training in the New Mexico National Guard's gunfighter course near Albuquerque, N.M., May 30. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill)Albuquerque (KRQE) - Members of the New Mexico National Guard are heading to Costa Rica.

The troops will take part in an annual two week training event to conduct search and rescue operations for simulated flooding, mudslides and earthquakes.

The guard will also participate in joint medical training missions with active duty military forces and indigenous people in Costa Rica who do not have access to healthcare.

The troops leave tomorrow and will return on May 6.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reenacting the Via Crucis

Faithful reenact the Via Crucis, Way of the Cross, during Holy Week in San Joaquin de Flores de Heredia, Costa Rica, Friday, April 10, 2009. Holy Week commemorates the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. All photos by AP/Kent Gilbert

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Picture of the day

A person holds a crucifix in the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) during the Holy Week celebrations in Llano Grande de Cartago, 30 miles (18 km) east of San Jose April 08, 2009. Thousands of Catholics participate in the event that remembers the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Via Crucis in Costa Rica

Two people carry a crucifix in the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) during the Holy Week celebrations in Llano Grande de Cartago, 30 miles (18 km) east of San Jose April 08, 2009. Thousands of Catholics participate in the event that remembers the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. (Photo: REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

OECD takes Costa Rica and three other tax havens off blacklist

Costa Rica and three other countries will no longer be blacklisted as unco-operative tax havens after they bowed to pressure from world leaders and agreed to implement new rules on financial openness, an international organization said Tuesday.

Paris (Canadian Press) - Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, said the Philippines, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Malaysia have been moved off the blacklist after they agreed to co-operate with international authorities.

"These four jurisdictions have now made a full commitment to exchange information according to the OECD standard," he said. "This is very important progress."

G20 leaders meeting in London last week pledged to crack down on tax havens, reflecting concern that banking secrecy has helped disguise assets and cost other states tax income.

Anti-poverty activists say countries with banking secrecy provide corrupt officials with safe havens to stash illicit funds, often depriving poor nations of needed resources.

The OECD has divided countries into three categories: those that comply with rules on sharing tax information, those that say they will but have yet to act, and those which have not yet agreed to change banking secrecy practices.

The Philippines, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Malaysia will now join countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein on the so-called grey list of countries that still have to implement commitments to information-exchange standards.

Gurria said the four countries plan this year to propose legislation that will allow them to comply with OECD standards. Admission to the "white list" depends on the tax havens making good on their promises.

The OECD monitors 84 countries and territories, only 40 of which are on the white list.

The rest, ranging from the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean to Monaco, are under increasing pressure to provide more information to prevent people from evading taxes or hiding assets.

Jeffrey Owens, director of the OECD's centre for tax policy, defended the list, saying it is "based on objective criteria."

Potential sanctions for transgressors include extra audits of those who use tax havens and curbs on tax deductions claimed by businesses using the territories.

Gurria distanced himself from the sanctions, saying they are set by governments and the OECD would not like to see one of its members impose them on another.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Tom Brady camp mum on shotgun nups

(Photo: AFP/Yuri Cortez)(Boston Herald) - Tom Brady's agent says security guards patrolling Gisele Bundchen's compound claim to know nothing about a shot that barely missed two photographers, but police in Costa Rica yesterday launched a "full investigation" into the wedding-day gunfire.

"I have no knowledge of the events being described," the usually elusive Don Yee told the Associated Press. "Additionally, security personnel have reported they do not have any knowledge of such an event. Given this, I have no other comment."

But Mario Sanchez of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) told People that a report was filed on the incident and an investigation is set to begin.

Sanchez said authorities will bring charges against the security guards if the evidence is solid. He added that Brady and Bundchen likely would not be held responsible for any actions by their guards. Still, police hope to interview everyone who was present the night of the incident, the magazine said.

As you know, the New England Patriot's second wedding to the Brazilian glamazon was marred by gunfire Saturday when, the paparazzi say, security guards hired to keep them away fired a bullet through a photographer’s car, barely missing two men inside.

Cameraman Yuri Cortez, the Central American bureau chief of Agence France Presse, told People he was approached by "an American security guard," when he returned to his car after taking pictures of the wedding. He said the guard demanded his camera and memory card. Cortez, who said he was shooting from a neighbor’s property - with the permission of the owner - refused.

Several other security guards arrived on the scene, Cortez said, at which point, the photographer started walking away.

"One of them grabbed my arm and pulled it behind my back," he said. "He grabbed my backpack too. And he told me that I couldn’t leave."

The group was then joined by a man who said he was Brady's "best friend," Cortez said.

Al Dia 's newspaper photographer Rolando Aviles, who was with Cortez, told the New York Post that the unidentified man said "Tom Brady just wants to talk to you. It’s OK, nothing’s going to happen."

The photographers followed the guards back to Gisele's house where they were swarmed by "three members of the wedding party and five hired goons dressed all in black," the Post reported. Brady's best man berated the photographers and wanted to provoke a brawl, Aviles said.

"Take a picture of me now, you (bleep)! (Bleep) you!" said Brady's unidentified pal.

"He was very angry. It looked like he wanted to attack us," Aviles told the newspaper.

The photographers managed to talk their way out of the mess, claiming they hadn't gotten any photos. As they drove away, Aviles said he spotted one of the men pull a pistol. A 38-caliber bullet shattered the back of Cortez's SUV, bounced off the windshield and landed between the two terrified photographers.

"I didn't see who had the gun," Cortez told People. "I've been shot at before, but only when I was covering the war in Iraq or when I was in Israel. This is ridiculous!"

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Gunfire at Tom Brady's wedding

(AFP/Yuri Cortez)By David K. Li
New York Post

Armed security guards opened fire on paparazzi at Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen's nuptials in Costa Rica, blasting out windows of one picture shooter's car, according to published reports today.

Bullets nearly missed the heads of fleeing photographers, prompting at least one local shutter bug to file a complaint with police, according to Splash news agency.

Several photographers had just taken pictures of the New England Patriots quarterback and Brazilian stunner on Saturday when they were confronted by the super couple's armed goons, the news agency said.

When the photographers ran away, bullets started flying, Splash said.

The couple was married in Los Angeles in February but exchanged vows again at the model's home in Santa Teresa yesterday.

Rolando Aviles, one of the targeted photographers, said rent-a-cops told him Gisele had an exclusive picture deal with a Brazilian magazine.

"They were very angry at us, threatening and screaming," Aviles said. "They said we couldn't use our pictures because they were selling the wedding pictures to a magazine."

The local shutterbug said he couldn't believe the confrontation led to gun fire.

"But we of course told them we cannot give them the pictures," he said. "We then left to go back to our cars and all of a sudden someone just shoots at us."

"I still can't believe it," Aviles added. "It just missed our heads. All this over some pictures. It's crazy."

Bundchen, Brady wed again - this time in Costa Rica

(AFP/Getty Images/File) Santa Teresa, Costa Rica (AFP) – The second time's a charm for top supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who late Saturday celebrated anew her recent marriage to American football star Tom Brady at a posh Costa Rican resort.

The celebrity couple, who secretly tied the knot February 26 in California, according to People magazine, enlisted a rigid security team to keep swarms of paparazzi at bay in this seaside resort where the Brazilian bombshell has a home, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital San Jose.

The renewal of the nuptials capped a three-day celebration in Santa Teresa, where some 40 relatives and friends gathered in hotels and at the luxurious villa with Bundchen, 28, and Brady, 31, the New England Patriots quarterback who steered his team to three National Football League championships.

Among the guests, according to family friends, were Bundchen's five sisters and Brady's 18-month-old son from a previous relationship.

The bride, 28, wore a long designer gown with a 10-foot-long veil and carried a bouquet of white orchids. The groom, 31, wore a gray jacket and vest with white pants.

The ceremony capped off a three-day pre-wedding celebration, which included dinners, surfing and soaking in the Central American sun.

The sunset ceremony took place at Bundchen's luxurious villa fronting the Pacific ocean, built three years ago as a promised million-dollar gift by her then-boyfriend, the Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Costa Rica and three other countries on tax haven blacklist

Paris (Reuters) - The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has placed Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay on its blacklist of non-cooperative tax havens, as part of efforts agreed at the Group of 20 summit to crack down on tax evasion.

A separate "grey list" of countries that have agreed to improve transparency standards but have not yet signed the necessary international accords included Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Singapore and Chile as well as the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and Monaco.

China is on a third "white list" of jurisdictions that have substantially implemented the internationally agreed tax standards. But the OECD said China's two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao had so far only "committed to implement" the internationally agreed tax standard."

Earlier, the Group of 20 leading industrialized and emerging nations pledged to take action including sanctions against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens, using information from the OECD as its basis.

The non-cooperative centers are accused of harboring foreign tax avoiders who park billions of dollars out of reach of their home authorities.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Brady, Bundchen in Costa Rica for second wedding

(AP Photo/Evan Agostini)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) - Costa Rica's media are reporting that football star Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen are in the Central American country to celebrate a second wedding.

Television network Canal 7 is broadcasting footage of the Brazilian supermodel and the New England Patriots quarterback in the Pacific coast towns of Malpais and Santa Teresa on Thursday.

The reports said Friday that the couple were accompanied by relatives and friends.

In recent years the area has become a popular destination for celebrities, including Mel Gibson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matthew McConaughey and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The couple were reportedly first married in the United States in February.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Oscar Arias slams Latin American gov'ts for arms spending

(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)(Tico Times) - Costa Rica President Oscar Arias lambasted other Latin American leaders Tuesday for starting what he called an "arms race" when their population's basic needs are not being met.

"If there aren't resources to attend basic needs, why the devil does Latin America need to buy planes, attack helicopters, more tanks and more missiles?" President Arias asked in an interview on Radio Monumental.

Arias said he raised this issue during his meeting Monday with Central American leaders and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

"The bilateral aid given by wealthy countries to alleviate poverty in 80 percent of the planet's population, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, is $100 billion annually, but what they spend on weapons and soldiers is 13 times that and that seems immoral to me," Arias said.

In this region Arias reckons the contradiction is clear. "In Latin America almost 200 million people live on $2 a day," he said. Meanwhile, the region's governments spend "$50 billion on weapons and soldiers."

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