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These stories were published Tuesday, July 22, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 143
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There's a reason that they call it the 'green season' here
June showers mean July flowers in Costa Rica, and the country is really blooming. A canna blossom is one of the many that the Central Bank has planted around the Plaza de la Cultura. Meanwhile, the Asamblea Nacional is flowing over with  all sorts of blooms, including roses and the delicate white and purple flowers above. Cannas, by the way, are a South American and tropical native that was imported to Europe 200 years ago. It is regaining popularity.
Government wants to censor Internet for kids
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will target the Internet as a source of danger to children.

President Abel Pacheco met Monday with Isidro Serrano, general manager of Radiográfico Costarricense S.A., (RACSA) and announced the plans afterwards.

The idea is to prevent children from using Internet cafes after certain hours, block certain Internet addresses, provide free electronic filters to parents who have household computers and also to place the photos of missing Central American children on the Internet.

Because RACSA is a government monopoly and controls access to the Internet, the company can block Internet addresses elsewhere when they are sought by Costa Rican customers.

In order to block Internet addresses for children, it will be necessary to block the addresses for everyone. RACSA has been doing this for Web pages that are featured in mass distribution messages sent unsolicited to customers, an aide revealed last week.

The Pacheco plan has the backing of Rosalía Gil, minister for Niñez and director of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia.

The censorship proposals also include studying computer games that the government might think is too violent. The proposals also are believed backed by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a non-profit agency that has decided to open an office here.

There also is a proposal on the table to have Pacheco issue a presidential decree to mandate Web filters for internet cafes.

The proposals are generally under the heading of fighting child pornography, although the proposals seem to cover anything that the government might consider any form of pornography.

There have been no published reports of any crimes or attacks against children via the Internet here, although some persons who prefer illegal child pornography have been known to use the Internet to distribute photos and film clips. Children generally are 

approached by pedophiles in Internet chat rooms and via e-mail rather than through pornographic Web pages.

Only about 15 percent of Costa Ricans have personal computers in their homes, based on the most recent census, so Internet cafes are more popular here than in the United States, Canada or European countries. Many such operations here run 24-hours a day.

The sudden reaction by the executive branch to protect children comes after the murder July 4 of 8-year-old Katia Vanesa González Juárez in an eastern San José neighborhood. A march of some 5,000 persons Friday supported the government’s legislative proposals to strengthen laws against a whole range of child-related crimes.

None of the crimes or the Internet tinkering would have prevented the murder of the girl by a neighbor.

The government also proposed a controversial profile of alleged potential molesters that basically covered single males living alone who might have contact with children. That profile was released Thursday at the same time Minister Gil and others urged neighbors to call 911 to report persons who might fit the profile. The profile was nearly identical to the principal suspect in the González killing.

In another development Monday, the Ministerio de Educación Pública said that the school systems would take an active role in reporting child abuse. Teachers will be required to cover the topic during class time. The proposal includes outreach to parents.

The educational proposal calls for setting up networks within the school and the system to identify victims of child abuse and also to detect possible risks by using a profile of potential abusers, said a ministry release.

Abuse is defined by the ministry as physical, sexual or emotional.

RACSA faces a daunting task if it seeks to censor pornography sites. There are thousands on the Web, and many do not have names that suggest their content. For example, www.whitehouse.gov is where George Bush lives. www.whitehouse.com is a commercial porn site.

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Another week means another labor protest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Unhappy public employees will take to the streets again today in a protest announced last week.

The public school teachers who were on strike for a month will be with the strikers in spirit but physically they will stay in the classrooms where students are back just one day from mid-year vacations, their union spokesman said.

The public employees will gather on Avenida 2 in front of the Ministerio de Hacienda about 10 a.m. to make their case known. The ministry is the one that manages the national budget.

Motorists can expect blocked streets and diverted traffic through much of the morning.

The workers are unhappy that the government plans to give them only a 3.5 percent pay increase during the last half of the year when inflation has 

been at least one percentage point higher. The currency, the colon, is systematically devalued a tiny fraction each day, but has lost about a third of its value against the U.S. dollar since January 2000.

Public employees are paid in colons but many of the services and items that they purchase are priced in dollars.

The demonstration today is supposed to be the first of increasingly forceful methods that will be applied until the government caves in, union leaders said.

Workers have been encouraged by the way the government surrendered to both communication workers and teachers during strikes about the last eight weeks. Communication workers from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) will be in the gathering today despite having just finished a strike over financing the government monopoly on the international market.


 
 
Nicaraguan president
visiting here today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Enrique Bolaños of Nicaragua begins a two-day visit to Costa Rica today, starting with a face-to-face discussion with President Abel Pacheco at 10 a.m. in Casa Presidencial in Zapote.

The Asamblea Nacional had to approve at the last minute Bolaños’ arrival because he is coming on a Nicaraguan military plane that requires legislative approval to land.

Bolaños will be meeting with legislative leaders at 4 p.m., and the topic of discussion certainly will be laws of interest to the estimated 400,000 Nicaraguans who live here legally and illegally. Immigration certainly will be a topic.

Bolaños also will meet with leaders of the Nicaraguan community here.

A state dinner is planned by Pacheco for the visiting president Tuesday night in the Teatro Nacional.

Wednesday will be more diplomacy, although the visiting president is expected to receive the keys to the city of San José from municipal officials.

Big marijuana haul
found in 18-wheeler

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. customs agents have seized nearly 1,100 kilograms (2,420 pounds) of marijuana from a tractor-trailer coming from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in what is being called one of the largest single loads of marijuana intercepted along the U.S.-Mexican border in recent years.

In a statement Monday, U.S. officials said the marijuana was seized when the 18-wheel truck entered the city of Laredo, Texas. Immediately after the July 11 seizure, agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement  arrested the driver, Gregorio Rosas-Escuedero of Nuevo Laredo, on federal drug charges. 

U.S. officials then developed a plan to arrest the intended recipients of the marijuana in Columbus, Ohio, an operation that is part of the ongoing investigation into those responsible for the marijuana shipment. Officials say they anticipate that all the suspects in the case will be identified and brought to justice.

More mad cow effort
promised by Canada

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Canada will implement additional safeguards to prevent the possible spread of what is known as mad cow disease among its cattle herds, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Friday.

The secretary said that the United States will continue to coordinate with Canada and other countries to address the various food safety issues associated with the disease, whose formal name is bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

In May, one case of the disease was detected in the Canadian province of Alberta, causing the United States to temporarily suspend imports of ruminants and ruminant products from the country. Since then, officials have been working closely with Canadian officials on issues related to the case. The Canadian government, which has conducted a "tremendously thorough investigation," has not detected any additional cases, officials said.

Ruminants — animals with complex digestive systems — include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, bison and elk.

The officials said that before animal and meat imports from Canada can be resumed, the United States wants to evaluate the potential effects of such a move on U.S. trading partners. Japan has said it would ban U.S. beef exports beginning Sept. 1 unless the United States develops a system to separate U.S.-born and Canadian-born cattle, according to the officials.

Cuban central bank
rejects greenback use

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuban Central Bank has ruled that state companies can no longer make transactions in U.S. dollars.

The bank says the measure goes into effect in an effort to help the government secure more foreign currency. It says the new rule will not affect the Cuban population or the free circulation of the dollar.

Cuba legalized the use of the dollar by ordinary citizens a decade ago. The move has allowed Cubans living in the United States and elsewhere to send money back to family members. 

Gunmen kill man 
for very little cash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men with guns came into a video game store in Alajuela about 9 p.m. Sunday, got in a fight with an employee there and shot him in the head and stomach. He was Guillermo Herrera Martínez, 21, and he died four hours later at hospital San Rafael in Alajuela. The men stole less than 1,000 colons ($2.50), said investigators. 

Rip tide takes boy
at beach in Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A rip tide caught two boys Sunday about 11 a.m. in Playa Agujas, Jacó, said officials.  One boy, 8, managed to swim to safety but a second, Bryan Agüero Córdoba, 10, had to be pulled out by rescue workers and was pronounced dead when he reached a nearby clinic.

The boys were with their family members who live in Tres Ríos and were in Jacó vacationing.

Bandits hit supermarket

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four gunmen held up the Palí supermarket in San Pedro Monday night while workers were buying food for their dinner.

The bandits cleaned out the registers and fired several shots to punctuate their exit.
 
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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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We are counting on some funny stories
It's time to tickle that funnybone if you have one
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is a land of contradictions, and contradiction is one of the chief concepts of humor.

So now is a time to gently explore our foibles in the mid-winter humor contest sponsored by A.M. Costa Rica marking the second birthday of our Internet daily newspaper.  (Yes, it is "winter’ in Costa Rica.)

Send your humorous writings for publication to:

editor@amcostarica.com

Make your fellow readers laugh and win great prizes, such as:

• water skiing at Lake Poas.

• annual subscriptions to A.M. Costa Rica

• sunbathing expeditions to the sand dunes of Quepos

• Whale-watching expeditions at the patio of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

• A night of guaro excess with the A.M. Costa Rica editor (your treat).

Any money prizes will be paid in post-dated checks.

We expect to have some famous judges. At least we will have judges.

 

Consider the possibilities:

• The Escazú Witch Project
• Fear and Loathing in Santa Ana
• Waiting for Enrique
• How Would You like to be President for a Day?
• The Attack of the 100-foot-tall ICE
• The Return of the Arias.
• The Taxista Always Rings Twice
• Mr. Smith Goes to Arbitration

But you can do better than that. The important thing is to be funny. You can use satire or straight humor. But you must write about Costa Rica. (George Bush is out. We can’t make this too easy.)

Your stories can be true, but exaggeration is a tool of humor. We will publish the good ones as fiction.

Some people say our readers cannot possibly top what really has been happening in Costa Rica. But we have faith.

Our second birthday is Aug. 15, and that’s the deadline.

Now some folks will be upset with us, thinking that we are picking on them. These are the folks who are humorously challenged. Why should we take the credit for them being so funny? Nevertheless, if you wish to send us hate mail or death threats, please do not clog up the editor’s mailbox like before. Send your hate mail or death threats to:

threats@amcostaric.com

Let the contest begin.

Mining firm to issue bonds on its yogurt discovery
By James Burford Carter III* 
of Lagos, Nigeria

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, July 22, 2003 - TOBEM S.A. de CV. announced today the issuance of a new class of yogurt bonds to be made available to the general  investing public. The new bonds, which are fully secured by the company's proven and recoverable yogurt reserves, are already proving a tasty hit with Costa  Rica's North American investment community, according to TOBEM spokesperson Elmer Gantry.


Our first entry


Gantry, who bares an uncanny resemblance to the late actor Burt Lancaster, said the biggest problem TOBEM faced was accommodating all of the investors in Costa Rica who wanted to purchase the bonds. "We didn't tell anyone except a few people at the Blue Marlin about this opportunity, and we are already overwhelmed with cash," Gantry smiled. "To make sure everything is handled as we would like it to be, we have brought in the well-known team of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom of New York. They have great experience doing exactly what we want to do with our investors."

Until today's announcement, rumors had been circulating for weeks in the tightly knit and dolorous North American community that Romanian-based TOBEM had discovered a rich 
deposit of yogurt in a remote and isolated part of
Costa Rica. "Yes, it's true," Gantry grinned, "and 

that is why we are raising the money so that we can start the mining in earnest of what appears to be a world-class yogurt discovery. We anticipate that our yogurt mine will be a major exporting concern here in Costa Rica."

When questioned by a reporter Gantry declined to confirm a rumor that TOBEM was engaged in negotiations with Dannon and TGBY to buy it's total annual production. "Let the folks at Key Largo speculate all they want," Gantry grinned, "all I'll say is we buy low and sell high."

"It's a win-win situation for the investors," Gantry observed about the bonds "they will not only get the standard 36 per cent per year interest, but also a free gallon every year of 'fresh from the mine' yogurt for every minimum $10,000 they give us," Gantry added with a sly smile. 

In a separate statement released from TOBEM's world headquarters in Transylvania, the company said that it was "pleased to announce" that it had "recently  partnered with a well-known businessman who had over 25 years of experience in Costa Rica to supervise all of our finances." 

The statement concluded, "At the present time, for reasons of confidentiality and security, we are not at liberty to reveal that person’s name. But, rest assured, that people  from all over the world want to talk to him about his business experiences in Costa Rica." 

* We'll even accept assumed names in this contest!

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