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These stories were published Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 203
Jo Stuart
About us
Avenida 2 crowd
The big march 
against corruption


Marcher Walter Soto Jiménez

U.S. invests $500,000 to warn sex tourists
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. State Department has made a $500,000 grant apparently under the mistaken impression that the biggest exploiters of Third-World children are North Americans, Europeans and Australians.

In a statement after a press conference Tuesday, the State Department said: "Although evidence is anecdotal, officials say most people who exploit the children are from Europe, Australia and the United States, attracted to the anonymity that protects them in developing-world capitals, the availability of the children, and law enforcement systems that are often weak or corrupt."

The State Department did not identify the officials, but Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez of Costa Rica, was reported to be at the press conference.

A week ago Costa Rican police officials said that in the last five years, some 74 suspects have been detained in cases of child exploitation. Of that number, there are 18 foreigners or 24 percent.

In this year so far, 14 exploitation suspects have been detained. Two are U.S. citizens, one is from Nicaragua and 10 are Costa Rican. The crimes alleged include sexual abuse, making pornography and pimping.

A release about the Washington, D.C. press conference Tuesday homed in on the sexual tourism theme: 

"On the back streets of major cities in East Asia and Central America, children are for sale — for an hour, for a night, or maybe for a week. Rich men from abroad are paying for the sexual services of these innocents, and a new campaign to stop them began Oct. 12."

The campaign is public relations for the U.S. Protect Act that allows the United States government to charge its citizens if they are involved in sexual exploitation abroad. So far, seven persons have been prosecuted under the 2003 law.

Posters bearing a photo of faceless hands behind jail bars are going up at key entrance points for visitors to Costa Rica, Thailand and Cambodia. The message says: "Abuse a child in this country. Go to jail in yours."

World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization, says it will become the eyes and ears for law enforcement seeking out children who are being exploited.

U.S. Immigration and Customs brings law enforcement powers to the project. The agency 

is involved in prosecuting human smuggling, trafficking in persons, drug smuggling, child pornography and child sexual exploitation.

A World Vision spokesman said the organization’s research indicates that most Western men who become involved in child sexual exploitation are what he called "situational offenders." They are traveling in a developing world city, alone, in a bar. They are offered a sexual encounter with a minor and take it. The new media campaign is targeted at these offenders and attempts to raise their awareness about the criminal nature of these encounters and their vulnerability to prosecution even though the crime may occur outside the United States, the State Department said.

World Vision will run similar announcements on an airport television network with an audience officials said was 700 million people. At developing-world destinations, billboards, street signs and tourist maps will also drive home the warning, officials said.

Minister Gil said Costa Rica has worked hard to promote tourism as a productive, nonpolluting industry. She told the news conference that she and other government officials are dismayed to find that Costa Rican destinations are listed on almost 30 Web sites on which sex tourists exchange recommendations. For that reason, Minister Gil said Costa Rica is eager to participate in the newly announced partnership, as the nation simultaneously undertakes a number of other actions to stop child sexual exploitation.

Gil said Costa Rica is one of the first nations to adopt a code of ethics in tourism that establishes training programs among workers in tourist areas — hotel clerks, waiters, taxi drivers — to be watchful of child sexual exploitation and report it to authorities.

The legal age of consent for prostitution in Costa Rica and Thailand is 18 years. There is no legal age of consent defined in Cambodian law, but indecent or sexual assault is punishable by one to three years in jail, and that sentence is doubled if the person assaulted is under the age of 16, according to news reports from the Asian country.

"What we have today is the start of an abolitionist struggle directed against child sex tourism," said Ambassador John Miller, the director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State. "[It is] a struggle that's involving cooperation of governments like Costa Rica, involving the cooperation and support of U.S. taxpayers, and involving, most of all, World Vision and its thousands of people around the world who are acting as agents for positive change."

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Our readers contribute

Stick to fluff,
this reader says

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Ms. Stuart, you know we can watch CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, VOA as well as you can. Do you think we are so stupid we need you to critique the news and situation in Iraq or any other country as a matter of fact. 

Also Ms. Stuart, I have never been wrong on something that has not happened, but have all the answers for things that have. Even in reading your articles about things you DO know something about, I get the feeling you may have done it different if you had it all to do over again. 

Stick to fluff, you don't have any more solutions for U.S. policy than anybody else, and it is evident in your articles when you rehash news and opinions we can watch for ourselves. 

Bobby Ruffín 
The double standard
fuels U.S. policies

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I tend to agree with Mr. Edwards  that most U.S. Democrats have or would make little noise about terrorists attacks against Cuba and or Fidel Castro. Liberalism is just about dead in the USA. 

Those that still exist won't speak up for fear of being branded unpatriotic or anti-security. American foreign policy is, as always, dominated by the big double standard of American private and commercial interests first, regardless of morality, of the effects of this upon others, and often even basic intelligence. 

This chronic short-sightedness does not come for free. The longer term results can be seen in the turmoil in the countries that have yet to recover from U.S. interference, and spread of instability and anti-Americanism throughout the world. 

Why does the U.S. behave like this? Perhaps as history suggests, those with power are inevitably fated to abuse it.

Ross Martin 
Saddam had to go,
this reader insists

Dear AM Costa Rica:

Once again, Ms. Jo Stuart trots out the tired old chestnuts that have become a hallmark of Leftist propaganda regarding Iraq and the war on terror. It's tempting to say she is merely in error, but no, it is increasingly clear she is a dutiful cadre following a failed ideology — where all sense of perspective is lost or ignored for purely political purposes. 

Saddam Huessein is not the issue in this conflict. He's history now, thanks to George W. Bush — and a rare bi-partisan act of Congress.  And it matters not a whit that Saddam was a "secularist" dictator that kept the peace between Iraqi factions — as Ms. Stuart so glowingly describes him. 

Oh sure, the trains ran on time in Iraq in Saddam's era. They had to--in order to fill the mass graves of the victims — some 500,000 people — who died at the direct hands of his bloody regime. 

You want to talk numbers, Ms. Stuart? Try one million dead as a result of the Iran-Iraq War, or the thousands of Kuwaiti people killed in that senseless conflict. How dare you wring your hands over the deaths of a few innocents while stooping to imply coalition forces seeking to free Iraq, Saddam, and the terrorists are morally equivalent: Equally guilty, huh? 

But bringing up the name of Tito — the mass murderer of Yugoslavia — into any discussion that argues against the liberation of the long suffering Iraqi people truly mystifies me.  Just what rhetorical tricks won't you pull in the name of mere politics? 

And do you seriously think that we owe the dead-enders, the foreign fighters, and unemployed fanatics of the former dictatorship in Iraq a "jobs" program?  Yeah right, Jo, they'll stop risking their lives and blowing themselves up to kill our troops if only we give them a decent minimum wage at U.S. taxpayer expense. 

Get real, Jo: you want some fries with that, lady?   There were three important reasons to invade Iraq that clearly seem to escape you: Saddam was a state sponsor of terrorism. He openly paid a bounty to suicide bombers — often small children themselves — that killed innocent Israeli men, women, and children. And he harbored countless terrorists who were fleeing justice from countries around the world. Look up Abul Nidal, for starters, to confirm this. 

Saddam had already used weapons of mass destruction to gas and kill both Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. Gee, you think we could've actually trusted him to straighten up and fly right when he was actively shooting at our fighter planes enforcing the U.N. authourized no-fly zones to contain him? 

Jo, you're a worthy Leftist activist that plays word games quite well. But my advice to you, for the good sake of the country, is to sit back on your comfy sofa, toss a few more mini-marshmallows into your hot chocolate, engross yourself in a Harlequin Romance novel, and leave the foreign policy of the United States to people more serious, less partisan, and more clear-headed. Because I believe, U.S. politics should stop at the waters edge, Madam. 

Leo Leonowicz
Guadalupe, Costa Rica
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas 
Final and colorful destination: Plaza de la Democracia
A.M. Costa Rica photo
Former president Rodrigo Carazo Odio, in black suit, was in the march.
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Free trade treaty was continual target

'Se busca' 

Politicos are target during anti-corruption march
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A march that held different meanings to different people attracted about 200,000 persons to Avenida 2 Tuesday.

The avowed purpose was a show of national repugnance to corruption. And some marchers homed in on President Abel Pacheco and Alex Solís, the contralor general de la República.

Several blocks away, vandals hurled rocks through the windows of the Fischel pharmaceutical company.

Generally the march was peaceful and for a time under a light rain.

Several former presidents showed up, including Rodrigo Carazo Odio. Getting applause from the marchers was Francisco Dall’Anese, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor, and José Manuel Echandi, defensor de los habitantes.

The usual groups promoted their predictable causes. The proposed free trade treaty with the United States got its share of criticism. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Echeverría, the former president, was cast as a pig. Another image showed Pacheco 

getting an undefined something from Riteve S y C, the vehicle inspection firm. In general, creativity reigned because none of the politicians and former politicians have been convicted of any crime.

Corporación Fischel and its chief executive officer were the key players in what prosecutors say was a $9 million payoff on a loan from Finland to purchase medical supplies from that country. 

Pacheco was criticized for accepting what appears to be an illegal $100,000 campaign donation from Alcatel, the French telecommunications company.

Rodríguez, who just resigned as secretary general of the Organization of American States, is suspected of accepting money from the $39 million deal with Finland and a later gratuity from Alcatel after it won a $260 million telephone contract.

Hosts of associates, friends, spouses and others are being grilled by prosecutors about these and other transactions. Dall’Anese is leading the investigation.

Solís is under investigation by the legislature, which appointed him, for falsifying signatures on real estate documents in his private capacity as a notary. Solís had to duck away from the march when the crowd got testy.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas 
Images from Cantínflas to Lincoln to Frida Kahlo mock politicos

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A.M. Costa Rica is now able to deal in four more important world currencies, thanks to its association with Pay Pal.

Until now, the newspaper accepted payment internationally in U.S. dollars. Colons were accepted in Costa Rica. However, now the newspaper will accept Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling and yen via the Pay Pal Internet system. 

Bacteria seen as way to grow decaffeinated coffee
Emory University News Service

ATLANTA, Ga. — Chemists at Emory University have made an important advance in harnessing the ability of bacteria to make new molecules, and their discovery could eventually lead to the creation of naturally decaffeinated coffee plants. The research, by Emory chemist Justin Gallivan and graduate student Shawn Desai, is scheduled to appear in the Oct. 27 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Bacteria are terrific chemists, but they normally synthesize only molecules they need for their own survival, said Gallivan. His research team is interested in making bacteria synthesize molecules that they would otherwise not make on their own, resulting in molecules that may someday benefit humans. The Emory team reasoned that if a bacterium needs a particular molecule to survive, it has a strong incentive to help make it, so the goal was to make bacteria depend on a molecule that they wouldn't normally need.

In their first major breakthrough, the Emory researchers have coupled the life of a bacterium to the presence of theophylline, a compound that is used to treat asthma, and is produced by the breakdown of caffeine in both coffee and tea plants. One of the reasons that coffee has a high level of caffeine is that in the plant, caffeine is synthesized very quickly, but breaks down to theophylline very slowly. 

"We know that there is an enzyme that breaks caffeine down into theophylline, but we don't know

 much about it," says Gallivan, an assistant professor of chemistry. "What we do know is that it works very slowly. Ideally, we would like to speed it up a bit so that we could create coffee plants that are low in caffeine. That's where the bacteria come in. They now need the breakdown product of the enzyme for survival, but they can't do much with caffeine."

Gallivan says that the idea is to supply these bacteria with caffeine, and give each bacterium a piece of DNA from coffee plants that may encode the enzyme that will allow the bacterium to convert the caffeine to the theophylline it needs to survive. 

"At the end of the day, we will know that all of the surviving bacteria have 'learned' to convert caffeine to theophylline, and thus have the enzyme that we're interested in. We can then learn about the enzyme and how it works," Gallivan said.

"We hope to use a process known as directed evolution to help speed up the enzyme to break down caffeine faster. Since the bacteria need theophylline for their survival, they're partners in the whole process." Eventually, the faster enzyme could be introduced into coffee plants to produce decaffeinated coffee, he said.

Gallivan says not to expect good-tasting, naturally decaffeinated coffee anytime soon. "We're still at the earliest stages of this work. There are many hurdles to overcome," he said. "As a scientist, I'm excited about the future. As a caffeinated coffee addict, part of me is not in a hurry to solve this one."

U.S. congress votes to double troops in Colombia
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that authorizes the doubling of U.S. military personnel in Colombia to 800, and provides for increasing the number of American citizens working for private contractors in that Andean country from 400 to 600.

The authority, included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2005 passed Saturday, also includes a provision that would extend for two more years the authority of the U.S. secretary of defense to use counter-drug funding to assist Colombia's government in conducting a "unified campaign" in Colombia against both narcotics trafficking and activities by groups designated as terrorist organizations. These include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (ELN).

The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe welcomed the support in its fight against the drug trade and left-wing Marxist rebels. But human rights groups criticized the increase, saying more U.S. troops could escalate the violence in the South American country.

The bill says that no U.S. forces or civilian contractors employed by the United States can participate in any combat operation in Colombia, except when acting in self-defense or rescuing U.S. citizens in the South American nation.

The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 359-14, and approved by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate. The bill authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of Defense and the national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Both the Bush administration and Uribe had urged the U.S. Congress to boost the level of U.S. military personnel support for the Colombian government's fight against outlawed military groups.

Uribe has thanked U.S. congressional members for stressing the importance of viewing the current free-trade negotiations between the United States and Colombia as part of a broader war against illegal drugs and for national security in his country. He also thanked the members for requesting support for Colombian agricultural projects related to sanitary and phytosanitary issues.

In an Oct. 6 letter to Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican of Illinois and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Uribe said that a "broader perspective on national security leads to good economic policy, good agricultural policy and good trade policy."

"I greatly welcome the significant and critical initiative you and other senior congressional members have taken to help create legal jobs and more opportunity for many Colombians, including the demobilized and those affected by the illicit narcotics industry in rural areas," wrote Uribe.

The Colombian president added that "both our countries must ensure, as we deepen our trade and investment relationship, that we do not undermine the significant gains in security and rural employment achieved by Colombia in the past few years with the invaluable support and investment of the United States."

The United States is providing $1.3 billion for "Plan Colombia," an initiative launched by Colombia's government to fight the illegal drug trade, protect human rights, and expand economic development.

The time has come for more stories of spooks and banshees
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

If the local political and financial news are not scary enough for you, we invite you again this year to submit your efforts to our annual Halloween short story contest.

Once again the prize will be $25 and worldwide recognition though the pages of A.M. Costa Rica. After all, we are read in 89 countries each day.

The stories must have a theme that is consistent with Halloween: Spooks, witches, goblins, ghosts. 

By submitting a story to you are certifying that the story was written by you, that it is original and unpublished and that we may publish it. We will. Graphics are welcomed but will not be part of the evaluation. Deadline is Oct. 25 at midnight, of course.

Judging will be by the strange figure that inhabits the A.M. Costa Rica offices after hours. We’ll just leave the computer on for its decision.

Try to keep the stories around, 1,000 words or less and make sure that there is a connection with Costa Rica.

Jo Stuart
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