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These stories were published on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 189
Jo Stuart
About us
A.M. Costa Rica/Clair-Marie Robertson

Car dealers cluster outside the Asemblea Nacional as they press for changes in emissions rules that make it hard to bring vehicles into the country.

Vehicle importers carry their case to nation's lawmakers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Vehicle importers from much of the nation brought their case to the Asamblea Nacional Tuesday as they protested the nation’s regulations on vehicle emissions.

Representatives came from Naranjo, Palmares, Grecia, Esparza, Guanacaste as well as San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela. Parked cars bearing  banners lined the streets. They arrived via a motorcade from Grecia that tied up morning traffic.

The issue is where the emissions tests are administered. A Costa Rican decree requires vehicles to have a test of exhaust pipe emissions from their nation of origin. And the test has to be conducted by a competent governmental entity.

A number of U.S. states do not have governmental entities that do such tests. Importers have urged that the regulations be changed so that newly arrived vehicles can 

be tested by Riteve S y C, the company that does vehicle inspections here.

Used car importers also are miffed that they have to provide a foreign inspection certificate but then theyhave to have the cars inpsected again locally.

At one point some 8,000 cars were bottled up in customs due to failure to have the proper paperwork. President Abel Pacheco finalized his decree as many of these vehicles were being transported to Costa Rica.

"We are protesting against the unnecessary restrictions that this government is implementing." said importer Juan Madrigal Jiménez, 29, a member of Movimiento Libertario. "They are limiting our ability to import cars into this country by making us carry out further tests on exhaust fumes."

There were no arrests and no violence from the protest, although traffic was compromised from 8 a.m. until after 4 p.m.

Canadians have their charity  sale this Saturday in Belén
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian Club has its biggest fundraiser of the year Saturday.

It’s a sale in San Antonio de Belén west of San José.

All proceeds go to the Outreach Committee which helps orphans, abandoned seniors,  impoverished schools, and other persons and entities in need, said a club spokesperson.  The funds are matched by the Canadian Embassy. Every donation or purchase counts double.

This year there is even a Hotpoint dishwasher 

up for sale.  Club members also promise books, home baking, crafts, hot dogs, coffee, clothing, jewelery and kids' toys.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The sale will be in the Centro Diurno Adulto Mayor in San Antonio de Belen. The town is west of the Cariari Mall. Shoppers are encouraged to take the Autopista General Canã  west past the mall and to go over the bridge to Belén and follow the signs.

The Costa Rican address is from El Lagar (a hardware store): 300 north and 75 east. More information is available at 293-2739.

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Rodríguez promises 
not to let people down

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Miguel Ángel Rodriguez, who officially assumes his new five-year position as secretary-general of the Organization of American States today, says his top priorities for the Western Hemisphere include promoting human rights, democracy, conflict resolution, and the fight against poverty.

The former president of Costa Rica led his nation from 1998 to 2002. More recently he was a professor at George Washington University's School of International Affairs here. Rodriguez said that the OAS has a "great responsibility to the peoples of this hemisphere and we must not let them down."

Rodriguez won election as secretary-general June 7, after which he said he wanted to lead the OAS in pursuing "freedom, justice, and development so that every citizen of the Americas can enjoy a decent life and realize his or her full human potential." He added: "I know the rudder belongs to the member states and I pledge my utmost creativity and devotion in charting a happy course."

Rodriguez succeeds former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria as secretary general. Gaviria declared that with the election of Rodriguez, the OAS "will certainly enter a period of renewal and strengthening."

In Costa Rica, Roberto Tovar, Faja, foreign minister, called the elevation of Rodríguez a triumph for the country and for the nation’s diplomacy.

UFO believer plans
two seminars here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Mark Kimmel, an author and speaker who will visit Costa Rica this month, has a spiritual reason to defend the environment.

He seeks to use a spiritual consciousness to transform the planet earth into a place of beauty, peace, and abundance for all. When that happens, the transformation to a state of higher consciousness will be swift and sure, he says.

Kimmel predicts extraterrestrial contact is imminent and includes UFOs in his philosophy.

Kimmel says that cataclysmic environmental changes will lead to wars based on scarcity of resources, perhaps triggering mass extinction.

Kimmel has written two books, "Trillion" and "Decimal" that promote his point of view.

He will make two presentations in Costa Rica. One is Saturday, Oct. 2, and the other is the following day, Sunday, Oct. 3. Both begin at 9 a.m.

The event is a paid one, sponsored by The Good Neighbor Outreach Foundation. Information is available at  206-7596, 289-6333/282-7795/821-4708/833-1366,  282-1064 (English) A donation of 8,000 colons ($18) is requested for each day. Students are half price.

The presentations will be in the auditorium of the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes in the building known as the old liquor factory east of Parque España on Avenida 7 near the Instituto Nacional de Seguros in downtown San José.

Contralor rejects plan
for 600,000 telephones

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Contralor general has rejected a contract with Ericsson for some 600,000 more cellular telephone lines.

The effect is that the Instituto Costarricense will have to rebid the project.

The contralor, Alex Solís, and his agency must pass on every government contract. This one is for $130 million and has been in the planning since 2002.

Ericsson has been in the news because of some importation of switching units that entered the country in the name of the Institute. This also is the firm whose representative accompanied two officials of the institute on a detour to Prague, Czech Republic, during a trip to a convention in Europe.

Memorial service today
for resident Betty Mora

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friends and fellow church members of Betty Mora of Granadilla will meet today at 2 p.m. for a memorial service.

Mrs. Mora, an expat, was a librarian at the International Baptish Church for years, according to friends. She died after surgery Tuesday.

The memorial service will be at the church in Guachipelín, Escazú.

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Pair of profs battle computer hackers and intrusions
University Of Toronto News Service

TORONTO, Canada — Somewhere between crime fighter and computer techie, you’ll find electrical and computer engineering professors David Lie and Ashvin Goel. But these two aren’t interested in fitting any molds: they’re interested in the ever-evolving world of computer security.

"There’s a whole grey area out there," said Goel, referring to the wild cyber-frontier of hackers and computer threats. 

Lie agreed. "It’s a completely different world today than when computers first came out. You find them in places you wouldn’t normally expect them, like cars." Security is something that has to be addressed now, he said.

While their research at the University of Toronto is similar thematically, Lie and Goel approach the problem differently. Lie monitors the behaviour of hackers by setting up "honey pots," computers that act as decoys to lure cyber-criminals into his electronic lair. 

"Surprisingly, we found that none of them actually looked hard into the system," Lie said. Instead, hackers used the honey pots to attack the next computer. "That told us that most of them aren’t professionals, they’re just experimenting and seeing how far they can get."

These naive hackers also leave clues. Although they use Internet protocol addresses to bounce from machine to machine, hackers pick up languages used on interfaces along the way, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that trace back to the point of origin.

"If you just look at the languages, a large majority of them are from eastern Europe, a whole bunch 

are from Romania and it seems like at least one Italian," Lie said. "So this was actually a better identifier than anything electronic."

But what to do once a system is invaded? That’s where Goel steps in. His goal is to simplify recovery from these intrusions. "Currently, security experts spend hours or days to fix the problem," he said. "Ideally, what we want are systems administrators taking tens of minutes." 

Typically, once a hacker strikes and wreaks havoc, computer experts revert to a snapshot of data stored the day before, erasing all the present day’s work. Goel wants to save new data and just pinpoint the intrusion. "Instead of doing what we call a complete undo, we want to do a selective undo of the intrusion."

The first step, according to Goel, is logging all the data into a separate server that has no connection to the outside world. The data is then parcelled into subsets that facilitate analysis, determining exactly when and where the intrusion occurred.

Goel estimates that the technology to perform selective undos could be available in less than three months. His ultimate goal is to have a self-recovery system that automatically detects an intrusion and sets to work on fixing it. This technology, he admits, is a long way off.

As for the future of computer security, both Goel and Lie agree that experts have to be on guard for professional hackers intent on breaking into cyber vaults full of priceless information.

"If you put enough value in something, there are going to people with enough intelligence to break into it," Lie said. 

Child porn probe involves thousands all over world
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

BERN, Switzerland — Swiss authorities have arrested 10 suspects in an operation targeting online child pornography, the latest law enforcement action in a multinational investigation involving agencies in at least 11 nations. Eight of the suspects are also suspected of child molestation.

Swiss authorities acted with information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to that agency. Investigators linked these latest arrests to a case that broke in January when a Belarus-based company was charged with money laundering in connection with the operation of child pornography Web sites. 

Since then, nearly 900 more arrests have been made in the operation of this child porn network through the cooperation of authorities in Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

This investigation is part of Operation Predator, a customs enforcement operation to protect children from foreign national pedophiles, human traffickers, international sex tourists and individuals who trade in child porn. More than 4,000 suspects have been arrested in the United States alone since the campaign began in July 2003.

Swiss authorities have in recent days executed 400 search warrants, examined more than 100,000 photo and video files and arrested at least 10 individuals.

In addition to money landering the firm based in Minsk, Belarus, provided credit card billing services for 50 child pornography Web sites worldwide and operating child porn websites on its own. Three officers of the company have been arrested in Europe and two officers of an affiliated company in Florida have pleaded guilty.

Investigators then followed the credit card billing information to locate child porn customers.

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Nicaragua's Bolaños wants speedy border crossings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica will study a plan put forth by Nicaragua to speed up the crossing of the mutual international border of the two countries.

That was announced by President Abel Pacheco in New York after meeting with Enrique Bolaños, president of Nicaragua. Both men were attending activities at the United Nations this week.

Pacheco said that Bolaños told him that it is impossible that transiting Central America is done at 18 kms per hour. Bolaños said that commerce and the future suffer, said Pacheco. Frequently there are hours long tie ups at the borders.

Pacheco said that part of the initiative would be to look into the possibility of simplifying the paperwork and implementing a series of documents that are the same at all border crossings.

But Pacheco said there was a human factor involved

in the discussion. A number of persons have commercial establishments, and others make their living cutting through government paperwork and helping persons crossing the border work their documents through officials. Pacheco said that these people will have to be compensated.

Roberto Tovar Faja, foreign minister, said that in no way was Costa Rica talking about eliminating the border. The matter is only in speeding up the process in conjunction with other Central American nations.

The Costa Rican government will put together a counter offer for Bolaños in two weeks.

The Nicaraguan border is an emotional issue with Costa Ricans. Many blame decline in the quality of life on the influx of Nicaraguans to the country.  In addition, the northern border crossing point at Peñas Blancas is astride a major drug trafficking route and in an area where many illegals enter the country.

Jo Stuart
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