A.M. Costa Rica

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These stories were published Monday, Aug. 9, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 156
Jo Stuart
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RACSA adopts new anti-spam rules and filters
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., known as RACSA, says it is putting new e-mail filters on its servers to eliminate 50 percent of unwanted e-mail. The Internet monopoly’s announcement comes at a time when e-mail users are experiencing massive losses of messages.

Of the 1.5 million e-mails that pass through the RACSA system each day, about 70 percent are unwanted by the recipient, said the company, attributing that information to Henry Fuentes, director of networks and systems for RACSA.

No system in the world is 100 per cent efficient, said the Internet service provider, suggesting that users keep their Internet address secret. The company also warned about opening attachments to e-mail messages or downloading suspect software, cautions that have been publicized for months.

The company said that new regulations regarding unwanted bulk messages, termed Spam, have been published in La Gaceta, the official newspaper. With these rules, RACSA said it hopes to control all of the spam messages generated in the country which will allow Costa Rica to get off international blacklists.

The new regulations say it is prohibited to send unsolicited messages and that messages should carry the e-mail address of the sender. A sender of bulk messages also is obligated to maintain a registry of persons who have sought their messages and that recipients should have the option of getting off the mailing list.

RACSA said it would send just one warning and then block the e-mail address of offenders. It also set up an e-mail account for complaints:

The company claimed that e-mail abuse from Costa Rica is much less than in other countries.

RACSA also said that a virus was active on the Internet that gives the impression that the sender is RACSA. The message is the same one 

Blame it on Monty Python

Ever wonder where the word spam comes from regarding unwanted bulk e-mail messages? Here is the definitive report from Hormel Foods Corp, maker of the meat product SPAM:

Use of the term spam was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "spam, spam, spam . . . " in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE [unwanted commercial e-mails] was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet. 

We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word "spam" as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters. 

that has been using the amcostarica.com domain for months. 

The message said in English:

Dear user of racsa.co.cr, 

 Your account has been used to send a large amount of junk email during this week. Obviously, your computer was infected and now runs a trojan proxy server.  Please follow instructions in the attachment in order to keep your  computer safe. 

 Best regards, 
 racsa.co.cr user support team. 
The accompanying attachment is yet another copy of the virus ready to infect the recipient’s computer.

Filters are hit-and-miss situation now, A.M. Costa Rica finds
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Current filters used by Radiogáfica Costarricense S.A. have been delaying and eliminating many legitimate e-mail messages to its customers.

That is the gist of messages to A.M. Costa Rica and the newspaper’s own experiences.

Others complained about slow connections and other problems with the service.

Last week RACSA announced that it was joining with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, ICE, to promote high-speed Internet connections. The announcement deflated hopes that ICE would compete vigorously with RACSA for Internet customers.

Nine months ago A.M. Costa Rica published a list of words which, if used in the subject line of an e-mail message, would cause the RACSA servers to discard the message. Some of the words were snow, jok, ad and viagra. The poison pill nature of the word ad explains why countless numbers of classified ads sent to A.M. Costa Rica never arrive. RACSA never informs senders when their messages have been discarded.

RACSA also seems to be filtering indiscriminately against attachments. 

Attachments frequently carry e-mail viruses, but they also are a legitimate vehicle for large blocks of text and photographs.

Some readers who contacted A.M. Costa Rica over the weekend were upset because it only seems that spam messages get through the RACSA filters.

A number of RACSA customers in Costa Rica complained that they have not been receiving their daily news digest from this newspaper. Clearly RACSA is discarding certain series of e-mail messages that come in bulk. The A.M. Costa Rica server is in the United States and the digest only is sent to those who request it.

In one case involving a Costa Rican government agency, RACSA embargoed the message Thursday afternoon because it contained an attachment. The message was not delivered until early Friday morning.

The RACSA filters notwithstanding, A.M. Costa Rica received more than 500 spam messages Sunday, a typical amount.

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Central Valley may see
transport strike today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transportation workers are trying to organize a bus and taxi strike for today in the San José area. 

The reason is to protest diminished income and rising costs. No formal announcement has been made, but news of the strike is spreading by word of mouth.

Meanwhile public employees are trying to organize a general work stoppage for later in the week to protest a 4.5 percent wage hike given them by a presidential decree. They want more money, and the 4.5 percent increase actually represents a pay cut due to the devaluation of the colon.

President Abel Pacheco went on television Sunday night and spoke against any general strike. He said that the 4.5 percent pay raise was the most the government could offer public employees and be responsible. The government had offered 3.5 percent and then improved the offer and issued a decree when public employees stopped negotiating. The pay raise is for the last half of the 2004 fiscal year.

Pacheco said employees would not be paid if they strike.

Meanwhile, air traffic controllers were supposed to return to negotiations this afternoon after officials took steps to fire them for holding an illegal strike. Controllers and employees of the Ministerio de Trabajo were optimistic.

Man goes on rampage
and shoots three 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man separated from his wife for three months crashed his motorcycle into the car in which she was a passenger then he went on a shooting spree in a nearby house, wounding three persons. 

The man, identified as Marcial Fallas Arroyo, shot himself fatally but not before he engaged in a gun battle with two police officers.

The shootings took place in Guacimo de Limón about 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Police said that the wife, Hannia Aguilar Calvo, was in a car driven by a man when Fallas crashed into it. She fled to a nearby home seeking help. Seconds later Fallas burst into the home and fired on the occupants there. Wounded were Jorge Enrique Vega Palma, 52; his wife, Magdalena Cascante Román, 50; and Carlos Enrique Vega Cascante, 32, their son. They are hospitalized.

Ms. Aguilar escaped.

Police at first thought the situation was a traffic accident because the motorcycle was under the front left wheel of the car.  The two police officers, Alejo Zamora and Guiselle Ramírez, eventually followed Fallas into another nearby home where he fired on them

Victim was Pa. lawyer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who died saving his children in the surf of Jacó Thursday morning has been more fully identified as Anthony Peter Leech, 44, a suburban Pittsburgh, Pa., lawyer.

Leech of Fox Chapel, Pa., was here with his wife and three children as tourists. With the help of a passerby, he managed to rescue children Patrick, 10, and Jack 11, from a dangerous rip tide but then became a victim himself.

He was the managing partner of a Pittsburgh law firm.

Quake hits near San Vito

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake hit southern Costa Rica about 10:51 Sunday morning but did no damage. The epicenter was north and east of San Vito de Cota Brus.

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You won't get in trouble if you let the water run
Agua que no has de beber dejala corer.

Water that you don’t drink should be left to run.

This is a very powerful and meaningful expression. It admonishes us not to withhold from others something that we ourselves do not want. 

This refrain can be understood on many levels. For those of us who live in the Midwestern part of the United States — or any place in the world where cattle are raised, for that matter — it clearly makes reference to water rights. We have to share the water with other farmers to be sure everyone’s cattle get enough water on hot, dry summer days. Problems arise when one farmer builds a dam across a stream that flows through several farms keeping all the water for himself, even though he doesn’t need it.

Costa Ricans might employ this expression when a person is not serious with his or her girlfriend or boyfriend. It is better to let a partner know your true feelings so they can look for someone who might be more serious about a relationship. You may have gotten the idea that a lot of Costa Rican sayings have to do with relationships. Well it’s true, they do. This is perhaps because most of these dichos have been handed down for many generations. It’s a way of transmitting to us the wisdom of our ancestors about how best to make one’s way in life. It’s a gentle way of teaching us how to behave toward one another.

Agua que no has de beber dejala corer also refers to things that are not our business. If you’re not ready to take on the responsibility of other 
people’s affairs, then let it be and do not get 

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

involved. This way you avoid big problems while at the same time maintaining friendships. There are also those people who like to hechar carbon or throw more wood on the fire when others are having an argument or dispute. But today’s expression teaches us that if it is not our fight then we should keep out of it. 

Like most folk expressions, today’s can be interpreted in many different ways. You can also just murmur dejala corer to yourself under your breath when something comes up that you don’t want to get involved in. It’s sort of like saying "Let it pass." But the most important meaning of this saying is that if you don’t want something, then let others have it. 

Daniel Soto divides his time between Indiana and  Costa Rica, where he owns a home in Santo Domingo de Heredia.

Zoellick rallies allies to win OK for trade pact
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The addition of the Dominican Republic to the countries covered by the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement demonstrates that the importance of the trade pact "extends even beyond Central America," according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

As expected, the Dominican Republic joined the five Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as signatories to the pact with the United States in an signing ceremony Thursday.

In remarks at the signing ceremony, Zoellick hailed the benefits of "successive waves of economic cooperation and trade liberalization" that have helped spur development and democratization in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. support for establishing the trade zone is part of that tradition, he observed.

"President Bush set us on the course by calling for a free-trade agreement between the United States and Central America, declaring that free markets, development, opportunity, and hope are the best weapons against poverty, disease, and tyranny," Zoellick said.

Moreover, "the addition of the Dominican Republic, the largest economy in the Caribbean, to this free-trade agreement will add to its constructive power and promise for all our peoples," he predicted. Also, "this agreement will bring economic gains to the United States, for the Dominican Republic and the other nations of CAFTA represent very big markets" for U.S. exports, he noted.

Zoellick stressed that the Dominican Republic's inclusion within the trade pact is likely to have a significant impact. "With today's addition of the 

Dominican Republic, CAFTA will become the second-largest U.S. export market in Latin America, behind only Mexico — buying more than $15 billion in U.S. exports," he said. "That exceeds U.S. exports to Russia, India, and Indonesia combined. The two-way trade amounts to some $32 billion" annually.

He warned, however, that some obstacles remain before the pact can take effect. For "even as we celebrate this accomplishment and thank those who made it possible, today is just the beginning of our next challenge together," Zoellick said. "In Washington, Santo Domingo, and the capitals of our other CAFTA partners, we must now turn our attention to winning approval of the agreement from our respective legislatures."

Rejecting the arguments of those who seek to limit free markets, he added: "Opponents of free trade offer a false choice. The way to improve labor and environmental standards is through open trade, leading to more work and greater prosperity. I have traveled around the world too many times to keep count. Wherever I go, one fact remains the same: free and democratic peoples in open-trading, prosperous societies choose higher standards for themselves. Dominicans are already doing the same."

In conclusion, Zoellick offered a strong endorsement of the trade agreement’s potential to stimulate regional commerce and to boost prosperity. 

"Today, the Dominican Republic joins five other nations that have already signed a free-trade agreement with their neighbor to the north," he said. "Together, we will reduce poverty and create opportunity and hope. We will bind our nations more closely together, traveling together as friends and partners on the economic path that leads to better lives for all our peoples."

El Salvador will not be intimidated by posting on Web site
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — President Antonio Saca says his country will not be deterred from sending additional troops to Iraq by a threat posted on a Web site. 

Saca told reporters that El Salvador has "a commitment to fight international terrorism and help rebuild the nation of Iraq." He said a promised contingent of Salvadoran troops will deploy in mid-August. 

The Web site warning posted this week by a group calling itself the Mohammed Atta Brigades promised reprisals within El Salvador if the Central American nation does not cancel its 380-member troop commitment. 

Saca's predecessor, Francisco Flores, committed 360 troops to Iraq last year. Those troops were relieved by a 380-member contingent in February. Saca renewed his country's commitment to help the U.S. efforts in Iraq in a July meeting with President George Bush.

Ex-Peace Corps volunteers gather in Chicago to renew commitment
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CHICAGO, Ill. — Close to 1,000 former Peace Corps volunteers from around the United States gathered in Chicago for a weekend conference in which they are renewing their commitment to development in countries where they served. 

Among the former volunteers who are here for this 25th annual conference of the National Peace Corps Association are educators, social workers and health care providers. But the gathering also includes the governor of Ohio, Robert Taft, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania from 1963 to 1965, and governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, who, along with his wife, Jessica, served in Tunisia, from 1967 to

 1969. Other participants include corporate executives, judges, lawyers, agricultural specialists and small business owners.

The president of the National Peace Corps Association, Kevin Quigley, said the experience these people had in their country of service forever changed them and their attitude:

"The National Peace Corps Association is the organization for people whose lives have been influenced by the Peace Corps experience. That is roughly 200,000 people who served in 135 countries around the world and as a consequence of living there as friends and neighbors and colleagues, they see the world differently," he said.

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Will Smith as Detective Spooner walks among a bunch of suspects.
© 2004 20th Century Fox
Where is Isaac Asimov when we really need him?
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A great irony of western civilization is that Isaac Asimov has no books listed under the librarians’ Dewey decimal system for philosophy.

Yet Asimov was a philosopher who studied the great mysteries of life in his 500 or so books. They were disguised as short stories and novels, but who can overlook the great questions posed by Asimov:

Who am I? Why am I here? What is life? What is ethical?

Asimov had roots in the flowering of science fiction in the 1930s. He spent a term as a junior chemist during World War II with coworkers L. Sprague de Camp and Lester Del Rey, both heroes of the genre.

The influences of Asimov can be seen today in Robin Williams "Bicentennial Man" and even Data, the robotic officer with the positronic brain on "Star Trek." 

But what was cutting edge in 1939 is not so today. The movie "I, Robot," is a great shoot ‘em up but nothing new in science fiction. Will Smith as Chicago detective Del Spooner suspects that the suicide of an acquaintance was the result of a robot or robots violating their three basic rules.

The rules are right out of Asimov, although the movie script  attributed them to the fictional Dr. Alfred Lanning (played by James Cromwell), the dead man. Lanning also happens to be the brains behind U.S. Robotics, the company that makes legions of helpful home robots.

The idea of robots running amok is nothing new. Remember Hal 9000, the command robot in the 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey?" Less well known now is the 1920 Czech play "R.U.R. Rossum's Universal Robots" in which Karel Capek coined the term robot. The play was revived in the 1950s for early television drama.

Then, too, were the army of robots facing Gen. Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars Episode 1 "The Phantom Menace."

Detective Spooner in his 2034 city confronts a 

cybercriminal in this 20th Century Fox release. Director Alex Proyas makes full use of available special effects. But Asimov probably would be disappointed.

The original book "I, Robot, was a series of short stories involving U.S. Robotics creations. Harlan Ellison adapted an "I, Robot" screen play in association with Asimov in 1978, but Hollywood was not buying.

The version running today is modern by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman and fairly forgettable.

The three laws of robotics, first promulgated in the March 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, are:

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The laws lend themselves to philosophical conflicts.

An interesting robotic character in "I, Robot" is Sonny (voice by Alan Tudyk), a freethinker not bound by the three laws. Hence interesting action. Bridget Moynahan plays Susan Calvin, a human who is a psychiatrist for robots and a costar with Smith.

Asimov, a Ph.D. in chemistry, did not live to see the day when his automobile would be controlled by a microchip. But he surely saw such a day coming with all the philosophical implications.

Today the world is far more complex with innovations challenging human philosophy. It’s too bad Asimov is not around to provide direction for 50 more years. 

The movie was viewed Saturday at Cinemark in Multiplaza.

-Jay Brodell

Thoreau's legacy reaches its 150th anniversary
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

An American classic celebrating the joys of nature, solitude and simplicity was published 150 years ago on Aug. 9, 1854. In "Walden," Henry David Thoreau recounts the two years, two months and two days he spent living alone in the woods of what was then rural Massachusetts, in the American northeast. 

The book has been translated into many languages and is now available in an anniversary edition, illustrated by photographer Scot Miller. It was published by Houghton Mifflin in collaboration 
with the Walden Woods Project, a non-profit group that works to protect the landscape described in Thoreau's famous work.

In 1845 Henry David Thoreau moved into a one room cabin he'd built for himself in the woods, along the shore of Walden Pond. The cabin was just a 30-minute walk from his mother's home in Concord Center, Mass. But the young essayist wanted to live a life far removed from the comforts and 

Henry David Thoreau
. . . in 1861 at age 44
conveniences of his past, a life stripped to the bare essentials. 

"He said he went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately, says Kathi Anderson, the executive director of the Walden Woods Project. "He wanted to spend time face-to-face with the natural world, and, quote, see if he could not learn what it had to teach. And it was really a period of rediscovery for him, an epiphany of sorts, a spiritual connection with the natural world that he found by the solitude."

Henry David Thoreau published an account of his stay at Walden Pond in 1854. The book has not gone out of print since his death in 1862, and some 600,000 people visit Walden Woods each year. Among those pilgrims is Scot Miller, a landscape photographer who's spent several years taking pictures there. 

"What I decided to do was to engulf myself in the Walden Woods of the turn of the 21st century, and like Thoreau did 150 years ago, just observe and take photographs. I would say if there's any lesson from Thoreau, it's slow down, take a look at things, and appreciate what we have," he says.

The results of Scot Miller's work can be seen in the anniversary edition of Walden. His photographs capture the pond and surrounding woods in a range of colors and moods, from dawn to dusk, in all four seasons. Photographing the area some 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) in all gave him an appreciation for the rigors of Thoreau's life in the woods. "From the standpoint of the seasons, there were definitely challenges. In the summertime it can be very hot and humid and lots of mosquitoes. And then in the wintertime it gets extremely cold at times. There were many mornings I wondered what am I doing out there at 4 o'clock or 5 o'clock in the morning waiting for the sun to come up," he said.

The photos vary dramatically in scope as well from 

panoramic aerial views to close-ups of a log, a leaf, or a flower: "A lot of the photographs are very intimate views of details. There [are] photographs of mushrooms that if you stop and look at them, you see these amazing pieces of art work. We're always in a hurry and we don't stop and notice these things," said Miller.

Kathi Anderson believes the photographs do in pictures what Thoreau did in words. "I think Walden's message is timeless, that humankind really has a need to be one with nature. I think we're learning that more and more now, as increased pressures on our natural world surround us. Every community has its own Walden. Everybody has a place that resonates with them, and we can all do something about saving these places," she says.

That was the hope of recording artist Don Henley, who founded the Walden Woods Project in 1990. The project was able to buy up land poised for commercial development, and it's since managed to obtain other parcels of land in the area. Ms. Anderson says that while Walden Woods is now part of suburban Boston, it's remained remarkably rural. 

"70 percent of Walden Woods is protected, so that now we still have an opportunity to set aside land in its natural state as Thoreau called for in many of his writings, for people to enjoy for recreation and for education. And that's precisely what we're doing with the land. We're bringing teachers and students out into Walden Woods to learn about forest [growth], to learn about the spiritual connection to nature, to learn about all the things Thoreau taught us," she says.

Near the site where Thoreau's cabin stood lies a large pile of stones left in tribute by people from around the world. There are even pieces of the Berlin Wall there. Scot Miller says when he photographed the cabin site, he could imagine what Thoreau must have felt standing in the same spot. "It's easy to stand in the morning, when you hear the birds singing and the sun's coming up and imagine what it must have been like to be there, not only that morning to see that, but he lived there for two years, two months and two days. It is a very special place," said Miller.

The anniversary edition of Walden has an unusual price: $28.12. That's half a cent less than Thoreau spent to build his cabin in the woods. For every copy of the book that's sold, Houghton Mifflin and Scot Miller are making a donation to the Walden Woods Project, in hopes that the words Henry David Thoreau wrote in his book will continue to ring true.

 "Of all the characters I have known, perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity. It has not acquired one permanent wrinkle after all its ripples. It is perennially young, and I may stand and see a swallow dip apparently to pick an insect from its surface as of yore. It struck me again tonight, as if I had not seen it almost daily for more than 20 years. Why here is Walden, the same woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago."

The 150th anniversary of Walden is being celebrated at bookstores around the United States. The seventh and final draft of the book, written in longhand, is currently on display at the Thoreau Institute Library in Lincoln, Mass.

Jo Stuart
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