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These stories were published Thursday, June 3, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 109
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
An editorial
This is pornography

Stop reading this if you are under 18 years of age. If you are in an Internet cafe, you must move to the 20 percent of the machines on which pornography is allowed.

We studied the definition of pornography advanced by President Abel Pacheco and included in our news story of Monday.

We understand that there are some people who have shoe fetishes. Therefore, the photo to the left clearly provokes "lust, or lascivious or libidinous feelings," as specified in the presidential decree restricting the reception of porn on Internet cafe computers.

For the ladies, more porn BELOW!


 
Power and Internet prove their vulnerabilities
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s connection to the world took a hit Wednesday morning when the Maya 1 fiber optic undersea cable to Florida failed.

Then shortly before 3 p.m. a lightning bolt put out electricity in much of the Central Valley. In some areas, power was not restored until 8 p.m.

And office workers downtown reported an ominous development. Union members who oppose the free trade treaty with the United States were taking credit for cutting off high-speed DSL Internet connections from Friday through Monday.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
This flower is enjoying life, thanks to a downpour Wednesday as afternoon rains again returned to the Central Valley after a three day respite. The canas flower is in the Plaza de la Cultura.
Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. said the Maya 1 cable outage began at 6:34 a.m. and lasted until 9:19 a.m. The affected segment runs from Cancun, México, to Hollywood, Fla. Also using the cable are  Honduras, the Gran Caymans, Panamá and Colombia.

Henry Fuentes, director of networks and systems for RACSA, said the country never was completely cut off. The Arcos 1 cable handled some of the redirected Internet traffic. The outage was blamed on a power failure at one of the electrical terminals that feed the cable.

The afternoon Central Valley power outage was blamed on a lightning strike at the Colima substation of the Compañia Nacional de Fuerza y Luz. The facility is in Colima de Tibás. Affected were San José downtown, Guadalupe, Tibás, Moravia and Santo Domingo de Heredia, said Fructoso Garrido of the company’s La Uruca offices.

The lightning caused the transmission equipment to switch to its protective mode dousing the lights, he said. Some 20 employees managed to get much of the power back on by 5 p.m. Downtown San José stores were mostly closed because cash registers require power. The Hotel Balmoral was one of the few locations with lights. It has its own generator.

As the lights were coming back on, customers of the high-speed DSL  line of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad reported experiencing an outage of their Internet service from Friday until Tuesday morning. Due to a protest march involving ICE employees Monday there was no response from the company about the problem.

Tuesday ICE employees told at least one DSL customer that they had shut down the high-speed service on purpose to flex their muscles in their fight against the proposed free trade treaty. The treaty would allow some competition in areas that are now ICE monopolies.

The DSL line was restored Tuesday morning with little or no work by the ICE techs, the customers said. The experimental DSL service is restricted to the downtown area, but the national telecommunications company has plans to extend it.

 
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Judge agrees to bar
Caja board from work

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A criminal judge has agreed with prosecutors and barred the board of directors from the facilities of the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social.

The decision by the Juzgado Penal del II Circuito was made public Wednesday afternoon.

The Caja is the nation’s largest social agency and runs the hospitals and clinics as well as handles health and related insurance for the nation’s employees.

An investigation by the Ministerio Público became public knowledge Monday when prosecutors went to court and asked for the restrictive measures against the entire nine-member board of directors.

They are being investigated for misuse of public funds because they placed full-page advertisements in the local newspapers in support of the former Caja executive president Eliseo Vargas.

Under terms of the judicial order, the nine are suspended from their jobs for six months and may not communicate in any way with employees of the central administrative offices. In addition, each must sign in with the relevant prosecutor every 15 days.

Vargas was at the center of a scandal when La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper revealed that he was renting a luxurious home in Santa Ana from a major supplier for the Caja. He resigned and an investigation was begun.

That’s when the board voted to place the ads, which cost about $3,000. When they were questioned about the propriety of using public funds to present their views, some board members tried to pay for the ads with their private funds, according to La Nación. But by then prosecutors had confiscated the ad placement orders.

The investigation of the directors suggests a more widespread investigation of Caja financial practices. Some employees there claimed they had been instructed by supervisors not to assist agents in the investigation.

Help for customers
of America Online

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Regarding your blurb about AOL: 

"Note to AOL customers 

America Online continues to block our daily digest. If you are a digest recipient who gets the daily briefing via AOL, you better contact your customer service people to have them put dailydigest@amcostarica.com on your safe list."

I thought I'd try to shed some light on the subject and provide some instructions that may help out AOL users.  I obviously receive the daily digest fine, and I've never had to call them, either.  Here's the scoop: 

In the last few versions, when reading e-mail you could click on "report spam."  If you ever did this, not only would the report be sent to AOL, but you wouldn't get further e-mails from that sender.  People do this accidentally and as an alternative to contacting you and requesting they be removed from the distribution list you have.  The e-mail would merely be deleted automatically by AOL. 


Letter from a reader


Undoing this involved going into "Mail Controls" and managing a custom list of blocked mail, which many users are unaware of because it was so buried in the program.  Conversely, you could also access this list and type in the address of "accepted" mail that AOL may think as spam, thereby letting it through despite AOL's intervention. 

In Version 9, it is much more simple.  When you view mail, you'll notice the "Manage Mail" tab. Click on it, then click on the Spam folder.  In here you'll find all e-mails from senders that a) AOL has determined as spam due to complaints and b) email they have marked as spam. 

Locate the amcostarica e-mail in this section if you're not receiving it for some reason.  Now merely click on the button "This is Not Spam." 

Bingo, you're done.  No call necessary.  If they aren't using Version 9, they should certainly upgrade.  Its much easier to manage your mail, especially given the proliferation of spam filters across all ISPs.  False positive detections are growing daily no matter what service you use.

Regards.

Loren Rose
Escazú

EDITOR'S NOTE: We appreciate the advice, and we are happy to report that America Online has stopped blocking the daily digest, at least for now. We have sympathy for our readers who are flooded with unwanted e-mails. At A.M. Costa Rica we pore through some 2,000 a day.
New contralor general

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a month and a half of discussions, the Asamblea Nacional Wednesday night picked Alex Solís Fallas as the new contralor general of the nation. He got 46 of 49 votes, including 14 blank ballots.

The blank ballots were cast by deputies who opposed the parliamentary maneuvers used by Gerardo González Esquivel, the president of the congress, to bring the measure to a vote. He cut off debate even though some deputies still wanted to talk.
 

Two held in sex case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men in El Roble de Santa Barbara have been arrested because a 12-year-old girl claimed she had been abused sexually by the pair. The men, who both have the last names of Tercero Gutiérrez are the stepfather and brother of the girl.

The report was made by the mother of the girl, said officials.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.
 

James J. Brodell......................................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas............ associate editor

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 (506) 223-1327

In Costa Rica:                    From elsewhere:

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Success reported helping poor, undernourished kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A nutrition program that provides special help to some of Mexico's poorest residents is proving effective at reducing anemia and increasing height, which is a key marker for child development. The study is published this week in JAMA, a journal of the American Medical Association.

Poor nutrition remains a serious and stubborn health problem and a leading cause of death for children, especially in the poorest countries.

"Worldwide, more than half of the yearly 10.8 million deaths of children less than five years are attributable to malnutrition," explained Mexican public health researcher Juan Rivera, citing statistics from the World Health Organization. Undernourished children are less likely to survive disease than children who get a balanced diet.

In 1997, Mexico began a program called Progresa — later renamed Oportunidades — aimed at improving education and health for low-income children. The theory behind it is that these are long-term investments, which will pay off when the children grow up to be healthier, more productive adults. Rivera says Progresa includes several elements. 

"The first one is the provision of nutritional supplements to all children from 4-23 months of age. This is the period in life when children are at the highest risk of undernutrition, and when nutrition interventions have the highest effects," he explained.

The program also includes cash payments, some of which are linked to school attendance.

Progresa is expensive, costing $2.3 billion last year. Are Mexican taxpayers getting a good return on their investment? Juan Rivera says yes. His survey indicates a positive change in the health of Mexican

 youngsters in the program. He compared the height of children who were in the program for their first two years of life, against a control group that began getting the nutritional supplement only after their first birthday.

"You can see in the lower socioeconomic status children who receive the intervention during the two crucial years between birth and 24 months of age had a height which was 1.1 cm. more than the group that received the program only during the second year," he says.

JAMA editor-in-chief Catherine DeAngelis notes that height is one of the best indicators of how a young child is developing.

"As a pediatrician I can tell you that, as you're looking at children's development, especially their cognitive and behavior and motor [skills], head circumference is the best marker. The second-best is height," she said.

In addition to the better growth shown by the Progresa children, 1-year-olds who were in the program had lower anemia rates than those not in. But children who started in the program at age 1 reduced their anemia rate to a level similar to those who had been in the program from birth.

Rivera points out that the survey may understate the potential benefits of the Progresa program, since many children who were getting the nutritional supplement were actually not eating it.

"Between 40 and 50 percent of children were not consuming the supplement regularly, and despite that, we show effects on growth," Dr. Rivera said. 

Several other countries in the region have shown interest in the Progresa program, and Rivera said similar programs might also be suitable for middle-income developing countries elsewhere.


 
Chavez says Venezuelan opposition is using fraud against him
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez has accused his opponents of using fraud during their campaign to confirm signatures on petitions for a recall referendum.

President Chavez made the accusation Tuesday, two days after the Venezuelan opposition completed the verification drive. The president claimed that some opposition voters may have used false identities and that the names of dead people appeared on the voter rolls.

Electoral officials have said any referendum would be held Aug. 8.

Chavez's opponents say they collected nearly 3.5 million signatures during their petition drive. But his government says it only validated fewer than two million signatures, about half a million short of the minimum required by law. 

The Organization of American States and Carter Center of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have been monitoring the petition effort. Carter said Monday in Caracas that Chavez told him he would accept the results of the recall petition.

The Venezuelan opposition accuses Chavez of ruining the economy and trying to model the country after Communist Cuba. Chavez said he is working to improve the lives of the majority.


 
Colombian rebel group seeks negotiating help from México's Fox
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia  — The nation’s second-largest leftist rebel group says it is ready to discuss Mexico's offer to monitor any eventual peace talks with the Colombian government. 

Earlier this week, Mexican President Vicente Fox offered to monitor peace talks between the Colombian government and the group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN. 

The ELN said Tuesday in response that it is ready 

to begin immediate communications with Mexico about the offer. 

The rebel group is one party in Colombia's four-decade long civil war involving leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and the government. 

The main right-wing group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), declared a ceasefire in December 2002 to begin peace talks with the government, but those have floundered. In March, the AUC called on the United States to participate in negotiations to help bring about a solution. 


 
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A.M. Costa Rica photo
Our editorial (continued)
More porno shoes

If you are not excited by the smelly foot to the left, don’t worry. Certainly someone somewhere is, and this is the problem with legislating what is pornographic.

Pornography is in the mind of the beholder. The president ought to know. He is a psychiatrist.

So the ill-advised decree slapped on Internet cafes by President Pacheco fails muster because its definition of pornography is overbroad.

And, yes, technically speaking, both of the photos we published today fall under the category of pornography as specified in the presidential degree.  As do millions of other photos.
 


 
U.S. will apply strict rules on imported food starting tomorrow
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D,C, — Beginning tomorrow, U.S. authorities will require advance notice of all food imports destined for the United States, an agency in the Department of Homeland Security says.

The measure, which is mandated by a 2003 bioterrorism law, will enhance the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bureau's ability to detect potential bio- and agroterrorism, bureau Commissioner Robert Bonner said in a news release.

Shippers and exporters of food products are obligated to file notice with the bureau and the 

Food and Drug Administration two hours in advance for truck shipments, four hours in advance for rail and air shipments, and eight hours in advance for sea shipments, the bureau said.

The agency also said it will refuse entry to any merchandise not preceded by proper notice.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the protection of U.S. borders. 

Costa Rican food producers have been thouroughly briefed on the requirements, and a number of seminars have been held.


 
Argentina's creditors asked to accept a settlement of 25 percent
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina's new plan to restructure billions of dollars in debt is already facing criticism. 

The largest group of Argentine bondholders has rejected the latest proposal, saying in a statement from New York it is "extremely disappointed." The Global Committee of Argentina Bondholders, which represents investors holding about $37 billion in bonds, said the offer was not acceptable. 

Tuesday Argentina announced a revised plan that would pay creditors 25 cents for every dollar owed,
plus interest accrued since its default in December 

2001. Originally, the country had offered the 25 percent payback without interest. 

The new offer, called "final" by Argentina's Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna, would give creditors a 17 percent higher return on their investments in comparison to Argentina's initial debt restructuring offer. 

The International Monetary Fund, which provides credit to Argentina, has been pressing the country to quickly restructure its debt.  Two-and-a-half years ago, Argentina's economy collapsed amid deadly street riots and looting during which four different presidents held office in less than a month. 


 
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