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Jo Stuart
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This articles first were published Friday, Oct. 26, 2001
Grim photos punctuate
seminar on anthrax

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anthrax spores are all around us all the time, but clumped up so a normal body filters them out as harmless trash.

And there are lots of other bad things out there that can be used as a biological weapon.

That was the word last night from Dr. Hugo Villegas, chief of Hospital CIMA’s emergency facilities. He gave a heavily illustrated talk in English that ranged from Scythian archers poisoning their arrows in 400 B.C. to the most current instructions on what to do with a letter you suspect contains anthrax.

The Villegas talk was characterized as "small tips to avoid unnecessary panic." The hospital said it was responding to calm the fears of the expat community by setting up the hurried seminar.

The presentation was accompanied by candid photos of victims of a number of diseases most people only hear about vaguely:

A boy grimaces in the midst of a paralyzing attack of botulism. A small child progressively displays more and more symptoms of smallpox. A  black plague victim displays the typical lumps.

The featured photos of the evening was that of lesions produced by skin anthrax.

The photos were grim, material that you would not see on CNN, but helpful to those struggling with concerns about bioterrorism.

Villegas said that the respiratory system usually filters out all but the tiniest of particles. Anthrax spores, which are found naturally in the ground and around animals, has a tendency to clump and become big enough for the body to catch them, he said. 

That is one reason why the disease hasn’t been seen in Costa Rica for 17 years, and that occurrence was in an animal, he said.

Terrorist use a refined, treated form of anthrax spores that do not clump, and that is why three persons have died in the United States.

Villegas also reported that many, many spores must be taken into the human body for the bacteria to develop into disease, as many as 8,000. In some animal-related professions workers take in 500 or so spores each workday without catching the disease, he said.

That was the good news. The bad news was that biological warfare agents are difficult to detect, invisible, odorless and tasteless and can be applied with a simple mechanical aerosol device, he said.

"We need to worry, but we have to know our enemy so we can approach it on a reasonable basis," said Villegas in what was a brief rationale of his crisp presentation to a thin evening crowd at the Escazú facility.

He gave recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how to handle a suspicious letter. The suggestions basically are to cover up the suspect letter or package, seal off the room, contact the experts and make sure you remember who else was exposed.

The doctor said that he would be making the same presentation in other venues in both Spanish and English.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Dr. Hugo Villegas makes a point
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

The War 

The military has a saying, "Don't prepare to fight the last war." That indeed was what G. Bush & Co. was doing when the administration kept insisting a missile defense shield was necessary to defend against a likely attack from a rogue (and well-heeled) nation that was willing to risk mutual destruction. That was a variation on the Cold War. 

Now our ritual bombing of Kabul, a city already decimated by war, continues in this vein. About the only thing left standing in Afghanistan is its people. The last thing we wanted to do was kill them in our attacks because that would weaken both our tenuous alliances with other countries and our claim that we are not fighting Muslims. 

Unfortunately, that has already happened, if we are to believe the reports from Afghanistan. The tragedy of all of this is that neither our bombing war nor our pursuit of bin Laden, either as a criminal or a war lord, is going to work — not if we are to believe history. 

Our history lessons come from Vietnam and even our own Revolutionary War. (the parallels to both are several) and Israel. Our Revolutionary soldiers hid in the woods and fired upon rows of English soldiers marching in red uniforms. The British complained that we were not fighting fairly. The colonists ignored their complaints and won their independence. 

Our goal of routing out terrorism and defeating it once and for all will be as successful as the Israelis have been. For all their harsh punishment of terrorists, have they diminished the threat one iota? The most we can hope for is to kill the present terrorists and be prepared for the children who will grow up to avenge their fathers. 

One of the saddest and most frightening things I have heard about the present situation is that most of the founding members of the Taliban are the orphans of the war against Russia. Orphans grow up with no one to love them and no one to teach them to love. They have nothing to lose. That is fertile ground for mass murderers. And this coming conflict is going to — has already — produced more orphans on both sides. They are our future. 

As quixotic as it may seem, the only solution seems to be to talk, to listen, to negotiate. I hear everyone saying there is no negotiating with either the Taliban or bin Laden. They can say the same about the U.S. George Bush has said that nothing is negotiable: Turn over bin Laden and his lieutenants and his camps or else. Maybe if Bush can back down, so will they. 

What I do know is that we are not fighting for land. What we must do is win the minds and hearts of bin Ladin's followers (he is a lost cause). We are not going to do that by bombing them into a living hell. We have tried to drop food packages as well as bombs, but our compassionate aid is not reaching them, either because our bombs are, or the Taliban is getting most of it.   There is another saying that goes: If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting the results you have always gotten. Violence begets violence. We know the results. Why not dare to do something new? 

Jo Stuart’s earlier columns are HERE

U.S.  citizen's body found

Police found the body of a 25-year-old man believed to be a U.S. citizen in a small cabin near Quepos. They identified him as James Orney and said he had been dead for about three days.

An autospy has been schedule to determine the cause of death.
Salvation Army hopes
to be back helping kids

See story: SEE BELOW

Salvation Army hopes it will be back helping children soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Salvation Army hopes to have a mobil kitchen on the streets within two weeks to help homeless children and others.

The organization also hopes to reopen an emergency overnight shelter for children at the same time.
This is a stopgap measure while the religious group tries to rebuild its shelter program after a September conflict with a government agency shut down everything.

Major John Mowers, the commander of the Salvation Army unit here, said that he is expecting nearly 22 million colons (about $65,500) next week from the Patronato National de Infancia. Once he pays the back bills associated with closing the shelters, he will have about 6 million colons (about $17,800) to restart the programs, he said. 

When the shelters closed in September, some 30 youngsters had to leave an overnight 

shelter, and facilities for 50 youngsters in a day drop-in center ended. The number of homeless children on the streets of downtown San José took a big increase.

For the long run, Major Mowers is seeking startup grants from foundations in the United States, and some supporters of the Salvation Army are planning a possible telethon. He also said he is planning a meeting with Msgn. Roman Arieta, archbishop of San José, in hope of involving the Catholic Church in the financial aspects of the program.

The idea is to build a coalition that also includes prominent local businesses to provide startup funding that would allow the Salvation Army to 

pay its bills until it could get frequently delayed government reimbursement checks. A new contract with the Patronato would be needed.

The dispute with the Patronato involves a contract under which the Salvation Army ran the shelters and the government agency would reimburse for the expenses, said the major. At issue, he said, was the way children were counted for the reimbursement formula.

The Patronato balked at paying for children who were involved in more than one of the Salvation Army’s facilities, and there were suggestions of overpayment.

But Major Mowers said Thursday that payments by the Patronato were capped at 11 million colons ($32,750) a month and even under the most unfavorable readings of the various formulas the Salvation Army only received undeserved extra money one month in 22 months of operation. And he quickly wrote the government agency a 200,000 colon ($600) refund check so there would be no financial doubts.

The Salvation army maintained a drop-in shelter for youngsters in Barrio Christo Rey near Avenida 18. There younsters could participate in group therapy and become attracted to other aspects of the Salvation Army program, Mayor Mowers said.

Three evening shelters existed. One was an emergency night shelter. Then there were two shelters, one for boys and one for girls, where the youngsters would live for up to six months, go to school and begin to make a transition to a more normal lifestyle.

The Salvation Army took a big financial hit when the shelters closed. Mowers said he had to pay an additional month of rent on the shelter properties, plus he has had to pay off the employees who were let go. He said the bulk of the 16 million colons will go for back salaries and the payments the law requires for discharged employees. The money the major expects is the Partonato reimbursement for July and August. 

Most of the artisans hoping for a better weekend of handicraft sales
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The national artisans’ exhibition has some winners and some losers.

Some artisans selling their handicraft there report that the first full week was good. Others characterize the week as having fewer sales than the year before.

Still others say that business is off as much as 50 percent due to the ripple effect of low tourism.

The artisans gather once a year in a pre-Christmas, 10-day sale. This is when owners of souvenir shops and hotels stock up for the coming high season.

There is probably nothing you could call "tourist junk" at the exhibition at FERCORI, the Feria International de Costa Rica, on Calle 25 at Avenida 3 in Barrio California. The handiwork is of high quality.

And quality is what some artisans say is drawing in the customers this year. With tighter budgets, buyers are becoming more choosy, they said.

Anais Morera runs Nina Yaku, an Escazú-based shop

 that makes big and little ceramic lamps. She said she has been coming to the artisans’ fair for eight years, and this year she has experienced a big increase over the year before. Last year she took in about 7,000 colons a day (about $20). this year she is taking in about 30,000 colons a day (about $90).

Rosalina Miranda of Armetal Ecologico also at first appeared to be lucky. Her stock of art metal insects, one of the better known exhibits, was low on bugs. But, it turns out, she is one who says sales are worse this year. Instead of selling her insects, she said she loaned many out on consignment to a store that will open next week.

To generalize from the individual experiences would be difficult. Nearly all agreed that attendance was down from prior years. Others were looking to make some good sales this weekend. The event is open through Sunday. 

Harder still would be to generalize from an artisans’ fair in San José to the Costa Rican economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign tourists. 

But if any generalization can be made it is that economy trends are made up of unique individual experiences that are highly variable. 



on the ball

to exploit



By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The folks in Samara are getting serious about the eclipse.

Already they have a big display on their Web site encouraging tourists to visit the Pacific beach town to take in the Dec. 14 astronomical event. The town also happens to be at the very middle of the eclipse track  that crosses Costa Rica from southwest to northeast.

The town’s informational web page (http://samarabeach.com/index.html?eclipse) has this promotion:

"Enjoy your breakfast and in the morning feel free to make final preparations for the eclipse, explore on your own, hang out on the beach, go on a hike or arrange an optional day trip with your hotel. We expect the center line of the path of annularity to very closely intersect Samara Beach. Then watch the climax of the annular eclipse as the sun is less than one hour from sunset. Elevation of the sun will be about 11 degrees at the time of max eclipse (4:31pm)."

John French, an A.M. Costa Rica reader, said that he told the town’s promotional workers just a few days ago about the eclipse and before long the web site was full of information including a little demonstration of the moon passing in front of the sun, similar to that found on the Web page of the National Center of Science and Technology in Costa Rica.

French of Gaithersburg, Md., said that a similar eclipse in Europe was heavily marketed to attract tourists there. So far there has been no similar push in Costa Rica, except for Samara.

However, a check of Web pages show that a number of travel agents and a few individuals are promoting the event heavily.

Anti-terrorism measures
sent to the U.S. president

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Senate has cleared the way for President Bush to sign into law a sweeping anti-terrorism bill later Friday. The bill, which the House of Representatives had already approved, passed in the Senate Thursday by an overwhelming vote of 98 to 1. 

The new package of laws will give authorities more power to do things such as protect U.S. borders, tap phones, track Internet usage and search homes in pursuit of suspected terrorists. 

Speaking to a conference of U.S. mayors before the Senate vote, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the laws will open a new era of law enforcement. He said the U.S. Justice Department will use aggressive arrest and detention tactics, and terrorist suspects will be kept in jail as long as possible. Ashcroft said he would immediately put to use these new powers. 

The measures also include stronger penalties for harboring or financing terrorists. Wiretapping and surveillance provisions of the anti-terror bill will expire after four years. 

The only senator who voted against the bill, Democrat Russ Feingold ofWisconsin. argued the measure does not go far enough to protect civil liberties.

Air war targets hideout
of Osama bin Laden

U.S. warplanes are reported to have targeted suspected hideouts of terrorists and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province bordering Pakistan.

News reports quote witnesses as saying planes dropped bombs this week over the Gora Tangi region, where Afghan fighters are believed to have built a maze of tunnels.

The nearby Khost region came under U.S. cruise missile attack in August 1998, when the United States targeted suspected terrorist training camps run by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.

In Washington, U.S. DefenseSecretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that U.S. forces are doing everything possible, in his words, to"locate and get" Osama bin Laden, other leaders of his al-Qaida network and the Taliban who are protecting them.

Late Thursday, U.S. planes carried out raids over the Afghan capital, Kabul, and Taliban positions north of the city. 

Colombian police grab
lot of funny money

Authorities in Colombia have seized $7 million worth of counterfeit U.S. currency and arrested eight members of a counterfeiting ring. 

Officials in Bogota said Thursday the police, working with the U.S. Secret Service, conducted the raid several days ago in Cali, about 300 kilometers southwest of the capital. 

The head of Colombia's secret police described the action as one of the biggest blows to Colombia's counterfeiting industry. 

The United States has been working closely with Colombia to combat illegal currency production. U.S. officials say one-third of all counterfeit money passed in the United States is from Colombia. 

U.S. authorities estimate more than $100 million have been illegally manufactured in Colombia over the past 15 years, with some $22 million worth of the counterfeit currency seized in the United States. 

The Andean nation is the world's largest producer of cocaine, an industry that experts say encourages widespread counterfeiting and money laundering.

Candidates in Nicaragua
seem to be in a dead heat

A new public opinion poll in Nicaragua indicates that former Sandinista president Daniel Ortega and ruling party candidate Enrique Bolanos are in a virtual tie two weeks before the country's presidential election. 

The poll published Wednesday in La Prensa shows 38 percent of voters favor Bolanos of the center-right Constitutionalist Liberal Party, giving him a one percentage point lead over Ortega. The difference does not have statistical significance, so the two are in a mathematical tie.

Conservative candidate Alberto Saborio was a distant third with only three percent voter support. 

Bolanos, a prominent business executive, had slightly trailed Ortega in previous polls. Ortega lost presidential bids in both 1990 and 1996. 

Twenty-two percent of those surveyed were undecided or not sure if they would vote at all. 

Ortega ruled Nicaragua for 10 years after the Sandinistas seized power from dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The United States accused the Sandinistas of trampling civil liberties and violating human rights.

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