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Jo Stuart
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These stories were published Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2001
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Drugs and cash grabbed by police

Five persons arrested
as major coke source

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug investigators have arrested five persons they claim brought in and distributed about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine to the Central Valley each week.

The drugs came from Panama. The ring involved about 10 persons, police said, and distribution was in Desamparados, Hatillo, San Sebastian and Alajuela, among others.

Police said they became aware of the ring’s existence in September when they learned drug pushers were making trips two times a week to Panama where they were involved with a leading drug dealer there. The drugs came through Ciudad Neily on the Panama border to Barrio Los Angeles in San José where the drug was repackaged for lower-level distributors.

Police identified the five as: 

• José Jiménez Vargas, 45, of Barrio Los Angeles, alleged to be one of the leaders of the band;

• Estiben Jiménez Mora, 25, the son of José;

• Oscar Quesada Marín, 38, who lives in Guápiles and is alleged to have been in charge of distribution there;

• Gerardo Jiménez Caballero, 42, of Ciudad Neily; and

• Gerardo Campos Custio, 46, who lives in Barrio La Valencia in San Rafael Abajo de Desamparados.

Police said they believed that the gang had been operating for two years. 

Monday after following some members of the ring for 15 days, police said they witnessed a transfer of two kilos of cocaine from Jiménez Vargas to Jiménez Caballero about 10 a.m. in La Castellana in San José. They seized the cocaine when they made the arrest, they said.

Investigators from the Judicial Investigating Organization went to the home in Barrio Los Angeles where they said they found five kilos more of cocaine, 1.5 million colons, $1,500, bank records, a 38-caliber pistol and a quantity of jewelry.

In Desamparados police said they found more bank records and a list of lower-level distributors and their telephone numbers. At a house in Paso  Canoas, police found more bank records, cellular telephones, a beeper and hand-held radios.

Man, 29, faces crack charge

Investigators arrested a 29-year-old man Friday in Barrio Santa Rita de Poás de Aserri, south of San José and said he was a distributor of crack cocaine and marijuana.

The man was identified as Gilberto Chinchilla Chinchilla, said anti-drug police for the Judicial Investigating Organization. He was arrested after several undercover agents had purchased drugs and had used marked money to pay for the transactions, said police. 

Later, at the man’s home in Barrio María Auxiliadora in Aserri, police said they found more packages of cocaine ready for sale. In all, police said they seized 56 aluminum packets of cocaine base, eight baggies of marijuana, five baggies with apparent clorohydrate of cocaine and plastic packages of marijuana seeds.

Details are released
for electronic lottery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The people who bring you the national lottery have come forth with details of their new electronic system that includes lotto and sports betting.

This means players will be able to select the numbers they like instead of buying numbers that are available from street vendors. But it also means for the time being that bettors have to do business with Banco Nacional.

The Junta de Protección Social de San José announced three types of games. Minimum bet in each is 200 colons (about 60 U.S. cents).

The first is Pega 6, similar in form to lotto games in the United States and Canada. It translates to "Match 6." A player picks six different two-digit numbers between 01 and 36. the grand prize goes to the person or persons who pick the six correct numbers that are drawn Saturdays at 8 p.m. 

Lesser prizes go to those who picked five and four correct numbers. The prizes are a percentage of the amount of money taken in for the drawing. If no one takes the top prize, that amount is rolled over to the next drawing.

A second game, Pega 1, has drawings Wednesdays and Fridays. A player picks one number between 00 and 99. The grand prize is divided among all those who have the winning number.  If there is no winner, the money is rolled over to the next drawing.

A third game, ProGol, lets players pick the winners of six, first- and second-division soccer matches during specific weekends announced by the Junta.

In every case, bettors can either show up at the bank to place their bets or bet electronically, either via the bank’s Web page http://www.bncr.fi.cr or by calling the bank at 212-2566. naturally, those who call or bet via the Web page will have to have an account at the bank.

The lotto game gives better odds than similar games in the United States and Canada. The odds of winning the grand lotto prize in Costa Rica is 1,947,792 to 1. The Colorado lottery has odds of 5,245,786 to 1 because it asks bettors to pick two numbers from 1 to 42. 

A Canadian lottery which asked bettors to pick two numbers from 1 to 49 had odds of winning the top prize of 13,983,815 to 1, according to a 1996 analysis by Fred M. Hoppe, a mathematics and statistics professor at McMaster University. http://www.math.mcmaster.ca/fred/Lotto/.

Of course the odds estimate the chances of winning based on a single ticket. If a bettor purchases a second ticket with different numbers, the odds are cut in half.

The Costa Rican winner likely will earn much less than North American winners where more people play the lotto with more money. But then again North American governments take back a significant percentage of the winnings as income tax.

The junta uses the proceeds for a number of social programs.  The money can be significant. Colorado took in $370 million in the year 2000, the last full year of play. The state paid out $223.5 million in prizes and kept $89.5 million, about 24 percent. 

One incentive for the new lottery games is to speed up play to compete with illicit numbers runners, particularly in the more urban areas of the country.

A little brain teaser

The Costa Rican lottery requires someone to pick six correct, two-digit numbers. 36x36x36x36x36x36 = 21,76,782,336. Yet the real odds for the Costa Rica lotto are much smaller, less than 2 million to 1: 1,947,792 to 1. Why is this so?

The names of those who answer correctly via e-mail by 6 p.m. today to editor@amcostarica.com will be published and publicly acknowledged as not having gone to seed.

And you thought you left story problems behind in high school!

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Rush hour
So suppose you had to pour some concrete and in doing so you would block Avenida 8, one of the main westbound streets in the city. 

Pick your time:

1. Early in the morning.

2. Middle of the night.

3. Afternoon rush hour, and block off the whole street and erect a detour 

The crews working on the new judicial mall picked No. 3 Tuesday.

Yet another e-mail virus on the loose in Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new computer virus has been launched on the world, and computers in Costa Rica are showing signs of infection.

The virus is the W32.Badtrans.B@mm, which was discovered only Saturday. The rogue program has swept around the world.

This virus, a worm, is particularly harmful, according to the Symantec Corp., makers of anti-virus software, because it secretly logs keystrokes, collects passwords and other confidential information and then mails this data to certain Internet addresses.

The virus reproduces itself by mailing itself out to those addressees on the infected computer’s address file.

The virus comes as an attachment to a mail program, and it may contain a number of computer selected names. When opened, the virus in the attachment insinuates itself onto the victim computer’s hard drive.

Symantec cautions that "corporate e-mail filtering systems should block all e-mails that have attachments with the extensions .scr and .pif. Home users should not open any email that has an attachment in which the second extension is .pif or .scr. Any email that has such an attachment should be deleted."

The firm has a number of suggestions that allow computer users to eliminate the virus. The approach differs depending on the operating system. The site is http://securityresponse.symantec.com/

E-mail generated by the virus program has a distinctive return address. 

The virus that is current in Costa Rica inserts an underline at the beginning of the address. So the address <fred@home.com> becomes <_fred@home.com>. Such e-mails also carry the virus attachment sometimes.

Dummy address will not help

When a computer virus last swept through Costa Rica, a reader suggested that users insert a dummy address at the start of their address file. The theory was that the virus would try to send an e-mail to a bad address, and the computer would recognize the address as bad and freeze the mailing process.

That may have been a good precaution with early forms of e-mail viruses. But the more sophisticated current strains randomly select e-mail addresses from those available anywhere within the computer memory, A.M. Costa Rica has learned.

So the chances of the user becoming aware that a virus is working are slight until many e-mails have been sent.

The best protection against an attachment-born virus is the obvious one of not opening attachments unless someone you know has alerted you that they are sending an attachment.

In addition, good virus protection software available as hard copy here in Costa Rica or as a downloadable program available on the Web can catch virus programs when they land in your electronic mailbox.

Nation readies for strike
by 5,000 taxi drivers

By the A. M. Costa Rica staff

Taxi drivers and their passengers are on tenterhooks today waiting for the outcome of a meeting between taxi representatives and those of the Ministry of Public Works and transportation.

Taxi drivers have threatened to strike unless someone addresses their demands, the principal one being the proliferation of so-called pirate taxi drivers on the streets.

Taxi officials said they would strike this morning if they could not get a meeting with Carlos Castro, the minister, or a high-ranking representative of the ministry. 

But Tuesday night arrangements were being made for such a meeting, so any possible strike depends on the meeting’s outcome.  There are about 5,000 licensed taxi drivers in the country.

Baseball pitcher ready
for delayed display

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Arian Cruz, 23, one of Cuba's top young left-handed pitchers, will be back on the mound again this morning showing his stuff to scouts at Estadio Antonio Escarre in San José.

Nicknamed "El Zurdo" — "The Lefty" — Cruz is a 5-foot-11 left-handed pitcher with an 89- to 91-mph fastball and a repertoire of quality off-speed pitches, including a curveball, slider and changeup, according to his agent, Joe Kehoskie.

Kehoskie said that Cruz was unable to show his stuff to many agents two weeks ago because the crash of an American Airlines plane the day before in New York disrupted the schedule of several Major league baseball scouts who were flying to San José to see him.

"Contract negotiations will start, hopefully, after Wednesday's workout. We're hoping this one will be the last before Arian signs a contract," said Kehoskie.

Cruz is what is called a baseball free agent, which means he can negotiate and sign with any Major League baseball team without going through the baseball draft, a more formal process. A native of Florida, Camaguey, Cuba, Cruz joined his mother and older brother, prior Cuban emigrants, in Costa Rica in May after receiving a family reunification visa. Cruz was granted formal residency status by Costa Rica in late September.

Kehoskie is president and chief executive officer of Joe Kehoskie Baseball in Syracuse, N.Y. He has represented baseball players from all over the world, including Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, since 1984.

Cayman Islands OKs
tax pact with U.S.

Special to  A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — The United States and the United Kingdom have signed an agreement that allows for the exchange of information on tax matters between the Cayman Islands — a British dependency in the Caribbean — and the United States, according to a Treasury Department press release.

At a ceremony in Washington Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill noted that the United States and the Cayman Islands had already been cooperating in the hunt for terrorist assets under the terms of a mutual legal assistance treaty that went into effect in1990. He described the new agreement as "a significant development . . . in our efforts to prevent our financial institutions from being used to further illegal activities."

Ashcroft said 600 suspects
include al Qaeda members

Special to  A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON —  Attorney General John Ashcroft said Tuesday that about 600 suspects have been detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We believe we have al Qaeda membership in custody, and we will use every constitutional tool to keep suspected terrorists locked up," Ashcroft said at a press conference. 

The attorney general said 548 suspects are being held on immigration violations. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed federal criminal charges against 104 other individuals, 55 of whom are in custody. 

Ashcroft told the reporters that he would not release a list of the names of those in custody, despite criticisms from civil rights activists. He said he won't advertise that the Department of Justice might have al Qaeda members in custody. 

"When the United States is at war, I will not share valuable intelligence with our enemies," the attorney general said, adding that it would be inappropriate to reveal the identities of those detained on immigration charges because the individuals could be unfairly branded as terrorists. 

U.S. officials will tie up those
on uncooperating airlines

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. customs officials are demanding that foreign airlines hand over advance information on arriving passengers to screen for possible terrorists on board. 

Starting this week, foreign airlines must provide the advance information to U.S. authorities or risk subjecting their passengers to lengthy inspections and delays. 

The commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, Robert Bonner, has issued a warning in a letter to nearly 60 foreign airlines that are presently not releasing electronic passenger manifests, including Saudi Arabian airlines, Russia's Aeroflot, Royal Jordanian airlines and Pakistan International Airlines. 

Bonner says U.S. customs inspectors will search all hand-carried and checked baggage on every international flight arriving in the United States that does not comply. That process, he says, could add hours to the clearance process for overseas travelers. 

A new aviation security law signed by President Bush last week requires foreign carriers to cooperate by next year. But U.S. customs officials want the airlines to comply immediately, citing national security following the Sept. 11th suicide hijacking attacks. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says the government will be unable to meet a January deadline for screening all checked airline baggage as required under a new aviation security law. 

He says there are too few screeners, bomb-sniffing dogs or explosive-detection machines at U.S. airports to meet the dealine.

Cubans rally in Havana
for end to trade ban

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Tens of thousands of Cubans have rallied in Havana, hours after the United Nations called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against the island. 

The Cuban government organized Tuesday's event to protest the U.S. immigration policy. This comes after 30 Cubans are presumed to have died at sea last week trying to reach the United States. 

The nearly 40-year embargo prevents Cubans from traveling freely to the United States. 

Cuban President Fidel Castro blames the United States for the incident. Washington's so-called "wet foot-dry foot" policy forces Cubans intercepted at sea to be repatriated, while those who reach U.S. soil are permitted to stay. 

U.S. officials say Cubans flee the island to live in freedom, which is not possible in the Communist-led nation. By a vote of 167 to three, the U.N. General Assembly voted for the 10th year in a row to end the embargo and urged states to repeal or invalidate such laws. The United States, Israel and the Marshall Islands opposed the measure, while Latvia, Micronesia and Nicaragua abstained. 

The resolution, which is not legally binding, expresses concern about laws and regulations, such as the embargo, that affect a state's sovereignty, free trade and travel. 

It also expresses concern about what it calls the adverse effects of such measures on the Cuban people and the island's nationals living abroad. President Bush has said the embargo will stay in place until Cuba embraces democracy. Cuba and the United States have been at odds for four decades and do not have formal diplomatic relations. 

Scientists playing tag
with albacore in Pacific

Special to  A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON —  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the first time is tagging Pacific albacore tuna to track their migratory habits.

The archival tags can allow scientists to see if tuna stay in the eastern, mid, or western Pacific Ocean as local resident populations, according to a press release. 

"This type of tagging research provides critical data to help scientists corroborate or refute currently held assumptions regarding the population's movements within a year and between years," NOAA Fisheries scientist John Childers said. U.S. commercial fishers catch albacore, an important source of protein, as the fish migrate from the western Pacific Ocean off Japan, according to the release. 

Albacore is caught in the Pacific Ocean by many nations, the release said. The tags record geographical positions daily for up to seven years, sea temperature and pressure and internal body pressure, according to the release.

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