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Theses stories were published Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 14
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Eat this trumpet, and you can meet the angels
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There are few more dramatic flowers in Costa Rica than the angel’s trumpet, which is blooming now.

The Latin name is Datura arborea, and the flowers can be nine to 12 inches long. A really mature shrub can sport 200 such dangling trumpets at the same time.

In Costa Rica, these are called reina de la noche or queen of the night, not to be confused with the popular movie about vampires or the night-blooming Mexican cactus of the same name.

The flower is very fragrant, but unlike the tree-born flor de itabo bloom, you probably should not mix these gigantic flowers into your scrambled eggs. They contain an alkaloid poison, belladonna, that will first make you giddy, then sick and then dead. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

Nevertheless, these are popular garden specimens in Costa Rica because of their enormous flowers. Plus they also can endure sun and shade. They usually are found as shrubs, but a mature plant can be 20 feet tall.

Some debate exists on where the plants originated. Some say Chile or Peru. But some Brazilian Indians have worked the plant into

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The famous angel's trumpet

their culture. They smoke the leaves for a narcotic high and possible relief of some respiratory illnesses. This is not recommended for mere mortals nor should gardeners fail to wash up after casual contact.


 
State of Union address: Story and the text BELOW!

 
Pacheco says anti-Americanism behind free-trade opposition
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Much of the opposition to a free trade treaty with the United States is due to anti-Americanism, according to President Abel Pacheco.

If the treaty were with some other country, the opposition here would not be so great, the president told those who were at the weekly news conference after the Consejo de Gobierno meeting Tuesday.

Ricardo Toledo, Pacheco’s minister of the Presidencia, agreed.

Later, in a private discussion, Alberto Trejos, minister of Comercio Exteriores, said that certain persons in Costa Rica were dedicating themselves to disinformation. He said some small groups were doing that, and then added that the public employees’ unions that have threatened to take to the streets in opposition to any proposed treaty have no reason to do so.

Pacheco said at the press conference that the government would never sign a free-trade treaty that did not improve the lives of Costa Ricans. He said that such a treaty would create new kinds of jobs for young citizens. And, said the president, surveys show that 86 percent of the population favors a treaty.

The president also said that some opposition to the trade treaty clearly was against the United States and that if the trade treaty were with some other country, the same people would be taking to the streets in favor of the pact. He later joked that Costa Rica would be ready to negotiate a free trade treaty with Cuba if the Communist government there wanted to do so.

In addition to the unions, some of the opposition to the free-trade treaty comes from organized groups associated with the University of Costa Rica. The public university is a hotbed of political thought, and there was strong criticism against the United States for the war against Iraq.

Negotiators for the parts of the trade treaty dealing with agriculture were in Washington Tuesday negotiating. Costa Rica’s principal concerns are more access for sugar into U.S. markets. Plus they want to protect the Costa Rican potato, onion and pork and beef producers.

Leaders of public employee unions said Monday that they were ready to take to the streets to protect the free-trade treaty, even though a text of the pact does not exist. Most public employees concerned about the treaty work for government monopolies that would face strong competition from U.S. enterprises.

 
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Well-oiled travelers
roll into San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 26 young adults from California have arrived in San José after a long bus ride. What makes the trip unique is that they did it in two aging school buses designed to use vegetable oil in their diesel engines.

The group, who call themselves the Sustainable Solutions Caravan will end up at Punta Mona on the Caribbean where they have a demonstration finca. They left California in November.

The purpose of the trip was to show vehicles fueled with vegetable oil in action. That vegetable fuels can make a diesel run has been known since the early 1900s, but only about 1 percent of U.S. vehicles use such fuels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is researching the use of vegetable oils as motor lubricants. National Geographic published an article April 22. Proponents of the vegetable fuel note that pollution is reduced drastically and that the fuel is renewable.

Vegetable oil is sensitive to heat and cold when it is used as a fuel, and some sources say that engines will quickly build up varnish deposits. 

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New Four Seasons Hotel
at center of beach flap

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican citizens in Guanacaste are testing the rights the public has to camp on the nation’s beaches. They picked a spot right in front of the new upscale Four Seasons Hotel to do it Saturday.

The groups claim they were harassed by police and not allowed to swing hammocks at the beach.

The new hotel is part of the nation’s Proyecto Papagayo, which seeks to bring upscale tourists into Guanacaste. The hotel is the first of many businesses that will open there. 

The hotel opened its doors to the jet set and closed the beaches to Tico tourists, said a release from three groups calling themselves the Confraternidad Guanacasteca. They are the Comité Cívico de Cañas, the Asociación Ambientalista de la Península de Nicoya and the Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente.

This weekend was not the first time that the groups have tried to gain access to Playa Blanca and Playa Virador.

The Papagayo development organization, Ecodesarrollo Papagayo S.A., had brought in police.

The civic groups said they were told by a policeman that the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública had asked that the public not be allowed on the beach near the hotel.

Costa Ricans have the right of access to the first 50 meters of land above high water mark, according to the law. They also are allowed reasonable access. The group who wanted to camp on the beach said that a similar group had no trouble doing so on Playa Panamá just a few kilometers away.

"Evidently the presence of a group of citizens camping on the beach or simply being in the shade does not fit in with the model of tourism of the jet set of the Four Seasons, said a release from the group.  The new hotel has rates that bottom out at about $300 a day.

Last year the Sala VI constitutional court ordered that citizens should have free transit to the beaches in the Proyecto Papagayo, the group noted.

The group said they were trying to reaffirm the public’s right to access to the beaches. On Dec. 7 Ecodesarrollo Papagayo S.A. and Four Seasons tried to keep some 150 persons off the beach. The group had come by a public road. The hotel and the company offered instead a path that the group said was uncomfortable and dangerous.

Police get training
in helping children

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 30 police officers who are finishing up a course dealing with sexual violence against children will bring to 300 the total of officers who have received the training.

That was the word Tuesday from the  Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad. The course was conducted in Goicoechea. The training was conducted by representatives of Defensa de los Niños Internacional, and by experts on the staff of Ana Helena Chacón, vice minister of security, said the ministry.

Sex tourism was among the topics covered in the two-day workshop. Also discussed were the human rights on youngsters and traffic in persona and the use of the internet by sexual predators.

Costa Rica picked
for rights position

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has been named as vice president of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

The country will be represented by Manuel Antonio González Sanz, the Costa Rican ambassador to Switzerland where the commission is based.

The election represents a recognition of Costa Rica for its historic and permanent pledge in defense and promotions of human rights in the world, said Roberto Tovar Faja, foreign minister, who made the announcement here in San José.

Costa Rica last held a leadership role in the 53-nation commission in 1966.

Man 75, arrested
in assault on girl, 7

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said that a 75-year-old man forced his way into a home and sexually abused a 7-year old girl near Boca Arenal de Cutris, San Carlos.

The incident happened about 7 p.m. Monday, police said. The man who was arrested, identified by the last names of Obando Ruiz, is a seasonal agricultural worker who had been in the area just a week, said police.

Bus rider arrested
on cocaine allegation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man at a bus stop in Ciudad Neilly raised the suspicions of police there Monday, and a search uncovered some 700 grams of cocaine in the man’s backpack, police said. They identified the man by the last names of Cubillo Vargas and said he was 22 years old. The man is from Quepos and was about to board a San José-bound bus, said police.
 
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Nature author Ewing
will read his works

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jack Ewing, the founder and owner of Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge, will be reading from his book, "Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate" Saturday in Manuel Antonio.

The book is a collection of 30 short stories written by Ewing about nature conservation and rainforests in Costa Rica. He has been here since the  early 1970s and has been instrumental in turning the hacienda from a working farm to a refuge.

The reading and signing will be at 10 a.m. at La Buena Nota Beachwear and Central Latino ABS.
 
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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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Bush urges renewal of Patriot Act
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

George Bush raised the possibility of more terrorism Tuesday night as he urged the U.S. Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act.

But a minority of congressmen applauded when the president said that the act was about to expire. More applauded and cheered when he called for renewal of the controversial law enforcement measure.

Although the speech by Bush to Congress was billed (as it has been since 1941) as the State of the Union Address, much of the talk was about terrorism overseas and Iraq.

"The enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear," Bush warned. In the audience was Adnan Pachachi, president of the Iraqi ruling council who had met earlier with Bush.

Bush defended his actions in the Middle East. "Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better," said Bush, as he cited the apparent change of heart by the Libyan leadership that followed the U.S. Iraqi invasion.

President Bush opened his address Wednesday by saying the United States is a nation rising to meet great responsibilities. Bush said U.S. servicemen and women are bringing hope to the oppressed and justice to the violent. He said their work is making America more secure.

He praised law enforcement, intelligence officers and the Homeland Security Department for their vigilance against terrorism. Bush also said the U.S. economy is growing stronger, and that tax relief passed by Congress is working.

He told members of Congress they can go forward, or turn back to what he called a "dangerous illusion" that terrorists and outlaw regimes no longer pose a threat.

He said the country has not come through tragedy, trial, and war only to falter and leave its work unfinished.

"The world without Saddam Hussein’s regime is a better and safer place," he told the lawmakers.

In response to domestic complaints that he should have gotten approval from the United Nations before invading Iraq, Bush said  "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."

Bush also had a number of domestic proposals, including a federal program to help newly released prisoners reenter society. And he said he wants to double the budget to the National Endowment for Democracy, a propaganda program to promote U.S. values overseas.

The USA Patriot Act has met with strong criticism from civil libertarians. The American Civil Liberties Union said that "many parts of this sweeping legislation take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect." The law has been upheld by lower courts

The American Civil Liberties Union gives as an example a provision that allows the FBI to access private medical records, library records and 

White House photo by Eric Draper
President George W. Bush reviews his State of the Union speech in the Oval Office Tuesday morning with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Mike Gerson, director of presidential speech writing. 

student records without a warrant and without probable cause.

Bush only briefly touched on Latin American concerns as he promoted free trade. His administration is involved in negotiating a free trade agreement with Costa Rica and the bulk of Latin America.

Most provisions of the USA Patriot Act have a four-year life, so congressional renewal is needed. The measure was passed slightly more than a month after terrorists slammed passenger jets into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The measure contains strong anti-money laundering provisons.

The speech by Bush was some 54 minutes long and was interrupted 69 times by applauds.

In the second half of his speech, the president turned to domestic issues, saying his tax relief is working to make the economy stronger. He called on Congress to act to make the tax cuts permanent for the sake of job growth. 

Bush also praised Congress for raising the standards of public schools and for giving elderly Americans prescription drug coverage under the national Medicare program. 

This was the president's third State of the Union address, and was broadcast live to a national television audience. It was followed by an official response from the Democratic Party, delivered by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. 

New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson delivered a Democratic response in Spanish for the first time. 

Four top lawmakers and Commerce Secretary Don Evans were absent from Tuesday's State of the Union speech, in a regular security measure in case the Capital is hit by a catastrophic attack. 

Many observers cast the president’s speech as a political one because U.S. presidential elections take place again in November.


 
President George W. Bush meets with speechwriters to prepare for his State of the Union speech in the Oval Office.
White House photo by Eric Draper

 
 
Here is the text of the State of the Union Address
Here is the text of the State of the Union speech by President George W. Bush as released by the U. S. White House Tuesday night:
 

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens: 

America this evening is a Nation called to great responsibilities. And we are rising to meet them. 

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure. 

Each day, law enforcement personnel and intelligence officers are tracking terrorist threats; analysts are examining airline passenger lists; the men and women of our new Homeland Security Department are patrolling our coasts and borders. And their vigilance is protecting America. 

Americans are proving once again to be the hardest working people in the world. The American economy is growing stronger. The tax relief you passed is working. 

Tonight, Members of Congress can take pride in great works of compassion and reform that skeptics had thought impossible. You are raising the standards of our public schools; and you are giving our senior citizens prescription drug coverage under Medicare. 

We have faced serious challenges together - and now we face a choice. We can go forward with confidence and resolve - or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. We can press on with economic growth, and reforms in education and Medicare - or we can turn back to the old policies and old divisions. 

We have not come all this way - through tragedy, and trial, and war - only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same of us. In their efforts, their enterprise, and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong. 

Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11th, 2001 - over two years without an attack on American soil - and it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting - and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombassa, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated. 

Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential tools is the PATRIOT Act, which allows Federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists. Key provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens - you need to renew the PATRIOT Act. 

America is on the offensive against the terrorists who started this war. Last March, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a mastermind of September 11th, awoke to find himself in the custody of U.S. and Pakistani authorities. Last August 11th brought the capture of the terrorist Hambali, who was a key player in the attack in Indonesia that killed over 200 people. We are tracking al-Qaida around the world - and nearly two-thirds of their known leaders have now been captured or killed. Thousands of very skilled and determined military personnel are on a manhunt, going after the remaining killers who hide in cities and caves - and, one by one, we will bring the terrorists to justice. 

As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger. 

The first to see our determination were the Taliban, who made Afghanistan the primary training base of al-Qaida killers. As of this month, that country has a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school. With help from the new Afghan Army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against surviving members of the Taliban and al-Qaida. The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free, and proud, and fighting terror - and America is honored to be their friend. 

Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland, and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein - and the people of Iraq are free. Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows. 

These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet we are making progress against them. The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a prison cell. Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45. Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day, and conducting an average of 180 raids every week. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq, just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime. 

The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right. Last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June. As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends - but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom. 

Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future. And tonight we are honored to welcome one of Iraq's most respected leaders: the current President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi. Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation. 

Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Colonel Qadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America. 

Different threats require different strategies. Along with nations in the region, we are insisting that North Korea eliminate its nuclear program. America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons. America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes. 

When I came to this rostrum on September 20th, 2001, I brought the police shield of a fallen officer, my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end. I gave to you and to all Americans my complete commitment to securing our country and defeating our enemies. And this pledge, given by one, has been kept by many. You in the Congress have provided the resources for our defense, and cast the difficult votes of war and peace. Our closest allies have been unwavering. America's intelligence personnel and diplomats have been skilled and tireless. 

And the men and women of the American military - they have taken the hardest duty. We have seen their skill and courage in armored charges, and midnight raids, and lonely hours on faithful watch. We have seen the joy when they return, and felt the sorrow when one is lost. I have had the honor of meeting our servicemen and women at many posts, from the deck of a carrier in the Pacific, to a mess hall in Baghdad. Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my Administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror. 

I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime - a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, tried, convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got. 

Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We are seeking all the facts - already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims - terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq - where hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children vanished into the sands - would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place. 

Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners, or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people. 

We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again. 

As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair, and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends. To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian - and soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region. I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East. And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world. 

America is a Nation with a mission - and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom. 

In these last three years, adversity has also revealed the fundamental strengths of the American economy. We have come through recession, and terrorist attack, and corporate scandals, and the uncertainties of war. And because you acted to stimulate our economy with tax relief, this economy is strong, and growing stronger. 

You have doubled the child tax credit from 500 to a thousand dollars, reduced the marriage penalty, begun to phase out the death tax, reduced taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, cut taxes on small businesses, and you have lowered taxes for every American who pays income taxes. 

Americans took those dollars and put them to work, driving this economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of 2003 was the fastest in nearly 20 years. New home construction: the highest in almost 20 years. Home ownership rates: the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. And jobs are on the rise. 

These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have - and you were right to return it. 

America's growing economy is also a changing economy. As technology transforms the way almost every job is done, America becomes more productive, and workers need new skills. Much of our job growth will be found in high-skilled fields like health care and biotechnology. So we must respond by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our new economy. 

All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered. 

By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country. We are providing more funding for our schools - a 36 percent increase since 2001. We are requiring higher standards. We are regularly testing every child on the fundamentals. We are reporting results to parents, and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing. We are making progress toward excellence for every child. 

But the status quo always has defenders. Some want to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act by weakening standards and accountability. Yet the results we require are really a matter of common sense: We expect third graders to read and do math at third grade level - and that is not asking too much. Testing is the only way to identify and help students who are falling behind. 

This Nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics. I refuse to give up on any child - and the No Child Left Behind Act is opening the door of opportunity to all of America's children. 

At the same time, we must ensure that older students and adults can gain the skills they need to find work now. Many of the fastest-growing occupations require strong math and science preparation, and training beyond the high school level. So tonight I propose a series of measures called Jobs for the 21st Century. This program will provide extra help to middle- and high school students who fall behind in reading and math, expand Advanced Placement programs in low-income schools, and invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools. I propose larger Pell Grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school. I propose increasing our support for America's fine community colleges, so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs. By all these actions, we will help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country. 

Job training is important, and so is job creation. We must continue to pursue an aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda. 

Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act, the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged 300 dollars more in Federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase. What the Congress has given, the Congress should not take away: For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent. 

Our agenda for jobs and growth must help small business owners and employees with relief from needless Federal regulation, and protect them from junk and frivolous lawsuits. Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run - so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. My Administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America's entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America's workers. Younger workers should have the opportunity to build a nest egg by saving part of their Social Security taxes in a personal retirement account. We should make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the American people. 

And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than four percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years. 

Tonight I also ask you to reform our immigration laws, so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy - because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary worker program will help protect our homeland - allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security. I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration, and unfairly reward those who break our laws. My temporary worker program will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law, while bringing millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life. 

Our Nation's health care system, like our economy, is also in a time of change. Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives. This dramatic progress has brought its own challenge, in the rising costs of medical care and health insurance. Members of Congress, we must work together to help control those costs and extend the benefits of modern medicine throughout our country. 

Meeting these goals requires bipartisan effort - and two months ago, you showed the way. By strengthening Medicare and adding a prescription drug benefit, you kept a basic commitment to our seniors: You are giving them the modern medicine they deserve. 

Starting this year, under the law you passed, seniors can choose to receive a drug discount card, saving them 10 to 25 percent off the retail price of most prescription drugs - and millions of low-income seniors can get an additional 600 dollars to buy medicine. Beginning next year, seniors will have new coverage for preventive screenings against diabetes and heart disease, and seniors just entering Medicare can receive wellness exams. 

In January of 2006, seniors can get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. For a monthly premium of about 35 dollars, most seniors who do not have that coverage today can expect to see their drug bills cut roughly in half. Under this reform, senior citizens will be able to keep their Medicare just as it is, or they can choose a Medicare plan that fits them best - just as you, as Members of Congress, can choose an insurance plan that meets your needs. And starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money tax-free for their medical expenses, in a health savings account. 

I signed this measure proudly, and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors, or to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare, will meet my veto. 

On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs. To make insurance more affordable, Congress must act to address rapidly rising health care costs. Small businesses should be able to band together and negotiate for lower insurance rates, so they can cover more workers with health insurance - I urge you to pass Association Health Plans. I ask you to give lower-income Americans a refundable tax credit that would allow millions to buy their own basic health insurance. By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care. To protect the doctor-patient relationship, and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits. And tonight I propose that individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage, as part of our new health savings accounts, be allowed to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes. 

A government-run health care system is the wrong prescription. By keeping costs under control, expanding access, and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America's health care the best in the world. 

We are living in a time of great change - in our world, in our economy, and in science and medicine. Yet some things endure - courage and compassion, reverence and integrity, respect for differences of faith and race. The values we try to live by never change. And they are instilled in us by fundamental institutions, such as families, and schools, and religious congregations. These institutions - the unseen pillars of civilization - must remain strong in America, and we will defend them. 

We must stand with our families to help them raise healthy, responsible children. And when it comes to helping children make right choices, there is work for all of us to do. 

One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs. Our government is helping parents confront this problem, with aggressive education, treatment, and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional 23 million dollars for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you. 

To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message - that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now. 

To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face - even when they are difficult to talk about. Each year, about three million teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases that can harm them, or kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents. In my budget, I propose a grassroots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double Federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions children make now can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us - parents, schools, government - must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children. 

A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under Federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our Nation must defend the sanctity of marriage. 

The outcome of this debate is important - and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight. 

It is also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America's religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country - mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely. Yet government has often denied social service grants and contracts to these groups, just because they have a cross or Star of David or crescent on the wall. By Executive Order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law, so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again. 

In the past, we have worked together to bring mentors to the children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted, and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, 300 million dollar Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life. 

For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for, and achievements shared by all. By our actions, we have shown what kind of Nation we are. In grief, we found the grace to go on. In challenge, we rediscovered the courage and daring of a free people. In victory, we have shown the noble aims and good heart of America. And having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart. 

I have been a witness to the character of the American people, who have shown calm in times of danger, compassion for one another, and toughness for the long haul. All of us have been partners in a great enterprise. And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, "Dear George W. Bush." "If there is anything you know, I Ashley Pearson age 10 can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country." She added this P.S.: "If you can send a letter to the troops ... please put, 'Ashley Pearson believes in you.'" 

Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself. Study hard in school, listen to your mom and dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say "thank you." And while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free. 

My fellow citizens, we now move forward, with confidence and faith. Our Nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable - and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power Who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true. 

May God bless the United States of America. Thank you. 


 
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Unplanned release of genetic creations considered
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Scientists developing genetically modified organisms should consider how traits could escape into natural ecosystems, according to a new report from an advisory group to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

In a press release Tuesday, the academy said its National Research Council recommends that scientists develop additional biological confinement — or "bioconfinement" — methods and do more research to understand how well specific methods work.

The council said no single bioconfinement method is likely to be 100 percent effective. It said the purpose of bioconfinement is to prevent transgenic plants and animals from breeding or competing with their wild relatives or passing engineered traits to other species.

Ensuring confinement of new organisms "may become one of the requirements for regulatory approval" of new biotechnology products, the council said.

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which in 2003 established a separate unit to regulate the importation and interstate movement of biotech foods.

The National Research Council is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter.

The report was requested by the Department of Agriculture, which is considering how to regulate a number of genetically engineered organisms that had not yet been developed when the federal government's original 1986 regulation of biotechnology products was enacted. 

Ecological studies have shown that some genetically engineered organisms are viable in natural ecosystems and can breed with wild relatives. The most publicized environmental danger is that invasive weeds could be created if transgenic crops engineered to tolerate herbicides or to resist diseases and pests pass these resistant genes to weedy relatives. 

Plants also can be engineered with traits that allow them to grow faster, reproduce more, and live in new types of habitats. 

An additional risk is that transgenic fish or shellfish could escape and mate with their wild counterparts or out-compete them for food. Another concern is that plants and animals engineered to produce pharmaceuticals could harm humans or other species who may accidentally consume them.

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