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these stories first were published Friday, Jan. 4, 2002
Jo Stuart
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U.S. anxious to keep track
of overseas money

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON ó The U.S. federal government will crack down on unusual movements of money during the next year, in part because officials link large money transfers to money laundering and terrorism.

In addition, tax authorities are concerned by unreported earnings by U.S. citiizens. A lot of the proposals were in the hopper but were not approved until after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

U.S. officials have been pressuring other countries to enact strict money laundering measures. The net result is that virtually any financial transfers from U.S. banks in amounts more than $10,000 are being tracked no matter where in the world the money is deposited. Costa Rica is on the verge of passing such legislation.

The Costa Rican legislation would require more reporting from banks here.

In addition, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is redoubling its efforts to keep track of interest income by U.S. citizens abroad. Such income is taxable by the United States, although the first $73,000 of earned income is untaxed, IRS officials said. Canada does not tax interest earned overseas.

Many U.S. citizens overseas do not report interest income because they believe that U.S. federal officials have no way of tracking the transactions. But in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. officials are putting into place mechanisms to track interest payments to U.S. citizens.

They are doing so by urging other countries to pass legislation similar to that on the books in the United States. Since Sept. 11 U.S. officials have equated terrorism with money laundering because terrorists are involved in drug transactions and make heavy use of laundering techniques. 

Association on way
to Playa Tortuga 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Playa Tortuga is the destination for a new trip being planned by the Association of Residents of Costa Rica.

The three-day trip will include two overnights at the beach south of Dominical on the Pacific coast.

The location is actually 20 miles, about 33 kilometers, south of Dominical in an area to which no road existed until recently.

Tourists can expect to see all kinds of monkeys as well as coatimundis, jaguars. sloths and iguanas, said the association. The area also is home to about 450 types of birds, including toucans, parrots and bellbirds, the organization said.

The trip begins Friday, Feb. 1, with a drive through the Talamanca Mountains and the highest point in Costa Rica, Chirrpo. 

Canadian wildlife photographer Frank Scott will give seminar that night in Playa Tortuga.

One of the high points of the trip is a tour through Río Terraba, home of the largest mangrove forest in Costa Rica, said the association. A visit to the beaches of Isla Garza also is possible as well as to the Caño Island national park area.

The assocation plans to return Sunday, Feb. 3. The cost of the tour is $175, the association said, adding that other programs, including horseback riding and snorkeling are available for an addition cost.

More information is available at the association, 221-2053 or 267-6438

Police face rape charge
over woman seeking help

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A police official in Heredia has been detained and two policeman more are under investigation for the rape of a Nicaraguan woman, 37, early New Yearís Day.

Investigators said that the woman sought help from the police because she was involved in a case of domestic violence. However, the police realized that she was an illegal alien and took her to police headquarters in a police vehicle where they extorted sex from her under threat of sending her back to her home country, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The rape took place in the police station, said investigators.

Later the woman returned home, and neighbors urged her to make a complaint.


Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

New Yearís Bocas

Beginning a New Year can be daunting, so I am going to do what Costa Ricans do: diminutize it. Here, just about every noun is reduced (or softened) by the ito/ita or ico/ica ending, all of which mean "little." Thus, you wait a momentito. The doctor may ask how your broken brazito (arm) is. That's how Costa Ricans got to be called Ticos.

In this spirit I am offering up bocas, or better yet, boquitas, tiny tidbits, like hors díoeuvres, to begin the feast (figuratively speaking) that I hope will be yours in 2002. 

Iíve been trying to clear out piles of paper. Papers are my nemesis. I hang on to everything, and Iím not even sure why. My friend Margaret gives away her magazines within a week or so of getting them. Iíve had some of her magazines since 1996. And of course, clearing out paper means re-reading stuff. I came across an old journal in which I had written that Amjad, a Kuwaiti I had met, told me he had the valley between Pakistan and China, the place, he said, that is called Shangri la. He said that time there did indeed stand still and people lived a very long time. Women of 90 had babies. I tried to find something about this part of the world. The closest I got was the country of Bhutan and according to the almanac, the life expectancy is in the 50ís.

But life expectancy is tricky. Itís calculated by averaging ages of death of a population and when there is a high infant mortality, it can be pretty low and we think everyone grows old and dies in their 50ís. Life span is something else. Amjad also said that the husbands in polygamous marriages (he had four wives) had it tough because they had to treat all the wives equally. Thus if he bought a jewel for one wife, he had to buy jewels for the other three. I have mixed feelings about polygamy. 

Itís a little scary to think that 4,000 years ago Pakistan was a thriving civilization, and part of the India-Pakistan subcontinent, with fertile valleys watered by the Indus River. Pakistan and India have been fighting ever since they were separated in 1947. 

Water is essential to civilizations and to individual life. My daughter Lesley is always trying to get me to drink more water and sent me some interesting information. Did you know that lack of water is the number 1 trigger of daytime fatigue? That 8-10 glasses of water a day can significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80 percent of those who suffer from them. That as little as a 2 percent drop in body water can cause short-term memory fuzziness, trouble with basic math and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or printed page? That 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, and the thirst mechanism in nearly 40 percent of Americans is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger? A doctorís advice might better be, "Drink two glasses of water and call me in the morning." 

In Costa Rica we usually have plenty of water. We are well into the dry season, yet we had a rainstorm on Dec. 29. Maybe it rained Jan. 12 last year. 

I say this because this is the beginning of Las Pintas here. Las Pintas is the name given to the first 12 days of January when the weather each day is supposed to forecast the weather for the corresponding month of the coming year. Thus, if it is cool and cloudy on Jan. 1 (which it was), it is going to be like that all January. February should be warm and sunny with occasional showers. 

I shall leave you with a bit of advice that I learned from the blind 100- year old grandmother in the book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. She found the things that other members of the family lost. I remembered this yesterday after spending 15 minutes looking for my notebook and finally found it by recalling that I had it when I was looking through the bookcase, writing down some titles (for a charades game) and noticed that the nearby VCR was dusty. So I went and got a cloth and dusted it. Then I went off and did something else. Eventually I found my notebook on the VCR. 

You lose things, says grandma, when you interrupt what you are doing to do something else. So, the best way to lose weight, I suppose, is to interrupt the consumption of bocas, or any meal, have a glass of water, and go do something else, like exercise?

More Jo Stuart columns can be found HERE

Caribbean Initiative praised
as good example for trade

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 20 years after its enactment, the Caribbean Basin Initiative continues to strengthen export performance and raise living standards among Caribbean and Central American countries, according to a report submitted to the U.S. Congress by United States Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. 

The report also states that the initiative trade programs boost prospects for U.S. exporters by creating stronger markets for U.S. goods and services.

"The CBI remains one of the best examples of the positive power of trade," said Ambassador Zoellick. "By opening its market to producers in the Caribbean and Central America, the United States is supporting the development of more prosperous economies, and stronger democracies, among our closest neighbors. American consumers benefit from the duty-free treatment of Caribbean Basin products. As part of the same process, we're creating more robust markets for the United States, with the CBI region now ranking 9th among U.S. export markets."

The biennial report discusses trade benefits that the United States extends to Caribbean and Central American countries. 

The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), originally enacted in 1983, provides 24 countries in the Caribbean and Central America with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most products. Enactment of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) in 2000 marked an important expansion of these benefits, allowing duty-free and quota-free treatment for certain apparel assembled in qualified CBI countries, and applying reduced duties to certain other previously-excluded products. 

The report notes that, for the January-September 2001 period, $3.5 billion in CBI goods entered the U.S. under the enhanced trade benefits of the CBTPA (nearly 25 percent of total U.S. imports from the region). U.S. exports to CBI countries totaled $20.7 billion in 2000.

RACSA's e-mail service
has a rough morning

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A massive failure by the e-mail server of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., prevented the delivery of a number of e-mails early Thursday. 

Included in the failure was two emissions of the A.M. Costa Rica news digest, one at 1 a.m. and the second at 8:30 a.m. There was no explanations from RACSA, but server officials in the United States said that the RACSA e-mail server was rejecting messages.

Quake hits off Nicaraguan coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit along the coast of Nicaragua about 11:06 a.m. Thursday. The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center said the tremor was 10 miles (15 km) off the coast from Chinandega, Nicaragua. The estimated depth was about 33 kilometers, some 20 miles.

PANI fails to exploit
telephone for complaints

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you were going to make a complaint about sexual exploitation of minors Thursday night, you were out of luck. The number set up for such complaints, 2212-1212 rang and rang and rang. Thatís better than the day before when it was out of service.

The number is maintained by the Patronato National de la Infancia. Thatís the same people who are involved in a dispute with the Salvation 
Army over housing for street children.

Argentina officials
a defaulted nation

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

BUENOS AIRES, Argentica ó The country has defaulted on its multi-billion-dollar public debt, as it awaits the new president's economic stimulus package, set to be announced later today.

Argentina formalized the default Thursday when it missed a payment on an Italian bond. President Eduardo Duhalde has said the country is bankrupt and that he would uphold a decision to suspend payment on the $132 billion debt.

The default coincided with the swearing-in of several lawmakers to serve in the Duhalde administration. They include a loyal aide, Jorge Remes Lenicov, who assumes the post of economy minister. He replaces Domingo Cavallo, who resigned last month amid widespread public disturbances over unpopular austerity measures. Remes Lenicov is expected to lead efforts to revive the economy, which has been in recession nearly four years.

It is widely believed the Duhalde government will devalue the Argentine peso by as much as 40 percent as part of a broader policy to help the nation recover financially. 

The peso has been pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar for a decade. Some lawmakers say Argentina's strong currency made it hard for the country's exporters and industries to compete by making their goods expensive.

There is concern, however, that a devaluation could bankrupt millions of Argentines, as they would need more pesos to cancel their dollar debts. In a related development, the White House says President Bush has written a letter to President Duhalde expressing continued confidence in relations between the two countries.

A White House spokesman, Scott McClennan, says the U.S. ambassador to Argentina delivered the letter that offered congratulations and best wishes to the new president. 

Federal judge backs U.S. Navy
in suit over Vieques noise

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire service

A U.S. federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Puerto Rico aimed at stopping U.S. Navy live-fire exercises on the island of Vieques. The suit filed last year by Puerto Rican Gov. Sila Calderon sought to force the navy to comply with a local noise limit law. 

The lawsuit alleges that noise generated by the naval exercises threatens the health and safety of the island's 9,000 residents. 

Judge Gladys Kessler threw out the case Wednesday, saying the territory does not have the right to file a federal lawsuit to force compliance with a local noise ordinance. Puerto Rico says it will appeal the ruling. 

The navy has used Vieques for its live-fire exercises since World War II. But controversy heated up in April 1999 after a civilian security guard was accidentally killed by a stray bomb. 

Last month, the U.S. Congress canceled a planned January referendum on the navy's continued presence on Vieques and ordered the military to continue using the island until an equal or better bombing range is found. President Bush signed the measure. 

Police probe possible stickup

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators will check into a published report that three masked, armed men held 22 tourists at gunpoint New Yearís eve and took money and other valuables at a hotel, Kiscade, in Puerto Viejo de Limón. There was no further information, and police agencies had no report of such an event.

Don't miss Patricia Martin's report on Manuel Antonio and Quepos

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