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These stories were published Friday, Dec. 7, 2001
A. M. Costa Rica photo
The young actors in this holiday play are, from top left clockwise,  Ericka Warkley, the Sugar Plum Fairy; Breanne Wroughton, the Mouse Queen; Allise Rust, the Snow Queen; Allison Norman, Clara; and, sprawled on the floor, Simon Vittrup, the Nutcracker.

Nutcracker opens tonight
despite rumors of curse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If it is Christmas, it must be time for the Nutcracker, but leave it to the Little Theatre Group to put on something that is not as predictably as the ballet. Plus there is the curse.

Some explanation is in order. First the play. Those who are in it say it is a play with a lot of dancing, which is different from a ballet that has a lot of dancing and a bit of a play.

To do the job right, a cast of about 35 were recruited, and their ages range from 4 to 64. Many are students at the Lincoln School and Country Day School. It is no coincidence that Margie Stanfield, the director, is a teacher at Country Day.

But then there is the curse. Remember two months ago when the Little Theatre Group was doing Ten Little Indians, and the cast was dropping like flies from various illnesses and injuries? Well, this time the director fell during rehearsal and broke a bone in a very sensitive part of her anatomy. It goes without saying that cast members are walking carefully these day.

The show opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are available at 289-3910. The show will be in the Bello Horizonte theater, which is reached by going into Bello Horizonte at the eastmost entrance some 100 meters west of the Los Anonos bridge. Then it is 200 meters south to the Y intersection, then 200 meters east to the pink house on the right.

The show will go on Saturday night, too, and also at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The performances will continue next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is 1,000 colons for children and 2,000 (about $6) for adults. 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Science goes Back to the Future (or Science Catches up with the Past)

When I went back to college in the 70s, one of my fellow classmates in anthropology kept going on about a new concept in the social sciences called "the systems theory." I had no idea what he was talking about. It seemed to have something to do with computers and networking. 

I listened enrapt, but I have a totally unscientific mind, and the closest I could get was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, thinking he was talking about how everything was related. 

Later, when there was much talk about new paradigms, I remembered my friend and what he claimed was a new way of looking at the world via systems.

Some time later I went to a lecture by the author of the Tao of Physics and listened to Fritjof Capra talk about a new way of viewing things scientifically. Instead of looking at a unit, like an atom and trying to analyze it and figure out its function, physics was beginning to look at that unit in relation to other units and its surroundings. 

You could only tell something about something by its interaction with other somethings. Everything was part of a system. This was the new concept. No more looking at isolated atoms.

More of this came home to me when I was helping Chinese students practice their English. One of them, a doctor, told me how Chinese medicine was different from Western medicine. One of the differences was they did not look at the various organs of the body as separate entities to, but rather as parts of a system; thus they consider the kidneys and the lungs and the heart all as part of one system and treat them as such. Chinese medicine, as a result, is more apt to look at the entire unwell person, not just a diseased liver.

And then last Sunday I was listening to Jan Hoffman of The New York Times on C-Span talk about the Times’ running obituaries of all of the people who were killed in the Twin Towers disaster. 

She said that when she called family members to ask about the life of the person who had been killed, they never talked about the job he or she did, they talked only about that person’s relationship to others, their role as father, mother, friend, child or loved one. They never mentioned the victim’s work, only about what he/she meant to others.

In a way, I thought, scientific societies have come full circle. Most traditional societies, and certainly Costa Rican society, have always known (and not forgotten) how important systems are, systems like the family and a group of friends, or a neighborhood. The poets also have long known this: "No man is an island," John Donne said it simply.

More of Jo Stuart's columns are HERE

It's 60 years after the day that will live in infamy
By Jay Brodell
A.M. Costa Rica editor

Today is the day that will live in infamy when the armed force of the Empire of Japan ruptured without warning the early Sunday morning peace of the Hawaiian Islands.

The attack on Pearl harbor killed more than 2,500 U.S. servicemen and galvanized the U.S. war effort. England has been at war for two years with Germany and its allies. It took the sneak attack to propel the United States into the European war. 

To call the Japanese attack a "sneak" is to misunderstand the circumstances at the time. The idea was to present an ultimatum to the United States and then strike with the carrier task force. But because of translation problems, the ultimatum was delivered late, and Japan suffered an unrecoverable loss of face.

At the time, the U.S. empire stretched into the Philippines, and that area, too, came under attack as the Japanese sought to create an Asian hegemony.

If you were 15 when the Japanese struck, you are 75 today. There are not many left. The Pacific war quickly is moving into the realm of history.

But the U.S., as ever, was unprepared. U.S. troops marched off to face the Japanese with 1903 rifles and World War I tin helmets. Forces in the Philippines were wiped out, except for Gen. Douglas MacArthur who followed orders and retreated to Australia with his immediate staff aboard a handful of PT boats, one of which didn’t make it.

The rest of the surviving Philippine defense force was invited to participate in the Bataan Death |March. Many did not survive. The fatalistic Japanese had little regard for prisoners of war.

The Pacific war, despite a few outstanding sea 

victories, generally took a back seat to the African and later the European war. Back in the States, Nazi submarines were having a field day along the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean. There was no air cover, and merchant ships were fat, easy targets.

It took two years to mount a credible defense against submarine attacks. Meanwhile, every coastal town in the United States could see the black plumes of smoke from torpedoed ships just a few kilometers off the beach.

The beaches, themselves, were fortified in fear of an invasion. Anti-aircraft guns and their crews became a permanent fixture. In the cities, air raid wardens patrolled the streets and demanded that residents either turn off their lights or close heavy blackout curtains. The idea was to cut down on the visual information that might be available to enemy air crews.

Rationing went into effect under the Office of War Price Administration. If you had a car, you also had a ration sticker that was pasted in the window telling all how high a priority you had. 

You also had ration books with stamps that allowed you to buy scare products like gasoline, sugar and meat. Horsemeat was not covered by rationing, and many a butcher maintained a good life style thanks to the nags.

The generations of today were shocked by the suicide attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Yet the prior generations felt the same shock that Sunday when the radio crackled at midday telling of the tragedy in the Pacific.

And slowly but surely the nation pulled together—despite major setbacks—to put into the field an unbeatable force that crushed the aggressors.

The parallels to today’s crisis are too similar to avoid mentioning.

Pimping arrest is part of Yule cleanup downtown
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 50-year-old woman was busted Thursday for pimping. The arrest was made at a house of prostituion in the downtown area several blocks from the National Theater.

In a country where prostitution among consenting adults is legal, the judicial system still frowns on those who make a living by brokering the transactions.

The woman was identified by her last name, Molina, and a spokesman for the Judicial Investigating Organization said that the arrest represented an effort to clean up the downtown for the Christmas holidays.

The location was a true house. Seven women were there, and their ages were between 20 and 23. There was no hint of prostitution of minors, which is illegal and officially frowned upon. 

Most of the women were from rural areas, and several persons close to the investigation said that young ladies from the countryside prefer the set up of a brothel because it keeps them off the street where they run the risk of being identified by someone from back home.  Also involved were two Colombian women.

An English tourist was there when the arrests were made, and his visit to Costa Rica was complicated because he, too, was taken in as a material witness. However, he was able to leave custody after a short period, police said.

Investigators said that the house was primarily directed toward European tourists and that the investigations had been going on for some time. Police used an undercover agent to solicite the services of a young woman at the house and to give the Molina woman marked bills.

Police said they were concerned about a network that operates in various countries with the purpose of bringing women into Costa Rica for the purpose 

of prostitution. But they did not explain how the arrest Thursday fit into that investigation.

There is no secret in Costa Rica that a number of European women, many of them Russian, Bulgarian or Romanian, are recruited to come to Costa Rica and are given papers that say they are students of the Spanish language. Many end up in sex tourism hotels on the Pacific beaches.

Other prostiution businesses operate in the downtown, but many companies hide behind technicalities in the law to avoid arrest. For example, a hotel might assess a fee if a guest invites an additional person into the room. Some characterize this as a cleanup fee. Others call it a security deposit. Still others are fairly open about their activities, and say, frankly, that they are just in the business of renting rooms to women.  The women, of course, use the room as their place of business.

Other firms say that their business is massage. And if the girls accept tips, that is just a transaction between the client and the young lady.

Other sources say that police generally leave alone traditional houses of prostitution unless there is a complaint or unless police believe that the distribution of drugs is taking place near or on the premises.

About 60 percent of the North Americans who come to Costa Rica come alone. So sex tourism represents a significant part of the tourism income. 

Officials have been upset recently because young women far below the legal age have been coming into Costa Rica from the Phillippines and Asian countries. Even though these women are sometimes as young as 15, once they are married to a Costa Rican man they have all the rights of an adult, even the right to practice prostitution. So police are continuing to investigate the linkages between the groups that seem to be bringing in such women for the purpose of arranging bogus marriages and later entry into prostitution.

House passes fast track negotiating authority for President Bush
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives has by the narrowest margin passed a bill supported by the Bush Administration that would give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements into 2005.

By a 215-214 vote Thursday House members accepted the bill for trade promotion authority, otherwise known as fast track, divided over the same labor and environmental issues that have divided Congress for nearly a decade.

Only 21 Democrats voted for the bill, only 23 Republicans against it.

"Trade Promotion Authority is a key part of our trade agenda," President Bush said in a statement issued after the vote. "It will help us pursue and complete trade agreements, including the global trade negotiations launched last month in Doha, Qatar. By promoting open trade, we expand export markets and create high-paying jobs for Americans while providing opportunities for other nations as a result of free trade.

"Now that the House has acted, I urge the Senate to move quickly to send me a Trade Promotion Authority bill I can sign," Bush said.

Sen. Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, said earlier in the week that he would schedule a meeting next week to consider a Senate bill if the House passed its version.

To become law a final bill would have to pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president. Sen. Tom Daschle, Democratic majority leader, said the Senate would not consider any TPA bill until returning from recess early in 2002.

In a statement following the House vote, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said the administration can now press ahead on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

"We expect to finalize free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore next year," Zoellick said. "And we will continue to press globally, regionally, and with other nations to open additional markets for America.

"With passage of the Jordan and Vietnam agreements earlier this year, the completion of the accession of China and Taiwan into the WTO [World Trade Organization], and the recent launch of the global trade negotiations, the Bush Administration has demonstrated a commitment to restoring U.S. leadership in trade liberalization," Zoellick added.

Republican leaders argued in the House debate that passing the trade authority bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Thomas, the Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was necessary to show that the United States has the capacity to lead in trade issues.

"This Congress will either support our president, who's fighting a courageous war on terrorism, redefining American leadership, or will undercut the president at the worst possible time," Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said.

"If we vote down this legislation we send a terrible signal to the rest of the world," Hastert said. "We say to the world that the Congress will not trust the president to lead on trade. We say to the world that Congress is not interested in promoting trade."

Republicans argued that passing fast track was essential for U.S. participation in multilateral trade negotiations to open foreign markets for the benefits of U.S. exporters and thus long-term U.S. economic performance. 

They said rejecting the Thomas bill would jeopardize U.S. trade leverage in the WTO negotiations launched just three weeks earlier in Doha, Qatar.

Most House Democrats said they would vote to pass TPA legislation only if it did not promote export of U.S. jobs to countries with lower wages and environmental standards.

Under fast track, Congress restricts itself only to approve or reject a negotiated trade agreement, within strict time limits and without amendments. Since the previous grant expired early in 1994, attempts to reauthorize TPA have failed over labor and environmental issues.

Argentina moves
closer to default

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As Argentina moves closer to defaulting on its foreign debt obligations, Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo heads to the United States for emergency meetings today with International Monetary Fund officials.

Cavallo is set to hold talks in Washington over the IMF's refusal to clear Argentina's next loan installment worth $1.3 billion. The IMF announced Wednesday it could not recommend the payment, citing fiscal concerns.

Argentina has been relying heavily on IMF lending to maintain foreign and domestic confidence.

Analysts say without the IMF payment, the country may not be able to meet its financial obligations on its $132-billion foreign debt.

On Thursday, Argentina forced pension funds to be moved to a state-owned bank, giving the government access to more than $3 billion when debt payments are due this month.

An IMF spokesman says Argentina's economic woes are due partly to problems with the country's 2002 budget and its inability to comply with its zero deficit law.

Argentina is trying to restructure its debt in an effort to save about $4 billion a year in interest. The country is entering a fourth year of economic recession.

Bolivian seeks understanding
with U.S. on drugs, terror

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga says he hopes Andean nations can establish a framework with the United States in the war against terrorism and illegal drugs. 

President Quiroga says he discussed the topic Thursday with President Bush in Washington. The Bolivian leader says he hopes a meeting can occur between the Andean countries on these efforts. 

Quiroga says his country will continue to work with the United States on energy efforts, including a Bolivian project to send natural gas to the U.S. state of California. He says Bolivia also hopes to establish a commercial cooperation with democratic countries for exchanging and strengthening resources. 

President Quiroga was inaugurated in August, following the resignation of President Hugo Banzer because of lung and liver cancer. 

Harken restructures 
its interntional holdings

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

HOUSTON — Harken Energy Corp. has created a new company to aggressively push oil exploration projects internationally, including in Costa Rica.

The new company is Global Energy Development Ltd., and the creation of this new company lets Harkin spinoff all its international holdings and concentrate on its existing oil and gas projects in the United States.

Harken was involved in a proposal to drill an exploratory well off the coast near Limón. Harken pulled out earlier this year, and now it seems that the firm simply was passing the baton to its new creation.

"Global's new mission is to identify, develop and promote energy projects from throughout Latin America to industry and financial partners and to aggregate assets in Latin America through strategic acquisitions and  alliances, a Harken announcement said. " Consistent with its new mission, Global has expanded this year into new countries with diverse interests in prospective acreage in four countries (Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia)."

Harken’s chairman, Mikel D. Faulkner, said that the Sept. 11 attack in the United States pointed out the instability in the Mideast and underlined the need for more efforts in Latin America to meet the hemisphere’s energy needs.

Trade union will join
businesses in protest

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's largest trade union will join the country's businesses in protesting a series of new laws decreed by President Hugo Chavez, after the president used a bill allowing him to bypass Congress. 

The unusual alliance of businesses and workers shows a joint effort to persuade Chavez to repeal 49 new laws that business leaders say will give government too great a role in industries ranging from agriculture to oil. They also say the new laws will hurt investment and job creation. 

The most controversial legislation is said to be the so-called Hydrocarbons Law, which sharply raises oil royalties paid to the government, and the Land-Reform Law, which allows the government to seize idle private land. 

Chavez indicated Wednesday he may be prepared to allow a debate in Congress on changing the laws. He earlier had refused any revisions. 


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