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These articles first were published Monday, Oct. 22, 2001
Internet junk mailers rattle our computers here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican Internet monopoly ran  into trouble with the rest of the world because it appeared that users were sending a high volume of junk messages.

These messages promote pornography, get-rich-quick schemes, offshore banking, online casinos and quick university degrees. They are the result of Internet technology that allows computers to send millions of messages for very little cost.

Internet service providers elsewhere sometimes block messages from whole domains when the domain is the source of many junk messages. In Costa Rica, racas.co.cr and amnet.co.cr are domains.

A.M. Costa Rica had a message returned from a California internet service provider several times last week, and the provider said it would not deliver the message because the domain racsa.co.cr was the source of annoying unsolicited commercial messages.

Internet connections between the cable company Amnet and Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A., (RACSA) were shaky Oct. 10, 11 and 12. At that time, a RACSA technician said that the problems existed at servers in the United States. What he didn’t say was that the problem was that computer servers in the United States were rejecting e-mail from Costa Rica.

The cable company Amnet sells Internet service, but the cable lines end up in RACSA’s computers.  The higher-speed Amnet lines are believed to attract persons who send out high volumes of e-mail messages.

RACSA has been reluctant to discuss the Internet situation, and a RACSA official failed to attend a scheduled meeting Oct. 12 with an A.M. Costa Rica reporter.

Ryan Piercy, executive director of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica, went so far as to ask the association lawyer to contact lawyers for RACSA. Piercy said that RACSA blamed Amnet and said they were working on the problem.

Because RACSA is the only legal Internet provider in Costa Rica, a cut in its service would isolate the country from the Internet. Several organizations exist to track unsolicited e-mail messages. These recommend to individual Internet providers when they should reject messages from specific Internet domains because of too much junk mail.

One such organization is called Spamhaus (www.spamhaus.org). Sunday its Web site 

targeted an e-mailer in Heredia as being part of an international junk e-mail network.

There also is a possibility that RACSA and Amnet are getting blamed unjustifiably. For example, there is a firm called American Internet Provider that has the web address of www.amnet.com, hosted by Bellsouth.net in the United States. There also is a web domain called Amnet.net which is a company called American Network and Internet Service computer consultants.

Junk Internet mailers use special software that allows them to hide the origin from which they mail their millions of messages. Some Internet users here claim that RACSA has a type of server than can be entered illegally with ease by outsiders, and can be used to generate e-mail messages without the knowledge or consent of RACSA officials.

Nearly all Internet providers, including RACSA and Amnet, have provisions in their user contracts forbidding the distribution of repetitive junk e-mails. So it makes sense for junk mailers to break into other computers to send their messages.

The Tico Times, the English-language weekly newspaper, experienced such a problem six months ago. Someone sent out thousands of messages using a dormant Tico Times account on RACSA two Sundays in a row. The account was being used illegally, and an investigation showed the messages came from a monastery in France, probably another e-mail address the mailers used illegally. As a result, some Internet providers halted delivery of Tico Times e-mail messages for a few days until an explanation could be offered.

Junk Internet mailers are moving offshore because more and more U.S., Canadian and European Internet providers refuse to do business with them. The high volume of messages clog computer servers and also subject the company to the anger of those who get the messages. 

Publication's advertising section expanded and index updated
This publication has expanded its classifieds to include separate pages.

In addition to the normal classifieds page, sections now exists for employment, tourism and real estate.

The idea is to provide pages that load easily on home computers without undue waiting.

In addition, the newspaper will continue to offer free classifieds to readers through the month of November. Tasteful advertising of reasonable length will be accepted, and small graphics also will be allowed.

The free ads are designed to continue the outpouring of interest generated by the publication in its two months of existence. In addition, this publication hopes to facilitate tourism, and operators of tourism-related companies all over the country are encouraged to avail themselves of the free advertising.

Studies show that graphics increase the readership of advertising by as much as 150 percent.  Classified may be sent to the advertising department.

The newspaper also had added an online chronological index, that can be found HERE. Each significant article is listed under the date in which  it appeared in the publication. The date itself is linked to the newspages in the archive that contains the story or photo. Indexes exist for August, September and October.

For example, a reader could find an article on the Sept. 5 U.S.-Costa Rica soccer game under the Sept. 6 date. By clicking on the Sept. 6 date, the reader calls up the news page reporting that story.

Eventually, the newspaper will install a search engine for individual terms, but there are not enough separate news pages for one now. Plus there are some technical problems that need to be resolved.

Dual citizens can vote
and not lose out

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some U.S. citizens also have Costa Rican citizenship, and a few are wondering if they can vote in the Feb. 3 presidential elections here without jeopardizing their rights.

The good news is the United States has taken a much softer line on dual citizenships in the last 20 years. Dual citizens probably would have to  seek election or appointment to a high Costa Rican government post to make their U.S. rights uncertain, A.M. Costa Rica has learned.

Little information is available from the U.S. Embassy here on this topic. But five minutes on the Internet is all that is needed to find definitive answers.

There are a lot of rumors about dual citizenship, particularly as such a status relates to U.S. citizens. The opinion among U.S. citizens is that the United States frowns on dual citizenship and will take citizenship away from someone who accepts citizenship in another country. Both these views are false.

Two U.S. Supreme Court cases, one in 1963 and the other in 1980, plus a change in U.S. law in 1986 made it very difficult for the U.S. State Department to strip someone of U.S. citizenship. And now the U.S. government describes its position on dual citizenship as neutral.

The key test is if an individual intends to renounce U.S. citizenship, and intent is something the government would have trouble proving.

Since those court decisions and the change in the law, U.S. citizens could seek citizenship elsewhere, take traditional oaths of allegiance to foreign governments and still retain U.S. citizenship. But, according to current U.S. policy, they can jeopardize their citizenship if they accept high-ranking policy-making positions with foreign governments without permission of the United States government.

Simply voting in a foreign election will not cost a dual citizen their U.S. passport, particularly if they did not intend to lose their dual status.

A newborn acquires dual citizenship by being born in Costa Rica of a U.S. parent or by being born in the United States of a Costa Rican parent. Adults can become dual citizens through a naturalization process, expedited if they have married a national of the other country.

A formal procedure exists to renounce U.S. citizenship, and some wealthy persons have used that method to duck U.S. estate taxes. But a 1996 law forbids persons who have renounced their U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes to ever again enter the United States. Plus, under current U.S. law estate taxes are due and payable if a very wealthy person renounces U.S. citizenship.

Several Web sites exist to help people answer questions involved with the complexities of dual citizenship. A dual U.S.-Canadian citizen maintains such a site in California:


The U.S. Department of State explains its policy on accepting high government positions in foreign governments here:


The U.S. government discusses more ways to lose citizenship here:


A.M. Costa Rica photo
BUG LADY — Rosalina Miranda of Armetal Ecologico examines one of the metal bugs she has for sale at the handicraft exposition in FERCORI, the Feria International de Costa Rica, on Calle 25 at Avenida 3 in Barrio California. Admission is 400 colons a person and the exhibitors will be there until Oct. 28. 

Man who shot couple
was a French citizen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who killed a couple Thursday in Los Cuadros de Guadalupe was definitely a French citizen, diplomats and police investigators affirmed Friday.

The man committed suicide after he killed two neighbors about 9:30 a.m. Thursday. He was Jacques Pistrin, 45, according to police.

Local news outlets identified the man as a French Canadian, but police insisted Friday that the man was a French citizen. Police said they had his passport. A Canadian Embassy spokesman said that officials there were not involved in the case because police said the man was French.

The shooting was the culmination of a long-running dispute between the two households, investigators said.

Bomb Blast in Colombia
blamed on leftists rebels

Colombian authorities have blamed the country's second largest rebel group — the National Liberation Army — for a bomb blast that killed at least five people and injured two others. 

Authorities say the rebel group blew up a street vendor's cart early Sunday outside an apartment building on Penol, about 210 kilometers north of the capital, Bogota. 

A policeman and his family were among those killed in the attack. The leftist group has not commented on the incident. 

Elian’s Florida home is museum

The Miami, Fla., home where young shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez lived has been turned into a museum commemorating his time in the United States. 

The boy was taken in by his Miami relatives in late 1999, after surviving a shipwreck that killed his mother, her boyfriend and other Cubans trying to reach the United States. 

Elian became the center of a bitter seven-month custody battle which ended with U.S. federal agents seizing the boy from his relatives and an eventual reunion with his father. 

Greenpeace is upset by pollution of corn's genetic pool
By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Mexico is conducting an investigation on reports that Mexican corn is being contaminated by imported genetically engineered varieties. The Green Peace environmental group is calling for a total and immediate ban on all genetically engineered corn imports into Mexico — the origin of all corn crops. 

All corn can trace its roots back to Mexico, which remains a vitally important development area for new strains, in spite of seed banks dotted around the world.

Recent studies have shown the indigenous corn in several key Mexican states has been severely contaminated by imported genetically engineered varieties. Some Mexican farmers have mistakenly planted it, and wind pollination has done the rest. Green Peace director in Mexico, Raul Benet, who is a genetics expert, says the imported usurper is wrecking ecological havoc.

"It is eroding the variety," he says. "The Mexican variety is huge, and it makes it possible to face different environmental conditions from zero to 3,000 meters over the sea level and different climate conditions. And there is a loss of all this diversity when one gene comes and fixes in the population." Green Peace corn specialist Hector Magallon is calling for a total ban on genetically engineered corn imports, much of which come from the United States.

"We think it is not too late, but action should be taken now. The GE corn imports should be stopped, no corn should enter Mexico by any way. . ." Magallon says. 

Mexican Environment Minister Victor Lichtinger has promised a full investigation, stressing the contamination must be nipped in the bud.

Concern voiced
on agro-terrorism

A world authority on agriculture is warning of the potential dangers of agro-terrorism. 

The director general of the International Center for the Improvement of Corn and Wheat, Timothy Reeves, says Western nations, especially the United States, must wake up to the risks of such attacks. Terrorists are already using insidious forms of biological warfare, via anthrax spores in the mail, targeting various political and media figures and organizations. 

Timothy Reeves of the Mexico City-based International Center said the potential for terrorists to severely damage the agricultural industry exists. Reeves says such attacks would not require high-technology. 

"We know that certainly during the Cold War there were countries that were developing particularly virulent strains of wheat rust — a fungus disease of wheat, with a view that one day it could be used, in fact, to disrupt crop growth and food supplies," he explained. 

Reeves says that the probable intention of an agro-terrorist, would be economic damage rather than death. He says Western countries, with highly developed agricultural sectors, must be alert to the overall implications. 

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