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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 3, 2002, Vol. 2, No. 87
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U.S. citizens continue 
to be targets overseas,
security expert says

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — American citizens abroad will continue to be potential targets of terrorists as long as there are those who are "determined to exploit any void in our security or our collective will," the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for diplomatic security  said Thursday.

The official, Peter Bergin, was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Terrorism. Bergin said the protection of Americans outside the United States depends upon a variety of security programs and liaison activities to produce a deterrent effect. However, the system "also places responsibility on the traveler, employee or dependent to take advantage of available information," he said.

In his prepared remarks, Bergin said the Diplomatic Security bureau receives more than 4,000 threats each year and must investigate all of them. "Life-safety issues don't permit us the luxury of choosing which to investigate," he said.

The threats range from anonymous bomb and kidnapping plots to embassy attacks and assassinations.

Bergin spoke about several programs his unit operates or participates in so as to provide the necessary web of protection:

• Protective Intelligence Investigations Division: This office investigates terrorist threats against personnel and facilities under the State Department's aegis.

• Joint Terrorist Task Forces: Agents currently participate in 14 of these domestic groups whose focus now includes terrorism overseas. They soon will add agents to five more groups, Bergin said.

• Rewards for Justice Program: The bureau is the "operational component" of this effort, which has played a role in capturing 22 persons responsible for planning or carrying out terrorist acts against Americans, Bergin said.

• Antiterrorism Assistance Program: Since 1983, this program has provided training for more than 28,000 foreign law enforcement personnel from more than 100 countries, Bergin said.

• Overseas Security Advisory Council: Established in 1986, it has 2,100 members overseas, and acts as a clearinghouse to verify and exchange information among private-sector entities, Bergin said.

Parental supervision
called best porn defense

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Parents and educators must use a variety of tools if they aim to protect children from pornography on the Internet, according to a National Research Council report released Thursday.

According to a press release on the report, laws and content filters can only have limited effectiveness in an online environment. Parents must supervise children online to make sure that they are protected from offensive content. The report also cautions about the ineffectiveness of technological tools such as content filters. Some offensive material will inevitably slip through, the researchers find, while filters will also act to block inoffensive, desirable material.

Supervision and education are the most important tools recommended by "Youth, Pornography and the Internet", but the report also proposes some public policies that may be helpful in protecting children online, such as enforcement of existing anti-obscenity laws and imposition of age-screening policies by Internet service providers.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

A voice from the West Bank

I had lost touch with Nina. It wasn’t her fault. She is a remarkable corespondent — especially when you consider how busy she is and how many people she keeps in touch with. I just didn’t answer her last letter, which was from somewhere in South Africa, I think. 

I met Nina in 1986 when I inherited her as a resident adviser when I began working at the International House — a residence for foreign and American students. Nina is Norwegian with blond hair and a radiant smile helped by perfect white teeth. Nina stayed at the I-house on and off for the seven years I was there. 

As a resident adviser and later as my assistant, she always did more than I expected of her without ever taking either one of us too seriously and while bestowing on the world the blessing of her (sometimes intentionally loopy) smile. She didn’t seem to have an idea of what she wanted to do as a career, except perhaps revolutionize the World Bank. She was always taking a new course of studies, and she was always working at some temporary job. 

What she did do, eventually, was return to Norway to work for the Norwegian Government. They have placed her in the ghettos of Norway and the countries of Africa — wherever there seems to be the need for her sunny disposition and accumulated knowledge that she has translated into wisdom in dealing with people, especially the disenfranchised and forgotten.

I sent her an e-mail recently hoping to reconnect. I soon got back an e-mail that said, "Greetings from Jenin." I should have known. Nina has been in the West Bank since the middle of February with the Norwegian Representative office helping to coordinate humanitarian aid and re-construction activities. After being in Jenin for a week and telling me of some of the horrors she had seen, she said: 

"I’m tired and exhausted. Last night I set aside some time just to cry." 

She added,"I find it extremely challenging and interesting to try to keep my head clear and do constructive things rather than dwelling on the complete hopelessness of the situation. It’s so absurd you wouldn’t believe it . . . . 

"The night before they pulled out, they dug up and destroyed water pipes, electricity net, telephone net, vandalized the office of the governor. And, as the soldiers pull out, the international community stands there ready to pull in (to try to repair the damage). I’m disillusioned with the short collective memory we have. Absurdities have become normal."

She is so right. It is heartbreaking and absurd, as absurd as children smashing each other’s sand castles.

Israel has every right, I suppose, to keep the territory gained in the ‘67 War. But they might not have persisted in building settlements there if they had remembered the effect the punishing terms of the Versailles Treaty had on a defeated Germany after World War I. It certainly helped set the stage for the success of a man like Hitler. 

Perhaps a more positive response, like their own form of a Marshall Plan, towards the Palestinians would have avoided a lot of this bloodshed and destruction — and hatred. I am surprised that the religion of neither group has been able to inspire any acts of charity or forgiveness. To be fair, none of the major religions has been noted for bringing peace.

Meanwhile the United States appears to have  decided that Columbia’s human rights record qualifies it to receive $60 million in military aid.

Nina is right. Absurdities have become normal.
 

More Jo Stuart columns HERE!

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U.S. trade rep says other nations are ungrateful
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PHOENIX, Ariz. —U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says U.S. trading partners take for granted their advantage from low U.S. tariffs and the strong exchange value of the dollar when they complain about vigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws.

In a speech here Tuesday, Zoellick defended U.S. action against unfair foreign trade barriers as well as temporary protection for U.S. industries reeling from surging imports. While the European Union (EU) and Japan have threatened retaliation against new U.S. temporary tariffs on steel, Zoellick defended those tariffs, arguing that foreign governments have failed to address the underlying problem of global steel overcapacity that they have created over 50 years through policies promoting subsidies, cartels and other protections from competition.

"As long as the United States accepted being the market of first and last resort, there was no need for others to change," he said. "Once the United States announced its safeguards, it was notable that others immediately considered action to avoid what they asked America to put up with for years."

Other countries ignore their own unfair trade practices and the need to reform their economies while attacking U.S. practices — practices that are consistent with World Trade Organization rules, he said.

"They take a strong U.S. dollar for granted while 

developing countries continually devalue their currencies, Japan drifts toward a weak yen instead of structural reforms, and the Euro slides some 23 percent since its introduction," Zoellick said.

"They take for granted that the United States imported over $1 trillion of their products last year," he said. "They take for granted that U.S. growth will again pull the world economy out of its slump."

U.S. industries have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs as the United States moves to keep its commitments to lift all textile and apparel quotas, he said.

"Many countries want us to move more quickly although they are unwilling to lower their apparel tariffs even to U.S. levels — to say nothing of their high barriers to other U.S. exporters," Zoellick said.

He also said the Bush administration was pursuing bilateral free-trade agreements as a way to develop momentum for broader trade liberalization, mentioning ongoing negotiations with Chile and Singapore as well as proposed agreements with Central America and Morocco.

The United States, he said, can help Russia participate in the global economy if it will agree to the rules of the World Trade Organization.

Zoellick also pressed again for quick Senate passage of trade promotion authority, otherwise known as fast track, in order to achieve the administration's trade goals.

'Press' freedoms belong to every one of us
Today is the day when newspapers write gushy editorials extolling World Press Freedom Day (Dia Mundial de la Libertad de Prensa, in Spanish.)

We will not. Freedom of expression is the right of everyone, not just newspapers. In fact newspapers historically were the most anxious to stomp out press freedom to create an advertising monopoly.

Some of journalism's biggest names, including the venerable Associated Press, were among the most 
 

Commentary on the news
reactionary business entities. Additionally, newspapers as a class waged war for years to keep radio stations from getting the wire news feeds.

That being said, there are a lot of reporters out there risking their lives each day so that newspaper and magazine readers and radio and television viewers can get a close approximation of the truth. They do this even if their corporate owners are flirting with whatever authoritarian happens to have the governmental reins.
 

The arrival of  the Internet has shifted the power. A person with a computer can be a self-contained information source. The contents can rival the news product of The New York Times or be a shrilled denunciation of space aliens. The individual today is more powerful in expressing personal views than any newspaper was 20 years ago.

An example of such effort is VHeadline News, a small Caracas Internet news service (http://www.vheadline.com/), that provided hour-by-hour reports on the fall and rise of President Hugo Chavez Frias in that country April11 and 12. There are many other examples of individuals or small groups leaping over the constrictions of the traditional media to present their versions of events to the citizens. 

That means we get a lot of garbage, too.  But it also means that many, many citizens now have adopted the watchdog role usually filled by newspapers.

So here is to these unsung sorts on World Press Freedom Day, and let’s keep the garbage coming. Because sometimes you find jewels even in garbage.

Jay Brodell

 
Che’s place for sale
in Argentine town

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The apartment in which Latin American revolutionary figure Ernesto "Che" Guevara was born in 1928 is up for sale in Rosario, Argentina. 

The woman who has owned the unit for the past 25 years, Alicia Repetto, says Argentina's crippling economic crisis has made the property too expensive to maintain. 

Ms. Repetto also said she does not think the local government can afford to buy the property and maintain it as an historic site. She does, however, say many important people, who are admirers of Guevara, have visited the five-room apartment. 

Guevara was considered a hero by many disenfranchised Latin Americans. He became a key leader of the Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. He was assassinated by military forces in Bolivia in 1967 after trying to spark a similar revolution there. 

Lisa Lopes rites draw hundreds

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hundreds of mourners gathered outside a church in suburban Atlanta, Ga., for the funeral of pop singer Lisa Lopes. She was killed a week ago in a car accident in Honduras. Admirers began lining up early Thursday to pay their respects to the singer, who died just before her 31st birthday. 

Investigators say Ms. Lopes was driving a sport-utility-vehicle carrying seven other passengers when the car veered off the road 250 kilometers north of the Honduran city of Tegucigalpa. As a member of the Grammy-winning musical trio TLC, Ms. Lopes has had numerous hits, including "Waterfall" and "No Scrubs." 
 

Opposition party nears
win in the Bahamas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Supporters of the Bahamas' opposition party are celebrating early election results that indicate their candidate will become the new prime minister. 

Jubilant supporters of the Progressive Liberal Party, blocked streets and honked car horns nationwide Thursday in anticipation of victory. Party candidate Perry Christie was expected to make a statement. 

Christie and his main rival, tourism minister Tommy Turnquest, campaigned for the job being vacated by outgoing Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. Like the prime minister, Turnquest belongs to the ruling party, the Free National Movement. 

The prime minister has been in power for 10 years and is honoring a pledge to step down after two terms in office. 

His successor will become head of one of the Caribbean's wealthiest countries, with an economy based on offshore banking and tourism. The two main candidates campaigned on promises to renew the economy, improve education and implement more youth-oriented programs. 

The new prime minister, however, also will face international demands for more strict regulation of the offshore banking industry, amid global efforts to fight money laundering.
 

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