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These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 173
Jo Stuart
About us
A masterful effort with Costa Rica and the Internet
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A University of Florida master’s student has put together an extensive set of Web pages about Costa Rica as part of her degree work.

The student is Janna Crabb, a former airlines public relations employee who came up with the idea while she was on an academic fellowship here.

The Web site is titled "Faces of Costa Rica" and may be found HERE!

Ms. Crabb presented the Web site as her final project in the university’s master’s program in mass communications. Her audience is non-Costa Rican, English speakers, she said. The Web site even includes a little test of Costa Rican history and government.

The idea of the Web site developed as Ms. 

Crabb was on a three-month internship here with World Visions Costa Rica and the Coca Cola World Citizenship program at her university, which is based in Gainesville, Fla.

Ms. Crabb conducted her interviews in Spanish and took most of the photos herself, including those above. Because it was an academic project, she had to please and keep informed the committee of professors who were going to evaluate her work. 

The chairwoman of this committee was Melinda J. McAdams, a former Washington Post reporter who is herself an expert in the Internet.

Like all creators of art and literature, Ms. Crabb wanted people to see her work, so she sent out a few well-placed e-mails to people in Costa Rica, including A.M. Costa Rica.
She got her degree in May.

Striking truckers and unions walk away smiling
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At the end of Round One the score stands Government 1, unions and truckers 2.

And that’s not counting the minister of Hacienda who quit because officials did not listen to him during strike negotiations.

Round One, of course, was the nine days of highway blockades and protest marches. The Abel Pacheco administration caved in early Wednesday and gave the strikers much of what they wanted.

The country’s contract with Riteve S y C, the vehicle inspection firm, will be re-examined to see if there is a loophole so that the inspection work can be spread around to local mechanics shops. Operators of those shops were striking, too.

The vehicle inspection company also will be asked to tone down the quality of its inspections. 

Riteve issued a statement Wednesday in which it said no one from government had consulted it about the negotiations. It said its contract, which strikers called a monopoly, has been reviewed by the Sala IV constitutional court and many officials.

The firm also said it is a 100 percent Costa Rican company that employes 370 Costa Ricans at its 13 inspection stations. The firm also said it had won its contract with a 1998 public bid. 

Strikers have accused it of being a Spanish firm that was sending all its income to Spain.

The Pacheco administration also agreed to hike the salaries of public employees a half of a percent. Now public workers will get a 5 percent raise retroactively instead of 4.5 percent. Casa Presidencial quoted Pacheco saying that despite the increase in the raise, the move should not be interpreted as a relaxation of fiscal discipline.

Pacheco also said that his government would continue to seek ratification of the proposed free trade treaty with the United States and other Central American nations. Protestors opposed that, too.

Pacheco called the free trade treaty "an instrument of the first order to assure one of the principal markets for national production, tourism, the attraction of productive investments and the generation of jobs in Costa Rica."

The way the protest developed, Riteve was the prime target and salary increases were next. Although students and others carried signs against the free trade treaty, the proposed pact did not play a big role in the nine days of protest and social unrest.

The so-called Movimiento Cívico Nacional achieved two of its goals. The free trade treaty will be in the crosshairs again when Pacheco presents it to the legislature for ratification. More protests are likely then, fueled by the way the government agreed to changes under pressure during this strike.

Alberto Dent is the minister of Hacienda. His ministry collects taxes, makes payments and administers the national budget. He said he was miffed that he was not consulted when Casa Presidencial officials agreed to raise salaries for public employees. He has been consistent in saying that the country cannot afford higher salaries.

Dent, who leaves his post today, also was the administration’s pointman on the proposed new tax increases. Pacheco wants to win approval for $500 million a year in more taxes. He says the increases are necessary to keep the country solvent.

Several bulletins from the Fuerza Pública Wednesday said that all blockades on the country’s roads had been lifted by truckers and taxi drivers. The blockades had brought commerce to a standstill.

Who are you backing this year in the U.S. presidential race?
Who’s your candidate? Bush or Kerry? 

A.M. Costa Rica is open to letters from readers stating political opinions. Because overseas voters have to file early, September is the perfect month to present such views.

Try to hold your praise or condemnation to 350 words. Sign your full name and also include your hometown. Send them HERE!

We will publish them as space is available. BELOW are some today. 


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Talk about expensive:
Taxista snags tourist

By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 23-year-old Irish volunteer got a short expensive taxi ride Wednesday after he arrived from Jacó at the Coca Cola bus Station. 

The man, Luke Davis, wanted to go to the Tica Bus 

station just off Avenida 2 in downtown San José to travel to Nicaragua.

A taxi driver who said he had a broken meter took him there, a matter of some 16 city blocks, and then demanded 14,500 colons (about $32). The shocked Irishman did not have that much in local currency, so he paid the man 6,000 colons, he said. That’s about $13. Still, the man got angry.

The normal rate is about 

Luke Davis
500 colons depending on traffic and stop lights, certainly no more than $1.25.

Davis, who was doing volunteer work in Carara Woods, was found by a reporter near the court complex. He wanted to file a police complaint but decided not to because he would not be here to testify. 

Instead, he offered his tale as a caution to travelers.

Columnist has role
as aging folksinger

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jo Stuart, A.M. Costa Rica columnist, will be one of two women presenting short plays Sept. 19 at The Julia and David White Artists' Colony in Ciudad Colón.

Ms. Stuart will present "What about Ben" by Lee Brady. The play is described as a poignant story about an aging folksinger’s struggle with what do with her life after her husband’s death is complicated by her community’s judgmental opinions.

Brady won the colony’s 2003 International Playwright Competition with the work.

The second play is "Please, Mister, Please" by Julia White Chrey, The play is described as a tormented woman recounting the self-destructive turns she has taken in her search for acknowledgment of her existence and living a meaningful life.

The word will be performed by Caroline Kennedy. Both plays are hosted by the Little Theatre Group.

The time is 10:30 a.m. and tickets are 1,500 colons. Reservations may be made at bwhite@forjuliaanddavid.org or by calling 506-249-1414.

Trade expert named
to Washington post

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tomás Dueñas, a man who played a key role in negotiating the free trade treaty with the United States, will be Costa Rica’s new ambassador in Washington.

Roberto Tovar Faja, the minister of Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, announced the appointment Wednesday.

The new ambassador takes over Nov. 1 and replaces Jaime Daremblum, who took a position with Miguel Angel Rodríguez, the former Costa Rican president, in his new job as secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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U.S. readers give their choice for presidential race
EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked readers to express their views, and this is what we got, presented in the order they arrived in our inbox. It looks like a tight race.

For Kerry

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My vote will be for Kerry/Edwards. I have said from the start of this mess in Iraq that we should not be there, (However, we can't just pull out now). Even if they did have WMD's, they are no threat to us. Sure they could possibly get in one shot, but they would not be alive to try again. 

With the mentality and logic of this administration, one has to ask, "Who is next?" Syria, Iran, North Korea? George W. admitted, on TV, 8/30/04, that the war on terror will not be won. It will go on forever. No kidding George, you started something you can't finish. 

If we do not like the politics of a country, all we, and our allies, need to do is stop any economic trade with them. They will not prosper without the world economy and will never be a threat to the civilized nations. And if they ever approached our borders, God help them. 

Kevin McMullin 
Bear, Del.

For change

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

People seem to forget there's a third choice which penalizes an incumbant, and it seems to be playing out in every country's elections, no matter how good or bad an incumbant is. It's called CHANGE. It's difficult for anyone to win re-election today, and if they do, they must then survive a recall. So I'm for CHANGE which means Kerry. 

Ron de Jaray

All the way

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am for Kerry all the way. Four more years of Bush and the country will be in real serious trouble. I urge all U.S citizens to vote what ever party you favor.

Dale Moore 
San Pedro de Montes de Oca

By a mile

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

George W by a mile. 

Raymond A LaPalme 
Philadelphia, Pa 
He votes proudly

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

I've been reading the reports of the demonstrations in CR and am struck by their similarities to the ones in NYC.  All are by spoiled, socialist leaning people who should be working at their employer's work places. 

Those who aren't should be summarily dismissed and replaced by those who want to work. 

I am planning to proudly cast my vote for George W. Bush, who is working diligently to protect all of us in this hemisphere, including those in CR who can't or won't even defend themselves. The only reason that CR can spend all their national treasure on their Socialistic government and programs is because the U.S.A. is standing guard over them. 

Those ex-pats in CR, especially veterans, that are so enamored of John Kerry were obviously deaf and brain dead in 1971 when Kerry uttered treason and slander and lost all credibility. 

HE is why a generation of American soldiers were spat on and called baby killers and worse.   The Swift vets may not be 100 percent right, but who to believe?  Kerry or 250+ decorated vets? 

For myself, I've made my choice.   The Costa Ricans are killing the "Golden Goose" (tourism).   Nobody wants to put up with this, when there are many other places that have the same attractions without all the downside. 

Dan Baber 
Plano, Texas
He’s for Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am voting for Bush for these reasons: Bush knows terrorists want to kill us, and has acted accordingly.  He has kept a stable vision and resolve despite popularity ebb and flow.  Bush knows that free markets drive prosperity around the world. Bush released his military records.   Kerry asked for deferment, then joined the reserves, then ran on 'volunteer' service record. Kerry did not show up for 75 percent of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings.

Kerry backs legislation to eliminate secret ballots from union elections, allowing intimidation practices to flourish. Kerry stated that war crimes were committed on a daily basis by honest, hardworking soldiers. Kerry has asked that attack ads stop only after he becomes target (six months) Kerry refuses to release his military records. 

Sedona Ariz. 
FROM THE EDITOR: You can write us, too. Just remember to give your views and avoid attacking other writers.

Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
Poll shows that New Yorkers think officials knew
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

NEW YORK, N. Y.  — Almost half (49.3 percent) of New York City residents and 41 percent of New York citizens overall say that some U.S. leaders "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around Sept. 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act," according to the poll conducted by Zogby International. 

The poll of New York residents was conducted from Tuesday, Aug. 24 through Thursday, Aug. 26. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of +/-3.5 percent.

The poll is the first of its kind conducted in America that surveys attitudes regarding possible U.S. government complicity in the Sept. 11 tragedy. Despite the acute legal and political implications of this accusation, nearly 30 percent of registered Republicans and over 38 percent of those who described themselves as "very conservative" supported the claim.

The charge found very high support among adults under 30 (62.8 percent), African-Americans (62.5 percent), Hispanics (60.1 percent), Asians (59.4 percent), and "Born Again" Evangelical Christians (47.9 percent).

Less than two in five (36 percent) believe that the 9/11 Commission had answered all the important questions about what actually happened on Sept. 11, and two in three (66 percent) New Yorkers (and 56.2 percent overall) called for another full investigation of the "still unanswered questions" by Congress or Elliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general. 

Self-identified "very liberal" New Yorkers supported a new inquiry by a margin of three to one, but so did half (53 percent) of "very conservative" citizens across the state. The call for a deeper probe was especially strong from Hispanics (75.6 percent), African-Americans (75.3 percent) citizens with income from $15-25K (74.3 percent), women (62 percent) and Evangelicals (59.9 percent).

The polling firm contacted 808 randomly selected adults.

W. David Kubiak, executive director of 911truth.org, the group that commissioned the poll, expressed genuine surprise that New Yorkers' belief in the 

administration's complicity is as high or higher than that seen overseas. 

"We're familiar with high levels of 9/11 skepticism abroad where there has been open debate of the evidence for U.S. government complicity," he said.  "On May 26th the Toronto Star reported a national poll showing that 63 percent of Canadians are also convinced U.S. leaders had 'prior knowledge' of the attacks yet declined to act. 

"There was no U.S. coverage of this startling poll or the facts supporting the Canadians' conclusions, and there has been virtually no debate on the victim families' scores of still unanswered questions. I think these numbers show that most New Yorkers are now fed up with the silence, and that politicians trying to exploit 9/11 do so at their peril. The 9/11 case is not closed . . ." 

Nicholas Levis of NY911truth.org, an advisor on the poll, agrees: "The 9/11 Commission gave us plenty of 'recommendations', but far more plentiful were the discrepancies, gaps and omissions in their supposedly 'final' report. How can proposals based on such deficient findings ever make us safe? 

"We think these poll numbers are basically saying, 'Wait just a minute. What about the scores of still outstanding questions? What about the unexplained collapses of World Trade Center 7, our air defenses, official accountability, the chain of command on 9/11, the anthrax, insider trading & FBI field probes? There's so much more to this story that we need to know about.'  When such a huge majority of New Yorkers want a new investigation, it will be interesting to see how quickly Attorney General Spitzer and our legislators respond."

The poll covered five areas of related interest: 1) Iraq - do New Yorkers think that their leaders "deliberately misled" them before the war (51.2 percent do); 2) the 9/11 Commission - did it answer all the "important questions" (only 36 percent said yes); 3) the inexplicable and largely unreported collapse of the third World Trade Center skyscraper on 9/11 - what was its number (28 percent of New York City area residents knew); 4) the question on complicity; and 5) how many wanted a new 9/11 probe. 

911truth.org is a coalition of researchers, journalists and victim family members working to resolve the hundreds of questions still swirling around the tragedy.

Reader suggests that unhappy traveler was not an experienced one
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Re: Ms. Reich's letter on the front page Aug. 31 regarding her family's "nightmare experience" in Costa Rica.

It is truly sad that Ms. Reich and her family were highly inconvenienced and possibly endangered because of the strike. She harshly condemns Costa Rica and its people because of this.

In response to her criticism, I would like to suggest that Ms. Reich does not appear to be a very seasoned traveler. More than once, I, too, have been inconvenienced on trips to Europe due to workers' strikes. Living in the wonderful U.S.A., it is easy to forget that the vast majority of the world does not have the same work conditions that North Americans know and expect.

I agree that strikes are bad for tourism and even more for the locals. But is it really necessary to make it worse by condemning an entire country 

and its people for the actions of a few misled individuals?

Traveling is wonderful, but it is also wrought with inherent risk — especially in less developed countries. If Ms. Reich's relative was so ill that a few hours without medication could endanger her life, was it prudent for her travel internationally, if at all?

Though the bureaucracies in most foreign countries are a drag, world travel is amazing, and we must look at all of the benefits that are obtained from those experiences, not just the pitfalls.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country with many wonderful people, but it is not paradise. I hope Ms. Reich will give it another chance. When I first visited Rome, Italy, I hated it but have come to love and respect the place after my subsequent visits.

Judith Rich 
Pleasanton, Calif.
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Two more planets found circling distant stars
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

PASADENA, Calif. — U.S. scientists announced the discovery of a new class of planets outside Earth's solar system, the smallest planets ever detected so far from Earth.

The planets are 10 to 20 times the size of Earth, about the size of Neptune, the eighth planet from the Sun. The announcement, made at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here, is considered significant because the discovery reflects improved detection methods that ultimately should reveal even more about the mysteries beyond this solar system.

"These Neptune-sized planets prove that Jupiter-sized, gas giants aren't the only planets out there," said astronomer Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, in a press release Tuesday.

Co-discoverer Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institute of Washington added, "We are beginning to see smaller and smaller planets. Earth-like planets are the next destination."

Two new planets were discovered. One circles a small star called Gliese 436, an M dwarf star about 40 percent the size of the Sun. This new planet is the first to be discovered in the orbit of such a low-power sun, 30 light years away in the constellation Leo.

The second new planet is part of a four-planet 

NASA graphic
Artist's concept shows the newly discovered Neptune-sized extrasolar planet which circles the star Gliese 436 once every 2.6 earth days.

system that orbits 55 Cancri, located in the constellation Cancer, about 41 light years away.

Astronomers can determine the orbit of an extrasolar planet by measuring the wobble it produces as instruments remain focused on the parent star. In the past, finding planets the size of Neptune or smaller has been difficult because they exert less of a tug on their parent stars than the majority of Jupiter-sized planets found so far.

Further information is available HERE!

University team explains the yin-yang of ginseng
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — An international team of scientists and colleagues has discovered why the popular herbal treatment ginseng can have two different, opposing effects on the body, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ginseng can promote the growth of blood vessels, important to healing wounded tissues, according to some scientific articles, while conflicting studies report that ginseng can halt that process. The latter is important because preventing the formation of blood vessels can be enlisted against cancer. Tumors are fed by blood vessels. Cutting off their blood supply can kill tumors.

The MIT researchers and colleagues found that different varieties of ginseng, whether Korean, American, Chinese or Sanqi, have different chemical compositions. The different balance between these 

chemicals in the various types of the herb will cause it to have opposite effects on blood vessels.

The work, to be published in the Sept. 7 issue of Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association, was performed by researchers from the United States, England, the Netherlands and Hong Kong and emphasizes the need for stronger regulations of herbal drugs, according to the university.

The new results could lead to medicines patterned after ginseng's key components. As the researchers write in Circulation, identifying one of the components in particular "opens up the exciting possibilities of harnessing [its] chemical scaffold as a prototype for wound-healing compounds."

The research was jointly funded by institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.

Leftover $9 million will help Haiti get ready to vote
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The United Nations has announced that Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council has received about $9 million in U.S. funds left over from a previous U.S. contribution to an international mission in the country. The funds will be used to help organize Haitian elections in 2005.

The United Nations said the U.S. funds will be used to help the Haitian Electoral Council register voters and provide voters with identity cards, create a database of eligible voters and administer the elections in 2005.

The U.S. funds previously supported the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, which consisted of some 80 U.N. technical advisers who provided advice and material assistance to the Haitian government on respecting human rights, strengthening law enforcement and coordinating international dialogue with Haitian leaders. That program ended in 2001.

The United Nations said it signed an agreement with Haiti and the Organization of American States last week to help organize the 2005 presidential, parliamentary and local elections in the Caribbean nation. The elections will replace the U.S.-supported interim government in Haiti that assumed power following the Feb. 29 resignation of Haiti's former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

U.S. policy toward Haiti, the State Department said, is designed to foster and strengthen democracy; help alleviate poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition; promote respect for human rights; and counter illegal migration and drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has announced it will send a five-person delegation to Haiti today to observe and receive information concerning the human rights situation in the Caribbean nation.

The Commission, which is making the visit at the invitation of the Haitian government, will meet with high-level Haitian officials, society representatives, including non-governmental organizations and associations of lawyers and judges and with representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

French official faces
gunfire at hospital

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti rescued a delegation of French officials who came under fire from gunmen Monday as they visited a hospital in a slum here. 

France's deputy foreign minister, Renaud Muselier, was part of a delegation evacuated from the hospital in the Cite Soleil neighborhood, considered a stronghold of ousted leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide. 

Authorities say the shooting began as more than 100 protesters demonstrated outside the facility.  Many Aristide supporters blame France and the United States for driving him from power earlier this year, a charge Paris and Washington deny. 

Jo Stuart
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