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Jo Stuart
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These stories were published Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2001
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A Tico family takes in the sunset on Playa Guiones near Nosara while rain clouds gather in the west. 

In this case the old saying "Red sky at night, sailor’s delight," was correct. The next day was one of those spectacular blue-sky days that even had the cynical surfer dudes in awe.

A strange but heart-warming tale of supernatural
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

This is a story that requires the reader to suspend judgment for a little while. This is an incredible tale of presumed contacts by a man who was dead a week. 

The dead man is the brother of Sierra Sequeira, owner of Delfin Amor Eco Lodge and Marine Education Center in Drake Bay. The events happened in California.

The dead man is Lee Robins Goodman, 40, who died Dec. 8, after suffering for more than a year from injuries sustained in a fall. According to the family, this is what happened:

On Saturday, one week to the day that the man died, Sheldon Goodman, the man’s father and a lawyer, received three calls on a cell telephone. The first was from a friend expressing condolences. The second caller was Lee. 

"Hi, Mommy," said the voice message. "I miss you. I wish I could talk to you. I'll fix your computer later. I love you. Bye."

A few minutes later two messages showed up in his wife’s e-mail account, both from the dead son. The first one was a copy of a poem written as an invitation to the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary party over a year ago. The other e-mail was about the family cat, Daquari, who had been dead a year. 

"None of our sources could offer any explanation about the e-mail messages or the cell phone message," said Dyan Goodman, the man’s mother. "The cell phone message was received by my husband on Saturday, one week after Lee passed away, as one of three messages on his voice mail. . . Lee's message was sandwiched between two messages, both obviously after Lee had died!!"

Mrs. Goodman contacted the administrator of the e-mail server who said that he had not sent them. The dead man’s laptop was in the shop and his desktop computer has been dismantled, and the central processing unit is in the family home.

Curiously, Lee, partly because of his injury, lived just 10 minutes from his parent’s home and kept close touch with a cell telephone. Said Ms. Sequeira: 
"At the gravesite, my father symbolically threw in 

an old cell phone and said ‘Keep in touch, Lee.’" That was less than a week before the calls arrived.

To the family, it is a mystery but also a sign that life continues after death. "I am beyond trying to understand what happened," said Mrs. Goodman.  "We have found immense comfort from these messages and take them for that at this time."

For Ms. Sequeira the mystery continues. When she was returning to Costa Rica by air she found that her seat had been upgraded without her knowledge to first-class. There she found herself sitting across the aisle from Miguel Angel Rodríguez, president of Costa Rica who was returning home from his U.S. visit.

Ms. Sequeria spent the flight discussing dolphins and the non-profit foundation she also heads in an effort to win support from the chief executive.

"Was it my brother messing with computers again so that I could sit with the President?" she wondered. "There is definitely that chance. I think this can give us all comfort that when a loved one passes on, they are with loved ones and at peace. There is definitely life after death."

The idea that people who are dead can somehow access the telephone lines is not a new one, although there doesn’t seem to be any record of cellular telephones being involved, nor computers. 

Two books, both titled "Phone Calls from the Dead," have been published. One by D. Scott Rogo came out in 1979. Raymond Bayless published the second a year after. Both are prolific writers on parapsychological matters, including alien abductions and astral projections. And both books have been criticized for lacking solid evidence.  Yet both books contained accounts of events similar to that experienced by the Goodman family.

The books should not be confused with the 2001 book of the same name that is a series of fictional short stories by up-and-coming writer Wendy Brenner.

Both writers make the claim that spirits or souls can somehow interface with the electromagnetic spectrum to manipulate electrical systems like telephones. But since both books were written for the popular market, there is not a shred of scientific backing to this idea.

Swiss visitor

links us

to his photos

of eclipse

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Swiss eclipse chaser has put photos of the Friday eclipse on his Web page. He took the shots from Punta Leona, a resort north of Jacó on the Pacific coast  A number of possible viewing sites in Guanacaste were clouded out Friday.

The eclipse chaser is Olivier Stainger, and his Web page is http://eclipse.span.ch/liveshow.htm. He said that the eclipse was seen under excellent conditions where he had been.

More images, these by photographer Vic Winter, will soon be visible at http://www.icstars.com, said Stainger. Winter took shots from the same location.

Stainger, who works at a car rental agency, was born in the United States, grew up in Switzerland. He became interested in watching eclipses in 1994 and since then he "went to Ecuador, Thailand, Easter Island, Mongolia, Kangaroo Island, Aruba, Malaysia, Western Australia, Germany, Baffin Island, Zambia, and now Costa Rica."

The effort is mentally challenging and "It's a hobby, a passion, an addiction," he said.

Civic group in Nosara has two key projects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

They are reading a little more in Nosara, thanks to a six-year-old library. But the civic group, Friends of Nosara, would like to build a new one.

Plus they have a second project that seeks to increase the technical skill level of the comunity.

The current library is tiny, according to Bobbi Johnson, president of the organization. But a new one means that the non-profit group needs at least $100,000 (some 34 million colons). 

In addition, the group hopes to provide a $50,000 endowment fund. So far the group has raised about $20,000 for the endowment, said Ms. Johnson, and there are pledges of about $50,000 for the structure.

Ms. Johnson was happy to report that about 200 residents of the town of 3,000 have library cards and that reading has become an important aspect of life there.  But even though the library is now expanding its space in the downtown area, the result still is pretty small, she said.

The library also is the center of some educational activities, including English classes which are important for Spanish speakers in a tourist town like Nosara. The library has eight computers and 12 typewriters for people with varying degrees of proficiency in keyboarding.

Friends of Nosara is accepting outside donations for the library. Ms. Johnson, who may be reached at bobbij@racsa.co.cr, said she would be happy to forward them to their New York-based treasurer, Michael V. Olson, who can be contacted there at mvolson@kpmg.com.

Because the group is non-profit, such contributions are deductible under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

The group also is seeking funds to finish up an educational building for the town’s technical training school, founded in 1996. Funds are needed to put the finishing touches on the structure for the school and also a living quarters for visiting teachers. To do this they have created the Fundación de Capacitación del Pueblo de Nosara, another non-profit corporation.

The school is run in conjunction with the Costa Rican National Training Institute and is designed to provide skills so that the town can avoid unemployment and the social ills that can develop from such idleness.

Students can learn courses such as sewing, welding, electrical and plumbing, mechanical drawing, human relations, cooking and tourism-related skills. Expenses are paid for by the National Training Institute. 

The town donated the site for the school, and the first course was one in concrete block-making, said Ms. Johnson. Little by little the school emerged as the result of multiple courses in construction. Now the group wants to install desks, a video system for instruction, flooring, furniture, kitchen equipment and bedding, she said. Later it seeks to provide additional courses not sponsored by the government, plus hire a secretary. 

Donations for the school project may be made by putting money in a Banco Nacional de Costa Rica account #3682-7. The group said that U.S. citizens can make a donation to Friends of Nosara by contacting Ms. Johnson or the New York-based treasurer. His address is Friends of Nosara, % Michael V. Olson, treasurer, 2 Louisiana Ave. #1G,  Bronxville, N.Y. 10708.

Ms. Johnson asked that those sending money to Friends of Nosara, specify if the money is to be used for the school project, FUCAN.

Venezuelan land law is a hot potato for Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's Land Reform Law is one of the most controversial measures in a package of economic decrees that President Hugo Chavez plans to implement, despite strong private sector opposition. Supporters of the land reform measure say it is needed to redress decades of injustice, while opponents say it is unworkable and violates the principle of private property. 

"Get the new land law," calls out a vendor holding up a tiny yellow booklet, as he stands at a corner on Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas. The vendor, whose name is Ernesto, says he sells about 20 of the tiny yellow booklets a day. He says: "I sell them to city people and country people, anyone who wants land."

The new land reform law is among 49 decrees issued by President Chavez last month under special powers granted to him by the Congress, which is controlled by his party. The law allows for the confiscation and redistribution of idle land and is meant to increase land ownership in a country where one percent of the population owns 60 percent of the arable land.

But this measure is at the heart of a dispute between Chavez and Venezuela's business sector, which organized a general strike Dec. 10. The shutdown, which paralyzed the South American nation, was called to protest the land law and the other decrees. 

Strike leader Pedro Carmona, who heads the country's largest business association, Fedecamaras, said the new land reform law violates the concept of private property. "We don't object to agrarian reform in Venezuela, as long as certain rights are respected," he said, "such as just compensation for lands that are expropriated." Instead, he said, the law seems aimed at promoting outright confiscation.

Robert Bottome, editor of a Caracas-based business publication Veneconomia, agrees. He said the law gives too much power to the government, and, at the same time, does not give the farmer title to the land. 

"You're going to grow the crops that the state tells you that the land is appropriate for growing," he said. "You're going to sell it at the price the state sets, and you cannot mortgage it, and you cannot sell it. Now, anyone who understands the first thing 

about private property will understand that the person who is working that land has no incentive to drill a new well, to put in drainage, to build a new fence or whatever, because the more he improves it the more likely it is they will take it away from him. So you've got the whole notion of private property, which has been the key to growth in almost all countries, isn't there."

President Chavez rejects these criticisms. At a Caracas rally Dec. 10, he told a cheering crowd his government will press ahead with land reforms. "I'm not only going to sign the land law," he said. "This law will go into effect as of today, and there will be no need to wait for even one second for it to be carried out." 

Among those at the rally, farmer Armando Araya from the state of Miranda, said he hopes his children will benefit from the new law. "Maybe I won't get land," he said, "but my children and grandchildren will." He went on to say that they would use the land to produce the food they need. 

Proponents of the land law say it is not as radical as its opponents make out. Congressman Tarek William Saab, who is a member of the president's party, said many of the concepts were borrowed from other countries. "Our goal is to create a mixed economy, so we have taken our ideas for the land reform law, for example, from countries like Germany and Italy," he said. "We did not use as references the land laws of countries like Vietnam." He said that the objective is to confiscate unproductive land, which he said makes up 60 percent of Venezuelan territory.

But for editor Bottome, the Chavez government is moving far beyond the concept of a mixed economy. For him, the land law harkens back to the collectivized agricultural system of the former Soviet Union. "You have to think like a Soviet-trained communist of the '30's to understand it," he said. "That's the problem. We're living in a time warp . . . because this is something which was left behind. Even in the socialist countries, they understand the importance of private property. . . ."

The dispute over the Land Law is likely to generate further conflict in the weeks ahead, as the Chavez government begins to implement the measure. The business sector and opposition-led labor unions have promised to hold more general strikes, if President Chavez does not agree to modify the land law and half a dozen other of his controversial economic decrees.

Gene research triggers
flood of malaria vaccine

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Researchers have developed mice that can secrete an experimental malaria vaccine into their milk, raising the possibility that livestock might some day be used as inexpensive, high-yield malaria vaccine factories.

According to a press release Monday, the scientists produced two mouse strains, each carrying a form of the gene for a surface protein from the deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. By definition, such animals contain a gene from another individual or organism. The transgenes were designed to be switched on by the cells that line the mammary glands so that the resulting proteins would be secreted into the animals' milk.

Both mouse strains produced large quantities of the desired vaccine protein, which was used to vaccinate monkeys against malaria. Only one of the five immunized animals contracted the disease. By comparison, six out of seven unvaccinated animals had to be treated for virulent malaria.

The study, reported in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that if the process used in mice can be scaled up to larger animals such as goats — and early experiments indicate it can — livestock might prove to be inexpensive, high-yield malaria vaccine factories.

"If it works, a herd of several goats could conceivably produce enough vaccine for all of Africa," said Anthony Stowers, a malaria researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Irish leader arrives
for visit with Fidel

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

HAVANNA — Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is in Cuba for an official visit expected to focus on three Irish men arrested in Colombia on suspicion of training Marxist rebels in urban guerrilla warfare. 

The head of the Irish Republican Army's political wing is visiting Cuba four months after Colombian authorities arrested the Irish nationals at Bogota's international airport. 

Investigators allege the three men spent several weeks in southern Colombia and exchanged bomb-making information with leftist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The group known as FARC is Colombia's largest rebel force. 

Adams initially denied that one of the men, Niall Connolly, was Sinn Fein's representative in Havana. 

The Sinn Fein leader later said Mr. Connolly had been appointed to the post without his knowledge. The Cuban Foreign Ministry had acknowledged Connolly lived on the island for five years. 

Adams also is meeting with senior Cuban officials during his visit, which ends later this week. He was by President Fidel Castro's side Monday as the Cuban leader reopened a newly renovated school in the capital, Havana. Adams also placed a wreath at a monument to Cuban independence leader Jose Marti. 

Later Tuesday, Adams is expected to attend a ceremony to thank Castro for supporting a 1981 hunger strike by Irish prisoners protesting British policy in Northern Ireland. Ten of the prisoners later died.

Coup attempt in Haiti
repulsed with bloodshed

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

PORT-AU-PRINCE— Haitian security forces have put down an apparent coup attempt against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In Miami, Haitian-Americans launched a spirited demonstration in support of democratic rule in their nation of birth.

Two policemen were killed after gunmen stormed Haiti's National Palace. Haitian officials say one of the gunmen was also killed, and several others apprehended as the assault was repelled.

President Aristide was not in the palace at the time of the attack, but in his private residence on the outskirts of the Port-au-Prince. As news spread of the apparent coup attempt, machete-wielding Aristide-backers took to the streets in the capital, burning tires and pledging to defend the palace.

Later in Miami, scores of Haitian-Americans took to the streets in the neighborhood known as Little Haiti.

Ernst Derzier, who grew up in the Haitian city of Croix des Boquets and came to the United States in the early 1990's, said Jean-Bertrand Aristide is Haiti's legitimate and rightful ruler. He said that his administration must be defended. "Aristide is the president elected by the popular [vote] of the Haitian [people]," he said. "Democracy does not work with a coup d'etat."

Derzier said he believes one-time leaders of Haiti's disbanded army orchestrated the attack on the palace. It was the army that ended Aristide's first administration, overthrowing the former Roman Catholic priest in 1991.

Tensions are also running high between Aristide's ruling Lavalas Party and the opposition. The two sides have yet to agree on a plan for resolving disputed legislative elections held in May of last year.

The political stalemate has precluded a restoration of international aid to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas. Haiti has been cut off from most forms of foreign assistance for more than three years because of disputes over seating a legitimate legislature.

Colombian rebel group
takes Yule holiday

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombia's second-largest rebel group has declared a truce for the Christmas and New Year holidays in a gesture that renews hopes for a peace accord with the government. 

The National Liberation Army, the ELN, made the announcement Monday, saying it was calling the unilateral ceasefire out of respect for the holidays. 

ELN commander Nicolas Rodriguez says the truce will run from today through Jan. 6. He did, however, warn the ceasefire will be called off if the Colombian military and right-wing paramilitaries attack the group during that period. 

The government of President Andres Pastrana welcomed the news, calling on other armed Colombian groups to cease their hostilities. The Pastrana government resumed contacts with the ELN last month after preliminary talks broke down in August. 

Last week, negotiators for the two sides met in Cuba and agreed to hold peace talks next year. The new round is set to begin in late January in Havana. 

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