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These stories wre published Wednesday, May 29, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 105
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Bid documents delivered in loose-leaf format were the most photographed item Tuesday morning.

ICE opens route bids
for advanced Internet

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad opened bids Tuesday for Internet routers for a new, faster system of computer communication.

The apparent low bidder was GMB, an IBM company that bid $25 million. Four other companies also submitted bids, and Siemens, the German firm, was high at $84 million.

The work to be done is so extensive that the bids came in as thick loose-leaf books. The plan envisions six internet nodes covering the whole country. They will be in San José, San Pedro, Alajuela, Cartago, San Ramon and at a point somewhere in the west of the country.

The project also includes changing the copper cables in the traditional telephone lines to fiber optic lines. That work already is under way in San José, ICE engineers said. They said the whole project has a pricetag of $437 million. Speeds of fiber optic cables are faster and the cables can handle more electronic traffic.

Eventually ICE envisions linking cellular telephones and the Internet at any point in the country.

Routers are the switching devices of the Internet that tell the individual messages where to go.

The ICE plan also calls for special help for Internet-related business, what officials Tuesday called an incubator, particularly for software producers. Pablo Cobb, executive president of ICE, said he saw a day when Costa Rica would be a large exporter of software to the world.

Also at the event was Rogelio Pardo, minister of science and technology.

The bid opening was a model of transparency. All bids arrived in sealed boxes. ICE employees opened the boxes and then distributed a bulky copy of each bid to each of the five company representatives.

At the same time ICE announced that it would provide 5,000 more telephone lines for rural areas.

Robber on prison leave
prime shooting suspect

by the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The principal suspect in the shooting of a U.S. citizen Sunday is a prison inmate who only had to be in his cell weeknights and could go home for the weekend.

Investigators placed the man, now serving a prison sentence for a similar attack on a foreigner, under arrest as he returned from his weekend furlough. They identified him as Oscar Miranda Miranda, 23, and inmate of the San Augustine prison facility in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

He is being held for investigation of robbery in the early morning attack on two teachers from the European School in San Pablo de Heredia.

The most seriously injured was David Bryan Sawyer, 25, who received three bullet wounds to the body. He is recovering at Hospital San Vincente de Paul, said investigators.

Sawyer’s companion, identified now as Lizeth Streger, 22, is from Scotland, agents said. She was beaten in the robbery. She had been identified as Elizabeth and as a U.S. citizen in earlier stories. 

The pair left the Taberna Chalet at Cruce del Paradero, in the road to Monte de la Cruz near Heredia, about 3 a.m. with the intention of walking back to their living quarters in San Rafael de Heredia. Either in the tavern or shortly after they left they met their assailant who at first was friendly, agents said.

He suggested that they take a shortcut, a path, and the two foreigners became separated as Sawyer paused to admire a nearby stream. That’s when the assailant grabbed the woman, who began to scream, thereby alerting Sawyer.

As Sawyer came on the scene, the assailant shot him three times with what probably was a .22 caliber revolver, said agents.  The assailant managed to steal about 5,000 colons (about $14) and some personal items from the woman, said investigators.

Miranda was in prison on a program know as "regimen semi-institutional." He was convicted of an attack six months ago that investigators said was similar to the one that took place Sunday morning. In that case a French citizen was attacked and robbed. Under the program Miranda could leave the prison at 6 a.m. each day and had to return by 7 p.m. Saturday and Sundays he did not have to go to the prison at all, investigators said.

Costa Rica frequently has been criticized for its light criminal penalties and the way it handles criminal sentences administratively.

Agents said that Miranda is a member of a family that some residents in the area fear. Some family members have criminal records, agents said. Some family members were among the four or five persons who were detained Sunday for questioning, but these persons were let go after talking with investigators.

Tell them what you think

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Want to tell the Seccción Nacional, the national football team, what you think?

You can blitz them at the World cup location in Korea by e-mail. Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A., the Internet provider, has set up a special e-mail address for the team:


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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Manuel Velez and some of his work

Young artist wants
to sculpt people, too

By Saray Ramírez Vindas 
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Manuel Velez, 20, showed in his last exposition his Tico influences and roots.

He is a student of oil and acrylic and a disciple of Francisco Arroyo and Jorge Sanchez, both famous Costa Rican painters for whom he expresses his admiration and respect.

Manuel began painting at a very young age. Now he expresses parts of the culture and the Costa Rican folklore through his works.  His last show was the outdoor exposition in Escazú

In his works Manuel frequently shows the past and the present of the typical little towns and villages with their whitewashed houses and exotic gardens filled with orchids and other flowers that form part of a picturesque Escazú, San José or Heredia of 50 years ago.

Just a few years have matured his works to define a style more surrealistic full of colors and organic forms interpreted by the artist via oil and acrylic.

He is not one to trumpet his obvious talents. Even close neighbors in the Curridabat apartment complex where he lives are unaware that he is an artist, not to mention a successful one.

This young artist wants to carry his talents further than painting and has focused on plastic surgery as his passion for human beauty. He said timidly that he wants to aid persons with malformation and make his best works in the future living ones.

His painting is a road to reach his goals. Anyone interested in contacting him to admire his works can e-mail him at: mavelque@costarricense.co.cr

This is one of an occasional series on young artists of Costa Rica.

Countdown for Chang
running in Florida

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

KENNEDY SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, Fla. —The countdown clock has started for STS-111, the 14th space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Space Shuttle Endeavour is slated to lift off Thursday. It will deliver the Expedition Five crew and Mobile Remote Servicer Base System to the station.

All seven crew members — commander Ken Cockrell, pilot Paul Lockhart and mission specialists Philippe Perrin, Franklin Chang Díaz, Valery Korzun, Peggy Whitson and Sergei Treschev — arrived here Monday in preparation for The launch. 

During the holiday weekend, workers entered Endeavour's aft engine compartment and successfully replaced a valve in the Auxiliary Power Unit's coolant system. Tests of the new valve and a 24-hour leak check proved the new valve to be functional. Technicians closed out the aft engine compartment Monday night, and the countdown clock began on schedule.

Forecasts call for a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather for Thursday's launch attempt. The main concern is a threat of thunderstorms. 

Chang Diaz, a San José, Costa Rica, native will be involved in three space walks with other crew members.

Preparations readied
for hurricane season

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The U.S. Agency for International Development is reaffirming its readiness to provide aid in Latin America and the Caribbean if or when a hurricane strikes this year. The Atlantic Hurricane season begins June 1, and forecasters are predicting the number of storms that will threaten the region will be average or above average.

Outlining its effort to brace for the storm season, USAID reports that it has a team of advisers based in the region, and a network of field staff that is directly linked to local communities, better enabling the agency to mount a response to natural disasters and mitigate the potential damage.

USAID also has longstanding arrangements to provide personnel training to Latin American officials involved in disaster management, search and rescue operations and fire management. The agency is sponsoring several projects in the Caribbean and Central America to promote natural hazard mitigation and early warning systems.

Further information about USAID's Hurricane Reconstruction activities is available at http://hurricane.info.usaid.gov/

Further information about hurricane awareness is available at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/

Brazilian sergeants
acquitted in deaths

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BELEM, Brazil — A court has acquitted nine police sergeants for their role in the massacre of 19 landless peasants six years ago in the northern Amazon state of Para. Tuesday's acquittals came as part of an ongoing trial of 149 policemen involved in the killing. 

A court in this Amazon port city Tuesday acquitted the police sergeants, even though the same jury had earlier this month convicted two police commanders for the same crime. The two had been acquitted in a previous trial in 1999. 

The prosecution argued that the sergeants did nothing to stop the massacre which took place in 1996 when police opened fire on about 1,000 landless farm-workers who were blocking a highway in Eldorado do Carajas in Para state. Along with the 19 people killed, 80 others were wounded. 

However, the defense argued successfully that it was the police commanders, not the sergeants, who were to blame for the killings. Five of the sergeants said they were not armed. 

FBI director plans
to announce changes

By the A.M. Costa rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announces his plan today to restructure the agency to make it better able to protect the United States from terrorism. 

FBI Director Robert Mueller is expected to announce a series of steps aimed at improving the bureau's ability to gather and analyze intelligence information on terrorists planning domestic attacks.

Congressional sources say Mueller will center the FBI's anti-terrorism efforts in Washington and will seek greater cooperation with the CIA, which is responsible for intelligence gathering overseas.

The FBI director hinted at the changes to come during a recent speech here in Washington. "Our worldwide network must be more powerful," he said. "Our financial commitment must be stronger, and our techniques, training and technology must be more sophisticated. And our sense of urgency and intensity, perhaps, must be greater than it ever has been in the history of the FBI."

Confidence in the FBI has been shaken in recent weeks amid revelations that the bureau ignored leads from some of its own agents who wanted to intensify investigations of potential terrorists prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Of particular concern to Congress is a 13-page letter written by an FBI special agent in Minnesota that accuses FBI higher ups in Washington of being slow to respond to requests for a full investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui. Federal investigators believe he was supposed to be the 20th hijacker on Sept. 11, and his conspiracy trial is scheduled to begin later this year. 

Moussaoui was arrested in August after raising the suspicions of instructors at a flight school in Minnesota. But when FBI agents there sought permission to search his laptop and other belongings, FBI headquarters refused, saying there was no evidence to link him to terrorist organizations.

The agent who raised the concerns, Coleen Rowley, is expected to be a key witness when the House and Senate Intelligence Committees hold hearings on the issue next month.

Florida Republican Porter Goss chairs the House Intelligence Committee. He said Sunday that the continuing threat of terrorism requires that the FBI shift some of its resources away from crime fighting to domestic intelligence gathering on potential terrorists. 

"The way to success in the FBI is to go out and apprehend criminals and have a successful prosecution and put them in jail and get them off the street," he said. "And that is wonderful. We need that. That is law and order and any good civilized society has to have that. They don't do spying on Americans because Americans don't want Americans to be spied on."

Intelligence experts and lawmakers agree that Americans may have to overcome some of their wariness about domestic intelligence gathering in order to better protect themselves from terrorists. 

Terror attacks hit
rights, Amnesty says

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — Amnesty International says human rights across the world have suffered setbacks since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. 

In its report on the situation in 2001 released Tuesday, the London-based group says many governments have rushed through "anti-terrorism" measures that undermine human rights. 

The report criticizes the United States for holding hundreds of terror suspects without trial. It also condemns governments in Indonesia, Russia, China and Zimbabwe for stifling dissent or separatist movements with excessive force. 

In many other countries, Amnesty says governments have passed repressive new laws, strengthened the role of the military and imposed cultural and religious restrictions. 

Irene Khan, Amnesty International's secretary general, said there can be no trade-off between human rights and security. She said the difference this time is that it was not autocratic regimes but established democracies that took the lead in restricting civil liberties in the name of public security. 

Among other countries the report singles out Australia for its handling of immigrants. It criticizes Jordan, Britain and South Korea for introducing stiff anti-terror legislation.

Ms. Khan said millions of people faced human rights abuses throughout 2001, while millions of others suffered the continuing effects of genocide and other atrocities committed in the past. The report documented extra-judicial killings in 47 countries, disappearances in 35, and cases of torture and ill-treatment in 111. It also said 56 countries are holding prisoners of conscience. 

Bush and pope meet
and discuss priests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

VATICAN CITY — U.S. President George W. Bush has met with Pope John Paul II and discussed the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States. The president went to the Vatican following the signing of a NATO-Russia accord at an Italian military airbase. 

The pontiff received President Bush in a private audience at the Vatican. It was the American leader's last meeting of his seven-day European tour before returning to Washington.

Vatican radio described the event as an "extraordinary" meeting between "the head of the universal church and that of the most powerful democracy on earth." It was the second meeting between President Bush and the pope.

At a NATO-Russia summit before the Vatican meeting, President Bush described the pope as "a man of enormous dignity and compassion".

Bush also told reporters that he would speak to the pope of his concern about the standing of the Catholic Church in the United States, which, he said, is an important institution.

The Catholic Church in the United States has been rocked by sex abuse scandals involving priests. High-level church officials have been accused of covering up the wrongdoing of their priests. Last month the pope called U.S. cardinals to an emergency summit in Rome to discuss the matter.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed after the meeting that the matter was discussed during their 20-minute private talk. He said President Bush and the pope also discussed religious freedom in Russia, U.S. relations with Russia, and the situation in the Middle East. 

Pope John Paul has just returned to the Vatican from a pastoral visit to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. During that trip, his deteriorating health was evident. The pope's parting words to Bush were, "I hope I will be able to meet with you again."

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