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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 2, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 174
Jo Stuart
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This may look real, but don't take it to the bank!

There's a scammer born every minute, it seems
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a reader places an ad in A.M. Costa Rica, chances are the scammers soon will be sending messages.

More than a year ago, some West African scammer even tried to purchase a "used dog" from an advertiser who was trying to find a home for a mutt.

Typically, however, the responses are directed at automobile advertisers. The scammer offers a great price and even promises to pick up the vehicle in Costa Rica.

Now everyone knows that cars in Costa Rica are more expensive than elsewhere in the world due to the large tax levied by the government. So it is clear from the start that the people who respond are not looking for a great deal.

Until now, no A.M. Costa Rica reader strung the scammers along. But Tom Herron of Colombia, S.C., and Manuel Antonio did just that. And he took some steps that might cause the crooks discomfort.

Herron’s ad read:

Kia Sportage 2001, 4-wheel drive, automatic. Less than 6,500 miles. Tinted  windows, trailer hitch, new cover. Mint condition. Dark green. The  base  sticker  price before Costa Rica import duty was $19,000. Now: $12,500 with Costa Rica corporation. 

After weeks of e-mail messages, Herron finally got one scammer to send a Federal Express package containing an authentic looking cashier’s check drawn on a real bank, the Citizen’s National Bank of Charleston, W. Va.,

The scammers expected Herron to be so awed by the $26,000 check that he would deposit it at a local bank, deduct the $13,000 sales price 

of the Kia and then, following instructions, remit $13,000 via a local Moneygram store to the crooks.

Unbeknownst to the crooks, Herron has a friend in the very same bank, and he pronounced the check bogus, as expected.

Herron’s scammer used the name John Mark of "Kleenautos2000," and he used a United Kingdom Yahoo account. But the excess money was supposed to be sent to an individual in Toronto, Canada.

A short time later another check arrived as the result of a second e-mail exchange. Herron said he thought the scammers were related. 

Herron said he was going to send the scammers e-mails saying that the FBI has picked up their checks and the attached paperwork, including the Federal Express airbill. He thought there might be some guilty fingerprints on the documents.

And he said he was going to send information to Scotland Yard because the scam seems to be run out of England where the Federal Express shipment originated.

"Perhaps they may even feel that they must move or leave England," said Herron. "Some small satisfaction on my end."

Finally, Herron, a no-nonsense kind of guy, has raised the issue with the scammers Internet service provider with the hopes that they would be cut off from service however briefly.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said last week that in the United States alone his office has 150 Internet crime investigations involving 150,000 victims. But one of them is not Tom Herron.

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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Proposed budget
has giant deficit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Under the proposed 2005 national budget, Costa Rica will take in 1.2 trillion colons ($2.7 billion).

But the country will spend 2.3 trillion colons ($5.2 billion).

Those were the figures Alberto Dent Zeledón, the minister of Hacienda, gave the president of the Asamblea Legislativa Wednesday.

Dent and other members of the government’s political party characterize the budget as austere because it only calls for a 7.4 percent increase in spending compared to 2004. That amount probably will be less than the devaluation of the colon over the same period.

A release from the legislature said that governmental income would go up about 13.2 percent, taking 13.4 percent of the value of all goods and services in the country for the fiscal year.

Debt, salaries and pensions represent 80 percent of the total government expenditures.

So how will the government manage to cover the difference between income and outgo, an estimated deficit of $2.5 billion? The government will borrow the money, thereby racking up more debt.

The current national debt is now $6.8 billion, larger by $1.6 billion than the proposed budget.

Wednesday was Dent’s last day on the job. He quit over the salary hikes the administration gave public employees to end nine days of strikes and social unrest.

But the remaining public officials are betting that the legislature will quickly pass a proposed tax package that will generate some $500 million more income for the government.

The legislature will send the proposed budget to a committee for study and discussion.

VFW plans meeting
in downtown locale

The San Jose Veterans of foreign Wars Post 11207 will have its regular general membership meeting at 11 a.m. next Tuesday, in the rear dining room of the Bar/Restaurante Mariscar, located three doors east of the Hotel Presidente on the Avenida Central pedestrian promenade. 

Adjacent seating for family and friends is also available, as are beverages and food from the Mariscar menu, a VFW announcement said.

Post Commander Manuel Delgado will preside. Adjutant Rick Garcia and Quartermaster Ed Ramirez will process any new applications for membership and/or VFW fraternal paraphernalia or uniform items. 

All present and/or former members of the Armed Forces of the United States and allied nations are invited to attend. For additional information, contact past post commander Edward Ives, (506) 255-2806 in San José. 

Guevara to talk to GOP

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Republicans Abroad of Costa Rica will hear Otto Guevara Guth, leader of the Movimiento Libertario at its meeting Sept. 14 at Barbecue Los Anonos in Escazú. The meeting begins at 12:30 p.m.

A club announcement said that Guevara would speak on Costa Rican and U.S. relations. Reservations at 386-1420 are required.

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.

Legal services

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A.M. Costa Rica
Consultantes Río Colorado S.A.

James J. Brodell.........................editor
Saray Ramírez Vindas.... associate editor

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Readers continue to have their say on elections
EDITOR'S NOTE: Once again we bring you the views of our readers involving the U.S. presidential elections.

He’s for capitalism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am a passionate supporter of President George W. Bush and the Republican Party.  The Republican Party is the party of capitalism, and capitalism is the greatest force for good the world has ever known.

When living in a capitalist country, people have more opportunity to make the most of their abilities.  Capitalism allows people to control their own destiny and allows them to always have hope that the future will be better than the present. 

Without capitalism, people have no control over their own destiny and often have no hope in the future.  When people have no hope bad things happen.  We saw this with the Communist takeovers of Russia and Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba and south east Asia. 

We saw it with the awful civil wars we have seen in the last 25 years in Africa, Central America and Columbia.  We see this today when we see people in the Middle East who have no hope join terrorist organizations and kill innocent people all over the world.

President Bush understands that capitalism is what will keep America strong at home. He also understands that spreading capitalism throughout the world will help keep us safe from threats abroad and will allow billions of more people throughout the world to have meaningful and productive lives.

Another name for capitalism is freedom.

Jason Wosje 
Las Vegas, NV

Salary issue cited

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I can only hope that the entire world is filled in on the facts involving the current administration.  This administration has done nothing to support the U.S., but has spend billions of dollars to assure that the Iraqis have peace. 

What about peace for the U.S. Bush thinks that he is winning the war on terror?  Think again.  After 9/11, Bin Laden promised that the U.S. would forever look over their shoulders in fear of terrorism.   Not only do we look over our shoulders in fear of terrorism, we spend billions of dollars while doing so — and continue to put our people, our troops and the rest of the world in danger. 

Thanks to Bush and his vow to finish the job his father didn't finish — taking out Sadaam (who by the way had no WMD or was connected to Bin Laden or those responsible for 9/11) — we have place our troops and innocent Americans right in their laps.  If Bush was/is so concerned about WMD, why does he continue to ignore N. Korea and Iran? 

Finally, thanks to Bush's recent changes in the U.S. Deptment of Labor, all paralegals and legal assistants are now forced to take pay cuts and loose substantial amounts of their bonuses.  Paralegals can no longer be considered exempt salaried employees, but are forced to work hourly. 

You think this is good?  Wrong.  Paralegals work the fiscal year to "bill" out as much time as possible so that a fair and worthy "bonus" will be given at the end of the year.  Well, now that we are hourly, we can only "bill" out so many hours a day, decreasing the amount of year-end bonus we receive.  Imagine how the law firms themselves feel about the substantial loss at the hands of Bush.

Bush should have never been put in office four years ago.  Let’s face it, his brother, Jeb, decided that election.  I could go on and on. Do the right thing, VOTE KERRY.

Teri Vater
Landisville, Pa. 

Kerry exaggerates

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am a veteran of the Delta River Patrol Group, Vietnam (various rivers in the Vietnam Delta area).  Our River Patrol Boat (PBR) crewmembers were never involved in the attrocities that Kerry stated he participated in after he returned from Vietnam.  He indicated that many American troops were also involved. 

I never heard of or knew of any such activities except those committed by Lt. Calley and his troops.  Kerry's lies and exageration as to his Vietnam service makes me wonder about what else he lies about.   He cannot be trusted.  If he gets hand fatique from shaking so many hands, maybe he should get another Purple Heart. 

Ray VanDerMeer 
San Antonio 

Waiting for Hillary

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Bush will win by 10 points.  Now is not the time to change captains.  The road in Iraq has been bumpy.  Mistakes  have been made, but if you want to know how badly a job can be botched, look at Kerry's 20 years in the Senate. Nothing accomplished, no meaningful legislation bearing his name, just a record of being on both sides of every  important issue. Kerry is truly the "Girly Candidate."  Take heart Dems.  In four years, the stage will be cleared for Hillary. 

Ronald Guell
Terrorist are really
freedom fighters

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Bush has murdered more than 10,000 innocent Iraq civilians in less than two years. his slogan was "I'm a uniter, not a divider." HUH? 

The world has never been so divided in my 48 years. He has spent $150 billion on blowing Iraq up. How much will it cost in dollars to get the hell out of there?   Socrates said it best:  "if you want peace, you talk with your enemies, not your friends"....a lesson lost on a bellicose, omnipotent puppet, George W. Bush!!! 

If being a terrorist means people are afraid and worried about your next move, then I would put the United States in that category, simply because if you don't tow the line, we'll mine your harbors, freeze your monetary fund, send in clandestine CIA agents, blockade your trading partners, starve your children and finally, send in the marines for a little "shock and awe"!!! 

Bush calls them terrorists and insurgents. I call them liberating freedom fighters, the same as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. but I'm sure England called them rebels, terrorists and insurgents. I guess it all depends on what side of the fence you enjoy! 

Donald J. Lingl
Granada, Nicaragua, and 
Oak Orchard, Wisconsin 

P.S. I guess I'm going to vote for Kerry.

Whine and moan!

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I typically try to stay out of political discussions, but I must voice my  opinion on this issue.  It is really very sad to hear the Democrats whine and moan about President Bush. 

I have come to the conclusion that Dems live in a dream world,  "Peace, Love, Dope" is their mantra.  This isn't the 60s.  Go back inside and take another hit off your bong. 

If you look back over the past 20 years or so, the United States and  U.S. interests have come under attack time and time again by terrorist (from  Beirut, to the embassy bombings in Africa, to the U.S.S. Cole), 9/11 was not the first attack. 

When are these people going stop cowering in fear and fight back?  All Dems can do is protest (whine and moan), and hide in fear.  If you think about it, you never see Republicans protest (whine and moan).  They don't have to.  Republicans take action and get the job done. 

I, for one, am proud to have a man in the White House that has the backbone, conviction, and courage to stand up to these cowards.  If the rest of the  world doesn't like it, they can go hit the bong with the Democrats.

 My vote is for President Bush.

Trey Longbotham 
Dallas, Texas 


Bush is arrogant

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How can this man, this arrogant man, continue to broadcast his spiel?

His personal war — destroying Iraq. No care how Americans do feel.   He made up his mind to initiate this war against the advice of those wiser than he. Hidden weapons were lies to insure the votes telling Congress Iraqi's can be free 

Many insiders and his party as well know most likely his habit to lie If he would just accept the blame.  Causing 900-plus soldiers to die   How can't he possibly know his dangerous move  Causing millions of Iraqi's to despise him Terrorists run rampant-Explosive bombs every day If not death--Injured body and limb 

We watch the news every evening with grief Saddened as reporters relay. Now we've become apathetic.

How many body bags sent home today?   Dear God, let November be our saving grace Send this man back to Texas in seclusion Let lawmakers decide to unite with U.N. Bring this to an end — a peaceful conclusion 

Our nation has troubles, monumental concerns Let's get our economy on track right away We need health care for all, man, women and child  Troops back home soon, better today   Our nation so strong once highly regarded is an embarrassment where we might roam Let's get leadership who will direct the force Solve our problems, insure our freedom, here at home 

Bret Porter

Tell us what you think, too.

Don't insult previous writers, but express your views based on facts.

Please include your name and hometown.


Pinochet prosecution sends a message to dictators
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

SANTIAGO, Chile — A judge will question former dictator Augusto Pinochet next week about political killings that took place during his 17-year grip on power in the 1970s and 1980s. Chile's Supreme Court recently lifted the former general's immunity from prosecution, a major step toward bringing him to trial. 

The ruling that lifts Augusto Pinochet's immunity cannot be appealed. It will force the retired general to face legal proceedings he has managed to evade for years because of his political immunity or his competence to stand trial.

Analysis on the news

The 88-year-old former Chilean ruler has been charged with war crimes in connection with a campaign, known as "Operation Condor," in which several South American dictatorships sought to suppress political opponents. More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared during his rule from 1973 to 1990.

Mark Enselaco directs the Human Rights Program at the University of Dayton in Ohio and has written two books on the Pinochet era and the war crimes that occurred in Chile during those years. He says Pinochet managed to create an aura of "untouchability" for himself that he thought would last even after he left office. 

"Pinochet is really a case study in impunity," he said. "He created a climate of terror that put him beyond the reach of the law. He rewrote the law amnestying himself. He became senator for life, he thought would put himself beyond prosecution. He loaded the judicial system. He has deep reservoirs of admiration, 20-30 percent of the population think he did a great thing and think he should not be touched."

The court has also judged Pinochet mentally competent to stand trial. The decision was made after he gave two media interviews that highlighted his lucid state of mind.

Pinochet used the argument of his mental state to avoid extradition from Britain to Spain in 1998. Using the claim of universal jurisdiction under international human rights laws, a Spanish judge sought Pinochet's prosecution for the murder of several Spanish nationals during his campaign against political dissidents. Victims' families in Belgium and France also filed separate lawsuits. 

Enselaco explained the more aggressive recent attitude of Chile's judiciary by saying it is trying to correct injustices that occurred in the past. 

"Why should Pinochet be prosecuted?" he asked. "Because there are countless individuals whose grief is profound and whose life was destroyed by this man and they deserve justice in a court of law."

Enselaco says the ruling against Augusto Pinochet sends a powerful message beyond Chile's borders. Pinochet now joins the ranks of other former rulers being pursued for crimes against humanity, notably the former leaders of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Iraq.

Ian Seiderman, legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, attributes the more aggressive pursuit of war criminals to the growing political will to prosecute crimes against humanity, not just document them. 

"This prosecution and the whole international tribunal movement which the courts established for Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the international criminal court, are all signs that point out human rights abuses and dictators that they cannot just fade into the woodwork, that they will be pursued and prosecuted," he said.

Seiderman sees the tougher approach to war crimes evolving from an initial reluctance to interfere in what belatedly were revealed as ethnic-cleansing campaigns or massacres like the Cambodian killing fields, Rwanda massacres or Serb campaigns against minorities.

"I think in the one sense the lack of international political will to confront the Yugoslav and Rwanda situations when they occurred in the 1990s actually helped lead to the establishment of the courts, because the courts were seen as a gesture so the international community could be seen to be doing something without direct military interference," he adds. 

"And it was thought at the time it would not fly, but they have been quite successful and they provided the impetus which led to the international criminal court."

The International War Crimes Tribunal is currently trying Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes committed during his reign in the former Yugoslavia. 

Seiderman says the world court and legal rulings like those in the Pinochet case are a clear message to state leaders who abuse human rights that they are no longer beyond the reach of the law.

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Panama's new president, Torrijos, faces lots of work
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PANAMÁ CITY, Panamá — Martín Torrijos, the 41-year-old son of former Panamanian strongman, Omar Torrijos was sworn in Wednesday as Panama's president. He faces enormous challenges that include the modernization of the Panamá Canal.

The president's father, Gen. Torrijos along with then-president Jimmy Carter signed in 1977 the Panamá Canal treaties that turned over the administration of the inter-oceanic waterway to Panamanian control in 1999. 

The younger Torrijos is a graduate of Texas A&M University with degrees in political science and economics. Visiting presidents and dignitaries that included U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the heir to the Spanish throne joined thousands of Panamanians in the swearing in ceremonies held in Panamá City. 

President Torrijos inherits a government that is mired in accusations of malfeasance and corruption. Panama's foreign debt is among the highest in the world with 40 percent of the nation's three million inhabitants living in poverty. 

Torrijos has promised to restart the economy, lowering the unemployment rate that is 

approaching 20 percent, while attracting foreign investment. He believes that tourism can generate thousands of jobs and that Panama's maritime sector can provide the incentives needed to pull the country out of economic depression. Political analysts point to the many challenges facing the Torrijos administration. Among them, the modernization of the Panamá Canal, a project estimated to cost at least $5 billion that will allow supertankers and large vessels to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Torrijos will also have to reform the country's social security system before it collapses. Fiscal deficits and uncontrolled government spending are threatening the retirement plans of thousands of Panamanians that look to social security as a safety net in their old age. 

Torrijos will also have to resolve the diplomatic crisis with Cuba, triggered by the pardon last week by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso of four Cubans convicted of attempting to kill Fidel Castro. 

The pardon angered the Cuban government which severed its diplomatic relations with Panamá. President Torrijos' father was a close friend of Castro and it is expected that President Martín Torrijos will move quickly to restore diplomatic ties with the Cuban government. 

Substance stops growth in late stages of breast cancer
Broccoli again emerges as important cancer fighter
By the University of Illinois News Service

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A well known anti-cancer agent in certain vegetables has just had its reputation enhanced. The compound, in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, has been found to be effective in disrupting late stages of cell growth in breast cancer.

Keith Singletary and doctoral student Steven Jackson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report their finding involving sulforaphane, which they say could ultimately be used to enhance the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

"This is the first report to show how the naturally occurring plant chemical sulforaphane can block late stages of the cancer process by disrupting components of the cell called microtubules," said Singletary, a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition. "We were surprised and pleased to find that SUL could block the growth of breast cells that were already cancerous."

Sulforaphane is abundant in such vegetables as broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale. Chewing causes the cell walls of these vegetables to break, and sulforaphane is released into the body. 

Singletary, a researcher in phytochemicals and cancer chemoprevention, and Jackson exposed cultures of malignant human breast cancer cells to sulforaphane. Within hours, sulforaphane blocked cell division and disrupted microtubules, which are long, slender cylinders made up of tubulin (protein), that are essential for the separation of duplicated chromosomes during cell division.

"It is not yet clear whether the doses required to produce inhibition of tubulin polymerization are higher than those achievable via dietary intakes," wrote Jackson and Singletary. "However, the results show that tubulin disruption may be an important explanation for SUL’s antiproliferative action."

"These findings are significant since SUL’s actions appear similar to a group of anticancer drugs currently in use, such as Taxol," Singletary said.

Sulforaphane is studied extensively for its effects 
Keith Singletary
against cancer. Previous reports have shown that sulforaphane induces defensive mechanisms that are effective in protecting normal cells from cancer.

"More than 10 years ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported that SUL is a potent inducer of enzyme systems that can defend against carcinogens," Singletary said. Such defense mechanisms are effective during the early stage of cancer.

The Illinois research extends the 1992 discovery at Johns Hopkins and pinpoints how sulforaphane works during later stages of cancer, such that sulforaphane can suppress the orderly division process in human breast cancer cells.

"The findings may be helpful in the development of new breast cancer prevention and treatment strategies," Singletary said. "For example, it may be possible that ingesting SUL in combination with certain natural compounds or drugs could enhance their anticancer effectiveness and reduce side effects."

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer this year will account for 15 percent of all cancer deaths in women, and some 275,000 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed.

Improvements in treatments such as chemotherapy have led to an 88 percent survival rate in Caucasian women and a 74 percent survival rate in African-American women, according to the most recent society survey in 2003.

However, some current chemotherapy drugs have side effects that have the society and other organizations seeking new strategies that combine chemotherapy drugs with other treatments to potentially lessen the toxic effects.

Jo Stuart
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