A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published  Wednesday, July 7, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 133
Jo Stuart
About us
RACSA e-mail seems to have suffered crash
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mail servers at Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. seem to have failed by mid-evening Tuesday. That followed a day of continual deterioration in service.

A spot check by A.M. Costa Rica found that only one of three e-mail messages were being delivered around 6 p.m. The whereabouts of the other messages are unknown.

The situation has serious economic impact on a number of Internet-based businesses here, such as tourism reservations.

Earlier in the day a RACSA spokesperson said that service had been halted briefly in the morning in order to improve service. He declined further elaboration and accused a reporter of having little knowledge of the Internet.

At the same time, SpamAssassin software continued to function on the RACSA mail server. This program evaluates e-mail messages and characterizes them on a seven-point scale using a number of different tests.

RACSA customers have been getting warning messages from the mail server stating that certain messages presumed to be spam or unwanted commercial messages had been embargoed. However, RACSA has made no public statements on the use of this readily available software or its Proyecto Piloto AntiSpam. The program also seems to target messages containing viruses.

The company that provides the SpamAssassin software says failure by Internet service providers to inform users is totally unprofessional. Said the company on its Web site:

"We strongly urge ISPs installing the product to notify their users when it's installed, and to not enable it by default — but many seem to ignore this advice. We agree, that's totally unprofessional."

The company also said: "You should have been informed that this was going to happen. We 

plaster this message all over our installation manuals, website, etc. However, we still receive reports from people whose first contact with SpamAssassin is when it suddenly appears in their mail — which indicates that whoever installed it on their mail systems never bothered to tell them about it. Unsurprisingly, we think this is a little unprofessional."

A search of the RACSA Web site failed to turn up any information on SpamAssassin, but Google has placed an ad for the product there.

A.M. Costa Rica learned of the seriousness of the RACSA problem about 6 p.m. when a photographer called by telephone to confirm that three photos he had sent as attachments in three different e-mail messages had arrived. Only one has arrived. The rest are lost.

A.M. Costa Rica monitors its main e-mail addresses at its U.S.-based server. However, the messages usually are directed from the server through the RACSA mail server for convenience.

Tuesday the server listed 67 messages. But only 22 of these made it through the RACSA mail server. There did not seem to be any consistency in which e-mails survived the trip. A message titled "nude teen neighbours" arrived, despite SpamAssassin. A second message, an inquiry about a job, did not arrive in Costa Rica. By 7 p.m. all e-mail messages stopped.

A test message sent earlier from San José to the RACSA server to the A.M. Costa Rica server in the United States appears to have languished on the RACSA server from 4:05 p.m. until 5:21 p.m., according to times imbedded in the header of the message.

However, these times marked by the various mail servers need to be taken lightly. The header of a message e-mailed from La Sabana across town to A.M. Costa Rica shows that it arrived three minutes before it was sent.

Only a slight deterioration in Web page access was noted. Costa Rican government mail servers seemed to be functioning normally. Customers using the pilot high-speed Internet service of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad reported no problems.

Crowd gathers at Mutual de Alajuela on Paseo Colón Tuesday morning after a stickup by at least three men.
Three bandits make getaway from morning Mutual heist
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three gunmen stuck up and pistol-whipped employees at a Mutual de Alajuela before fleeing with some 3 million colons, about $6,850. 

Among those injured when hit with a firearm was the savings agency’s guard who was treated at the scene on Paseo Colón.

The three men fled in a stolen vehicle that was located in Barrio México not far to the north of the crime scene.

In addition to the second employee who was pistol-whipped,  a third was treated for a nervous attack following the 8:30 a.m. crime.
Outlets of Mutual de Alajuela have become a prime target for would-be bank robbers because they are small and lightly protected.

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Military dentists get
permission to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although the soldiers carry picks and mirrors instead of guns, the Asamblea Nacional still had to approve the arrival of 35 North American dentists who are in the military reserve.

The kind of drilling these soldiers will be doing in the Osa Peninsula will not have much to do with marching. They will be treating those in need of dental work.

The reserve officers will be in the country from Aug. 14 to 28 on the humanitarian mission.  The Costa Rica Constitution requires legislative approval for the arrival of any foreign military group. Last week the legislators gave permission for a Mexican military aircraft to land briefly while flying from that country to Colombia and return. Lawmakers also have to approve the arrival at local ports of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy vessels that are on patrol in the Pacific.

Fedrico Vargas, head of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, said that the permission was sought far in advance because a lot of the dental equipment has to be shipped in.

U.S. tourist called
intoxication victim

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A medical examiner will determine the cause of death of a U.S. tourist who died in Manuel Antonio.

The man was identified as Zachary Richie Nel, 46, and described as a tourist.

An agent for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that intoxication is believed to be the cause of death but the exact substances need to be determined.

The man died in a unit of Cabinas Los Almendroz, said the agent. There was no sign of foul play, he added.

Two workers suspended
at women’s institute

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two employees of the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres have been suspended while irregularities in the organization are investigated.

That was the word Tuesday from Georgina Vargas Pagán, the new minister on the Condición de la Mujer.

Esmeralda Britton, the former minister, resigned her post June 21 after President Abel Pacheco questioned certain expenditures in the institute. The persons who were suspended were the administrative director and the financial director of the institute.

Minister Vargas promised at a press conference following the weekly Consejo de Gobierno that she would run a transparent ministry.

Arenal gives a show

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As if on cue, Volcan Arenal is getting into the mood of Costa Rica’s second tourism season. Reports from nearby La Fortuna de San Carlos said that the mountain spewed out some debris Tuesday and continues to issue smoke.

The popular volcano is a must-see for tourists, but frequently the glowing summit is cloaked in clouds  and rain. The latest activities are somewhat lower on the northeast side.

Gas tank blast hurts three

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons suffered first- and second-degree burns Tuesday night when a tank of LP gas exploded at a factory in Pavas. 

More than 50 firemen converged on the scene at Corporación Romadu S.A., a plastics fabricator. The site is not far from the U.S. Embassy.

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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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AIDS epidemic is getting worse, U.S. agency reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new report by the U.N. AIDS organization finds the global AIDS epidemic is worsening. The agency says more people in all regions around the world are becoming infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

UNAIDS reports significant progress has been made in providing treatment for larger numbers of AIDS victims and in achieving greater political and financial commitments in the fight against the fatal disease. Despite this, the report says none of these efforts has been enough to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Last year, the report notes five million people became newly infected with HIV. That is more people than any previous year. Currently, it says, more than 38 million people are living with the disease. 

UNAIDS Senior Adviser Karen Stanecki says Asia, with 60 percent of the world's population, is home to some of the fastest-growing epidemics in the world. In 2003 alone, she says, more than one million people became infected with HIV.

"Equally alarming, we have only just begun to witness the full impact of AIDS on African societies as infections continue to grow and people are dying in large numbers," said Ms. Stanecki. "The scale of the problem in Africa is well-documented, with over 25 million infections. If we do not act now, 60 percent of today's 15 year olds will not reach their 60th birthday." 

The report says the Caribbean is the hardest hit 

region in the world after Africa. It also finds the HIV/AIDS epidemic is continuing to expand in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, mainly due to intravenous drug users. 

UNAIDS says infections also are on the rise in the United States and Western Europe. It blames this largely on the widespread availability of anti-AIDS drugs, which it says has made some people in these wealthy countries complacent.

Paul De Lay, UNAIDS director of monitoring and evaluation, acknowledges that around the world prevention programs are reaching fewer than one in five people who need them. Nevertheless, he says there has been a dramatic increase in prevention activities for young people and several other successes as well.

"In Africa, for instance, 60 percent of children have access to AIDS education both in primary and secondary schools," said De Lay. "That is a huge increase from the late 1990's. In highly vulnerable groups like sex workers, we are seeing a real success story in Africa. Thirty-two percent of sex workers who are identified have access to HIV prevention and there is a large increase in condom use in this population."

The report says global spending on AIDS has increased greatly, but, more is needed. It estimates $12 billion will be needed by next year, and $20 billion by 2007, for prevention and care in developing countries. The United Nations says AIDS funding has increased sharply in recent years, in part due to the U.S. government's global AIDS initiative. But it says still, globally less than half the money needed is being provided.

Fox spokesman quits amid huff about first lady
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — President Vincente Fox's principal spokesman has resigned, accusing the first lady of undue involvement in politics. A senior member of the ruling party is calling for talks to end the political feud. 

Fox spokesman Alfonzo Durazo has quit, accusing the president of trying to orchestrate his wife into Mexico's top job. By law, a Mexican president may serve only one six-year term. Durazo accuses the first lady of breaking tradition by publicly carrying out her own agenda. He also says her launching of a high-profile charity is a part of her political plan. 

President Fox has publicly said his wife will not seek the presidential candidacy of his National 

Action Party, known as PAN. However, Mrs. Fox has broadly hinted she might run. 

Less than two months ago, President Fox severely reprimanded Energy Minister Felipe Calderon for allegedly launching an early bid for the party's candidacy. Calderon promptly resigned. 

Calderon — who is also a former President of PAN — says a careful analysis of this latest controversy must take place as soon as possible. "It's an important issue, not only for the members of the PAN, but also for public opinion and Mexican democracy," he says. 

President Fox's office is strongly rebutting Durazo's claims, saying it neither shares his views nor the logic behind his 19-page resignation letter. 

Guatemala starts paying victims of its 36-year-old bloody, civil war
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — The government has handed out some $3 million to victims of the country's decades-long civil war. 

In a ceremony Tuesday, President Oscar Berger said the payment recognizes the thousands of Guatemalans whose rights were not respected.

It was the first of several payments expected to reach about $40 million per year over a 13-year period. The compensation will be distributed in part among people who lost family and property during the war. 

Some 200,000 people died in Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended with U.N.-brokered peace accords signed in 1996.

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Jo Stuart
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