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(506) 223-1327        Published Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 156       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Red flags
held high

Jorge Gutiérrez, a geology student at the Universidad de Costa Rica, holds a sign asking for a halt to the massacre against Lebanon and the Palestine people.

University students rally against Israel, U.S.
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Students mainly from the Universidad de Costa Rica demonstrated in the middle of Paseo Colón Monday afternoon at the building containing the Embassy of Israel.

They were clearly opposed to what they said was the brutal aggression of the Zionists, meaning the Israelis, according to a flier handed out by the Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores.

Students waved red flags as they demonstrated against the "criminal attacks
against the Palestine and Lebanese peoples."

The students demanded the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and Palestine, that Latin governments recall their ambassadors from Israel, the release of any Palestinians or Lebanese held by Israel, the rejection of the "Zionist apartheid wall" in Gaza and the recognition of the Palestine state in all the land of the historical Palestine.

Police blocked the main entrance of Edificio Colón where the Embassy of Israel is located and there were no obvious problems.

Facing indictment, man with cash heads south
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

As Russell G. MacArthur, Jr. sits in a jail cell awaiting extradition proceedings, he must be having nightmares: He came to Costa Rica in flight from the United States with $2 million but he found he could not spend or invest the bulk of the money.

Law officers arrested him at a posh Los Sueños condo July 14. He had $2 million in cash in his possession. Banks refused to take his deposits because he could not give a good account of the money. MacArthur is a fugitive from Florida where federal prosecutors say he helped engineer a scam that preyed on retirees, the elderly and those seeking a semi-passive investment.

MacArthur and American Entertainment Distributors, Inc., sold devices that were supposed to sell movie videos and audio tapes the same way a candy machine sells a Snickers.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency, got civil restraining orders against MacArthur and others Feb. 22, 2005. But the big hammer fell last August when a federal judge in Florida unsealed an indictment that hit him and seven other individuals with fraud-related charges in connection the activities of his companies from November 2003 through September 2004.

Federal officials identified him as a founder of
the firm and charged him with one count of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of criminal contempt.

MacArthur did what a lot of North Americans do after being indicted: He fled and ended up in Costa Rica.

A co-defendant has since pleaded guilty, according to a federal report and got two years and nine months in prison. A judge also ordered the man to pay $296,700 in restitution.

MacArthur has another distinction. He ended up as the reluctant star of an NBC Dateline report. Consumer correspondent Lea Thompson interviewed unhappy customers who said that the machines provided by MacArthur's firm did not work correctly or not at all.

The Federal Trade Commission said that the defendants charged consumers $28,000 to $37,500 for one machine and allegedly told consumers that they could expect to earn between $60,000 and $80,000 a year or to recoup their initial investment in six to 14 months.

The court-ordered receiver has calculated that in less than one year consumers invested nearly $20 million in this program, said the agency on Feb. 22, 2005.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 156

Costa Rica Expertise
Costa Rica Expertise Ltd E-mail Tel:506-256-8585 Fax:506-256-7575

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Proposed new taxes
still are not firm

By the A.M. Costas Rica staff

The government continues to give contradictory signals about a proposed tax plan.

The proposal is not yet public but administration officials are floating balloons to see the public reaction, and they also are meeting with lawmakers.

Two proposals might be problems for expats. The government says it plans to levy a $200 tax on corporations in addition to a small tax each corporation has to pay every year.

Properties, automobiles and even cellular telephones are held in corporations here. Forming a corporation is about the only way an expat who does not have residency can get a cellular telephone.

Consequently, there are many thousands of corporations with assets valued much lower than the $200 proposed as a tax.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the president's brother, also continues to suggest a tax on homes with higher value. The orginal proposal was to assess a small tax on homes valued at more than 75 million colons or about $145,000. The income generated by the tax would be used to clear slums.

Quickly this idea ran into trouble. Will the tax be on commercial properties as well as homes? How about rental homes? How about a farm home worth millions because of the surrounding land? How about common areas in condo projects.

These questions will not be answered firmly until the final draft of the proposal is passed by the legislature, if then.

One important aspect of this housing tax is a requirement that the true value be reported. In addition to imposing the tax burden fairly, corrrect reporting of property values will help create a data base for appraisals in the country, something that is now lacking.

Another concern by some lawmakers is would a special tax only on upscale homes be constitutional. And would the final draft make allowances for the ever-decreasing value of the colon?

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


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A typical edition will consist of a front page and three other newspages. Sometimes there will be four additional newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Lilliana Torres, attorney at law

We handle immigration services and residency procedures as required by the government for foreigners who wish to live in Costa Rica. For 16 years we've provided competitive, dependable, professional services with integrity, loyalty and honesty. Thousands of satisfied foreign clients have obtained their Costa Rican residency through us.



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Are you considering investing or doing business in Costa Rica?
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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 156

Rotarians bring special wheelchairs to those in need
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Some 36 severely handicapped youngsters now have special wheelchairs thanks to local and U.S. Rotary Club members and a medical equipment manufacturer.

The chairs are for those youngsters who are so handicapped that off-the-shelf wheelchairs would not do. Each chair had to be custom assembled to address the child's physical limitations and then adjusted and readjusted to fit perfectly.

The assembly began July 31, a legal holiday here at the Escuela de Enseñazas Especiales Alajuela Marta Saboria Fonseca. Work continued through Tuesday. The average chair took about one and a half hours to complete.  One took over three hours.

Ron Gillette, who owns and operates a medical equipment manufacturing facility in Pensacola, Florida, supervised several Rotarians from Florida and Alajuela and Costa Rican Junior Rotarians who are college students in the custom building and adjusting processes. 

Prior to the children being fitted to a chair, the parents and caretakers were interviewed by a team lead by Elena Gómez Hernández,  the director of the school; two local Rotarians, Eugenia Echeverría and María Marta González; and Maida Farnell Wimberly, a physician who owns and operates a medical clinic in Las Pilas San Isidro, Alajuela. 

A clown entertained the children waiting for their chairs by making balloon animals and distributing stuffed toys.

More than three years ago, the Rev. Carl Dickerson, pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Pensacola, and Gary Cavasos, a retired U.S. Army colonel, traveled to Costa Rica as part of their church mission.  While here, they met with members of the Alajuela Rotary Club who were seeking partners for a community project to furnish wheelchairs to children who required them.   During their trip home, Cavasos and Dickerson decided that the wheelchair project was indeed worthwhile.

What started as a program to raise funds for the wheelchair project in Alajuela through the efforts of the Pensacola Rotary Club has blossomed into a much larger fund-raising project involving four Florida Rotary Clubs, the regional Rotary Club governor and Rotary Clubs International.

Keilor Rodríguez Lepiz enjoys his new custom-designed wheelchair.  Behind him his parents, Yolanda Lepiz Mejias and Carlos Rodríguez Monge, watch Rotarians
make the final adjustments on the chair.

The scope of the effort has expanded to include funds to furnish textbooks and library books for elementary schools in Costa Rica.  Texts are scare in Costa Rica. Sometimes there is only one textbook available to each classroom for each subject being taught.  Students in 71 schools will benefit from this commitment.

Over the past three years, several shipments of wheelchairs and books have arrived at the Port of Limón for distribution to the children of Costa Rica. 
The latest shipment was a container comprised of library books for 10 schools and the special wheelchairs and their parts. The shipping cost was $24,000 and the value of the contents exceeded $100,000.

“I cannot describe the impact it has made on my life to make these friendships and to work together on these projects," said Dickerson. "I cannot find words to capture the depth of this experience.”

“For the past two years, we’ve sent containers to Costa Rica,"said Cavasos.  "But now for the Lake Placid, Florida, Rotarians to not only support this project but to actually come to Costa Rica to present the wheelchairs and books is phenomenal.  This is much bigger than one person could have imagined and will continue to grow with every person touched.”

Second-term Uribe still faces challenge from guerrillas
By the A.M. Costas Rica wire services

Alvaro Uribe has taken office for a second four-year term as president of Colombia. He was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote in May, is a close ally of the United States, and has successfully cracked down on violence and crime in Colombia.

But he faces continued challenges in fighting drug traffickers and a guerrilla insurgency that has raged for more than four decades.

Security was tight for Monday's ceremony, with thousands of troops patrolling the capital. Among those who attended was Óscar Arias Sánchez, president of Costa Rica.

During Uribe's first inauguration in 2002, rebel mortar attacks killed 21 people in Bogotá. Last week, rebels staged a series of deadly attacks against security personnel.

Uribe, whose father was killed by rebels, has focused his efforts on fighting the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

He says he is not afraid to negotiate peace. "What worries me more," he said, "is falling short of that
goal and instead seeing our gains in security eroded."

Bruce Bagley, chairman of the department of international studies at the University of Miami, says that, although 30,000 paramilitary fighters were demobilized during Uribe's first term, the president has had limited success against the leftist rebels.

"His goal with regards to the guerrillas is to defeat them sufficiently to force them to negotiate at the table," he said. "Whether that is possible or not, very much remains to be seen, but his first four years did not indicate that he had made a great deal of headway towards that."

He also says there is concern that ex-paramilitary fighters have resumed drug or other criminal activities.

Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine, despite billions of dollars from the United States under the anti-narcotics Plan Colombia.

The United Nations says there are an estimated 2.5 million internally displaced people in Colombia. The U.N. refugee agency warns that some small ethnic groups could face extinction as their members flee their ancestral homes to escape the violence.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 156

Nigeria takes steps to reign in its cyberscammers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nigeria's anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, has warned Internet service providers that they risk 20 years imprisonment if they aid online scams.

The newly introduced Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Fraud Offenses Act of 2006 stipulates that anyone who provides Internet service in Nigeria will be held directly liable for any online fraud that involves the use of their systems or network.

Banks, telecommunications companies, Internet service providers, cyber cafe operators, property owners and transporters have been warned about lapses that could lead to Internet corruption.

The law also provides for a 20-year jail term and the revocation of license for offenders. In addition, all Internet service providers, including cyber cafes, are required to register with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Corporate Affairs Commission, and the Nigerian Communications Commission.

Osita Nwajah, spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said  regulating the Internet space in Nigeria is a move to instill some control and discipline over use of the Internet in Nigeria.

"We expect that the same principle of know-your- customer, which we are applying in the banking industry will also be applied in that very important industry, which has given Nigeria a very, very bad image abroad," said Nwajah. "So, people should know who is operating what and where because what we have anybody from any corner, from anywhere can just bring one or two computers and then they are hooked on to some service provider who is not known to the country. The person is operating from outside 
the shores of Nigeria and they begin to use their systems to do funny, funny things. Now we want to regulate all of that."

The Nigerian government established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to fight financial crimes, some of which are perpetrated online by Nigerians who dupe foreigners by proposing attractive fake business deals running into millions.

In some cases, the fraudsters steal personal details and then use such information to steal money from their victim's bank account.

Internet-based fraud schemes are also known as 419 scams in Nigeria, named after the relevant section of the country's criminal code. Nwajah says the incidence of Internet scams has declined as a result of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's relentless clamp down.

"One of the things that has happened in the last three years that EFCC has been cracking down on 419ers, is that they have actually moved, physically moved out of the Nigerian space, some of the big-time ones," he said. "The other ones we have reigned in and we have convicted. Most of the convictions we have are 419 cases.

When the middle level cadre [if you allow me to use that description], saw that their top guns were already decimated, they moved out," continued Nwajah. "So you find them operating from the West Africa sub region and other countries."

The commission has arrested more than 200 e-mail fraudsters in the past three years. But analysts say the agency has a huge task ahead in eliminating fraudulent activities on the Internet. Economic conditions remain very difficult and with the prospect of a job for most Nigerian youths diminishing, a growing number are turning to cyber crimes.

Bush says future form of government is up to the Cuban people
By the A.M. Costa Rca wire services

President George Bush says Cuba's future form of government is a matter that should be decided by the Cuban people. Bush made the comments one week after an ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro temporarily handed executive authority to his brother.

President Bush said he has no insight into Fidel Castro's health, beyond what has been reported and speculated. Speaking with reporters at a news conference from his Crawford, Texas, ranch, Bush said the Cuban people should decide their island's future.

"Our desire is for the Cuban people to be able to choose their own form of government," said the president. "And we would hope that — and we will make it very clear — that, as Cuba has the possibility of transforming itself from a tyrannical situation to a different kind of society, the Cuban people ought to decide. The people on the island of Cuba ought to decide."

The president was responding to a question about the rights of Cuban exiles, in a post-Castro era, to one day return to the island and reclaim property
confiscated by the Communist regime. Bush acknowledged the exiles' interest in doing so, but suggested now is not the time to discuss the subject.

"Once the people of Cuba decide the form of government, then Cuban-Americans can take an interest in that country, and redress the issues of property confiscation," said Bush. "But first things first, and that is the Cuban people need to decide the future of their country."

Cuban officials say President Castro, who turns 80 next week, underwent surgery to stem gastrointestinal bleeding. They say he is already regaining strength, is able to sit up in bed, and that doctors believe he will be able to return to work in several weeks. There has been no independent confirmation of the assertions.

In the interim, Fidel's 75 year-old brother, Raul, has been serving as acting president.

Meanwhile, reports of an ailing Fidel Castro have energized Cuban exiles in Florida and elsewhere, many of whom have expressed a desire to one day return to the island. Cuban officials have reacted with anger to the exiles' jubilation, branding them terrorists.

López Obrador continues to push for a complete recount in México
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Defeated Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he will continue his fight for a full recount of votes cast in the July 2 election.

Speaking to tens of thousands of supporters in the Mexican capital, López Obrador called for a new demonstration Monday, outside the top electoral court that has rejected a full recount. Instead, the court judges ordered recounts at nearly 12,000
polling places, representing about 9 percent of voting sites across the country.

The move was applauded by supporters of Felipe Calderón, who won the election by little more than half a percent of the votes cast.

For the past week, supporters of López Obrador have camped on a main thoroughfare in Mexico City, paralyzing traffic. The nation's top electoral court has until Sept. 6 to rule on the challenges.

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