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These stories were published Thursday, April 15, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 74
Jo Stuart
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Embassy defends charging dead G.I.'s mom $100
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Embassy in San José has finally come out with a statement on the case of the mother of a serviceman who died in Iraq.

The statement does not address the complaints by the family that they were given the runaround when they tried to get a visa so the mother, a Costa Rican, could attend the funeral of her son. However, the statement does characterize a news story published Tuesday as containing a number of inaccuracies without listing them. The statement does not address the accuracy of a letter from the brother of the slain soldier that accompanied the news story.

Letters from Readers BELOW!

The statement defends the embassy demand that the mother post a $100 non-refundable visa fee because such a fee is required of all applicants. Her son died Friday in Iraq.

Said the embassy, in an e-mail from Marcia Bosshardt, information officer:

"We would like to once again express our condolences to the family of Raymond Edison Jones, Jr.  The families of servicemen and women around the world live with the constant possibility of loss of their loved ones as they protect our nation.  Our deepest gratitude goes to the U.S. servicemen and women who risk their lives in service to our country.   Our thoughts are with them and their families. 

"To protect the privacy of individuals, it is not general practice to discuss visa cases in any public forum.  However, there are a number of inaccuracies in the April 14 article entitled ‘Dead G.I.'s Mom Gets Runaround at U.S. Embassy’ that must be clarified. 

"When a U.S. serviceman or woman dies in action, the military notifies the next of kin.  In the case of Staff Sergeant Jones, he identified his next of kin as his family in the United States.  The embassy was not aware that he had family in Costa Rica until the Consular Section learned of the case the afternoon of Monday, 

April 12.  An appointment was made for the family member for 8:00 the next morning.  The Consul General interviewed the family member for a visa promptly after the family arrived Tuesday morning. The visa was issued within minutes of the interview, and the U.S. passport of a family member was ready soon thereafter. 

The family declined to meet with the ambassador, who was returning to the embassy from a previously scheduled meeting.  They left the embassy after meeting with officials from the Office of the Defense Representative.

"The Consular Section is working to provide the best possible service to everyone who enters our doors.  Unfortunately, the sheer volume of individuals attended on a daily basis does not allow us to fully know every single case at the outset.  We were not aware of the family's loss when they entered the embassy, and, as all visa applicants are told, a non-refundable visa fee is required for a visa application.   In the end, a private contribution was made to the family to cover the visa application fee. 

"Again, we express our deepest condolences to the family of Staff Sergeant Raymond Edison Jones, Jr., and regret any inconvenience they might have encountered." 

The brother, K.D. Jones of San José, said Tuesday that he and his mother left the embassy after waiting for Ambassador John Danilovich for 40 minutes. He also said the family made the required $100 deposit Monday afternoon, but that they did accept a donation Tuesday from servicemen at the embassy that was collected to offset the fee.

The brother said that the mother got the bulk of the runaround when she showed up at the embassy Monday.

The embassy officials declined to address the family complaints until the statement that was sent at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The family reported Wednesday night that they have secured air passage for the trip to Arlington National Cemetery where the funeral will be held. The embassy is paying for the mother’s ticket.

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Well it sure looked
like my friend’s car!

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is another would-be burglar who better not quit his day job. Or maybe he just needs eyeglasses.

The burglar dropped in at a Nestle Co. warehouse in Tilarán, west of Lake Arenal, about 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Unbeknownst to the intruder, a neighbor noticed activity and notified police. Fuerza Pública officers kept off their lights and siren as they closed in on the scene. When they arrived they saw an open door and merchandise worth about 1 million colons (about $2,300) stacked up.

And then here comes the burglary suspect. He mistakes the police car for the vehicle of a presumed accomplice. The man starts moving merchandise in the direction of the police.

So instead of a quick ride to sell his ill-gotten goods, the officers took him to a nearby cell.

Labor duo criticize
flexible work hours

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Liberalizing age and hour laws did not sit well with two representatives of employee groups who appeared before a legislative committee Wednesday.

They were Mauricio Castro of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos and Ariane Grau of the Asociatión de Servicios de Promoción Laboral.

Several major companies, including Intel, would like to have the option of having employees work shifts longer than eight hours without paying overtime as long as the number of weekly hours remained the same. They believe that the continuity helps productivity.

The principal reason for the laws, which are found in parts of Europe, is to diminish the cost to employers while sacrificing the constitutional rights of workers, said Castro. He said the legislation was not necessary for the country.

The session was before the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Sociales. Speaker Grau said the proposed legislation would attack the rights of workers which specify overtime after eight hours of work each day, suggesting that employers would try to put workers on shifts of 12 hours each three days in a row.

Lawmakers said that approval of the legislation hinges on whether or not the free-trade treaty with the United States is approved.

Free trade is topic

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The proposed free-trade treaty with the United States will be the topic again this morning when legislators conduct a forum on the topic.

Alberto Trejos Zuñiga, minister of Comerico Exterior, will be one of the speakers, as will Fernando Torres, representing Bancomex, who will discuss the Mexican experience under the North American Free Trade Treaty.

The session is at 9 a.m. in the Salón de Expresidentes in the legislative complex on Avenida Central just east of the downtown. The forum is sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Ambulance crash fatal

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An ambulance containing six persons collided with a pickup truck early Wednesday, and two persons in the truck died.

The accident happened in Turrialba near the entrance to the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza. Dead are Jorge Jiménez Ramírez, 25, and Fany Delgado, 31, said the Judicial Investigation Oganization. The ambulance from the town of Tucurrique was destroyed, as was the truck.

Bush, Duarte talk

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President George Bush has called his Paraguayan counterpart, Nicanor Duarte, to discuss regional issues.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush congratulated President Duarte on his strong stand against corruption and his cooperation in the war on terrorism. The spokesman gave no other details on the conversation.

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Readers comment on the case of the G.I.'s mom
He sent e-mail
to State Department

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Not that I expect anything to come of it, but the following e-mail was sent to the U.S. Department of State as a result of today's article about the treatment of a Tica mother of a KIA. 

"It is always disturbing to hear stories of arrogance in U.S. embassies. Considering that the State Department is led by a former soldier, the story of the mother of an American citizen and soldier who was killed in Iraq is difficult to stomach. This mom paid for her visa with the blood of her son, and deserves nothing less than the greatest respect and dignity the U.S. Embassy can offer. 

"She does not need to be upstaged by some silly TV personality, nor should she be required to pay for the privilege of visiting Arlington. 

"Please read the whole story. Then help the embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, make amends for its treatment of her. 

Biff Canlett

He equates embassy
with George Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Mistreatment of mother of slain soldier 

Nothing reveals the pig-headedness, atrophying beaucracratic idiocy and simple bloody-minded of the U.S. Embassy staff than the mistreatment of the mother of the soldier slain in the U.S. war of choice in Iraq. They are so much creatures of the mindless, mind-numbing beauracracy there isn't one common-sense element alive in their rubber-stamping brains. Nor humanity. They should hang their heads in shame. Will they? No, like our esteemed president, they're "satisfied" they got it right. 

Carl Robbins 
Houston, Texas
Reader was shocked
by treatment of mom

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I was stunned and shocked to read of the treatment of the mother to Raymond Edison Jones Jr. Costa Rican-American soldier killed in the line of duty in Iraq. 

Can you imagine the family of this valiant soldier from a country where President Pacheco received harsh criticism for being one of the first and few world leaders to support this effort to make the world safer for us all getting the bureaucratic run a round. 

What a public relations disaster and what incredible timing? As an old judge friend of mine used to say when he thought a group of folks were really stupid: "Not a Harvard graduate among them" In this case it might be too damn many Harvard graduates among them. 

I have two grandfathers buried at Arlington National Cemetery and great-grandfather named General Alexander Doniphan, who let the Tennessee Volunteers on the longest forced march in military history to re-take the Alamo from the Mexican army and General Santa Ana. 

In their memory and to insure that this mother is able to be at the burial service, I wish to contribute $100 and would appreciate your help in coordinating a repository for the donation and I would like to encourage all other U.S. citizens in Costa Rica to help also. Tell us where to send the money. I have also contacted Lacsa airline, Group TACA, to see what they will do to help with free or discounted tickets for the family members. 

In addition I have made direct, personal Contact with U.S. Sen. Trent Lot of Mississippi, a long-time personal friend, and requested his immediate assistance in helping to cut red tape and help this family. I have also suggested that he read all the back issues of your paper to see what he thinks about our image here in a time when the U.S. needs all the friends we can get. 

I can assure you that I am going to use every contact I have in the proper places to see that this incident gets the proper examination and that appropriate action is taken to fix the problem and have a proper investiation of this shameful and incredibley stupid situation. 

Dan R. Wise
EDITOR’S NOTE: The family has declined any direct financial aid and reports that air tickets already have been paid for. The U.S. Embassy here finally agreed to pay for the air ticket of the mother, the family said.

Cuba hosting agricultural fair for U.S. producers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — Cuban trade officials are hosting U.S. agricultural business representatives in an effort to purchase as much as $100 million worth of American farm products.

At least 300 representatives from more than 150 U.S. agricultural businesses are in Cuba this week to take advantage of a 2000 law which loosened the U.S. trade embargo against the Caribbean nation. The law allows companies to make direct 

cash sales of agricultural products to Cuba.

California lawmakers Loretta and Linda Sanchez signed a deal with Cuba's state-run food import company Alimport to sell some $10 million in California agricultural products.  Idaho Congressman Butch Otter is also in Cuba marketing his state's agriculture products.

Alimport President Pedro Alvarez says Cuba has spent more than $600 million on U.S. goods in the four years since the law was passed. 

Noriega says Haitians now have their best chance
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The top U.S. official for Western Hemisphere affairs said that Washington is committed to helping Haiti as it strives to establish a stable democracy and prosperous economy. The State Department official gave an assessment of Haiti's prospects at a forum in Washington Wednesday. 

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega said Haitians have their best opportunity in a decade to break with "their terrible past," when their desires were smashed by corrupt leaders and an indifferent world. 

"After waiting for more than 200 years, Haitians deserve democracy and a government that looks out for their interests," he said. "The Bush administration believes in, and will do our part in Haiti, and that Haiti will get the democracy that it deserves." 

Noriega called the years under Jean Bertrand Aristide, the former president who went into exile after a revolt forced him to step down earlier this year, a disappointing chapter in Haitian history, full of violence and corruption. 

"I'm convinced that President Aristide himself is to blame for his own political demise," he added. "Had he not encouraged, and condemned political 

violence, he would have had much greater moral authority and political sympathy. Had he not corrupted the state and police force, his government could have withstood the challenge brought on by a handful of rebels." 

After his recent visit to Haiti, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the government of interim Haitian President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue is off to a good start. Elections are planned for next year. A multi-national force is restoring security in Port-au-Prince. Talks continue on a U.N. peacekeeping force, in which Brazil hopes to take the lead role.

Noriega said U.S. plans for Haiti include involving the Haitian diaspora from such places as Miami, New York, and Montreal. He added that these people have development skills Haiti really needs. 

"That is maybe the secret weapon that we have in mind, is engaging these talented people, getting them back in, and giving them a shot," he said. 

The White House also plans to send teams of advisers to every Haitian government ministry, including public finance, the judiciary and police. It also plans an urgent three-year program to create thousands of jobs, to improve cities, fix riot damage and show Haitians that their nation is building for the future. 

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5,000-year-old Chiapas mound rocks theories
By the University of Wisconsin 
News Service

MADISON, Wisc. — Thanks in part to dynamite and the gold-seeking Mexican fishermen who detonated it in the late 1970s, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 5,000-year-old platform made of shells.

Constructed of cement-like floors, the researchers say the mound is the oldest known platform intentionally built in Mesoamerica, the cultural region comprising Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and it could completely change our understanding of the prehistoric people who once inhabited this area. 

The mound, built almost entirely from marsh clamshells, is 240 feet long, 90 feet wide and 21 feet tall. John Hodgson, a University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral degree candidate in anthropology discovered it last October on a remote island in a swampy area along the Pacific coast of Chiapas in southwestern Mexico. Hodgson has named the site "Alvarez del Toro," a tribute to the naturalist who studied the fauna and wildlife of this region. 

When Hodgson reached the mound after spending two days traveling by car and foot and then cutting through miles of marsh grass nearly twice his height, he immediately saw the floor layers made from shells. 

"A trench created by a dynamite explosion over 30 years ago exposed a large number of floor layers formed of clam shells capped with a cement-like material made from burned shell and sand," he explains. 

To determine when the mound was constructed and occupied, Hodgson collected six samples of charred wood taken at different floor levels about two feet apart and then used the technique of carbon-14 dating to ascertain the age of the wood material. 

The results show that the mound was used for about 500 years. 

"The time differences of the carbon-14 dates," explains Hodgson, "suggest that the floors of the mound were either resurfaced or the mound was enlarged about every 20 to 30 years." 

Based on the analysis, the very top floor layer dates to 2575 B.C. - almost 4,500 years ago. Each level below this layer increases in age with the lowest tested layer dating back more than 5,000 years ago to 3024 B.C. 

Hodgson notes that this bottom layer, approximately 12 feet from the top of the mound, is not the base floor layer: "The dynamite crater only exposed the top half of the mound. There are about 10 feet of undisturbed floors underneath where we were able to recover samples for dating." As a result, he says the first construction of the mound could be hundreds of years older. 

The mound's age and its floor layers make this site unlike any others previously known for this time period in Mesoamerica, says Hodgson, adding that all other archaeological sites in Chiapas are shell middens, piles of shells and garbage that gradually accumulated from human activities. "The new site did not form accidentally from trash deposits," he explained. "The people who built it planned on creating a very large raised platform." 

Given the durability of the construction, Hodgson suspects that each floor layer of the mound once served as the floor for a wooden building. He plans to return to the site this September to search for holes in the floor layers where posts supporting walls or roofs may have been placed. 

The idea that people were living at Alvarez del Toro for long periods of time, however, counters decades of anthropological thinking, said Hodgson. "The common interpretation for this time period is that people were fairly mobile and often moved to different locations to collect seasonally available food resources,"  he said. Additional research, he added, could provide solid evidence that these people may have been much more stationary than previously thought. 

If this proves true, John Clark, an anthropologist at Brigham Young University in Utah who collaborates with Hodgson and supports his research, said, "This could be one of the most spectacular findings in our area for many, many years." 

Both Hodgson and Clark, interested in understanding the past so they can reconstruct earlier ways of life, say that this evidence of purposeful construction could change what they and their colleagues have thought about the times surrounding important events in the prehistory of Mesoamerica. 

"This site looks like the very first steps towards complex society and has the earmarks of what we see later on when people start forming villages," says Clark. "It would suggest that these people might be more sophisticated than we give them credit for. This could reshape a whole set of questions that I've been asking for the last 30 years." 

U.S. trade deficit declined slightly in February
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. trade deficit dropped in February as U.S. exports surged 4 percent from the previous month, the largest monthly increase in seven years, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports.

In a report Wednesday, the department calculated the February deficit at a seasonally adjusted $42.1 billion, down from the revised January record deficit of $43.5 billion. The February deficit comprised a goods deficit of $47.2 billion and a services surplus of $5.2 billion.

U.S. exports in February increased to $92.4 billion, up from January for nearly all major trade partners except Mexico. Among the biggest increases were those in civilian aircraft, industrial machines, oil-drilling equipment, measuring 

instruments, semiconductors and other capital goods, and autos and auto parts.

Meanwhile, U.S. imports in February also went up, but at a slower pace, about 1.6 percent, to $134.5 billion. There were sizable import gains in autos and auto parts, natural gas and other industrial supplies, and fish and shellfish. There were sizable drops in civilian aircraft, computers and other capital goods, and in consumer goods, especially toys and games.

U.S. imports of crude oil dropped in February, a short month, to $8.4 billion even though the price went up to $29.17 per barrel, the highest level since the previous March.

The U.S. trade deficit with China went down in February by 28 percent to $8.3 billion. The deficit with Canada fell to $5 billion. 

Jo Stuart
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