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These articles were first published Friday, Aug. 17

Sept. 5 a big soccer day here

U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica are going to need to exercise a little diplomacy Wednesday, Sept. 5.

That's the day the U.S. national soccer team meets the Costa Rican team in an evening World cup semifinal contest in San José.

Fans will be gathered at bars, private homes and, of course, at Saprissa Stadium to cheer their teams. But North Americans will have to decide whether to support the U.S. team or the team of their adopted homeland.

The two teams seem to be fairly even. Both are at the top of the North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football bracket, each with 13 points. The bracket sends three teams to the finals that will be in Korea and Japan May 31 to June 30. Both teams have played six semifinal games, won 4, lost one and tied one.

Betting parlors in San José are not excited about the match.  Although you can place a bet on the U.S. football Superbowl next January (Cleveland is 50-1 and St. Louis is 3-1), no bets are being accepted for the U.S.-Costa Rican soccer match. Odds probably will not be established until the day before, betting parlor workers said. And the odds will reflect what happens Sept. 1, another big day for soccer, they added.

That's when the U.S. meets Honduras in Washington, D.C. Tickets for this crucial upcoming qualifer have sold out, the fastest sellout for a U.S. soccer match in Washington, D.C. history, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The Saturday, Sept. 1, U.S.  morning match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 8 a.m. San José time, and will be followed by a Major League Soccer contest between D.C. United and the Tampa Bay Mutiny. 

The game will also be broadcast live on the Futbol de Primera radio network, beginning with their national pre-game show at 7:30 a.m. More than 51,000 seats have been sold for the match at RFK Stadium, the soccer federation reported.

Costa Rica plays Trinidad and Tobago the same day in Port of Spain. Trinidad is at the bottom of the bracket with just one team point. 

Costa Rica faces Mexico Oct. 7, and the U.S.  plays Jamaica on the same date.

Costa Rica faces Jamaica Nov. 11,  the same day the U.S. faces Trinidad and Tobago.

The attitude in Costa Rica might not have warmed up yet, but promoters in the U.S. are advertising trips here so North Americans from there can see the game. Prices range from $850 to $1,345, including airfare. The visitors will arrive Sept. 4 and leave Sept. 6.

Looking for a few good test-takers

U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica have a chance to register for the next foreign service exam, but they will have to go to the States to take the test.

The U.S. Department of State  is promoting the test strongly this year. The test will be given Sept. 29. Those who do well on the test will be invited to continue a process through which the United States picks entry-level foreign service officers. 

Next year the Department of State said it will hire 466 new foreign service officers in five career tracks (administrative, political, economic, consular and public diplomacy).

Similar to other nationwide tests, prior registration is required. However, Aug. 10 was the deadline for registration to take the test overseas, according to the Department of State.

Registrations to take the test in the United States must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. Central time Aug. 29. 

The State Department has set up a website to provide answers and to accept online registrations:


Advanced passport
service promised 
in Miami

The U.S.  Passport Agency in Miami  now produces passports that federal officials are calling technologically advanced and secure.

The agency is on the third floor of the Claude Pepper Federal Building, 51 SW First Ave. 

The new issuance system, called "TDIS-Photodigitization," allows the processing of a very technologically advanced passport, according to the U.S. Department of State. 

The most notable feature is that the passport holder's photograph, or portrait, is printed as a digital image into the passport.  The addition of a digitized portrait, as well as other security features designed into the passport, is a deterrent to passport fraud, the department said.

The Miami Agency provides passport service to Florida, South Carolina, and the U. S. Virgin Islands.  Last year the Agency issued over 400,000 passports for U. S. citizen travelers.

The agency also offers expedited service through a 24-hour automated appointment system at (305) 539-3600.

The Automated Appointment System is available 24 hours a day. 


New OAS envoy Noriega
presents credentials,
stresses democracy

WASHINGTON -- Strengthening democracy in the Americas remains one of the United States' top foreign-policy goals, saod Roger Noriega, the new U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS).

In a statement released after he presented his credentials as the new ambassador, Noriega said, "I'm a firm believer that if the OAS didn't exist, we would need to invent it." He described the OAS as a "great organization" and said the United States would continue to work with it "very closely, cooperatively, and respectfully to accomplish some common objectives to improve the well-being of our people."

Noriega said the United States looks forward to the OAS concluding an agreement in Lima, Peru, Sept. 10 on the proposed Inter-American Democratic  Charter.  Such a charter, he said, would help strengthen democratic institutions in the Western Hemisphere.

OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria hailed Noriega as someone with in-depth knowledge of the organization. "He knows the OAS very well and has had a lot of experience dealing with Latin American and Caribbean problems," Gaviria said.

Before taking this position, Noriega served as a senior aide on foreign relations committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and was an alternate representative on the U.S. delegation to the OAS.


New chipset faster, cheaper,
Taiwanse firm says

A Taiwanese firm said yesterday it has begun volume shipments of a computer chipset that is supposed to be 25 percent cheaper than a similar chipset manufactured by Intel.

The computer device, called the VIA Apollo P4X266, is designed for use with  Intel's Pentium 4 processors, according to a spokesman for the firm, VIA Technologies.

Industry observers said that the goal of the Taipei-based manufacturer was to raise the country's world share of the chipset market from 40 percent to 50 percent. 

The device lets the Pentium 4 processor communicate with the rest of the computer, and VIA said it does so 15 percent faster than comparable products.

Intel has extensive manufacturing investments in Costa Rica.


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