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Navy Report On USS Killen Called ‘Defective’Ports Authority Irregularities Alleged…Retired Public Employees To Get 2004 Bonus Increase…NPP Legislators Censor Lott…Super Aqueduct Capacity To Be Increased…‘Maid’ Sweeps Box Office …'Bad Boys II' On Location…Vizcarrondo Criticizes Wal-Mart Decision

Senate Committee: Navy Report On USS Killen ‘Is Defective’

December 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Senate Government and Public Security Committee concluded that a study conducted by the U.S. Navy about the possible contamination in the surrounding areas of the USS Killen, sunk 150 meters off the Vieques coast, used "defective methodology."

Committee Chairman Roberto Prats emphasized Tuesday that among the report’s deficiencies is the lack of reference to the poor health conditions of the marine species in the area and that adequate control was not used to make effective comparatives.

It was not possible to obtain an immediate reaction from the Navy.

According to Prats, the military did not even take samples of the substances in the containers used in the ship’s sinking and despite that, they declared its contents as unharmful.

Prats said the reports do not mention the fact that the USS Killen was one of the ships stationed closest to the Marshall Islands during atomic tests in 1958.

The committee also stated that other ships with the same conditions as the USS Killen have sunken to great depths and far away from the population, which was not the case with this vessel.

The Senate committee recommended that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) include the zone where the vessel is sunken on the list of locations that requires cleaning and that a superfund should be requested.

"Vieques has suffered from the military practices with all types of ammunition and has also suffered because of the contamination of its soil, water and food chain. It is time for us to clear up how the U.S. Navy is going to collaborate in seeking a remedy", the legislator said.

Copy of the committee was sent to local and federal authorities.

Report Reveals Irregularities In Ports Authority

December 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — A report from the Ports Authority’s Internal Audit Office revealed that under two administrations, including the current one, there were serious law violations and irregular practices in the concession of almost $3 million in boat reparation works to one contractor.

Ports Authority Executive Director Jose Guillermo Baquero denied that the report has been on his desk for six months, as informed by published reports, and assured that the report is a rough draft whose findings have to be corroborated "one with the other."

However, he said before the end of the year, he will refer the final report to the Justice Department and the Commonwealth Comptroller’s Office for the corresponding actions, independently if they implicate former directors Hector Rivera; Miguel Pereira, now Police superintendent; and himself.

The main findings reveal that between 1999 and the beginning of 2002, EPR Marine Welding was the only company that won the biddings of boat reparation works, although in one bid the company was the highest bidder by $96,000 and it lacked the corresponding insurance policies and the required financial solidity.

Retired Public Employees To Get Bonus Increase In 2004

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

December 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

In response to the complaints of many retired government employees, Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora promised to include a $100 Christmas bonus increase in the budget for fiscal year 2004.

"Considering the economic limitations experienced on the island ever since the recession resulting from the Sept. 11th events, it was impossible for us to please them this year, but we will do the necessary adjustments for next year," Fas Alzamora said.

The Senate chief added that there are 85,672 retired employees in Puerto Rico.

"My proposal is intended to cover the $8.56 million impact of this Christmas bonus increase with money from the general fund," the Senate president said.

If the $100 bonus increase is granted, the Christmas bonus for retired government employees would climb to $400.

According to Senate officials, the bonus had been gradually increased from $200 in 1997 to $300 in 1999 and it has remained like that ever since.

The protests of retired government employees were triggered by the $125 increase that was granted to government employees to raise this year’s Christmas bonus to $750.

Fas Alzamora said he didn’t foresee any obstacles to granting the proposed increase to retired government employees in 2004.

The Senate president added that although $400 may be considered by some people as insufficient, he noted that the proposed increase would certainly narrow the difference between active and retired government employees.

He also underlined the difference between the two and said active employees always receive bigger paychecks than retired ones.

According to Fas Alzamora, the most a retired government employee can receive is 75% of the highest salary earned during three consecutive years, except for retired mayors, who receive 90% of their salary after eight years in office.

NPP Legislators Censor Trent Lott Remarks

December 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Several New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators on Monday filed two bills asking the U.S. Congress to censure Republican Sen. Trent Lott for his alleged huge record of discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Senators Kenneth McClintock and Lucy Arce and representatives Manuel Marrero, Albita Rivera and Melinda Romero filed two concurrent resolutions in the House and Senate, because of Trent Lott’s recent remarks at an event dedicated to fellow party member Strong Thurmond "colmaron la copa".

Lott said that if Thurmond had gained the U.S. presidency with a segregationist platform, the nation would not have all the problems it has now.

Statehood supporters said in a press release that Lott’s ideas are against basic American values and the ideals of the founders of our nation."

As an example of Lott’s alleged discrimination against ethnic minorities, McClintock said he halted the Young Bill approval in 1998.

"In 1998 Lott halted the approval of the Young bill, denying four million American citizens their right to self-determination," McClintock said.

Super Aqueduct Capacity To Be Increased

December 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — A high-ranking officer of Thames Water, the company managing the Super aqueduct indicated on Monday that the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) is proposing to increase the capacity of the aqueduct to 100 million gallons of water daily (mgd).

Jose Molina, regulations and permits manager of Thames Water which administers the Super aqueduct said before the Infrastructure, Senate Technological Development and Commerce Committee that the water distribution system was created with a 100 mgd, although at present it only generates 75 mgd.

Molina said that originally Prasa requested a system with the capacity to produce 100 mgd, but the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) and the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) only approved 75 million and ordered an environmental impact study of the extraction of water to be performed.

"We understand that the study was completed, and that the results were favorable, which is why Prasa is asking for the increase to 100 mg," he added.

The executive said the Super aqueduct has experienced a loss 5% of its capacity to distribute water.

The committee is investigating the situation of the aqueduct and sewers systems on the island, it was informed in a press release.

Lopez Sweeps Box Office With 'Manhattan'

December 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 REUTERS. All rights reserved.

"Maid in Manhattan" topped the box office with $19.0 million

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Millions of North American moviegoers spent the weekend ordering "Maid" service from Jennifer Lopez.

The ubiquitous pop icon scored the biggest opening of her career as her romantic comedy "Maid in Manhattan" [The $55 million Cinderella film, in which "J.Lo" plays a hotel domestic who falls for a politician (Ralph Fiennes)], opened at No. 1 with ticket sales of $19 million for the three days beginning December 13, according to studio estimates issued Sunday.

Will Smith And Martin Lawrence To Begin Filming 'Bad Boys II' Scenes In Puerto Rico

December 16, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Will Smith and Martin Lawrence will begin filming scenes for "Bad Boys II" in this U.S. Caribbean territory on Tuesday, news reports said.

The American actors arrived to Puerto Rico on Sunday and will travel to Orocovis in the central part of the island. The scenes will recreate a Havana slum in a section of Orocovis' public cemetery, El Nuevo Dia reported Monday.

The Columbia Pictures production is the sequel to the 1995 smash hit in which Lawrence and Smith costarred as detectives. This time around, the duo are on the trail of a drug-trafficking ring, hopping between Miami and Cuba.

The movie's release is scheduled for next summer.

Vizcarrondo Criticizes Federal Decision On Wal-Mart Case

December 15, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo questioned U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Jimenez's ruling in favor of a lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart officials against the Justice Department after the local courts decided to halt the acquisition of Amigo supermarkets.

Vizcarrondo accused the federal courts of creating an unnecessary clash of jurisdictions by intervening in the controversy which, in his opinion, is strictly a matter of local anti-monopolistic law.

According to the House speaker, the situation could have been avoided if the federal judge hadn't decided to prohibit the local Justice Department to continue legal actions against the mega chain store in local courts.

"This is creating anxiety in the Puerto Rican community which should be wondering who's in charge here," Vizcarrondo said.

On Monday, the court will resume a hearing at 9 a.m. when Wal-Mart attorneys will try to prove that Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez and the local agency violated their civil rights by imposing unconstitutional requirements to approve the Wal-Mart/Amigo transaction.

Vizcarrondo defended the Justice Department's jurisdiction in the case and added that the federal court's decision places Rodriguez in a difficult position, since she may be found in contempt of either courts if she doesn't act promptly in both jurisdictions.

He said Rodriguez has no choice but to appeal to a higher federal court to protect her duties so that she can comply with them both.

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