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These stories were published Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2001
They'll get a jolt
out of this device

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Self-protection always is on the mind of foreigners living in Costa Rica. 

But most are not fond of guns for philosophical reasons or because they believe they will rot in jail if they use one effectively.

Thomas Hoy of Heredia has a solution, and his product is getting a closer look worldwide because of the terrorist attacks in the United States Sept. 11.

For two years Hoy, a former Los Angeles policeman,  has been marketing an Air TASER Inc. product that allows users to stun assailants. The idea is to use a device that will knock out people for up to 20 minutes while not causing any long-lasting damage.

Such devices frequently are shown on television shows such as "Cops."

Hoy advertises the device in classified columns with the caution that foreigners will go to jail in Costa Rica if they carry a gun. The Air TASER, however, is completely legal, Hoy said.

His words are backed up by the case of Roger M., Crouse, a Playa Coco bar owner, who shot and killed a knife assailant Aug. 19. He has been jailed in Liberia since in preventative custody while judicial officials consider what to many is a clear-cut case of self-defense.

Hoy has experienced steady sales and said he can count missionaries, hotel operators and security guards among his customers.

The device uses compressed gas to fire twin darts on tiny wires up to 15 feet. The darts imbed themselves in the skin or clothing of an attacker and quickly tap a tiny nine-volt battery to provide a 50,000-kilovolt, 10,000-watt shock to the assailant. 

The shock produces what Air TASER, Inc., calls T-waves that confuse and upset the body's nervous system and causes blackouts and collapse.

The device has a fast-loading cartridge that allows a user to fire it multiple times. Failing that, the user can employ the weapon as a 

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Tom Hoy demonstrates his Air TASER

contact stungun in a close encounter.

Hoy said that one feature of the hand-held device is that "They don't know what you have in your hand." 

And when the pins and wires are fired, the sound resembles a gunshot. The 8-inch device resembles a flattened flashlight. It is made of black composition material.

Hoy said that he distributes the device under an exclusive agreement here and in parts of two western U.S. states where he lived previously.

Hoy, who also runs a private investigation business, sells the device with two disposable dart canisters for $195. The manufacture maintains a Web site with documentation and technical reports: http://www.airtaser.com

From the Web site, viewers can learn, for example,  that TASER stands for Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle, a reference to the young literary hero of four series of teen adventure books from 1910 until the 1990s.

Jews to begin holiest day of year at sundown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The holiest day of the Jewish year begins at sundown today and ends tomorrow one hour after sunset. This is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in which religious Jews engage in fasting and in seeking reconciliation between individuals and between themselves and God. 

The day always is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which falls either in late September or early October in the western calendar.

That was the day that Moses again went up Mount Sinai to obtain a second set of God's laws. He had broken the first set in a rage when he returned from his first trip up the mountain when he found the Jews worshipping a golden calf and engaging in other pagan rituals. In his second trip Moses also successfully begged God to forgive the errant Jews.

It was Moses who told the Jews that God had forgiven them, and he specified that the particular day would forever be a day of atonement for practicing Jews.

The Old Testament Book of Leviticus reports on the command of Moses, and Jewish scholars say that the only time Yom Kippur was not observed was when Solomon dedicated the Second Temple in
Jerusalem and the dedication festivals began before Yom Kippur and ended afterwards.

During the Old Testament period Jews would symbolically transfer their sins onto the head of a goat that was later taken out and thrown off a cliff.  This is the origin of the term "scapegoat."

Today religious Jews will welcome the festival with an evening service at home in which memorial candles are lighted in memory of deceased parents. The following day usually is spent in prayer during multiple services at a synagogue.

The fast is broken in the event with a traditional meal after family members return home from the final religious service.

Further information on this major Jewish holiday may be found at:

Danilovich promises he will protect U.S. citizens
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — One of John Danilovich's priorities as U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica will be ensuring the protection of Americans here, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday.

The ambassador-designate described Costa Rica as an important ally of the United States, with "a strong democratic tradition and . . . a leader in the region on human rights."

Danilovich pledged that he would "work diligently to advance U.S. investment and commercial interests, strengthen counternarcotics cooperation, encourage environmental collaboration and enhance U.S.-Costa Rican relations overall."

Danilovich said in the statement prepared for his confirmation hearing that he will use his skills and expertise developed during more than 20 years in international business to fortify and expand the strong ties that already exist between the United States and Costa Rica. He noted that he had served on the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Commission and as chairman of the committee that oversaw the transfer of control of the canal to Panama. He said he was looking forward to more government service.

Costa Rica has attracted more than 200 U.S. companies, and the United States is the country's most important trading partner, accounting for more than half of the Costa Rican exports, tourism and foreign investment, he said.

More than a million U.S. citizens travel to Costa Rica each year because of its rich natural beauty and an estimated 35,000 U.S. citizens, mostly retirees, live here, he noted.

"Ensuring the protection of Americans in Costa Rica will be one of my priorities if I am confirmed," he told the senators.

Geography has made Costa Rica an important transit zone for smuggling illegal drugs and migrants to the United States, Danilovich said. But he noted that the Costa Rican government is committed to combating 

the illegal narcotics trade and the traffic in human beings.

"In 1999, Costa Rica and the U.S. signed a bilateral maritime counternarcotics cooperation agreement that was the first in the region and remains one of the most comprehensive such agreements the U.S. has negotiated with any country," he said.

Danilovich said that his 20 years in the shipping business and many years of involvement in the publishing, property and investment fields have prepared him to be a strong advocate of U.S. interests in Costa Rica.

At the time of his appointment Danilovich was principal of Danilovich and Co., a consulting group specializing in joint ventures between the United States and Europe, according to the staff at the U.S. White House.

Additionally, the White House said he was a member of the Board of Directors of Cross Border Publishing and Tabley Ltd., as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Bear Stearns Emerging Markets Fixed Income Fund. From 1987 to 1990, Danilovich was a partner and consultant with the Eisenhower Group, and from 1977 to 1988 he served as a member of the Executive Management Board of Interocean Shipping Group, the White House said.

Ambassadors in the United States are drawn either from the ranks of professional diplomats or from political supporters. Danilovich is among the latter. He donated $20,000 to the U.S. Republican Party Committee before the last presidential elections, and he donated $1,000 to the campaign of George Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which keeps track of such donations.

"Compared to some of Bush's other nominees, John Danilovich, an international consultant and President Bush’s pick to be ambassador to Costa Rica, isn’t a major political contributor," said the center. In the United States, ambassadors are proposed by the president, and the U.S. Senate must ratify the choice. For that reason, Danilovich testified before a U.S. Senate committee.

Colombia wonders
how guerrilla got in

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian authorities are investigating how a suspected Marxist guerrilla managed to appear in an official delegation that included the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela.

Authorities say a video shows the man, identified as Diego Serna, touring a Bogota museum in May with Colombian President Andres Pastrana and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. In the video, Serna is dressed in a suit and appears to follow President Chavez closely. Colombia television aired the video Monday, on the eve of another visit to Bogota by the Venezuelan leader.

Venezuelan officials blame Colombia for the apparent security breach. They also described the video as an attempt to link Chavez to Colombian rebels. Colombian security officials have declined comment on the matter. 

Colombian state security previously identified Serna as a deserter from the country's largest leftist rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Officials also say Serna exposed a plot to assassinate a presidential candidate.

The video aired the same day Colombian officials said they discovered a plot by right-wing paramilitary forces to assassinate President Pastrana. 

Officials say the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC, intended to kill Pastrana in late July or early August. The AUC has criticized Pastrana's 1998 decision to establish a zone in southern Colombia for the FARC in an effort to advance sporadic peace talks. 

The guerrillas have been involved in a 37-year war against the government and the paramilitaries.

Colombians rescue seven hostages

The Colombian military has rescued seven of the people taken hostage in a mass kidnapping, but the wife of the nation's attorney general remains a captive. 

The army says the hostages were freed Tuesday in a military operation, one day after they were seized in the Valledupar area northeast of Bogota. 

Authorities, however, say former culture minister and the wife of Attorney-General Edgardo Maya, Consuelo Araujo Noguera, remains a captive. 

Authorities suspect leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are behind the abductions.  The FARC, which is Colombia's largest rebel force, has not admitted responsibility. Kidnappings are common in the Andean nation. 

Woman suffers injuries

A woman suffered injuries about 2:30 Tuesday afternoon in Plaza Major, Rohrmoser, near the U.S. Embassy,  according to police investigators. 

A gun was fired, said the agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization. However further details were unavailable later in the evening.

U.S., Latin countries
hold free-trade talks

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. trade officials held simultaneous meetings with their counterparts from Central and South American countries Monday to advance their common goal of building stronger trade ties within the region and worldwide.

In Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick met with the four ministers responsible for trade from  Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. 

In Managua, Nicaragua, a delegation led by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Regina Vargo held consultations with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua -- which have as a group expressed interest in free trade with the United States.

"I am pleased that so soon after Sept. 11 we could stand united with two groups of Latin American nations to advance our shared commitment to openness through increased trade liberalization," Zoellick said in a statement

The ministers' meeting in Washington was called following the recent International Monetary Fund bailout agreement with Argentina. The ministers pledged to cooperate to help launch a new round of global trade talks this November and for continued progress on the Free Trade Area of the Americas .

The United States and Panama have agreed to hold similar consultations within the framework of their bilateral Trade and Investment Council. Later this week in Managua, the United States will participate with senior trade officials from the 33 other democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere in a meeting of the Free Trade Area vice ministerial level Trade Negotiations Committee.

Scam scandal rocking
911 emergency service

Scamsters inside the police or the agency that runs Costa Rica's 911 telephone system are being sought for tricking people who had just suffered the loss of their car to thieves.

That was the revelation by Diario Extra in a series of articles written by police reporter Hellen Zuñiga, who said the scam works this way:

The owner of a recently stolen car reveals the details about the car on the telephone to the 911 operator. Someone calls back in a short time, claims to have the car and is secretly privy to the details revealed to the 911 service. 

The person who claims to be the thief has a description of the car, the plate number plus details about what may have been inside the vehicle. The car owner does not suspect that the caller got this information illegally from the 911 service.

Frequently owners will agree to pay a significant amount of money to get back their car. Since the caller never had the car in the first place, the money is paid in vain.

The Judicial Investigating Organization is checking out the employees of the 7-year-old 911 service, the newspaper said.

Official English: Still beating a dead horse?
By Domenico Maceri, Ph.D. 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Twenty-six American states have passed laws declaring English the official  language. Now it's Congress' turn. Recently legislation was introduced to  declare English the official language of the U.S. It would require that all official government business be conducted in English. 

Exceptions would be  made in matters of public health, law enforcement, court translation, and  tourism.

If the bill is approved, the effects will be the same as those in the states that have approved similar legislation: nil.

The primary motivating factor in declaring English the official has to do with fear that the country's linguistic fabric and culture are coming apart. The 2000 Census figures revealed that  the foreign-born population increased to 30 million and also that 329 languages are spoken in the U.S.

Some Americans are seriously concerned that this diversity of people and languages will cause a Balkanization of the country. Fear of a break up a la  Canada flash to the minds of some Americans. 

The solution? Pass English-only laws and force immigrants to learn English. Eliminate bilingual education as California and Arizona did and some other states are considering.

Declaring English the official language has not solved the immigration nor the assimilation problems at the state level. Would the federal government do any better?

Definitely not. Yet, some people have no doubt that passing linguistic laws will maintain the unity and common culture of the country.

Mario Mujica, chairman of the Washington-based U.S. English organization,  believes immigrants need the encouragement of laws to learn the language of the country and thus achieve the American dream.

I never met an immigrant in the U.S. who needed laws to be reminded that English is necessary to succeed. American history tells us that immigrants do in fact learn English and assimilate. It's a gradual process. The length of time required to learn English depends on a number of factors, including gender, age of arrival to the U.S., the educational background, and the immigrant's native language.

It's easier for immigrants from the West to learn English particularly for  those whose native language is Germanic or a Romance one. These languages have strong connections with English from the point of view of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Asian immigrants find it more difficult because their languages share considerably less with English. Education affects how fast and how well people will learn English. Those who possess a strong knowledge of their own language have a distinct advantage.

The age of arrival affects learning English in surprising ways. The younger the immigrants, the better they will learn it, although it may take longer

A personal view on language

 to  achieve the same level of fluency as adults. Children will gain a native pronunciation where adults will almost always retain a foreign accent. Yet, children will take longer to learn because they are not just learning words, they are also learning concepts and are at the same time learning about life.

Men have a slight edge over women because they tend to work outside the home and interact with Americans more than their spouses. 

As immigrants learn the language, they also assimilate into American culture, although it's not an instantaneous process. It takes a generation or  two, but by that time the home language and culture have almost disappeared as complete assimilation has occurred. 

Immigrants to the U.S. gradually give up their home language  because they see opportunities in the English language. Without English, one is condemned to menial labor and live an existence on the fringes of society. It's impossible to become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, etc., without learning English. No immigrant needs to be told that.

Immigrants need support and understanding as they are getting in Oakland, Calif. Recently, the Oakland City government passed an ordinance which will provide services in Chinese and Spanish to the growing foreign  population. The services will increase foreign residents' participation in  business and government and will eventually help them learn English and ultimately integrate.

If Congress makes English the official language of the U.S., it will be a  symbolic slap in the face to all immigrants. It will say that that the languages and cultures people bring in are not worth anything. It could very well be that George W. Bush may not sign the bill into law. As is well known, George W. Bush has been doing his weekly radio addresses in both English and Spanish. 

In his first radio address in both languages he stated that when "immigrants come to America legally, their culture and language" must be treated with respect and that the American story has been  written and told in "many languages."

Bush has no intention to rescind former president Bill Clinton's executive order that directed federal agencies to make sure that non-English speakers have equal access to federal services. 

With so many problems facing the country such as education, energy, health care, and social security, one has to wonder why Congress is wasting its time with official English. If Congress cannot set appropriate priorities, it should shut down and go on vacation. At least it would not be doing any harm.

Domenico Maceri, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara, (dmaceri@aol.com), teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif..

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