A.M.  Costa Rica
Letters from our readers
for the year 2001
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Jo Stuart
About us
San José, Costa Rica, letters for Vol. 1
The 'ugly American' stigma

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The article of Patricia Martin's insights to your country are right-on! I suffer with thoughts of the "Ugly American" stigma and try my best not to be one. 

My feelings are this: if you want it like home, stay there! I find Costa Rica to be one of the most intriguing places I've been. It has such a rich past and I feel, a bright future.

Sammy Lester
Montezuma, Georgia, USA


He says all governments are evil

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As the government is now stepping up its theft of assets from Muslim aid organizations, it’s perhaps time that somebody gets out there and does some investigating to expose the true terrorists in our midst. 

Sadly, we believe that MIGHT MAKES RIGHT. And we are the richest, most powerful nation which has ever existed on the face of the earth. Again, sadly—but this time extremely so—in today’s America money equals power. However, POWER CORRUPTS, and therefore, we are the most corrupt nation to have ever existed. And our leaders are the most corrupt of all, since they apparently believe the lies that they tell. 

What sort of psychological twists and turns must they be engaging in to believe such garbage? Our Foreign Aid is given to governments that we approve of. They must then terrorize their own people into working hard and mortgaging their futures to pay back the loans we have made. And where did we get all this money to loan them in the first place? Did not much of it come from cheating them out of their natural resources? 

And did not much more of it come from American corporations using their people as slave laborers in sweatshops, making consumer goods that we pay obscenely low prices for, and then sell over here at huge profits? And on and on. 

As the old sawgoes: "o what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." It would appear that that web is about to become untangled. Unfortunately, many millions of people may have to suffer and die before anything gets straightened out. Why do we allow it to go on? 

Apparently because most of us would like to "get ours," too. We don’t want to point out the evil in others because we all know on some level that such evil is in us to various degrees as well. Our President has stated that he wants to "root out evil" and stamp it out. It’s a great idea — unfortunately, he’s beginning in the wrong places. He claims to rely on his Christian faith for guidance. 

So how about he gets the beam out of his own eye before trying to help anybody else get the mote out of theirs? And that goes for all of us. 

The Muslim aid societies probably also make INTEREST-FREE loans to people in need, and we certainly can’t have that, can we? Even though, until just a few hundred years ago, usury (which at the time was defined as the charging of ANY interest) was forbidden by the Christian church. So they let the Jews do their Evil bidding. 

But then the Jews were getting a bit too rich and powerful, and so most governments allowed the Jews to be punished and nearly exterminated.           Who knows how it will all turn out? Certainly it won’t be as any of us expect or would like. But we should at least TRY to live by what we claim are our beliefs. Otherwise we may be punished, as our beliefs claim that evil people will be. 

Or maybe we’ll just have to come back and try again, as the Hindus believe. Or most of our problems may just stem from the fact that, according to the Bible, ALL GOVERNMENTS OF MEN ARE EVIL, and should therefore be destroyed.

I believe very strongly that given an HONEST CHOICE, most people would choose to do what’s right. But as most of our newspapers are under Corporate control, very few people are given honest choices. Will one of you even try to change that?

Robert L. Minteer
Bozeman, Mont.

The big 'oops' in survey research

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

There are two points to make about the Presidential Survey that are true of all surveys. First, the probabilities associated with surveys based on random samples are very clear, understandable, and predictable.

Second, when pressed, no surveyor will claim that his survey is really based on a random sample. True, most surveys are based on random sampling techniques, but they all fail in important ways. 

Let's take a household survey as an example. To select a random sample from any group, the surveyor must have a list of all members of that group. Oops. That means to select a random sample of households in Costa Rica, the surveyor needs a list of ALL households. Even if we divide the country into sections, and randomly select sections, we still need to know exactly how many homes are in the sections we do not choose, as well as having a list of households for those sections we pick.

We have to get our list of homes from somewhere. Let's say we use the property tax rolls. Oops. Non-random. Some people have homes that are hidden from the tax rolls. Maybe we could use the list of addresses that have telephones. In Costa Rica? Yeah, right. But in fact, because of cost, all but a few important surveys in the U.S. are done by phone, and the resulting biases can be still huge.

OK,  let's imagine that we DO have that complete list of homes. We select a truly random sample, and send our interviewers to the field. Some people won't be home, no matter if we return five or ten times, money allowing. So we miss interviewing those people. Oops. Non-random. Unless the people we miss are exactly like the people we don't miss, our sample is no longer representative of household members. And the same thing happens if we are telephoning instead of visiting.

Typically, women are at home more often than men. So they are more likely to be selected by surveys, no matter how we choose the person to be interviewed. Oops. Non-random. The elderly, too, are "over represented" in samples for the same reason. Some people live in two homes. Some homes have more household members than others. Some people lie about how many people live there.

It goes on and on, starting with the fact that our selection process missed people who do not live in households. (Of course we don't care about the homeless or people in jails or hospitals, because most of them don't vote.)

Survey researchers can correct for some problems, but not all, and even then, only if they choose to try. Some don't try. The error due to bias, in my experience, has always been more important than the error due to chance. In fact, even the best surveys of real life situations should be called "haphazard" rather than random.

A population survey is only as good as the surveyor's ability, motivation, and available resources to seek the truth.

John French
Gaithersburg, Md.


Pleased with advertising reach

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your news and ads that I have placed with you'all are read by local, North American and global websiters. I have received more positive responses to my ads in a short time than I have  ever from the [another publication name deleted] in years.   Inquiries are from persons in prisons, from U.S. government agents in Washington, D.C. or working at embassies, and from individuals in Asia to India or from where have ya ... 

Some persons live here and many want to. Congratulations on having a very visable and solid net-journal! 

Prof. David Andrew Thomasun
a/k/a Gringo, a/k/a NACASA 
San José
RACSA is not the biggest offender

Dear AM Costa Rica: 

I must take exception to Mr. Sharp’s letter to the editor of 13 December 2001 in which he blasted RACSA as a major contributor to SPAM on the Internet. 

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am far far away from defending RACSA, however Mr. Sharp should take a careful look in his own backyard to really determine whom the REAL spammers are. I, like many others have several addresses for my web business, and find that the "Big Players" in the United States are substantially contributing to the amount of Spam on the Internet far more than lowly old Costa Rica and our government ISP RACSA. 

AOL, Microsoft, and probably the worst Yahoo. Maybe Mr. Sharp should analyze ALL the spam he receives and I would believe that far far more comes from the "Big Guys" up North. Block Yahoo, don’t think so! 

Simply sign up for a Hotmail or Yahoo e-mail account and within hours your name and address is around the planet, for a small price of course. Case in point; an acquaintance here works with a mortgage refinance company in the United States and boasts about the fact that they send 60,000 to 80,000 e-mails A DAY looking for the fine folks to refinance their homes. All you have to do is check one of those little boxes we all see and say you’re a homeowner. 

Of this I know, one of my web sites is about real estate here in Costa Rica, and if I do not receive 5 e-mails a day offering the "lowest possible rates" I worry that my mail server is down. 

The best way to cut down on the amount of spam you receive is just to remember one simply thing nothing is "FREE" so when you go after that little free program or what ever it is, is it really "free"?Note all those little check boxes that promise to "customize" your preferences and only send you things that may be of interest, yea right! 

The only magic I know is to simply hit the delete key. Sending an e-mail with "remove" in the subject line works for the serious bulk mailers, forget the "lose weight while you sleep or you have been selected to win a (Key word) free vacation waste of time stuff. Remember the good old times you received snail mail addressed to occupant? 

Want to have some fun — next time you sign up for something "free" misspell your name. You’ll be amazed at how soon you receive e-mails to your misspelled name with all kinds of special deals. 

Mr. Sharp should do his homework better and not just play with numbers, but look into the redirecting that goes on within the net. 

RACSA is far from being even close to a good ISP, but it’s all we got now folks, Why punish an entire country for the acts of a few? 

Richard Tanker
Santa Ana
Costa Rica
More about RACSA and spam

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I apologize for the late comments [about RACSA and spamming]. I was unaware of the story until today. 

Despite RACSA's reputed rules against spamming, I have yet to see RACSA take ANY action to stop a spammer. After dozens of spam messages and not one legitimate E-mail came through RACSA, I decided on my own to block all RACSA addresses. 

You might check <http://www.clifto.com/8345.html> for some insights into the world of spam. In essence, victims who don't want it are forced to pay most of the cost of receiving it. If 10 percent of legitimate companies worldwide were to send spam regularly, the entire network that is the Internet would simply collapse; there would be no bandwidth at all for anything but SOME of the spam, and even some of that wouldn't make it to destination. 

RACSA should be happy to be on the public blocking lists it's now on. Otherwise, lots more systems like mine would be putting them into their private blocking lists, never to be removed. At least the public lists will remove them if they ever start enforcing those anti-spam rules to which they pay only lip service. 

No one wants ANY spam, much less Costa Rican spam. If blocking all Costa Rican E-mail is the price, systems like mine are willing to pay it. Don't vilify us for declining to offer RACSA the privilege of data exchange with our systems, when RACSA refuse to behave in a civilized manner. 

I live in Chicago, Illinois, and operate a very, very small domain for very few users, but I spend a fair amount of time fighting spam and helping others to do the same. Lately I seem to specialize in analyzing and quantifying the current, and potential, real-world impact of spam, as you might see from the web site I recommended.

Clifton Sharp
Chicago, Ill.
Another real estate topic

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I applaud and concur with this information [expressed about the dangers of buying real estate] . There has long been a lack of protection for people wanting to buy property in Costa Rica. 

I was lucky and secured an honest lawyer after reviewing circumstances regarding how property is offered as "for sale". By the way, if someone  (like me) buys a "view property", he has no recourse upon the neighbor who allows the trees on his property to grow and obstruct the wonderful view . The reason the property was purchased. 

I have fallen into that situation and find that unless PRIOR agreement has been secured regarding the view, nothing will make the neighbor cut his trees to help you. I offered to purchase the adjoining property to/or the trees, but have been staring at a wall of trees for several years because the neighbor (a coffee conglomerate) has refused to honor my request. This situation has essentially ruined the property for me as our reason to purchase WAS the incredible view over the valley and the night lights of the city. The prior agreement was something missed at the time of purchase.

Bud Gustin 
Aguila, Ariz.
Another way to view eclipse safely 

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In 1998 there was a total eclipse of the sun visible here in
Holland. I was camping and found out that there is another totally safe way to view the eclipse: 

Try to be under trees with not too much foliage so that there are round  spots of sunlight filtered through, visible on the ground. Each of these are, in fact, natural pinhole projections of the sun, and as the eclipse progresses, you can see the whole event projected magically on the ground. 

I had a group of small childeren having a grand time seeing this happen at their feet while grown-ups were getting stiff necks and risking eye-damage looking through cd's, potato-chip bags or three pairs of sunglasses... 

Mike de Heer
Amsterdam, Holland
EDITOR'S NOTE: The use of a straw hat is said to profuce the same effect as do the tiny holes in a canopy of trees. Just don't look at the sun!

About the arrest for pimping

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It seems to me that the a major justification for legalizing prostitution is to protect society against the harms of criminalized vice, most importantly crimes such as violent robberies, and sexually transmitted diseases.

In the mid-1980s I was involved in a large study of HIV/AIDS infection among prostitutes. At my site in New Jersey, where it is illegal, and where most police departments actively hunt down and arrest prostitutes, 57 percent of our sample was infected with HIV/AIDS.

In Las Vegas, where the surrounding counties have legal brothels and stringent health regulations, not a single one was infected!! Indeed, in a recent discussion with the original researcher at that site, he told me the count is STILL zero, since all new sex workers are tested before they are allowed to work, and are also tested on premises by a physician on a weekly basis thereafter. The local counties protect their citizens and the tourists. The brothel management maintains standards in order to stay in business and serve as society's keeper of the health, as it were. (They also have security personnel on site to prevent crime.) 

I cannot fathom why Costa Rica would go half way in regulating the sex industry, and leave open doors for the existing problems, by prohibiting madames, and by allowing legal child prostitution through a loophole that allows married children to legally sell their bodies on the streets. To me that is abhorrent. 

John French 
Gaithersburg, Md., USA

 The battle for people's  hearts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is time to unite in the common cause of man. That cause is no mystery,  it can be easily found in history of in your heart. The earliest settlements of mankind were formed for the benefit and foster of family.

From the Sumerian city states to Egypt, the Phoenicians, Hebrews, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Canaanites, Amorties and Hyksos to Greece, Rome, Persia and Byzantium to the Maya, Aztecs, India, China, Africa, Islam, Japan, Russia, Europe, and ALL of America, societies have been governed for this purpose.

The world has seen great and powerful, benevolent and malevolent leaders from Alexander to Charlemagne from Kublia Khan to Attila the Hun from Gandhi to the Ayatola.

We have experienced many wars, primarilly over pride, greed or religion. In the 20th century we fought the first truly global and most devastating wars in the history of mankind and developed weapons so grotesque that the fear of their use has, so far, prevented a, perhaps, final war.

The profound lack of vision and leadership that exists in the world today, due to the enormous controlling interests of industry and religion, leaves only one possible solution. It is mankind itself that must save itself. We must all say in a voice so loud: "Stop!"

To be safe in your land, prosper with pride, enjoy your children and worship as you choose are so common to the core of all people that it is insane, in a time of such potential global prosperity, that we should teeter on the bring of a Dark Age. With the emergence of technology and tolerace in China, the coalition of Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia and the Americas, there remains only Africa, India and Persia that must, as a loved relative of another faith, be embraced.

They will no doubt require from these lands (Africa, India and Persia) leaders with the heart of Muhammad, who, himself, in the Koran, accepted the tolerance of Christ and Abraham, and at the same time it is incubent on the rest  of the world to show the benevolence and friendship of a world in community.

It is this sense of community and love of family that exists in the hearts of mankind, not the hearts of a few men, that this war must be fought and won.

William Smith
San Pedro
What About Soccer?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading P.K. Martin's column, I was left with a feeling of Deja Vu. You see, a colleague and I had the same discussion a few months ago.  I sure made him realize how arrogant we are by calling ourselves "Americans". 

Talking about arrogance, how about the sport of soccer? Every single nation in the world refer to this sport as "football," yet we stubborn "Americans" call it "soccer."

Oh well, as Don King would say: "Only in America" 


Mr. Geoffrey Cheung
Santa Rosa, California.
Not happy with President Bush

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You quote Bush as saying  "We must not let foreign enemies use forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself".  No, we have Bush's executive orders to do that.

Doug Gesler
Kent, WA
The taxi situation

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

So the taxistas are going on strike again? Their biggest gripe being the "piratas." What are these guys on? These are the same guys who rip off anyone who looks like a Gringo, who refuse to turn around if you want to go in the opposite direction to that in which they are travelling, who vanish from sight at the first rain spots, who throw women out of their cabs in drenching downpours and drive off rather than wait 1 minute, I could go on but you get my drift. 

At least the piratas, once they know you, will come 
when you telephone, they will agree on a price before the trip and they are usually pleasant and friendly. They want your business. The official taxistas act like they don't need it so why are they now complaining about someone providing the level of service they are too arrogant to provide themselves?

Dale Watson
Editor's note: the tasxistas have decided not to go on strike as of this writing.

The 'un-American' column

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I sure like the editorial by P. K. Martin,. I also thought it was perfect use of the word "Tico" or "Tica,", because like "Gringo," it is something that distinguished us from the rest. But we can be Gringo-Tico or Tico-Gringo.  What does matter is to be able to be friends, to share the world and feel welcome in both cultures. 

Americans do have the right to the name because, as it was explained in the editorial, it is the  name of the country. But people in the Americas also feel that that name belong to them, so we can say I'm from the States, "soy de los Estados Unidos." Everybody knows where the  Estados Unidos are. 

"Good Bless America." When I was a child we sang that song, except we added another paragraph that goes something like this: 

"God Bless America, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Paraguay, also Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador,  Peru and Colombia. God Bless America, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador y Guatemala, also  Belize, Mexico, Canada. . . ." And it goes on and on, including all the countries in the Caribbean. 

So, in other words, leave it to us Ticos and we find our way around to confuse even more the whole issue. 

God Bless América and all its friends. 

Daniel Soto
A Gringo-Tico
Bloomington, Ind.
He sides with young Tico

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

As a citizen of the United States, I share the frustrations of the young Tico in P.K. Martin's article who objected to the appropriation of the names "America" and "American" by the United States and its citizens. 

When I was a school boy in California, in the '50s and '60s, the use of these terms as the exclusive property of the United States was not the norm, indeed it was rather rare. As it became more common through the years (I suppose it made for more snappy advertising slogans), I got increasingly uncomfortable with and embarrassed about this arrogant and insensitive practice by my fellow citizens. 

Yet another example of US cultural imperialism, this kind of hubris is one of the many reasons I'm so happy about moving to Costa Rica this January.

Ron Jones
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Prefers Costa Rican news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Living here in Costa Rica, I think your daily online paper is great!  Since I work on my computer, it is very convenient for me to view the daily CR news online. I have to agree with some of the other people who wrote that while the U.S. and world news is obviously of interest to us all, that can be 
obtained virtually anywhere on the Web! 

I would much prefer to read solely about Costa Rica and perhaps other Central American countries in your publication.  Something I think would be a great idea is a regular restaurant review in different areas of the country, perhaps even a listing of great finds of "out of the way" stores, etc. other than your typical mall stores.  Keep up the good work!

Pam Flutie

Replies to opinion on real estate

Appreciates the information

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Thank you for your article on real estate purchases. It is a function of a newspaper to inform its readership, and too often this responsibilty is overlooked. Your informative piece on real estate purchases here in Costa Rica not only did so but 
tackled the subject intelligently and furthermore educated us. 

Thank you and let us have more such enlightening treatments on whatever the topic. I now feel that I know more than I did and this, in itself, makes reading your daily news appetising and a  pleasure. Keep up the good work. 

Tom Gezzoli
Glad we addressed topic

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How refreshing to see your newspaper tackle difficult topics. Whatever your point of view, it is reassuring that your publication is prepared to discuss these issues for the public good, and about time.

Personally, I can list many instances where friends and acquaintances have been subjected to abuses by real estate agents. It is reassuring that a publication such as yours is bringing this kind of problem to public notice. 

For too long this kind of abuse has gone unnoticed. Hopefully your article will serve to draw attention to this ongoing problem. A country's democratic ideal is only served by the rule of law, and it is incumbent on any society to make sure that it works. 

While most real estate transactions are above board, horror stories do exist, and thank you for showing that such occurrences do happen. Thank you for drawing this dark side to our attention.

Costa Rica is a wonderful country and to keep it that way we need to expose these beasts who abuse the goodwill of the Costa Rican people.

Paola Geretti
Santa Ana 
He agrees

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Mr. Marshall's article was spot on. He tells it as it is and may I salute his courage for writing what a lot of us have known for years.  For too long unscrupulous professionals have been lining their pockets at the expense of trusting ex patriots believing in the legal system. I know several victims who finally threw their hands up and just went back to the states or Canada swallowing their losses. For too long the authorities have ignored or swept the problem under the carpet.I am sorry to say that often in the provences this sort of exploitation is encouraged by local officials who  often  are pro-active participants. Thank you Mr. Marshall for exposing this cancer, perhaps now something may be done, for if not the reputation of this fine country will continue to suffer.

Emile Fernandez
New York, New York
He disagrees

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your opinion on real estate troubles me. Just because one individual suffered problems does not mean that everything is bad. I have lived here for years and I find Mr. Marshall's article absurd and an exageration. This is obviously a question of sour grapes. Costa Rica has not just been lucky in aquiring 
the reputation of being the Switzerland of Latin America by accident. It earned it and if people like Mr. Marshall have nothing good to say then they can always leave. We are sick of being criticezed by people who have nothing better to do than to draw attention to themselves and their pet gripes. He is doing a diservice to the community and If he does not like it he can go home. 

A. Pernas
San Jose
Where were we on legislation?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm glad to see your piece about this dangerous legislation [U.S. PATRIOT Act, Oct. 31]. Yet, I'm wondering where your (and the rest of the media's) voice was when this legislation was being proposed. As they say down in Texas:  "Once it's out, you can't put the manure back into the horse."

Edward B. Winslow
Italy has its problems, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am an American who has visited Costa Rica many times since 1991. Something just "clicked" for me the first time that I visited and my appreciation of the country has grown since.

I just saw your article about the Italians who are doing a story about a couple underage prostitutes in Costa Rica.  While not minimizing the tragedy of any child being involved in prostitution, it nonetheless is truly ironic to me that these people have focused on Costa Rica regarding this 
concern while Italy and much of Europe apparently has a huge problem in the area of women being forced into sex slavery. 

Just today I noted several articles in the online version of the Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au/news/specials/intl/slave/) detailing the fact that there are sex slaves by the thousands in Europe with the final destination for a great many of them being Italy.

Yes, CR no doubt has its share of problems and there is no reason not to try to solve them.  But in the larger picture it would seem that CR is doing  better by far than the area from which these concerned Italians come. 

Maybe an A.M. Costa Rica reporter or two should wangle a trip to Italy to do a story on their problem. Como no?!

Steve Cameron
 Newport Beach, Calif.

Money talks there, too

Editor's Note: The following is in response to a report from Transparency International ranking Costa Rica along with other countries on public perception of corruption. See the story HERE.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How typical of Costa Rica to rank half as bad or half as good (depending who is looking) for  corruption. 

I would like to add my 2 cents to this.   Last trip I made to Europe, carrying my Costa Rican passport, I visit Finland and Sweden, I  notice that most of my Finn friends are very friendly over there. 

But the Immigration workers have very strong profiles for who enter their country,  No one in the airport or in  the seaport could find out or knew where Costa Rica was (or what it was, for that matter).  A  woman in the airport told me that Costa Rica is part of the USA. I answered: "Well if that was the  case. I should be traveling with an American passport."  A man in the seaport asked me if Costa Rica was in Greece, I answered it is the other way around :-) 

I went to the concert hall to see one of my friends, Joshua Bell, play the violin, and an old man who works in the concert hall asked me where I came from. I answered Costa Rica. He said: "Ohhh,  my niece is studying Spanish, and right now she is living with a family in Guanacaste," and he  said she probably is the only blond woman in that country. 

By now you may guess correctly that I look brown and very typical Costa Rican.  My experience in Sweden was very different.  People knew about Costa Rica, and many were interested in traveling there. (Of course I invited them to visit and explain how my country  is.) 

I let my friends know that in Costa Rica like in Sweden you are allowed to do whatever you want if you have enough money. All things will work faster if you have money than if you have no money. They asked why is that, and I said because if you have money you  have "good friends" in good positions and one call from them will open the doors for you. 

If you do not have money. it cost you more to get things moving.  My host in Sweden said: "Ohh, in  that regard, we are very much alike." 

The next time I returned to Finland and Sweden it was with my USA Passport, and, though they  look at me funny, they did not ask me where the USA was.  So maybe Finland and Sweden  are not as corrupt as Costa Rica may be, but I can say with certainly money talks over there,  too. 

Daniel Soto
Indiana University
Bloomington, Ind.

Appreciated Jo Stuart column

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I want to compliment you on your publication. It is very informative and well done.  I am an American living in Northern Virginia but also one of those Americans with a love for Costa Rica.

I would appreciate your passing on my appreciation to Ms. Jo Stuart for her insightful and well reasoned column of 10/26/01 on the U.S. government efforts in Afghanistan.  I am amazed that in her one small column she was able to articulate my feelings as well as a most thoughtful and intelligent analysis of the situation, our options and the best course of action.

Congratulations on your publication and I encourage you, Ms. Stuart and others to continue your efforts with A.M. Costa Rica.

Bill Edwards
Arlington, Va.

Absolutely go ahead and publish it with my permission.  I thought it was an extraordinary column and I greatly respect her (and yours) courage in publishing it.  (You can add this note to it also if you want to).


Airline security overdone

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I traveled to the U.S. last week and have come to the conclusion that airline security is a joke.  I saw them taking nail scissors about 2" long from an old lady in a wheel chair and they made me check my bag because I had a key ring Swiss army knife with a 1" blade.  My car key is 2" long and my Pilot pen is more than 4" long, both acceptable to security, both far more dangerous than the scissors or the pocket knife. 

Additionally, the airline serves wine in glass bottles which when broken present a far more formidable and dangerous weapon.  There are so many more potential weapons on aircraft such as magazines, plastic knives and forks, cups, headphones, etc.  Passenger bags could be use as a club.

Hell, next people will not be able to ware ties, belts, shoe laces or have power cords for their computers because they could be used to strangle people.  Let us not even think about the damage that could be inflicted by high heel shoes in the wrong hands.

Where will it stop - Naked travel?  If you know someone in the airline security business, please talk to to them about the knee-jerk reaction we are having to deal with and the ultimate cost in time and money we will all have to bare. If it takes 2-3 hours to board a plane now, with volume way down, image the time it will take when travel numbers are back to normal and it is Thanksgiving.

Hum, they could sell all the thousands of nail files, scissors, nail clippers, pocket knives, etc., they are confiscating to help
offset the financial costs.

Simon Shaw
San José

The eclipse as tourism

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

What with the drop in tourism, I am surprised that the Costa
Rican government has not already developed a full out campaign to get tourists for the annular eclipse that will sweep across the country on Dec 14th.

When Hungary had one in their summer a couple of years ago, the shores of their national lake were swarming with thousands of tourists. This one starts at just north of Samara, and crosses almost directly over Arenal. It comes in late afternoon, so it is very low to the horizon (11 degrees). As with all eclipses, it lasts just a moment (3 minutes +).

Costa Rica is the only landfall for the full effect of the eclipse.

John French
Still in Gaithersburg, Md.,
where the eclipse won't be :(

 Wants controversial articles

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Keep the controversial articles comin'. No one likes onesided stories.

Calvin Brunner
Aguascalientes Mexico

The two-price system

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have always been amazed of the two price system in Costa Rica. As a tourist, I have called it 'let's fleece the gringo'. . . . It is supposed by those who support this 'let's fleece the gringo' policy that the tourist has money to burn, and they will not mind paying the difference.

Hate to tell you, but that policy does not work. It never really worked and it does not work in these times of 'near recession'.

Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Mexico are now much more cost effective for Canadian tourists. Last winter, even we made the decision to go to Mexico rather than Costa Rica, because we got more for our hard earned dollar. Yes 'gringos' do work hard for their money. 

Even today [after Sept. 11] you see 25 percent discounts for
locals . . . but the tourist he can still pay the full fare. I am
afraid that Costa Rica is beginning to price itself out of the market for many tourists.

Nelson King
Toronto Canada

Comparison was simplistic

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In your latest post, Jo Stuart writes,

"Tourists want to know  about the beaches and the rain and cloud forests (in case you wondered, a cloud forest is just a rain forest with an altitude), and hotels and stuff outside the city." 

This columnist is oversimplifying the significant contrast between two ecospheres.

When asked to write about bad things, eye-openers, shocking tidbits, etc. this is all she could come up with?  I was expecting more from the article which is why I was disappointed by it. 

I do love your publication.  Keep up the good work.  I am an 
incurable critic, if you haven't noticed, but am also willing to 
receive constructive criticism.  I think as a writer, Stuart should know she missed her mark with this piece.

Thanks for lending an ear, 

Michelle Sydney, editor
New York, N.Y.

 Likes his daily news source

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

What a pleasure to find you!  As a long-time aficiendo of CR, it is nice to find a daily source that has the pulse of the country.

I would agree that your stories should center on CR.  I believe we have sources for world news, and turn to you for "what's happening" in Costa Rica.

Perhaps you could find "guest" reporters for occasional stories on topical things? . . . .There are a lot of literate Yanks, Limeys, and Aussies hanging out in CR.  Could we hear from them?

Thanks for a good read.

Ray Caruthers
El Paso, Texas

More Costa Rican news, please

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I love your newspaper. However I really would much prefer to see the news on Costa Rica. I can get all the news about the bombing in Afghanistan from say CNN or the New York Times. So my suggestion is that you focus on local news. Thanx in
advance for your time & consideration. 

Very truly yours, 

Maurice Silverstein

Like Jo Suart's work

Dear A. M. Costa Rica:

Re:  Jo Stuart’s continuing articles

While I like both The Tico Times and A. M. Costa Rica (which I only discovered recently), the former’s loss (in the writing of Jo Stuart) is certainly A.M.CR’s distinct gain.

Ms. Stuart’s commentary on ‘things Chepe-ian’ go a long way in reinforcing my homesickness for Costa Rica, which I have been visiting periodically for about 25 years.  Her perspectives on life there continue to remind me why I wish to come live there, where everyday life is still an intriguing adventure.

And ‘lest I ignore the rest of your e-paper’s coverage, I appreciate it as well.

Best Regards,

Paul Mitchell
Tampa, FL - USA

Traffic and crime concerns him

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You have , more than likely, read a lot of notes as follows; but, — my wife and I have owned a small home up in the mountains in Jerico de Desamparados for 13 years and have seen many changes in Costa Rica over that period. We are really unhappy to see such a rise in violent crime and the number of automobiles on the streets. 

When we first visited in 1988 the country's reputation was spotless; now we advise our visitors to stay out of the city,
especially at night. The traffic is UNBELIEVABLE and so are most of the drivers. I've been driving for 55 years in the U.S. and in many foreign countries in Europe and South America and have had only two very slight  "fender benders" — BOTH in San Jose, Costa Rica.

I would suppose that a developing area will advance all sorts of problems. The government appears to be aware of much of what goes on but seems slow to move. I was stopped by police last year and cited for making exhaust fumes and was spot checked with their machine which registered with the needle pegged to the worst possible reading, less than 2 weeks before I had taken the car to have it checked and to get my Ecomarchamo. I explained this to the police without any 
satisfaction. A 10,000-colon note was what was needed. 

PAY your police better and DEMAND BETTER POLICE; and make your drivers pass a test so that they are "more interested" in the safety of those that must try to walk along the roads where there are no sidewalks.

Bud Gustin
Aguila, Ariz.
Fight humor with humor

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Dear José,

I am so sorry that you were offended by Pat's article.  Sometimes we panic-stricken gringos can be a bit callous in our references to other cultures, even when we don't mean to
be.  I also agree that if we genuinely don't like it here in your country where we have been welcomed so cordially, maybe we really should hit the road.  On the other hand, I realize the importance of being able to laugh at ourselves and at what are sometimes trying and unfortunate circumstances.

When my husband and I moved to Costa Rica last year, we encountered many things that were stressful and difficult.  Previously, I had considered myself to be open and adventurous and able to cope with most anything that came along.  What I discovered was that I had a lot of learning to do about myself and about the true meanings of ¡tranquila! and ¡pura vida!  Believe me, I'm going to be learning those lessons for a long, long time.

Humor is a choice which is always available to us when we have the sense to use it.  Rather than take such serious offense at Pat's references to long ago recognized weaknesses in the
Costa Rican system (There are weaknesses everywhere), we could just as easily take a few playful pot shots at her for---

a) not doing her banking in a more timely fashion and avoiding the crunch:  See Pat procrastinate!

b) not making sure she had her umbrella with her:  Another gringa leaves her brains on the plane, boys and girls!  (Hello!  We're in the tropics!)

c) not aligning herself with a more agile and coordinated partner:  Determined to stave off the possibility of boredom and having a penchant for slapstick, Pat chose Peter.

d) not selecting less self-destructive taxi drivers:  Addicted to the adrenaline rush, Pat long ago developed a keen sense for surrounding herself with drama.

e) skipping her Prozac:  In the United States, we often hear stories of people released from mental institutions for a lack of funding.

So, José, please don't give up on all of us crazy gringos.  We love your country, and we appreciate Tico cordiality.  We promise to work on whining less, to mellow ourselves out more with a daily dose of guaro, and to study the deeper nuances of your culture as we circumvent the potholes with a smile. 

Hopefully, your friend,

Carol Calkins
La Gringa Loca de La Fortuna

 Says it was hilarious

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It was a hilarious story!  I'm really sorry someone took offense.  I thought for sure that Ticos would laugh right alongside us in instant recognition of the situations we share with them from time to time.  I look forward to a lot more of her articles.

S. Yamada
He laughed out loud

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I thought that Patricia Martin's piece was a nice work of satire, and I laughed out loud, as I suspect many others did. But José Hidalgo is entitled to his own opinion, no matter how wrong it is :))

Just kidding, Señor Hidalgo, just kidding. Opinions aren't right or wrong, they are just opinions. I turn my old ones in and get a whole new set every  few days. It keeps my friends alert and my enemies confused.

John French
Gaithersburg, Md.
Didn't think article was funny

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I just read today`s column by Pat. I am a Costa Rican, and I am deeply offended. I have never heard a person whine so much. Nobody likes a whiner, Pat! If you have so many troubles with the country, hit the road. In the meantime you may get somebody from the land of plenty (of jerks) to wire transfer you some funds directly to an account in dollars that you can
open in one of those banks that lowly Costa Ricans use.

I recommend that you buy a helmet and hire a navy SEAL as your bodyguard to keep us APES from hurting you. Good luck to you and have a happy trip home BOYS AND GIRLS!!!

José Hidalgo
Hojancha, Nicoya

The writer refers to a piece by Patricia Martin in Monday's edition that may be found at http://www.amcostarica.com/monday.htm

Response to Sanabia

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
(a response to Mr. Sanabia below)

If you are looking for a beautiful country with mountains, oceans, beautiful birds and fishing this is it! Most of all the people.  Sure we have bad eggs just like every other country but most of them are so friendly and kind.  We have lived here for 7 years and love it.

Maureen and Gerry Evans
Likes our efforts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm sure I'm only one of many English-speaking Costa Rican residents who now look forward every day to A.M. Costa Rica.  What a superb job you are doing, not only with your insightful articles but excellent photography.  I have forwarded this to all my English-speaking friends in Costa Rica and the EE.UU.  Bravo! 

Norma LaTouf 
What is Costa Rica's attraction?

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I rarely hear or read anything about Costa Rica up here, but lately having spoken to a Costa Rican national, an interest arose within wondering about the great number of US citizens residing there.

It seems somewhat surprising, although U.S. citizens have been seen all over Latin America; yet Costa Rica seems to have the highest percentage of U.S. citizens making that country their new home. Myself being Dominican-born have seen a fair share of U.S. citizens living in the Dominican Republic  (especially in the Puerto Plata-Santiago area). Yet with those numbers, DR doesn’t come close to the amount residing in Costa Rica.

My question I guess is "why?" Why Costa Rica?  Not to take merit away from them, or that it would be a bad choice, but I do wonder why.

The Dominican Republic seems to be a prime choice for Spaniards and Germans and some Swiss nationals also. The U.S., although in limited numbers, is making its presence noticeable as well. It’s all very ironic.  We migrate to the U.S. while they are, in turn, coming into our country. 

I’d be grateful for any feedback.  Thanks.

Alexander R. Sanabia
Wants better police protection

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is time for the San Jose police to start working at night in the Center City area. Tourism is going down and will head far lower if the unsafe center city area is not policed. Some group needs to contact the San Jose government and or police. 

Buzz Cromwell
San José
Pleased with our effort

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Have just received my first email copy of A.M. Costa Rica, and I can't thank you enough. I have been a regular visitor to San Jose for several tears now and it will be  nice to be able to "keep up" with what is going on while I am gone. I have many friends in Costa Rica and now I can get a daily dose of the  local events.  Thank you again for being there.

Rick Looney
(a/k/a  Don Gordo)
Boca Raton Fla.

Response to terrorist acts

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I agree that the old ways are obsolete in the handling of terrorists. The old way was to cripple the  U.S. intelligence-gathering abilities. The old way was to apply the "rule of law" to the insane and lawless. The old way was to take a poll or get the approval of the world before the U.S. responded. The old way is obsolete.

Which one of these is the correct response to Tuesday's terrorism?

Do Nothing: Do you remember the USS Cole? Did we retaliate then? No, instead we applied the rule of law and looked for the smoking gun. Now we're all crying.

Pull back: The U.S. could close their borders and resign as the world's mediator/policeman. Save our tax dollars we ship to other countries and build a bigger better homeland defense. Become a police state. Reduce individual's rights. Not likely.

Diplomacy: Both the U.S. and the U.N. have asked/demanded the Taliban to deliver the prime suspect, Osama Bin Laden, to the courts for the earlier WTC, Kenya Embassy, & USS Cole  bombings. Still waiting!  The U.S. has tried to contain outlaw nations with economics  sanctions. No help there.

Mediation: These insane individuals were too busy planning their hideous attacks to come to the table. No such luck.

Concede to their demands: (there were none) - it was an faceless sneak attack!.

If the U.S. arrests only those individuals directly tied to Tuesday's events and lock them up (no retaliation), don't you think they'll attack again? Next time, it's 10,000+ dead mothers,  fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, wives, & husbands. Exactly when do you go in and  terminate their leadership? their financing? their bases?

To answer the ridicules question, "Will terrorism cease?" In the real world, nothing we do or don't do will end terrorism. This evil behavior can't be fixed with a group hug.

Steve Clark
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is a difficult time for all humanity. The people of my country have never before directly faced an enemy as desperate as this. Our national power has shielded us.

I pray that now we can serve the will of God and help all people to have that same protection. To serve this will, the USA must look at itself as well as its enemies, and clean its own back yard. We must use our power for all the people,
instead of for only the people in power.

Our government must stop making policy decisions that benefit the rich, and pay heed to the terrible needs of the poor, whether in our own Appalachian mountains, or in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Bin Laden is a poisonous snake. He must be stamped out. The politicians of the Islamic countries that support him and his kind also need to be stamped out. They are not human beings in the sense I understand it. They are poisonous snakes living in our house. And for this I am convinced we do not need proof based on the rules of evidence, and trials by jury.

But the people of the Islamic countries have been brainwashed. We must remember it is easy to brainwash a hungry man who sees others' plates full of food, and learn to share. So let us not go past the poisonous snakes to kill people
because they shouted and waved flags for a TV reporter.

I doubt we will ever have a world in which we all share equally. As we destroy our world, and resources become even more scarce and disproportionately distributed, hunger will cause more war.

I do not know the answer. But I do know that we must kill poisonous snakes immediately.

I am reminded of several situations that cast light on this tragedy, among them: Ireland and the IRA; Martin Luther King; the Black Panthers; and the missionary who was murdered with her baby in an airplane over Peru by US and Peruvian forces.

In the last situation, the US forces hid behind the cloak of contracted independent corporations and the role of providing information only, while the Peruvian pilot murdered the innocent. Sadly, it is the death of these and other innocents that may be needed to force our country to look more closely at the insanity of its Drug War.

How can sane people have allowed the Irish to kill each other as they have? How can we have allowed the persecution of blacks in our own country, let alone the persecution of Jews or Vietnamese, Nicaraguan, Salvadorian,  Cuban, Mexican, Romanian, Ukrainian peasants, and the people of the fascist Mideast regimes whose despots we have protected for the sake of oil?

My country is the best in the world. It is not perfect, but it is the closest to it. We have our share of bigots filled with hatred for people who are "different," but we have millions of good people willing to support our freedoms, from the freedom of speech to the freedom of life.

Let us not serve our own personal purposes in this new war on terrorism. Let's sweep our side of the street as clean as we sweep the other.

John French
A Proud American and Future Tico
Gaithersburg, M.D.
NOTE: Mr. French reports that he lives in Metro Washington, D.C., about 30 kms. north of the Pentagon, and that he is a native of Manhattan, having lived as near as several blocks from the World Trade Center site  before it was built.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I stayed up all night compiling a list of major newspapers throughout the world. I did not attend my college classes today because I felt that this  was far more important. This is my message..

People of the world,

Please as you read this whenever and wherever that may be, take a moment of silence this minute to remember and pray for the victims of the attack upon America.

Thank you.

We must be careful now of how we will respond to this vicious assault upon the Free World as a whole, and when we do retaliate we must be absolutely sure about any evidence that points a finger towards any group and/or nation. 

We must provide our evidence when it is gathered truthfully and completely for the entire world to see. To do otherwise would be playing into the hands of the people who have committed this act of aggression. America has a great responsibility that comes with being the most powerful nation on earth, and it must now provide an example for other nations to follow. The people responsible for this cowardly act of murder-en masse and destructiveness are certainly wondering at this time...

What are you going to do now America?

As a proud American I know the answer will be. . . .

You will find the reply to that question when you do not see it approaching, and you have now sealed your fate in blood. Freedom remains undaunted. Bravery Is undeterred, and America still stands Proud. Buildings and Institutions can be replaced, and your many victims are now nestled safely and lovingly carved upon the palm of God.

I feel at this moment that I could leave my home and go anywhere and up to anyone at all in my country, or any other country in the Free World for that matter, and no matter who or what that person may be. . . rich, poor, young, old, man, woman, black, white, Oriental, whatever. . . and join them in saying "We Shall Get Through This Great Tragedy And We Shall Become Stronger Because Of It . . . My Friend . . . We Shall Stand Together"

I also feel great hope for the future in knowing that we will never forget Tuesday, September 11th, in the year of our Lord Two-thousand and One.

Brad Alan Westcott
American citizen in New York
More on Jo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica: 

Having visited Costa Rica, and enjoying it so very much, I was thrilled when I could have the paper emailed to me by subscribing. 

I just want you to know, I think you give really complete coverage to local and world news, and I especially enjoy your new addition of Jo Stuart. Her articles have always been very interesting to me, and I was sorry when she left The Tico Times. Thank you for having her column.

  Annetta Kaufman
 Toledo and 
Fort Lauderdale, U.S.A.
Three of a kind

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jesse Jackson has added former Chicago Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds to  the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's payroll.

Reynolds was among the 176 criminals excused in President Clifton's last-minute forgiveness spree. Reynolds received a commutation of his six-and-a-half-year federal sentence for 15 convictions of wire fraud, bank fraud & lies to the Federal Election Commission. He is more notorious, however, for concurrently serving five years for sleeping with an underage campaign volunteer.

This is a first in American politics: An ex-congressman who had sex with a subordinate won clemency from a president who had sex with a subordinate, then was hired by a clergyman who had sex with a subordinate. 

His new job? Wait for it! ............  Youth Counselor. 

Great country America...an equal opportunity employer.

Sheldon Haseltine

In defense of Jo

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I was very upset to learn that Jo Stuart's column was to be eliminated  totally from The Tico Times.  I think she's one of the two best columnists  the TT has had in the over ten years that I've been reading the paper. So I'm terrible pleased that you have picked her up.  Thanks much.

Bonnie Hano
Turrujal  de Acosta 
and Laguna Beach, Ca.


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

How can you tell Doug Marcus just "loves" to show off his knowledge?  He is picky, picky, picky & pedantic. Just don't read Jo's column in future, please.

  S. Yamada

Not pleased with Jo Stuart

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your decision to use Jo Stuart surprises and disappointed me since I was so excited to find a news service that differed from The Tico Times. So far The Tico Times has yet to publish this letter, I hope you will not be so slow.  My problem with Jo Stuart is threefold; I find her confused, uninteresting and offensive.

Confused: Take this extract from her June 15 column, “I swear the hands of my watch were moving twice as fast as my perceived time. In what seemed like no time at all…”? While the time was actually passing quickly, to Ms. Stuart it seemed far longer, and yet it seemed no time at all. 

I must confess that this curious temporal conundrum, while being a call to arms to the loftier metaphysicians among the paper’s readership, was somewhat beyond my comprehension.

Uninteresting: Take her February 23 column, “In a few minutes I had a perfect fried egg. I ate it. I sat for a few minutes thinking about how good it was. Then I went back into the kitchen and fried myself another one.” 

I sense Ms. Stuart has an admirable penchant for Hemingway and I would ask her if she believes his success would have been the same had he concentrated not on the banalities of war or bull fighting, but rather on the bleak realities 
of frying an egg?

Offensive: Ms. Stuart’s observations on Costa Rican life are those of an outsider who expects congratulations for tolerating the eccentricities of a nation that has given her the honor to become one of its citizens. As such I believe she represents a sizeable proportion of the foreign community here who treat nationality as a fashionable outfit with which to impress their
friends, rather than as a privilege, responsibility and  opportunity for the improvement of oneself and one’s society.

Doug Marcus
San Pedro
A choice for daily news

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Finally, we have a Costa Rican daily news source for Gringos.  I applaud your choice of medium. It's always exciting for me to see nascent publications using the Internet to spread the news. I can't imagine a better way do it.

You are correct when you say that once a week is not often enough to gain a truthful insight into the goings-on in Costa Rica. Publishing week-old news, such as can be found on other Costa Rican English-language web sites is a shameful use of such a vibrant and fast-paced technology like the Internet.

I have linked amcostarica.com to my personal Internet site so that I can have quick, easy access to current news about Costa Rica. 

I wish this new publication luck and hope that the established press in Costa Rica doesn't catch on to your foresightedness too quickly (though I doubt they will.)

Jim Kehl
Denver, Colorado

Encouragement sent

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

While you are starting at the ground level and have lots of exciting possibilities and challenges ahead, we want to encourage you.  Given that we are tied to our computers  most of the time, and it is very pleasant receiving an e-mail blurb about the latest news items every day.

Thank you for enhancing life in the Gringo community.

  Carol and Gregg Calkins
  Los Gringos Locos, S.A., de La Fortuna


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