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A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay over $2 billion in damages, over twice the amount they were requesting.

The government of Costa Rica has confirmed that the existing sales tax system will be replaced by a Value Added Tax (VAT) system, coming into effect on July 1st, 2019. The tax will apply to the majority of goods and services.

The standard rate of VAT will be 13% whilst reduced rates of 6%, 4%, 2%, and 1% will also apply to certain items.

Most restaurants already charge 13% Sales Tax and a 10% service charge, adding 23% to the overall tab. Considering the restaurant staff rely on tips as the major part of their earnings, diners should be adding another 10% to that final bill, provided the service is good.

The current 13% sales tax is also levied on imports and domestic sales of all goods. There are exemptions for basic foodstuffs, medicines and other essentials. Services are currently exempt.

As of July 1st, 2019 that all changes. The country needs to widen its tax base, to cover ever increasing social programs and basic services, which means subjecting services to the new VAT.

Although the full 13% on services may be phased in over a 4-year period, one should expect the majority of the tax increases to applied quickly. Services now accounts for almost half of the country’s economy. This includes the professional services of doctors, veterinarians, accountants, attorneys, engineers, etc and even rents over $400 per month.

The tourism sector will also be subject to the new taxes, but phased in over 4 years. The implementation of VAT will be done gradually, from 0% in the first year, 4% in the second year, 8% in the third year and 13% from the fourth year. The business needs to be registered with ICT to qualify for the graduated rate on services, otherwise they need to charge the full 13% the first year.

While certain basic food products are initially exempt, such as breads and tortillas, rice, flour, milk, meat, eggs, sausages, canned tuna, fruits, vegetables, beverages, personal hygiene items, school goods and other food products, they will be subject to a 1% VAT as of July 1st 2020.

Accountants will be working overtime to keep up with the added paperwork involved in keeping their client accounts up to date. If you charge the tax to your customers, you can claim a rebate on the tax you paid, provided you have a record of every purchase and the receipts are in the legal business name. And of course some charges are nonrecoverable, if one considers that even your lawyer and accountant will now charge the VAT, estimated to be 6%.

The concept of turning every business owner into a tax collector is not a new one. VAT charges exist in many countries and ideally apply to luxury items and not essentials like food, water, electricity and public transportation. In most countries the VAT charges end up affecting everyone, no matter their income level. In Canada the VAT is currently 5% whereas in Brazil it is 17% and Mexico it is 16% (Reference).

Considering the various rates involved in this new system, one should expect a complicated process that will result in the government having to hire more staff to manage the collections and processing, reducing the winfall expected from the taxes collected. Payments and associated paperwork are due monthly.

It is highly recommended that if you own a business in Costa Rica or you rent a property, you should seek out a reputable accountant, or legal office, preferably one who knows your business sector and how the new tax laws will be applied.

The full Decree with lists of products and services can be downloaded here.

ASADA Membership

The ASADA Surfside is a non-profit organization that manages and protects the community water supply. Las Asociaciones Operadoras de Sistemas de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Sanitario aka the ASADA's responsibilities include the administration and maintenance of the wells, distribution system, infrastructure and financal maanagement of the organization. The ASADA is also involved in protecting the enviroment, and working with the community to promote water conservation and resource sustainablity.

The Members of the ASADA are comprised of those property and home and business owners who have a water connection to the ASADA Surfside water supply system. Many homeowners and property owners are unaware that they need to apply to become members of the local ASADA. It is a simple process that requires submitting a completed application form. The owner of the property can be named as the Member. If the property has multiple owners only one can become a Member.

Every two years, Members decide who will represent them on the Board of Directors, who in turn manage the operations of the ASADA. Members are also have a voice in decisions that affect the infrastructure, and management of the system as a whole.

There are over 1800 similar communal organizations who administer rural aqueducts in Costa Rica, all operating as non-profits, under the legal framework of the Law on Associations (Law 218).

Responsibility for water and sanitation policy is shared by the Ministry of Health (MINSALUD) and the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET). Other Ministries also have a role in the sector, sometimes with overlapping functions and responsibilities.

The economic regulation of the major service providers - AyA and ASADAS - is the responsibility of the Regulatory Authority for Public Services (ARESEP), which is responsible for setting tariffs, implementing technical regulations, and monitoring the compliance with these regulations.

The Costa Rican Water and Sanitation Institute or AyA has an important indirect policy and regulatory role since it monitors the compliance with technical specifications, can take over failing systems and advises the Ministry in the development of the sector. This double role implies a conflict of interest however it is expected that this will only lead to improvements to the preservation of the aquifer and the access to potable water.

AyA is responsible for providing support to water and sanitation associations in rural communities outside of AyA's service area and monitoring their compliance with technical norms. AyA can assume the operation of failing systems in order to guarantee the continuity of provision of services. The Rural Works Department within AyA is responsible for the planning, design, financing and construction of rural water supply and sanitation systems and the provision of technical assistance to the ASADAS.

It is important for all owners with a existing water connection, who are not yet registered as an ASADA Member, complete their Membership Application and submit it to the ASADA office or email a copy to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You will then be notified of future meetings and can particpate in programs to help us keep our water supply safe and reliable.

The agreement signed between the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae), the Island Conservation organization and the Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre (ACRXS or Costa Rica Association Forever) will also promote management activities, scientific research, planning and communication.

"Through this agreement we are following up on a series of efforts that we have been implementing since the beginning of this administration in terms of security and surveillance. With these actions we want to continue to materialize efforts for the protection and environmental conservation in an integral way. Cocos Island is a unique treasure in the world and we have to protect it permanently, "said the Minister of Environment and Energy.

The island is a unique and exceptional territory due to its geographical location, its origin and geological history and the oceanographic and climatic conditions it supports. It is also part of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR), a strategic territory for marine and climatic research.

It has healthy and resilient coral reefs and is the only oceanic island in the eastern Pacific that features humid tropical forest. In addition, it is a site of convergence of migratory marine species, which reach its waters to feed and reproduce, which makes it a key site for the maintenance and conservation of marine resource reserves in the region.

With this agreement, the organizations involved will also support the search for funding sources for the restoration projects, as well as the identification of allied organizations that can provide technical assistance in the implementation phase. For example, initially the ACRXS will provide $20,000 to develop a communication strategy to inform the population and create a fundraising strategy.

This tripartite collaboration will help improve the ecological integrity of Cocos Island and allow the country to learn about the lessons learned and best practices that have been applied elsewhere, as Island Conservation has great experience in the restoration of ecological islands, basing their actions on solid scientific information, which has enabled it to restore 63 islands in both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, positively impacting 1173 populations of 468 species and subspecies.

"For island Conservation this is a unique opportunity to support the management and conservation of Cocos Island and to collaborate with the government of Costa Rica, because of what the island represents as a natural heritage of humanity and to safeguard its biodiversity. We are confident that by combining efforts between Minae and both NGOs, the complete restoration of the island can be successfully completed, said Eliécer Cruz, South America manager for Island Conservation.

Cocos Island has 270 species of fish and of convergence of pelagic (open ocean) species, among them four species of turtles and fourteen of sharks.  In addition, there are 149 species of birds and there are no native terrestrial mammals; The five species that inhabit it, such as the black Rat, the white-tailed deer and the pig, were introduced and therefore strongly threaten the present biodiversity.

The Surfside Property Owners Association held their Board election January 26th at the Annual General Meeting.

On January 26th the ASADA Surfside held it's Annual General Assembly and election of the new Board of Directors.

It turns out that the newest members of the DNC Party were not nominated, in the traditional sense, but were chosen by a political organization known as Justice Democrats.

Robert O'Rourke aka Candidate Beto, may be the front runner for the Democratic Party, but he has a closet full of stories that may interfere with his goal of becoming President.

Beto managed to raise over 6.1 million dollars on his first day as a Presidential candidate, according to his campaign team. The funds are said to have come from online donations, through an extensive email drive.

According to NBC News, O'Rourke's campaign provided only the topline fundraising number, not more detailed information that other campaigns have disclosed, such as the number of donors and news donors, the size of the average contribution, the geographical diversity of contributors, and how much money he's raised since the first day.

While it is clear he has the team to enable him to finance his campaign run, he has an uphill battle ahead as news of past indiscretions spread across social media and start to make headlines.

O'Rourke has already humbly begged the world's pardon for his white privilege, but new stories popping up may make all but the most diehard Beto fans second guess their support.

First news came out about his arrests back in the 90's. He was charged with DWI and Attempted Burglary, although the latter charge was later dropped, as it was more of a trespass charge that resulted when he and friends got caught by Campus Police at the University of Texas at El Paso, sneaking under a fence to the physical plant building, late one evening.

By his own account, O’Rourke told a group in August 2018 that he spent a night in the El Paso County jail after what he referred to as his 1995 arrest for criminal trespass.

In San Antonio, a resident told O’Rourke she’d seen what someone described as his mugshot. O’Rourke replied: "More than 20 years ago, I was arrested--not once, but twice. So you should know that and we should all own that, if asked." O’Rourke specified that he’d been arrested for attempting to hop a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso and later, he said, for a "far more serious mistake: I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that."

By acknowledging his past actions, he has not only been given a pass by the media but he has gained support of several big name celebrities and sports figures. After all, no one is perfect, right.

It appears there is still more to come, as one would expect running for the highest office in the land.

Joseph Menn at Reuters had been sitting on a story, until after his unsuccessful Senate run against Ted Cruz, about his involvement as a teen in an online hacker group known as the Cult of the Dead Cow. He made several postings to their board that should at least raise a few eyebrows.

One idealistic piece he wrote as a teen contemplated a world without money. This requires not only a change of government but also a change of policy and function. The end result he envisioned would bring about the end of starvation and class distinctions.

 “To achieve a money-less society (or have a society where money is heavily de-emphasized) a lot of things would have to change, including government as we know it. This is where the anti-money group and the disciples of Anarchy meet.” “I fear we will always have a system of government, one way or another, so we would have to use other means other than totally toppling the government (I don’t think the masses would support such a radical move at this time).” While the thinking maybe controversial it falls in line with those Democrats running under the Justice Democrat banner, seeking a more socialist focus.

Another more disturbing article from O’Rourke, written about dreams he was having when he was 15, may inspire some clinical psychologists to comment. “One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles…. This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams.

“As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”

Now imagine what the reaction would be if a Republican candidate had written that? Every amateur Democratic mental health professional would declare the candidate unfit for office. Every mainstream media outlet would be discussing this 24/7 demanding outrage from the public.

Instead we are to accept this apology:

“I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” the Democratic presidential candidate said during a taping of the “Political Party Live” podcast in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter, I have to look long and hard at my actions, at the language I have used, and I have to constantly try to do better.”

Yes people change, and he was just a teenager at the time. Growing up in the age of social media, it might be harder to find candidates that didn't have something they had written they wish they could take back. But coming from the party that wants to lower the voting age to 16, it doesn't help the party he wants to lead.

His acceptance and mass appeal maybe a sign of the times, but hopefully they can do better.

 

Jussie Smollet apparently has some splainin' to do....

It's odd to listen to the news and hear the rants regarding the immorality of building a wall along the US southern border with Mexico.

Thursday Dec 13 was a big day in Washington, although it would be hard to tell from the days headlines. While most are focused on Cohen's sentence and Trump's comments on the ongoing Mueller investigation, there was a hearing looking at the Clinton Foundation and claims of alleged wrongdoing.

Mark Meadows, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, led the hearing, where it was expected to hear testimony from John Huber, who is leading an investigation from Utah.

Meadows told the audience today at the beginning of the hearing that the Department of Justice was unwilling to make John Huber available for the hearing today. Huber was assigned by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions several months ago, to investigate controversies regarding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

Two independent investigators spoke at the hearing as did Tom Fitton from Judicial Watch. Lawrence Doyle of DM Income Advisors and John Moynihan of JFM Associates testified before the congressional committee.

Witness John Moynihan and witness Doyle accused the Clinton Foundation of using funding in the Clinton Health Initiative for trips, expenditures for personal use.

The witnesses told the committee they had to send their evidence to the Huber investigation team in Utah three times although it was not clear as to why. They also confirmed they had submitted their documents to the FBI office in Little Rock. Arkansas, and the IRS.

The pair submitted their research to the IRS as whistleblowers, with a possible payday should the Clinton Foundation be found guilty of tax violations. Doyle estimates the taxes owed are between 400 million and as high as 2.5 billion.

It was also stated that they believe there is an active FBI investigation ongoing in Little Rock and under the DOJ in Utah. If true it would explain why Huber did not attend the hearing as he would be unable to comment on an open investigation.

 

Brenda Snipes may be stepping down from her position as Broward County elections supervisor, but that won’t stop her from receiving nearly $11,000 a month in pension benefits, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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In case you were thinking that recent discussions of Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) and laser weapon technologies are strictly Sci-Fi and conspiracy channel topics , think again. They are not only real they are well publicized.

Why not enjoy one of the most readily available fruits in Guanacaste.

On May 4th an executive order was published modifying the procedures used to authorize shark fin exports from endangered and threatened species.

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