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The articles here first were published Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2001
Web pirate sued for trapping surfers in his sites
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Did you ever mistype a World Wide Web address and become locked in a site that dumped ad after ad onto your computer screen? Or worse yet, has this happened to your youngster?


The above Web site popped up without warning
Take for example the official Britney Spears Web site: http://www.britneyspears.com/

If your teen accidentally mistypes in www.britnyspears.com, the resulting Web site resembles the Web site of young entertainer Britney Spears until you look closely and realize the site is promoting pornography. What's worse is that you cannot leave the site until window after window of porno-pandering and casino ads flash before your eyes.

Although nothing on the pages is officially indecent, the material is highly suggestive and 


This slightly edited Britney Spears 
photo appears on the phony site.
certainly offensive to parents of young teens.

Well the brains behind one set of such Web sites is John Zuccarini, who has purchased about 5,500 copycat Web site domain names. According to the U.S. consumer watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission, Zuccarini has purchased 41 variations of the Britney Spears name alone.

Zuccarini is resilient. According to the FTC, which filed suit against him Monday, "Defendant has been sued no fewer than 63 times in the last two years, including seven federal district court cases . . . and 56 arbitration proceedings. . . Despite losing 53 suits and having almost 200 of his domain names transferred to the rightful trademark owner, celebrity, or company, defendant continues his practice of diverting and trapping consumers for his personal profit."

The commission filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania to stop John Zuccarini, who has been doing business as The Country Walk, JZDesign, Rave Club Berlin, and more than 22 names incorporating the word "Cupcake." A hearing on that complaint is set for Oct. 9.

The FTC claims Zuccarini makes up to $1 million a year offering advertising on the copycat sites. The commission wants a judge to enjoin Zuccarini and take his income from the phony sites.

Despite the federal action, Zuccarini's Web sites still were operating Monday night, and the flood of sexually oriented advertising crashed the A.M. Costa Rica Netscape program.

According to the FTC, the scheme works like this: 

The defendant registers Internet domain names that are misspellings of legitimate domain names or that incorporate transposed or inverted words or phrases. For example, he registered 15 variations of the popular children's cartoon site, www.cartoonnetwork.com.

Surfers looking for a site who misspell its Web 

address or invert  terms using cartoonjoe.com,
for example, rather than joecartoon.com are taken to the defendant's sites. They then are bombarded with a rapid series of windows displaying ads for goods and services ranging from Internet gambling to pornography. 

A commission investigator entered one of the defendant's copycat domain names, annakurnikova.com , and 29 browser windows opened automatically. In some cases, the legitimate site to which the consumer was attempting to go is also launched, so that consumers may think the hailstorm of ads to which they are being exposed is from a legitimate Web site.

Once consumers are taken to one of the defendant's sites, it is very difficult for them to exit. In a move called "mousetrapping," special programming code at the sites obstructs surfers' ability to close their browser or go back to the previous page. Clicks on the "close" or "back" buttons brings a new window. 

"After one FTC staff member closed out of 32 separate windows, leaving just two windows on the task bar, he selected the "back" button, only to watch as the same seven windows that initiated the blitz erupted on his screen, and the cybertrap began anew," according to papers filed with the court.

Finally, the defendant's sites contained a "stealth" feature that was hidden under the task bar, making it invisible to consumers. ". . . The stealth page contains no content. Instead, its sole function is to act as a timer, periodically launching additional pages of advertisements, without any action by consumers. Thus, even as consumers struggle to escape defendant's multi-window mousetrapping scheme, more windows launch automatically," commission documents say.

Consumers who believe they may have been victims of this cyberscheme were told they could contact the FTC at 202-326-2560 or at its toll-free Consumer Response Center (CRC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP and reference the FTC's case name, "Cupcake Party."


'Ten Little Indians' cast takes that theater curse very seriously
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When they tell you in the theater business to "Break a leg," they are speaking counter to their true feelings. The idea is to wish bad luck so that good luck will come.

If that's the rule, then the current production of "Ten Little Indians" by the Little Theater Group should have nothing but super luck. The cast has been a disaster zone. Consider the following report from a theater insider:

"The first night of rehearsals our director, (Ann Antkiw) fell and broke her arm.  The following day a crew member (Randy Gritz) had her car sideswiped. A day later, as we rehearsed in a power cut, a gas lantern fell and broke a glass tabletop, narrowly missing a couple of cast members (ably deflected by Joseph Loveday). 

"It's about at this point that I lose track of timing, but we have since had several members of the cast and crew (Joseph Loveday, Tim Hawkins, Ann 

Antkiw, Sidney Glazer, Dale Watson, Lisa DeFuso) 
down with a very bad, long-lasting variety of "grippe," two cases of people slipping on steps (should that be slipping off steps) (Randy Gritz, Diana Smith) and two more minor fender benders. (Joseph Loveday, Flora Versteeg).

"I forgot the worst one of all, Jo Stuart's accident in the bus when the driver took off too fast and threw her on her back."

Jo Stuart reported amply on her fall and health concerns in her column Sept. 21. (http://www.amcostarica.com/jostuart.htm)

Assuming that the cast can hang together without major medical intervention, the show has two more weekends to run. 

The play is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week and Oct. 12, 13 and 14. Sunday shows are at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at 289-3910. 


Please, let's have some evidence, Mr. President
By James Brodell
A.M. Costa Rica editor

As the days become weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, we become more and more impatient to see the evidence that links Osama bin Laden to the crime.

The Bush Administration assures us such evidence exists. But the best we have so far is a New York Times report Monday that said bin Laden told his mother by telephone in the weeks before the attack that "something big" was going to happen." The statement was attributed to a high State Department official who spoke on the condition that his name not be used and quoted bin Laden family members. 

This seems a little fishy, a little like the trial balloons politicians float all the time.

Tony Blair returned to England and said he was shown incontrovertible evidence. But the prime minister did not say what that evidence was. So a British politician knows, but a U.S. marine who will risk his neck is not allowed to know.

A Bush Administration official briefed the North American Treaty Organization representatives Monday, and the alliance general secretary said the U.S. proved its case. So foreign diplomats know, but U.S. Navy pilots must risk their lives not knowing the evidence.

Osama bin Laden is a bad guy who wants to kill more innocent citizens. But is he the bad guy who authored the twin tower and Pentagon attacks? We ought to know for sure before we start bombing innocents in Afghanistan. He also says he didn't do it. This from a man who has made no secret of his desire to destroy Americans.

U.S. investigators have 400 people locked up. That seems like a lot of people to have kept the terrorist secrets for so long. Is this overkill?

Pardon the pointed questions, but the White House already used up any benefits of the doubt staffers there had coming. When President Bush was criticized for being in hiding in the hours after the attack, White House staffers said the president's 

An A.M. Costa Rica editorial

plane, Air Force One, was also a terrorist target.

Then columnist William Safire pointed out that this, if true, meant there was a terrorist mole in the White House giving out inside information on presidential travel routes. The White House quickly changed its tune, and there seems to be an admission that the original story was a lie.

Pardon the skepticism, but this is the post "Wag the Dog" generation. If the Vietnam experience did not raise personal doubts about political honesty, the cynical movie about a phony war in Albania designed to raise presidential favorability ratings did.

Could it be that we are going to war with Afghanistan because it is little and convenient? What about Iraq? What about Iran? What about Libya? What about The Sudan? What about Pakistan? To attack these states would draw a highly negative response from the western nations that maintain strong economic ties.

Yet significant evidence exists that some of these states had involvement with the terrorists.

From a political perspective, the terrorist attacks demand vengeance. What a terrible situation if all involved died in the low-tech suicide attacks. Who then should bear the brunt of the retaliation?

A rigid, woman-unfriendly, illegitimate, Medieval, fundamentalist regime is a great target. But is it the correct target? 

President George Bush has an obligation to show his own citizens, to show the world the accumulated evidence that justifies his military buildup. 

And we, many of us U.S. citizens living overseas and enjoying a detached perspective, have an obligation to hold his feet to the fire to ensure that war hysteria does not crowd out straight thinking.

Another politician
died in Colombia

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian authorities say an opposition Liberal Party representative has been killed by suspected right-wing paramilitary forces. Officials say Octavio Sarmiento was shot dead Tuesday at his ranch in the town of Tame, in eastern Arauca state near Venezuela. 

The incident comes three days after authorities found the bullet-riddled body of former Culture Minister Consuelo Araujo, who was kidnapped Sept. 24 in northern Colombia. Authorities suspect leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are to blame for her death. 

President Andres Pastrana responded to Ms. Araujo's murder by announcing he would re-evaluate his country's entire peace process. President Pastrana must decide by early next week whether to extend the time limit on a demilitarized zone assigned to the FARC in 1998 to advance peace talks. 

The president has been under pressure to take back the Switzerland-sized zone in southern Colombia, which critics say the FARC has used to keep kidnap victims for ransom, prepare for war and run a cocaine business. 

Colombia has been plagued by a 37-year civil war that pits the guerrillas against the army and right-wing paramilitary forces. The conflict has left an estimated 40-thousand people dead in the past decade.

New Peace Corps group
arrives here to train

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new group of 12 Peace Corps candidates have arrived in Costa Rica and are undergoing 12 weeks of training in León XIII, Lomas de Río, Pavas and Los Guido, according to the U.S. Embassy.

The majority of the new Peace Corps volunteers are graduates of social work, international development and art college programs. They are between 22 and 34 years of age. Of these 10 are women and two are men, the embassy said in a press release. 

The volunteers will be working throughout the whole country with children and families at risk, the embassy said. They join 13 other volunteers working in the same area.

The new arrivals are living in Costa Rican homes to improve their Spanish-language abilities and to learn more about the culture and customers of the country while at the same time they are learning technical aspects of the work they will be doing, said the embassy.

The Peace Corps has been involved with Costa Rica for 38 years. 

Big increase noted in exam

The U.S. State Department has expressed pleasure that more than 23,500 people worldwide registered for the Sept. 29 Foreign Service Written Exam. That's nearly double the number of registrants in 2000, according to a State Department announcement. 
 

Montesinos wants Fujimori to return 

By A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Peru's ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos has urged former president Alberto Fujimori to return from Japan to face justice. 

In an interview obtained by U.S.-based Telemundo and rebroadcast in Peru, Montesinos said the former president should answer for giving orders that he and other subordinates carried out for him. 

It was the first interview Montesinos has given since being jailed in June. 

Montesinos is alleged to have run a network of corruption that ran through Peru's government, military and media. A scandal erupted last year when the former spy chief was secretly videotaped giving cash to an opposition politician. Fujimori fled to Japan at the height of the scandal where he has been protected because of his dual Japanese-Peruvian citizenship. 

Peru has attempted to bring him to Lima for trial. However, Japan and Peru have no extradition treaty and Japanese law prohibits the extradition of its citizens to stand trial for crimes committed in other countries. 

Free trade report says
many issues remain

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON Negotiating groups working towards creation of Free Trade Area of the Americas  must resolve a number of issues if they are to begin discussions on market access no later than their proposed May 2002 deadline, according to a new report by the U.S. General Accounting Office.

The 34 countries participating in the FTAA process have yet to determine which service sectors would be included in an agreement, and also face "fundamental questions about how much and how fast to liberalize," says the September 2001 report by the General Accounting Office, which is the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.

Some countries seek to use the FTAA process to eliminate domestic supports for agriculture including direct payments to farmers   although the United States prefers to address the issue at the multilateral rather than regional level, the reort said. Countries also differ on whether certain products should be excluded from tariff eliminations, and on the speed at which tariff eliminations would be phased in for those excluded products.

Regional governments have set a target date of 2005 for creation of the Free Trade Area of ther Americas, which would cover about 800 million people, more than $11 trillion in production and $3.4 trillion in trade.

The agreement would have "wide-ranging" effects on U.S. trade and investment with other countries in the Western Hemisphere, and is one of the most significant ongoing trade negotiations for the United States. "The Bush Administration has made establishing the Free Trade Area of the Americas one of its top trade priorities," report said

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