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These stories first were published Monday, Nov. 5, 2001
Congressman
says that Iraq
has to be handled

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A visiting Republican congressman said it is just a matter of time before the United States takes on Iraq.

"I think Iraq is a situation that has to be handled," said Rep. Tom David after an appearance before Republicans Abroad of Costa Rica Saturday.

He also noted that Costa Rica is not immune to terrorist attacks. "If they can strike the Twin Towers they can 

Rep. Davis brings the word
 

A.M. Costa Rica photos
Susan Tessem and awards
strike anywhere," he said. When asked about the sentiment in his voting district, Davis said quickly: "They’re angry."

Czech intelligence sources say that Mohammed Atta, the presumed leader of the suicide terrorists, held at least two meetings with an Iraqi official in Prague months before the attack.

Davis represents a Virginia congressional district that lost 70 persons in the Pentagon attack Sept. 11. He told Republicans that the national priorities changed dramatically after the attacks.

"I have not read anything about Gary Condit, " he said of the Democratic California congressman who has been linked to a missing capitol intern. 

The war is complex and being fought on three fronts, he said. The first, obvious one is in Afghanistan. "The president is doing a great job," he said.

Domestic terrorism is the second front. He said more than 3,000 FBI agents were following leads involving the contamination and deaths by anthrax. "We will get a handle on it," he promised.

The third front is economic, Davis said, adding that the goal is to revive the American economy. He said he favors the so-called fast-track trade negotiations bill that would give President George Bush more power 

to negotiate international trade treaties.

The fast-track bill would allow the president to submit a trade treaty to the Senate for a simple vote of approval or disapproval. Without the pending legislation foreign officials would have to negotiate first with the administration and then with the Congress, and no one wants to do that, he said.

Davis said that Republicans were 15 votes short of passing the bill in the House when he left the capital Friday. The current situation "hurts Costa Rica and hurts the rest of the world," he said.

He warned that there are so many trade agreements in the world, and the United States is not a party to many, thereby diminishing trade possibilities. But the fast-track measure is politically sensitive and strongly opposed by the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), he noted.

Calling the U.S. Senate "basically a dysfunctional body," Davis said the U.S. House has to take the lead in initiating legislation. Republicans in Costa Rica were basking in their role of being among the deciding votes in the last U.S. presidential elections. Several officials from 

Republicans Abroad International attended the lunch at the Hotel Alta in Escazú. Each stressed the role absentee voters played in putting Florida into the Bush camp by a very thin margin, thus assuring him the presidency.

Michael Jones, executive director of Republicans Abroad, praised them and others overseas for "risking your lives to promote American values around the world."

Also honored was Susan Tessem, the chairlady of Republicans Abroad here. She received a U.S. flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in her name and an Oscar-like statuette.

In the audience was Rogelio Pardo, Costa Rican minister of health, whose son Roger is a defense undersecretary in the Bush Administration.

Davis, the congressman, has a key role with the Republican National Committee to plan strategy for party candidates who will be seeking election next year. "2002 looks very good for us," he told the Republicans, and predicted that the party would pick up about 10 House seats simply on the strength of the rearrangement of voting districts.


 
Magnetic multilevel marketing firm expanding into Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff 

A major multilevel marketing company kicks off operations in Costa Rica this week. The company is Nikken, and the major products are magnetic devices to promote health.

A number of English-speakers are involved in the kickoff. However, company officials are seeking representatives who speak either English or Spanish or both. The company has been advertising heavily for independent agents who must make an investment from $50 to $1,500.

Like most multilevel marketing companies, income depends on the number of persons each agent recruits as well as the quantity of products sold.

The company has a complex payment and rewards program, including incentives to help distributors buy fancy cars and homes.

One person on the bandwagon is Dr. Dan Barr (oregon@racsa.co.cr), well-known in English-speaking circles.

"I was a contented, retired naturopathic physician until I heard Nikken was coming to Costa Rica.  I have personally used these products for over seven years and recommended them to my patients," said Barr.

"I have come out of retirement to become an independent Nikken distributor. Why?  Because I am helping people once again, making some money and having fun . . .a combination that is hard to beat. "

Barr said he has been involved in three other successful multilevel organizations.

Nancy Marie Bruno (nbrdsing@racsa.co.cr) of Escazú also in involved. "Nikken is the premier wellness company of our time that now has products available here. It is giving me an opportunity to balance my life by having a healthy mind, healthy family, healthy body, healthy society, and healthy finances." she said. "These are the five pillars of health along with a product line and a business opportunity that could help people here in Costa Rica. Everyone is interested in wellness for themselves, loved ones or friends."

Both distributors and others were recruited here by Nikken distributors from the United States who are here this week to conduct additional recruitment and sales meetings.

Nikken (www.nikken.com) describes itself as the largest, fastest growing network marketing company in the world, a firm with $1.5 billion in annual sales with $600 million of that in the United States. It already has operations in Mexico and other countries, Costa Rica is part of a Central American incentive that includes Panama. It opened a distribution and sales center in Sabana.

The firm was founded in 1973 by Isamu Masuda, in Japan, but now the world headquarters are in Irving Calif.

The bulk of the products use tiny flat magnets hidden in comforters, headbands or similar to pace the magnetic fields in close proximity to the wearer’s body. The company said that the magnetism promotes wellbeing and healing.

Products range from magnetic shoe insoles at $50 up to sleeping "systems," a comforter and a mattress pad, for $800. The firm also sells magnetic water products, massage devices, comforters, even dog products. A big seller is support products, like knee and back braces.

The medical research is still not very clear on the value of magnets, but the evidence from Nikken distributors and users is highly favorable.

Laurie Daddona (lkdart@voicenet.com) of King of Prussia, Pa., a suburban Philadelphia town, is one of those U.S. distributors visiting to open the territory for the company. She said that Nikken saved her life after a Caribbean vacation ended in a boat accident. She suffered a serious blow to the head that changed her life and made her an invalid, she said.

Years of medical complications vanished after she began using the Nikken sleep system, she said.

Although the mechanism by which magnetism helps people recover from injuries is uncertain, there is some suggestion in the medical literature that magnetism promotes the circulation of blood or somehow polarizes the blood to make it flow more efficiently. (See related story)

Products similar to Nikken’s are available in some drug stores and stores devoted to running gear, but Nikken distributors say there is a big difference in quality and potency between what they sell and off-the-shelf products.

Recent technology allows the construction of wafer-thin permanent magnets with electrical properties many times that of the typical kitchen magnet. Nikken has capitalized on this technology.

Meetings are being held during much of the week, but the keynote session is Tuesday at the Holiday Inn downtown at 7:15 p.m. It will be given in Spanish by a corporate vice president. Mrs. Bruno said anyone may attend.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Viviana Solano, a Nikken employee at the distribution and training center in La Sabana tries out a magnetized massage roller on fellow employee Yamil Fiatt.

Does it really work?

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Medical researchers who once denigrated magnetism as quackery agree now that this is an area that should be studied.

The turning point probably was a November 1997 medical journal article about an experiment at Baylor University in Houston, Texas, that showed the magnets reduce pain in polio patients. The study got a lot of favorable press and air time.

The Baylor study was a traditional medical experiment designed to avoid outside influences, like the opinions of the participants or those of the researchers. Such studies are called "double blind" because not even the researchers know, for example, which magnet is real and which is inactive.

Other similar studies have had mixed results.

Also in 1997, the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Alternative Medicine Office gave a $1 million grant to the University of Virginia. The institute asked researchers to study magnetic sleeping pads. The results came out in February.

Those fibromyalgia patients who used a magnet sleeping pad showed a decrease in pain intensity at the end of six months, but other pain measures in patients were not significantly different between the group using real magnets and those using pads with inactive magnets, according to the published report.

On a more positive note, Three Boca Raton, Fla., plastic surgeons reported in 1999 that they used magnets to study pain, swelling and discoloration in liposuction patients. They concluded that commercially available magnets have a positive influence on postoperative healing.

A Yale University study published last year said that pulsed magnetic fields can affect bone growth and that static magnets may provide temporary release under certain circumstances, although the data is limited.

In a medical journal report a year ago, two patients who had long-term pelvic pain were treated with magnetic devices. The treatment provided rapid relief that was sustained for more than 2 years, said the article. 

However, a study released in March 2000 found no difference between two groups treated for lower back pain with magnets. One group received actual magnets, and the other group had pretend magnets.

These studies were in recognized medical journals which use the peer review system in which other researchers study the results of those submitting the report before the results are published. 

Even the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has checked in with an assessment that favored more study:

"Researchers are just starting to look at magnets as a possible therapy for pain associated with arthritis. Several studies do suggest benefits, but more research is needed."

But the clinic also had a warning: "Some researchers believe that inappropriate use of magnet therapy actually could lead to health problems. They should not be placed within six inches of a pacemaker."

An author in The Skeptical Inquirer also wants more experiments. This is a publication that is famous for its exposure of medical frauds and hoaxes. It did not consider magnetism a hoax.

Said author James D. Livingston, a professor in the Department of Material Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

"The results of the Baylor study . . . raise the possibility that at least in some cases, topical application of permanent magnets may indeed be useful in pain relief, a conclusion that should be regarded as tentative until supported by further studies. Any mechanism for such an effect remains mysterious, but an effect of static magnetic fields on the complex electrochemical processes of the human body is not impossible."

All researchers seem to be concerned with the "placebo effect," in which patients in medical experiments get better because they are involved in an experiment and enjoy the attention. A placebo is the phony medication that patients receive instead of real medication in tests of pharmaceutical effectiveness. Researchers found out early that many patients show a turn for the better even if they are not getting the real pill.

This is a big problem for medical researchers and the reason for the double-blind methodology of the experiments so no one lets on which is the real treatment condition and which is not. In these published medical studies, researchers took great care to make sure that experiment subjects did not know if the magnet was real, a difficult task because real magnets are easily distinguishable from false ones.

In at least one experiment, patients were filmed to  make sure they did not investigate the magnets or false magnets attached to their body.

Those who wish to explore the topic of magnetism on the Internet are in for a daunting experience. Some 8600 Web sites appear in a Yahoo.com search for the topic of magnets and pain. Many are maintained by companies and individuals with commercial interests in the topic.

The Skeptical Inquirer article may be found at 

http://www.csicop.org/si/9807/magnet.html.

Nikken, the multilevel company opening up its operations here, may be found at  http://www.nikken.com.

The Mayo clinic is  http://www.mayoclinic.com.

A good source of many types of medical research with the full text of some reports on line is BioMed Net. Com at

http://www.bmn.com.


 
Asian coalition scores
victory over mocking ad

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A coalition of Asian groups, galvanized by what they considered to be an offensive advertisement, has caused the company that used the ad to change it.

The ad shows a woman using her two forefingers to raise her eyebrows to simulate an Asiatic look. The company is Auto Mercado, which used the ad and a similar television commercial to encourage shoppers to accumulate shopping points to win one of 14 trips to the World Cup matches in Japan and Korea next year.

However, the representatives of the Asian groups said that the ads mocked them. They wrote to Javier Bouza Cordero, marketing manager.

Those who complained were Maria Hon, Coalition of Asiatic Associations of Costa Rica; Sumio Kondo, president of the Japanese Association of Costa Rica; José Young, president of the Chinese Association of Costa Rica, Florita Cheng, vice president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Chong Ho Yang, president of the 
Korean Association of Costa Rica; Lily Cheng, vice president of the Costa Rican-Chinese Cultural Center, and Shirley Yamada, former president of the National Association of Japanese-Canadians.

The offending graphic

Bouza replied that the company had no idea that the ad was offensive or included racist elements. He said the company never would have used the ad if it had known that were the case.

"This is not offensive and hurtful to only the Asian communities, but is offensive to all who behold the image," said Mrs. Hon in an e-mail message.

"This is about raising consciousness about racial and cultural difference so we better appreciate them, not so that we can ridicule them."

The group told Auto Mercado that it hoped the company would alert its ad agency to the concerns.


 
Coast Guard grabs
cocaine off Costa Rica

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Two U.S. Coast Guard boarding teams on two U.S. Navy ships recovered a total of 3,600 pounds of cocaine jettisoned from two boats approximately 200 miles southwest of Costa Rica, the U.S. Coast Guard reported Sunday.

The crews also detained 10 men who are suspected of maritime drug trafficking during the event Oct. 19 and 20, the Coast guard said.

Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment 104, based out of San Diego, Calif., safeguarded the drugs and detainees until their transfer into U.S. Law
Enforcement officer’s custody.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the drugs are worth about $36 million, according to the March 2000 San Diego/Imperial County Regional Narcotic Information Network price list.

The drug recovery and arrests were news in Costa Rica where the information became available only when the Coast Guard posted news of the arrest on its Web site: http://www.uscg.mil

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard announced that even before this latest action, they had stopped an all-time annual record amount of cocaine in maritime seizures in the current fiscal year.

Through Oct. 1, the Coast Guard had seized 138,334 pounds of cocaine, compared to 132,480 pounds for the same period in the last fiscal year.

Last May, the Coast Guard seized 13 tons of cocaine off the coast of Central America. That seizure represented the largest cocaine seizure in maritime history, and resulted from the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy. The cocaine was found aboard the Svesda Maru, a 152-foot fishing vessel registered in Belize, according to the Coast Guard.
 
 

Outcome awaiting
for Nicaraguan voting

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Nicaraguans are awaiting the results of Sunday's presidential election that puts former President Daniel Ortega in a close race with former Vice President Enrique Bolaños. 

Voters endured long lines and intense heat Sunday as they waited to choose their country's next president. 

Recent opinion polls show a statistical tie between Ortega, who represents the Sandinista National Liberation Front, the FSLN, and Bolaños of the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party. 

The surveys also showed a third candidate, Alberto Saborio of the Conservative Party, was trailing with just under 4 percent of the vote. 

The polling stations opened amid heavy security and rumors that outgoing President Arnoldo Aleman might declare a state of emergency if election-related violence erupts. Ortega said he sees no need for such action and that the country has shown tolerance in this election. Bolaños also said he does not expect any major incidents of violence. 

The United States has expressed concern over a possible win by Ortega, who led the 1979 Sandinista revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. U.S. officials say the Sandinistas have a history of trampling civil liberties and violating human rights. 

Ortega told the Reuters news agency the Sandinistas made mistakes in the 1980's but insists they would have made strides in fighting Nicaragua's extreme poverty. Ortega also says he has changed with the times and will promote free market policies, guarantee press and religious freedoms and pursue closer relations with the United States. 

The United States financed a Contra insurgency to oust Ortega, who ruled Nicaragua from 1979 until he was voted out of office in 1990. The war left more than 30,000 people dead and wrecked the Nicaraguan economy. 

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is heading a delegation of international observers monitoring the election. Carter says he is confident the vote will be peaceful, even if the results are close.

Hurricane Michelle
hitting Cuba hard

Hurricane Michelle is roaring over Cuba, lashing the island with high winds and heavy rains that threaten to cause extensive flooding and property damage. 

When Michelle slammed into the Caribbean island's southwestern coastline late Sunday its winds were recorded at more than 200 kilometers (120 m.p.h.) per hour. Wind gusts of up to 120 kilometers-per-hour (72 m.p.h.) ripped through Havana, triggering fears that buildings could collapse. There are no initial reports of injuries or deaths in Cuba. Last week, the storm killed 12 people in Central America and Jamaica. 

As the storm approached Cuba, civil defense officials ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in the island's western and  central-western regions. Officials also cleared out luxury resort hotels in the storm's path. 

Early today, the storm center is expected to pass though the Florida Straits, moving to the northeast on a path toward the Bahamas. 

The center of the storm is not expected to strike mainland Florida, but weather forecasters say strong winds could lash the Florida Keys within hours. A state of emergency is in effect in Florida, and a mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the Keys.
 

Chavez says he didn’t
want to offend the U.S.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he did not mean to offend the United States with his remarks about unintended civilians deaths in Afghanistan. 

President Chavez says U.S. officials misunderstood his televised comments earlier this week, comparing the Afghan civilian deaths to the deaths of those killed in the terrorist strikes on the United States. 

In his radio address Saturday, Chavez said he did not mean to make such a comparison and was not condemning the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan. The Venezuelan president added he was only expressing his sorrow for the Afghan civilian deaths. He also underscored the importance of good relations with his northern neighbor. 

Monday, on Venezuelan television, Chavez held up photographs of children killed in the strikes in Afghanistan. He said their deaths are unjustified and the United States should not respond to terror with terror. 

In response to those remarks, the United States temporarily recalled its ambassador to Venezuela, Donna Hrinak, for a review of relations between the two countries. She is expected to return to Caracas later this month. 

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described Chavez's comments as contrary to Venezuela's own position in the United Nations and other international bodies. In Caracas, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Davila countered by saying his government will not keep silent about what he called the death of innocents. 
 

Diamondbacks win
World Series title

The Arizona Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the New York Yankees 3-2, winning baseball's 97th World Series in a deciding seventh game. 

Tony Womack drove in the tying run off Yankees' star reliever Mariano Rivera before Luis Gonzalez blooped a single to drive in the winning run. The 4-year old Diamondbacks became the youngest franchise to win baseball's championship, ending the Yankees string of World Series title 

Private bank held up 

Three men stuck up a Mutual de Alejuela branch in Curridabat Friday morning and shot a guard and an employee. They got away with 500,000 colons (about $1,490).

Injured in the 8:30 robbery was guard Johnny Jiménez Solano, who was shot in the back when he tried to stop the men, and Pablo Sánchez Vargas, who was hit in the chest.
 


 
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