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These stories were published Friday, Oct. 10, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 201
Jo Stuart
About us
Getting to know 
the new 
U.S. $20 bill


Agents hold two as pimps of minor girls
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators broke up what they described as a prostitution outcall service that specialized in providing underaged girls to foreigners and local customers.

Agents said the going rate was $300 for a romantic interlude with a minor.

Two persons, a 41-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man, were arrested in the two-part operation. Agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization said they had been observing the pair for more than seven months.

The woman has the last name of Monge and lived in Hatillo 3, a residential area west and south of San José.

The first person arrested Thursday morning was a man with the name of Potromioro. He was solicited by an investigator pretending to 

be a customer. The man delivered two women, one of them a minor, to a place in the vicinity of the former Plaza de Toros in Zapote, which is south and east of San José. There he and his two passengers were detained by police.

A short time later agents raided the woman’s home where they found her and two other young persons, including a female minor, investigators said.

The price that the pair charged customers for the minor girls is from six to eight times what a typical adult prostitute charges in downtown San José. Investigators said that a number of the customers of the service were foreigners and North Americans.

Police are expected to review the pair’s record in an effort to build cases against former customers. The two are being charged with aggravated pimping or proxenetismo in Spanish because of the young age of their prostitutes, who ranged from 14.

Police grab four suspects after morning stickup
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four men with guns grabbed workers coming into a consumer credit storefront starting about 6:30 a.m. Thursday and got away with about 8 million colons, some $19,600.

In less than 12 hours a police task force raided a house in Pavas where four men identified as Cubans were taken into custody as suspects.

Police investigators said they were trying to link the men to a similar stickup Oct. 1 at a branch of the same loan company that took place in Moravia. Bandits got 13 million colons in that heist, nearly $32,000.

A spokesman for the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública credited the quick arrest Thursday night to police work that traced the license plate number of the getaway car to the house just a short distance from the Liceo de Pavas.

The loan company is Mutual La Vivienda, which is located on the northwest corner of the Avenida 2 and Calle 7 intersection in the San José downtown. The firm makes short-term loans to individuals in relatively modest amounts. The location is across the street from the busy office tower of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The company was criticized later in the day by Walter Navarro, comisario or chief of the 
Fuerza Pública. He said that management of Mutual La Vivienda has shown no interest in becoming part of a group of bank officials who meet on security issues and who link their security systems to a central police dispatcher. Police were miffed that they did not get a call for help until about an hour after the bandits fled.

The bandits forced their way into the storefront about 6:30 a.m. and tied up employees. But it was not until 8 a.m. that an employee was able to untie himself and notify police.

However, Eduardo Guzmán, chief of the Fuerza Pública’s Policía Metropolitana, said that a witness on the street had obtained the plate number of a vehicle that had been parked nearby. That was enough to focus the police search.

The raid in Pavas at nightfall included members of the Fuerza Pública, its tactical squad and agents from the Judicial Investigating Organization. A prosecutor accompanied the police and determined that four of the five person found in the house should be detained and transported to a holding facility for questioning.

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Día de Las Culturas

Museum schedules
open house Sunday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two new expositions are highlights of the Día de las Culturas at the Museo Nacional.

The Museum just opened a photographic exposition called "Gente en su lugar," which is a study of the impact of immigration on the Costa Rican society. The artist is Roxana Nagygeller.

In addition, the museum is inaugurating an exposition called "Costa Rica Multicolor" that treats the cultural diversity of the country.

Saturday will be a time for members of Indian groups to discuss their causes at the museum. The Fundación para el Desarrollo Cultural y Social de las Etnias Indígenas Costarricenses is in charge of activities.

Sunday at 10 a.m. the museum has a fiesta planned for everyone at the Bella Vista Fortress just east of the downtown.

Admission is free, the museum said, and those who come will be able to see the permanent and temporary expositions, visit the butterfly garden, witness dances and train in the workshops for pre-Colombian ceramics and masks, according to an announcement.

Musical and dance groups will perform between 11 a.m. and noon, the museum said.

U.S. Embassy closed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although Sunday, Oct. 12, is the Día de las Culturas in Costa Rica,  Monday is Columbus Day in the United States, and that is why the U.S. Embassy will be closed for normal business.

Although Columbus Day is Oct. 12, the United States celebrates it on Monday to provide a three-day weekend.

Limón carnival kicks off

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Carnival in Limón is underway, and festivities continue through Sunday. There is a horse parade Saturday and on Sunday, the Día de las Culturas, a day of dancing and calypso is planned.

Country spared
more rain damage

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country seems to have dodged the bullet and escaped with less than major damage from heavy downpours. But the threat is not yet over.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias reported Thursday that it has closed all but one shelter. And the one that remained open is in Vista de Mar en Goicoechea, where only four persons are being housed.

The rain that hit the Central Valley Thursday afternoon was considerably lighter than had been feared. After a heavy downpour Monday some 100 persons found themselves forced from their homes in Aserrí, San Juan de Dios de Desamparados and  in other locations.

The disaster commission issued warnings Tuesday and Wednesday but the rains that followed the warnings were light and caused hardly any damage.

The disaster commission continued to urge Costa Ricans to be on the alert for heavy rain in a statement issued Thursday, but Central Valley rains diminished by early evening. No measurable rain fell at the station of the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional at Barrio la Aranjuez after 7 a.m. Thursday, although there were storms elsewhere in the valley.

However, the weather experts continued to predict storms for today and said that the low pressure area that started the problems on Monday still was influencing the nation’s weather.

Museum for peace
to be inaugurated

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fundación Arias para la Paz y el Progreso Humano will inaugurate a new peace museum and announce plans for a campaign for worldwide arms control today.

The museum is on Avenida 2 opposite the Plaza de la Democracia and its purpose is to show the dividends of peace and the costs of war, said the foundation in an announcement.

The museum will recount the recent history of Central America and the wars that were fought, including that in Nicaragua.

Oscar Arias Sánchez, the former president and founder of the foundation, received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in creating and promoting a peace plan for the region. He will be at the inauguration.

The arms control campaign will involve a call for stricter international controls.

Colombian rebels
warned on hostages

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Bush administration official is calling for leftist rebels in Colombia to immediately release three Americans held hostage since February. 

The director of the White House Office of  National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, says the United States is "extremely concerned" about the hostages. He says his heart goes out to the families of the three men, Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell.

But Walters insists that the United States will not give in to demands by the  Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, to secure their release.

"We will not negotiate in this case," he said. "We will not negotiate in any other case. We hold those who hold them responsible. . . . We have made that clear to them. And the Colombian government has made that clear to them. . . . And I believe the record of the United States in bringing people who do this to justice is unprecedented. Turn 'em loose, now."

The rebels kidnapped the three Department of Defense contractors Feb. 13, after their surveillance plane crash-landed in southern Colombia. The guerrillas executed two other people on the plane.

The militants say they will only release the men, who they call "prisoners of war," in exchange for the release of some of their own members. The State Department has designated the group a terrorist organization. 

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Now, all that older women need is a place to stay
Results of another survey are out. Older women, it seems, are dating younger men, and this is big news, delivered with clever remarks by newscasters and anchors regarding robbing the cradle and burping your dinner date. 

In most cases, these men are between two and five years younger. (Big deal!) The phenomenon of older men with younger women, many of whom are easily 20 years younger, is not news. If older women had as much money as older men (and more of them found younger men attractive and interesting), this newest phenomenon would not be news, either. We all like a little security.

I haven’t read the survey yet, but what I find even more interesting is the fact that more people over 50 than ever are single, and many of them are living alone and liking it. This trend has been going on for a long time and includes younger people as well. 

And this has made me wonder why there are not more travel destinations that cater to single people. Instead, if you want a single room in most hotels it will cost you as much as it does for two people (even though you will be using only one bed). 

Perhaps this is understandable if the so-called double has only one bed anyway, but why aren’t there more single rooms available? Greta Garbo rooms. There used to be facilities that catered to single people. There were boarding houses for long-term and short term residents (in my mother’s time) and even reasonable, single sex hotels like the YMCA and the YWCA, and even more elegant ones, like the Barbizon in New York 

In San José there are a few hotels that advertise a price for one person (like the Hotel Europa) with an additional fee for another person, but in most cases, the price is the same for one or two people.

I realize that the argument against this idea is obvious: it is more expensive to create a room for one person, cheaper to house two. My answer is, that in this day and age, given this trend, perhaps numbers would make up for the difference. Then single people would not have to wait until they 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

found someone else with whom to travel, hoping they would be compatible. 

In fact, a person traveling alone tends to have more adventures than two or more people do together. Traveling with another person tends to seal you off in your own little bubble peering at the world around you from there. Alone you are more dependent upon the locals, and I am told, they tend to take you more seriously as an individual.

The last time I found a single room in a hotel — a truly single room — was 40 years ago on the island of Ibiza. The room was furnished with a single bed, a wash basin (the bathroom was down the hall), a chair, and a small dressing table with a mirror. The one window opened into the central well of the hotel and every morning at around 5 a.m. the noises and smells of the kitchen wafted up to my room. It cost about $2 a day, and I loved it. 

I loved being able to retreat to the solitude of my room after a busy day among people. Actually, that is not entirely true. I did stay in a hotel in San José near the Central Market, and I had a very nice room that was for one person. One just had to be careful when leaving the hotel. The area was not all that safe. Mainly it is upscale hotels and bed and breakfasts (and cruise ships) that seem to cater only to couples.

I guess I am going on about this because I think Costa Rica should take note and be in the forefront of catering to this new trend. Or it could be that it already has. Perhaps they should just start directing their advertising to singles. I know there are a lot of older women who would probably enjoy traveling alone if they could do it reasonably. After all, there are younger men everywhere. 

U.S. wants notification on every shipment of food
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Food importers must register with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be authorized operators, and then they inform the government in advance of every shipment of goods that will be crossing the borders into the United States. 

This is the gist of new rules unveiled Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration. The rules are for monitoring and inspecting imported food in order to better protect consumers from deliberate or accidental contamination of foods, the agencies said.

The new rules were outlined at a news conference here.

"We will use these regulations to work more effectively than ever to protect America's food supply, while maintaining the regular, free flow of commerce that is so vital to the well being of our citizens," said Mark B. McClellan, Food and Drug Administration commissioner, in a news release. 

The Food and Drug Administration predicted that the regulations, which take effect Dec. 12, will result in an estimated 25,000 notifications per day that food imports are about to come into the United States. The regulation requiring importers to register their operations with the government will result in a roster of some 420,000 merchants, the agency estimated.

The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 required the FDA to develop a new regulatory regimen for food imports. 

The first regulation requires food importers to provide the Food and Drug Administration with advance notice of human and animal food shipments imported or offered for import on or after Dec. 12. This will allow the agency to know in advance when specific food shipments will be arriving at U.S. ports of entry and what those shipments will contain, the agency said. This advance information will allow the agency, working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to more effectively target inspections and ensure the safety of imported foods, the agency said. 

The second regulation requires domestic and foreign food facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for human or animal consumption in the United States to register with the agency by Dec. 12. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration will have for the first time a complete roster of foreign and domestic food facilities. The requirements will enable the agency to quickly identify and locate affected food processors and other establishments in the event of deliberate or accidental contamination of food, the agency said. The FDA expects about 420,000 facilities to register under this requirement.

Further information about the regulations and compliance is available HERE!



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New, more secure U.S. $20 bill makes its debut
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The newly designed U.S. $20 bill went into circulation Thursday. The bill features subtle background colors and other new security features that aim to thwart potential counterfeiters.

"We are confident this is the most secure currency the United States has ever issued," Michael Lambert, financial services manager of the Federal Reserve Board, told reporters.

He spoke at a press event here at which a new $20 bill was used to purchase postage stamps from a vending machine. Similar events were held at 30 other locations throughout the United States as part of an ongoing public education campaign — both domestic and global — on the currency's new look and security features.

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing  said that the issue of the new $20 bill would be marked by international events later in October in dollarized economies and in countries where U.S. currency is widely held, including Russia and in Latin America.

Officials emphasized that all U.S. notes, old and new, will be honored at their full face value. The United States has never devalued its currency and will not do so now, officials said. As the new currency is phased in, the Federal Reserve will retire old notes when they are returned through the banking system.

"While much of the public will be anxious to see and handle this newly designed $20 bill, we want to emphasize that older-design $20 notes are still in circulation and still maintain their value," Marsha Reidhill, the Federal Reserve assistant director for cash and fiscal agency, said in a bureau news release. "The stability and integrity of U.S. currency has kept worldwide trust and confidence high, and the government is committed to keeping it that way."

The most noticeable difference in the new $20 notes is the subtle green, peach and blue colors featured in the background. The new $20 design 

New Series 2004 bill's face

Reverse side of bill

also retains three security features that were introduced in the late 1990s: a watermark, a security thread and color-shifting ink.

New versions of the $50 and $100 bills are expected to follow in 2004 and 2005. The Treasury Department says it plans to update the look of U.S. bills every seven to 10 years to stay ahead of high-tech counterfeiters.

According to the the bureau, currency counterfeiters are increasingly turning to digital methods as advances in technology make digital counterfeiting of currency easier and cheaper. In 1995, less than 1 percent of counterfeit notes detected in the U.S. were digitally produced. By 2002, that number had grown to nearly 40 percent, the news release said.

The government estimates that counterfeit notes in circulation worldwide represent about one or two of every 10,000 genuine notes. An estimated $650 billion in U.S. currency is in circulation worldwide at any given time, officials say.

More information and visual images of the new currency are available on the Internet at: http://www.moneyfactory.com/newmoney

How to use the security features of the new bill
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following fact sheet from the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing outlines the security features of the newly designed $20 bill:

The new $20 notes will be safer, smarter and more secure: safer because they're harder to fake and easier to check; smarter to stay ahead of tech-savvy counterfeiters; more secure to protect the integrity of U.S. currency. Because these features are difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce well, they often do not try, hoping that cash-handlers and the public will not check their money.

Those who learn the security features will be able to check to make sure their hard-earned money is genuine. To build that awareness, the U.S. government is undertaking a broad public education program. It will help ensure people all over the world know new currency designs are coming, and help them understand the security features.

Watermark: Hold the bill up to the light and look for the watermark, or faint image, similar to the large portrait. The watermark is part of the paper itself and it can be seen from both sides of the note.

Security Thread: Hold the bill up to the light and look for the security thread, or plastic strip, that is embedded in the paper and runs vertically up one side of the note. If you look closely, the words "USA TWENTY" and a small flag are visible along the thread from both sides of the note. The security thread also glows green under ultraviolet light.

Color-Shifting Ink: Look at the number "20" in the lower right corner on the face of the bill. When you tilt the note up and down, the color-shifting ink changes from copper to green. The color shift is more dramatic in the new $20 note making it even easier for people to check their money.

Microprinting: Because they are so small, microprinted words are hard to replicate. The redesigned currency features microprinting on the face of the note in two new areas: bordering the 

first three letters of the "TWENTY USA" ribbon to the right of the portrait, the inscription "USA20" is printed in blue. And "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 20 USA 20" appears in black on the border below the Treasurer's signature.

Low-Vision Feature: The large numeral "20" in the lower right corner on the back of the bill is easy to read.

Federal Reserve Indicators: A universal seal to the left of the portrait represents the entire Federal Reserve System. A letter and number beneath the left serial number identifies the issuing Federal Reserve Bank.

Serial Numbers: The unique combination of eleven numbers and letters appears twice on the front of the note.

Color: The most noticeable difference in the newly designed $20 note is the addition of subtle background colors of green, peach and blue to both sides of the note. This marks the first time in modern American history that U.S. cash will include colors other than black and green. The words "TWENTY USA" have been printed in blue in the background to the right of the portrait and small yellow numeral 20s printed in the background on the back of the bill. Different background colors will be used for the different denominations. 

Symbols of Freedom: Appearing on the front of the note are two new American eagle "symbols of freedom." The large blue eagle in the background to the left of President Andrew Jackson's portrait is representative of those drawn and sculpted during his time period. The smaller green metallic eagle to the lower right of the portrait is a more contemporary illustration, using the same "raised ink" intaglio process as the portrait, numerals and engravings. The symbols of freedom will differ for each denomination.

Updated Portrait and Vignette: The oval borders and fine lines surrounding the portrait on the front and the White House vignette on the back of the note have been removed. The portrait has been moved up and shoulders have been extended into the border. Additional engraving details have been added to the vignette background.

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