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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 4, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 175
Jo Stuart
About us
Those killed by terrorists will be remembered next week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The second anniversary of the terrorist attack in New York and Washington will be marked here a week from today at 9:30 a.m. with a memorial service.

The ceremony will be at the Parque Once de Setiembre, which is near the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce Building and the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano in Sabana Norte.

The park was inaugurated at the first anniversary last year of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The memorial service will be followed by 

the opening of the audiovisual
exhibition "All Available Boats: The Evacuation of Manhattan Island on
September 11, 2001" at the Centro Cultural, said a U.S. Embassy spokesperson.

The memorial service is being sponsored by the U.S. and Costa Rican governments, the Municipalidad de San José, the chamber, the centro and the American Colony Committee.

The attack two years ago resulted in the collapse of the twin World Trade Towers in Manhattan, destruction of part of the Pentagon in Washington and the crash of a hijacked airliner in a Pennsylvania farm field. More than 3,000 persons died. The action has defined U.S. foreign policy since.

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Researchers crack security on GSM cell phones
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Researchers have found a flaw in GSM cellular telephone technology that would allow thieves to steal calls and impersonate users, an Israeli online newspaper revealed Wednesday.

The study was carried out at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa where three mathematicians were able to crack the encoding system that is used by nearly a billion cellular telephones worldwide. The system, Global System for Mobile Communications, is the latest innovation by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad here.

The trio, Prof. Eli Biham, doctoral student Elad Barkan, and master's degree graduate Nathan Keller, presented their work at a cryptology conference in Santa Barbara, Calif., last Aug. 21. Up until now, the GSM system was considered to be supersecure.

By exploiting a flaw in the way the system handled coded information, the trio were able to crack the code while the telephone was ringing and before it was answered.

Biham said that the weakness does not exist in a third generation system that telephone developers estimated will be available in two years, but the only way to solve the weakness would be to upgrade all the GSM telephones in use, said the professor, according to the newspaper, IsraelInsider.

The trio have filed a patent and are sitting on their discovery so that crooks cannot get the 

information. They plan to provide the data to 
law enforcement agencies and other legitimate eavesdroppers, the newspaper said.

Earlier versions of cellular telephones were vulnerable to all sorts of criminal activity. By using a scanner in the 800 megahertz range, crooks could pick up cellular conversations and the important electronic handshake that goes on before the user speaks. 

With that information they were able to clone cellular telephones so that billing would go to the actual user and allow the crooks the use of a free telephone.

In the same way they could pick up confidential data. Telephones here now are being used as a wireless modem from computers. A vulnerability like the one found by the Israeli researchers could be used to eavesdrop on computer activity.

Cellular companies were so upset by the eavesdropping and fraud that they prevailed on the U.S. Congress to forbid the sale of radio frequency scanners that operate in the range used by cellulars.

"Someone else already demonstrated that the rival standard, CDMA [Code Division Multiple Access], could be cracked," Biham told the newspaper. "The GSM code was considered stronger until now, but we've found a way to crack it. I don't work for a commercial company that stands to make profit from the discovery. I'm only attempting to check the strength of the codes," he added. 

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Who is using all the tax-free vehicles, PAC asks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Who is keeping track of all the vehicles in the country that are here free of tax.

That’s the question being asked by the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC). The political party estimates that some 2,000 vehicles are being operated in Costa Rica tax free by various diplomatic missions and international organization.

The party bases its estimate on data from the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto and the Registro Nacional where ownership information is filed.

Considering the fact that the country is in a difficult economic situation, someone should be in charge of verifying the truth of these tax-free vehicles, said the political party. The freedom from taxes comes from a number of laws and international agreements.

Costa Rica hosts at least 40 international institutions that have the right to import 

automobiles without paying the taxes that sometimes can run as high as 90 percent of the estimated value of the car.

The Colegio Humboldt, for example, has 11 such vehicles, the political party said, asking what is the benefit to the country.

The political party also said that Fundación Friederick Eber has six such vehicles. A statement from the party described the foundation as an arm of the German Socialists brought to Costa Rica in the 1970s by the Partido Liberación Nacional.

The World Vision Foundation has 13 tax-free vehicles, the political party said, and the Liceo Franco Costarricense has nine, it added.

The statement from Acción Ciudadana said the party was not interested in attacking the legitimate use of tax-free vehicles, but it asked that the Contraloría de la República and the Defensoría de los Habitantes to conduct a complete study of who is using such vehicle with an eye open for abuse of the tax system.

These kilos of shrimp could pack a deadly wallop
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police said they stopped three Turrubares men Tuesday after the trio used a deadly neurotoxin to catch shrimp. Police said they thought the seven kilos, some 15.4 pounds of shrimp, were to be sold.

Police said the men got the shrimp by using an agrochemical called DECIS 2.5 EC or deltametrina. The men are accused of spreading the chemical in a creek called La Florecilla in order to capture the shrimp.

Sgt. Miguel Castro, chief of the Turrubares section of the Fuerza Pública, said that the chemical, a nematicide, is used legitimately to kill harmful worms in the roots of mango trees. He reported that there is no antidote for human consumption.

The three men were stopped at the crossroads of the Orotina and San Pedro de Turrubares roads. They were identified by the last names of Prado Arias, Prado Rodrígues and Arias Montero. They live in Paso Agres of San Juan de Mata, Turrubares, police said.

Police confiscated about an ounce of the chemical. Castro said that the chemical is used elsewhere in the country against pests of cabbage and broccoli.

The men are suspected of violating a host of environmental laws. Inspectors from the Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía and the Judical Investigating Organization participated in the arrest and investigation.

A report from the Ministerio de Salud said that human poisoning by the type of chemical can result in death by paralysis or cardiorespiratory failure because the chemical is a toxin for the nervous system and it can be lethal in small doses.

The chemical can mimic food poisoning by causing vomiting, headaches and sore muscles in other parts of the body.

Castro also said that the chemical remains in the water and can poison cattle or wildlife for some distance downstream. The stream where the shrimp were taken is in the vicinity of San Pedro de Turrubares.

Police seek murderer
in hills of Heredia

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small army of police fanned out through the coffee plantations of eastern Heredia Wednesday seeking José Antonio Mora Jiménez, the principal suspect in a string of murders there.

The search will continue today.

The man faces questioning in the Aug. 22 murder of a San Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia woman, 21-year-old Ariella Andrea Cartín Feoli. She was shot to death by an assailant who left her alongside her vehicle in a trail used as a shortcut through the coffee plantations.

She was the latest and perhaps the fifth lone motorist to be killed by the same person in the Santo Domingo de Heredia area.

The suspect, 30, is a native of the area and well versed in living in the rolling fields of coffee bushes. He has family nearby, although all deny having seen him lately.

U.S. priest becomes
controversial here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A U.S. priest from San Antonio, Texas, has become the center of a controversy that also includes a place where believers say the Virgin Mary visits.

The location is a residence in San Isidro de Grecia where believers congregate to hear the words of the Virgin repeated by a young man who is the only person able to hear her.

The location is in the Province of Alajeula, and the bishop of that area  does not support the reported visions.

The priest has been identified by the last name of Prado, who is 75. He was invited here by the religious group to be the priest in residence.

Several officials are seeking to verify the activities of the priest and the group of followers.

Hurricane Fabian turns
away from islands

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Hurricane Fabian, the biggest storm of the hurricane season, is sending treacherous weather toward the Northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The category four storm, with winds of up to 215 kph (133 mph), has turned slightly northward, and is not expected to actually hit landfall in the Caribbean.

But the U.S. National Hurricane Center warns that Fabian will batter the Caribbean countries with large ocean swells and dangerous surf conditions through today.

Fabian is currently near latitude 21.6 north and longitude 62.2 west. The U.S. National Hurricane Center is warning Bermuda to closely monitor the storm.

Mexican minister
visiting Washington

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico's secretary of foreign relations is headed to the United States for high-level talks about immigration and other issues.

Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez was expected to arrive in Washington late Wednesday for meetings with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, various members of congress and other officials.

The Mexican embassy's press secretary Miguel Monterreubio says Derbez will discuss various draft immigration bills as well as other issues during his two-day trip.

The meetings come as Mexican President Vicente Fox is pledging to work harder toward economic and other reforms. 

At his third state of the nation address on Monday, Fox said relations with the United States are strengthening. He stressed the need for a temporary visa program for millions of migrant workers.

Children’s Day plan
includes marionettes

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Next Tuesday is the Día de la Niñez and lots of activities are planned for children. Among the events will be a marionette show at the Museo Nacional de Costa Rica.

The museum said that the show will feature three children who defend their rights and values. By means of the play, children will be able to learn their rights and duties under the children’s code of the country.

The event is co-sponsored by Fundación PANIAMOR, which works for children’s welfare.

After the event, children will be invited to a special tour of the museum’s butterfly garden.

Arrests for rustling
face five persons

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five persons are accused of making off with up to 75 head of cows since July.

Investigators arrested four men during a raid early Wednesday in Barrio el Torno in Bagases. They arrested a woman, 40, the presumed leader, in a park in Nicoya Tuesday.

The suspects are facing charges that they took cows from a ranch or finca in Tilarán and Nicoya during the last few months. The value of the cows is about 8 million colons or about $20,000.

Agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the woman would seek employment and living quarters on a ranch. She would use her position to expedite the thefts.

The individuals also are suspects in similar rustlings of cows in San Carlos, Belén de Nicoya, Cañas and Guápiles, agents said.

The animals involved all were branded.

Investigators said the woman is named Anabel Cárdenas. Three brothers are Cristian, 19, Julio, 27, and Alexis Cerdas Brenes, 33. A cousin named José Manuel Alvarez Brenes also was detained.

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U.S. joins effort to stop kidnappings by terrorists
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BOGOTA,  Colombia — The United States and Colombia have inaugurated a new program designed to defeat the terrorist tactic of kidnapping for ransom.

The $25-million Anti-Kidnapping Initiative, funded by the U.S. State Department, will train and equip a large number of Colombian military and police units to help them resolve hostage situations.

The State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, Cofer Black, said at a news conference here that Colombia's estimated 3,000 kidnap incidents per year afflict both Colombians and Americans and "also serve to undermine investor confidence."

The United States, he said, aims to work with Colombia to take away this "favored terrorist financing pool" of kidnapping, "just as coca and poppy eradication efforts are beginning to strip another longtime source of financing." Colombian anti-government forces have been using the proceeds from drug trafficking to finance a civil war that has continued in the nation for four decades.

Black, who was making a two-day visit to Colombia, said the new initiative is designed to rescue innocent people who have been taken hostage. The effectiveness of the program, he said, will be measured not in the amount of money or time spent on the initiative, but on the "number of hostages that are recovered and returned to their families."

The official also said the United States will "do everything that we can" to recover three U.S. government contractors who have been held hostage by Colombian rebels, as well as all other hostages in Colombia and elsewhere.

Black said the United States is "very concerned" about the fate of the three U.S. hostages who were captured by the leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The hostages were seized after their plane went down in southern Colombia Feb. 13.

"We, like our Colombian counterparts, do not forget," Black said. "It is our mission to recover our people."

The State Department said in its "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report for 2002 that payments and extortion fees demanded by the primary perpetrators of kidnapping — the FARC and another left-wing guerrilla group called the National Liberation Army (ELN) — continue to hobble the Colombian economy and limit investor confidence. Since 1980, the FARC has murdered at least 10 U.S. citizens. The Department said there is a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than in any other country in the world. 

Regarding Colombia's battle against narcoterrorism, Black said the Andean nation has been "as dangerous a counter-terrorism environment as you find anywhere in the world. The difference I think in Colombia is that you have a leadership that is absolutely determined to defend its people. It has the will to resist and has made dramatic progress in the last few months" in fighting terrorism.

The security situation in Colombia, said Black, "may indeed get worse before it gets better, but the alternative is another 40 years of low-intensity conflict, frustrated development, and generations of children lost to terrorist organizations bent on destruction rather than advancement."

Colombia, he added, "has clearly made its choice. With resolute efforts and support from the United States and other allies, Colombia can emerge from the tunnel as an example of perseverance for other violence-wracked  nations."

Tupac Maru terrorists sentenced in case studied by rights court
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LIMA, Peru — A Peruvian civilian court has sentenced four Chileans to terms of up to 23 years in prison on terrorism and related charges. 

The court in Lima handed down the decisions Tuesday, nearly a decade after a secret military court sentenced them to life in prison.

In 1994, the military tribunal ordered the life sentences for Jaime Castillo Petruzzi, Maria Concepcion Pincheira, Lautaro Mellado and Alejandro Astorga. They are suspected members of the rebel Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, known as the MRTA.

Five years later, the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Human Rights Court ordered Peru 

to retry the defendants in civilian courts.

The administration of then-President Alberto Fujimori objected to the order, but after his government collapsed in late 2000, Peru granted the Chileans a new trial, which began in January. 

The retrial was similar to one granted to Lori Berenson, a U.S. citizen serving a 20-year prison sentence in Peru for aiding the MRTA.

In 1996, a military tribunal sentenced Berenson to life in prison on terrorism charges. Berenson's sentence was overturned and she was retried.

She was acquitted of being an active member of the MRTA, but convicted of helping the group plan a failed takeover of the Peruvian Congress. Berenson has maintained her innocence.

Jailed Cuban dissidents begin hunger strike to protest conditions
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANA, Cuba — A group of jailed Cuban dissidents are reported to have begun a hunger strike to protest harsh prison conditions. 

Family members say they gave the Cuban Interior Ministry a letter Monday, protesting what they call "inhuman conditions" their loved ones are subjected to. 

According to the letter, the inmates are forced to live in very high temperatures and are plagued by
 insects. It says they have no running water and 

often don't have a sufficient quantity of food. The letter did not identify the hunger strikers by name. 

The striking inmates are among 75 dissidents arrested in March and sentenced to jail terms of up to 28 years for allegedly collaborating with the United States. 

The dissidents had called for peaceful democratic reform of Cuba's one party system. Their convictions sparked international condemnation of the treatment of dissidents by the Cuban regime of President Fidel Castro.

Bush signs free trade pacts with Chile, Singapore
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President George W. Bush has signed legislation implementing U.S. free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. 

These are historic pacts. Chile is the first South American country to get a free trade agreement with the United States, and Singapore is the first Asian-Pacific nation.

Bush signed the necessary legislation to put the two trade deals into effect at a ceremony attended by members of Congress, trade negotiators and diplomats. He used the occasion to hail the benefits of free trade at home and around the world.

"The continued advance of free trade is essential to this nation's prosperity," said Bush. "A world that trades in freedom will grow in prosperity and in security."

Bush said statistics show American workers have benefited from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations. Sensitive to criticism that low wages abroad have cost U.S. jobs, the president pointed to the impact greater American exports have had on the nation's economy.

"Exports accounted for roughly one-quarter of our economy's growth in the 1990s," said the president. "Jobs in exporting plants pay wages that average up to 18 percent more than jobs in non-exporting plants."

The president said the agreement with Chile will benefit many American industries such as agriculture and construction equipment, automobiles, computers and financial services. He said Chile has one of the fastest growing economies in the developing world.

Bush then noted that Singapore is already America's 12th largest trading partner, and exports in high tech goods will expand with this pact. And he promised these agreements are just the beginning. "I sign this legislation today fully expecting to sign many more free trade agreements. We are now negotiating with Australia, and Morocco, five nations in Central America and the Southern African Customs Union."

The agreements with Singapore and Chile go into effect on Jan. 1. In addition to phasing out tariffs and other import restrictions, the pacts improve anti-piracy and copyright protections for the American entertainment industry. They also include provisions calling on all three countries to enforce labor and environmental laws.

Shots fired at British Embassy in Iran over Argentine bomb case
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — According to the Foreign Office in London, five shots were fired from the street at the British Embassy in Tehran. Windows were broken, but no one was injured. The compound will remain closed until further notice.

Earlier, Iran's ambassador to Britain, Morteza Samadi was recalled to Tehran for what are being described as consultations. It is not known how long Ambassador Samadi will remain away from his post in Britain, but the U.K. Foreign Office says the recall does not represent a downgrading of relations between the two countries.

It is the latest incident in a growing diplomatic dispute between the two nations. At issue is the possible extradition to Argentina of the former Iranian ambassador to Buenos Aires. Hadi Soleimanpur is wanted for questioning about a 

bombing nine years ago that killed 85 people at the Jewish community center in the Argentine capital. 

Soleimanpur, 47, has made two brief court appearances in London. He is being held in custody pending the outcome of the extradition battle. He entered Britain a year and a half ago on a student visa and until recently had been a researcher at Durham University in northeast England.

Soleimanpur's lawyers firmly deny that he was involved in the bombing. The British Foreign Office calls it a judicial matter, while Tehran says the detention of its former diplomat is political.

Angered by the growing diplomatic row, Tehran has broken off economic and cultural ties with Argentina and it has hinted that it might expel Britain's ambassador to Iran if the matter is not resolved to its satisfaction. 

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