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These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 174
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Bureaucrats to close a favorite Gringo charity
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health officials have ordered the Tom and Norman Home in Guápiles to close. The home has been a major charity for North Americans living here and providing a place to live for 12 unwanted older adults.

The notice to close comes on the heels of a reduction in contributions caused by the failure of a handful of high-interest operations whose monthly payments encouraged charitable activities by North Americans.

Ministerio de Salud inspectors want the home brought up to written standards that apply to nursing homes in the country. According to Donlon Havener, this means tripling the hours each day that a licensed nurse is in attendance from eight to 24.

Havener of Santa Ana is with the Fundación Angel de Amor which operates the home. He is well known to North Americans because he periodically leads one-day trips from San José to the home.

A letter from Alexis Barquero, director of the home, said that many private homes charge over $1,000 a month per resident. The Tom and Norman Home survives through contributions, and the residents are persons who would otherwise not have a place to go. 

The term "unwanted adults" is not just rhetoric. Some residents have been found living under piles of trash forsaken by their families.

Havener can provide a whole litany of health ministry complaints, including a requirement that the beds in the home be uniform and between 50 and 60 centimeters from the floor, some 20 to 24 inches. Typically the home accepts beds of whatever size from whatever source.

Health officials want a fully stainless steel kitchen to replace the donated equipment there now, he said.

And inspectors objected to the use of well water and said the home must hook up to a municipal water supply some distance away, he added.

Havener said that a meeting is scheduled Friday with officials from the Municipalidad de Guápiles and national deputies that represent the area. He said those at the home hope that it may be listed simply as a home of indigents rather than an old people’s home to sidestep some of the more expensive requirements.

The deadline to close is in November, he said. But he was upbeat: "I don’t see how they can possibly do this" particularly since there is no place for the dozen elderly residents to go.

Havener confirmed that donations have fallen off since firms like Savings Unlimited, the Villalobos Brothers and others have closed their doors. 

Many North Americans lived here on the 3 to 4 percent a month interest such firms paid. And they passed on some of their income to local charities, including the home. 

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Some banana producers will get another blow
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s high labor costs are being blamed as the reason a major banana exporter will slap a 10-week moratorium starting this month on  about 23 percent of the market here.

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based Chiquita Brands said Tuesday it would stop purchasing Costa Rican bananas Sept. 14 because of an oversupply. The freeze would last 10 weeks. But the company would not cut purchases on other Latin countries where it also has contracts, it said.

The Asociación Nacional de Productores de Banano said the decision would idle some 4,000

workers and push producers into bankruptcy. The bananas involved are worth about $1 million a week, the association estimated.

Chiquita also purchases bananas in Colombia and Guatemala where labor and production costs are lower. A spokesman for the banana producers said that in the past Chiquita has cut purchases the same amount in each country to prevent a serious impact in any one country. 

The spokesman also criticized the company for promoting its bananas in Europe as the product of a socially aware and environmentally sound market like Costa Rica and then cutting Costa Rica out of the mix for these very same reasons.

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Deadly disease outbreak hits Indians in Talamanca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A deadly outbreak of gastroenteritis has hit the Bri-Bri Indians in the High Talamanca, and health officials are trying to stem the epidemic.

María del Rocío Sáenz, minister of Salud, reported the outbreak Tuesday and said that a special team had gone to southeastern Costa Rica to evaluate the situation. She said that at least one 3-month-old child had died. The area is mountainous, and the team used a helicopter.

The best guess of health officials is that the disease is shigellosis, which is caused by bacteria and is spread by human contact and also through water.

The minister said that the outbreak was serious enough that Indians who live in the remote hills were descending to the settlement of Valle de Estrella, sometimes after a four-hour trip by foot. Because settlements are so remote it was difficult 

to assess the extent of the problem from San José. 

The health team would visit Alto Telire, San José Cabécar and Bajo de Bley, she said. She said that initial reports suggest that the bacteria had infected a water source and from there spread widely.

The shigella bacteria lives in the human intestine and is spread by hand-to-hand contact, food preparation or via beverages and contaminated ice. It causes a severe dysentery that sometimes can be treated with antibiotics.

Travel experts caution tourists to developing countries to drink only bottled water or processed or boiled drinks. Wine or beer is safe, but mixed drinks can be infected by the ice. Food should be cooked completely, and fruit should only be eaten freshly peeled. Frequently hand washings in clean water can slow the spread of the bacteria, health officials say.


 
Lawmaker targets
games and porno mix

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least one legislator thinks that electronic games for kids should not be set up in the lobby of Triple-X-rated movie houses.

Carlos Avendaño, the lawmaker, called for action against the movie houses in his release from his Partido Renovación Costarricense. He asked for a response by the Municipalidad de San José and the Defensoría de los Habitantes to force the businesses to close up the videogames so that children do not frequent the area. He also wants action from the Oficina de Control de Espectáculos Públicos and the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare agency.

Avendaño said that members of his political party have detected at least two movie houses in the capital where such activities are juxtaposed. In the video game section children, some in school uniforms, participate in full view of posters and other promotions for the shows inside, and, he said, in the same booth where tickets are sold for the show, tokens are sold for the game machines.

Avendaño said that a correlation exists between pornography and pedophilia. pimping and other more serious sex crimes.

Canadian is victim
of water accident

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Canadian, Jeremy Withe, 27, died about 1:30 p.m. Monday in what was described as a water accident, said police.

The location was the Hotel Barceló Playa Langosta near Tamarindo on the north Pacific coast. The Fuerza Pública did not say whether the accident happened in the surf or in a swimming pool at that location.

The case is in the hands of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Abduction stopped
and arrest made

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said they stopped a man from carrying a girl, 16, off in his pickup.

The incident took place in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados when a man stopped his pickup and tried to grab a girl and force her into the vehicle, police said.

A nearby patrol car responded to the event and embarked on a chase. Arrested was a man with the last name of Coto Blanco, 24.

Fuerza Pública officers said they had been on the alert for a month looking for a man grabbing women in this manner and they had a rough idea of the type of vehicle.

The chase went from Desamparados to the center of Aserrí where the girl eventually filed a formal complaint.

Dock protest ends
with 26 in jail

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police intervened about 9 p.m. Monday night to bust up a roadblock in Moín, near Limón, where workers were halting traffic to the docks.

Some 26 persons were arrested after police moved in. They said they did so because about 80 trucks had been backed up since the protest started earlier Monday.

The protestors want back pay for dock workers. These were joined by agricultural workers in the banana industry who want compensation for exposure to chemicals in their work.

Fox praises his work
and corruption fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — Mexico's president has taken to his nation's television airwaves to assess his administration. 

President Vincente Fox described his administration as a government with "clean hands." He said Mexico is no longer under authoritarian government and that no privileges are handed out to political supporters. He claimed the fight against corruption is being conducted with increased public will and better laws, plus more effective control in the fight against graft. He also said Mexico's fight against crime is being "professionalized." 

The president described the relationship with the United States as "strengthened." He said the important bilateral issues remain immigration, human rights, security and the fight against terrorism. He reiterated the need for a temporary visa program for millions of migrant workers. Inflation is at its lowest rate for 34 years, yet unemployment and poverty remain. 

Pledging not to privatize electricity or the state petroleum company known as PEMEX, Fox said international investment is needed. He said a divided society is a weak society and he appealed for cross-party political cooperation.

Pre-Colombian artifacts
returned to source

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. officials have returned to Honduras 279 pre-Columbian artifacts that had been smuggled into the United States for sale. 

The Honduran ambassador to Washington, Mario Canahuati, accepted the items Tuesday from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The handover took place in a low-key ceremony at the Honduran Embassy. 

Officials say an Ohio businessman, Douglas Hall, and another man, Tulio Monterroso-Bonilla, purchased the figurines, bowls and pottery in 1998 for $11,000. The items were shipped to Miami and later wound up in an Ohio shop co-owned by the businessman. 

Reports say the two men pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling and making false statements to Customs agents. They had declared on Customs forms that the items were worth $37. 

Honduran law prohibits the ownership, sale and export of pre-Columbian items.

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U.S. will boost the number of air marshals by 5,000
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration has announced it is reorganizing its homeland security operations to make available 5,000 more armed agents to protect commercial airline flights. 

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says air marshals along with immigration and customs agents will be trained so they all can be deployed to prevent terrorist attacks on airliners.

"This realignment offers a sweeping gain of additional, armed law enforcement officials who will be able to provide a surge capacity during increased threat periods or in the event of a terrorist attack. Importantly, in this single move, we will be able to deploy more than 5,000 additional, armed federal law enforcement agents to the skies when needed," he said.

Ridge made the announcement as the second anniversary approaches of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when hijackers slammed planes into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in the state of Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died in those attacks.

The announcement also comes about a month after reports that the government was cutting back on the number of air marshals to save money.

Officials denied the reports, but they came as new 
warnings were issued that al-Qaida could be planning more suicide hijackings and bombings in the United States and overseas.

In addition to announcing the new air marshals program, Ridge says his department has now established a network of secure communications to share information about terrorist threats.

"Already under this effort we have provided all 50 states, as well as two of the territories and the District of Columbia, with a capability to communicate over secure phones and video conferencing equipment," he said. "Also, every governor and just about every state homeland security adviser now has access to classified information and the appropriate federal security clearances to receive it."

Ridge also says his department is consolidating the border inspection system for anyone coming into the United States.

Instead of three separate inspectors, there will be a single "primary inspector" who will now handle immigration, customs and agricultural checks. If questions arise about a traveler, a second, more in-depth inspection will be conducted by another agent. Ridge says consolidation will allow more agents to be available to target suspicious people. 


 
U.S. Congress returns to consider situation in Iraq
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill after their August recess. Iraq is expected to be high on their agenda, as is work on a number of spending bills.

Concern among lawmakers over the situation in Iraq is rising as the American death toll there mounts. Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for the Bush administration to seek a greater international role in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

The administration last month indicated it might be willing to get the United Nations involved, but only on condition that coalition forces remain under U.S. control.

That pleases Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who spoke on the Senate floor. "I was glad the Bush administration sent a signal that there would be consideration [of] United Nations participation in Iraq," he said. "The precise formula was not indicated. I think that can be achieved, maintaining U.S. military command."

But Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, in a speech in South Carolina to formally announce his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President next year, suggested the administration action was too little too late. He said President Bush's policy on Iraq has alienated the world.

"Overseas, George Bush has led and misled us on a course at odds with 200 years of our history," he 

said. "He has squandered the goodwill of the world after Sept. 11, and he has lost the respect and the influence we need to make our country safe." 

Lawmakers also are questioning the costs of the U.S. mission in Iraq, in terms of both lives and taxpayer dollars. They will have an opportunity to voice their concerns to senior U.S. military officials during a closed session of the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

The administration soon is expected to seek additional funding from Congress to pay for the military operation in Iraq for the rest of the budget year, which ends Sept. 30.

The United States is spending about a billion dollars a week on military activities in Iraq, not counting funds to rebuild the country. None of the money is appropriated in the 13 spending bills before Congress.

Lawmakers hope to complete work on all 13 bills, which fund government agencies for the next budget year beginning Oct. 1, in the coming weeks.

The House has approved all but two of the bills, and the Senate has nine to go. None has been sent to President Bush for his signature.

Republicans, who hope to maintain control of both houses of Congress in next year's elections, are eager to show they can deliver. Democrats are expected to question Republican priorities, and seek more money for social programs, including health and education.

World Bank official says Cancun meeting is vital
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Starting Sept. 14, the world’s trade ministers gather in Cancun, Mexico, to review progress in completing the Doha Development Agenda, launched in November 2001.

Much is at stake in Cancun, as Uri Dadush, director of the World Bank’s International Trade Department, notes in the following interview. The forum will provide a barometer reading of the chances for resolving several crucial issues for developing countries, such as agricultural subsidies.

Q. What is the significance of the Cancun talks?

A. There are misconceptions that trade liberalization is a done deal. In fact, we are a long way away from free world trade, particularly in areas of interest to developing countries. The Cancun ministerial, which is a milestone in the Doha trade negotiations, will help determine whether there is real content to the Doha Development Agenda.

The Doha negotiations mark the first time that developing country interests were placed at the center of a multilateral round of trade negotiations. Those interests include agriculture, intellectual property in medicines, implementation of textile agreements, and the nature of special and differential treatment for developing countries.

But these are some of the hardest areas for countries to address and, unfortunately, key negotiating deadlines on most of these issues have been missed. As a result, substantial gaps remain between the developing and the industrial countries, especially on agriculture.

Q. From the World Bank’s point of view, what is the best possible outcome of Cancun?

A. An agreement on modalities, meaning how to negotiate. For agriculture that would reflect the fact that all parties recognize they’re within shooting distance of a compromise on the central question affecting the poor in developing countries. This will require the flexibility of both the EU and the Cairns Group (a group of 17 agricultural exporting nations), as well as confidence that other key players, including the US, are willing to push forward.

Other needed results would be a resolution on intellectual property in medicines, where the U.S. position is critical, and establishing a process for arriving at a strategic framework on special and differential treatment. Developing countries have to demonstrate that they are ready to be full players in the negotiations, i.e. that they are ready to undertake WTO obligations in exchange for movement on the issues crucial to them.

Q. How has the Bank been advocating for a pro-development outcome?

A. We’ve been active in the run-up to Cancun in four ways. One is through the preparation and publication of this year’s Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report. The next GEP . . .  is essentially about the Cancun issues. Last year’s GEP also dealt with several of the issues, including behind-the-border regulatory reforms‚ the so-called Singapore issues‚ which are an important object of negotiation. We are broadly disseminating the findings of that report. The last three GEPs have taken a very candid look at trade barriers that hurt developing countries and have underlined the need for rich countries to lead by example, as well as the fact that developing countries are often their own worst enemies when it comes to trade.

Second, through speeches of our most prominent spokespeople, we are outlining what would be a development outcome. Those include World Bank President’s James D. Wolfensohn, who spoke at the WTO’s General Council, and World Bank Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network Vice President Gobind Nankani, who participated in the Integrated Framework high-level meetings, and Chief Economist Nick Stern in various fora.

The third way is through direct and constant exchange with the negotiators themselves. For example, this month we hosted the European Commission team for two days in Washington to discuss precisely these questions. We also had a team from the French Ministry of Agriculture in Washington to discuss the implications of agriculture reform for developing countries. 

I would say that somebody from the Bank’s trade department is in Geneva every month, at least, in discussions with the WTO ambassadors. 

We’re also participating in several regional ministerial meetings. For example, next week World Bank External Affairs Vice President Ian Goldin and I will speak in Brussels to the 79 trade ministers from Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific.

But perhaps most important, we have stepped up efforts to make trade a more central part of the policy dialogue in operations. In our view a pro-development outcome is, above all, one that induces developing countries to use trade integration more actively as a growth lever. 

For example comprehensive trade diagnostic studies have been launched in 20 low-income countries in the last two years, and about 40 countries‚ both low and middle income‚ have been targeted for stepping up the bank’s trade activity. 

As a way to support the negotiations, we are looking for ways to provide assistance in countries that might suffer from preference erosion and/or tariff revenue losses from a trade deal.

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