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These stories were published Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 10
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Marijuana lab/nursery raided in central Pacific 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators raided a home in the central Pacific about 6 a.m. Wednesday and said they found an extensive hydroponics marijuana-growing operation.

A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesperson said the home was located in the mountains between Quepos and Manual Antonio. The spokesperson identified the occupants as Pedro Saavedra, a U.S. citizen of Cuban extraction, and his wife with the last names of Agüero Messen. The 19-year-old woman was taken into custody.

Saavedra was not at home when the raid took place. Investigators said he had left for a plane flight to Miami. They said they sought help from U.S. police to detain the man there. 

The hydroponics equipment is valued at about $50,000, investigators said. 

Also at the home were two pit bulls who had been trained as attack dogs, agents said. Saavedra, 32, is believed to be a dog trainer, they said.

Agents said they found out about the operation because they followed taxis containing tourists and persons in luxury automobiles who visited the mountain home. They said the water and electrical use of the home had jumped sharply.

Investigators said they confiscated about three kilos of marijuana. They also found 35 plants growing under special conditions and some 78 plants boxed and ready for sale. The couple’s Yukon sports utility vehicle also was confiscated.

Robbie Burns finally joins the country club set
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Robbie Burns is gaining respectability, and the literary set will be celebrating his birthday Jan. 30 at the Costa Rica Country Club in Escazú.

The event is the traditional  Burns dinner, scheduled each January as close as possible to the Scottish writer’s birthday of Jan. 25.

From the invitation e-mailed Wednesday, the Burns dinner rates about a 1 on the drunkard’s 10-point scale. Organizers promise "a reception with cocktails and bocas, dinner (with haggis) and drinks (with wee drams o' whiskey), a number of traditional toasts, music and dancing (Scottish, Latino and more) and live entertainment with the talented folk group, Peregrino Gris." 

Burns (1759-1796) might not have approved of "wee drams o’ whiskey." And we cannot see him munching a boca.  But the haggis is very Burns. For the uninitiated, that is a sheep’s stomach with a bit of lamb’s liver, suet, oatmeal, onions and such stuffed inside.

Burns delivered his "Address to a Haggis" in 1786. One can see the Scottish bard now, propped as best as he could be against his chair: Old Scotland wants no stinking continental food. But if you want her gratitude, give her a haggis. He cleaned up the words later.

Burns also is known for the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne and hundreds of other addresses, poems and elegies.

Kevin Glass, a local educator, will be the master of ceremonies. It will be his job to try to get the guests to participate in the literary exercises that is so much part of a Burns supper. 

A country club kind of guy?

Lubrication with fine fluids is encouraged.

Reservations for the 10,000-colon dinner may be made at glass@costarica.net or youngir@hotmail.com

Burns in life was a two-fisted drinker and probably would have been an embarrassment at any country club gathering. The folks who attend Jan. 30 probably will not drink until they drop, as would Burns. But he didn’t have tránsito officers waiting to check his Celtic breath.

 
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Long-time professor
new Magón winner

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Costa Rican-Chinese academic from Puntarenas is the new winner of the Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón, the country’s highest cultural award.

The winner is Hilda Chen Apuy Espinoza who spent her career as a professor in the University of Costa Rica.

She was honored Wednesday as an intercultural bridge between east and west. Dr. Chen Apuy has been a pioneer in research and the study of oriental cultures. And she has imparted that knowledge to many students, judges concluded.

She also was honored for poems and short stories she wrote that addressed cultural assimilation.

Dr. Chen Apuy was born Jan. 23, 1923 of immigrant Chinese parents who adopted Costa Rica as their new home. She is a retired University of Costa Rica professor. Her courses were diverse, including Sanskrit, philosophy, Oriental thought and the history of Asia. She also served a term as president of the University council.

Her designation was announced at the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deporte Wednesday. 

RACSA server trashes
for sale real estate ads

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If you have a house for sale in Costa Rica, you better not tell RASCA.

At least do not mention the fact in the subject line of any e-mails that are routed through the country’s Internet monopoly.

RACSA is Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. The company continues to block the word sale in subject lines.

The word is one of a number that RACSA finally admitted in November that would cause its Internet servers to discard the message. That story was published Nov. 13. 

The issue surfaced again this week when a half dozen readers complained that they had sent real estate sales ads to A.M. Costa Rica. The ads never arrived.

Reporters duplicated the messages Wednesday and found that simply the word sale in a subject line would doom a message. So would the subject house for sale.

The impact on Costa Rican commerce is hard to determine. Clearly anyone anywhere who responds to a real estate ad or other commercial message and uses the forbidden words in the subject line will think that their message has been ignored.

The RASCA server gives no notice that the messages are being deleted. 

This is RACSA’s effort to combat junk e-mails. However, most junk e-mailers seem to now use random assortments of words in the subject line and do not use the words that will doom the message.

A.M. Costa Rica maintains an Internet server in the United States. The messages are lost when that server transmits the messages to Costa Rica.
 

Parties to meet
over new tax plan

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heads of all five political parties in the Asamblea Nacional will meet with the executive branch Monday to help set up a timetable for consideration of the proposed new tax plan.

Ricardo Toledo Carranza, minister of the Presidencia, is in charge of ramroding the proposal in the legislature. The tax increases are the top priority of the administration.

Toledo put the burden on legislators Wednesday when he said that if the deputies do not approve the measure they will demonstrate that they do not have the capacity to solve problems of the country.
 
We now accept
other currencies

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica.

However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system.

The U.S.-based company does all the math and either converts payment to U.S. dollars at the current rate of exchange or places the money in the newspaper accounts denominated in the correct currency.

The exchange is invisible to advertising customers who simply make payments in their own national currency.

Pay Pal is a handy, secure system that allows customers to send or receive money with a few strokes on the computer keyboard once an account has been established.
 

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Professional Directory
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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Attorney at Law & Notary Public
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Big haul of bullets found on bus to Nicaragua
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law enforcement officials found 315,000 .22-caliber bullets hidden in the baggage compartment of a Nicaragua-bound bus Tuesday.

Officers from the Policía de Control de Drogas and the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad Nacional got a tip that weapons or drugs would be on a bus. So they paid particular attention to such vehicles.

About 10:20 a.m. Tuesday north of Peñas Blancas near the Nicaraguan border in a checkpoint in the small community of La Cruz officers encountered a Volvo bus driven by a man identified by the last names of Torres Quesada.  The bus had come from San José. Inside the luggage compartment officers found jute sacks that contained cartons of bullets bearing the Winchester brand, they said. They also found motorcycle repair parts.

The bus was searched fully at the Peñas Blancas customs station. In all police found 21 sacks, and each contained cartons of bullets, they said.
Although .22 bullets are used in light hunting rifles, the same caliber is used in some automatic military weapons.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía 
y Seguridad Pública photo
Officers who prefer not to show their faces display confiscated bullets.
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Cuba restricts Internet access for ordinary citizens
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

LONDON, England — Amnesty International has criticized new Cuban government restrictions on Internet access, calling them an attempt to cut off alternative views and discussion on the Caribbean island.

The rights organization reacted to the new restrictions in a statement issued Tuesday here.

The Cuban government insists it has tightened control over Internet access only to stop password piracy and control fraudulent use of the Web. It says the restrictions are necessary because Cuba has only limited Internet access as a nation and must maintain a low customer volume. 

The new measures, which take effect Jan. 24, will limit the access of Cuban citizens using phone lines paid for in local currency, whose use is authorized by the government. 

Unlimited Internet services will still be available on the more expensive phone service paid for in U.S. dollars which is usually used by foreigners. It will also be available to users who buy a pre-paid telephone card. Some limited access also will remain available in government workplaces and at schools.

The move could affect thousands of Cubans who illegally access the Internet from their homes, using computers and Internet accounts they have borrowed or purchased on the black market. 


 
 
November trade gap lessens, but year still a record
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. trade deficit fell in November as exports hit a three-year high and imports dropped for the first time since August.

The trade gap narrowed by 8.6 percent to $38 billion, the lowest level since October 2002, from a revised figure of $41.6 billion in October, according to figures released by the Commerce Department.

Exports jumped by 2.8 percent to $90.6 billion, the highest level since January 2001, mostly on strong overseas sales of civilian aircraft and consumer goods such as pharmaceuticals, artworks and antiques.

U.S. exports, which had risen steadily since May 2003, have been helped by the weaker dollar and a pick-up in economic activity overseas.

However, the total January-November trade 

deficit of $446.8 billion indicates that figures for the entire year will show another record-breaking trade gap for 2003. In 2002, the deficit amounted to $418 billion.

A $1 billion drop in imports to $128.6 from an October record monthly high of $129.7 billion reflected lower U.S. demand for energy products, particularly oil, and consumer goods such as apparel, household goods, and toys, games and sporting goods.

The trade in goods deficit with China, the largest contributor to the overall U.S. deficit, fell to $10.8 billion from a record of $13.6 billion in October as imports from that country plunged to $14.1 billion from $16.4 billion, a 14 percent drop from October. The deficits with two other major U.S. trading partners, the European Union and Japan, also declined by wide margins to $7.3 billion from $8.7 billion, a 16 percent decline, and to $5.7 billion from $6.4 billion, an 11 percent decline.

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