A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Friday, June 25, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 125
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Totally bogus news story to frustrate spammers
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Instead of a news story today, we hope you will join us in a little conspiracy against all those low folks who sent out millions of spam messages.

The growing spam menace threatens to overwhelm the Internet. So we devised a little plan to strike back.

Some of our advertisers have complained that shortly after their e-mail addresses appear in A.M. Costa Rica they are bombarded with all kinds of unwanted e-mailings. Clearly, a number of computer programs are harvesting e-mail addresses from our pages.

Those who take advantage of these new e-mail addresses range from misguided merchants to some really bad people who want to steal your money.

We decided to do a little harvesting of our own. What follows are real e-mail addresses carefully gathered from the people or companies that send us junk. Sometimes we go through 2,000 spam messages a day, and some readers complain that their advertising orders never arrive due to the spam.

Each of the addresses below are from spammers. They are not the false return addresses frequently found on such messages.

We felt there would be a little poetic justice if computer robots harvested the e-mail addresses of known spammers and then included them in the next round of unwanted messages.

Here’s a fellow who told us we won 500,000 euros in the El Gordo Spanish lottery. We presume he would need a little money up front to help us collect:

lotto_elgospain@yahoo.com

Here’s where we all can find love tonight.

matequest1@usermail.com

And these guys can keep our hair from falling out:

hair@golunga.com

If that doesn’t work, these Chinese straw hat manufacturers in Guangdong will fabricate something to hide our baldness:

godcares20002000@yahoo.co.uk

This Woodland Hills, Calif., firm wants to sell us brand new computers for 50 percent off:

administrator@educationadmin.org

To buy any and all of the above services, these guys want to loan us money:

cash@thisisadomainallright.com

And these spammers will give you an education:

ADV@carefulchristianconsumer.com

Here are four addresses for basic Nigerian scammers. They all have vast sums of money to share. One looks familiar.

coldominicsegun@libero.it

godcares20002000@yahoo.co.uk

dennis.knight1@epost.de

umar_2004@outgun.com

This man sends out rambling religious tracts over the Internet. If we don’t accept what he says, we can "rot in the sun," he says.

nuku.haddon@clear.net.nz

You can reply to Nuku with authority after you get your ordination here:

info@searchforwellness.com

And if you get a headache or worse from your spam messages, here is one of the many firms selling drugs on the Web:

info@sneezed4222meds.us

And just for fun, a totally false e-mail address:

horsehockey@dirtyrottenspammers.com

Meanwhile, we are trying to come up with some Internet code that will prevent spammers from stealing the e-mail addresses of our readers.

Jo Stuart 's column is BELOW today
 
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Troubles for Solís
continue mounting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Things have gone from bad to worse for Alex Solís, the new contralor general de la República.

First he was accused of falsifying the signature of his better-known brother to a real estate document and then authenticating the signature in his capacity as a notary. He said publicly that he did this with his brother’s permission.

That was enough to empanel a commission to study his recent eight-year appointment as the legislature’s financial watchdog.

Then Thursday Humberto Arce, the deputy who raised the issue in the first place, challenged some 13 more signatures authenticated by Solís.

But the most serious allegation came in the newspaper Al Día, which reported Thursday that Solís was in the business of financing Costa Ricans who wanted to sneak into the United States.

The newspaper said Solís collected 3 percent a month from the would-be travelers who were involved with other persons who actually did the smuggling through México. Solís had no comment but the matter of possible conspiracy in human trafficking is sure to come up in the legislature.

Channel 7 Teletica said Thursday that Solís foreclosed on mortgages of persons who could not make the high interest payments. The transactions were primarily in the Pérez Zeledón area in southern Costa Rica where jobs are fewer.

The brother of Solís is Ottón Solís, a candidate in the last presidential elections.

Environmentalist plan
to challenge beach rule

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Want to go camping on the beach? Well, the Confraternidad Guanacasteca and environmentalists want to do so starting July 9, but this is no simple beach picnic.

The group announced Thursday that it would challenge officials. The beaches are Iguanita, Nacascolo and Blanca where the group said it would "confront those who sell the country by privatizing the beaches and closing them to the simple citizens."

The country’s maritime law allows the public free passage along the beach within 50 meters (about 160 feet) of high water line. But officials of the Four Seasons and the Polo de Desarrollo Turístico del Golfo de Papagayo, the multi-million-dollar project in the north Pacific, say that passage does not include camping. 

The Four Seasons began operating Jan. 18 and is the first active operation in the gigantic Península Papagayo Project.

The hotel and the project is backed by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo, which contends that adequate alternatives exists for those who wish to go camping.

Crash opens up
murder investigation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in Matina responded to an accident and found a 17-year-old driving a car that was not his. The subsequent investigation revealed a murder and led to the arrest of a second person.

The dead man was tentatively identified as a businessman from Moravia, a San José suburb. Officers found his body after the 17-year-old disclosed the location to a cellmate, agents said.

Crack ring busted

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial Investigating Organization agents in Ciudad Neily arrested 11 persons and busted up a drug network that extended through the southern part of Costa Rica, officials said. The arrest of a husband and wife, plus nine vendors followed 15 days of investigation, agents said.

The drugs, primarily crack cocaine, came from Panamá, investigators said.
 
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.


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 Canada Day picnic

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The Canadian Club supports schools, 
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Researching reading can have yummy dimension
One of the many mini research projects I have thought would be interesting to pursue is finding out what "escape literature" different people choose. I put quotes around escape literature because I believe all literature is an escape into another world. 

Of course, not all prose is considered literature. I am talking about genre like science fiction, mystery, romance, historical novels, spy stories and fantasy. One of the attractions of these various genre is that all follow a familiar recipe, so they are, in a sense, comfort food for the mind. So now I will call them comfort literature or comfort reading. The question I would be looking to answer is "Do lovers of the same comfort literature have other traits in common?"

All of this musing was triggered by my participation in a murder mystery dinner. My current favorite comfort literature is mysteries. It used to be spy stories until the Cold War ended. Then I would have been attracted to a "catch a spy dinner," if there were such a thing. 

So with friends Lenny, Joan and new friend, Pat, I became a part of an eight-person bit of play acting around a five-course dinner during which we tried to detect which one of us was a murderer. It was well organized, nicely presented, attentively served and entertaining. It was also an opportunity to meet new people. By the third course I found myself wanting to ask questions about the real person sitting opposite or next to me, not the character he or she was playing. 

It was arranged that after the dinner I would spend the night at Lenny and Joan’s home. Pat already was a houseguest. This visit has undermined the attitudes I have been holding for so many years living in Costa Rica. Two in particular: "don’t buy or build a home" and "city living is the best." To begin with, the home I was about to see was built upon and around the original small farm house, which became a large, comfortable living room surrounded by windows and beautiful woodwork expertly crafted. The house has been expanded to include a great library, dining room, modern bathrooms, and lots 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

of bedrooms, huge attic offices and a chef’s kitchen. The house is in a tiny town about 40 minutes from San José.

That night I slept surrounded by delicious silence. No traffic sounds, no car alarms, no sirens, not even barking dogs, and my hosts have four of them. The next morning Lenny took me for a walk of their grounds. Besides a very long lap pool, there are all kinds of fruit trees newly planted and eagerly growing, flowers, decorative plants, a cabana and a plowed area waiting to become a vegetable garden. 

All of this seems to have been accomplished in less than two years and with a price tag one-fifth of what it would have cost in the States. And during this time, Joan and Lenny have managed to enjoy life. They don’t seem at all stressed out. So I have decided to stop advising people that not owning or building anything in Costa Rica is the way to go, and maybe the city isn’t the best place to live. 

Back home (to my rented apartment in the city), I have been thinking about a new kind of dinner party game that would help me get to know people in an orderly fashion. At each course (I like the idea of courses. I was able to enjoy each one at the mystery dinner because they were nice and leisurely.) each of the six to eight dinner guests, all strangers or near strangers, will be given a slip of paper with a question that they are to answer during that course. 

I haven’t thought of all the subjects, but one may be "Do you own or rent?" Another will be "What brought you to Costa Rica?" And, of course, one of the questions is going to be "What is your favorite comfort reading?" That way I can finally do this research project and enjoy myself at the same time.


 
 
Wheelchairs arrive in time for Pacific kids' clinic
By Robbie Felix 
of the Fundación Roberta Felix

As you may remember, we are in the middle of this clinic for the handicapped kids of Aguirre and Parrita. In the last two days we have actually seen about 50 children and a few young adults. There have been many happy tearful moments, and I wanted to share them. We have still two more days ahead and will be seeing about 30 to 40 more children. But I wanted to report on how it is going!

A 3-year-old who had never walked is walking now. He got a walker with wheels and was not just walking but running all over the place for the first time. Mom breathed a major sigh of relief as many of these parents honestly do not know if the children will walk or not. 

He was one happy guy, given his opportunity to have a more independent life. Yesterday about eight children received wheelchairs. These are not the run of the mill wheelchairs. These are special for people with cerebral palsy and, in one case, the chair was for a little bitty guy with spina bifida. 

Another young man arrived in  a wheelchair his father made for him many years ago. We are taking photos, as it was an ingenious invention back then. The guy left in a new wheelchair, especially made for him, much more comfortable and allowing him the movement to do what he loves, drawing houses! 

This young man has cerebral palsy and he thanked me profusely in a halting way. I decided that it was probably as much about the day out as the wheelchair! With no bus access, a rural home and two very aging parents, it is highly likely he had not been out of the house in five years! The day was a day of activities during the wait, drawing, painting, sports for those who were mobile and lots of noise, fun, food and activity.

Another young man is now 20-years-old. He has waited 20 years for the wheelchair he received. He weighs about 30 pounds. Actually being in a crib all his life was making his body grow more and more deformed. As he now has an adequate wheelchair, he is more comfortable. His mom is thrilled, and I cried. It has literally taken me over three years to get this chair for him!

Our case files have increased with this clinic from around 100 to about 135 children. We found a lot of new cases during the last few weeks while organizing this clinic. 

We want to REALLY thank you, the readers, and the many people  who helped us get these wheelchairs! The thrill of seeing all these kids going home in the RIGHT wheelchair has made all the efforts so worthwhile! We appreciate the intervention and support of all your readers and all the concerned people!

As happens in Costa Rica, the boxes of wheelchairs actually arrived the same day as the therapists! Like two days ago! I was really sweating it! But they got here and it is such a great pleasure on our part to see a new freedom and mobility for the many children for whom these chairs were destined.

I again thank you all. After we finish I will happily send photos and a complete report to anyone who is interested. Just e-mail the foundation at felixfundacion@yahoo.com. We are using this clinic as the basis to solicit help from various agencies of the Costa Rican government and some private entities who have agreed to help when the detailed reports arrive of the special needs of each child! So this helps us in many ways!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Felix sought the help of readers when the wheelchairs from the United States were tied up due to unexpectedly high shipping charges.


 
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Our readers write on Latin aid and the roads
Crack at Lugar
draws a response

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Mason in Georgia criticizes Sen. Lugar (not, incidentally, one of my Senate favorites) for speaking about poverty when the line is $624 a month and Mr. Mason lives in a cheap part of the nation where homes run $150,000 and up, so why should Lugar know? He says:

Lugar is a conservative meaning "Let (me) keep all the money I can make off the backs of the working poor without giving them anything in return and the heck with everyone else". 

Amusing, but I can do that: Liberal means "Let (me) keep all the money I can make off the backs of the working poor while giving them welfare and the other things they get in return by taxing the rich and to heck with everybody else." Well, that was fun, but not any more helpful than Mr. Mason, who made no suggestions. 

I got the impression that Mr. Mason thought that Mr. Lugar should not give advice but, perhaps, more money, taxpayer money, since Lugar is not as rich as Kerry or Kennedy. But that may be only my prejudice about liberals speaking. All I really know for sure is he thought Lugar should shut up about the poor.

It won’t work for everyone, of course, but my American-poverty-line $713 Social Security goes a long way towards a decent life in Costa Rica. 

As for the racist nature of the "white" scam artist, my experiences so far in Costa Rica have led me to believe that the biggest and worst scams in Costa Rica are perpetrated upon white folks by other white folks who have been here longer than the new arrivals. 

Want to buy an overpriced house or a business about to go under but described as thriving? Pick up almost any (of course there are some real ones, I do not mean to imply such do not exist) ad described as from a Gringo who needs to go back home for some emergency reason and is sacrificing, etc etc etc. 

Actually, since the prices DO look good to the new arrival who thinks a $12 taxi ride from the airport by a driver who doesn’t even demand a tip is like entering the promised land, people used to Mr. Mason’s $150k as a low number. It isn’t until later they find out how different prices actually are in the local economy. 

Well, maybe I’m being racist in turn, talking badly about Gringos. Some of these old farmers get quite a gleam in their eye when they see a Gringo approaching waving money. I live in a small town with a number of good Tico friends who want me to get back into the real estate business (no!), so I see both sides, at least to some extent, no sense fooling myself into thinking that I really am a Tico. 

But, hey, when I sold real state in the California foothills, all of the newcomers from the SF Bay Area were "flatlanders" ready for fleecing because they were used to paying too much higher prices. I moved up there, myself, to sell real estate in partnership with a local guy who had become a personal friend in another business down in my neck of the woods. How long will it take me to be accepted up here, I asked? Well, he said, probably never. Some of these families have lived here for several generations, and. . . It’s the same everywhere, I think.

One might be tempted to put Villalobos ahead in the racial race for scam equality, assuming that it is a fact, so far unproven, that the Villalobos operation was indeed a scam, but I notice ads today which promises 1% a month dividends, which might be considered considerably better than average or they wouldn’t be advertising. Actually, since the "honest" banks loan money in the 29% range on things like credit cards, I can easily picture legitimate returns to the investor in that range and the ad did not specify dollars as the investment medium. 

One can only be saddened at the rate to which economic ignorance has accelerated in the American educational system. It used to be taught that the interest rate received was in proportion to the risk the lender was taking and everyone knew that. But perhaps investors do not think of themselves as lenders? Maybe that was taught in Econ 102.

Gregg Calkins 
La Fortuna 
 
Arenal highway gets
some quick attention

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Re: Doña Marie

What in my letter made you believe that I think our potholes are laughing matter and not dangerous. People have died avoiding them while driving into each other — although in other parts of the country.

However, they are a reality, and the problem can hardly be hoped to be handled using the English language. As you know, we had a situation about 8 kms. out of Tilarán (where the city government is seated for our area) on a steep, winding road. The road had caved in, reducing it to one lane. For month only dilapidated makeshift signs were put up as a warning for motorists that there was only one lane. Work continued for months on end with huge interruptions. 

Finally Channel 7 came up and filmed the danger zone. A few days later proper signs were put into place describing what motorists should expect. The work was finished surprisingly quick after that.

What I tried to point out was that Costa Ricans are mellow people and take the abuses of public funds with the same tolerance that they are accepting of most everything. We are just now learning how to organize and get things done. This also means suffering many disappointments. We do have in Arenal a road committee. We have asked tough questions. We have uncovered the corruption. We were hoping when the new funds became available after the first of the year that our roads would be repaired. But nothing happened until a few days ago — six months of frustrations.

Just these days there are workers doing a more professional job than before, cutting the edges of each pothole into rectangular or square shapes and removing the chopo (volcano ash) to about 10 cm. Presently the situation is worse than ever. Now we have real deep holes, because the truck with the asphalt has not been coming. It's literally getting much worse before it gets better.

Ticos will tolerate that too. They will talk about it, but that is all. I do not know how long you live amongst us, but the very philosophy of living and let live, that so many foreigners find so relaxing and laid back, and find attractive in our country, is the very attitude that does not demand the government to function properly. We love to talk about what should be done instead of doing it.

The situation is so intolerable that road blocks should be put up, but that would cut into our own comforts. Already delivery trucks are coming less to Arenal. One week we were without livestock feed. I think nobody should use these roads until repaired, but I do not see such a decisive action coming. We are just too mellow for that, but we are learning.

Roger Herrera 
Nuevo Arenal
Road builder says
there is no sub base

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Subject: Road Construction

I am a former resident of Costa Rica, and presently am a superintendent on a Georgia D.O.T. streetscapes project. 

I was always amazed at the condition of the roads in Costa Rica and the band aid like repair jobs they perform every year. 

On our job we install 10 inches of a graded aggregate base compacted to 100 percent. On top of that we place 4 inches of an asphalt base course, and on top of that we place an inch and a half of a fine asphalt wear surface. Total depth of road is 15 1/2 inches.

The roads in Costa Rica have little base, so as soon as it rains the dirt gets wet and the inch or so of asphalt surface disintegrates.

Why is there no sub base? Because people can’t see what is under the road. Now the government appointed contractor can come back every year and repair an inferior road that will never hold together. 

Nice job guys, you should be very proud!

 H. Scott Bartlett 
Atlanta, Ga. 

 
Annual book fair opens today with international flavor
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A week of book browsing begins today and goes to July 4 as the Camara Costarricense del Libro opens its annual book fair at the Antigua Aduana, Avenida 5 and Calle 23 in Barrio California.

Most of the books will be in Spanish but there will be some in English plus reference books and among the thousands on display by publishers, universities and book stores from throughout Latin America. There will be some that attract the eye, especially with discounts up to 20 percent on purchases.

A week from today will be dedicated to Pablo 

Neruda, the Chilean poet and winner of the 1971 Nobel prize for literature. The event will note the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Books on his poetry and his life will be available. 

This year the fair honors Colombian literature and the embassy of that country is planning cultural events and visits by some of their leading writers.  Costa Rican writers will be present. and for young readers there will be books and story telling. 

Doors open at 10 a.m. and the fair goes to 9 p.m.  Entrance is 600 colons for adults (about $1.35) and half that for children over 12.  Younger kids and adults over 65 enter free.


 
Search suspended for missing U.S. citizen at Lake Arenal
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Rescue workers and police have suspended the search in Lake Arenal for a U.S. citizen who is presumed drowned there.

The man, Palmer Reed, in his 70s, vanished a week ago while he was believed to be fishing on the lake. He is quickly becoming one of those Costa Rican legends because of the complexity of the case.

Reed told many friends that he was planning to leave Costa Rica for good Sunday. However, others have said — and the Fuerza Pública in Tilarán confirms the possibility— that this talk of a trip was 

just a cover for a well-planned suicide.

A police spokeswoman said officers were told that Reed was planning to throw himself into the lake while weighted down so his body would vanish.

The reasoning behind that theory is obscure, but there is no doubt that Reed loved the lake and the fishing it permitted.

Reed was a retired public relations executive from Philadelphia, Pa. One friend said he still owned a home there. He is believed to have liquidated his possessions here in anticipation of a trip or perhaps something else.


 
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