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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 218
Jo Stuart
About us
It's party time
for democracy

Balloons and streamers set the tone as Costa Ricans and U.S. Embassy officials engage in a little democracy of their own Tuesday night.

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Presidential voting result here is more decisive
By Clair-Marie Robertson 
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The George Bush-John Kerry presidential race still was inconclusive early today as electoral votes from seven key states still had not been allocated.

But at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano there were not these problems.

The centro hosted to "Election Night 2004." Over 200 persons from different parts of the world and with varying opinions came to discuss democracy.

More photos, another story BELOW!

The U.S. Embassy organized the simulated vote for the evening. Some 131 voted. The results gave John Kerry the win by 55 percent. George W. Bush got 43 percent, and Ralph Nader got 2 percent.

The majority of Costa Ricans who attended Tuesday night’s event felt that John Kerry should be the winner and the next president of the United States. Mrs. Rita Calvert lives with her husband, Charles, in Escazú. Mrs. Calvert is the vice president of  Democrats Abroad. "I find this all very exciting," she said. "it’s the culmination of a lot of work." 

Ronald Hidalgo a teacher, said, "I want Kerry to win. I identify more with him and admire his wife." When asked why Costa Ricans would want George W. Bush to win, he said, " Of course Costa Ricans that want Bush to win want our country to continue to be as corrupt as it is now." 

Ingvild Berg, 23 from Norway came to the Centro Cultural because she was very interested in this year’s elections. "I think its time for the Democrats to have the power," she said." Interestingly her boyfriend, Alfonso Muñoz Riggioni. said, " I want Bush to win. I am a neo-liberalist, for free trade and a free economy." 

Carlos Cascante Mora and Hernan Carballo Cadeño both were on duty for the Fuerza Pública but were very interested in the outcome of the  elections. " I will be very happy if Bush wins this election. He has provided us with a lot of things to do our job," said  Cascante.  This opinion was echoed by Luis Moya Salgado, a Costa Rican lawyer. "Nobody wants to take risks with someone who has no real experience." Said Moya. 

Lynda Soler, the managing director of the American-Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce, said she is against John Kerry because he will re-negotiate the Central American free trade agreement. "The fastest way to improve Central America is to pass the CAFTA," she said. Ms. 

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Fred Kaplan of the U.S. Embassy staff prepares to cast his vote in the simulated election held Tuesday night. 

Soler voted absentee ballot in the state of New Hampshire.

Yasmin Cuadra Solis, a Costa Rican and teacher by profession, said "This is an interesting night, an important event for the country that is the most powerful in the world." Mrs. Cuadra said that she is not in agreement with what George W. Bush has done regarding the Iraq war. She said she feels that John Kerry will concentrate more on matters aside from war and that this is more important. 

The ambassador of Japan, Sumi Yoshihiko, also was present. He said that he believed it to be a very close election. He diplomatically declined to comment on who he thought might win the election. 

Opinions collected at this event demonstrated how close this year’s Presidential election is. But as Amelia Swartzborough, a nurse for the U.S. Embassy, commented, " Maybe this will make people want to get up and vote. When you know that your vote really does count. It makes a difference." 

Elsewhere in Costa Rica, television and Internet sites made getting the news from the United States easy. But results still were inconclusive. Officials in two key states, Iowa and Ohio, said they would not have complete vote totals until later today.  Bush led Kerry 249-221 in the unofficial total of electoral votes won. To win a candidate needs 270 votes, and each had a mathematical chance to become president.

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Heredia Woman held as purveyor of child sex 
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Security officials named a 29-year-old Guararí de Heredia woman as a major supplier of underage women to U.S. tourists and Asian fishermen.

The woman was identified by the last names of Alfaro Alvarado, according to agents of the Unidad Contra la Explotación Sexual. That is an agency within the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. The woman would provide girls for customers in various parts of the country, including Puntarenas, Guanacaste and San José, officials said.

Rogelio Ramos Martínez, the minister, and Ana Helen Chacón, vice minister, said that the arrest is part of the energetic effort by the ministry to fight sexual exploitation of minors.

The woman now is in El Buen Pastor, the prison for females in San Rafael Arriba de Desamparados. She was described as a super conversationalist who could convince girls to become recruits.

"She offered them money and a way of life that they did not know and ended up recruiting them easily,’ said one agent.

Officials said that the girls mostly were between the ages of 13 and 16 and from homes with low economic status in places like Hatillo, Alajuelita and her own area of Guararí de Heredia. More than 30 girls were involved, officials said.

The eight-month investigation also implicated a pirate tax driver who provided transport. Officials said more arrests might be imminent.

Some of the girls have become witnesses against the woman. Some of them will be provided psychological help to overcome their problems of being victims, said officials.

The Alfaro woman becomes the 17th person detained this year by security ministry agents on allegations related to underage prostitution. Of those, 13 are Costa Rican, two are Nicaraguan, and two are U.S. citizens.

Our readers reply

Voting against embargo
seen as neutral position

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Like many right-wing idealogs, Walter Fila breaks-down the world to — "if you aren't for us, then you're against us!" They believe everything breaks down to simple black and white; there can only be two possible sides to any argument or situation.

If President Pacheco had merely spoken generally about the horrors of terrorism and how it should be eradicated from our society, no one would have any issues. However, due to President Pacheco's remarks (or private talks with the U.S.), Costa Rica is listed by the Bush administration as one of the countries supporting the war in Iraq. Since everyone knows this war had/has nothing to do with terrorism; this is hardly a "neutral" position and President Pacheco should be rightly criticized for putting the country in this position.

As far as Cuba, voting in favor of the embargo is clearly supporting the U.S. position, however voting in favor of lifting embargo, actually *is* the neutral position in this situation. Lifting the U.S. embargo is not supporting Cuba, it is merely saying that Cuba should be treated no different from any other country, in a equal or "neutral" manner. It is a vote in favor of free trade; after all, free trade still is a Republican tenet isn't it? 

He also mentioned "no proof" that free trade and engaging Cuba would hasten democracy. Well, no proof if you discount the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that is. Former President Nixon felt that engaging China would change its society and Presidents Reagan and daddy Bush all like to point out how opening the doors to Communist societies in Europe, was the key to the fall of the Iron Curtain and ending the cold war. Apparently, now that President baby Bush needs the Cuban-American vote, this won't work for Cuba.

James Wolf 
Orlando, FL
Canadian says no one
was at risk from Iraq

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The quote that Walter Fila chose was nothing to be proud of: "As saddening as it may be, it was better to have the blood of Iraqi children spilled than the blood of Costa Rican children spilled in a terrorist act in this country". 

This statement also happens to be the type of ridiculous and disconnected platitude that Bush and team has been feeding a gullible American public. How can slaughtering Iraqi children save Costa Rican children, or for that matter, U.S. children? 

Firstly no country including the U.S. or Costa Rica, was at risk of Iraqi attack. As well, attacking others certainly does not gaurantee one's own safety, in fact the reverse can be as true. A recent study estimates 100,000 deaths caused by the invasion of Iraq, the majority who were women and children killed directly or otherwise by coalition forces. Imagine the hatred this has generated in the surviving families, in Iraqis and Muslims in general? 

How many brand new enemies of the American people have been created by this insane aggression against the wrong target? Actually this brutality is very familar U.S. foreign policy, typically applied to small and impoverished countries that have been a little "too neutral" for their own good. This policy features an over-armed bully lashing out in its perceived economic and military self-interests, interests conveniently disguised as bestowing "freedom and democracy", with hardly an afterthought to the effects on the innocent, or to long-term implications. 

We can now add Iraq to the long list of countries fallen victim to U.S. meddling, meddling that in turn spawned terrorism that has killed so many totally innocent people, both directly and from the turmoil and poverty that inevitably follows. So what does neutrality mean? In the face of American threat, I think that for most countries that try it, it simply means being too scared to say and do what they think is really right. 

Ross Martin 
You better watch out
if you import fireworks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is another sure sign that Christmas is coming. Police officials are cracking down on fireworks.

The Ministero de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said Tuesday that the first arrests had been made of a pickup truck driver who now faces allegations that he was bringing in fireworks from Panamá.

And the ministry said it was beefing up border inspections.

The pickup, stopped near the southern border, contained more than 5,000 fireworks devices.

In Guanacaste, officials said they stopped a Costa Rican-licensed trailer that was coming from Nicaragua. More than 300 fireworks devices were encountered, officials said.

Anti-fireworks regulations have been revised in the last two years, and now commercial transport of the illegal devices can bring as much as six years in prison.

The holiday season traditionally has been one for fireworks, but several youngsters have been injured seriously during the last few years, causing police to step up enforcement.

Search begun for boat

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A fishing boat, the "El Campeón" is overdue with three crew members, and the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas has begun seeking the 20-foot vessel which has Golfito as a home port.

The boat left there Oct. 19 for the area around the Isla del Caño, said officials. They hope the problem is something as minor as engine failure.

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Perhaps as many as 200 invited guests, mostly Costa Rican, took advantage of a U.S. Embassy invitation to participate and learn more about the U.S. election process. Typical of the tone of the evening, many guests wore both Bush and Kerry stickers the whole night.
A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Capitalism is winner
in local election fest

By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Assorted companies set up displays and handed out free samples of their goods to election partygoers Tuesday.

Democrat or Republican, the mood was capitalistic: Beer, snacks and pizzas, the basic U.S. food groups.

Hershey, the chocolate manufacturer, offered the crowd a large costumed Hershey kiss, while the makers of Cerveza Imperial employed two young ladies to help promote the product. Wine companies were there, too.

Other companies used more subtle measures of advertising. Pizza Hut and Papa Johns both provided guests with free samples. Costa Ricans and other guests of the U.S. Embassy liked these so much that supplies ran out quickly, and both companies had to send for more pizza. 

Other companies that were displayed include Johnsonville, makers of Johnsonville Brats, Bagelmen’s de Costa Rica, Belca Food Service and Hortifruti, S.A.

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici
Snack foods were among the products made available Tuesday night. 
The beer girls from Imperial
But the kisses came from this Hershey kiss

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Mental decline in aged linked to space around blood vessels
By the University of Edinburgh 
news service

Doctors have found important new evidence to explain why mental function becomes less efficient with aging. In the first study of its type in the world, a team at the University of Edinburgh found that inferior mental function is linked with abnormally enlarged channels around blood vessels in the brain. The report, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, will help doctors to better understand the causes of dementia.

Dementia and milder forms of loss of mental ability affects millions of older people every year, but the causes are unclear. Previous research using brain scanning has shown that brain shrinkage and changes in the brain's white matter 'wiring' are associated with mental function slowing down in old age. This research adds a new way in which damage to the brain may result in dementia and other mental loss in older people.

The abnormal channels are known as enlarged perivascular spaces. Rare in young, healthy adults, they are very commonly seen in the brain scans of older people, and in conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and high blood pressure. Researchers have long noted these abnormalities, 

but until now there has been no research on any links with mental function in old age. The enlarged perivascular spaces might be an indicator of overall brain shrinkage, or they might reflect specific damage to brain tissue around blood vessels.

Dr. Alasdair MacLullich, of the University of Edinburgh’s Geriatric Medicine Unit, measured mental ability in 100 healthy elderly male volunteers from the Edinburgh area. Professor Joanna Wardlaw, from the Brain Imaging Research Centre for Scotland, measured the extent of the enlarged perivascular spaces in these men using a new and innovative method of analysis. The team, which also included researchers from psychology and endocrinology, found that men with more enlarged perivascular spaces had worse mental ability.

"These findings mean that we should certainly be looking more closely at enlarged perivascular spaces as a cause of dementia and other mental decline in old age," said Dr. MacLullich. "They raise the interesting possibilities that there may be substances in the blood, such as cholesterol or sugar levels, or even blood pressure itself, that may contribute to memory decline as people become older. This puts a spotlight on blood vessels, so we are now working to find out how these changes around the brain’s blood vessel supply arise." 

Scientists use bugs to control invading Australian tree species
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The spread of the invasive tree melaleuca is being thwarted in Florida, thanks to a cooperative program that includes enlisting the help of the tree's natural enemies in Australia.

The collaborative effort is being carried out by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service, the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the South Florida Water Management District. 

The effort is called the TAME Melaleuca Project, which the Agricultural Research Service established in 2001 to help control melaleuca. Melaleuca quinquenervia was introduced to South Florida in the late 19th century as an ornamental plant, but this fast-growing, fast-spreading tree has displaced native plants and animals, dried up wetlands and created major fire hazards.

The project takes an areawide approach to managing this Australian pest on public and private lands. Paul D. Pratt, a research entomologist at the service’s Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the project's director, while 

entomologist Cressida Silvers serves as the coordinator.

The project purpose is to demonstrate the effective integration of biological control into other management strategies, including use of herbicides and mechanical removal of melaleuca, to achieve long-term results. Especially sought are control treatments that reduce existing infestations and prevent new ones, while minimizing risks to non-target organisms, said the service in a release.

The first natural enemy released against melaleuca was the melaleuca leaf weevil, Oxyops vitiosa. More than 8,000 of the weevils were released at 13 locations in 1997. 

Today, millions of the quarter-inch-long weevils are eating the young leaves of melaleuca trees. The second biological control agent, the aphid-like psyllid Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, has also been effective. This tiny insect feeds on the tree's sap.

Young melaleuca seedlings are the most vulnerable. To date, approximately 350,000 psyllids have been released at a variety of South Florida locations.

Venezuela sends troops to opposition election strongholds
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela has deployed troops in two opposition-led states, where final results from Sunday's general election have yet to be released.

Interior Minister Jesse Chacon says the National Guard troops were sent Tuesday to help prevent violence.

In Yaracuy, troops surrounded the office of opposition Gov. Eduardo Lapi, who vowed not to 

leave his post until final vote results are issued. He questioned if the troop deployment was a coup attempt against him.

Security was also boosted in Carabobo state, where another opposition official, Gov. Henrique Salas, is seeking re-election.

Monday, election officials issued results for many regions, showing President Hugo Chavez's party had won 18 of the country's 22 state governor posts that were being disputed. 

Jo Stuart
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