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These stories were published Friday, March 26, 2004, Vol. 4, No. 61
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U.S. gets jolt in interim offshore gambling ruling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States got a wake-up call with an interim ruling by a World Trade Organization panel that said a U.S. ban on Internet gambling violates global trade rules.

The case was brought by tiny Antigua and Barbuda, and the World Trade panel said that Internet gambling is covered under the services section of trade agreements.

The United States and certain state prosecutors have been on a crusade to discourage Internet gambling but they have limited power offshore where many of the gambling sites are located. Costa Rica has an extensive Internet and sportsbook industry, as does Antigua.

The United States is likely to appeal the interim ruling that came after months of litigation. But the ruling also may result in a change in direction by U.S. law enforcement. Instead of trying to eliminate offshore gambling, the government may follow the lead of the U.S. state of Nevada which has legalized online gambling, although the final operational details have not yet been worked out.

Such a development would put offshore

gambling operations in direct competition with U.S.-based firms.

New York is one state that has taken the lead against the use of credit cards for offshore gambling. Because most of the major credit card companies are located in that state, threats by Attorney General Elliot Spitzer effectively eliminated the use of credit cards as a means of settling gambling debts online.

U.S. officials claim with some evidence that much offshore gambling is in the hands of organized crime. Several high-profile arrests of U.S. organized crime figures here supported that view. 

The U.S. government also has brought charges against those in the United States who would use communication devices to foster Internet gambling here.

The $7 billion-a-year industry is in competition with U.S. cities where gambling is allowed, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, N.J. A number of states also allow small-stake gambling. Curiously, the U.S. denied in the World Trade sessions that Internet gambling competes with land-based facilities, a ploy to diminish the strength of the Antigua claims.


 
Have you ever run into one of THESE doctors?
This past week was a musical one, ending with the concert at the Teatro Nacional Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Friend Jerry had an extra ticket for a seat in a palco principal, so I was spared the climb to the galeria, which I consider to be a dry run for climbers of Mt. Everest. (There are seven different ticket levels at the theater.)

The program was stunning, but then every program our orchestra does is stunning. It was my first opportunity to see our new conductor, Dr. Chosei Komatsu, in action. He is young, charming, and (according to my stereotyping) quite exuberant for a Japanese. 

I am a fidget. I think there must be some rule in all books on etiquette, that if you are over 5 you remain perfectly still during any musical presentation, especially a symphony. I canít. I fidget. Jerry, next to me, never moved a muscle, not even throughout the last symphony, which lasted 45 minutes non-stop. His stillness made every move I made more maddening, even to me. A nose that never itches, began to. I clasped and unclasped my hands. I wiggled my toes. My eyes darted around, as I tried to hold my head still, searching for other fidgets. I saw only one. As yet there is no Fidgets Anonymous I can attend.

Meanwhile, I was wrong last week when I said that music and water keep you healthy. I am wrong so much lately; it no longer bothers me. Tuesday morning very early I awoke knowing from the redness of my right arm that I was in for another bout of cellulitis. I hauled myself off to Calderón Guardiaís new emergency hospital. 

It was not an especially happy experience. After waiting an hour, I explained to the young doctor what my problem was and that I needed antibiotics. Before he would concur with my diagnosis, he decided we needed to take some tests, like an x- ray, electrocardiogram, urine and blood tests. Just in case it was something else. 

Unfortunately, I had to wait three hours before I could get an x-ray. Other doctors had told me that I should get antibiotics immediately, so I was getting more and more worried. But I did all that was necessary. 

As I sat waiting to see the doctor again, I remembered many years ago in New York where I had acquired sinus trouble. I was insured by HIP, a normally good health provider. In response to a painful sinus infection, I made an appointment to get it taken care of. They asked me if I would become the patient of a new doctor who had just joined since he was looking for patients. I said yes.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

 
When I told him that I had a sinus infection, he smiled that smile some doctors have when you encroach upon their territory, and said, "Well, Iím the doctor, and I think we should take some tests just to make sure that is the problem." I went away with no treatment but more appointments for several tests, including blood and urine. On my next visit I was informed that the tests hadnít come through. I was in pain, and as I sat on the examining table tears of self pity filled my eyes. 

"Look at you," he said. "I think you may be depressed. Perhaps we should make an appointment with a psychologist."

"I AM depressed," I said. But itís because I have a very painful sinus infection and nothing is being done about it. I donít need a psychologist for that."

By the end of the week the tests had come back and my thoroughgoing doctor said, "Mrs. Stuart I want to congratulate ó oh, itís Miss Stuart, isnít it? Well, I donít think congratulations are in order, but you are pregnant."

After a few seconds of silent incredulity I said, "Doctor, there is no human way I can be pregnant. I have a sinus infection." As I slid off the examining table, I added, "I suggest you find a patient with morning sickness who thinks SHE has a sinus infection." And I walked out.

My office companions thought that very funny but insisted I call the director of HIP and complain. He immediately made an appointment for me with a specialist. After a very short examination the specialist said, "My god, woman, you have the worst sinus infection Iíve seen in years. Why didnít you come in sooner?" 

I sat on his examining table wringing my hands and twisting my feet "Youíll do something about it right away?" I said.

"Of course," he said. Then he added, "I notice you tend to fidget quite a bit. I have a daughter like that. Sheís only 5."

Remembering the outcome of that visit, I gathered my belongings, left the Calderón Guardia and caught a taxi to the Clinica Durán. There, after two more tests the doctor prescribed antibiotics. "What did the tests show," I asked. "You have an infection ó celulitis," he said. 

 
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Wind-whipped fire
continues to grow

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The series of forest fires in southern Costa Rica has now grown to some 8,000 hectares, nearly 20,000 acres.

The blaze is well beyond the capacity of fire crews from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía. Officials said Thursday that they were considering contacting private industry to provide technical assistance and perhaps helicopters and aircraft.

The location of the blaze is in rough terrain, and a report by the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that to reach the burn area by vehicle would take about 11 hours.

The area is on the slopes of Cerro Dúrika near Buenos Aires, which is in the southern part of the country astride the Interamerican Highway.

The ministry said Thursday that there is no record of residents in the area where the fire is burning. However, typical windy March conditions have fanned the flames for days. It was first reported Saturday.

The major blaze is surrounded by perhaps a half dozen additional smaller fires that continue to burn out of control.

Bean counters after
import flim-flammers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

You could call it the Great Bean Bust. Investigators raided six homes and four warehouses Thursday to try to find out what happened to some 224 tons of black beans that were imported to Costa Rica.

The Fiscalía de Delitos Tributarios, the tax police, said that the beans came from Argentina and were supposed to go to Nicaragua. There is no record that the beans left the country, but no taxes were paid either, investigators said. Taxes are not assessed if products are simply passing through the country.

A second case involved 30 sea-going containers of beans that were supposed to be shipped out to other Central American nations. Again, the tax police said there was no evidence that the beans left Costa Rica.

A third case involves the importation of beans that were listed as red beans on the documents. Officials pointed out that the tax is higher on black beans as a way of protecting local farmers. It turns out that the red beans were black beans, officials suspect.

Officials also said that the importation of beans did not comply with health standards set up by the Ministerio de Salud and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

Two persons were believed to have been detained Thursday but additional details were unavailable.

Beans are a major part of the diet of most Costa Ricans.

Two more detained
at airport as couriers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police arrested two Costa Ricans Tuesday as they tried to leave the country at Juan Santamaría Airport. Officials said the pair, a man and a woman, each had some 103 small packets of cocaine in their stomachs.

The Policía de Control de Drogas identified them as a 28-year-old man with the last names of Chinchilla Vargas and a 30-year-old woman with the last names of Avellán Sánchez. Their flight was to México City with a final destination of Madrid, Spain, police said.

The arrests bring to nine the number of persons detained at the airport this year on drug smuggling charges. Three of those cases were this week and involved persons trying to smuggle packets in their stomachs.

Kansas boy killed
in fall from horse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An 8-year-old U.S. tourist died Friday in San Miguel Bijagua near Cañas in Guanacaste, the Judicial Investigating Organization said. The child fell from a horse at a hotel complex, they said.

The boy was identified as Henry Cromwell of Eudora, Kansas.

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Would-be kidnappers invade Sabana complex
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Seven men, at least one with a gun, tricked their way into a townhouse complex in Sabana Oeste Wednesday afternoon, beat and tied up a resident but left without a kidnap victim.

The attack took place in broad daylight in the upscale neighborhood just 250 meters from Balcon Verde, the headquarters of the Partido Liberación Nacional.

The victim was Victor Matus, 41, a resident who had the ill fortune to open a gate when the men rang. He said he believed the seven were seeking the elderly landlady in order to hold her for ransom. She was not home.

Matus, originally from Nicaragua, told the men that he was a security guard to distract them. The plan backfired when the men beat him, took him to an unoccupied townhouse and tied up his hands and feet.

Sabana Oeste is a pocket of single-family homes and apartment buildings west of Parque La Sabana, south of the Autopista Próspero Fernández and north of the old road to Escazú. Several guard agencies patrol the area night and day. James Riedy, a retired Chicago professor, also lives in the townhouse complex. He said that the landlady only employs a guard from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. as a money-saving measure. He was unaware of the assault when it took place.

Matus suffered head and face injuries, including a black eye. He said he had filed a complaint with law enforcement officials. He is a fluent English speaker who has lived in the United States.

Riedy said that Matus, hands and feet tied, managed to crawl from the vacant townhouse to another building where he activated an alarm for a private security company. However, no one from that company ever showed up, Riedy said.

Riedy has lived there eight years, and said that he has experienced a series of burglaries and robberies despite the areaís crime-free reputation. Matus said that men tried to break in to a nearby complex in December and fired guns to press their demand. But they did not get inside the building, he said.

The area also contains the campus of the Universidad de Ciencias Medicas. Students from that school periodically have been victims of car-born muggers who pick off their victims during the evening hours.

Matus said he believed the would-be kidnappers came in at least two vehicles Wednesday. He also said he believed that the seven were Costa Ricans in their 30s.

A gang of that size carries security implications for anyone living in the Central Valley because such a group can easily trick and overpower one or two security guards. 


 
Florida Trio are winners in charity fishing tourney
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Four teams tied in points after a prolific two days of fishing, but a trio of Florida men, two from Ft. Lauderdale and a third from Naples, were declared the winners, based on their least time, in the Costa Rica Classic International Billfish Tournament. 

The winners, Dominick Pagano and Bill Olsen, both of Ft. Lauderdale, along with Steve Blount of Naples caught three sailfish for 100 points each and two marlin at 500 points apiece for a grand total of 1,300 points. The tie among the 1,300 point finishers was broken based on the time the last fish was caught. The winning team was guided by Capt. Ezquiel Amaya on Agulia de Osa. 

The second annual tournament, headquartered in Quepos, was put on by the Boomer Esiason Foundation to heighten awareness, education and funding efforts of cystic fibrosis research.  A portion of the proceeds will help in funding for needed drugs to cystic fibrosis patients in Costa Rica. 

Pagano, Olsen and Blount also donated their winnings from a calcutta to the cystic fibrosis efforts in Costa Rica. 

 "A total of 111 fish, 107 sailfish and four marlin,  were caught and released in the two-day, 17 hour on-the-water event," said Rob Hodel, president of Tico Travel, in Ft. Lauderdale, who coordinated the tournament for the foundation. "Awards were also given for catches of roosterfish, dorado, tuna and dog tooth snapper. A number of people have already signed on for the 2005 event." 

One of the defending champions, Denny Derringer, Delray Beach, Fla., along with Bobby Oden of Miami finished second catching eight sailfish and a marlin. Their last fish was released 25 minutes after the first place team.

In third place was a quartet of anglers from Lincoln, Neb. Tom Hansen, Tim Thunn, Larry Smith and Rob Wilsey, released eight sailfish and one marlin.

Joe Zeno, Mike OíConnor, Mike Ameluck and Fred Hamilton, all of Ft. Lauderdale, were fourth with 13 sailfish.

The tournament was spawned after Dave Rimington, the president of the foundation, of New York City, N.Y., had sponsored and participated in several Mercury Outboards Redbone celebrity 

Boomer Esiason Foundation photo
Former pro football quarterback Boomer Esiason coaches angler Lee Becker as Becker fights and eventually catches and releases his first sailfish in the Quepos-based tourney.

fishing series events in the Florida Keys. "We hope to do more of these terrific fundraising fishing events in other great scenic international locales," said Rimington, "and accelerate the research to bring quality of life to CF patients in alliance with the Redboneís efforts."

The foundation is also assisting with the Redbone in the 16th Key West Classic a dual offshore billfish and light tackle inshore event, April 28 to May 1. 

Among the celebrities fishing the Costa Rica Classic were Esiason, Rimington and Mark Cooper, all who had award-winning careers in the National Football league.

The Costa Rica Classic is also a qualifying event for the sixth annual Rolex/International Game Fish Association Offshore Championship Tournament, a world fishing competition to take place in May 2005.

Blount, Pagano and Olsen will be invited to compete in the 2005 Rolex/IGFA world championship which draws top teams from all corners of the earth.  This yearís championship is being held in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with 63 teams from 29 countries competing.

More information on the Costa Rica Classic is available at www.costaricaclassic.com or the foundation Web site, www.esiason.org.


 
Bush admininstration backing global turtle recovery bill
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The Bush administration is expressing support for legislation in the House of Representatives that would provide funding and other support for the conservation of marine turtles in international waters.

In testimony Thursday before a House Resources Committee panel, Marshall Jones, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that available funding for marine turtle recovery and protection efforts does not meet current needs.

"Threats facing marine turtles include harvesting of eggs, poaching, trade in turtle parts and loss of habitat. Most countries have outlawed the killing of turtles, but resources for enforcement are inadequate," Jones said.

The legislation in question would support and provide financial resources for projects designed to conserve marine turtles and their nesting habitat, 

Jones said. He added that the bill would provide funding for "comprehensive, global coordination and collaboration for these efforts in developing countries."

"We welcome the opportunity to expand our cooperation and work with other countries and partners to conserve the world's magnificent marine turtles," Jones said.

The bill calls for establishment of a $5 million conservation fund and authorize the secretary of the interior to provide grants from that fund to assist in the conservation and recovery of marine turtles globally.

Jones said that the Bush administration supports the legislation, but believes it should be amended to address specific administrative and funding issues.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed its own version of the marine turtle legislation Oct. 31.


 
Corruption called major cause of world conflict
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and special reports

LONDON, England ó A leading anti-corruption organization says politicians who take bribes, and the companies that pay them, undermine global economic development.  The organization, Transparency International, says political corruption is a major cause of conflict in many parts of the world.

The Berlin-based organization issued its findings in its 2004 Global Corruption Report released at a news conference here Thursday.

The founder of Transparency International, Peter Eigan, outlined the impact that political bribery, fraud and dishonesty can have on society.

"It is the root cause of great poverty and mismanagement in many parts of the world," he said. "It is creating this hopelessness and despair, which we see in many countries, which then also leads to conflicts in these areas, to violence and eventually to terrorism."

A highlight of the 353-page report is a listing of the 10 most corrupt world leaders.

Former Indonesian president Mohamed Suharto tops the list. He is alleged to have embezzled between $15 billion and $35 billion during his 32 years in office. Former Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Alemán is ninth with an estimated $100 million in illicit gains.

Transparency International is promoting a six-point reform plan to clean up political finance and influence peddling. It urges public funding of election campaigns and subsidized access to media so that parties and candidates can compete more fairly. 

The report says that corrupt funding of political parties and candidates has been at the center of many political scandals in recent years. Although governments have political tools to deal with the problem, most of them have failed to create strong safeguards, the report says.

The publication includes expert reports on the regulation of political finance, the disclosure of money flows into politics, and the repatriation of wealth looted by politicians. It contains assessments of the state of corruption in 34 countries and analyses of recent international developments that might affect their stance toward corruption.

Eigen said the report calls for bringing integrity and accountability into governance, stopping bribery by multinational companies, and curbing the flow of stolen assets into secret foreign bank accounts. To encourage good governance, he said, multilateral financial institutions and donor governments must work with developing-country governments that demonstrate the political will to fight corruption.

The highlights of the report can be viewed 

HERE!

 
And what politician stole the most money?
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A highlight of the 353-page Transparency International report is a listing of the 10 most corrupt world leaders over the past two decades.

1. Mohamed Suharto, president of Indonesia, $15 to $35 billion, 1967-98.

2. Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines,  $5 to $10 billion 1972-86.

3. Mobutu Sese Seko, president of Zaire, $5 billion, 1965-97.

4. Sani Abacha, president of Nigeria, $2 to $5 billion, 1993-98.

5. Slobodan Milosevic, president of Serbia/Yugoslavia, $1 billion, 1989-2000.

6. Jean-Claude Duvalier, president of Haiti, $300 to $800 million, 1971-86.

7. Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru, $600 million, 1990-2000.

8. Pavlo Lazarenko, prime minister of Ukraine, $114 to $200 million, 1996-97.

9. Arnoldo Alemán, president of Nicaragua, $100 million, 1997-2002.

10. Joseph Estrada, president of the Philippines, $78 to $80 million, 1998-2001.


 
Six-point plan hinges on political funding
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Transparency International listed these standards on political finance and favors.

1. Donations to political parties and candidates to elected office must not be a means to gain personal or policy favors. Parties and candidates must practice transparency. Governments must have adequate conflict-of-interest legislation.

2. Political parties, candidates and politicians should disclose detailed information about assets, donations, in-kind donations, loans and expenditure, on an annual basis as well as before and after elections, to an independent agency.

3. Independent public oversight bodies endowed with the necessary resources must effectively supervise the observance of regulatory laws and measures. Together with independent courts, they 

must ensure that offenders are held accountable and duly sanctioned.

4. Diversified funding should be sought through: state funding and subsidized access to the media; the encouragement of small donations and membership fees; and controls on corporate, foreign and large individual donations. Spending limits should be considered.

5. Candidates and parties must be given fair access to the media. The media should play an independent role, free from political interference, both in election campaigns and in the broader political process.

6. Civil society should have the opportunity to actively participate in promoting adequate legislation in the field of political finance and in the monitoring of political finance and its impact on political representation.

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