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These stories were published Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 224
Jo Stuart
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Georgia moves against two med schools here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. State of Georgia has forbidden a man there to recruit for a troubled medical school in San José.

Shelvey Holland, standards administrator of the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission, took the action last week. The state official said that a cease-and-desist letter had been mailed to the man, Dr. Winston Cannon.

The Georgia official said that Cannon has been recruiting in Georgia for St. Jude Medical 

The Flag of St. Andrew

The clans gathering
for traditional feast

By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Scotland’s national day — St. Andrew’s Day — is fast approaching, and the British Embassy is planning a garden party to celebrate it Nov. 23 at the ambassador’s residence in Escazú.

The embassy’s St. Andrew’s Night Ball will celebrate the life of the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew. He was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. 

It is popularly thought that a man now known as St. Regulus who, when sailing in the North Sea, fell upon troubles in rough conditions, and ended up shipwrecked on the shores of what is known today as the town of St. Andrews. He was heading to the 'end of the earth' with St. Andrew's bones (or relics), legend says, acting upon a vision he had in a dream. 

For that reason, the place became an important site for Christian pilgrimage. A cathedral was built, where it is said the relics were housed for a time.  The cathedral’s ruins can still be visited today.

Other legends exist. However this is the most prominent.

St. Andrews is in Fife, in the central eastern part of Scotland. It is famous today, also, for being the home of golf, boasting the oldest golf course in the world.

The embassy’s celebration falls one week before the correct date for St. Andrew’s Day, Nov. 30. The party will take the form of a ceilidh, said Georgina Butler, British ambassador to Costa Rica. A ceilidh is a traditional Celtic party. 

Highland dancing will be wholly dominant at the event. It is not yet clear though if haggis, the much maligned traditional food, will be in attendance. Guests are asked to provide the food, as the party is free to everyone who attends, though the number is limited to the first 100 to respond. So it remains to be seen if Robert Burns’ "Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!" will make it to Escazú.

Burns is the most famous Scottish poet and bard. The above line is from the second line of his poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’. He is talking about a traditional Scottish food encased in the stomach of a sheep. It is a type of pudding, something similar to black pudding. Burns also wrote, among other works, the recurring New Year’s Eve anthem ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

The embassy party starts at 7 p.m. and will run through midnight. It is hoped that there will be a raffle to raise money for charity. For further information, contact either Kevin Glass (glass@costarica.net), or the embassy (britemb@racsa.co.cr).

School and/or Empresarial University. Both institutions are in San José.

Neither institution has been authorized to recruit in Georgia. "Therefore, any kind of operation or recruiting in Georgia or from a base in Georgia has been illegal in this state unless and until these institutions apply for and, if possible, gain a certificate of authorization by the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission," the state official said.

The decision by Georgia is a victory for Jeffrey Grace, a U.S. citizen who came to San José to train as a physician. He spent a year here trying to get Costa Rican officials to look into the school after he decided in September 2001 that he was not getting an adequate education. He had little luck in attracting official attention.

Grace said that the medical school is associated with Colegio Univeritario San Judus Tadeo in Sabana. Grace said that he and 11 others were recruited for the school’s "American plan." Classes were supposed to be in English, and the successful graduates were supposed to be able to get jobs in their own countries, Grace said the school claimed. Some, but not all, of the students were recruited by Cannon from Georgia.

The principal complaints about the medical school say the school lacked accreditation, lacked qualified, English-speaking faculty members, had inadequate resources and failed to provide basic resources for education, such as cadavers for anatomy class. One student said that an apartment in Sabana Oeste was used for a time as a classroom.

Empresarial University seems to have had some relationship with St. Jude’s Medical School. Empresarial got into trouble with Costa Rican officials last month because it was featuring photos of some of the nation’s biggest hospitals on its Web page.

The Web page  has been updated, although links still exist to a medical school and a veterinarian school. But the linked pages are both described as being under construction.

Empresarial also said that it offers doctoral degrees, including one in biological sciences. It also promotes a master’s of business administration on line, but that page, too, is under construction. 

The Web page says that the university campus is in an urban residential area in Curridabat. The Web page said the school had been called the International Post-Graduate School until 1997.

Empresarial’s president is Aldo Erazo, and the rector is Lic. Noel Henriquez, said the Web page.

The Georgia official said that a copy of the cease-and-desist order has been sent to the president of Empresarial University and to the Consul General of Costa Rica in New Orleans. 

Phones for disabled
are ready for use

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telephone company has put on line some 40 text telephones for customers who cannot hear or talk.

The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, said that the disabled will be able to commuicate directly by means of the devices, which cost about 170,000 colons. ($457). 

In the event the person using the device calls a conventional telephone, an operator at 137 is available to translate for the same cost as for a pay call.

The new devices are placed in locations at telephone agencies in the major cities, including at both international airports, Juan Santamaría and Daniel Oduber Quirós, and Tobias Bolaños Airport in Pavas.

We announce our photo contest for readers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Friday’s newspaper clearly shows that some A.M. Costa Rica readers are talented with the camera.

Johnny Mauricio’s photo of Arenal at daybreak is a stunner. Doug Gesler took a great shot of the ball dancing before the net during a women’s soccer match in Seattle. 

With so much talent, it seems appropriate to announce an A.M. Costa Rica photo contest. Rules will be posted later this week, but we have established five categories: Deadline news, scenic, wildlife, sports and people.

The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and they must agree to give A.M. Costa Rica one-time use of the photo for publication here. The photo must be taken within the borders of Costa Rica between Nov. 11 and the contest deadline.

The photos must be submitted digitally, and only one entry will be allowed per person in each category. A.M. Costa Rica staffers or interns are not allowed to compete.

A team of judges will be assembled by Saray Ramírez Vindas of the newspaper staff. The deadline is April 15, and $100 prizes will be awarded to winners in each category.

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Christmas season is for the birds again this year
By Garett Sloane
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bird-watching marathon of the year is on this Christmas season. If last year’s numbers are any indication, birders will be out by the hundreds in Costa Rica taking a census for the National Audubon Society’s 103rd annual Christmas Bird Count.
The count started as a protest to an old Christmas hunting tradition known as the "side hunt," where competitors would bag as many birds as possible.

Frank Chapman, an officer at Audubon, at the turn of last century thought of the idea to count his flying neighbors rather 

than shoot them.  On Christmas Day of 1900 the first count was held.

The count started with 25 observers in North America, but has expanded to more than 50,000 participants all over the hemisphere.

Last year more than 150 people went spotting and found nearly 20,000 birds in four count zones in 

Costa Rica: Monteverde, La Selva, Grecia and Cartago.

A count zone is a seven-mile radius plot where the Audubon encourages at least 10 people to stake out and identify as many birds as they can over the 
course of 24 hours. Participants can found and register their own zone with the Audubon.

The event is growing here as two new sites have been added in Dominical and in the vicinity of the aerial tram near the Zurqí tunnel for this year’s count.

Richard Garrigeus, head of Gone Birding tours, eagerly anticipates this year’s festival of bird watching. He said he was "itching’ for the seeing to begin. 

The start date of the count is Dec. 14 and ends Jan. 5. Organizers of each count zone choose which 24-hour period they will view.

Garrigeus called the event a social gathering for conservationists. However it also is an important tool to track the vitality of bird species, he said.

Garrigeus said the count is not statistical science. But the catalogue compiled by "citizen scientists" each year is of value in identifying trends in the species. 

The scheduled spottings are Dec. 14 in Grecia, Dec. 15 in Cartago, Dec. 20 in Monteverde, Dec. 22 in La Selva and Jan. 3 in Dominical.

Bird loving or even bird-curious people can find out more by calling Garrigeus at 293-2710.

Pacheco to summit
for the weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Abel Pacheco will be off on another trip Wednesday. This time he will be going to the 12th Iberian Summit in the Dominican Republic.

The event, Friday and Saturday, will address themes as varied as sustainable tourism, narcotrafficking, and the fight against terrorism.

With Pacheco will be Roberto Tovar Faja, the chancellor or foreign minister, according to an announcement by Casa Amarilla, the seat of the ministry.

On Friday, Pacheco as the president of the country holding the presidency of Central America, will meet with top officials of Spain, including King Juan Carlos II and head of government José María Aznar.

Tovar noted that the support of Spain is important in carrying out the process of Central American integration as well as the Plan Puebla-Panamá. That plan seeks to unite a number of services and improve conditions from that Mexican town to Panamá. Among these are roads, electrical services and other necessities for development.

Pacheco will return Sunday.

Video star grabbed
in taxi stickups

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who showed up on a security video trying to stick up a supermarket became a prisoner Monday morning when police raided his dwelling in Linda Vista de Patarrá.

In addition to the supermarket stickup, the man is facing charges in the holdups of three taxi drivers during the month of October. Investigators said they still are looking into three more such incidents to see if they may be related.

The taxi drivers were held up by a man who entered their taxi in Linda Vista, San Pedro and Aserrí, according to agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Meanwhile, in Alajuelita, the Fuerza Pública reported that a group of taxi drivers had grabbed a man who is suspected of trying to hold up a driver there. Police said the driver picked up two men in Desamparados and drove them to Alajuelita where one pulled a gun about 5 a.m. 

Police later detained a second man.

Sex exploitation
topic of workshop

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special investigative unit to fight sexual exploitation of minors has made 31 arrests since it was created in 1999, officials said Monday. The unit also conducted 21 raids, officials said.

The statistics were part of the background given to participants in a workshop on the topic Monday at the San José Palacio Hotel.

The session was sponsored by the Spanish government, and two Spanish police officials presented the material.

Also present were a number of top Costa Rican law enforcement officials. The workshop was presented to representatives of the various law enforcement bodies that work in Costa Rica.

The topic of sexual exploitation was interpreted broadly to include prostitution, pornography and trafficking in persons.

The workshop will last a week.

Women’s Club plans
yule bazaar Nov. 23

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas shopping is one reason to visit this year’s Women’s Club of Costa Rica bazaar Nov. 23.

Silva de Luca, club member and bazaar organizer, said more than 60 booths will offer crafts, jewelry, paintings and indigenous crafted mantas or cloths that can be used for tables, beds, or any other purpose.

Ms. de Luca said members of her group donate items like tennis rackets and glasses for the sale. She said the proceeds of the sale go toward scholarship programs the organization sponsors.

The women will sell baked goods, lasagna, macadamia nuts, chili and home cooked world-foods. One booth will have Dutch cheese and smoked trout.

The organizers expect a similar number of people to show as last year when almost 2,000 people attended, and nearly 2 million colons ($5,500) were raised.

The bazaar will begin Nov. 23 at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. at the Country Day School in Escazú.

Ms. de Luca said the women’s club uses much of its fundraising abilities toward providing high school students with money for school, but this year the women are hoping to help a student through college.

Ms. de Luca said the bazaar is not the biggest charity-event the organization sponsors throughout the year, but she values the tradition of the affair.

Colombian bishop 
kidnapped in transit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PACHO, Colombia — The Colombian Roman Catholic bishop who heads the Latin American Bishops' Conference has been kidnapped outside Bogotá. 

Authorities say gunmen seized Bishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez Monday as he headed here to perform a religious ceremony. The gunmen also kidnapped a priest traveling with the bishop, but freed a driver and schoolteacher initially seized in the abductions. 

The commander of the Colombian army, General Carlos Alberto Ospina, has offered a $35,000 reward for information leading to the bishop's release. The army blames the incident on the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Colombia's largest guerrilla force. The insurgents are reported to be active in the area where the two clergymen disappeared. 

The FARC has made no comment on the kidnappings. Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate, with more than 3,000 abductions last year. Most hostages are held for ransom. 

Colombia is in the midst of a 38-year civil war that pits the FARC and a smaller rebel group against right-wing paramilitaries and the government. At least 40,000 people have been killed by the conflict in the past decade alone.

Argentina wary of
over-ambitious ties

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Roberto Lavagna, Argentina's economy minister, says his country wants to avoid making unrealistic commitments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

In an article published in the Clarin newspaper, Lavagna acknowledged that too often his country had failed to meet fiscal targets in early aid deals. He said the attitude of previous administrations was, "let's sign whatever and then we'll see." 

Lavagna also criticized the IMF for selecting goals that were not realistic given their political and social repercussions. 

Argentina's economy has defaulted on large parts of its $141 billion debt. The IMF has been trying to convince Argentina to cut spending and lower trade tariffs.

Mexican factory jobs
decrease felt in U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LAREDO, Texas — The assembly plants south of the U.S. border known as maquiladoras have provided hundreds of thousands of jobs to people in Mexico over the past three decades, but in the past two years the sector has been hit by plant closings and job losses. 

The economic slowdown in the United States is partly to blame, along with competition from half a world away, according to a professor based here.

In a country that is struggling to create employment for its growing population, the loss of thousands of well-paying factory jobs is a heavy blow. But the effect of the cutbacks at maquiladoras, or maquilas, as they are often called, is also felt on the north side of the border. 

About 26,000 U.S. companies provide Mexican plants with heavy equipment, factory supplies and parts for assembly. Losses in Mexico are sometimes reflected by losses in U.S. plants as well.

Keeping a close eye on the maquila sector from just north of the border, at the Texas A&M International University here, Professor Van Miller sees a very real problem for Mexico and its workers. 

"They have lost in the last two years in the maquila sector some 300,000 jobs and there is no doubt about it those are 300,000 people who do not have jobs now," he says. "If we use a Mexican standard, the maquila jobs, especially along the border, are better jobs than those people could find elsewhere."

Some of the slowdown in the Mexican maquiladora sector can be attributed to the economic downturn in the United States, but Mexico has also lost jobs to other countries. Miller says he has no firm data yet on which countries have taken those jobs, but Mexican officials and many industry observers say China and other east Asian nations have attracted a large part of those jobs.

Workers in China earn far less than their Mexican counterparts and other production costs are also cheaper. Some companies say they have saved as much as 15 percent in overall costs by moving from Mexico to China or other Asian nations.

Mexico has relied on its 3,500 foreign-owned factories for about half of its annual $158 billion in exports. Since the system was established in 1965, maquiladoras have provided a stable source of jobs. But Mexico's prime advantage — its proximity to the United States — has been reduced as taxes, energy costs and labor costs have risen.
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