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(506) 2223-1327                       Published Friday, April 27, 2012, in Vol. 12, No. 84                            Email us
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A great

The family-owned soft drink bottler, Minerva Embotelladora Muñoz S.A., bought this Ford truck in 1932 and used it for 40 years. Thursday the restored vehicle was on display along with small business food and beauty products outside the Asamblea Legislativa.
fire truck
A.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela

Unions and others with gripes gear up for May Day
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tuesday is the Día Internacional de Trabajo or international worker's day, sometimes called May Day.

In Costa Rica, the day is a legal holiday, and the big event is a march by workers and others up Avenida 2 to the legislative complex.

The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados is organizing its members. This year there is no central theme to protest. The massive tax proposal by President Laura Chinchilla is in the trash bin, and several other complaints are unlikely to produce a uniform response. The best that the union organizers could come up with is an abstract theme to protest work rights.

The march is open to all comers, and the motorcyclists certainly will be there expressing their unhappiness with obligatory insurance.

Members of the local version of Occupy certainly will be in the line of march along with all sorts of other protesters, some of whom could easily be classified as outside the mainstream.

Gone are the days when opposition to the free trade treaty with the United States brought together all forms of protesters. Gone are the oversized masks of Óscar Arias Sánchez and other political figures who
supported the treaty. Still the morning march is a venue for plenty of creativity and political criticism and certainly ranks high as a tourist attraction.

An irony is that the impetus for May Day originated with the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Riots in which workers and police died, yet U.S. Labor Day is celebrated in September. Still the Occupy Wall Street group and Anonymous plan to stage demonstrations there this year. Shortly after the Haymarket confrontation, Socialists adopted the day as their own. The former Soviet Union displayed its military might on that day.

In Costa Rica most public employees will be off, and foreign embassies will be closed. This is the 99th year of the day's observance.  Naturally traffic will be snarled downtown, although the usual license plate restrictions will not be enforced, according to the Policía de Tránsito.

The day also has political significance. It is the time the Asamblea Legislativa reorganizes and picks leaders for the coming year. The president also delivers a state of the country address in the evening to the assembled bureaucracy and diplomats. The contest for assembly leadership is expending a lot of ink, paper and electrons in the Costa Rican news reports. The lawmakers appear to be split 50-50 with the swing votes held by two independent legislators from two political parties linked to religious causes.

President seeks to suspend evictions in maritime zone
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla sent a proposal to the legislature Wednesday night to see a suspension of   eviction orders for those that are living on land in the maritime zone.

According to a representative in Casa Presidencial, there are approximately 50,000 people who are affected by the threat of eviction. Most of the maritime zone inhabitants are in the southern Limón area, such as Manzanillo.

The proposal is No. 18.148, called the Ley de Territorio Costeros Communitarios, or “a law for the coastal communities territory. There is no date as to when the proposal will be looked at in the legislature since there will be a change in leadership May 1. The proposal could be voted on as soon as next week, but there is no definite date.

A representative from the Asamblea Legislativa said the proposal sits in fourth place on the agenda for
 first debates. The spokesperson said the law was pushed as a priority but that there are other laws that must be voted on first. A revision of the traffic law is one of those that have priority.

There was no text provided for the measure, but a verbal summary said that the law would provide a year-long suspension of eviction orders or demolitions for properties and residents of the zone.

Casa Presidencial noted that many of these residents have lived in the zone for years but without a government concession to allow them to do so. The latest case is on the Caribbean coast where the Contraloría General de la República has ordered the local municipality to destroy eight structures in Cahuita and Puerto Viejo. Residents have protested.

According to the maritime zoning law established in 1977 there should be no construction within the 50 meters from mean high tide because that is considered public. From 500 meters to 200 meters only concessions, not ownership, is allowed.

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Our reader's opinion
State of country's finances
is obvious to everyone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We know now more clearly were all the money is going after seeing A.M. Costa Rica article today.  Those making over 6K per month 430 Ticos, plus in the other institutions 3.450 are making more than 6K. And they are not counting the diputados, judges and other entities. Crunch the numbers of active workers you get well over $350 million plus their benefits. Now factor in all the retirees. I am guessing close to a cool half billion that is committed to the upper society elite. Not to mention the total accumulation of the "common workers" here.

This crushing debt has not been really addressed. The only proposal is a wishy washy freeze on their salaries. Not to mention all the projects that failed, like the bridge needing repairs over the years and roads work covering the manhole covers. Sell property then what rent back at a high price? Look how former financial minister Fernando Herrero and his wife, Florisabel Rodríguez  making money doing just that and low balling the property value.

No wonder President Laura and the Partido Liberación Nacional has to borrow $500 million from the Chinese government and give them fishing rights and unprecedented taking of the natural resources. Try to sell bonds to raise a cool $500 million.  We need a president and diputados with a spine looking out for this country, not themselves.

How about those salaries cut by 25 percent and retirement cut as well. And tighten the belt. Why is Ms. Chinchilla wanting Intel Corp. to commit to $500 million here? Taxing kiwi fruit? How about Europe taxing our pineapples?  Because she desperately  needs the income. The Costa Ricans are being taxed and taxed to their limit unless you are making the 6K plus.

How much can Costa Rica collect in personal income taxes,  property taxes, corporation taxes,  marcharmo, luxury taxes, airport fees, import/export taxes, gasoline taxes, energy taxes and list goes on and on. . . . .

The chickens are coming home to roost here and very soon. If we can all see this, why is this being ignored? Stupidity is my guess.

Dwayne Egelund
La Uruca

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
From the Costa Rican press
News items posted Monday through Friday by 8 a.m.
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Tragedy at sea witnessed by three Costa Rican-bound birders
By Dennis Rogers
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Passengers on a Costa Rican-bound cruise ship sighted what appeared to be a drifting fishing boat in waters about 100 miles south of Panamá, and were surprised to see the ship continue even after they informed a uniformed crew member of the situation. The ship is the Star Princess operated by Carnival cruise lines. 

Jeff Gilligan and Judy Meredith of Portland, Oregon and Jim Dowdell from Ireland were on a cruise from Rio de Janiero to San Francisco in order to study seabirds, mostly in the southern hemisphere around the Falkland Islands and off Chile and Perú where there is a greater variety of albatross and petrels than can be seen elsewhere. They continued observations March 10 between Manta, Ecuador, and Puntarenas.

The birdwatchers mentioned the situation to an A.M. Costa Rica reporter while onshore the next day. Other than an attempt to email the U.S. Coast Guard, there seemed little way to inform potential rescuers since the ship was in international waters. The morning high tide on March 11 was at 4:47 a.m, and the ship docked during the night at the public pier.

The reporter noted a BBC news story about a Panamanian fisherman named Adrian Vázquez rescued near the Galapagos islands after nearly a month at sea and informed Gilligan, who was able to corroborate from photos that it seemed to be the same boat and person. The birders use high-power telephoto lenses to document unusual bird records. Between the time of the apparent sighting off Panamá and Vázquez’s rescue, two companions had died of dehydration. Vázquez survived only due to a timely rain shower. 

Carnival has responded to the accusations in the international media with a press release stating that “[t]he preliminary  results of our investigation have shown that there appeared to be a breakdown in communication in relaying the passenger's
fishing boat
Photo by Jeff Gilligan
 This is presumed to be the disabled fishing boat where two
 crew members died shortly after this photo was taken.

concern. Neither Captain Edward Perrin nor the officer of the watch were notified. Understandably, Captain Perrin is devastated that he is being accused of knowingly turning his back on people in distress.”

Maritime law requires ships to provide assistance to other vessels in need. 

Gilligan insists that the crew member was in uniform and had a radio, and looked through their telescopes at the boat in question.

Education and the world's oldest profession have degenerated
The subjects of prostitution and education both have been in the news lately.  Locally, the question seems to be variations of why do women choose to work in the sex business?  That is one of the dumbest questions one can ask, to my mind.  It is like asking, why does Apple sell I-pads and I-phones?

The more pertinent question is why do men become johns?  (Interesting isn’t, how many words, mostly derogatory, we have in English and Spanish for women who are sexually active and how few we have for men.)
The usual answer to both these questions is based upon our assumptions about sexuality and women, and these assumptions still reflect 19th century morality and patriarchy: men are sexual, women are not, and the proper place for women is marriage and motherhood. I had a dictionary circa 1950s that defined prostitute as “A woman who sells her herself for the purpose of sexual intercourse; a man who sells his talents for less than they are worth.”  My more up-to-date dictionary substitutes the word person.
Some years ago I was walking across San Jose State University campus with my friend and boss, Ellen.  She made the comment that a college education is its own reward.  I agreed with her. (I read somewhere, “Information is everywhere, it takes a goal-seeking organism to turn it into knowledge.”) There is a thrill in turning information into knowledge.  
Today, with its costs and the types of jobs available, college is not its own reward, and pundits are listing the “most useless” college majors.  As you can imagine, these include the liberal arts, English, history, anthropology, literature, and, to my mind, anything that might make a person well rounded or give depth and coherence to their knowledge through knowing other cultures or even good grammar. Although there still are companies that are looking for applicants with rounded educational backgrounds, many corporations, it seems, are not looking for educated people. They want specialized people who are or can be trained to do something specific.
 What do prostitution and education have to do with each other?      
Everyone has heard the phrase, “The oldest profession.”  And that is literally true.  As soon as there was marriage, there was
Butterfly in the City
. . .  Musings from San José

By Jo Stuart

Jo Stuart

prostitution, not necessarily for the needs of men, but rather for women who did not wish to be tied down to marriage and children.
The Ancient Greeks, as usual, had a word for it – hetaera, or
companion.  Hetaerism as a profession or way of life does not exist today.  It disappeared with the demise of the salon, and perhaps the French concept of the courtesan (which once meant lady of the court.)  Both in today’s dictionaries are described as mistresses to men or concubines.  In fact, they were women of independent means (granted, the means were usually obtained from the high fees they charged men).  According to Myra Mannes in her article, “The Problem of the Creative Woman,” in order to be successful, the ancient hetaera had to be “intelligent, if not brilliant, educated, independent, adventuresome, dominant, aggressive, highly sexed, creative, and probably not very nurturing.”  In ancient Greece and throughout history they have been the liberated women, whether companions at symposia, patrons of the arts and theatre and mistresses of the salon where sparkling and intelligent conversation was supposed to prevail. 
Today, both education and hetaerism have degenerated into the lowest common denominator, perhaps you could say, the street hetaerae were paid for the evening, prostitutes are paid for the deed.  Today’s valued college majors are preparing graduates for the deed.  A well-rounded education is not being encouraged.
Perhaps today call girls fill the role of hetaerae.  But let’s remember, since before the Bible, even, it has been men who have written history and defined the words we use and the terms that describe men and women.  In one of my earliest anthropology courses, the professor showed us a slide of a small statue, made some 25,000 years ago, of what is called the Venus of Willendorf, and said, “This was a household fetish.”  Then he showed a slide of a coin with the head of a warrior, perhaps 2,000 years old.  “This,” he said, “Is obviously a god.”

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So far, U.S. prostitution scandals do not involve Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
with staff reports

Prostitution scandals involved U.S. officials or servicemen in Colombia and Brazil have now spread to El Salvador.

Wire service reports say that the latest allegations came in a report Wednesday by Seattle television station KIRO-TV. The report quotes an unnamed U.S. government subcontractor who claims to have joined Secret Service agents and U.S. military specialists at a strip club in El Salvador ahead of President Barack Obama's trip there in March of last year.

The subcontractor said members of the Secret Service paid for sexual favors in a VIP section of the club. He is also quoted as saying that at least two of the agents took escorts back to their hotel rooms, and claimed several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it.”

The report also quotes the owner of the San Salvador strip club as saying his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in the capital, as well as agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The U.S. Secret Service says it is aware of reports that there were other times agents allegedly paid for sexual services while traveling abroad to protect the president.

So far Costa Rica, where prostitution is legal, has not figured in the international wire service reports. There have been any
number of U.S. dignitaries and their protective escorts here in the last 10 years, but most official visitors are housed outside the downtown San José area and most U.S. Embassy workers admit they never have been to the more popular nightspots.

Although many members of the U.S. military end up in Costa Rica on leave or for vacation, there have been no public scandals of the sort that happened in Colombia.

The Brazilian allegation was that at least three U.S. Embassy Marine guards were involved in a physical altercation with a prostitute in December.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addressed the Colombia prostitution scandal Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, calling the allegations inexcusable. But she said the actions of a few would not be allowed to tarnish the proud legacy of the Secret Service.

Appearing on an NBC television talk show Tuesday, President Obama called the agents caught in the scandal knuckleheads. But he also said they should not detract from what the Secret Service does. The president called the majority of the agents incredible guys, protecting him and his family, as well as U.S. officials all over the world.

The Pentagon is also investigating 12 military members who were allegedly involved in the Cartagena incident.

Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but off-limits for many U.S. government employees because of the possible security risks.

Volcanologist take a stroll through Hell to get hot video
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The volcanologists call it “Walking at the edge of Hell: Turrialba Volcano.” The Hell is the caldera of the volcano that continues to expel vapor.

Danilo Di Genova, Alessandro Vona and Andrea Di Piazza of the Italian Roma Tre University climbed up to the summit of the smoking volcano Wednesday. Accompanying them was  Gerardo Soto of the Red Sismológica Nacional at Universidad Nacional.

They were not disappointed. The volcano continued to emit a column of vapor from what is believed to be a new aperture or
fumerol. One of the scientists carried a video camera that shows how close they came to the crumblng, ashy edge of the caldera. Eventually the team reached a point where they could look directly down into a hole in the flank of the caldera where sulphur seemed to accumulate and hot vapor climbed skyward.

A photo taken by Soto Thursday from a distance shows a tall column of vapor over the volcano.

The Wednesday video, which is HERE on YouTube also gives a view of the rest of the sprawling caldera. The mountain is closed to visitors because of the volcano's activity. So the video is the closest non-scientists can get to the caldera. The team also visted Volcán Irazú, which is nearby.

Two new art exhibits opening this weekend at culture ministry
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is opening weekend for two new art exhibits highlighting Central American culture at the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo.

One of the shows is a collection of interpretations about the Costa Rican saying “esa vara.” Which could be translated into “that thing.”

Artist Virginia Pérez-Ratton created this collection with more than 40 pieces. She has collected intervention art pieces from her fellow artists to create her own works.

The other show is a collection of mini-documentaries about Central American women artists. The artists Patricia Velásquez, Jurgen Ureña and Jonathan Harker created this series to show the women in the field who they said have a trajectory of major influence in the region.
The women represented in the documentaries come from six different countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica.

They are artists Regina Galindo, Isabel Ruiz, Diana de Solares, Mayra Barraza, Cristina Gozzini, Regina Aguilar, Patricia Belli, Claudia Gordillo, Priscilla Monge, Lucía Madríz, Donna Conlon and Sandra Eleta.

The small museum is on the corner of Calle 15 and Avenida 3. It's on the same property as the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventude.

The shows will run until May 26. Those interested can check out the museum Web site at

Prices and times depend on the day. The museum is free on Mondays.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 27, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 84
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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Penetta seeks Latin help
as U.S. budget shrinks

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spent this week in South America working to build relations with Colombia, Brazil and Chile.  At a time when the U.S. military faces hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts, the Pentagon hopes to rely more on its Latin American partners to deal with growing drug trafficking and terrorist threats in the region.

Panetta stopped first in Colombia, where U.S. trained commandos welcomed him with a hostage rescue demonstration and other maneuvers at a base two hours from Bogota.

Colombian forces, with billions of dollars in U.S. training and equipment, have made major progress against drug traffickers and armed groups. The country is quickly shedding its violent image.  Colombian troops now are passing on their experience by training security forces of other Latin American nations.

Handing off more responsibility to its regional partners is what the United States wants at a time when its defense budget is shrinking and the threats of drug trafficking and terrorism are growing as are other threats to regional stability.

Panetta stopped next in Brazil, where the U.S. is seeking help in training the armed forces of African nations against a growing threat by terrorist groups.

The defense secretary spoke to officers at a war college in Rio de Janeiro.

"This is a relationship, the United States and Brazil, the relationship between two global powers, and we welcome Brazil's growing strength. We support Brazil as a global leader, and seek closer defense cooperation because we believe that a stronger and more globally engaged Brazil will help enhance international security for all of us," Penetta said.

Panetta ended his tour in Chile, where he reinforced an already strong partnership with one of America's closest allies in the region.

Brazil moving to give
farmers more flexibility

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazilian lawmakers have approved legislation that eases restrictions on the amount of forest land that farmers must preserve, a move critics say threatens the Amazon and other environmentally sensitive lands.

The bill, approved late Wednesday night by the lower house of Congress by a vote of 274-184, revises Brazil's four-decade old forest code.  The new rules allows farming and other activities alongside fragile river banks and on hilltops, while giving individual states the authority to determine how much land to preserve.

The changes were sought by the powerful agricultural lobby, which insisted the changes were needed to clarify what the farmers could do on their land and to ensure the emerging nation's food security — a position echoed by Paulo Piau, the bill's chief sponsor in the chamber of deputies.

"The new forestation code was approved and represents, first and foremost, the commitment of rural producers," said Piau. "They will have more stability and more political support. The production and the environment will only benefit from that. With a confused law there is no benefit.''

But Deputy Sarney Filho, a former environment minister, says the changes will erase decades of efforts to combat the destruction of the Amazon rainforest through deforestation. 

Brazil has reduced deforestation of the Amazon in recent years, as law enforcement utilized satellite imagery to track areas with the greatest amount of deforestation. 

The Senate passed a similar version of the bill back in December.  The measure now heads to President Dilma Rousseff, who could veto the entire package or reject parts of the bill she feels are unacceptable.

Nogales twins contradict
image of violent México

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law, the violent drug war in Mexico continues, with the death toll over the past six years exceeding 50,000. Supporters of the Arizona law often talk about violence spilling over the border, but there has been very little impact on the U.S. side, where trade and tourism continue in spite of all the bad press. The biggest complaints there have to do with the economy.

People who live on the hillside in Nogales, Arizona, look out on Mexico every day, and all looks tranquil. Yet resident Mary Darling-McCune says people she meets in other parts of Arizona think her town is a danger zone. “Oh, they are horrified that I live down here, horrified.”

She believes hundreds of U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agents help to reduce crime, but she says she also feels comfortable going to Nogales, Mexico, now and then.

“Even to be able to walk down the hill and cross over into Mexico to have lunch, which we frequently have done," Darling-McCuneI explained. "I do not feel that I am in any grave danger.”

But some of her neighbors are more cautious. Maria Duran, who was born in Mexico and often visits family there, keeps her home on the Arizona side. “I obtained legal residence and I live here very pleasantly. It is safe,” she stated.

U.S. law enforcement officials say construction of a wall has helped them to control illegal entry and drug trafficking in the town. Most smuggling now happens in remote desert areas along the border.

But the image conveyed by the wall has had an impact on local people.

On one side of the border, in Nogales, Mexico, the economy has taken a beating because so few Americans are coming over now to make purchases at local pharmacies and stores.

A few years ago, these streets were crowded with American tourists, many of whom came to buy inexpensive medicine.

But pharmacy owner Sylvia says her business is now struggling to survive. “The business has changed a lot, sales are down," she said. "There hasn't been much tourism.”

She blames the economic downturn in the United States and the recent requirement that U.S. citizens crossing the border carry a passport, as well as lurid news reports about violence in Mexico. “Newspapers in the United States say there is a lot of violence in Mexico. This is a lie,” she said.

Although there have been some major crimes related to drug trafficking, she says Nogales is not like other Mexican border towns.

But while local retailers may be struggling, Nogales plays a part in what amounts to a boom in bi-national trade.

Trains hauling goods to and from Mexico cross the border several times a day, along with hundreds of trucks, representing close to $20 billion in annual two-way trade at Nogales.

And that is just part of the overall $460 billion in overall U.S.-Mexico trade that gives officials in both countries reasons to keep the border orderly and secure.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, April 27, 2012, Vol. 12, No. 84
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Traffic officers detained
in Ruta 32 bribe claims

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Did someone say that gigantic traffic penalties might be an invitation for police officers to accept instant fines? Well, they were right, according to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

The agency said Thursday that its Sección Especializada de Tránsito detained seven members of the Policía de Tránsito on allegations that they were soliciting bribes from motorists who committed traffic violations, mostly on Ruta 32 north of San José.

Judicial police said the investigation has been going on since January and that there were nine cases formally filed.

The police officers who were arrested range in age from 30 to 58 years. They are accused of accepting from 10,000 to 20,000 colons ($20 to $40) from Costa Ricans and much more from foreign drivers who were pulled over.

Judicial agents said that the police would stake out areas of the highway that were poorly marked and snag motorists who passed in areas where this was not permitted. The police officers are accused of informing the motorists of the high financial penalties put in force by the new traffic law and encouraging them to settle the penalty on the spot. Foreigners sometimes paid up to $70 to avoid fines that may be as much as $250, judicial police said.

In fact, traffic fines are so disproportionate that the Sala IV constitutional court has been declaring them void, although not the fine for passing in a prohibited zone.

Book sale in San Ramón
for museum, senior center

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Community Action Alliance says that its book sale Saturday in San Ramón is well timed to help expats weather the rainy season with good reading material. The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the regional museum. A spokesman said that there are at least 6,000 books that will be available for sale. Also for sale will be CDs, DVDs, magazines and other educational materials in both English and Spanish.

Prices for paperback books will be 1,000 colons. Hard bound books start at 2,000 colons.  Discounts are available to all students, the organization said.

The sale also is a fund-raising event with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the regional museum and the Hogar Para Ancianos, the senior center in San Ramón.  Proceeds for the museum will be used to support additional programming while the funds for the Hogar Para Ancianos will be used to install a solar hot water system donated by SOLRAY for the kitchen.

In addition to the proceeds from the book sale several members of the community have volunteered to match proceeds. CR Vista Realty has agreed to match 10 percent of the proceeds from the event sales.  The Community Action Alliance is challenging other businesses and members of the community to provide matching or flat donations to help increase the funds to be allocated to the museum and the senior center.

For more information potential book buyers can go to or call Mike Styles at 8333-8750.

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