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These stories were published Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 202
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Try not to visit the gym after a hearty lunch!
By Clair-Marie Robertson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Too many chicharrones, chalupas and Imperials can take their toll on the human body. A radical transformation begins which is almost hulk-like. T-shirt sleeves start to 

pinch and jean zippers miraculously unzip themselves. 

But when your mother-in-law starts to say that your face is looking a ‘bit fuller,’ alarm bells start a ringing, and you know that you need to take a trip to the gym — a trip that you’ve been meaning to take for months.

Putting things off is a sign that you are well on your way to Lazy Town, next stop being Blubberville.

Possible signs of laziness include the insistence that you look around for the remote control even if you’re sitting right in front of the television. When you eventually find the remote and it doesn’t work, you take those batteries out and give them a rub to try and squeeze out that last bit of energy. 

Gym is calling when in the morning you opt for putting on an odd pair of socks because you quite simply can’t be bothered to find a proper matching set. Or even worse, you get 

those flip flops out even though it may rain because bending all the way down to your tootsies to put on those socks would just waste too much energy. 

So, it’s at times like these when one realizes that the gym is the only answer to that little paunch you’ve been developing. 

Gyms are scary places were everyone but you looks like a professional weightlifter. It is not the best idea to go to your first session of gym after you’ve had a full lunch of gallo pinto. It is also not a good idea to overdo it on an exercise bike.  Nausea soon follows demanding a hurried sprint to the ladies’ room. 

Another tip — never go with your Latin mother-in-law. They have a tendency to panic and let everyone know that there’s a girl who feels a little unwell in the toilet. What follows is nothing short of hysteria and chaos. 

The poor girl gets grabbed and hung upside down by her legs. Suddenly each person tries to administer a personal remedy. 

According to the instructor the girl has become ill because her sugar levels are too low — despite the fact that the girl knows it’s because she stuffed her face a few hours ago. A large bag of sugar appears and this poor girl (who is still sitting upside down with her legs in the air) gets a mouthful. 

Trying to eat upside down is a bit of a feat, so it was no wonder that the poor girl had to make another hasty trip to the ladies’ room. 

The girl has not been back to the gym. Once was quite enough.


 
Gigantic march against corruption predicted for today
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Organizers predict that perhaps as many as a million persons will take to the streets today for a major march in downtown San José.

President Abel Pacheco has gone so far as to allow public employees to take the morning off to participate.

Although the main topic is corruption, any number of organizations will be defining that word in their own way.

For some public employees corruption is everything they are against. The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, 

Grupo ICE and others blamed Neoliberalism for chipping away at the socialistic aspects of Costa Rican society. A release lumped free trade, private banks and others into developments that have fostered corruption.

Of course, recent corruption disclosures involve public agencies like the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. A group from Quepos will be in the line of march protesting what they see as the lack of support for disabled youngsters in that area. Some will be in wheelchairs.

President Pacheco has called off his normal Tuesday cabinet meeting to attend. The line of march will be from the Parque La Merced on Avenida 2 east to the Plaza de la Democracia.

 
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Undisclosed problems
plague the Internet here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica’s internet structure is showing signs of stress. 

The ADSL high-speed service offered by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, was out much of Monday.

Amnet admits to serious problems with its connection with Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., RACSA, the principal internet provider and subsidiary of ICE.

Message delivery has been spotty since Friday, although hard facts are difficult to get. 

Public employees at ICE have been known to pull the plug on the high-speed Internet service for political reasons. And Tuesday is the day for a major demonstration against corruption and a litany of other situations.

Downloading Web pages was less affected, although the speed of refreshing a page has dropped in the last three days.

E-mail messages may take 12 hours to reach their destination across town. Some never arrive at all.

A chief technician for Amnet, the cable television and Internet provider, said Monday that a modem that connects the company’s lines to the RACSA server was functioning badly. He predicted incorrectly that the situation would be remedied by late afternoon.

Technicians at RACSA, on the other hand, discounted reports of any problems in telephone conversations Monday.

Although RACSA technicians said there were no problems, a test message Monday night sent via a direct connection to the RACSA server to a RACSA e-mail address took seven minutes to arrive. Usually the speed is that of light.

The problems with the high-speed Internet were most obvious at a downtown Internet cafe where employees had been in contact with ICE all day without much success. Users of that system say it did not work much of the day, although some improvement took place about 5:30 p.m.

The high-speed Internet hookup, or ADSL, has been restricted to a test area downtown until recently when the company decided to offer it to a much wider area.  ICE uses existing telephone lines to make the connections to Internet servers.

Amnet uses a type of cable used also for television transmissions.

Legion post planning
Thanksgiving dinner

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The American legion will hold its Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 20 at the Castillo Country Club in Heredia.

The legion post, the SFC Raymond Edison Jones Post 16 Costa Rica, will gather at 11 a.m. for a 12:30 dinner. A traditional turkey feast is planned. The cost is 7,000 colons for adults and 3,500 for youngsters under 12. The adult charge is about $15.50.

The purpose of the event is to socialize, and to meet new friends, said the organization in a release. Reservations are available with Ken Johnson, 591-1695, James Longshaw, 386-6572, Jim Young, 836-2328, and Don Roberts, 290-0167. Reservations are required.

Day of three cultures
preempts Columbus

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Columbus Day, although U.S. citizens celebrated the day Monday so many public employees could get a three-day weekend.

Columbus is not as hated in Costa Rica as he is elsewhere, such as México and the Southwestern United States. But the day has not been called that. The title Día de la Raza gave way to Día de las Culturas to recognize the mestizo roots of most Costa Ricans: Indian, African and Spanish.

To some extent the day is designed to impress on Costa Ricans the varied backgrounds of their ancestors. However, many Costa Ricans do not accept this view and insist that they are pure Spanish.

This year the day is being dominated by an anti-corruption march.

Youthful burglar shot

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A youngster tried to get into a house in San Felipe de Alajuelita Monday and the resident shot him.

The 14-year-old suffered a wound in the chest and then went to the hospital under police guard.

The man in the house had a .38-caliber pistol that police confiscated.

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Tico ambassador in Russia is a new scandal target
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just when Costa Ricans were getting bored with corruption and who got the money, El Diario Extra publishes a photo of the country’s ambassador to Russia reclining on the bed with Russian women.

The only problem was that the photo was more than a year old, as was a complaint published in a Russian weekly against the man, Plutarco Hernández. Someone named Zolotkina claimed in a public reader forum that the ambassador invites women to his home and then traps them into being sexual slaves.

The newspaper pointed out that the ambassador, 60, married a 21-year-old Russian woman 13 months ago.

The foreign mininstry here quickly said it would investigate the case.

The newspaper never said why it was publishing information a year old, but recent allegations of official corruption probably encouraged the newspaper to report the strange case of Hernández.

The newspaper also dreged up what it says was a dark page in Costa Rican history. The ambassador, it turns out, was a member of a group in 1969 that tried to bust out an inmate from an Alajuela prison. A policeman died in the firefight, and the assailants were caught.

Three years later fellow terrorists hijacked a plane to force the Costa Rican government to free Hernández and his associates.  The newspaper recounted how Hernández fled to Mexico and then to Russia. Hernández was pardoned during the

A.M. Costa Rica photo
The headline says that the Tico ambassador is a sexual scourge.

administration of Rodrigo Carazo Odio when the fugitive’s cousin, Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, was foreign minister. Later Hernández took a job at the Costa Rican embassy in Moscow and rose up the ranks.

Calderón is one of the key figures in the current corruption scandals.


 
Cob says he disclosed all to scandal investigators
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pablo Cob, the executive president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said Monday that he has opened up his personal bank accounts to investigators and the fiscal general.

The institute, known as ICE, was the organization that purchased hundreds of thousands of cellular telephone lines from the French firm Alcatel. Some of Cob’s associates are under investigation because Alcatel is accused of making payoffs after it won the $260 million contract.

In a letter to employees, Cob said that he opened 

up his personal bank accounts and accounts for his credit cards to the Ministerio Público, the nation’s prosecutorial arm. He said he also authorized investigators to look over the origin, movement and the amounts in all the money and goods that are in the names of his family members.

He told employees that the Grupo ICE with the effort and work of everyone will get out of the situation much stronger.

The disclosure means that Cob, too, is under investigation by prosecutors, although he did not say if investigators had requested the disclosure or if he had done so voluntarily.


 
Echandi wants network so public can follow governmental actions
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

José Miguel Echandi said Monday that a transparent network among government agencies will be a tool to control the corruption in the public sector. Echandi is the Defensor de los Habitantes.

He will recommend that all public institutions open their accounts and inform citizens of their expenses, suppliers, contractors in a form that would let the public observe, understand and evaluate the decisions being made by public officials.

According to Echandi, his Defensoria will take the first step and in about a month will start to show 

this type of information on the agency’s Web page.
"We have the obligation to be permanently checking our actions in a form that we do not forget that the purpose of public service is to encourage the wellbeing of the inhabitants," said Echandi.

The Defensoria defends transparency to the public and requires institutions to inform citizens, said Echandi. He envisions an interinstitutional network of information that citizens or anyone chance check.

Another measures that the Defensoria considers important is to coordinate with universities and the Ministerio de Educación Pública a national plan for incorporating ethics in the classroom. He also wants to strengten anti-corruption laws.


 
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Scientists home in on makeup of chicken bacteria
By the U.S. Agricultural Research Service

What's your favorite way to prepare chicken? Whether you grill, fry, roast or bake it, as long as you cook it thoroughly, you'll kill any Campylobacter jejuni food-poisoning bacteria that may be on or in it. 

But raw chicken juice, or raw or undercooked chicken, could harbor this microbe and lead to campylobacteriosis food poisoning. In fact, Campylobacter is thought to be the leading cause of food poisoning worldwide.

To foil Campylobacter, Agricultural Research Service scientists in Albany, Calif., and their colleagues at The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Md., have decoded the sequence, or structure, of all of the genes in a specially selected Campylobacter jejuni strain. 

Investigations of these genes may lead to the discovery of faster, more reliable ways to detect the microbe in samples from food, animals, humans and water.

What's more, the gene-based research opens the door to simpler, less-expensive tactics for distinguishing look-alike species and strains of Campylobacter and its close relatives, so that culprit microbes in food poisoning outbreaks can be fingered more quickly. 

Finally, the studies may lead to innovative, environmentally friendly techniques to circumvent the genes that make Campylobacter jejuni strains so successful in causing human gastrointestinal upset and, in some cases, paralysis or even death.

The research represents the first time that a Campylobacter jejuni strain from a farm animal — 

U.S. Agricultural Research Service/Peggy Greb
Microarrays, or gene chips, enable scientists to get a quick look at thousands of genes in a single experiment. Here, technician Sharon Horn monitors robotic equipment imprinting Campylobacter microarrays on glass slides. 

in this case, a market chicken — has been sequenced. That farm-animal origin is important, because chicken is the leading source of this bacterium in food. Earlier genome sequencing, done elsewhere, was based on a specimen from a gastroenteritis patient and was lacking key features, such as the ability to colonize chickens. 


 
Haiti's capital is a war zone, thanks to armed gangs
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In Haiti, armed gangs loyal to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide took to the streets Monday, looting shops and burning cars. Two people died in gunfights. U.N. troops and national police are struggling to restore order throughout Port-au-Prince.

Heavy gunfire was heard throughout the city Monday, as Brazilian troops and Haitian police patrolled the downtown area in armored vehicles, trading fire with gunmen hiding in alleyways.

The newest wave of violence in the Haitian capital began on Sept. 30, when Mr. Aristide's supporters mounted violent protests over his ouster. Saturday, a Brazilian peacekeeper was shot and slightly wounded in a downtown slum. A few hours later an Argentine soldier was shot in the northern city of Gonaives.

Local officials have criticized the U.N. peacekeeping mission, saying it has not done enough to stem the violence. But U.N. spokesman Damien Cardona insists that the Haitian government, and not the

peacekeepers, are primarily responsible for restoring order:

"The troops, they are not occupation forces, they do not have the mandate to arrest people, to be the police of this country, they are here to support the Haitian government and the police," he said. "So the leading actor, the one that does the arrests, that has to lead the country, and really knows the country is the local government, the national government and the national police."

Over the past week, clashes between police and criminal gangs have killed 45 people. Six people have been beheaded, three of them police officers. Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has blamed the beheadings on Aristides supporters, saying they are behind a campaign known as Operation Baghdad.

Yet Aristide supporters say that police and anti-Aristide gunmen are responsible.

The U.S. State Department issued a new travel warning Friday, advising Americans against travel to Haiti except for emergency reasons.


 
The time has come for more stories of spooks and banshees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the local political and financial news are not scary enough for you, we invite you again this year to submit your efforts to our annual Halloween short story contest.

Once again the prize will be $25 and worldwide recognition though the pages of A.M. Costa Rica. After all, we are read in 89 countries each day.

The stories must have a theme that is consistent with Halloween: Spooks, witches, goblins, ghosts. 

By submitting a story to editor@amcostarica.com you are certifying that the story was written by you, that it is original and unpublished and that we may publish it. We will. Graphics are welcomed but will not be part of the evaluation. Deadline is Oct. 25 at midnight, of course.

Judging will be by the strange figure that inhabits the A.M. Costa Rica offices after hours. We’ll just leave the computer on for its decision.

Try to keep the stories around, 1,000 words or less and make sure that there is a connection with Costa Rica.


 
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