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These stories were published Friday, Nov. 14, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 226
Jo Stuart
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New book on use of jade explores the spiritual
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Museo Nacional is coming out with a major new archaeological book that explores the production and use of jade in pre-Colombian times.

The author is the eminent Costa Rican archaeologist Carlos Aguilar Piedra, and the title of his book is "El jade and el chamán."  The Cartago-born Aguilar seeks to outline the role that jade had in the ancient Costa Rican cultures, including in the spiritual domain.

Franciso Corrales, director general of the museum and himself a world-class archaeologist, said that Aguilar groups the jade found in Costa Rica according to its form and symbolism.  Corrales also said that the jade is explored in relation to shamanism and the symbolism that this figure represents.

The book will be unveiled to the public in a 5 p.m. ceremony Tuesday at the museum.

According to the museum, shamanism played a very important role in the indigenous cultures. The shamans or witch doctors had the capacity to serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds.

"The book by Don Carlos Aguilar represents a new contribution in a field of archaeology that is little studied," said Corrales. He also noted that the presentation of the book by the museum is a tribute to a former employee of the institution.  "Don Carlos is a pioneer of professional archaeology in Costa Rica,’ noted Corrales.

Aguilar, a graduate of the Escuela Nacional de Antropología de México in 1946 is the first person to carry the title of archaeologist in Costa Rica. He left the museum in 1962 to go to the Universidad de Costa Rica. 

Aguilar is known as the prime force behind the creation of the Guayabo archaeological park in Turrialba, a place that is now on the heritage list of the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. He also has written on ceramics and pre-Colombian gold as these substances relates to religion and magic.

In Costa Rica, the word jade refers to objects made from stone and usually hung on the chest as ornaments and talismans. The authentic jade comes from a major source in the Río Motagua in Guatemala. 

However, other stones with different color tones made from local materials sometimes have the same cultural and symbolic importance as pure jade, according to the museum.

The reason for this is that the word jade is associated with the color green. The manufacture of jade objects reached its peak between 300 and 800 A.D. Indian cultures manufactured collars, headdresses, earrings and other body adornments. 

The Aztecs in México offered the invading Spanish jade, which they considered more valuable than gold, although both materials held a high place in religious life.

Who says you can't go home again? Or can you?
I am back in California. My flight to the United States was remarkably painless and uneventful. I took the long way to my daughter’s home in Pasadena by going to Miami and then to Los Angeles. The Miami airport has to be the coldest in the world. When Miami is overcast, it looks cold and uninviting from the airport.

It was very gratifying to see that there was no smoke or ashes or even evidence of the terrible fires that have been raging around Pasadena. The damage is there, the forests are still ravaged, the homes still smoldering, but I can't see them. The forests will grow back all on their own from the seeds that evidently will pop from the heat of the fire. The houses won’t grow back, but humans will rebuild, as they always seem to. 

California has been my home for more years than any other state. And I have lived in more cities and towns in California than in any other state. I first came out here in the 50s, driving across the country, to live in Hollywood. It was a Hollywood where people still met in bars and cocktail lounges, and everybody who was in any way connected to the movies had a "Gone With the Wind" story. 

Then there was North Hollywood, where I avoided living in one of the tracts, which terrified me. I had nightmares of getting lost in one and dying of old age before I could find the house I lived in. After a short stint in one of the many anonymous and characterless apartments, there were other homes in Los Angeles. One was a tiny, precarious one-bedroom house at the top of 139 steps in Silver Lake. Another was a five-bedroom house with a butler’s pantry on Virginia Road. 

Living in San Francisco was a totally different experience. It was the early 60s when the Beatniks still influenced the literary world, and City Lights Book Store or one of the jazz clubs featuring Miles Davis or John Coletrane were what was happening. And even though a serial killer known as the Zodiac was still out there, single women went out at night in pairs. It was a time when women were discovering (consciously) that they could be good friends and calling themselves women instead of girls. Negroes were calling themselves black and listening to Martin

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Luther King, Jr., and some of us who were not black, were listening, too.

I lived through a summer and a winter in Lake Tahoe where I worked in a casino, thinking I was going to write about the life of casino workers. The closest I came to that was comparing their life with that of people who worked on cruise ships. I was about to enter Harrah’s one day, on my way to work when a young man in the parking lot outside the casino passed me with his radio blaring. I was thinking: "What is his problem!" and planning to say something sarcastic when he turned and said, "President Kennedy has just been shot!" He was crying. When I got inside, Peter Lawford was being paged. He was in Tahoe at the time. The casinos closed down for the first time in their history to mourn the death of the president.

Years later, upon returning to California, I lived in Palo Alto for a while. At the time, I felt that the people of Palo Alto were so busy hugging themselves at their good luck in living there, they didn’t have time for newcomers. I am sure that was not fair of me. But I moved to San Jose to be closer to the university where I had enrolled and because I found a far greater variety of people, and all of them were kind and hospitable. I was to find San Jose interesting enough to stay there for nearly 20 years. I spent many happy hours in the stacks in the university library researching subjects that fascinated me at the time, like the origin of monogamy and why men tend to be more violent than women, and trying to find out what really took place during the Eleusinian Mysteries.

California has changed so much in the 10 years I have been away. I probably would have difficulty finding any of the places I called home and then left. Some are probably gone, but not because of any fire, That is no way for anyone to have to leave a home. 

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Internet scam seeks
Pay Pal account users

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Users of the Pay Pal electronic payment service are being targeted by crooks who are trying to steal passwords and account information. They are using look-alike e-mailings to trick users to a phony Web page or worse.

Several messages arrived in Costa Rica Thursday purportedly from the eBay-owned Pay Pal.

The first set of messages asked Pay Pal subscribers to go to a Web page to fill out a questionnaire. The e-mail threatened that the user’s account would soon expire.

A second set of messages came with an attachment that users were asked to trigger. The contents of the attachment are unknown, but the possibility exists that a small program could read all the passwords and personal information on a computer and transmit it to some crook’s computer.

A.M. Costa Rica is a Pay Pal customers and uses the U.S.-based firm to receive advertising payments and to disburse certain cash payments. The firm is one of several that provide banking-like services over the Internet.

If a crook obtained a  Pay Pal password, he or she could easily transfer money. Some accounts are linked to traditional bank accounts, so the possibility of damage is great if someone falls for the trap.

Two women held
as crack ring leaders

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have arrested two women they say were major distributors of crack cocaine in the San José downtown.

Agents raided four locations over the weekend, and announced the results Thursday. The two women, who have last names of Cedaño and Segura underwent arrest at a home in Concepción de Tres Rios. Cedaño is 39, and Segura is 28, investigators said.

Crack cocaine was being fabricated in a bar located on Calle 2 between avenidas 8 and 10, said investigators. In addition to that location, a house on Calle 11 between avenidas 10 and 12 was raided.

Investigators said they confiscated crack rocks at the bar.

The pair are accused of using a group of vendors to distribute crack throughout the downtown area. The investigation has been gong on since April.

Fake musical CDs
result in arrests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in Puntarenas have arrested two men who now face a charge that they copied copyrighted musical CDs for sale.

The men were arrested on the Paseo de los Turistas in that Pacific seaport. One man, identified by the last name of Murillo and an age of 40, had in his possession eight CDs, and a 28-year-old man with the last name of Montiel had 20, police said.

An intellectual property law in Costa Rica prohibits the sale of pirated disks.

Representatives of international music companies have encourages such police actions.

FTC busts firm
in visa lottery

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has obtained a court order to shut down a business concern that the agency alleges was defrauding consumers attempting to participate in the diversity immigrant visa program. The FTC reported that a firm known as USA Immigration was attempting to charge fees for services provided for free by the U.S. Department of State.

The diversity visa program is administered annually by the State Department under congressional mandate, issuing resident visas to individuals selected by lottery from a pool of qualified applicants. The FTC alleges that USA Immigration and its operators misled consumers into believing their company was affiliated with the U.S. government. 

The application process is free, but the FTC reports that USA Immigration charged customers fees to apply for the opportunity to receive a visa. A U.S. court has issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the company from making misrepresentations and freezing the firm's assets. The two operators were arrested in October and face charges of mail and wire fraud. 

The diversity visa program makes 50,000 permanent resident visas available each year to persons from countries with a low rate of immigration to the United States. 

The press release said any prospective immigrants who applied for consideration in this year's diversity visa program through USA Immigration must re-apply. The registration period for visas to be issued in 2005 is Nov.1 through Dec. 30.

The FTC has previously published warnings to participants in the diversity visa lottery about the fraudulent activity that can occur in connection with the program. 

Powell praises area
after Isthmus visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HOUSTON, Texas — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is praising democratic reform in Central America and says the region can substantially benefit from trade liberalization. 

In a recent column in the Houston Chronicle, Powell said he saw considerable progress during his visit last week to Panamá, Nicaragua and Honduras. 

Powell said that democratic and accountable governments are making Central American societies more just and their economies more efficient. But, he warned that the region remains plagued by poverty and corruption. Powell said democratic institutions must be strengthened further to deal with issues like social unrest and the administration of justice. 

The United States and five Central American countries are close to concluding a free trade agreement. Powell said such an accord will help those nations expand and upgrade their economies for a new century.

Additionally, Powell acknowledged Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador for sending troops to Iraq as part of U.S.-led coalition forces.

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U.S. Congress dumps plan to open up Cuban travel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica tourism has been spared more competition for U.S. dollars by Cuba. U.S. congressional negotiators, bowing to White House pressure, have scrapped an effort aimed at lifting the four-decades-old ban on travel to Cuba. 

The House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year approved a measure that would have barred the use of government money from enforcing the travel ban as part of the Treasury and Transportation Appropriations Bill. 

But congressional negotiators removed the amendment, citing a White House threat to veto the legislation if it contained the Cuba language. 

The travel ban effectively limits tourism travel to the Communist island, and U.S. officials have said they are going to step up enforcement of the ban by cracking down on U.s. citizens who make visits there.

The move by House-Senate negotiators angered Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democratic of North Dakota, one of the chief sponsors of the amendment. He spoke on the Senate floor Thursday. 

"It is not fair to the American people. That is an attempt to slap around Fidel Castro, and by doing it, we are injuring the American people's right to travel," he said. 

Dorgan and other opponents of the travel ban say the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba has not brought democratic change to the Communist-ruled island nation.  President Bush strongly supports maintaining the ban, saying it stops hard currency from propping up a repressive Communist regime. 

Many in the Cuban-American community in Florida have long pressed the Bush administration to take a tougher approach to the government in Havana. Florida could be a crucial state for Bush's re-election bid next year. 

Cuba started to encourage tourism on a grand scale when the Soviet Union and other eastern European Communist regimes collapses from 1989 to 1992. Much of the country’s support came from sweetheart trade deals with Eastern Europe. Now it is the island’s No. 1 hard currency generator.

The proximity of the island, the cost of living there and the quality of the beaches make Cuba a potential competitor for U.s. dollars. 

Drought in Africa affects U.S. and Caribbean rain
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A new study says that trade wind dust transported from West Africa can have significant implications for climate, atmospheric quality and public health in the Caribbean and the southeastern United States.

Results of the study, reported by researchers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and published in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal Science, show that trade wind dust transported from West Africa to Barbados in the eastern Caribbean is strongly linked to rainfall patterns in West Africa. The study says decreased rainfall in Africa results in a sharp increase in dust transported across the Atlantic the following year.

Joseph Prospero, director of the administration’s 

Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami, said that since 1970 the Soudano-Sahel region of Africa "has suffered varying degrees of drought, which has caused the amount of dust to increase. The amount of dust transported from Africa could affect south Florida by suppressing rainfall and worsening droughts."

The researchers said the study's findings have implications for climate and public health in the Caribbean and south Florida, and future changes in climate could result in significant changes in emissions from Africa and other arid regions that, in turn, could change climate over large areas.

Previous work by Prospero has shown that large quantities of African dust are carried to the southeastern United States every summer.

Jo Stuart
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