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These stories were published Monday, Jan. 14, 2002
Jo Stuart
About us
Bush names Reich despite opposition in U.S. Senate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 
and wire reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Long-time diplomat Otto Reich became assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs Friday when President George Bush signed a recess appointment. The appointment makes Reich the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the president has the power during Senate recesses to install nominees without Senate approval. Persons so appointed can serve until Congress recesses again at the end of the year.

Bush nominated Reich July 12, but the Democratic-controlled Senate would not bring the nominations to a vote on the floor of the Senate due to opposition to the president's choice by some Senate members.

Reich headed the State Department's now-defunct Office of Public Diplomacy in the mid-1980s. Some lawmakers questioned his activities concerning Nicaragua during the Reagan Administration. Reich has not been charged with any crime.

The White House formally notified Congress of the long-threatened appointments Friday and publicly announced the president's decisions soon after that.

Reich, a Cuban-born American and a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, was never given a hearing by the Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from the State of Massachusetts, among others, considered him not fit for the position because of the way he had handled previous assignments from June 1983 until January 1986, at the time of the Iran contra affair.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, disagreed. Powell recently called Reich the most important among the State Department's unconfirmed nominees. "He has done nothing, nothing at all, in 

his career in government that should be seen as disqualifying for this job," Powell said recently.

A group that agrees with Kennedy and Dodd is a coalition called Stop Otto Reich. It maintains a Web site (http://www.stopottoreich.net/) and lobbies against him.

"Reich is a well-connected corporate lobbyist and is prominent in lobbying for causes dear to the hard-line Cuban exile community in Miami, said this group.  "He has represented liquor, tobacco and arms industries. The nomination of Reich is a political payoff to the right-wing faction which has held U.S. Cuba policy hostage for decades and which was an important factor in George Bush’s Florida strategy last fall. 

The group said that Reich was obsessed with maintaining an embargo against the communist government of Cuba and that the office Reich headed during the Nicaraguan war had the function of misleading the American public by disseminating false information, discrediting reporters whose work the Reagan Administration did not like, and exploiting other propaganda tactics normally used to confuse and manipulate the populations of enemy countries.

The White House said that Reich is now the president of RMA International, Inc., and that Reich had received the State Department's Exemplary Service Award and Superior Honor Award. Earlier in the Reagan Administration he was assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, from 1981 to 1983. 

Reich came from Cuba in 1960 and received his bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina and a master's degree from Georgetown University. He served as a U.S. army officer in the Panama Canal Zone in the 1960s.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Friday that Reich’s "tenure as assistant secretary of state will continue his fine record of public service and significantly advance U.S. interests abroad at this critical time."

What do you do
when company calls?

It happens in Costa Rica. A brother-in-law. A college buddy.  Your daughter from Atlanta. 

They are going to visit, and you have to be a good host. Where to go? What to do?

Patricia Martin had a bevy of buddies show up, and she tells what she did in a 

special report.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The girls reunited: From left, Pat Fripp, Carol Lynch, Ellie Malloy, Mary Badger, author Patricia Martin and Bev Williams.
Don't miss Patricia Martin's report on Manuel Antonio and Quepos
Pair of hoaxes keep computer users on their toes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The weekend was a great one for computer hoaxes. First, one report claimed that all of the chat messages from America Online had been released to the public under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Then a version of the Bill Gates hoax offering money to those who forward the message showed up in Costa Rican mailboxes.

Both hoaxes were fairly harmless, but the AOL report caused some people to squirm

That message was circulated widely Thursday, Friday and Saturday and has been reported to have circulated privately for two weeks. It said:

"In November of 2001 AOL Time Warner, responding to a subpoena fromAttorney General John Ashcroft, made available to the Justice Department  a complete archive of all private conversations held over AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Through the power of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Google was able to obtain a copy of this entire logfile, totaling over 2 terabytes of conversations previously thought to be private." 

"This unique resource provides insight into the minds of potential anti-American terrorists, cheating spouses . . . " The site is at http://aimsearch.hybernaut.com/3.html

The site was seen as a commentary on the loss of individual freedoms especially after Sept. 11. A number of persons would not like to have their private AOL messages made public. The Google site (www.google.com) was not involved although the page containing the hoax looked like a Google page.

A second page allows a computer user to insert a name and purportedly access that user’s private messages. The site responds with pretend messages from and to that person.

The other hoax, The Microsoft-Bill Gates hoax, has 

been around a while, and its goal simply seems to be to have the message continually forwarded. Said the e-mail:

"Intel and AOL are now discussing a merger which would make them the largest Internet company, and in an effort make sure that AOL remains the most widely used program, Intel and AOL are running an e-mail beta test. When you forward this e-mail to friends, Intel can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two-week time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $203.15."

The hoax is named Microsoft although the sender Sunday inserted the name Intel instead.

Said Microsoft on its corporate Web site (http://www.microsoft.com): "At any given time, there are bogus chain letters, phony virus warnings, and other hoaxes circulating around the Internet. The easiest way to tell that an e-mail is a hoax is if the information detailed in it sounds too good to be true, for example, a promise of some monetary reward for passing along the e-mail to a friend."

Hoaxbusters Web site (http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org) reports a number of similar false promises. A message from Colombia House offers 10 free CDs. M&M candy offers a free Honda motorcycle. 

In 1997 a message purportedly from Bill Gates, the Microsoft CEO himself, offered $1,000 for e-mail forwarders. Then it was Disney. Miller Brewing Co. was said to be offering coupons for free beer. The GAP has a coupon for clothing.

In all cases the offers were false and generated by unknown third parties. 

Another good Web site is about hoaxes is http://urbanlegends.about.com. That Web site said the hoax Sunday has been around since may 1999, and that there really is no program that can track your e-mail use.

Bush faints 
while choking

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Bush's doctor says the president fainted briefly late Sunday in his White House quarters after choking on a piece of snack food. The doctor says Bush recovered quickly and is now doing well.

Dr. Richard Tubb says President Bush was watching an American Football game on television when the incident occurred. Tubb says the choking lowered the president's heart rate and led to his briefly losing consciousness.

The White House says the president fell off a couch and suffered a small abrasion on the left cheekbone and a bruised lower lip. 

Scamsters cut value
of loot they control

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The economy seems to have hit the scamsters hard, too. 

The latest version of the "Nigerian scam" only promises a percentage of a mere $10.5 million. In the past, such scams via e-mail and by letter offered as much as 50 percent of $40 to $50 million.

But in the latest version, a scamster calling himself "Prince Dada" (princeman04@YAHOO.CO.UK) claims to be the son of a murdered finance minister in the African country of Sierra-Leone. He has the trivial amount of $10.5 million he will share with you if you help him invest the funds, he said by e-mail to a computer distributin list received in Costa Rica.

"You must maintain absolute confidentiality to ensure success," he told the many hundred of subscribers to the e-mail distribution list.

The scam is termed "Nigerian" because that is the dominant country mentioned by the scamsters, who suggest that they have tumbled into great wealth in an illegal manner. The e-mailer is usually a former politician, but can be a minister, a relative or a close friend of an alleged politician.

The scamsters seek increasing amounts of money from their marks as they promise to deliver the promised vast sum. Some victims have even gone to the African country menbtioned by the scamsters, and at least one was murdered.

Hemingway’s fisherman
died at home in Cuba

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

 COJIMAS, Cuba — The man, who many say, was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and The Sea," has died at his home here at age 104.

Friends and relatives said Gregorio Fuentes passed away Sunday in this fishing village, just east of Havana, where he had lived most of his life.

Fuentes was born July 11, 1897. In the 1920s, he met Ernest Hemingway, who owned a house in Cuba, and served as captain of the writer's boat for about 30 years.

Many Hemingway specialists say Fuentes was the inspiration for the 1952 classic "The Old Man and The Sea," in which a fisherman battles sharks while trying to bring home the biggest catch of his life.

His association with Hemingway made Fuentes a celebrity — popular with the thousands of tourists who visit this village every year.

Remembering Fuentes, a friend eulogized him as "a man of the people" whose "legacy of friendship is an inspiration to all."

Canadian-U.S. raids
hit meth chemical

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Canadian and U.S. law enforcement authorities announced more than 100 arrests Thursday of persons involved in illegal trafficking in pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in the manufacture of the street drug methamphetamine. The U.S. arrests, carried out by federal, state and local agencies, were made in 11 western and Midwestern cities, according to a press statement from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA said that those arrested are part of a structured criminal network that operated to smuggle pseudoephedrine manufactured in Canada into the United States, where it was further processed into a street drug. Pseudoephedrine is legitimately used in cold and sinus medicines.

According to DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson, "In the last two years, the use of Canadian pseudoephedrine has become the norm rather than the exception in West Coast based Mexican methamphetamine laboratories."

Currency curbs a ‘bomb,’
Argentine leader says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Eduardo Duhalde says his recent decision to sharply limit bank withdrawals is a "time bomb" that could easily explode and further undermine the nation's financial system. 

In media interviews Sunday, Duhalde said his government does not know how to dismantle the banking freeze without sparking a run on deposits. Economic analysts say if money floods back into the hands of citizens this would fuel inflation and put more pressure on the national currency already hard hit by a near 30 percent devaluation. 

President Duhalde also expressed sympathy with ordinary citizens. Many, he said, are angry because until 2003 they can only withdraw 1,500 pesos per month, and most fear that in the meantime the peso will steadily lose value. 

Since December, street riots over Argentina's economic plight have helped bring down two presidents. 

Government forces
ready for invasion

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — This country’s main leftist rebel group says the peace process is over and that it will pull out of main towns in its safe haven by the government deadline at 0230 universal time Tuesday. 

Reports say the government is preparing to reclaim the Switzerland-sized zone in southern Colombia with an invasion force of up to 13,000 soldiers.

Sunday a rebel spokesman for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia blamed President Andres Pastrana for "closing all possibilities for the current peace process" aimed at ending the 38-year civil war. 

Pastrana had demanded a ceasefire and a halt to abductions by the rebel group. Pastrana rejected a last-minute rebel proposal, worked out during two days of meetings with United Nations envoy James LeMoyne. The president said it was "not satisfactory" because it contained nothing new. 

President Pastrana met behind closed doors here with his military commander, Gen. Fernando Topias. Many Colombians fear the end of peace talks will lead to an escalation in violence. 

Sharp cashier

gets line

on two 



By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A cashier at an Esparza supermarket recognized a scar on the hand of a young customer and caused arrests that investigators say solve 17 cases of sexual assault in that community.

Police took into custody two brothers, 20 and 22, who work in a bakery and said that rapists conducted a reign of terror in the community just east of Puntarenas for 18 months. The masked assailants would show up in houses in the middle of the night pull a knife and assault young women.

The last case happened Thursday night when a man tried to attack an 18-year -old at her parent’s home, but she screamed and chased off the man, said agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

In the investigation of this latest incident, police determined that the assailant had a scar on his hand, and they discussed this with witnesses. So when a man with a similar scar came to the checkout at a local supermarket, the cashier recognized it as being similar to what the police had been discussing. She called her supervisor, and the man was detained.

Police said a search let the arrest of the man’s brother and the confiscation of a gun, knives, masks and objects taken in the past assaults.

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