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These stories were published Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001



National Metropolical Institute graphic
Dark red indicates area predicted to be drier than normal. Pink is normal to somewhat dry. Light blue is normal to somewhat rainy. Dark blue is wetter than normal in Costa Rica through November.
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Valley had a break from the rains last week and Monday. Some hope this means an early end to the rainy season. But that is not likely, according to the National Meteorological Institute.

Scientists there are predicting that the rains will hang on in most sections of Costa Rica until at least December.

The institute said it relied on a methodology that says the end of the rainy season is negatively related to the indications of a possible El Niño in the Pacific. Based on that theory, the Institute said that the end of the rainy season will not be far from normal. 

At the same time they said that the probability of a new El Niño developing in the Pacific Ocean is not high. 

If El Niño were a strong possibility, the rains would end sooner.

Like good statisticians, researchers stuck with the average. Due to regional variations, the rainy season terminates at different times in Costa Rica, they pointed out.

In Bagaces and Liberia, the season will end about Nov. 6, they predicted.  But rain hangs around until about Jan. 10 in Golfito and the Osa Peninsula.   For Guanacaste and the Central Valley the weathermen predict the rainy season will end sometime between Nov. 20 and Dec. 11. 

In the Central Pacific the season's end is not indicated until sometime between Dec. 11 and Dec. 31.

The first six months of the year have been characterized by very irregular distribution of precipitation, and this has been one of the most significant factors in the high number of dry days on the Pacific slope and elsewhere, the weathermen said.

According to the Institute, the San José suburb of Pavas was down 19 percent from normal rainfall. Alajuela was down 29 percent of normal. Puntarenas was down 56 percent of normal. Liberia was down 32 percent. Limon was up 8 percent, and 

there were similar higher rainfalls in nearby areas of the Caribbean coast.

The weaker rains than normal are associated with a hemispheric weather system that brought drought to countries to the north but just diminished rain to Costa Rica.

Prognosticators said they believe that there is only a 30 percent chance that the disruptive El Niño will develop in the Pacific between December and March. They base these predictions on the statistics and the dynamics associated with a weak warming of the water there. El Niño is characterized by water much warmer than usual. La Niña is the opposite condition. Both have strong effects on the weather here and elsewhere.

After consulting eight climatic prediction models, the institute sees a 40 percent chance of less rain in the north Pacific region of Costa Rica with September being about normal and October slightly more rainy. Here are some other prognostications: 

North Pacific: The final total for September and for November will show dry conditions in the central and northern areas of Guanacaste, except in the Nicoya Peninsula and Puntarenas where the precipitation will be approximately normal.

Central Pacific: September and November will see normal conditions or slightly more humid conditions, but October will have rains significantly higher than average.

South Pacific: Less rain is predicted than the average in this area, but November is likely to be even drier.

Central Valley: September is likely to come up average with October slightly wetter than normal. November will have drier conditions except in the area around Cartago. 

North zone: September is likely to end up drier in the whole region with October being about normal to slightly wetter. November will be less rainy than normal except in the area around Tortuguero in the northeast.

Caribbean Slope: October will see normal rainfall in this area around Limón but November will be drier than normal .

House urged to go slow on new terror bill
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON Persons and organizations concerned about privacy and civil liberties are urging the House Judiciary Committee to go slow in considering the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 backed by the Bush Administration 

The bill was considered by House Judiciary Committee Monday, and the committee held a closed-door briefing on the measure. The measure is a result of the terror attacks Sept. 11 on Washington and New York.

The American Civil Liberties Union said that the proposed counter-terrorism legislation includes both reasonable measures to give law enforcement authorities the necessary tools to investigate terrorism as well as other provisions that go far beyond addressing the terrorist attacks, according to a statement released by the ACLU afterward.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center also had concerns relating to government monitoring of the Internet.

"Congress must take every reasonable step it can to protect our nation against future attacks," said Rachel King, an ACLU legislative counsel who
participated in the briefing. "But it is a mistake to assume that many of the expanded police powers sought in the bill are going to make us safer."

Although King thanked the committee for holding the briefing, she expressed concern that the Congress is moving too quickly and urged the Judiciary Committee to engage in a thorough and deliberative analysis of the proposed legislation, said the ACLU.

"The civil liberties we value so much as a society are at stake, and we urge you to go slowly," An ACLU release quoted her as saying. Others have called for full-blown legislative hearings.

One provision of the bill that worries the ACLU and others is one that would give the government the
authority to seek judicial approval to conduct secret searches when the owner of the premises searched would not have to be informed for some time. Agents could make secret copies of hard drives and documents. 

According to some concerned organizations the changes do not just relate to investigation of terrorism but to all federal criminal searches in the Unites States.

Among other things, the bill substantially expands government surveillance powers, including use of the controversial Carnivore Internet monitoring system, said the electronic privacy group. The organization urged Congress to carefully assess the need for new surveillance powers and to draw any possible changes narrowly to protect privacy and constitutional rights.

The proposed legislation also would permit United States prosecutors to use against American citizens information collected overseas by foreign governments even if the interception would have violated the Fourth Amendment if conducted by the United States, said the privacy group.

The measure is supported by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who also wants authority to maintain roving wiretaps of suspects, that is to have the authority to tap any telephone the suspect touches. Now such authority is limited to specific telephone numbers.

The proposed law would change the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Financial Right to Privacy Act, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to permit government access to banking, credit, educational and other records for foreign counterintelligence purposes if an FBI agent says the information is needed, according to critics.

Colombian president identified as assassin's target
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian authorities say they have foiled a plot by right-wing paramilitary forces to assassinate President Andres Pastrana.

The head of the Colombian secret service, German Jaramillo, says agents and police recently learned of the plot involving the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC. He told the French news agency, AFP, the group intended to assassinate the president last month either in the capital, Bogota, or in a coffee-growing region in central Colombia.

Word of the alleged plot comes as Pastrana considers whether to extend the term of a safe haven in southern Colombia ceded to the country's largest leftist rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The term is set to expire Oct. 7. 

The rebels have been accused of using the Switzerland-sized zone to attack nearby villages, process cocaine, and hide kidnapping victims. The guerrillas have been involved in a 37-year war against the government and the right-wing paramilitaries.

In a related development, suspected leftist guerrillas have kidnapped a Roman Catholic priest on a highway in the Andean nation.

Investigators tell the Reuters news agency the Rev. Pavol Sochulak was abducted Sunday as his bus was traveling along the road linking Medellin and Bogota. The identity of his kidnappers is unknown. 

The 32-year-old priest from Slovakia has lived in Colombia for two years, working in the Vigia del Fuerte region in the western Choco department

U.S. Embassy sets up
page on terrorism

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

The U.S. Embassy in San José has put up a special set of Web pages relating to terrorism, and among them is a link that lets travelers check the status of flights at most U.S. airports.

The Air Traffic control System Command Center provides information on all major U.S. airports. For example, the system reported at midday Monday that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport continues to be closed. The airport was shut down because it is close to major terrorist targets in the capital.

The system also noted that San Francisco International Airport was experiencing ground delays.  The Web page said that weather there:

". . . is causing some arriving flights to be delayed an average of 41 minutes with some arriving flights receiving as much as 1 hour and 34 minutes delay. . . ."

The direct address for the system is: 

Airports outside the United States are not included, and the Federal Aviation Administration, the entity that runs the system, advises that travelers check with their airlines for flight-specific details.

The embassy terrorism page also contains links to a photo gallery relating to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a number of news photos are available for private use. Included among them is an Associated Press photo by Carmen Taylor that shows the second jetline on course for its collision with the second World Trade Center tower a scant second before impact.

Also included are photos of survivors, rescuers and President George Bush. The embassy Web site is at: http://www.usembassy.or.cr/

An embassy spokesman said the staff there hopes this information proves valuable to people interested in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and that they will try to keep the website as fresh and updated as possible.

The embassy page also includes links to both local and Washington statements about the terrorist attack. Some of the local statements are in Spanish.

Annual carnival runs
into possible trouble

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The annual October carnival event in Limón is scheduled to kick off Oct. 12 in the Caribbean town.

But the Carnival de Caribe 2001 may be in jeopardy. Health officials say that Limón hasn't figured out yet what to do with the solid waste generated by the festival. And the municipality of Limón is so broke the phone service has been cut off because the bill has not been paid.

The problem might just be the Ministry of Health putting pressure on the municipality when the municipality is most vulnerable to pressure. The carnival is the principal tourist event in the area. 

But the ministry is pulling no punches in warning Limón that failure to resolve the garbage problem might result in an increase in dengue and other contagious diseases.

The nine-day carnival is scheduled to run until Oct. 21. For tourists the top events are the tope or horse parade that is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13, starting about noon, and the carnival parade that is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, also at noon.

Fireworks are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19, and concerts will be held Friday, Oct. 12, Saturday, Oct. 13, Tuesday, Oct. 16, Friday, Oct. 19 and Saturday, Oct. 20. A number of national and international groups are scheduled, according to the carnival program.

Because of its location and the historical immigration into the area, Limón has strong African roots that are reflected in the carnival.

Among those scheduled to attend the carnival, unless negotiations between the organizers and the Ministry of Health break down, is a group from the Association of Residents of Costa Rica.

The group will arrive Oct. 19 and stay to Oct. 21, according to Ryan Piercy, executive director of the organization. The residents will spend two nights at the Maribu Caribe Hotel, and reservations must be confirmed by Oct. 1, The cost is $140 each, said the association. Those interested may call 221-2053 or 233-8068.

Last year 30 members of the group attended the carnival.

There is a pretty good change that the carnival will transcend the battle over garbage. The horse parade is dedicated to Dr. Rogelio Pardo Evans, who happens to be the minister of health and the boss of the health officials in Limón who are fighting with the organizers.

Anyone with doubts may contact carnival organizers at 798-4266.

Bush and Chretien pledge
unity against terror

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien have pledged to work together closely to combat global terrorism.

Chretien told reporters at the White House Monday that Canadians were "traumatized" by the attacks against New York City and the Pentagon. The prime minister said he promised Bush his country will be available whenever it is needed.

The two leaders met with media representatives following talks on securing the world's longest undefended border against potential terrorist activity.

President Bush also rejected criticism he had snubbed Canada in his address to Congress following the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush told reporters there should be no doubt how honored the United States is to have Canada's support. He also said he did not praise Chretien during his speech because he felt no need to single out someone with whom he has such a close relationship. 

Hurricane targets Mexico's west

Hurricane warnings continue to be posted along Mexico's western coastline as a weakened but still powerful hurricane, Juliette, tracks a parallel course.

Located about 430 kilometers south of the coastal town of Manzanillo, Juliette is packing winds of 165 kilometers an hour. Although downgraded to a category two hurricane, the storm is still capable of producing heavy rains and high waves.

Juliette left at least one fisherman dead in the resort city of Acapulco where it also caused minor flooding and downed trees.  Longer range forcasts show the storm affecting the tip of the Baja Peninsula later in the week.

Gas station manager
gunned down in north

Four men in a car intercepted a gas station manager, shot him fatally and took an estimated 5 million colons in Guácimo Monday morning, according to the Organization of Judicial Investigation.

They identified the victim as Marco Tulio Aguilar Pereira. He died from a single shot in the chest when robbers sprayed his car with what might have been an automatic AK-47 or similar, said police.

Aguilar was in a vehicle going to the bank to make a deposit when the robbers cut him off 600 meters south of the local cemetery, said investigators.

The town where the robbery took place is north and east of San José on the road to Limón.

U.S. will re-examine
its policies on visas

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Evidence showing that most of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington entered the United States legally on student or tourist visas is prompting a re-examination of U.S. immigration and visa policies. 

There are foreign students, tourists, business travelers and those with special work permits. In total, immigration lawyer Carl Shusterman estimates, about 100 million foreigners enter the United States annually. The number of those who linger on beyond their planned stay, he says, is anybody's guess. "Supposedly the date they come into the U.S. and the date they're supposed to leave is entered into a computer system," he said. "But I really don't think the immigration service has the capability and the number of people they need to see if they left on time." 

Shusterman says terrorist acts always create pressure for changing the system. He points to the 1979, when Iranians took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, as an example. "The same questions were brought up then because there were all these Iranian students in the United States who were not going to school any more," he said. "They put all sorts of systems in place to try to track students. You can see they really didn't work, because the number of students 20 years later dwarfs what we had in the late 70s." 

Louise Krumm directs an English language program for foreign students at Georgetown University. Aside from personally placing every graduating student on a plane home, she says, there is no way of assuring those on student visas leave the country on time. 

She is concerned about recent calls for a tracking system aimed at students, saying such a program might discourage foreigners from studying in the United States. "Last year there were over half a million students that came to study, and they bring $12.3 billion into the United States, and this is a very negative message to them," she said. 

In the same way, Shusterman says, a national system that tracks every foreigner would greatly curb tourism. "

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