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These stories were published Friday, Oct. 17, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 206
Jo Stuart
About us
Jet passengers get armed welcome in New York
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Passengers of a Lacsa jet were greeted with SWAT teams and guns when they landed in New York early Sunday.

A New York newspaper said that fighter jets had been scrambled, too, because the cockpit crew somehow trigged a hijack alarm.

The passengers on the jet, Lacsa Flight 660 according to the New York Post, were led individually from the plane with their hands on their head and searched.

A passenger who was on the flight said the experience "had been one of the scariest incidents that has ever happened to me..."

The New York Post said that the hijack alarm went off when the plane was above Daytona Beach, Fla., and that jets from the North American Aerospace Defense Command intercepted the passenger plane above Sea Isle, Ga.

Apparently passengers did not know that the jets intercepted and gave the jet the once-over. The aircraft landed as scheduled at JFK International Airport about 12:45 a.m. Sunday.

What the New York post did not report was the treatment afforded passengers once they reached the ground.

The U.S. citizen who was a passenger gave this report by e-mail:

"When we arrived at JFK around midnight all seemed well. except all of a sudden 20 cop cars, SWAT teams armed with M-16s surrounded our plane. We had to drive the plane away from the gate about 1/2 mile. All of us then had to individually exit the plane with our hands up in the air leaving all of our valuables and personal belongings on the plane."

The passenger said that a policeman searched him and became suspicious when he found a number of ATM cards. The passenger said the cards belonged to a business he was developing in Costa Rica. He said the officer grilled him.

Later he and fellow passengers had to sit on a bus for three hours before they could return to the plane for their personal belongings.

The passenger said that what made him angry the most is that at no time did anyone give any explanation as to what had happened or what was going on.

"After everything was cleared, there should have been some damage control, he said.

Lasca is part of Grupo Taca. No reports of the incident seem to have surfaced in Costa Rica.
The United States, of course, is on alert due to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Some troubling economic news from the north
A disturbing scenario seems to be unfolding in the United States. Perhaps it began with the generous tax cuts for corporations, as well as individuals. These corporations are now reporting the largest profits in years. The reported reasons for the earnings is cost cutting — greater production from fewer people, layoffs in the U.S. and moving a lot of the jobs to other countries where the nationals there can do the work for less. 

At the same time tax revenues from corporations dropped 11.5 percent, The good news is that there are a couple of hundred new millionaires in the U.S. They did not come from the ranks of the poor — that group increased by two million last year. Both of these new additions came from the taxpaying middle class. Tax revenues from individuals fell by 7.5 percent.

Meanwhile the government is talking about outsourcing some of the jobs that government now oversees, that is, contracting with private corporations to do certain operations that well-paid government workers currently do. This is based upon the theory that private enterprise can do a better job. There is no reason to believe that they would do it more cheaply or have to perform these functions in the United States. 

The government is also contracting out much of what the armed forces used to do. Easier to just pay private companies than to train army personnel to do it. Much of the peripheral work that keeps an army going occurs where the army is — in other countries. 

Then we have the American corporations that are being given huge contracts to do the clean-up and rebuilding in Iraq. As for corporations, I suppose if they are international corporations, they will also get a tax break on work done abroad.

Recently there has been the suggestion that many low-level jobs in the United States be done by convicts. (a huge labor market when you think about it, and the idea has some positive merit). Although these convicts would have to be paid (but not as much as other workers), they would then have to pay for their room and board, and even child support and reparation to their victims! (Watch out, Ken Lay). 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Edwin Meese has made this suggestion. He didn’t explain just what these jobs were. I suppose if they were hired to pick the fruit and other crops that illegal workers now pick, the problem of illegal aliens would be solved. It is doubtful that there would be any money left over to pay taxes. 

If these plans go into effect, the administration can then say that it has downsized the government. Officials certainly will have reduced the number of people working for the government — Instead a lot of taxes will go to companies and international corporations to do the work.

Meanwhile, the American worker, it seems, is going to be left with the service jobs and the retail jobs of the stores that remain in the States. With a little help from Costa Rica and other Central and Latin American countries these jobs may be secure. 

For a long time the comfortably off in these countries have considered the States their favorite shopping mall with prices much cheaper than prices at home. There are regular shopping jaunts to places like Florida and Texas. These foreign visitors will be buying the products that are sold in the U.S. but many of which are produced elsewhere. But it is the American worker who is expected to furnish the bulk of the taxes that are going to pay for all of these outsourced and privatized jobs. Shortly someone is going to be able to say to them, "Welcome to the Third World."

If the money and work that will be pouring into Iraq will restore the infrastructure,and the electricity, build the schools, the soccer fields, hospitals and model communities, etc. etc. under a free and democratic government, according to the rosy picture painted by President George Bush last Saturday, let’s hope Iraq will have a generous immigration policy. Costa Rica seems to be tightening up theirs.

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Don't put too much faith in the survey about ICE
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is not a presidential election year, but the silly season for public opinion polling is upon us nevertheless.

The topic this time is the free trade treaty with the United States and five Central American countries. This is a document that has not been completed and hardly anyone knows what the final version might contain.

But that doesn’t stop the pollsters.

Al Día, the morning newspaper associated with Las Nación commissioned Demoscopía, a Costa Rican firm, to do a telephone survey. The results show that Costa Ricans are overwhelmingly in favor of opening up the government monopolies and entering into a free trade agreement.

Analysis on the news

This is no surprise when you see how the questions were presented to a sampling of 380 persons.

The report in Al Día outlines many of the problems in asking a population about complex issues. The best polls are the ones that ask "Who are you going to vote for tomorrow?"

In order to bring the survey respondents up to speed, Demoscopía felt it had to brief them. Consider this summary presented to survey subjects before they were asked about opening up the monopolies to competition, specifically the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros:

"Privatizing ICE is to sell it to foreign or national investors. Opening to competition is that ICE is not sold, only open to competition, that is other companies can invest in Costa Rica in different telephone services. That way each of us can pick the company that offers us better service and rates."

So 65.7 percent of the respondents said they agreed with competition and opening the market.

But consider the alternatives. The interviewer gave the survey subject a choice: sell ICE or open it to competition. And there was the sweetener: You can get more investments and choose your company with the best service and the lowest rates.

The second major question had a similar set up:

"A few days ago ex-President Oscar Aries said that opening the national monopolies was necessary, that is that ICE and INS compete with other private companies to ‘result in a increase in production, growth of the economy and the creation of more jobs.’"

Then the survey subjects were asked if they agreed. Some 74.3  percent did.

Or you could phrase the question another way:

"Do you agree with ex-President Oscar Arias, the Nobel Prize winner and a really, really smart guy, and do you want private companies to increase production, help the economy grow and make more jobs. Or not?"

The way these questions were set up makes it clear that the survey subjects would have to place themselves against Arias, against jobs, against economic growth and against more jobs in order to respond negatively.

Al Día is to be credited with making the original questions available in the news story that appeared today. But Demoscopía knows better than to create double-, triple- and quadruple-barreled questions that clearly define the desired response to the survey subjects.

Creating survey questions is an art. The general rule is to ask preliminary questions, such as "How much do you know about the proposed free trade treaty with the United States." The opinion of a knowledgeable person is worth much more than an off-the-cuff response from an uninformed individual.

The survey also asked about support for unions that represent ICE workers.

That question was "What is your position before the threats of the unions?" Some 79.1 percent said they would not support the unions.

What do you think the response would have been if the question asked was:

Do the ICE union members have the right to protest the possible loss of their jobs to foreign companies paying cheap wages?

Politicians who oppose ICE certainly will make good use of the Al Día survey in public and private. That is until someone else comes along with a survey that shows the opposite.

Newpaper backtracks
and keeps web free

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Diario Extra has backtracked on its plan to charge for access to its news Web site.

The newspaper announced over the weekend that it would begin restricting access to paid customers this week. But a new message on the Web site says that calls and complaints from readers caused the management to change plans.

Web sites are a double-edged sword for newspapers that also have a print edition. If they put their news on the Web site, fewer persons will purchase their newspaper.  However, if they begin to charge for access, experience elsewhere shows that few people actually visit the sites and the newspaper cannot make money by selling ad space there.

Meanwhile, readers and advertisers in printed newspapers continue to pay the $700 a ton-plus shipping cost of newsprint and the hidden cost of disposing with the waste paper.

Intel will work
with Sony on music

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Intel Corp. and Sony Music Entertainment have announced they will work together to enable users to access music, images, videos and other Sony Music Entertainment content on powerful, Intel-based cellular phones and personal devices.

The companies will optimize Sony Music Entertainment's mobile applications, services and content for mobile devices  to provide users with PC-quality digital music and video on their cell phones. The two companies also plan to co-develop future applications and services for Intel-based phones, including applications that will enable consumers to use PC-based multimedia content on their cell phones. 

Airline will refund
extra tax it took

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Grupo TACA, the airline, says it has struck a deal with Costa Rican officials to allow refunds for persons who acquired prepaid tickets or who purchased their tickets outside of Costa Rica.

The reimbursement is the 5 percent tax levied on airline tickets by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo. The airline said it collected the tax at the direction of the tourism institute between October 2002 and April 2003 on flights originating in Costa Rica.

However, tickets purchased outside of Costa Rica are not subject to the tax, the airline said on its Web page. It said that the company had reached a joint agreement with the tourism institute.

The company said it will reimburse the 5 percent as a credit to customers who purchase their tickets with credit cards. The company also said it will make an effort to advise persons who traveled on prepaid tickets that they can request a refund.

More demonstrations
rock Bolivian capital

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Tens of thousands of activists demonstrated Thursday in this, the Bolivian capital, continuing three weeks of violent protests that have left some 80 people dead and dozens injured.

Protesters set up barricades on roads leading into La Paz, where food, fuel and medical supplies have grown scarce. It is unclear if there were casualties in Thursday's protests.

Also Thursday, Bolivia's political opposition rejected a proposal by President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada for a referendum on a gas export deal. The gas deal — which triggered the protests but is now suspended —  would route a $5 billion gas pipeline through Chile to Mexico and the United States. Critics say the deal will not help Bolivia's poor, many of whom are members of indigenous groups.

The opposition also renewed calls for President Sanchez de Lozada to resign, but he has rejected those calls. The president blames the unrest in South America's poorest country on anarchists.

Lower-income workers, who comprise most of the demonstrators, blame the country's economic woes on free-market reforms and a plan to wipe out production of coca, a cash crop used to make cocaine. Workers are also frustrated with the sharp divide between rich and poor. 

Anti-Chavez petitions
get official go-ahead

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Election officials say opponents of President Hugo Chavez can stage a petition drive later this year to demand a recall vote. 

Authorities say the four-day petition drive will run from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. 

Supporters of the recall vote must collect at least 2.4 million signatures to force a referendum on ousting President Chavez.

Chavez's opponents say under new rules for a petition drive set down recently by Venezuela's National Electoral Council, a recall election could occur as early as February 2004. The council would set the election date if it accepts the new petition.

Venezuela's constitution allows for a recall vote after the halfway mark of the president's term. Chavez reached the midway point of his current six-year term in August. 

President Chavez's critics say he has ruined Venezuela's economy and is trying to impose Cuban-style communism. The populist leader says he is working to improve the lives of the country's impoverished majority. 

Chilean army officer
losses rights case

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — A U.S. court has ordered a former Chilean army officer to pay $4 million to the family of a Chilean official killed in a 1973 military coup. 

The federal jury here Wednesday issued the sentence against former Chilean army Lt. Armando Fernandez Larios.  The court found Fernandez responsible for extra-judicial killing, cruelty, torture and crimes against humanity in the death of Winston Cabello. 

The victim's relatives said Fernandez conspired with the leader of an alleged death squad that killed more than 70 political opponents in the coup. The family sought damages under a U.S. law that allows foreigners to sue for violations of international law. 

Fernandez has said he was in the area in northern Chile where Cabello was killed, but said he was unaware of the killings at the time. 

In the 1980s, Fernandez was sentenced by a U.S. court for taking part in the murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976. 

Argentina has asked to extradite Fernandez for similar charges in the coup that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. An estimated 3,000 people died or disappeared without explanation during his 17-year rule, mainly for political reasons. 

Four more dogs
on drug patrol here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Policía de Control de Drogas got four anti-drug dogs and two vehicles Thursday. All were a gift from the United States. The estimated value is about $100,000, said the U.S. Embassy in a release.

The dogs join eight others that are in service seeking out hidden drugs in vehicles and other locations. Dogs have been instrumental in several major arrests, including one a month ago near Dominical. The animals can smell 1,000 times better than a human and can be trained to seek out drugs.

The United States, of course, is on a worldwide campaign to cut off drug shipments before they reach the U.S. borders.
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Jordan experiences massive trade growth with U.S.
EDITOR’S NOTE: When Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, visited Costa Rica Oct. 1, he praised the country of Jordan as a success in stimulating trade with the United States. Here is another report on the topic.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three years after signing a free trade agreement with the United States, Jordan has seen its U.S. exports grow nearly 5,000 percent, according to Reem Badran, CEO of the Jordan Investment Board.

Speaking at a Jordanian investment forum here Thursday, Badran said that for a small country, a free trade agreement is the portal to global markets.

Jordan entered into a free trade agreement with the United States in November 2000. This is the fourth such accord the United States has signed and the first with an Arab country. 

The U.S.-Jordanian agreement builds upon a successful foundation established in the creation of Qualifying Industrial Zones. These zones have been in operation since 1998, offering duty free access to U.S. markets for products manufactured in cooperation between Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli entities. These zones have created more than 40,000 new jobs in Jordan, many of them for women.

The free trade agreement expands upon the success of the zones with an aim to phase out virtually all tariffs on industrial and agricultural goods over a 10-year period.

As Karim Kawar, Jordanian ambassador to the United States, noted in his remarks to the conference, these agreements and other reform-oriented policies have helped Jordan to experience rising economic growth over the past 

four years in spite of political instability in the region. According to Kawar, growth in Jordan's  gross domestic product reached 4.9 percent in 2002.

A number of U.S. business leaders praised Jordan's economic policies, saying that they make Jordan an ideal place for doing business in the Middle East. Michael Daniels, vice president of Science Application International Corporation, noted that Jordan's regulatory reforms and regulatory environment "make investors feel comfortable and secure in contractual relationships." His firm is a provider of information technology and communications network services in 29 countries.

Philip Condit, chairman and CEO of the Boeing Corp., agreed with Daniels and underscored the importance of a regulatory environment that "discourages inappropriate behavior but does not stifle creativity."

In addition to the legal and regulatory changes that Jordan has adopted in conjunction with its efforts to engage in free trade agreements, the country has invested heavily in its human capital. Ambassador Kawar characterized reforms in the country's educational system as an attempt to make its students "citizens of the world." 

Kawar underscored the government's belief that a well-educated workforce will encourage Jordanians to keep experience and savings at home. Boeing's Condit noted that a national commitment to education is a key consideration for foreign investors looking to enter a market, particularly at a time when technology is changing rapidly and an ability to learn and adapt to that technology is crucial.

The Bush administration is eager to assist Middle Eastern countries committed to opening up economic, political, and educational opportunities in their societies. 

Summit in Margarita is an effort to eliminate extreme poverty
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials from countries in the Americas, meeting on the Venezuelan island of Margarita, say eliminating extreme poverty is "essential to the promoting and consolidation" of democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

Following the meeting sponsored by the Organization of American States earlier this month, participants released a "Declaration of Margarita" in which they said that eliminating poverty constitutes a "common and shared responsibility of the American states." 

The declaration said that the Special Summit of the Americas, to be held in Mexico in January 2004, will address the issues of economic growth with equity, social development, and democratic governance.

Participants at the meeting in Margarita, which included a number of officials from the United States, acknowledged their "special obligation" to communities and groups that "live in poverty and those that are in a situation of vulnerability, disadvantage, and marginalization." 

They also stated their goal was to advance an "open and transparent international trade system that contributes to the fight against poverty, improved living standards, and enhanced trade opportunities for all." The Organization of American States, in a statement released before the meeting in Margarita, said that democratic countries with huge pockets of poverty have a "crippled and inadequate democracy."

The Margarita declaration also said that official development assistance and external debt relief, as appropriate, "may help to improve the capacities 

of some countries to promote social and economic development."  The declaration added, however, that good governance, transparency, and accountability are "some of the essential elements to make an efficient use of official development assistance and other available resources."

Leading the U.S. delegation at the meeting was Timothy Dunn, deputy permanent representative to the organization. He was joined by other officials from the U.S. State Department and by a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

The issue of poverty was also a topic of high importance at the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada, in 2001. During that summit, the leaders of the Western Hemisphere issued an official declaration that in short says that "no effort should be spared to free the citizens of the Americas from the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty."
Ground shakes
near Turrialba

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A small earthquake, estimated at a 3.8 magnitude, rattled much of Costa Rica about 6:08 p.m. Thursday. The epicenter was about 15 kms. (about nine miles) southwest of Turrialba, according to the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica.

The earthquake information center said individuals as far away as Limón to the east and Pérez Zeledón to the south felt what was described as a local disturbance at a depth of some 17 kms. or about 10.5 miles.

It's time to send us your most scary story
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Remember those scary stories you heard while clustered around the campfire? And the strange forest sounds that punctuated the shivery tales?

Well let’s pretend your computer is a campfire, and let’s get cranked up for the 2003 annual A.M. Costa Rica Halloween story contest. Send us your fiction and non-fiction tales that are related somehow to Costa Rica. We’ll pick a winner and send the writer $25.

And we’ll publish the Halloween stories at the end of the month. We will try to publish as many as we can.

The stories must be original and relate to Costa Rica and also to Halloween, ghosts, specters, witches, goblins or at least a tingly feeling along the spine.

By submitting the stories, the authors give A.M. Costa Rica the non-exclusive right to publish them. Send your story to 


Our staff example is HERE!

Did you hear that the Yankees won? Yawnnnn
EDITOR'S NOTE: The New York Yankees clinched another American League penant Thursday night by beating the Boston Red Soxes 6-5 at Yankee Stadium. Love them or hate them, they are the team that defines the sport of baseball.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Baseball is often called America's pastime, and the most successful team in the history of the sport is the New York Yankees. This year, the team is celebrating its 100th anniversary. 

Over the course of 100 years, high action and dramatic performances have drawn countless sports fans to the New York Yankees. The reason is simple. 

"They win, and there's joy in winning," said Bob Sheppard.

Bob Sheppard has announced the name of each and every Yankee batter for the past 53 years. He loves his job, and feels sorry for the announcer of the other Major League baseball team in New York, the Mets. 

"I dread the thought of becoming, as somebody must have become, the public address announcer of the New York Mets," he said. "That must be a sad experience in many ways to go home night after night defeated. I usually go home as a winner."

Sheppard is a legend in his own right, a familiar voice to tens of thousands of Yankee fans, who hear his grandfatherly tones at every home game. He has announced the names of some of the greatest players in baseball history: Joe DiMaggio; Mickey Mantle; Roger Maris; Reggie Jackson.

Sheppard began his career around the same time as Mantle, the muscular slugger who pounded the longest home run ever in the game, and helped the Yankees win seven World Series.

"[He] hit a fair ball once that almost cleared the roof in right field," said Bob Sheppard. "Nobody's ever hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium. But Mickey really tagged one that was still climbing when it hit the top of the façade, and bounced back into the stadium itself. What a clout. Unbelievable."

The Yankees were a losing Baltimore team before moving to New York in 1903. 

In the 1920s, one player catapulted the team into the national spotlight — Babe Ruth. He hit 714 

home runs in his 21-year career, including 60 home runs in 1927, a record that stood for more than 30 years.

Sheppard remembers "The Bambino," as he was called, from one of the first times he stepped into Yankee Stadium. 

"I was a young boy, and I was out in the bleachers in right field," he said. "And among the great Yankees at the time was, of course, Babe Ruth. Like every red-blooded American boy, he was my hero at the moment."

"No one had ever seen anything like Babe Ruth," said Michael Seidel.

Author Seidel has written two books about the New York Yankees. 

"When he was hitting his home runs in the 1920s, the early 1920s, most teams' collective home-run totals were not equal to Babe Ruth's single home run season totals," he said. "He was a phenomenon, an absolute phenomenon."

Babe Ruth spent 15 seasons with the Yankees, and drew a huge following of fans that would extend for generations to come.

Seidel says being a baseball fan is a devotion that knows no parallel. 

"When you go out to the ballpark and see a team play, that team is often yours for life," said Michael Seidel. "It's visceral. It's not rational. It's somewhere deep in your psyche."

For locals, the fun of being a Yankee fan involves attending a game at Yankee Stadium, and buying traditional ballpark snacks - popcorn, peanuts, and of course …hot dogs! 

And what could be better than seeing your team win baseball's annual championship, the World Series, more times than any other team? 

"There's no team over the course of a century that can mount 26 World Championships next to their name," said author Seidel. "It's an incredibly sustained record of victory and a consistent record of victory. That's why the New York Yankees are the New York Yankees. Their name is synonymous with victory."

The Yankees, also the team with the highest payroll in all of sports, have just finished another winning season. They once again have a spot in the World Series (Oct. 18). But win or lose, the legendary Yankees will remain a quintessential symbol of New York. 

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