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These stories were published Thursday, July 7, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 133
Jo Stuart
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Web page will carry information
British Embassy here getting lots of calls

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 11:30 a.m.)
British citizens and Costa Ricans with families or friends in London have been flooding the British embassy here with calls, as have been others offering their condolences.

Sheila Pacheco, vice consul, said that a number has been set up by British officials to receive inquiries about casualties from the multiple bomb attacks today in London.

That number is 0044-870-156-6344. Costa Ricans concerned about friends or family members should call the Costa Rican Embassy in London, she said.

In addition, embassy officials here have a Web site where they are posting the latest news of the bombing:

The Web site this morning carried the message from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who
said he and other Group of Eight leaders “condemn utterly these barbaric attacks.”

“All of our countries have suffered from the impact of terrorism. Those responsible have no respect for human life. We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation but on all nations and on civilised people everywhere.”

“We shall prevail, and they shall not,” Blair concluded. Blair is meeting with other heads of state in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Some 40 persons died an nearly 400 suffered injuries when the bombs went off in the London subway and on a double-decker bus during the morning rush hour. The attack took place at 1:51 a.m. Costa Rican time.

A group claiming to be affiliated with al-Qaida took responsibility.

Internet shudders as many e-mails vanish
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Wednesday was not a good day for Internet use. And cable television suffered, too.

In the afternoon the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, experienced problems with an Internet router that caused outages in e-mail and some web services for metropolitan area customers.

Later in the evening the cable system maintained by Amnet failed, leaving customers without television cable service as well as Internet hookups via cable.

An Amnet representative said the outage was a general one in the metropolitan area.

Even ASDL, the so-called advanced Internet, has been behaving badly. The service run by ICE didn't work in certain sectors of the downtown last week. At least one Internet cafe lost days of income. ICE was making upgrades to its system and had trouble getting the service back on line.

Customers of the advanced system continued to complain Wednesday night that e-mail messages they sent simply would vanish and never reach their electronic destination.

A customer of Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., known as RACSA,  in Desamparados said that telephone dialup service with that ICE
subsidiary was hit and miss Tuesday night, as were connections to popular Web pages.

The Internet scene has become more complex. RACSA used to be the sole Internet supplier.

But now ICE has begun to compete with its own subsidiary by offering the ADSL service. That service uses the existing voice telephone cables, which are maintained by ICE.

RACSA has agreements with two television cable companies, Cable Tica as well as Amnet, to allow direct access to the company's routers via the television cables. In that way, cable customers can have a continual hookup and not pay the telephone connection charges.

Wednesday a RACSA spokesman admitted that problems existed in the Internet service, but he blamed routers at ICE. A spokesperson for ICE was not able to address the issue. Routers are devices that interpret the electronic addresses on Internet mail and Web requests.

With ICE running a service that competes with RACSA and the cable companies, there does not seem to be an economic advantage to maintaining rapid and secure connections with the service providers. ICE workers have been known to use the Internet for political purposes in the past. During a labor protest last year, ICE employees cut the Internet service back to low levels on the day of a general strike.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, July 7, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 133

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Constitutional court won't get involved in contralora election
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has rejected a claim by some legislative deputies that the president of the Asamblea Legislativa held them against their will in the assembly chamber.

The appeal to the high court grew out of the June 27 legislative session where Rocío Aguilar Montoya was named contralora de la República.

Some deputies tried to leave the chamber in order to stop the voting by reducing the number present below a quorum. They appealed to the court that the assembly president, Gerardo González Esqivel, violated their right to free passage.

The election of Ms. Aguilar is controversial because she was not among the persons who applied and submitted to examination by a legislative committee.  In fact, her name did not appear until the second round of voting that day when it became obvious that the  Partido Unidad Social Cristiana and Partido Liberación Nacional had entered into a deal to
elect her. She got 24 votes in the second round without her name having been mentioned as a candidate.

The court said in its decision that the minutes of the legislative session does not establish that the president of the assembly had impeded anyone from leaving the legislative chamber. González had ordered the doors be closed.

The court also said that deputies have a legal obligation to attend legislative sessions and that voting is a continuing act that may not be interrupted.

Six of the seven magistrates agreed with the decision. The seventh, Adrián Vargas Benavides, said the appeal had some substance but should have been structured as a request for judicial aid, amparo. The case was presented as one of habeas corpus.

The job of contralor is to direct the Contraloría de la República, which serves as a fiscal watchdog and passes judgment on all significant contracts and agreements made by the government.


A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Vendors camp at the municipal building

Street vendors continue
to push for muncipal aid

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vendors staged a protest Wednesday in front of the municipal building in San José to press their case for a place to sell their goods.

These are the same individuals who were kicked off downtown streets last Jan. 3.

The street vendor association has about 400 members, according to Geovanny Jiménez Godines who is one of the leaders. About 100 showed up Wednesday.

The street vendors had been dispersed to other areas around the city, but they stopped working two weeks ago when a citizen appealed to the Sala IV constitutional court claiming that their presence in La Uruca was causing garbage to accumulate in the area.

The Sala IV said Wednesday that the appeal had merit. It ordered the Municipalidad de San José to maintain a safe and garbage-free area for the vendors and to protect the public peace.

Municipal officials promised to relocate many of the vendors into the former civil registry building on Avenida 2, but there has been little progress. The building is occupied by the reserve of the Fuerza Pública.

Jiménez noted that Wednesday's protest was peaceful but he did not discount the idea of more drastic measures if the city does not comply.

Who will go with Arias?
Not this judicial duo

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two judicial figures denied Wednesday that they were interested in elective office. But Óscar Arias Sánchez invoked the name of Franklin Chang Diaz as a possible runningmate.

Francisco Dall’Anese Ruiz, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor, and Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema, denied any interest in running with Arias. Their names had been included in a speculative article in the Spanish-language press.

Paulino Mora pointed out in a statement released through the Poder Judicial press office that he is prevented from running because of his position. He said he has been a judge for 30 years, not a politician. The Costa Rica Constitution prohibits persons who have held certain jobs within 12 months of the voting from being candidates. In addition to ministers, the court president is included.

Dall’Anese would be a better candidate because he has been the central figure in prosecuting official corruption cases involving at least three former presidents. “It is absolutely false that I have any interest in participating in politics,” said his statement. He, too, had been linked to Arias in a news article.

Chang will soon retire as a U.S. astronaut to go into private business. He grew up in Costa Rica and then took U.S. citizenship. His wife is a U.S. citizen. Arias threw out his name as a kind of trial balloon Wednesday.

Chang's citizenship status is unclear. When he accepted U.S. citizenship, he lost his Costa Rica citizenship under the laws that were in force at the time. Quickly lawmakers acted to allow dual citizenship by Costa Ricans. However, the question remains if he somehow got back his Costa Rican citizenship. He is the recipient of a major Costa Rican award that is given only to foreigners.

Nevertheless, due to his exploits as an astronaut and his sensitivity and generosity to Costa Rica, he is a beloved figure. He could likely be a formidible presidential candidate instead of No. 2 on the Arias ticket.

Of course if Chang accepts and Arias is elected, Costa Rica could end up with a U.S. citizen as president if something happened to Arias.

Web movie delivery
promoted by Intel

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Revelations Entertainment and Intel Corp have announced the formation of a new digital entertainment company focused on distributing premium movies directly to consumers over the Internet,

Revelations, a partnership between actor Morgan Freeman and producer Lori McCreary, has formed ClickStar Inc. with an investment from Intel.

ClickStar’s strategy is to create an online service in which consumers can access, pay for and download first-run, pre-DVD-release films and artist-created  entertainment channels in their homes. This new online destination will be designed to give filmmakers a vehicle to connect directly with fans and offer consumers a new way of experiencing home entertainment.

ClickStar will enable new business models resulting in increased revenue opportunities for the film industry, said an announcement.

The formation of the new company was announced Wednesday by Freeman and Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference.

Intel, the world's leading manufacturer of computer chips, has a plant in San Antonio de Belén.

From our readers

He likens inflated fares
to a criminal act

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In reference to the two stories, “Hotel cabs seem to set their own ride rates” and “They are happy to charge about $4 a mile,” I would like to extend my thanks for this story being published. Investigation and discussion  of this issue is very valuable for visitors and new arrivals alike.

In my opinion, this is a form of theft against tourists (and often foreign residents) plain and simple. In addition to my view of it being criminal, its inconsistency only proves that this is a “progressive” stereotype that, for many foreign residents and visitors, is unjust. I know for a fact that employees of these same hotels, and nationals that are visitors of their services (regardless of their economic situation) do not receive the same treatment proportionately.

Next week my parents will be staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Escazú, and this issue has been on my mind- not because of the money, rather because of the embarrassment that my wife and I will feel if they are extorted in this way. Costa Rica is my home, and I love it deeply, but some things like this, that are tolerated and even supported, I find both upsetting and fraudulent — Thank you again for covering this issue.

L. Keith Allen
San Jose
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Opinions on the Miller case
Shield law would encourage lazy journalism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A federal judge tossed New York Times reporter Judith Miller in jail Wednesday for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury.  Matthew Cooper also supposedly knows who in the Bush administration leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press.  He was spared jail time when his source freed him from his obligation of confidentiality at the last minute.

“My heart goes out to Judy,” Cooper was quoted as saying.  “I think this clearly points out the need for some kind of a national shield law.  There is no federal shield law and that is why we find ourselves here today.”

A shield law is one that protects journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources.  While many reporters argue fiercely for such a law, its implementation would actually limit the press from performing its duty. 

Traditionally, the press obligation is to honor the public's right to know.  A powerful shield law would do more than protect journalists, it would infringe on the duty to inform the public. 

Ethically, journalists are supposed to aggressively push to get a source to identify himself or herself in print.  Only when such an action is impossible may the journalist then keep the source's name a secret. 
Reporters are taught that if they must keep a source's name secret, they should find someone else to name in the story.  Never run a story using only confidential sources.  Of course there are exceptions like Watergate, but such exceptions are extremely rare and extraordinary.

A shield law would provide journalists with a hiding spot.  If reporters knew such an immunity existed they might become lazy in their obligation to inform the public, not only of the events that affect daily lives, but also of the people who cause these events to happen.  The reality is, when a journalist is jailed for refusing to divulge a confidential source, only in the rarest of cases is that journalist held for more than 30 days.  It is highly likely that a reporter like Ms. Miller would know the potential consequences of agreeing to keep the identity of a source such as this one secret. 
Now the person who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Ms. Miller must look in the mirror each morning and know that he or she is responsible for the incarceration of an innocent woman and an honorable reporter.  Hopefully, the source will do the right thing and free Miller by divulging his or her name.  With a shield law, no such ethical weight would exist, and the public would probably never find out who in the Bush administration sabotaged Plame. 

— Jesse Froehling

Investigative Reporters and Editors backs U.S. journalist shield law
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Investigative  Reporters and Editors, Inc., joins with other journalism groups and news  organizations in condemning the imprisonment of Judith Miller of The New York  Times and the possible judicial punishment of other reporters who refuse to reveal confidential sources when alternative ways of getting the same  information remain available.

These actions by the judiciary in cases that concern matters of political and national interest have a chilling effect on the role of the free press in a democratic society.

IRE believes the imprisonment of Miller is a harsh and unnecessary act that stands little chance of doing more than punishing a reporter for keeping
 her word. Furthermore, putting a reporter in jail sends a disturbing message to the international  community about fundamental American values.

We believe the prosecutor and judge hearing this case should reconsider their decisions in light of the  long tradition in this country — dating back to the founding of the Republic —  that recognizes the vital “safety valve” provided by confidential disclosures  and the key role of the press.

In addition, we believe this case and others like it should convince Congress of the need to pass a federal shield law.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Investigative Reporters and Editors, headquartered at the University of Missouri, is the world's premier investigative reporting organization.

AOL and Plaxo join to provide continual updates of e-mail addresses
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

America Online, Inc. has announced that it is working with Plaxo, Inc., the Web-based contact management company, to help AOL members keep their e-mail address books and buddy list features up-to-date, and make it easy to access AOL services from other e-mail programs.

Under the agreement, AOL will integrate Plaxo services to enable AOL members  to easily import, export and synchronize contact information in their Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express and third party Web-based e-mail address books with their AOL mail address books. This will also enable AIM users to automatically pull contact information from third party address books to build upon, their buddy list features.

In addition, the agreement will enable AOL members, and Plaxo members to detect information from within Plaxo and Plaxo-enabled platforms, such as Outlook and Outlook Express. A new AOL screen name field will be added to both Plaxo and Outlook 'v-cards' and the familiar AOL Running Man icon will appear in contact lists and e-mail headers letting users know when buddies are available to chat.

The net result for all will be a universal and up-to-date address book that can be used at home, at work, and the road, and which provides the accurate contact and presence information necessary for all digital communications. This will enable the more than one million users who have already adopted the new free AIM mail service to easily import contact information from other e-mail applications to quickly bring their AIM mail address book up to date.
"Together with Plaxo, we are making it easy for our members and users to create, update and maintain their e-mail address books and buddy list features," said Chamath Palihapitiya, vice president and general manager for AIM and ICQ, America Online, Inc. "Through this agreement, we will also enable Plaxo users to detect AIM presence within the Plaxo service and Outlook, giving them instant access to their friends, family and colleagues."

Finally, Plaxo will integrate access to the AIM service into its software and AIM users will be given the opportunity to install the Plaxo plug-in for Outlook or Outlook Express while downloading or upgrading the AIM service. AOL members will be able to adopt Plaxo both within the AOL service and on the portal.

"We are excited to bring the popular AIM service into our offerings," said Ben Golub, president and CEO of Plaxo. "By combining highly accurate and available contact information with the ability to instantly see who is online and available to chat, we are providing a more integrated communication experience for our millions of customers. We are also extremely pleased to offer AOL members, AIM users and AIM mail users our contact management services, enabling them to stay connected to friends, family, colleagues and customers."

Both AOL and Plaxo will make the integrated features available at no additional charge to their subscribers and registered users. A public beta of the joint technology will be available from America Online, Inc. later this year.

The new AIM Mail and the AIM service will continue to be free, as will the basic Plaxo service.

U.S. holding main suspect in murder of newsman
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Washington -- U.S. law enforcement officials have arrested a fugitive in the United States wanted by Mexican authorities for questioning in the murder of a journalist from Veracruz, Mexico.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it had arrested Jesus Rojas-Lopez, 41, an illegal alien wanted by Mexico on charges of tax evasion and for questioning in the murder in Veracruz of journalist Raul Gibb Guerrero, director of the daily newspaper Opinión.

Rojas allegedly was the head of a Veracruz gasoline contraband ring.  He was arrested July 4 on a money-laundering charge in Houston, but immigration said he is also suspected of ordering Gibb's murder.  Gibb was murdered April 8.

Interpol, the international police organization, and Mexico's Federal Agency of Investigation had been looking for Rojas for the last several months, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Rojas faces removal proceedings for being in the United States illegally.  He will be turned over to Mexican authorities to face criminal charges for tax evasion and for possible participation in the homicide of Gibb.

The arrest of Rojas attracted global attention, with the Paris-based press advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, featuring the news on its Web site.  The organization said local members of Rojas's organization had offered Gibb money not to run a series of reports about gasoline smuggling that implicated the gang.  Despite the attempted bribe, Gibb published the articles in his newspaper.

Reporters Without Borders said investigators are considering whether the Mexican reporter might have been killed because of his coverage of drug trafficking.  The organization said the prosecutor in the Gibb murder investigation suspected a link with drug traffickers, who are very active in Veracruz.

Investigators are meanwhile also considering that he was killed at the behest of the editor of a rival newspaper who allegedly threatened him, said Reporters Without Borders.

Pinochet loses his immunity in rights investigation
By the A.M. Costa Rica wires services

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chilean court Wednesday stripped former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for alleged human rights violations during his 17-year reign.

The ruling by the Santiago appeals court allows a judge to question Pinochet about his association with Operation Colombo, a rash of killings by Chile's secret police during his reign. It could also clear the way for charges of murder and human rights abuses to be filed against the 89-year-old former strongman.

The former general ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. During that time more than 3,000 people were killed and 30,000 tortured or imprisoned.
His lawyer, Pablo Rodríguez, says his client is unfit to stand trial and defend himself in court.

“General Pinochet can't answer questions. He can't build his defense, can't participate by providing information that naturally is necessary to be able to defend him from the accusations,'' said his lawyer.

Two previous efforts to bring Pinochet to trial on rights abuses failed when judges backed claims by his lawyers that his failing physical and mental health made it impossible for him to stand trial.

But last month, a court stripped Pinochet of his immunity in a tax evasion case alleging that the former dictator stashed more than $15 million in foreign banks, including those in the United States.

Hurricane Dennis aiming for Haiti, Jamaica and Guantanamo, Cuba
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hurricane Dennis has strengthened in the central Caribbean, and is moving towards Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, meteorologists report.

Another tropical storm, Cindy has made landfall in Louisiana.

The U.S. National Weather Service says Cindy is moving north into the south central United States, packing winds up to 112 kph (70 mph). New Orleans emergency officials report some wind damage in the city, and say the storm has left tens of thousands of people in Louisiana without electricity.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Meanwhile weather reports say Hurricane Dennis continues to strengthen over the Central Caribbean.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the southwestern peninsula of Haiti from the Dominican Republic border westward, all of Jamaica, all of the Cayman Islands and portions of eastern Cuba, including the provinces of Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

A warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.

At 2 a.m. eastern time today the storm center was about 255 kms. (160 miles) east southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, and about 375 kms. (235 miles) south southeast of Guantanamo, Cuba.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said the storm is moving west northwest at about 24 kph (15 mph) and is expected to be over Jamaica later today. The strength is building and the storm could turn into a category 2 hurricane by the time it reaches Jamaica, the center said.

Jo Stuart
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