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These stories were published Friday, Aug. 15, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 161
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Deputies rap ICE for trying to hide free phones 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Officials of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad have given free cellular telephones to members of the board of directors and to nearly 2,000 employees, Movimiento Libertario said Thursday.

The political party estimated that the cost to Costa Ricans each month for the free phones comes to about 12 million colons or nearly $30,000.

In a statement from the Asamblea Nacional, the Libertario deputies said they had to bring an action before the Sala IV constitutional court to get the institute to provide the information. The deputies criticized the telecommunications monopoly known as ICE for not fully complying with the ensuing judicial order.

The lawmakers said that the Consejo Directivo of the institute has 135 cellular lines in its names. That’s 19 cellular lines for each of the seven directors, the political party’s release said. Directors, of course, are suppose to keep an eye on the finances and the operation of the giant monopoly.

The billing for the money of June showed that the type of telephone provided to employees ranged from one where the service and the first 60 minutes of use per month were free to a full service where the institute covered all costs including international calls, said the deputies.

The revelations about the telecommunications monopoly comes on the heels of similar revelations about the water company and the giant social services agency, the Caja. The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantrarillados S.A. has been paying half of its employees water bills, according to a report by La Nación, the Spanish-language daily. And the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social has been deducting only half of each of its employees

mandatory social security costs from monthly paychecks, according to the same newspaper. Ultimately the difference is picked up by other Costa Ricans.

The Libertario deputies said in their release Thursday that ICE did not report the value of the cellular telephones held by their employees as income for purposes of payments to the Caja. Instead, ICE deducted the costs as operational costs.

The Caja provides a multitude of social services, including free medical, to Costa Ricans based on the income it gets from payroll deductions.

Bell Telephone Co. in the United States used to provide free telephone service to executives, but that is a private company owned by stockholders, not a public company like ICE.

ICE workers went out on strike earlier this year to support the institute’s demand for a $60 million international bond issue to pay for certain projects and a $30 million increase in service rates.

In another development Thursday in which a deputy questions public expenditures, Martha Zamora Castillo of the Partido Acción Ciudadana wanted to know about the cost of a newspaper supplement.

She directed a letter to Javier Chavez Bolaños, minister of Obras Públicas y Transporte, and wanted to know the cost and who paid for the supplement carried by La Nación Aug. 10. The supplement was a favorable account of activities of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (CONAVI), the road building agency in Chavez’ ministry. The deputy also wanted to know who sponsored the publication that was distributed with the Sunday newspaper.

If the ministry did not pay for the publication, she said, were promises made to those who did?

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How to think of your bus driver as a poet
I feel very lucky. So much of the rest of the world is sweltering in record-breaking heat, dodging tornadoes or in danger of being swept away in a flash flood, and I wake up to sunny, mild days and blue skies that turn into warm days then cool evenings (sometimes with rain in the afternoon). The climate and the weather in Costa Rica is still very livable. I wonder, how long will this last?

In the distance, on the western horizon, there is a layer of smog. When I moved into this apartment about seven years ago there was no smog. But seven years ago there weren’t so many cars. I used to walk past little houses with garages or carports (every house has one or the other) that had been turned into an extra room or a patio. 

Now, these garages and carports have cars in them — sometimes two, although I can’t figure out how they can fit two cars into some of the spaces they manage to. It makes me wonder how much cars are contributing to the warming of the world and when it will be felt here? I know they are contributing to the noise pollution in Costa Rica. 

In New York, a distraught resident who was threatened by a driver after he made some impolite comments about the driver’s horn honking, decided to take a less aggressive way to relieve his tension. He began writing "honkus." A honku, of course is based on the charming Japanese poetry style, the haiku, but the 17 syllables are devoted to drivers who honk their horns. This disgruntled recipient of noise began pasting them around New York.

Sunday, I was riding the Sabana Cementerio bus which goes across town. There is little traffic in the city on Sundays, but I soon noticed that my driver had honked his horn twice in the matter of two blocks. He honked at each traffic light when the car in front had not jumped ahead as soon as the light changed. 

Instead of letting my annoyance get the best 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@racsa.co.cr

of me, I decided to make up a honku and meanwhile just count the times he honked on the way to our destination. He honked at lights, at pedestrians who had to run for their lives and even at other buses just to wave at the drivers. The man seemed to have one hand permanently pushing his horn while he drove with the other. 

We passengers looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but of course, said nothing. By the time we reached the Sabana area, my driver had honked twelve times and I was wondering if he was going to give me a baker’s dozen. At this corner we hit a traffic jam because a street had been closed. In his frustration, he honked five more times trying to get cars that had no power to do anything, to move. When I got off the bus I realized that my driver/poet had honked his own haiku, and thus saved me the trouble of coming up with one.

Meanwhile it seems I spoke too soon about the improvement in the litter problem in Costa Rica. Two readers informed me that the beach at Jacó is still a littered mess, as is one of the roads from Nicaragua. 

I did, however, hear some good news about water purification. Potters for Peace is sponsoring a program that is both educational and healthy. They are promoting ceramic water filters that remove 99.88 percent of the contamination in water. Local potters can be taught how to make these filters to be used here (and sold to the rest of the world!) You can get more information about this happy invention by going to the Website.

As usual, in life, there is bad news and good news. 

Final day 
of our humor contest
HERE!
A.M. Costa Rica has 
its second birthday
HERE!
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It's 'Happy second birthday to us' today
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

Today marks the second birthday of A.M. Costa Rica.

We were born Aug. 15, 2001, and the news has flowed like a waterfall since.

We were here to tell you of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Costa Rican responses.

We told you about the presidential elections there and here.

We were here to tell you about the collapse of the high-interest investment operations and the continual turmoil.

We have tried to defend the interests of the tourists and expats here.

And we are here each weekday to tell you what happened the day before that we think would help English-speakers with an interest in Costa Rica.

We are easily the most popular English-language news source, particularly for those persons who are computer literate. We had nearly 900,000 hits last month and some 2,000 persons read our newspaper in depth each weekday.

More than 1,400 persons get our daily news digest each day.

Our financial fortunes continue to pick up. Although our game plan was to demonstrate our 
strong readership before asking anyone else to invest money with us, we have a steady stream of 

advertisers despite not having an advertising department. 

We are a little picky about who we let advertise here. We think of our readers first and then the money. 

Sharon Brodell and Saray Ramírez Vindas provide daily, insightful input into the newspaper. But if you have problems, you can talk to me.

We appreciate the people who read our paper. We are not yet producing a well-rounded publication that appeals to every taste, but we will.

Please stick with us for our third birthday. And if we continue to make money, even in these trying financial times, we’ll throw a party.

Lawmaker wanted to link Pacheco with Milanes
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Did Abel Pacheco meet with Louis Milanes in the Hotel Palma Real in San José where there was a great deal of money on the table as a political donation?

That was one of the questions deputies investigating campaign financing wanted to ask Thursday but could not.

Rina Contreras, then-chairwoman of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, came before legislators but would not do more than read a prepared statement. She is the former minister of the Presidencia under President Pacheco. She now is his personal adviser.

The committee is investigating irregularities in campaign financing. This is the first time that the name of Louis Milanes, owner of Savings Unlimited, has been linked officially to Pacheco.

Milanes operated a number of casinos and other businesses as well as the high-interest borrowing operation in Edificio Colón. He closed his office the weekend of Nov. 20 and fled. He is a fugitive now sought by INTERPOL, the international police agency. Many investors had been left in the lurch, and the default is about $240 million.

It was Luis Ramírez of the Partido Liberación Nacional who wanted to raise the question about Milanes. He also wanted to ask questions about donations by the operators of the monopoly vehicle inspection company which is run by a 

consortium of firms, including one from Spain and one from Costa Rica.

Ms. Contreras also was a member of what legislators are calling a parallel campaign organization the Comité Cívico that collected money for Pacheco’s campaign.

But she appeared with her legal advisor, Francisco Castillo, and said that she would not go beyond her statement because the matter is being investigated by prosecutors.

Although frustrated investors have tried to link Pacheco to the high-interest operations, no one had had any proof that there was any contact between Milanes or Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho. This is the first time that such a possibility has been raised in a forum as official as a committee of the Asamblea Nacional.

The special committee investigating campaign financing already has determined that banks in Panamá were used to accept donations that were then channeled to the Pacheco campaign. In this way, the actual donors were kept secret. Some have characterized this as money laundering, although there has been no proof that tainted money was involved.

All who have appeared before the committee said that Pacheco was not involved with fund-raising and was not responsible if there were illegalities. However, the suggestion that Pacheco met personally with Milanes creates a new dimension in the probe.


 
Traffic jam was
a tribute to Mom

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

San José weathered another prolonged traffic jam Thursday when three factors coincided: pay day, end of the week and Mother’s Day shopping.

Today is a holiday, Mother’s Day, and any Costa Rican who doesn’t show up with flowers, a nice present and an invitation to dinner for Mom better move to another planet.

So shoppers were out in force from midday Thursday. The 15th is the traditional payday, but most deposits were made into bank accounts Thursday because of the three-day weekend.

A light rain fell between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., but traffic already was clogged from Escazú to beyond Curridabat.

Parties for mothers were held at a number of public offices. All of those will be closed today, but many stores will be open. For those who do not wish to be exported to another planet, there still is time!

Lawmakers will meet
earlier in afternoon

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In what deputies are calling a Mother’s Day gift, the members of the Asamblea Nacional voted Thursday to change the starting time of their daily meeting from 4 p.m. to 2:45.

The idea is to end the session by 6 p.m. so that members can be with their families. Sessions only can continue past 6 p.m. with a two-thirds vote of members.

The new hours go into effect Tuesday. There also is a financial benefit in that the new hours cuts down on overtime pay to staffers, said deputies who approved the new hours unanimously.

Judge seeks Iranians
in bombing probe

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — It has been more than nine years since the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center here that killed 85 people. This week, a federal judge here issued arrest warrants for eight Iranian officials suspected of helping to plot the attack. 

The arrest warrants were issued through Interpol, the international police agency, by Judge Juan Jose Galeano, who has been investigating the 1994 car bombing for several years. The attack on the Jewish Community Center was the worst terrorist attack in Argentina's history, and came just two years after a bomb rocked the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29. 

Judge Galeano is requesting the arrest of eight Iranian officials, including the former Iranian ambassador to Argentina. He suspects that these officials had prior knowledge of the attack and helped carry it out. 

The United States and Argentina have long-suspected that Iran helped fund the assault — an accusation that Iranian officials strongly deny. 

A report published by The New York Times last July claimed that Iran helped plot the bombing, and that it later paid ex-Argentine President Carlos Menem $10 million to help cover up the investigation. The newspaper report was based on a secret deposition given by a defector from the Iranian intelligence agency. Former President Menem and Iran denied the charges. 

Current Argentine President Nestor Kirchner recently promised to open secret files connected to the case in hopes of speeding up the much-hindered nine-year investigation. 

Duarte takes office
in ceremony today

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Latin American leaders and dignitaries are gathering here for today’s presidential inauguration of Nicanor Duarte Frutos.

Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez arrived in the Paraguayan capital early Thursday. Their counterparts from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay also were expected to attend the formal ceremony.

Duarte won Paraguay's presidency in April, extending the ruling Colorado Party's 56-year hold on power. He will serve a five-year term. 

The incoming president has promised his supporters he will rebuild Paraguay's image and revive the country's economy. He also pledges to crack down on corruption in South America's second-poorest nation.

Duarte is a lawyer and former education minister. He will succeed Luis Gonzalez Macchi. 

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Lawyers

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And there you have this year's humor contest
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Well, today is the last day that we publish stories in our humor contest.

Perhaps conditions and situations in Costa Rica are so naturally funny that a humor contest is not necessary. We had less than 20 offerings, including those we publish today.

Our judges, if we can get them sober, will make some kind of determination on what were the best stories. The winners will have their names inscribed at Casa Presidencial. We figure on the men’s room wall and hope we are not caught.

Of course, one problem is that hardly anyone wanted their real names used. So if you go by the men’s room at Casa Presidencial and see in big, bold letters ANONYMOUS, that’s our winner.

Although we published a handful of humorous stories on the Villalobos Brothers situation, we think that there are many other circumstances in 

Costa Rica that are at least as funny as humor about the failed investment company. 

The government treatment of street kids and underage prostitutes got some attention. Satire is not very valuable unless it stings a bit. And we are afraid that some stories just were not that funny. So we did not publish them. Sorry.

We also got hardly any feedback on the funny stories. One reader was outraged by one story and sent us a message wondering when we were going to publish his letter of outrage. But we hadn’t seen it. Which reminds us that Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. is kind of a continuing joke.

Several people sent us material that we did not publish because we were not sure the items were original. Another sent us an elegant report on birdwatching in the mountains. But it was not fiction. We will publish it shortly.

So for all those who submitted material, a big thanks.

Scientists discover Tico anomalies with time
By Jay Canuck*

In a shocking revelation, researchers have stumbled across what is possibly this century's most startling scientific discovery in the least likely of places — at traffic lights throughout San Jose, Costa Rica. 

Tourist Dr. Hans Weissonborn, a noted physicist, made the discovery while traveling in this country's capital. "I observed a phenomenon that was initially inexplicable," say Weissonborn. 

"While stopped at red lights, I noticed that the instant they turned green someone behind my vehicle would honk their horn." 

Being the scientist he is, Weissonborn set out to measure the time between the light turning green and the horn of fellow motorists. It turns out it is the shortest unit of time ever measured. 

"Taking into account the speed of light and the speed of sound, it would appear that some Tico motorists have the ability to perceive events before they happen. It's an uncanny quirk of nature that's readily observed at major intersections throughout the city." 

When presented with these findings, some scientists scoffed at the analysis and chalked up the observation to "impatient drivers." However, researchers who further studied the behavior of the Ticos noted peculiar anomalies that could not be easily explained. 

"On one hand you have these 'impatient' drivers with split millisecond reaction times, and then you see them lining up at the bank for hours. The irony of these events forces you to look beyond the explanation of them being impatient drivers," say Todd Underling, junior researcher for Dr. Weissonborn. 

"We discovered that Ticos have the ability to manipulate their own space-time continuum based on their surroundings. That means to a Tico lined 

up at the bank, they can speed up time so they 
experience in minutes what actually takes hours. At the stop light, they are able to traverse the continuum to see into the near future and predict the exact moment the light turns green and honk their horn," adds Weissonborn. 

Still, skeptics argue that the irony is easily explained by less radical theories. Dr. Sho Me, a Korean anthropologist offers the following explanation. 

"We initially heard of Weissonborn's findings and were intrigued. We set out to study it in detail and look at it from a cultural point of view." 

"The sound of the horn at the same time the light changes is simply a result of many Tico drivers using their horn not as a device to move along traffic, but more as a musical instrument. At any particular moment in time, in any given area, you will hear a motorist's horn in San Jose. Weissonborn's findings are based on a coincidence, not a causal relationship." 

He goes on to say, "When we examined the reasons behind lining up for long hours at the bank, we quickly discovered the driving force.  Costa Rica is notorious for offering over 3 percent interest per month. Given that scenario, you'd find me in those bank line ups, too!" 

Weissonborn concedes his theory is difficult for most people to accept as it changes the way the world looks at Costa Rica but is determined to forge ahead. "I’m currently examining the acceleration of time within the continuum at the Hotel Del Rey, as I have personally experienced this phenomenon. 

"On one occasion Kattia from Columbia says I owe her $65 USD per hour, but according to my watch only 30 minutes have passed, and she demands payment. This certainly demands further investigation." 

*Jay Canuck is a pen name of someone who obviously did not sleep through physics lectures.

What happens when Enrique gets before a judge
By A Happy Investor*

Enrique Villalobos returned to Costa Rica and was asked to appear before a judge.

Judge: Welcome back to Costa Rica.

Enrique: Thank you.  It's good to be back.

J: There are some questions I need to ask you. First of all, the investors aren't clear on how you made your money.

E: Very simple. The Cubans were paying 4 percent. They tried to put me out of business. So I figured if you can't fight 'em, you join 'em. I loaned the money to them at 4 percent and paid my investors 3 percent. And I didn't have to work! That left 1 percent profits for me.

J: So why didn't you pay taxes on your profits?

E: Elementary, my dear Judge. I did so much traveling that I didn't have any profit left — business expense, you know.

J: Did you leave Costa Rica?

E: Yes, but I first took one of my helicopters and flew to Cocos Island. I thought: Dig that island! I figured with all the pirates around here on the loose, I might bury what's left of my treasure there. What's good enough for Morgan the Pirate is good enough for me.

J: Did you bury it there?

E: No, the ground was too hard and rocky. I'm not in shape to dig. I couldn't even swim or do my laundering because the place was surrounded by sharks. But I hear that the shark fin fishermen are now taking care of that problem.

J: What then?

E: I couldn't go to Canada. I considered going to the U. S. They told me Bush got by with a stretcher about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Maybe they would be persuaded that I don't have mass wealth in Costa Rica. But I was afraid I would get amBUSHed. So I went next door to Nicaragua. I was wanted by the Interpol, but I figured if past presidents could evade the police, so could I.

J: But you didn't stay there.

E: Ah, it looks like your "Costa Rican CIA" is working pretty well. The economy was down, and things got hot for the ex-president. So I left for 
Taiwan. They're friendly to Costa Rica and even 

built us a bridge. But my dollars couldn't compete with the Taiwanese dollar. So I went to Europe.

J: What happened there?

E: Too hot. I was sweating in the miserable heat. At same time Pacheco was sweating in the "hot seat" in regard to campaign donations. The economy was down. So was the president's rating. So he and the Central Bank director huddled. Things had been pretty good before I got busted. They unfroze my accounts and persuaded the U.S. to do the same in exchange for letting the FBI operate their training camps here. They dropped the charges. As more and more business is being done in dollars, I decided to return. So now I repaid my investors and the economy has picked up. And so has Pacheco's rating. But now I'm sitting in your "hot seat."

J: I see that you didn't report some of your bank accounts.

E: That's true. With 200 bank accounts, it's easy to forget a few.

J: Do you have any Swiss bank accounts?

E: I leave those small details to my office staff. You'll have to check with them.

J: Did you make any campaign donations?

E: Yes, a few small ones — I think it was $5 million each. Something like that. See my office manager for details.

J: Did you ever change money for Al Qaeda?

E: Al who? I don't know any Al in Costa Rica.

J: Bin Laden's bunch.

E: Money changing is Osvaldo's department.

J: Did you loan money to Bin Laden?

E: Yes, I loaned money to Osama's Laundry Service. Also to the Ben Laden Bakery. They handle a lot of dough, and needed money. Then there's also Osama's Lettuce and Cabbage Farm. Oh yes, there's one more — Bin Laden's Drug Store. The Caja was very short on medicines, and the drug store chain really prospered. He needed money to expand, so I made him a loan.

J: Thank you. That's it. You're finished here.

*Obviously a pen name because no one would name their kid "A Happy"

They are trying to go straight in Costa Rica
By A Happy Investor

Costa Rica has some kilometer markers along some roads, and a problem developed with them. Both taxi drivers and clients started complaining to MOPT, the road department, that either the taxis overcharged them or the markers were off.

Taxis registered 15 kilometers in a 10-kilometer stretch. Some taxis even registered double, but they didn't complain, since the officials might check their meters and fine them. The road department was asked to check out the marker spacing, but they always said they don't have any money.

Finally after five years of complaints, they asked congress for extra money to check out things and correct the markers. After another four years and an election, the money was finally approved.

The MOPT got a test car ready, and on a Monday morning Don Abel, who had a gift of driving, made the test run. But he was not able to match the numbers on the car with the marker placement.

So before changing the markers, they decided to make a second test run to be sure. The next driver was a woman. She drove the test car, and things jibed exactly.

It seems that whereas the first driver had carefully swerved from side to side to miss the holes in the road, the woman had attended a late night party where the beer flowed freely, and she was still feeling some of the effects. So instead of swerving to miss the holes, she bumped straight thru them, chalking up less distance.

Costa Rica is the only country where sober drivers zig-zag, and drunk drivers go straight.

Powell insists that Latin America is a U.S. priority
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Contrary to charges that the United States has neglected Latin America, it is actively engaged in the region on a broad array of issues, says Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The United States is working "constantly and aggressively" with its hemispheric neighbors, Powell said in an interview Wednesday with Univision television. "They live next door," he explained. "We have to work with the Latin American nations and we do."

Powell noted that he recently represented the United States at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Santiago, Chile, and later met with Argentina's new president, Nestor Kirchner, on that same trip. The secretary said he has also spent "a great deal of time" working on Plan Colombia and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, including meetings in Colombia with that nation's president, Alvaro Uribe.

President Bush and other senior administration officials are also actively engaged in Latin American affairs, Powell said. He cited as examples President Bush's oval office meeting with Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick's efforts to advance both the free trade area of the Americas and a Central American free trade agreement.

Powell noted that the Bush administration is preparing to participate in an interim Summit of the Americas next year and continuing to work with Argentina as that country works to rebuild its economy.

U.S. engagement in the hemisphere does not 
always rise to front-page news, but "the United States is hard at work in many ways working with our Latin American friends," Powell said.

In the same interview, Powell indicated that the United States continues to work with Mexico on migration issues and to foster a democratic opening in Cuba.

The secretary said the United States and Mexico are working to find "the right answers" to questions related to regularization, ease of border transit, and the use of consular documents. He indicated that he looks forward to continuing discussions with Mexico when his Mexican counterpart, Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Ernesto Derbez, visits Washington in September.

On Cuba, Powell joked that he had hoped Fidel Castro would announce his retirement on his 77th birthday Aug. 13. He added, "its time for him to go" and said Castro's departure would present the Cuban people with an opportunity to make choices on how they want to be governed.

Powell said the United States is actively encouraging the transition to a free Cuba.

"I think I can honestly say that the United States is doing everything we can to keep the pressure on the regime and to keep hope in the hearts of the Cuban people," he said.

Powell also reiterated the United States' "serious reservations" over former dictator Efrain Rios Montt's candidacy for president in Guatemala and its support for a constitutional resolution to Venezuela's political difficulties.


 
Sweltering States and Canada hit with blackout
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A massive power blackout has struck the northeastern United States and eastern Canada as the region sweltered in August heat. Government officials have reassured a nervous public that terrorists are not responsible for the power loss. 

The blackout shut down nuclear power plants in New York State and Ohio and trapped New York City dwellers in subways and others in the region in elevators. It drove New York workers out of office buildings into the streets, many of them forced into a long walk home in blistering heat. Traffic lights went out in New York, Cleveland, Detroit and other cities just as afternoon rush hour began, creating havoc on the streets. New York police dispersed throughout the city to direct traffic.

Air traffic also slowed as aviation authorities halted flights to airports in New York, Cleveland, Ottawa, and Toronto.

To allay fears, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg used understatement to call the blackout a major inconvenience, apparently a technical failure of the power grid.

"There is no evidence of any terrorism whatsoever," he said. "For some reason or other, there was a power failure in northern New York 

or southern Canada. That cascaded down through the system and affected the power grid as far east as Connecticut, as far south as New Jersey, and as far west as Ohio."

The confirmation that terrorism was absent has come from U.S. national authorities, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a new cabinet agency created after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The governor of the state of New York, George Pataki, declared an emergency, but Mayor Bloomberg says the people of his city remained calm and suffered no injuries as they reacted to the massive power loss.

"People are doing what you would expect them to do in New York City they are cooperating," he said. "Everyone has been as helpful as you could possibly ask them to be. With a lot of luck, we will look back on this and say, 'Where were you when the lights went out,' but nobody will have gotten hurt."

This is not the first northeastern U.S. power blackout, but it rivals previous ones in scope. Others occurred in 1965, 1977, and 1996. The last one seven years ago was one of the most severe, covering nine states after heat, sagging power lines, and unusually high power demand shut down the grid. The 1977 blackout lasted a full day.

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