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These stories first were published Friday, Nov. 23, 2001
Even a candidate
takes to Internet
to deliver message

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

RACSA, the government Internet provider, has been under fire in Costa Rica and beyond, for allowing customers to send massive numbers of unsolicited e-mail ads.

Other Internet services claim the massive numbers of e-mail messages clog the systems, and others have objections to the content, which may be pornographic, get-rich-quick schemes or worse.

So some Costa Rican customers of RACSA, Radiográfica Costarricense, S.A., were surprised Thursday to get an unsolicited advertisement from none other than Rolando Araya Monge, the Liberation Party candidate for president.

The Araya message was low-keyed and featured a faded background of the candidate with the partyís green flag. The short message reminded recipients that there soon will be a new president selected and that Araya would like to discuss his partyís platform. It also praised the new form of communications a way for statesmen to get close to the people.

From the addresses on some of the e-mails located by A.M. Costa Rica the source of the e-mail addresses seems to be from RACSA itself. But that doesnít mean that RACSA is joining the Liberation party campaign.

Reached at his office about 9:45 p.m. Thursday, Rodrigo Madriz described himself as one of the owners of Costa Rica Servicios, www.costaricaservicios.com, the company behind the Araya Internet push.

He said the firm was primarily a directory firm interested in helping businesses promote themselves. He estimated the number of Araya e-mail messages at about 50,000, noting that not many Costa Ricans have home computers.

Madriz said that he really did not think that his companyís e-mailing was objectionable because recipients have the option of asking that their name be removed from the e-mail list. The mailing did include such an option.

He said that the company obtains names from many sources, including what he described as a public directory maintained by RACSA of e-mail users at least in the past.

The e-mailing came at a time when those who oppose mass mailings on the Internet have singled out Costa Rica along with China, Russia and The Bahamas as friendly hosts for so-called spammers.

That characterization is made by Spamhaus, an organization that tracks mass mailers and blacklists Internet service providers that allow customers to send such messages. 

The blacklist results in an automatic system whereby Internet service providers (IPSs) all over the world reject e-mail messages sent from the offending provider. 

"In October 2001 the Costa Rica ISP Radiografica Costarricense S.A. (racsa.co.cr) had its entire network ( blocked . . .  after repeated warnings to the ISP." said Spamhaus. "In June Spamhaus aides intercepted communications between two American spam gangs in which they were planning to set up an Ďoffshoreí spam service on RACSA. A well known spam outfit called appropriately, "bulkers.net", previously thrown off 3 US ISPs, set up a spam service on RACSA claiming to be "bullet-proof". On 25 September Spamhaus sent RACSA a warning that all RACSA IP space would be placed on the . . . blocklist."

By blocking RACSA for 48 hours, Spamhaus prevented e-mail users with the RACSA domain name in their e-mail address from communicating with recipients served by those many Internet providers who rely on Spamhaus to weed out spam messages.

Bulkers.net says on its Web site (www.bulkbarn.com or www.bulkers.net) that it is a club designed to help businesses communicate their message. They offer up to a million individual e-mail addresses a week to club members who pay from $21 to $41 a month. The company makes a distinction in its advertising between spam e-mail and bulk mailings, although it does not define the difference.

The firm also provides software to send bulk e-mail messages.

Because the Araya message was confined to the RACSA Internet domain, it is not likely to cause international ripples. And political messages enjoy the highest form of free speech protection.

The use of bulk e-mail messages is legal, although some jurisdictions have special laws prohibiting, for example, continuing to send the messages when someone opts out. The European Union Parliament seems poised to endorse mass e-mails, much to the surprise of those who track spam messages.

Several Costa Rican Internet servers identified by their numbers and not their names seem to be listed now on the Spamhaus block list.

That includes that was listed Oct. 3 because of excessive mailings by financialfreedomadviser.com which told recipients to "get your own NEW Ferrari almost for FREE!"  The firm lists a Costa Rican postal box number on its Web site where it offers books and information for offshore asset protection.

Also listed is which cites www.casinoseuropacardclub.com operating from nat01.ct.co.cr []). This was a promotional effort for a poker competition at the Casino Europa last month.

Also listed is which cites cyberspacereality.net as the distributor of excessive e-mails. www. cyberspacereality.net tells visitors to its Web page that it can make the Web work for them. But it does not say how and provides nothing else but a tropical beach scene and an e-mail contact address. It could be a mass mailing firm.

Both RACSA and Amnet Cable which provides a cable hookup to RACSA preclude mass mailings in their contracts with clients.

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Everyone Should have Someone 
at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like it because itís one holiday that seems to have no axe to grind; that is, itís just about sharing food and being glad to be alive. I have had some wonderful Thanksgivings in my life, and the best ones included having at the table someone who otherwise would have been alone. Thanksgiving is a time to bring in orphans and share.

This year Iím very lucky, Iím having Thanksgiving with Jean and Rich. But my first Thanksgiving in Costa Rica was a pretty sad affair. I had not been here long, felt I didnít know anyone well enough to invite to a Thanksgiving dinner, nor was I invited. I was feeling pretty lonely and sorry for myself. So I did what I used to do as a child when my world was not going well ó I went to bed, hoping that tomorrow would be better.

On this particular Thanksgiving I was living in a small apartment in Sabanilla, and I crawled into bed as soon as it was dark. I actually went to sleep but was awakened around nine oíclock by the thumping of a drum and the strumming of a bass. Somewhere nearby someone was having a party or playing one very loud CD. Earplugs werenít working. Besides I was hungry. I had gone to bed without supper. I really wanted a turkey dinner, but it was my own fault. I hadnít done anything to get one.

Sleep was out of the question. I remembered that casinos had recently opened in San José. Many years ago I worked as a keno runner in a Lake Tahoe casino. They are great places to go and just hang out. People are there, and a woman alone at night has no problems. I dressed and walked across the road to the bus stop, conveniently close. In no time I was going skyward in the elevator to the 17th floor of the Holiday Inn to the Aurola Casino, one of the first casinos to open in San José. I walked over to the roulette table and stood for a moment watching a lone young woman play. 

"Come join me," she invited. "Maybe we can gang up on this croupier." 

Soon we were chatting away and having a good time in spite of our losing. Iíve forgotten her name, so I will call her Pricilla. She was from Santa Barbara, California. After a short while, her companion came over from the rummy table. Pricilla introduced us. I shall call him Miles. We confessed that we were losing but having a good time. He said, "Well, Iíve just won nearly $400. Time to quit and have dinner." I began to say my goodbyes. Pricilla asked me if I had had dinner. No, I confessed, I had not.

"Please wonít you join us for dinner if we can get something like dinner at this hour"

I said I would be delighted to, and the three of us went into the dining room, on the same floor as the casino. There on the menu was a complete Thanksgiving dinner, which they were still serving. Costa Rican restaurants had just begun to attempt American-style Thanksgiving dinners, so it was not the best I have ever eaten, but it was one of the best Thanksgivings I remember. 

More of Jo's columns can be found HERE

So what will you do
with 280 computer cases?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When employees of a computer assembly firm went to inspect a newly arrived shipment of computer cases, they found that someone had made off with 280 of them.

But police located the computer cases in an abandoned mountainside dwelling.

The company was identified as CDC. Investigators said the computer cases were taken while the shipment was in the hands of an unidentified customs broker. 

The shipment of some 945 computer cases came from Taiwan, said police. The cases were simply metal boxes containing an electric power source for computers, but nothing else, said police. The firm assembles computers by adding the mother board, chip memory and other basic parts.

The shipment arrived in Limón on Nov. 4 and later was transferred to a customers broker in Pavas, police said. It was there on Nov. 12 that company employees discovered the theft. 

The investigation took police to an abandoned dwelling in Tres Rios where thieves had been known to seclude stolen merchandise in the past. And there they found the computer boxes.

Police are still trying to figure out when the computers cases were taken and whether they were taken in Pavas or in Limón. And they would like to know who was responsible for the deed.
More news
can be 
found on

Mud buries many
at illegal strip mine

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Emergency workers in western Colombia are digging through tons of mud after the rain-softened walls of a condemned strip mine crashed down on scores of trespassers digging for gold.

Twenty-eight people, including an 11-year-old boy, are confirmed dead. Rescuers saved more than 20 people, but many more are missing and feared dead.

The walls of the officially abandoned mine in the Caldas Department collapsed Thursday after gold seekers entered the facility illegally to dig for the precious metal. The survivors say the collapse happened without warning.

Authorities ordered the mine closed several months ago saying erosion made it unsafe. Bereaved family members say many of those killed knew the mine was not safe, but went to dig there anyway.

Latin leaders and a king
gather to talk terrorism

Leaders from Latin America and former colonial powers, Spain and Portugal, gather Friday in Peru for an Ibero-American summit on terrorism, the world economy and other issues.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Diego Garcia-Sayan says during the two day meeting in Lima, participants are expected to condemn international terrorism and pledge cooperation to confront the threat.

He also says the delegates from the 21 countries will acknowledge the need to strengthen anti-terrorism efforts under a United Nations framework.

In addition to terrorism, the talks are set to focus on concerns over the state of the global economy. The Peruvian foreign minister says poor countries have been hit especially hard by the worldwide economic slump and do not have the financial resources to weather a long economic downturn. 

The Latin American delegates are expected to ask developed countries to give emerging markets more help, like giving their exports preferential treatment.

Drug trafficking, human rights, corruption and migration issues also are expected to top the agenda at the 11th annual Ibero-American summit. Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo says delegates will discuss the issues in informal working groups to avoid lengthy speechmaking.

The delegates include Spain's royal couple, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, along with Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Cuban leader's presence is expected to provoke controversy, as it has at similar gatherings in the past.

Police in Caracas
fire on rioters

Venezuelan riot police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up clashes between thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators.

The trouble erupted in downtown Caracas Thursday when supporters of President Hugo Chavez tried to disrupt a march organized by the country's largest opposition group, the Democratic Action Party. It called the rally to protest President Chavez's use of special powers that allow him to pass laws without legislative debate.

The march turned to chaos as pro-Chavez supporters tried to block the demonstrators making their way toward the building housing Congress. Several people, including journalists covering the clashes, were injured when fights broke out between the two sides.

Chavez recently approved a package of 49 laws affecting the economy. Among them is a land reform measure that allows unused land to be taxed and property to be redistributed to the needy.

The new law has drawn criticism from various groups, including business owners and opposition groups who say the government failed to consult the private sector. But President Chavez says the law will ease the country's widespread poverty.

Rio parliamentarians
want votes on FTAA

Western Hemisphere lawmakers meeting in Rio de Janeiro have approved a resolution calling on nations to discuss holding referendums on whether to join the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA. The resolution was one of several adopted by the lawmakers at the end of their three-day meeting. 

The 330 parliamentarians attending the Rio conference Wednesday approved a series of resolutions, which they will take home for debate in their legislative assemblies.

Among the resolutions is one proposing that nations discuss holding referendums to approve or reject the establishment of a western hemisphere free trade zone. The proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is now being negotiated, would go into effect in 2005 and unite North and South America and most of the Caribbean into a single trade bloc.

Hemispheric leaders have endorsed the FTAA, but concerns have been raised by some sectors over possible job losses and other negative economic consequences. 

This is why Brazilian Congressman Geraldo Magela says a referendum should be held in each country, once the FTAA is negotiated. Magela told reporters Wednesday the results of these votes would make clear whether the people of each country want free trade or not.

"Such a referendum could include several questions for people to vote on. It would depend on what each nation decides," he says. " We're not discussing the form here, he said, but the idea that such an important agreement as the FTAA cannot be signed until the people say yes or no."

Congressman Magela is the president of this just concluded Third General Assembly of the Parliamentary Conference of the Americas. In opening the conference Monday, Magela proposed creating a supra-national Parliament of the Americas, modeled on the European Union's parliament.

Delegates adopted his proposal Wednesday, and also passed other resolutions, including one calling for the creation of a working group to come up with measures to prevent and combat international terrorism. The recommendations of the group would then be submitted to the region's legislative assemblies for discussion and adoption.

The Parliamentary Conference was created as a result of the 1994 Summit of the Americas to promote hemispheric integration and parliamentary democracy. One of the delegates attending the Rio meeting, Washington State representative Velma Veloria, expressed satisfaction with the resolutions passed, including the one proposing referendums on the FTAA. 

A free trade supporter but also a critic of the way the FTAA negotiations are being conducted, Ms. Veloria says it was important for the Parliamentary Conference to pass such a resolution. 

"I think it is important that we study what the FTAA is all about, each country needs to study it, because it will impact each of them differently," she said. That was what I had hoped for, for the conference. For all the different effects, we will have commonalties all together, and, then, I think, we can understand the issue of international trade agreements much better."

Embassy representative
plans Guanacaste trip

A representative of the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy will be in Flamingo next Friday to help U.S. citizens in the Guanacaste area. 

The meetings will be at the Flamingo Marina Resort, the embassy said. The consul will speak to the U.S. community about the various services available. 

A formal presentation beginning at 11 a.m. will discuss the American Citizen Services Unit, non-immigrant visa regulations and processing, and the immigrant visa process. 

The consul will be available for questions after the presentation.  In addition, U.S. citizens will have the opportunity to meet privately on a first come - first serve basis from 1 to 3 p.m., the embassy said.

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