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These stories were published Monday, July 29, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 148
Jo Stuart
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Faithful get holy water from basilica spring (left), and some like Fiorella (above) put water in a special container resembling Virgin.
Cartago is becoming center of the country
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Under a heavy, cloudy sky about a thousand pilgrims trudged their way to Cartago Sunday, the first wave of an expected 1.2 million who will flood Costa Rica’s first capital Friday.

Their goal is the center aisle of the basilica in Cartago where the image of the Black Virgin, La Negrita, dominates all.

The church was packed for Sunday morning Mass while crowds milled outside in a festive atmosphere. The band was practicing in its elaborate open-air building while hundreds of faithful lined up to get quantities of holy water from the spring located on the basilica grounds.

A light rain fell.

Friday, which will be the Día de la Virgen de Los Angeles, turns the town into the religious, political and media center of the country.  The city was the first capital, but lost out to San José in the 1840s when the Republic of Costa Rica was proclaimed.

The Black Virgin is a statue found by a girl in 1635. The statue demonstrated magical powers by always returning to the spot where it was found and where today the basilica stands.

The pilgrims seek the intervention with God by the Virgin Mary, who in Christian theology is the mother of Jesus. Or they seek to complete a promise after receiving a favor. The last 50 yards of the pilgrimage is accomplished on the knees. A sign over the center door of the basilica says in Spanish: "Enter on knees." those who are less devout can enter standing up  through the side doors.

When Mass is not in progress, the center aisle is packed with pilgrims moving forward on their knees. They are young and old. There does not seem to be a pattern. However, many of the pilgrims Sunday walking the highway to Cartago seems to be foreigners who had limited time in the country to make the pilgrimage.

Elsewhere in Costa Rica and Central America, pilgrims are even now starting to walk with the hopes that their timing brings them to Cartago for ceremonies Friday morning. Bus companies are mustering their forces to provide transport home from the city for the pilgrims.

European tourists photograph basilica

More than 25,000 policemen are assigned to protect the pilgrims, who quickly become a flood as they surge through the main roads. One route takes the pilgrims right through the center of San José and the Avenida Principal pedestrian boulevard. Then pilgrims are off through San Pedro and Curridabat to the long steep grades that climb to Cartago. Their only break is a long downhill into the city.

Security is a problem because the great mass of people represent multiple targets for thieves or worse. Police already have issued warnings for walkers to avoid transportation home from seemingly helpful strangers. Many young people walk night and day without adult supervision, and they can face multiple dangers.

Tents already are set up on the basilica grounds to provide shade for the legions of pilgrims, called "romeros" in Spanish from the word for pilgrimage, "romería."

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Projects will browse the world's e-mail, Internet
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. intelligence community is supporting research by the National Science Foundation into methods of extracting hidden patterns buried in enormous sets of data such as television broadcasts and Web pages, research that has gained increased attention following last September's terrorist attacks.

According to a press release, science foundation research in this area is being supplemented by as much as $8 million from the U.S. Intelligence Technology Innovation Center, which comes under the administrative control of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Cary Strong, coordinator of national security, said information scientists are trying to "mine" the world's enormous amounts of data, from Web pages to online chat rooms to television broadcasts in all languages, to detect underlying patterns and trends and to flag changes in established patterns. It is believed that terrorist organizations use Web pages and broadcasts to send encrypted or 

scrambled messages to their members about future terrorist attacks.

Strong said the task of detecting underlying patterns is made more difficult by the "streaming" nature of databases. For example, television news broadcasts are constantly in flux.

Among the projects funded under the initiative:

• SRI International will investigate how to enable machines to recognize individuals by the way they talk, a sophisticated capability well beyond existing voice-recognition algorithms.

• Researchers at Columbia University will develop a system to track patterns in a variety of data types, such as news programs, online chat rooms, e-mail and voice mail, and automatically generate a summary of information on a specific event.

• Scientists at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center hope to devise a method of detecting new or significant developments from a multilingual stream of messages.

Action in D.C. enhances chances for trade treaties
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — George Bush is well on his way to getting the trade negotiating authority he wants. Development last week here significantly improve changes for a Central American free trade agreement as well as the proposed free trade area of the Americas by the year 2005.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation early Saturday that would give Bush expanded authority to negotiate international trade deals and strengthen the hand of U.S. trade negotiators.

The vote of 215-212 came shortly before the House adjourned for its traditional August recess, while Senate leaders said a vote in that chamber could take place early the following week.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, and House Ways and Means Committee 

Chairman Bill Thomas, a Republican, announced 
Thursday that House and Senate negotiators had reached an agreement on the trade legislation.

President Bush then paid a visit to Capitol Hill to rally support for the measure, which includes trade promotion authority, also known as "fast track," for his administration.

The President and his top aides have said repeatedly that they need fast track to engage fully in international trade talks, including ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations, and to dispel any doubts about the seriousness of the U.S. commitment to free trade.

Under fast track, the administration has broad authority to negotiate international trade agreements that Congress can approve or reject, but not amend. The last such grant expired in 1994. Repeated reauthorization efforts have failed due to labor and environmental disputes.

Costa Rica seeking
U.S. investment figure

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Judicial Investigating Organization issued a notice Friday that it is seeking Edwin Lowery, a U.S. citizen who got a prison sentence last week.

Lowery faced a number of fraud charges based on his activities in the early 1980s in Costa Rica when he ran several investment operations. Costa Rican judges sentenced him to an extended prison term Wednesday even though he was not in the courtroom. His lawyer said he was in a private clinic being treated for an illness.

When agents went to perform the arrest, they could not find him, the agency said Friday. Lowery’s wife, who also was a suspect in similar charges already was in flight, according to court employees.

Typically, persons facing criminal charges are listed in the immigration department computers and cannot leave the country via normal routes. The Judicial Investigating Organization also is in charge of executing arrest warrants and escorting prisoners to courts. Lowery is said to be well off with money invested in other countries.

Pope tells youths
scandal saddens him

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

TORONTO, Canada — Pope John Paul II told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Toronto Sunday that the sexual abuse scandals rocking his church caused "a deep sense of sadness and shame." But, the pontiff urged Catholic youth to support the vast majority of priests who do good.

Arriving by helicopter as a downpour of rain ended, Pope John Paul II, leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics, was greeted by a thunderous, singing chorus of "Hallelujah." He then made his way through a crowd of an estimated 800,000 people to a specially prepared stage dominated by an enormous Christian cross.

Looking out over the sea of youth gathered for World Youth Day, the pope spoke in his first speech to the public about the issue of priests sexually abusing their parishioners. The pope said, "If you love Jesus, love the church, do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members, the harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable."

The pope then told the crowd to remember that "the vast majority of priests only wish to serve and do good." Be close to them and support them, he said.

But the acknowledgement of the scandals that have rocked the church occupied only a small part of the pope's third visit to Canada.

For most of his trip, the growing numbers of young people treated him like a star cheering, singing and reaching out to him whenever he passed. 

Toronto's World Youth Day event, dubbed the "Catholic Woodstock," was celebrated by people from nearly 200 countries. While in Toronto, the Pope announced the next World Youth Day would be held in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.

He now leaves Canada for Mexico and Guatemala. This is the Pope's 97th trip since beginning his papacy and, given his fading health and the rigors of Parkinson's disease, most expect this will be his last.

Latin leaders meet
to face grim finances

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — Heads of 10 Latin American governments are meeting here to discuss the region's mounting economic problems, trade and security. The leaders are facing growing public discontent at home over their governments' economic policies.

More bad economic news is overshadowing the two-day summit. With more than 20 percent of its working population out of work, Argentina is experiencing the worst unemployment in its modern history. Brazil's real, the region's leading currency, has plunged to below three to the U.S. dollar. 

Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, speaking to the summit, blames the financial markets for destroying Latin America's economies.

But back home, the blame for the economic problems is being put on national leaders whose popularity ratings are plummeting.

Larry Birns from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs says many impoverished Latin Americans are protesting against their governments' free-market policies, while populist, off-mainstream politicians are gaining favor.

"There is a protest that a tiny economic segment of the population seem to be the beneficiaries of free trade," he said. "Almost half the population of the region remains below the poverty line, which all but guarantees the availability of cheap labor, which means that you can get export markets abroad. All of that is now boomeranging and you're getting a reaction where traditional politicians are being jeered and people who are coming forth with a different kind of message are being cheered."

Public disapproval is showing at the election polls and creating worrisome political instability. In a recent election in Bolivia, a coca farmer who opposes U.S.-backed coca eradication, forced a run-off vote in Congress. Evo Morales is expected to lose, but Michael Shifter from the think-tank Inter-American Dialogue says his popularity might indicate a regional trend. 

"I think what we see now is just tremendous uncertainty and a kind of breaking apart of the political fabric of many countries and that is very troubling because I think it provides grounds for the emergence of different kinds of experiments, political experiments," he said. 

Bolivian candidate
wins key backing

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bolivia's former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada has sealed a deal with a political rival giving him enough support to become the country's next leader.

The 72-year-old millionaire businessman reached agreement last week with another former president, leftist Jaime Paz Zamora, to assure enough votes for Sanchez de Lozada when Bolivia's congress meets Saturday to choose a new president.

Sanchez de Lozada, who was president from 1993 to 1997, placed first in balloting on June 30, but did not garner enough votes to win outright victory. Paz Zamora, who ruled Bolivia from 1989 to 1993, placed fourth. The alliance gives the future government a strong enough majority to win congressional approval of programs to help Bolivia's poor.

The deal also effectively kills chances for second-place finisher Evo Morales to win the presidency. Morales is a leader of coca-growing Indians who had campaigned against U.S.-led efforts to wipe out the crop, which is used to manufacture cocaine.

U.S. House gives Bush
homeland security bill

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives has approved (295-132) legislation to combine more than 20 government agencies into a new homeland security department to protect against terrorism. The House gave President Bush most of the wide powers he was seeking, to manage employees of the new cabinet-level department.

Friday's debate in the House and its final vote took place against the backdrop of uncertainty after a veto threat by President Bush.

The day began with the President warning he would reject any bill arriving on his desk from Congress that fails to provide maximum flexibility to manage 170,000 employees of the new department. "I'm not going to accept legislation that limits or weakens the president's well-established authorities, authorities to exempt parts of government from federal-labor management relations statute, when it serves our national interest," he said.

The president's threat was aimed not at the House, but at the Senate's version of the bill. Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman described himself as disappointed and shocked, and said Bush is getting 90 percent of what he originally asked for: "The bottom line is that the new department, as we have designed it, has the tools it needs to attract, maintain and reward top flight talent, to protect our security," he said.

The president and Republican lawmakers deny his plan would undermine workers rights. But the issue dominated debate in the House, as in these comments by Republican Christopher Shays and Democrat Albert Wynn:

Shays: "It would be absolutely unbelievable if we would give the president less power to fight terrorism, when we are dealing with these issues." 

Wynn: "We cannot expect our fellow employees to protect homeland security, if we undermine their employment security."

The House defeated an amendment that would have denied the president power to waive Civil Service protections for national security reasons.

Republicans also resisted Democratic proposals to strengthen protection for "whistle-blowers," people revealing wrongdoing or inefficiency. Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Texas Republican Mac Thornberry debated the issue.

Kucinich: "Congress must be able to receive the insights of security guards, border patrol agents, policemen, military and others who may need to expose security weaknesses to Congress." 

Thornberry: "Whistleblowers are protected in the legislation now!"

The House bill would transfer a number of independent agencies into the new homeland department, including the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Agency, Customs Service and Border Patrol.

It aims to strengthen border security, improve coordination and information sharing with the FBI and CIA, and strengthen defenses against chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

However, lawmakers remain worried the new $38 billion department will be neither successful in helping avert new terrorist attacks nor cost-effective.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is under pressure to approve its own bill before the August recess. But with President Bush sticking to his position, and Senate Republicans predicting a tough fight on the bill next week, prospects remain, for now, somewhat uncertain. 

Police find child
in nearby home

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police located a missing child Friday, and the circumstances are strange.

The mother said the child, Alberto Delgado Jiménez, 2 1/2, was playing ball near the family home when she noticed he was missing.

The home is in the Barrio of Amelilas Tres in Purral de Goicoechea.

A police search combed the area, and searchers located the child in the home of a couple, a man with the surname of Centeno Palma, 42 years of age, and a woman with the surname of Sevilla Palma, 30 years, a police statement said.

The reason for the child being there was unclear, and police took the child to a hospital for an examination. The two persons were not detained, but the investigation continues, police said.

Bus kills man

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man died Friday night when he was run over by a bus at Avenida 4 and Calle 10 in San José. The bus, on its way to Terjarcillos de Alajuelita, struck a man police identified as Juan Carlos Villalobos López.
Professional Directory

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United States Dentist in Costa Rica: Dr. Peter S Aborn, Prosthodontics and general dentistry private practice. 25 years in New York City. 5 years in Costa Rica. Professor and director of postgraduate prosthodontics Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Former chief of prosthodontics Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. Education: N.Y.U College of Dentistry; Westchester County Medical Center; Eastman Dental Center; University of Rochester Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry. Location: 300 meters from the U.S. Embassy. Telephone: 232-9225. Cellular 379-2963. E-mail: jopetar@amnet.co.cr


American/Costa Rican attorney located in Costa Rica. Specializing in business law, commercial law, real estate sales, immigration law. Lic. Gregory Kearney Lawson. KEARNEY LAWSON & Asoc. Tel/Fax: (506) 221-9462 gkearney_lawson@hotmail.com

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