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butts in the street
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson

Love it or hate it,

it's still the law

The ban last year on smoking in public places has found acceptance even among those who use cigarettes.

But some bar operators are unhappy because the ban on smoking in their establishments send customers to the streets. Costa Rican lawmakers passed the law to comply with an international treaty.

The effect of the ban is obvious and clearly shown by a dramatic increase in cigarette butts in the streets.

Our story is HERE.



Looming water crisis prompts an increase in rates
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is another crisis that is going to cost consumers money.

The nation's regulatory agency said it is planning an emergency increase in the cost of water in order to encourage the public to save it.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said that the additional charge will be a progressive one that is applied to a customer's monthly bill after 13 cubic meters of water has been used.

That amount is 3,434 gallons

The Autoridad said that there was a reduction of from 10 to 25 percent in rainfall in 2012 and the same is expected for this year. It cited a report from the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional.

The Instituto Nacional  de Acueductos y Alcantarillado, the water company, has been trying to store more water, but the possibility of rationing exists in the Central Valley during the remainder of the dry season, which ends in June, said the agency.
An international study in 2012 said that the average human consumption of water in Costa Rica was 1,490 cubic meters, about 393,616 gallons, said the Autoridad. This is greater than the world average of 1,385 or about 365, 878 gallons, it said.

The Authoridad attributed the water crisis also to economic growth, a greater demand for water in general and productive activities. It also promised medium- and long-term remedies. The short-term remedy is in increasing the rates so residents use less water.

In the medium- and long-term, Acueductos y Alcantarillado is promising to control leaks and crack down on illegal connections. The government firm also said it will take advantage of existing wells and improve the distribution system.

The firm also is suggesting well-known methods of saving water, such as watering plants at night and putting a brick or sealed bottle of water inside the toilet tanks. It also said that someone could save from 10 to 12 liters by using a glass for water while brushing teeth instead of having the faucet run. That is around three gallons.

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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea photo
Police unload drugs from the beached boat.

Drug crew forced to beach
their craft after being chased

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas  drove a drug boat to a Caribbean beach in northern Costa Rica early Thursday.

The occupants of the boat fled into the jungle, and law officers confiscated 775 kilos of cocaine.

The boat was of the go-fast type with three 2200-horsepower motors on the stern.

The crew engaged the pursuing coast guard vessel in a fire fight, but there were no reports of injuries to law officers. Typically Costa Rican patrol boats do not carry mounted guns.

The action began about three nautical miles off the mouth of the Río Jaloba. That location is close to the border with Nicaragua.

The Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea was patrolling the air above the scene as night fell in an effort to find the fugitives. Patrolmen were on foot. Officers of the Policía de Control de Drogas also were looking for sacks of drugs that may have been dumped overboard.

The go-fast boat appears to have evaded detection for much of its trip up the Costa Rican coast. Frequently these nighttime drug trips are spotted by U.S. boats whose crews then notify Costa Rican law officers.


Key tunnel to be closed
for road work Saturday


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Highway officials are closing the Zurquí tunnel on Ruta 32 for seven hours Saturday at 6 a.m.

Workers will be putting down asphalt and doing other road-related work.

The 600-meter tunnel is the only route on the highway, which is the main road from San José to the north and then to the Caribbean coast. The tunnel itself is nearly 2,000 feet, but there will be work outside on either end, said the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.

The work is part of the job to put down new lines for lanes on much of the roadway.


 
Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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

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

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

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him
 HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 18
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No if, ands or butts, tobacco ban has supporter and opponents
By Kayla Pearson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anyone who tries to light a cigarette in a park will hear from nearby citizens that the action is not allowed and be immediately directed toward the streets.

While in the street, that person can quickly observe other
smoker Castro
Fredrico Castro
. . . he's for it
smokers congregating outside government businesses and bars, or persons walking by puffing as they head toward their destination.  These actions, plus the collection of butts on the street, are all a result of the new smoking ban that went into effect last year.

The law, Ley General de Control del Tabaco y sus Efectos Nocivos en la Salud, was signed by President Laura Chinchilla March 22, 2012.  It made it illegal for persons to smoke in any public space including bars, restaurants and bus and taxi stops.  It also raised the taxes on cigarettes.

Since its enactment, the smoking ban has been met with both criticism and praise.  With no
other choice, smokers say they have learned to accept the law.

“It's a good thing,” said Ingrid Abbott, as she finished a cigarette outside a phone store in Calle Chino.  “People have the right to have smoke-free spaces.”

Ms. Abbott also added that the ban was just in public places and not people's home and cars, so to her it's not that bad. 

Fredrico Castro, who enjoyed a cigarette outside a mini mart, shared the same sentiment, adding that he didn't have to smoke as much.

Critics of the ban come from businesses such as bars, who say they are losing business to those going to open areas.  Depending on a person's smoking habit, they may have to leave the bar several times to smoke while dining and drinking at the establishment.

This also raises the question of whether smokers will decrease visits during the rainy season.

“They allow prostitution in bars, but you can't smoke,” said Michael Yafanaro, who ran Bar Joe B y Karen on Calle 7 for three years.
butts on the
                  street
A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
The law has increased the number of butts in the street.


“They are taking away people's right,” he added.

Before the ban, Yafanaro enjoyed smoking cigars at the front counter that looked out into the street.  The ideal solution would be to accommodate smokers with a smoking area, keeping the cigarette smoke contained inside instead of releasing it into the streets where anyone who is walking will be subjected, he said.

Yafanaro also expressed another concern that the smoking ban forces persons to be in a street where it is unsafe and that thieves can easily take advantage of those who just stepped outside to enjoy a quick cigarette.

Currently, police don't issue tickets to smokers.  The Ministerio de Salud is in charge of regulating the law, and it's staff has provided nearly 700 training workshops to municipality police. 

As of December 2012, the health ministry had conducted 5,882 inspections and 10 fines were given for noncompliance with the law.

“Both commercial premises and individuals are complying with the regulation. However the ministry will remain vigilant so as to ensure the protection of the health of the population" said Sisy Castillo, vice-minister of health.

As of now there is no exact data on how the ban has effected public health, said Rodolfo Hernández Gómez, director of Hospital de Niños, but it is making an impact.

“With a doubt, it has improved the hospital environment,” said Hernández.

When it comes to a decrease in asthma and other lung related illnesses, it is ultimately up to the parents to keep children away from second hand smoke.


Towards a socially just democracy, not socialism
Perhaps it is poetic justice, given the history of the relations between blacks and whites in the world and in countries where slavery and/or apartheid existed or still exists, but at this moment in history, both the leader of the most powerful country in the world and the most admired man in the world are black.  One is African-American and the other South African. And the man who probably made it possible was also black. 

Women have not done too badly for themselves either.  Secretary no longer only means the pretty thing sitting at the desk in front of her boss’s office.  (I’ve been there.)

We have demonstrated that we can be secretaries of State, start businesses, work alongside men, be creative, and make wise decisions. Even be president in some countries.

The second inauguration of President Barack Obama is over.  His administration has a lot of work to do to concentrate more on the general welfare and less on the defense of the country as a primary concern, because without doing so, the country is in trouble. 

I quote French politician and writer, Victor Hugo in this respect:

“Nothing is more dangerous than discontinued labor; it is a habit lost.  A habit easy to abandon, (is)) difficult to resume.”

“Social prosperity means man happy, the citizen free, (and) the nation great.”

Both quotes are from his novel, “Les Miserables.”

Social prosperity does not mean socialism. It simply means paying attention to the well being, and prosperity of the citizens in general, not just a few.  For those who are sticklers about following the Constitution, this should be a no brainer. The phrase comes right after “provide for the common defense,” and is separated only by a comma. I have yet to hear a U.S. politician use that phrase, but they love to remind
Butterfly in the City
 
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

Jo Stuart

everyone that defense of the country is the primary purpose of government.

Speaking of providing for the common defense, I am happy to be living in a country where whether or not to admit women into the front lines of the military is not a question that has to be dealt with.  However, women have been in the front lines even before Florence Nightingale whenever the national defense of their country was at risk. It is just that nobody noticed.

Meanwhile, as so many countries in the Northern Hemisphere are shivering in almost unprecedented cold and snow, Costa Rica is beginning to bask in its sunshine as per normal, given that nothing in regarding the weather is normal anymore.  We still have to worry about the future effects of drought and earthquakes.  An earthquake woke me up Thursday morning.  After the huge earthquake in Japan, I figured earthquakes would continue across the Pacific and get here.  Well, they are here.  I also feel, perhaps just to comfort myself, after experiencing enough big earthquakes in California (like one is enough), that a lot of little quakes is like a woman of the 50’s working and wriggling her way into one of those awful girdles.  Once she’s got it adjusted, everything is fine.  Until she has to take it off. (I think I had better come up with a different simile.)

Meanwhile, thanks to those of you who enlightened me that $400 for an ounce of (I hope) good marijuana is not unusual.  That seems to be all that criminalizing it has done, because as others have informed me, probably on good authority, it has not cut down on its use.

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Fish Fabulous Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica's Fourth News page
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 18
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buzzards
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William M. Patterson photo
Scenes like this are typical along the southwestern beaches of the country.

Deaths of turtles come as no surprise for those who sail here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Dead sea turtles in the Pacific are nothing new, according to an environmentalist who spends a lot of time on the ocean.

She is Sierra Goodman of Fundación Vida Marina. She said by email from Drake Bay Thursday that the foundation's dolphin and whale tours see plenty of dead sea turtles. She blamed long-line fishing activities and shrimpers who can catch turtles in nets.

Ms. Goodman said that usually only persons on the water see dead turtles, but that recent winds have brought the dead animals to shore and to the attention of residents and the media.

There may be hundreds of dead turtles along the beaches of the southern Pacific coast.

The use of shrimp nets without obligatory turtle excluders could be one answer to the riddle of why some turtles do not show signs of being hooked. Environmentalists have blamed long-line fishing crews for the deaths, but some of the turtles do not show that they have been hooked. Without excluders that let captured turtles swim free, the animals die.
William M. Patterson, an expat investor in southern Costa Rica, reported again Thursday that the turtles that he saw and photographed near Pavones appeared to be drowned instead of hooked. There were no marks on them, he said.

Ms. Goodman said that in the past tour boats on the Pacific had to be guided carefully for fear of hitting swimming live turtles. Now that is not the case, she said, adding that sometimes she would see just 10 a day.

"It is a shame, and the commercial fishing in this area is completely changing the face of our waters here," she said. "Not to mention, the tuna boats continue to massacre Costa Rica’s own species of dolphin, the Costa Rica spinner dolphin. It is time for the government to step up and for Costa Rica to be the true eco country it claims to be both on land and at sea.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía said it will investigate the turtle deaths.

The Servicio Nacional de Guardacoastas said that the crew of one of its boats took 15 dead turtles out of the water earlier this week. The turtles were supposed to go to specialists for autopsies. The coat guard blames bacteria for the deaths.


Fugitive bank branch manager surrenders himself in theft case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bank manager from the Santa Teresa branch of Banco Nacional surrendered himself Thursday in the company of defense lawyers.

He was the man judicial agents described as the principal suspect when some $750,000 in U.S. and Costa Rican currency vanished form the bank vault. The theft came to light Monday, but the man, identified by the last name of Quesada, is
believed to have taken the money Saturday after other employees left the building.

The surrender came Thursday afternoon at the prosecutor's office in Puntarenas Centro, said the Poder Judicial.

Prosecutors are expected to seek preventative detention against the man, but a judge will give some consideration to the fact that he gave himself up. There was no report on what happened to the money.

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A.M. Costa Rica's
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, Vol. 13, No. 18
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U.N. will investigate drones
and targeted terror killings


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The United Nations has launched an investigation into the use of unmanned drone strikes and targeted killings in counterterrorism operations.

The probe will investigate 25 strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian territories. It also will focus on civilian killings and injuries caused by the strikes.

British lawyer Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special envoy on counterterrorism and human rights, will carry out the probe.

Emmerson says the use of drone technology is "here to it stay," adding it is imperative that "appropriate legal and operational structures are urgently put in place to regulate its use."

Most attacks by unmanned drones have been carried out by the United States.  Israel has used them and other nations have access to the technology. 

Pakistan was one of three countries that requested the investigation, condemning U.S. drone strikes on targets along its border with Afghanistan.  Pakistan says the strikes not only violate its sovereignty, but that collateral damage is fueling militancy in the region.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council Thursday approved the use of unmanned surveillance drones over eastern Congo to monitor militias.  The council said the drones would be deployed on what it calls a case-by-case basis.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the council to consider using unmanned aerial systems to permit timely decision-making in dealing with M23 rebels in eastern Congo.


U.S. senators agree to curb
the use of filibuster in debate


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has approved a modest curb on procedural delaying tactics, known as filibusters, that minority parties have long used to kill legislation and block confirmation of presidential nominees. 

The changes, negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, reduce the number of times opponents of bills and nominees can use the filibuster. In turn, a minority party gains greater opportunity to offer amendments to pending legislation.

The new rules also impose limits on the time spent debating some bills and nominations, and compress the amount of time it takes to get a bill through the Senate.

President Barack Obama praised the deal in a statement late Thursday and said he is hopeful it will pave the way for the Senate to make meaningful progress on its legislative tasks in the weeks and months ahead. He thanked both major political parties for streamlining the process of reviewing his nominees for judicial positions.

Both sides describe the measures as part of a push to break the gridlock that has left Congress inefficient, and, in the eyes of many voters, ineffective.

Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, noted the growing public dissatisfaction with the ways Congress goes about its business.

"Americans are fed up and angry with the broken government. In too many critical areas, people see a Congress riven with dysfunction. Citizens see their legislature going from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. They see a legislature that is unable to respond effectively to the most urgent challenges of our time," Harkins said.

Sen. John McCain, a Republican, described the end results that he hopes the new rules will achieve.

"The object, and I believe the outcome, of this hard-iron compromise will be a greater degree of comity in the Senate which will allow us to achieve the legislative goals that all of us seek," McCain said.

Filibustering is a time-honored tactic in the U.S. Senate. But it was used only rarely, and then usually for the most controversial legislation before Congress.

In recent years, however, filibusters by individual senators were used to block action on many pieces of legislation and presidential nominations. Overturning a filibuster requires the consent of at least 60 of the 100 senators in the upper house of Congress — a measure of agreement that was very often too difficult to reach on controversial issues.

Many analysts say chronic overuse of tactics such as the filibuster has all but halted legislative progress entirely in Washington.


Anti-bacterial additive
found in fresh water lakes


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

So-called antibacterial products are everywhere today – in stores, homes and classrooms around the world — to reduce the spread of colds and other infections.  But a new study conducted in the United States has found that a chemical that gives soaps and hand creams their anti-germ properties is polluting freshwater lakes. 

The anti-bacterial agent triclosan was approved for use in the United States in 1964 and was added to consumer products in the 1970s.  Today, the disinfectant is in everything from soaps to laundry detergent, according to William Arnold, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“We are using a chemical to wash our hands, brush our teeth and the like that isn’t actually necessary for the function of these products, that’s now accumulating in the environment and having potential effects out there," said Arnold.

Researchers pulled core samples from the bottom of eight Minnesota lakes, looking for evidence of triclosan in the sediment that had built up on the lake beds.

“And so what we found is the concentration of triclosan was zero before 1964, and that it had increased over time, largely during the 1980s, when antibacterial hand soap came to the market," he said.

As the use of antibacterial soaps became widespread, more and more triclosan was washed down the drain with waste water, so the most recent sediments show the highest levels of the chemical.

Researchers say three chemical derivatives of triclosan are produced when the antibacterial agent is mixed with chlorine during the water purification process.  And when triclosan and those derivatives are exposed to sunlight, they produce dioxin compounds.  Arnold notes that dioxins harm the environment and get into the food chain, beginning with algae in lakes.

“People often think of algae on the lake — that’s bad — but algae are a very important component in the food chain," said Arnold. "And so if you disrupt that, that’s problematic.  Triclosan is also known to make its way into fish via bioaccumulation, and so we expect these other compounds would do the same thing.”

Arnold says triclosan and its associated chemicals can build up in the ocean, as well as in freshwater lakes.

U.S. regulators have found no evidence that triclosan is any more effective than regular soap and water at killing germs, although as an ingredient in toothpaste it can reduce the risk of gum disease.  The Canadian government, however, has started regulating the chemical.

An article by the University of Minnesota’s William Arnold and colleagues on the discovery of the antibacterial agent triclosan in U.S. lakes is published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. 
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                          bridge
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Workmen move sections of the bailey bridge

Atenas bridge promised
to be ready by Feb. 10

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Road officials hope to have a new bridge in place at Santa Eulalia de Atenas by Feb. 10. This is on the road that connects the community with Grecia.

The old bridge with its wooden deck was declared a risk, said the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad.  So a temporary one-lane bailey bridge is being installed. The cost of the project will be about 215 million colons or about $430,000, said the agency.

The bridge will be 55 meters or about 180 feet.


More clouds will mean
lower daytime temperatures


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weather forecast calls for an increase in clouds today and over the weekend. That means the temperatures in the Caribbean, in the Central Valley and on the Pacific coasts will be lower and the nights will not be as chilly.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional also said that the weather will remain stable but with continuing winds.


Another early morning quake

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley received another shaking early today when a 3.5 earthquake took place about 9 kilometers (about 5.6 miles) northeast of Santa María de Dota. The Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sísmica also said that the 12:41 a.m. quake was felt strongest in Cartago. A series of three quakes, the stongest being a magnitude 5.2, rattled the Central valley early Thursday. That epicenter was near Orotina.









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U.S. lawmakers present weapons bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. lawmakers have unveiled a bill that would ban military-style assault weapons — a major component of the Obama administration’s gun control proposal crafted after last month’s murders of school children in Newtown, Connecticut. The ban is likely to face strong opposition from gun rights proponents inside and outside the Capitol.
 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said the bill has a clear purpose. She said, “We are introducing legislation to help end the mass shootings that have devastated countless families and terrorized communities.”

The bill would prohibit the manufacture, importation, and sale of more than 150 military-style firearms, as well as components that can turn less powerful guns into de-facto assault weapons. It also limits gun magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition.

Flanked by other Democratic lawmakers, municipal police chiefs, and victims of gun violence, Ms. Feinstein said assault weapons have no legitimate civilian use and enable atrocities like Newtown.

“Weapons designed originally for the military to kill large numbers of people in close combat are replicated for civilian use," she said. "They fall into the hands, one way or another, or grievance-killers, of gangs, of those who are mentally unstable or ill.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, another Democrat, put it more succinctly. He said, “Assault weapons were designed for and should be used on our battlefields, not our streets.”

The proposed legislation is a more comprehensive version of an assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 that expired a decade later. Although gun violence continued while the law was in effect, mass shootings became less common and have escalated since its expiration.

Most Republican lawmakers, and even some Democratic proponents of gun ownership rights, are expected to oppose the bill. America’s main gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association, is already gearing up for a major legislative battle. NRA chief Wayne LaPierre spoke earlier this week.

“We believe we deserve and have every right to the same level of freedom that our government leaders keep for themselves. And the same capabilities and the same technologies that criminals use to prey upon us and our families," he said. "That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semi-automatic firearms technology.”

LaPierre’s argument does not convince Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat, whose husband was shot and killed on a New York commuter train in 1993.

She asked, “How many people have to be killed before we do something?”

Until the Newtown shootings, gun control was rarely mentioned in the nation’s political discourse. Today, even the strongest proponents of gun control acknowledge the votes may not exist in Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

Yet the political calculus surrounding gun control appears to have changed. Analysts say proposals to regulate and track the sale of firearms, strengthen background check requirements, and keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill could become law if Americans remain engaged and demand action from their representatives.


Britain's Cameron backs away from EU

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

British Prime Minister David Cameron has begun a process that could lead to Britain's exit from the European Union - a result analysts say could devastate the country's economy.
 
Britain's economy relies on trade and financial services.  The free flow of goods and services with the European continent has been a boon, but more and more Britons see the European Union as an unwelcome infringement on their sovereignty.
 
That has pushed Prime Minister Cameron to promise a re-negotiation of Britain's ties to the EU and then a referendum within five years, if he is re-elected in the middle of the process.
 
"We've been very clear about what we want to see changed. There are a whole series of areas, social legislation, employment legislation, environmental legislation, where Europe has gone far too far," he said.
 
Cameron said he wants to preserve the single market but avoid some of its regulations, an approach that analyst Stephen Tindale, at the Center for European Reform, says won't work.
 
"His plan is impractical if it works because there would be lots of non-tariff barriers, different regulations, different standards, so products couldn't be as freely traded within Europe as they are at the moment," he said.
 
That would seem bad for business but, on Thursday, 56 British business leaders endorsed the prime minister's plan, including heads of the London stock exchange and one of the country's major banks. They decried what they called "ever more burdens from Brussels."
 
But Tindale warns the changes those executives and the prime minister envision are not likely to be accepted by other European leaders.
 
"The other EU members would ultimately let him walk if his shopping list of demands for repatriation of powers are too great," he said.
 
European officials have indicated as much, including the French government spokeswoman.
 
"Being a member of the European Union brings with it a certain number of obligations, and the Europe we believe in and we live in is a solidarity pact which applies to all member states. Otherwise it's not solidarity," said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
 
But Britain has never been interested in as much solidarity as many other EU members.  Years ago, it opted out of two key aspects of the Union, the common currency and the open borders agreement.


Cannabis study causes major relief

By the Tel Aviv University, news service

Though controversial, medical cannabis has been gaining ground as a valid therapy, offering relief to suffers of diseases such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. The substance is known to soothe severe pain, increase the appetite, and ease insomnia where other common medications fail.

In 2009, Zach Klein, a graduate of Tel Aviv University's Department of Film and Television Studies, directed the documentary "Prescribed Grass." Through the process, he developed an interest in the scientific research behind medical marijuana, and now, as a specialist in policy-making surrounding medical cannabis and a master's student at the university's Porter School of Environmental Studies, he is conducting his own research into the benefits of medical cannabis.

Using marijuana from a farm called Tikkun Olam — a reference to the Jewish concept of healing the world — Klein and his fellow researchers tested the impact of the treatment on 19 residents of the Hadarim nursing home in Israel. The results, Klein says, have been outstanding. Not only did participants experience dramatic physical results, including healthy weight gain and the reduction of pain and tremors, but Hadarim staff saw an immediate improvement in the participants' moods and communication skills. The use of chronic medications was also significantly reduced, he reports.

Israel is a world leader in medical cannabis research, Klein says. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was first discovered there by Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni. Mechoulam is also credited for having defined the endocannabinoid system, which mimics the effects of cannabis and plays a role in appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory.

In the Hadarim nursing home, 19 patients between the ages of 69 and 101 were treated with medical cannabis in the form of powder, oil, vapor, or smoke three times daily over the course of a year for conditions such as pain, lack of appetite, and muscle spasms and tremors. Researchers and nursing home staff monitored participants for signs of improvement, as well as improvement in overall life quality, such as mood and ease in completing daily living activities.

During the study, 17 patients achieved a healthy weight, gaining or losing pounds as needed. Muscle spasms, stiffness, tremors and pain reduced significantly. Almost all patients reported an increase in sleeping hours and a decrease in nightmares and traumatic stress-related flashbacks.

Overall, Klein believes that the healing powers of cannabis are close to miraculous, and has long supported an overhaul in governmental policy surrounding the drug. Since his film was released in 2009, the number of permits for medical cannabis in Israel has increased from 400 to 11,000. His research is about improving the quality of life, he concludes, especially for those who have no other hope.

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