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These stories were published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 214
Jo Stuart
About us
Some surprising exhibits at science fair
Young scientists show their creativity and depth
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The country has nothing to worry about if students at a high school science fair are any example.

Creativity and respect for the environment are running rampant at the University of Costa Rica.  Students from all over the country are showing what they can do. Technically, the event is the 17th Feria Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia: Expociencia 2003.

More than 200 separate exhibits are displayed, and many of the students who did the work were there to explain their projects for the inauguration Tuesday. The projects are outlined in true scientific tradition with a stated problem, a methodology, results and a conclusion.

Sometimes one does not need a lot to do a lot. Two students from the Escuela Matías Camacho Castro in Sabana de Acosta wanted to see if they could build a hand-held weed cutter cheaply. The pair, Juan José Rojas Ulloa and Kevin Cruz Prado, did just that: constructed a hand-held, battery-operated weed cutter from junk. Then they grew the weeds to cut for the judges.

David Thomas, a fourth-year student from Santa Cruz, prepared a display of magnetism and gravity, two of science’s greatest challenges. A visitor mentioned that Albert Einstein suggested that gravity was really a curvature of space. "Einstein was probably right," the bilingual Thomas allowed.

Two fifth-year students at the Colegio Académico de Liverpool in Limón, Enden Herrera Sanabria and Luis Araya Vargas, built a mechanical arm.  That’s right. A wooden arm that moves and fingers that grip objects all by  impulses from a control panel.

Some of the projects show exactly how far the world has come. Montserrat Torres from the Escuela Mons. Anselmo Llorente y La Fuente in Tibás put together a "radio sin baterías." This, of course is like the old crystal sets much in vogue in the early 1920s. Miss Torres is a radio amateur who knows her Morse code. She reported that the radio cost her 385 colons in materials, a bit less than a dollar.

Two other students, Paulina Camacho Alvarez and Kerlin Brenes Abaca of Linda Vista de Limón, built a projector that resembled the Victorian magic lanterns.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Kihaveth Navarro and anti-mosquito coils

Then there was Ana Korolina Víques Beita. Any visitor who meets her will not smoke again. She constructed a "machine that smokes," actually a model of a woman with glass jars as lungs. The idea is to show the damage caused by tobacco. She is from the Centro Educativo María Vargas Rodríguez in Ciruelas de Alajuela.

Other exhibits showed paper-making from plant material, composting, organic batteries, recycling, noni fruit and how to best shine floors. The projects all were selected for participation from regional science fairs.

The girl to watch, however, is Kihaveth Navarro H. of Bataan. She created anti-mosquito coils from leaves, coconut pulp and yucca. The leaves are from the madero negro tree.  She packages the spirals in 40-gram units. 

The spirals burn and keep away mosquitoes, thus avoiding dengue and malaria, she said. And she said it with the enthusiasm of an entrepreneur in training.

The exposition is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thursday and to 2 p.m. Friday at the university’s sports complex on the road to Sabanilla some 200 meters east of the Universidad Estatal a Distancia.

Some 37 prizes will be awarded the young scientists at a ceremony Friday afternoon.

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Pacheco and team
want wiggle room

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Government officials said Tuesday that they will listen to U.S. proposals that might result in competition for the country’s telecommunications monopoly.

Union leaders quickly said they would protest any opening under a proposed free trade pact.

The government’s announcement is not a change in position, said President Abel Pacheco but simply a stance to hear what U.S. negotiations will say.

Alberto Trejos, the minister of Comercio Exteriores, said that the United States is interested in three areas: cellular service, the Internet and private business networks.

The next round of negotiations is in Washington in December. Pacheco suggested that he might go to Washington himself to speak with U.S. officials including George Bush.

Pacheco and his cabinet want a free trade treaty with the United States. They say that such an agreement is vital to the country. However, they must be seen as being able to negotiate instead of placing off-limits certain areas, like the telecommunications under the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Any new services stemming from outside investment will result in income to the institute, which holds the rights to the communications infrastructure. Pacheco and his ministers have been meeting with lawmakers and other officials in an attempt to build support for what they say is not a change in position.

UCR medical school
celebrates its 50th

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Escuela de Medicina of the Universidad de Costa Rica will celebrate its 50 years of existence tonight at 7 o’clock in the auditorium of the Ciudad de Investigación.

Among those who are scheduled to attend is President Abel Pacheco, himself a physician and psychiatrist, although not an alumnus of the medical program here.

In the 50 years it has been delivering a medical education, the school has graduated 3,000 doctors in general medicine and more than 2,000 specialists in 53 specialties, according to a release.

Powell to visit Panamá

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will visit Panamá on Monday, as President George W. Bush’s representative to the centennial celebration of Panamanian independence. 

In Panamá Powell will meet with President Mireya Elisa Moscoso. Powell will depart for Nicaragua, for meetings with President Enrique Bolaños and other senior Nicaraguan government officials. The secretary also will visit Honduras for meetings with President Ricardo Maduro and other senior officials. 

Reader’s letters

VFW service officer
explains his visit

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My name is Darryl S. Dalley, I read the news brief that stated I will be visiting San José. I will arrive on Nov. 3, 2003, around 11 a.m. VFW Post 11207 Commander Manuel Delgado and Adjutant Rick Garcia are taking care of my hotel needs. This is why I am visiting San José:

I am a VFW certified service officer and the adjutant of Department Latin America/Caribbean with the headquarters located in Panama City, Panamá. My main purpose is to attend VFW Post 11207's meeting on Nov. 4 as stated in your article.

My second purpose is to assist U.S. veterans with claims against the Veterans Administration. What that is a claim for disability. The person needs to have their DD-214 and all medical evidence or records from when they were in the military and current medical records. I would like to interview people on Wednesday. I would like everyone to attend the VFW meeting, and then I would make a schedule to talk one on one for the next day. Claims are not normally made and finished, ready to turn into the VA, on one visit but we have the Internet and U.S. mail. 

I have APO mail here in Panamá. I will be returning to San Jose again in December to brief more veterans, mainly retired U.S. military and their dependents plus veterans receiving disability from the Veterans Administration. I will have more information on that trip when I get in San José next week. I would welcome all retired military people to e-mail me so I can make contact with them. What I will be talking about is medical care. There are several programs.

Any U.S. veteran who currently is receiving disability money from the VA should make contact with me. I can assist the veteran in getting an increase of disability. If a veteran has a disability rating, they should  bring me a copy to review and I will give them advice. 

For a little background information on me:

I retired from the Army in 1995. I served in Operation Just Cause in Panamá, Operation Desert Shield and Storm. I am totally disabled from the Veterans Administration. I volunteer to help veterans. I do not charge and cannot charge to help a veteran. I served as Department (State) Commander for Latin America/Caribbean 1999-2001. I held many other offices before being elected commander. My current positions are department adjutant and service officer.

I would hope you can put this information out to as many veterans, and U.S. retirees as possible. My e-mail is: darryldalley@hotmail.com

It’s best to meet people in person but this e-mail is to confirm that I have my airline tickets and will be in San José.

Thank you for your support of Veterans.

Darryl S Dalley 
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An editorial
Tourism Web page seems to miss the point
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute has made the classic mistake by putting a large chunk of money into a Web page to advertise the country.

The situation is instructive because a lot of tourism operators are making the same mistake with their own Web pages.

Simply put, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is spending $833,000 for a Web page and call center, but the likely Web visitors are persons already intersted in Costa Rica.

The price for the Web page and its associated projects seems high. But the tourism minister defends it. Whether the price is competitive or not, the money would be well spent if the project could reach persons who otherwise might vacation in Paris, Iowa, Boston or Hoboken.

But the tourism Web page does not do this. It does not reach out to the population at large and say: "Hey, Costa Rica would be a great place for your next vacation."

In order to find the tourism institute Web page one must search on the Internet under keywords, perhaps "visit Costa Rica." That means the potential Web page readers already must be primed for Costa Rica.

If, however, the Web users simply type "sun and beaches," they are not going to see an invitation to Costa Rica. Instead, California, Panamá, Malaysia, Cuba, Montenegro and Madagascar dominate the Yahoo search results.

Although the company contracted to maintain the Web page for the tourism institute also recieves money for promotion, the amount (some $11,000 a

month) is likely going to promoting the Web page among Internet search engines. After all, the consortium doing the job is not particularly skilled as an advertising agency.

The way to get cutomers is to tell them what they need before they realize they need it. In this case, they need vacations in Costa Rica. To do that Costa Rica must reach out via newspaper, radio and trade advertising.

So tourism operators here with Web pages should take note. Are they also promoting themselves to persons who already are interested in their services or are they breaking thorough to new markets with advertising and public relations. How many tourism operators take photos of their customers and send a package off to the visitors’ hometown newspaper?

Ultimately it is not the Internet but the personal selling that brings in customers. The tourism institute knows this. The pricey Web page is linked to a call center where humans answer the telephone 24 hours a day to provide personal service.

Web pages are a tool but they cannot seal the deal.

It may be that the intent of the tourism institute is not so much to promote Costa Rica but to capture the bulk of the reservation market. The Web page has an expensive search engine. That raises the question why a public entity is crossing the line into territory well covered by private, tax-paying companies. But if the tourism institute has a goal of cherry-picking the best tourist reservations, then it is correct to restrict itself to people who already have an interest in Costa Rica.

And private enterprise wold be correct to raise the issue with the tourism officials.

OAS ministers approve 'post-Cold War' blueprint
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MEXICO CITY, México — High-level officials from the Organization of American States have approved a declaration that defines a new security agenda for the Western Hemisphere. 

The 34-member hemispheric group adopted the document Tuesday here as it wrapped up a two-day conference on ways to address new threats to security and peace in the region. 

The "Declaration on Security in the Americas" notes that the hemisphere's traditional approach to security must be expanded to take into account what it describes as "new and non-traditional threats." 

The document says these new threats and challenges to the Americas include terrorism, AIDS, poverty, natural disasters and environmental degradation. 

OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria said Monday that the declaration highlights the region's deep-seated interest in maintaining peace and security through cooperation and collective action. 

In addition to adopting the declaration on security, the OAS officials approved an agreement to fight terrorism in all its forms and support Colombia's fight against drug trafficking and rebels. 

Mexican Ambassador Miguel Ruiz-Cabañas, who is coordinating the event, says conference delegates proposed a concerted plan of action, which is intended to help everyone, but will not stifle the sovereignty of any nation.  Ambassador Ruiz-Cabañas says this is a post-cold war security blueprint for the Americas. 

"This agreement means that we have developed a road map for increased cooperation on security and defense matters," he said. "We are not dealing with international security. That is up to the United Nations. We are not dealing with security at the domestic level. That's precisely at the domestic level within each state. 

"But there is a dimension between the two, that national and international one," he continued. "And that is the hemispheric level. That's what we can do together in this hemisphere in favor of peace, stability, security and an increased sense of mutual confidence." 

Scary story deadline is tomorrow
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. The deadline is 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

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!

Expats rally to try to help girl, 12,  keep her sight
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 12-year-old girl in San Isidro is battling approaching blindness, and expats in the area are chipping in to help.

The girl is Karina Badilla Cordera, who just celebrated her 12th birthday Sunday.  Her problems stem from being born three months premature at a mere 980 grams, a little more than two pounds. She survived, but her young years have been filled with medical battles.

Now tumors are growing behind each of her eyes. Her right eye is sightless and the left eye is at 50 percent, according to her neighbors.

Dr. Wayne Moore, a retired Arizona veterinarian, is accepting the job to raise money for the operation that the girl needs to maintain her sight. 

He said a San José surgeon has high hopes for the procedure. The tumors are pressing on the optic nerves, the veterinarian said.

Moore has joined with other expats in the area and the girl’s new stepfather, Danny Miller, a U.S. citizen, to find the resources for medical treatment and eyeglasses.

The girl also was born deaf, but that problem is behind her. A U.S. resident donated funds for a hearing aid. Because she could hear for the first time, the girl is able to dance for the first time, friends said.

Karina Badilla Cordera

The girl also cannot talk and has trouble with balance. She falls frequently and has to have special shoes to help her walk more steadily, said friends.

Moore has been here three years and said that he would use the local branch of the Banco de San José for whatever donations come in for the girl. He said he would provide continuous accountings and set up an account so that multiple signatures would be required to disburse funds.

He may be reached at 771-4636 or via this e-mail address: colibrimama@yahoo.com.

World newspaper group protests U.S. treatment of British reporter
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum are asking the U.S. government to investigate the mistreatment of a British journalist by immigration authorities at Los Angeles International Airport 

This is at least the second incident where European journalists have been mistreated at the airport since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

In the most recent case, British journalist Rachael Bletchly, who works for The People, was held for 26 hours, was handcuffed for a time, was given very little to eat or drink, had no possibility of sleep and had to ask permission to use the lavatory, which was denied on at least one occasion. In addition, for a time she was denied access to a lawyer and to British Embassy officials, said the newspaper groups.

Ms Bletchly was deported for failing to have a valid visa. "While not disputing the U.S. immigration service’s authority to refuse Ms Bletchly entry and to detain her for a reasonable period while making inquiries, we are seriously concerned that the treatment she was subjected to fell far below international standards," the newspaper groups said in a letter to Tom Ridge, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

The two groups called on Ridge "to carry out a thorough investigation into the detention of Ms Bletchly and to take all necessary steps to ensure that such mistreatment of journalists is not repeated." 

The letter said, in part: 

"We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries, to express our serious concern at the mistreatment of journalist Rachael Bletchly by U.S. immigration officials. 

"According to reports, on 9 October Ms Bletchly, who works for The People in the United Kingdom, was detained for 26 hours on arriving at Los Angeles International Airport before being deported for failing to hold a valid visa. While not disputing the U.S. immigration service’s authority to refuse Ms Bletchly entry and to detain her for a reasonable period while making enquiries, we are seriously concerned that the treatment she was subjected to fell far below international standards. 

"Ms Bletchly was held for 26 hours, was handcuffed for a time, was given with very little to eat or drink, had no possibility of sleep and had to ask permission to use the lavatory, which was denied on at least one occasion. In addition, for a time she was denied access to a lawyer and to British Embassy officials. 

"We are particularly concerned that the mistreatment of Ms Bletchly is not an isolated incident. In May, six French journalists were detained for more than 24 hours, handcuffed several times and subjected to six body searches before being deported from Los Angeles International Airport. 

"We respectfully call on you to carry out a thorough investigation into the detention of Ms Bletchly and to take all necessary steps to ensure that such mistreatment of journalists is not repeated." 

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 100 countries, 13 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups.  The WEF is the division of WAN that represents senior news executives. 

A spokesman said that although British citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States, journalists who plan to work there do need a visa, and this requirement has surprised many.

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