Costa Rica, Nicaragua prepare to
receive World Youth Day pilgrims
By AM Costa Rica staff
Panama isn’t the only country that will host World Youth Day pilgrims in January.
Dioceses in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the closest neighbors to Panama City, the site of World Youth Day, Jan. 22 to 27, are preparing to receive up to 30,000 young people as part of the celebration leading to the main event.
The Rev. Miguel Adrian Rivera, executive secretary of youth ministry for the Costa Rican bishops’ conference, said parishes are planning to welcome pilgrims for catechetical and cultural events.
Rivera added that Panama, a small nation, asked that eight dioceses in Costa Rica provide assistance in handling the large number of pilgrims expected.
The eight dioceses of Panama also are participating in youth days.
Each diocese has a priest overseeing activities that include finding host families, introducing guests to the community and providing information about tourist attractions pilgrims can enjoy.
At the end of the week of preparation each diocese will have a massive youth event with the local bishop before sending the pilgrims to Panama, Rivera said.
Bishop Jorge Solorzano Perez of Granada, Nicaragua, president of the bishops’ Youth Ministry Commission, announced in April that dioceses in his country were preparing for more than 15,000 pilgrims.
Special security arrangements are being undertaken in Nicaragua, which has experienced rounds of anti-government protests in recent months, Rivera said.
Costa Rica has created an inter-institutional commission that includes the police, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Immigration and National Emergency Commission to facilitate the passage of pilgrims and the safety of the young adults for as long as they are in the country, Rivera said.
The priest noted that each of the three countries has different cultural characteristics and faith practices.
World Youth Day (WYD) is a worldwide encounter with the Pope which is typically celebrated every three years in a different country.
In the parishes of the Diocese of Cartago, local young people plan to share with pilgrims the tradition of popular Marian piety, which is based on a devotion to the patroness of the country, Our Lady of the Angels.
Parishes of the capital city of San José plan for pilgrims to experience university ministry and the process of education in the faith.
If pilgrims from any part of the world decide to choose one of the parishes of the Diocese of Limon, on Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast, they will experience how the church ministers to tourists and indigenous people.
The Panamanian government has announced that there will be improved transportation to facilitate the influx of pilgrims and that the normal $60 fee for consular and migratory services will be waived for pilgrims.
Route 32 between San José and Caribbean reopened
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photoStaffers will maintain permanent monitoring at the route to anticipate any dangerous situations.
The officials request that drivers collaborate with the police, reporting to the 9-1-1 emergency number any anomalous or dangerous situation that is observed on the road.
tropical wave brings more rain in the Atlantic area
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photoMore strong winds, heavy downpours, and electric storms are also expected.
According to the last update of the National Emergency Commission, 1,408 people have been affected.
The Emergency Commission opened 21 shelters to keep the people safe.
The majority of people are from Matina, Turrialba, Talamanca, Sarapiquí, and Limón.
|Team from Costa Rica and UC Riverside
creates bio-photovoltaic technology
By A.M. Costa Rica
The University of California, Riverside informed there is significant research being conducted into sustainable solar energy production. In the past, solar panels use silicon and tin, but the new technology uses bacteriorhodopsin and graphene for what is hoped to be truly sustainable solar power.
Claudia Chaves Villarreal, a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering at the University of California-Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, received a 2018 AAAS Pacific Division Alan E. Leviton Student Research Award for her work in the field. She is an assistant professor at the Costa Rica Institute of Technology
The $700 award will help support her ongoing collaboration with Ashok Mulchandani, the W. Ruel Johnson Chair in Environmental Engineering, which hopes to integrate biological components with photovoltaic cells to deliver solar energy.
Existing photovoltaic technology is not fully capable of realizing the promise of sustainable solar energy. Commercial and emerging photovoltaic technologies require energy-intensive extracting and manufacturing processes and often require metals like tin that generate social conflict and environmental harm with their mining. Slave and child labor, along with rampant environmental destruction and pollution are widespread in the tin mining industry, which in some places is even controlled by militias to fund wars.
Villarreal and Mulchandani are developing sustainable bio-photovoltaic technology fabricated from renewable carbon sources. A bio-photovoltaic cell integrates biological materials as functional elements in the solar cell. Instead of silicon they use the protein bacteriorhodopsin, found in halo-bacteria from salty lakes, as the component that captures sunlight in the device.
Halo-bacteria are an ancient group of microbes that live in water too salty to sustain most other forms of life. They produce a purple protein called bacteriorhodopsin that absorbs energy from sunlight and uses it to transport protons, along with their electrical charge, as an energy source that sustains the organism’s biological functions.
Bacteriorhodopsin offers a potentially more environmentally friendly and effective alternative to silicon because it naturally converts solar radiation into electricity and can be produced with very little environmental impact.
The researchers integrate carbon nano materials like graphene to replace traditional transparent conductors. The award will help researchers continue improving the design of the device to increase power conversion efficiency by exploring the charge transfer mechanisms at the interfaces of the device.
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
Schematic of biophotovoltaic device built from renewable carbon by integrating graphene hybrids and the phototropic protein bacteriorhodopsin.
Villarreal obtained her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering with an emphasis on microelectronics from the Institute of Technology in 2010. She joined the Mulchandani’s bio-nanotechnology research group in 2013, supported by an academic fellowship from her university. The institute supports 50 fellows in professional development capacities at other universities.
In rural parts of Costa Rica, Villarreal is working with the the California university's chapter of Engineers without Borders to replace firewood in cooking, improve treatment of agricultural waste water and economic development with biogas generated from agriculture waste.
She also plans to help establish an academic partnership between The University of California-Riverside and the Institute of Technology that will bring students from Costa Rica to do internships at Riverside or pursue graduate degrees, as well as provide opportunities for California students to develop research projects in Costa Rica.
“Every student here at UCR or any university around the world is privileged to receive formal education, and we all have the responsibility of returning to society what it has given us. Each of us can do a little more to help solve the problems that the least privileged ones are facing to fulfill their dreams and have a better quality of life,” Villarreal said.
The University of California, Riverside is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world.
Officials exchange positions
By A.M. Costa Rica staff
The new president of
the Costa Rican Social Security
Fund, Roman Macaya, is finishing
his four years of work as
ambassador to the United States to
be replaced by the current head of
the security fund, Fernando
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
Román Macaya Hayes was Costa Rican ambassador in Washington, D.C. since August 2014.
Users’ complaints about bad services in hospitals, workers' complaints about bad conditions in buildings and protests about pensions and the union benefits of unions in the public health sector are all problems he must contend with.
Income Alternatives for a Low Interest Rate World
By A.M. Costa Rica
In the current low interest rate environment prevalent in many developed market economies it makes little sense to park one’s investment money in conservative fixed income investments that offer poor yields; perhaps even yields lower than expected inflation rates.
Given the fact that the first few years of Baby Boomers are now retiring, and people in retirement tend to favor income producing investments, it seems there should be considerable demand for alternatives to bonds. These alternatives should pay a good income stream, should be relatively conservative, should be able to withstand an inflationary environment, and should offer diversification benefits to stocks.
This is a tall order and the fact is, as we saw in the panic of late 2008, nothing offers the diversification benefits of US Treasury Bonds or gold; pretty much all other assets fell during this time period. Nevertheless, panics aside, there are a number of investments that offer at least some diversification and have many of the other properties in which we might be interested - so let’s have a look at a few of these.
It should be stressed that all of the income alternatives mentioned below are likely more volatile than most fixed income investments, and certainly more volatile than Treasury bonds. But risk comes in many forms; and these days perhaps we should be more concerned about interest rate risk than volatility.
These securities are generally mid-way between equity and bonds in terms of risk, although in a panic they tend to behave more like stocks. Preferred shares pay a higher dividend than common shares and receive dividend payments before any such payments are made to common stock investors. Many US bank preferreds offer current yields in the 6% range. Of note are so-called “floating-rate” preferreds that offer a dividend that is the greater of a fixed amount or a floating amount based on Libor or a similar interest rate benchmark – here by offering protection against rising interest rates.
Real Estate Investment Trusts:
These come in two flavors; mortgage trusts and equity trusts. Mortgage trusts get their cash flow from mortgages and therefore their fortunes are re-tied to the spread between their borrowing rates and their lending rates. As inflation increases, generally short-term interest rates also rise. At some point short-term rates rise faster than long-term rates and this is when mortgage REITs underperform. Equity REITs get their cash flow from property rents and sales, which tend to increase with inflation, so these are less sensitive to rising interest rates. Some mortgage REITS offer dividends over 10%, but this is because they are leveraged investments on the mortgage market – if we end up in another credit crunch or housing bust like we did in 2008 then these REITs will suffer.
Royalty Trusts and Master Limited Partnerships:
These are similar to REITs but the income stream comes from other types of assets, mostly from oil and natural gas producing properties. Canadian Royalty Trusts (most of which have actually converted to corporations and therefore are no longer technically Royalty Trusts) generally try to replenish their reserves, whereas US Royalty Trusts generally do not. This leads to differences in taxation of dividends and obviously the US Trusts have a finite life. MLPs may replenish their reserves and were traditionally structured as limited partnerships; which means different tax treatment again.
The recent changes in US tax law have taken away some of the tax benefits that MLPs have traditionally enjoyed and as a result many of these investments’ share price has dropped substantially and many are now converting from limited partnerships to corporate forms.
These investments may currently yield in the 7 percent to 9 percent range and offer a cash flow that might be inflation-protected by virtue of the fact that it is linked to oil and gas prices.
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
US Business Development Companies:
This is basically a private equity investment for the common man. Normally private equity investments have high minimums but certain companies have in essence created funds that invest in private rather than public companies these are BDCs. Some, but not all, BDCs have good yields; currently in the 10% range. We can expect that BDC share prices will be highly correlated and probably somewhat more volatile than the S&P500, but the high dividends give us a cash-like, uncorrelated, income stream (as long as they are paid).
These funds invest in certain infrastructure plays. For example, they might be toll-road operators, getting a cash flow from the tolls, or railroad or port operators. Generally they pay good dividends, are somewhat less volatile than stocks, and may offer inflation protection if they can increase the price of their services with inflation.
Dividend paying common stock:
Let’s not forget these - you can get a 4% or higher yield in some blue chip companies, especially in non-US markets, and others are increasing their dividend payouts as their business improves. Generally such companies tend to be less volatile than the stock market as a whole; although of course highly correlated to the stock market.
It is important to note that while the investments mentioned above are all more volatile than conservative bonds and better correlated to the stock market, the income stream that comes from the dividends has practically zero correlation to any stock market. This is an important and little understood point.
For more information on International Asset Management (IAM) and our services for Americans living abroad, please see our website and contact Peter Brahm: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author’s note: Tom Zachystal is President of International Asset Management, a Registered Investment Advisor specializing in investment management and financial planning for US citizens living abroad, and is past president of the San Francisco chapter of the Financial Planning Association. This article is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to offer advice or guidance on legal, tax, or investment matters. Such advice can be given only with full understanding of a person’s specific situation.
Editor’s note: The views or opinions expressed by the author are the sole and exclusive responsibility of the sender and do not necessarily represent the opinion of A.M. Costa Rica. Therefore, the newspaper does not accept liability for reader's opinion letter content.
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|Man found guilty of
A.M. Costa Rica staff
A 23-year-old man named
Villegas was sentenced
Wednesday to 30 years in
prison after being found
guilty of raping two
minors between July and
November of 2014. At the
time, the victims were 8
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo
Villegas was the administrator of a private soccer field,
a sport very popular among children.
"Days later, both victims told to their mothers what had happened, so they filed an accusation on the Prosecutor's Office and the Judicial Investigation Agency," the report said.