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These stories were published Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 41
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Zamora, jailed or not, remains historic figure
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican government went to bat in Florida Feb. 20 for Ronny Zamora, a prison inmate who is Tico.

Zamora made headlines in 1977 when, at age 15, he faced a murder charge involving the killing of an 83-year-old neighbor. His family and the Costa Rican consul there are anxious to get him out of jail. They believe he has served sufficient time.

They will get their wish because a parole commission said that the man, now 40, will be released in June 2005. He had been sentenced to a life term and lesser terms for robbery, burglary and possession of a firearm.

Overlooked in the current news stories was the strange defense mounted at trial by Zamora’s lawyer. The defender, Ellis Rubin, tried to convince a judge and jury that Zamora was insane due to intoxication by continually watching violent shows on television.

In an ironic footnote, the trial of Zamora was the first to be televised in Florida under rules passed by that state’s Supreme Court.

During the 26 years Zamora has been in jail little agreement has emerged over the strength of the mass media in causing or controlling the violent activities of individuals. 

Zamora eventually repudiated his defense and with the help of another lawyer attempted unsuccessfully to get a new trial. He claimed that trial lawyer Rubin made a mockery of his insanity defense by interjecting the television issue.

The U.S. 11th Circuit disagreed when it heard Zamora’s plea for habeas corpus. The court said that the record suggests Rubin did the best he could with a weak case.

Zamora notwithstanding, the behavioral researchers have made weak cases of their own for and against negative effects of television violence. Intuitively, most people think that violence on the television set somehow is linked to a rise in violence in modern society.

Youngsters have been shown to be quick 


learners of gun-handling techniques and other antisocial behavior, thanks to television.

Yet the majority of the world’s people go happily on their way each day seemingly unaffected by police shows or worse.

An alternative theory, as old as the Greek tragedies, has emerged. This is the cathartic concept that says if people experience make-believe violence via the movies or television they are less likely to do real world violence.

That view continues to be a weak case. And no researcher has come forward with clear and convincing evidence of how television promotes violence.

Still, marketers agree that television promotes beer sales as well as countless other advertised products. In fact, some have argued that the main reason for televising sports is to provide a vehicle for beer sales.

Outside of the television arena, advertising and public relations are doing nicely in a number of ways. When a dozen reporters took rides Wednesday in new Volkswagens at an Uruca dealership, the power of public relations was demonstrated yet again. This was a staged event designed to get media time, an honest way of demonstrating a product.

So society is left with a seeming contradiction. If television is so good at selling beer, how come it does not also purvey violence? And if it does, should we do something about it.

When that question is answered one way or the other, a Tico, Ronny Zamora, will be the poster boy for having started the controversy in the first place.

Robbery suspects caught after holdup of two U.S. citizens
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two U.S. women attacked and robbed in Cedros de Montes de Oca Tuesday night, unlike other foreigners robbed here, learned that their suspected attackers were apprehended almost immediately.

Ashley Faye Jotter and Kristen Tribby were in the area at around 9 p.m. when four armed assailants alighted from a car and robbed them, according to the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. 

The ministry at first identified the two girls as tourists, but an official later said they were exchange students.

The assailants fled in the car, a gray Hyundai Elantra, said officials. However, only minutes later officers in two Fuerza Pública vehicles intercepted the suspects’ path in Sabanilla, 

added the officials. The car had no license plates, they said.

Officers then arrested the four suspected assailants in the car, said the officials. According to the ministry, a sweep of the vehicle uncovered a booty of suspected stolen items, arms and drugs.

Found were a camera and a bag belonging to Ms. Jotter and Ms. Tribby. Also amongst the items were 75 rocks of crack cocaine, four bags of suspected marijuana, another two handbags, three cell phones, a 32-caliber revolver and a screwdriver, said the ministry. It is believed the screwdriver was intended to scare potential victims.

The ministry has identified the suspects with the last names of Picado Mesén, Solano Barrantes, Portilla Elizondo and Méndez Angulo. The ministry said it had retained all of the items found in the suspects’ car.

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High-profile Communist leaders meet in Beijing
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BEIJING, China — Cuban President Fidel Castro is here for talks about Iraq, trade with the country, and other issues. Castro's meeting with President Jiang Zemin brings together two Communist leaders who share concerns about the American march toward war with Iraq and growing U.S. power elsewhere. 

At the just-completed Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Castro blasted what he called the "almost certain and unnecessary" U.S. war with Iraq. The government here has been urging Washington to seek a peaceful solution to divest Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and allow more time for diplomacy.

Kong Quan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, says relations between Cuba and his country are "mutually supportive" and "developing smoothly."

China is Cuba's third largest trading partner, and Kong says the two sides will talk about boosting trade between their two nations, which he says now totals only about $420 million a year.

Ties between the two countries were not close during the Cold War when Cuba was a client state of the Soviet Union. 

But the collapse of the Soviet State cost Cuba the subsidies that had been propping up its economy, which has been hurt by a decades-long embargo by the nearby United States. Increased trade with the fast-growing economy here could help get Cuba's limping economy going again.

Castro, with his bushy beard and wearing his distinctive green military-style uniform and cap, showed both his age and his political skills on his airport arrival here. 

The 76-year-old revolutionary leader stepped carefully down the gangway of his airliner, leaning on the railing and his aids. But he then took considerable time to shake hands warmly with the many waiting officials here before taking off in a motorcade.

Castro's Asian trip earlier took him to Vietnam and may include a stop in Japan before he returns to Havana.


 
Scientists examine heat
stress on coral reefs

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scientists of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are using satellite data to monitor the long-term effects of heat-caused stress on the world's coral reefs.

According to a release Tuesday, the administration is now providing an information product called Degree Heating Weeks that uses satellite-derived data to continuously monitor the cumulative thermal stress of several coral reefs, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Galapagos, the Bahamas and others.

For example, if the current temperature of a reef site is two degrees Celsius above the maximum expected summertime temperature or one degree for a period of two weeks, the site would receive a rating of 2DHWs, and so on. The extent and acuteness of thermal stress, key predictors of coral bleaching, contribute to coral reef degradation worldwide.

Alan Strong, coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the administration’s Satellite and Information Services, said: "Coral reef managers and stakeholders will now have up-to-date, accurate and reliable information on the status of their reefs and may be able to take active measures to prevent further damage if their site has a high DHW rating."

U.S. immigration service
overhaul looms 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will become the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services Saturday, moving from its current organizational home in the Department of Justice to the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

Michael Garcia, the service’s acting commissioner, is promising immigrants that the transition will be as "seamless and smooth as possible," according to a release Wednesday.

The agency is conducting a public relations campaign to inform its constituency of the changes and what they'll mean. The release says all forms and documents previously issued remain valid, offices remain in the same locations, and correspondence should be sent to the same addresses.

The new bureau will take over the immigration benefit services currently performed by the outgoing service. Service law enforcement functions will be taken over by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will handle border inspection procedures.

Chavez fueled ‘climate of
tension’ in Venezuela

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Recent "belligerent rhetoric" by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has contributed to a "climate of tension" that does not auger well in the search for a peaceful solution to the political standoff in the country, says Roger Noriega, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States.

In remarks Wednesday to a meeting of the organization’s Permanent Council, Noriega said the United States "strongly condemns" the bombings Tuesday in Caracas of the Spanish Agency for Technical Cooperation and the Colombian Consulate. Noriega said the United States hopes that an "expeditious and thorough investigation into the bombings will be conducted and that those responsible will be held accountable."

Noriega said that pamphlets found at the scene of these bombings "echoed some of the heated rhetoric of Venezuelan government officials from the previous days."

"This very fact," Noriega said, "reinforces why it is important that all sides in the Venezuelan dispute respect a non-violence agreement,” signed Feb. 19 by the government of Venezuela and opposition negotiators. That agreement, Noriega said, represents an important step toward improving Venezuela's "troubled political climate."

The U.S. official expressed concern over intemperate comments by Chavez, who on Sunday sharply criticized Spain, Colombia, and the United States, and admonished all countries in the Western Hemisphere to "stop meddling" in Venezuela's internal affairs, as well as telling Cesar Gaviria, organization secretary general, that he was "out of line" for his efforts to bring about a dialogue between the government and the political opposition.

Human trafficking
on increase, says official 

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the U.S. Justice Department has more than doubled the number of prosecutions and convictions in human trafficking cases over a comparable period prior to passage of the law.

John Ashcroft, U.S. attorney general, described the heightened prosecutorial initiative Tuesday, saying, "The Department of Justice remains firmly committed to ensuring criminals who engage in human trafficking are aggressively investigated, swiftly prosecuted, and severely punished."

Ashcroft spoke during a Feb. 23 to 26 conference on sex trafficking cosponsored by the Department of State and a coalition of nongovernmental organizations battling this modern day form of slavery.

Trafficking cases have been initiated in 46 U.S. states and all U.S. territories, the attorney general said, and many of those cases have links to criminal rings in a variety of nations.

"Trafficking is a transnational criminal enterprise. It recognizes neither boundaries nor borders," Ashcroft said. "Profits from trafficking feed into the coffers of organized crime. Trafficking is fueled by other criminal activities such as document fraud, money laundering and migrant smuggling."

Argentina oversees
another day of riots

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS, ARIES, Argentina — Police and protesters clashed for a second day in a row here Wednesday. No serious injuries were reported, but tension remains high in the Argentine capital. The unrest comes at a time when President Eduardo Duhalde is preparing to hand over the reins of the presidency to his successor. 

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd of several hundred protesters who had gathered in front of a federal courthouse to express their support for four left-wing activists on trial for inciting violence in the city eight years ago.

The demonstrators some wielding wooden batons and wearing masks threw rocks and smashed car windows in the area. One television journalist was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet while covering the violence. No other injuries were reported and police made no arrests.

The violence comes a day after police raided an abandoned building in the city's historic district, where squatters had taken up residence. Some had been there for as many as 15 years. 

Some of the building's occupants had threatened to blow it up with kerosene gas if police entered. The raid caused chaos on the city streets for hours Tuesday. In all, more than 15 people were injured and more than 50 arrested.

This week's violence is the worst since June 26, 2002, when two men died after thousands of unemployed workers sparred with police next to one of the city's main access bridges. Several hundred protesters gathered on the same bridge Wednesday to commemorate the eight-month anniversary of the deaths.

Even more protesters were gathering in front of the Argentine presidential palace Wednesday evening to condemn what they call police repression and to demand the government do more to help the country solve its worst economic crisis in history.

Despite recent signs of recovery, South America's second largest economy remains mired in recession and unemployment still lingers between 15 and 20 percent. 

Campaign season is now well underway, as Argentines will go to the polls on April 27 to pick a new president. No front-runner has yet emerged from the pack.

Florida trial aims to 
implicate Fidel Castro

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — A trial has begun in the south of the state that aims to hold Cuban President Fidel Castro accountable for the 1996 shoot down of unarmed civilian planes over the Florida Straits. 

It has been seven years since Cuban MIG fighter jets shot down two small planes operated by the Miami-based Cuban exile group, Brothers to the Rescue, killing four people.

Wednesday, appearing in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto said the incident continues to haunt him and has been a source of great personal suffering. Basulto spoke with reporters after testifying in court.

"Very emotional. It was a rehashing of what happened that day [of the shoot down]. This had to do with my own feelings, and I think they came out," he said. 

Basulto is seeking a multi-million dollar award against Castro, who has admitted to ordering the shoot down in the interests of Cuba's national defense.

Acting on Basulto's behalf is the U.S. legal advocacy group, Judicial Watch. Larry Klayman, the organization's chairman, says the goal of the lawsuit is twofold. 

"Our intent is not just to get justice for Mr. Basulto, but to punish the Cuban government and Fidel Castro, who is a master terrorist. Castro and Cuba are not immune from the U.S. legal system because they are on the State Department's terrorist watch list. And under our law, private citizens can proceed against terrorist nations and against terrorists," he said. 

No one representing the Cuban government has appeared to contest the lawsuit. But for years, Cuba accused Brothers to the Rescue of violating its airspace while searching the Florida Straits for rafters fleeing the island.

Relatives of those killed in the shoot down incident won a separate lawsuit against Cuba and collected compensation from Cuban assets frozen in the United States.

Bush unveils new 
ambassador to Haiti

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House says President George Bush has chosen career diplomat James Foley to be ambassador to Haiti. Officials made the announcement Tuesday. Foley currently serves as the State Department's deputy chief of mission in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Earlier in his career, Mr. Foley served as deputy director of the NATO secretary-general's private office in Brussels, Belgium. Foley also has served as a consular officer and political officer in the Philippines. 

The nomination must now be approved by the U.S. Senate.
 
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An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects. 

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 


Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
 
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.

DNA at 50 stimulates a whole range of art works
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — This week marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, the microscopic data every cell contains, and upon which all life on earth is based. This city is commemorating the anniversary with a six-part exhibition celebrating the often-overlooked partnership between art and science. James Watson, who made the discovery with Francis Crick, was on hand to view the sculptures, photographs, and paintings his research inspired. 

This is the "sound" of DNA, emanating from a meter-high, three-dimensional sculpture depicting the human body's "genetic environment". The piece, called "Telomeres Project on Imminent Immortality" is part of the "DNAge: Genomic Issues, Art and Science" exhibition. 

The work's creator, Ellen Sandor, sounds more like a scientist than an artist when she talks about the piece. The sculpture, she said, depicts "telomeres," which are found at the end of the chromosome strand. "Telomeres may hold the key to dramatically increased human lifespan. If we are able to control which groups of cells are immortal, and which are not, by turning on and off the regenerating telomerase enzyme, then we would have the power to neutralize cancer, revive the immune system of AIDS victims and, in the least, reduce suffering and save countless lives," Ms. Sandor said. 

Ms. Sandor's work is based on the double helix, the twisted ladder-like structure of DNA revealed by Watson and Crick in February of 1953, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. The men received the Nobel Prize for their discovery nine years later. 

Only trillionths of a centimeter in size, the double helix contains an organism's complete genetic information. If one could unravel a strip of DNA, it would reach almost 200 centimeters in length. 

Watson said illustrating the extraordinary discovery was one of the first problems. "I am a terrible artist. I can not draw. Francis cannot draw. Francis and I have no artistic talent at all," he said. 

Watson said artists quickly became interested in his discovery. He said legendary surrealist Salvador Dali told him that the structure "convinced him of the existence of God", to which Watson replied, "To me, it proves the opposite." 

Since then, notes exhibition co-curator, Marvin Heiferman, artists have, in increasing numbers, sought to address DNA and the scientific breakthroughs to which its discovery has given birth. He said that commemorating a scientific discovery with an art exhibition makes perfect sense. 

"Artists give us images that we can look at, that allow us to think about things that can be very difficult to approach with just words alone. They 

Photo by the New York Academy of Sciences
Modern work by Michael Rees, entitled  'From Codescript to Commodities in Two alphabets with a Ghost.' 

are very difficult ideas, and the science community often has great difficulty speaking to the lay community. Artists who can come up with images that allow people to think about these provocative ideas are serving a very important function," Heiferman said. 

Kevin Clarke, one of the artists featured in the exhibition, goes further. He said artists assist scientists in the discovery process. "The deepest questions that are confronting us right now are not about the atom bomb, but about this kind of micro world within us. Artists have their own way of not only visualizing it, but bringing a new understanding also to the scientists," Clarke said. 

Clarke worked with scientists in the late 1980s to develop the first DNA sequencing procedure. The experiments used his blood. He said his "need to make a certain kind of artwork inspired them to develop a certain kind of science". 

Today, modern science presents us with the possibility of not only detecting disease predisposition in human embryos, but preventing disease altogether. Scientists are looking at ways to breed pigs with human cells to harvest organs for transplant. Others look to breed fruits and vegetables that contain disease-fighting agents. 

There is a "darker" side of DNA, however, raising issues in the world of politics, ethics, and religion. How far should science go with genetic engineering? 

Watson says he and Crick had no idea of the "Pandora's box" they were opening. "We did not dare dream that we would find anything that interesting, or simple. What a relief for me. You know, I did not have to be smart to understand it." 

"Genomic Issues: Art and Science" is part of the month-long "DNAge" festival of exhibitions and cultural events organized by several New York organizations, including the International Center of Photography, the New York Public Library, and the New York Academy of Sciences. 


 
Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books.

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession. Both operations catered to North Americans.

Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrants.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

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