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These stories were published Tuesday, June 7, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 111
Jo Stuart
About us
Can high court do what George Bush couldn't?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Worried about not having enough Gringos to populate those towering condos in Escazú and along the Pacific coast?

Forget it. The U.S. Supreme Court Monday struck a blow against medical marijuana laws in 10 states, thereby giving progressive U.S. citizens another good reason to pack up and head south.

Tranquillo, the preferred Costa Rican state of being, frequently has chemical origins.

Was it just Sunday that we heard of an older woman who had sold her business in San José and had just one goal:

"To sit on a beach and smoke a joint!"

Although the medical marijuana laws in the United States benefited sick people, pot proponents saw the erosion of drug laws as a first step to legalization.

The weed is not exactly legal here, and you don’t want to be caught with a bale or two in the car trunk. But in general, pot smokers find they can easily coexist here with the law.

Out in the upscale beach communities, there 

Supreme Court decision 

are other drugs of choice. But for youngsters and the unrepentant 1960s ex-hippie expats, there is nothing like pot.

The proof is in the smelling. Drop by a few 

youth hostels in San José about 9 p.m., and what's that distinctive odor that permeates everything. And you thought those street vendors were selling cigars.

And what is the 

principal source of air pollution in Quepos?

Or take a quick trip to the Caribbean coast where local marijuana is consumed openly. 
In fact, the weed is so universal in certain areas of the jungle and the Alta Talamanca that squads of policemen wear out each year before they cut down all the towering plants.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court decision will spur an even greater migration south than the re-election of George Bush.

Pacheco's blood pressure said to be back at normal levels
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco, under fire for ethical lapses, ended up in the hospital Monday from what aides said was high blood pressure.

The president was said to be resting comfortably and normally accompanied by his wife on the fourth floor of Hospital Calderón Guardia in north San José.  A medical spokesman said in the early evening that his blood pressure had returned to normal.

Lineth Saborio Chaverri, the first vice president, was acting president, according to a statement from Casa Presidencial. The government continues to function, and the weekly Consejo de Gobierno or cabinet meeting, will be held this morning as usual even though Pacheco will not be there, said the statement.

The 71-year-old Pacheco, himself a physician and a psychiatrist, was expected to stay in the hospital through Tuesday.  A medical report said that Pacheco had blood pressure of 240 over 110 when the normal is about 120 over 80. He was last in the hospital more than three months ago suffering from chest pains.

Pacheco has been under fire for having made conflicting statements about governmental affairs, particularly those about which the press has been critical. Sunday La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper, ran nearly two pages simply quoting Pacheco saying conflicting statements about certain issues.

Pacheco generally has stayed away from the press, and the press conference each Tuesday after the Consejo de Gobierno is about the only time when reporters can question him directly.

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Apple and Intel plan
new breed of computer

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif, — Apple announced plans here Monday to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by this time next year, and to put Intel microoprocessors in all of its Macs by the end of 2007. 

Apple previewed a version of its critically acclaimed operating system, Mac OS X Tiger, running on an Intel-based Mac to the over 3,800 developers attending CEO Steve Jobs' keynote address. Apple also announced the availability of a developer transition kit, consisting of an Intel-based Mac development system along with preview versions of Apple's software, which will allow developers to prepare versions of their applications which will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. 

"Our goal is to provide our customers with the best personal computers in the world, and looking ahead Intel has the strongest processor roadmap by far," said Jobs, an Apple legend "It's been 10 years since our transition to the PowerPC, and we think Intel's technology will help us create the best personal computers for the next 10 years." 

"We are thrilled to have the world's most innovative personal computer company as a customer," said Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel. "Apple helped found the PC industry and throughout the years has been known for fresh ideas and new approaches. We look forward to providing advanced chip technologies, and to collaborating on new initiatives, to help Apple continue to deliver innovative products for years to come." 

Intel has chip manufacturing facilities in the Central Valley.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning desktop and notebook computers, OS X operating system, and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital music revolution with its iPod portable music players and iTunes online music store. 

AOL to provide unlimited space

Special to A.M. Costa Rica 

America Online announced Monday that it will increase the e-mail storage that it provides to members to an unlimited capacity. AOL is the first online service to offer unlimited e-mail storage. 

In addition, AOL also introduced the Multiple Simultaneous Log-Ins feature to members on dial-up connections, which enables up to seven AOL screen names on a single account to sign into the AOL service at the same time and from multiple locations. 
Julio Bonchea
Manuel Tata Rodríguez

Escaped prisoner was man
who attacked U.S. citizens

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Cuban who escaped from the La Reforma penitentiary Sunday was one of two men who attacked restaurateur Stephen Thompson and his wife in their Barrio Amón living quarters in 2001.

He was identified at the time as Julio Bonchea, and he was wanted for two counts of second-degree murder and escape in Florida. He was expected to face return to the United States after serving his prison term here.

Why the man singled out Thompson remains a mystery. Thompson has said that he visited the man in jail.

The man now is identified as Manuel Tata Rodríguez and was doing an 11-year prison term. He has a history of using multiple names, and he steadfastly refused to identify himself when he was arrested.

The attack on the restaurant owner took place early in the morning in the La Palma restaurant at Avenida 9 and Calle 9 in Barrio Amón. 

Costa Rican investigators said at the time that the assailant was dressed in black with a black ski mask. He carried a pistol with a silencer as well as a knife. He confronted Thompson and his wife after the restaurant closed. Rodríguez/Bonchea weighs about 155  pounds and Thompson is a bodybuilder. The restaurant owner fought with the intruder, managed to disarm him, and the intruder fled. Police found him later hiding in nearby Parque Bolivar.

The FBI had been seeking Bonchea since March 26, 2000, when he was able to slip out of the Calhoun Correctional Institute near Panama City, Fla., according to Florida officials. He was there for a crime similar to the one he is accused of committing here in Costa Rica. He received an 18-year sentence for the attempted murder of a man he was trying to rob during a home invasion in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami in 1997, according to Florida officials. 

He was convicted of stabbing the victim six times and trying to shoot him with a pistol. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that on Sunday, March 26, 2000, Bonchea's brother, Joel, and his 11-year-old nephew visited him. Joel Bonchea smuggled clothes and money into the prison facility, by wearing a second set of clothes over the top of his jeans and shirt, and lined his leather jacket with cash, said officials, who added: 

During the visit Joel disrobed in the visitor's bathroom where he planted the clothes and money. Afterwards, Julio Bonchea sneaked into the visitor's bathroom where he changed into the civilian clothes and pocketed the cash. He left the restroom and mingled with visitors, then walked out of prison. 

Sunday Rodríguez/Bonchea escaped through a roof of a minimum security wing.

Pope restates his views
on same-sex marriages

By the A.M. Cota Rica wire services

ROME, Italy — Pope Benedict has condemned gay marriage, calling it "pseudo-matrimony" between people of the same sex. It was his first statement on the issue as pope, but his views are widely known.

During an address at St. John's Cathedral in Rome, the pontiff said same-sex unions were one of several expressions of what he called "an anarchic freedom" that threatened the future of families. He also condemned artificial birth control and "trial marriages". 

Before becoming pope in April, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led a Vatican campaign against same-sex unions in 2003. The Vatican defines matrimony as a divine union between a man and a woman.


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Soccer finally coming to the marginal section, La Carpio
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday was a pretty good day for youngsters in the La Carpio, the section of San José frequently described as marginal.

Berthier EBI de Costa Rica, the company that operates a landfill there, is developing a soccer field, the first one in the heavily populated area.

La Carpio was where violence broke out a year ago, in part because residents claimed that Canada-based EBI had not lived up to its agreements, including maintenance of roads. The company runs a 16-hectare (40 acre) landfill.

For the children of La Carpio it was the first time they had ever been inside the waste management facility, and participants hope that the event symbolises a new era of good relations and cooperation between EBI and the local community.

Youngsters received uniforms and soccer-related equipment.
Most of the inhabitants of La Carpio are Nicaraguan immigrants. Many are illegal. And the area is short on public services.

Vicki Baxter, deputy head of mission for the British Embassy, Juan Carlos Obando general manager of EBI, and Roy Arias, coordinator of "Futbal Por La Vida" the non-profit organization that gives classes, and members of the Carpio sports association participated.

Vicki Baxter of the British Embassy hands out a soccer uniform for a La Carpio youngster who will use the field.

Spanish student becomes a hot property on art scene
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

With rave reviews from the local press for her Exibición fotografias y technicas mixtas at Universidad Veritas, artist Erica Frank from Louisville, Kentucky, is making an impression on the art scene in Costa Rica.

Ms. Frank came to San José in January to learn Spanish and was discovered by Georgio Timms, head of the Photography Department at Universidad Veritas in Zapote. Timms saw her work and immediately
offered her the exhibition space and promotional support.

"I am so grateful for the support given me by Professor Timms and his staff," Ms. Frank said. 

"I don’t see how all this could have come together so quickly in the States, and this demonstrates to me the degree of Costa Rica's dedication to the arts."

Ms. Frank is going home for a month to set up for another show in cooperation with her current exhibitor The Runako Gallery in Louisville. 

She will return and continue her work in Costa Rica.  Along with Luis Cruz, a well-known Costa Rican artist, she plans on developing projects to showcase the unique character of Costa Rica.

The exhibition at Universidad Veritas closes June 10 and moves to the Sala Dorado at Toad Hall, Tambien in Playas del Coco for a one month exclusive showing. 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Erica Frank and one of her works

U.S. Supreme Court rejects the medical use of pot
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court dealt advocates of medicinal marijuana a major setback Monday. The high court ruled that federal authorities may prosecute people who smoke marijuana on advice of their doctors to ease the effects of various diseases.

By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal law banning the drug takes precedence over laws in 10 states that legalized use of marijuana to treat illnesses.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the majority opinion in the case. He said it would be up to Congress to change the federal law to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Anti-drug groups, which dispute the medicinal benefits of marijuana welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
Joyce Nalepka from Maryland is with a group called Drug Free Kids-America's Challenge that seeks to prevent young people from using marijuana and other drugs.

"Not only is it not helpful medically, it is harmful to the immune system," she says. "It negatively affects every body system, from the brain and lungs to the immune system, and we are delighted that the Supreme Court ruled to clear up this issue."

The ruling is a setback for groups that advocate the medicinal uses of marijuana.

Allen St. Pierre is a spokesman for a group called NORML, which seeks to decriminalize the use of marijuana.

"Many people who need access to medical marijuana are now going to be negatively impacted by this decision," he says. "In some ways, it was not unexpected, but it is disappointing to see that the federal government here in this country could not have made the same distinction, regarding medical access to marijuana and non-medical [use], such as Canada and the Netherlands."

The ruling came in a case out of California involving two seriously ill women who said smoking marijuana helps ease chronic pain associated with a variety of illnesses. They sued the U.S. attorney general in an attempt to block raids by federal authorities searching for drugs in their homes.

California passed a medical marijuana law in 1996 that allows people suffering from various medical ailments to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor issued a dissenting opinion on Monday's ruling. She wrote that the Supreme Court was overreaching by making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana at home for medicinal use.

Some patients using marijuana to relieve pain say they intend to continue to use the drug, despite this latest high court ruling.

Bush hammers at free trade to boost democracy
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — President George Bush Monday called for expanding free trade and strengthening democracy in the Americas. Bush made his remarks at the 35th General Assembly meeting of the Organization of American States here.

Bush told the OAS foreign ministers that democracy is on the march in Central Asia and the Middle East, and all efforts should be made to strengthen democratic governments in the Americas. 

Bush echoed remarks made on Sunday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who urged the OAS delegates to strengthen the Inter-American Charter, which says countries in the region should work together to apply pressure on countries that undermine democratic practices, or violate human rights. 

A U.S. proposal at this year's OAS meeting calls for governments that violate the charter to be held accountable by their peers. Bush told the OAS foreign ministers, while democracy is now the rule rather than the exception in the region, some governments are backsliding when it comes to democratic principles. 

"In the new Americas of the 21st century, bringing a better life to our people requires choosing between two competing visions," he said. "One offers a vision of hope. It is founded on representative government, integration of global markets and a faith in the transformative power in individual lives. The other seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people." 

The U.S. proposal has been welcomed by some countries, such as Chile, Panama and Peru, but others, like Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and especially Venezuela, have rejected it, calling it an infringement on their sovereignty. Speaking to the OAS Monday, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez strongly criticized the proposal. 

Bush also said that the dramatic gains in the democracy over the past generation in the Americas should be extended to Cuba. South Florida is home to many Cuban-exiles and Bush, and his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, have extensive political ties here. 

Organization of American States photo by Roberto Ribeiro
George Bush is greeted by José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, at the speaker’s platform.

In his remarks on Monday, Bush also called on the U.S. Congress to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA. The agreement, if passed, will break down tariff barriers between Central American nations, the Dominican Republic and the United States. 

"By reducing tariffs on U.S. goods, all citizens in these countries will enjoy better goods at lower prices," he said. "These lower prices will give Central American businesses and farmers less costly access to U.S. machinery and equipment, which will make them more competitive and help those economies grow. By bringing economic growth to Central America, CAFTA will contribute to the rise of a vibrant middle class." 

CAFTA is strongly opposed by some agricultural interests and labor unions in both the United States and Central American nations, who say it will result in the loss of many jobs. 

There have been scattered protests by anti-globalization activists and some labor union representatives at this year's OAS meeting, but police report no serious incidents. An extremely heavy security presence surrounds the OAS meeting site, raising complaints from even some delegates, who have been delayed by numerous checkpoints.

Jo Stuart
About us
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