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Gov. Won’t Replace Hernandez Mayoral, PDP Hasn’t Considered Another Candidate… John, Paul, George, Ringo & Bernie?… Gov’t To Aid Bristol Myers’ Laid-Off Workers…NAMI: Mental Health Reform Inadequate…2,500 Arrested In Drug Raids… Calderon In D.C. For Economic Talks, Philadelphia For Voter Drive

Calderon Not Willing To Replace Hernandez Mayoral

June 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Gov. Sila Calderon said Tuesday that she won’t be available to replace gubernatorial hopeful Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral in the event that he declines to run.

"My decision is firm and final," Calderon said in a telephone interview from Washington, where she was contacted for her reaction to Hernandez Mayoral’s statements, which did not rule out the possibility of withdrawing his candidacy if the health of his 12-year-old son does not improve.

Although the governor asked that Hernandez Mayoral be given time to reach his decision, she said she believed such a thing would not occur.

"What I believe is that Jose Alfredo has said he is the gubernatorial candidate for Puerto Rico. He has a personal situation, and I believe that situation has to be respected, and he should be given the necessary time to deal with it," Calderon said.

PDP Has Yet To Consider Another Gubernatorial Candidate

June 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Board of Directors of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) is not looking for a replacement for pre-gubernatorial candidate Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral at this time.

Hernandez Mayoral has yet to decide if he will run for governor and has conditioned his decision on the recovery of his 12-year-old son Pablo.

PDP Carolina Mayor Jose Aponte, who also chairs the Mayors Association, said that for the moment, there is no need to come up with an option.

"Action should be taken when it needs to be taken. At the moment, there is no need to make decisions or look for an alternate plan," Aponte said during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in San Juan on Tuesday.

Aponte said the PDP won’t look for another candidate as long as Hernandez Mayoral stays. At the same time, he rejected the possibility that the uncertainty surrounding Hernandez Mayoral’s candidacy may create instability within the PDP.

John, Paul, George, Ringo & Bernie?

From Staff and Wire Reports

June 17, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 


New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams has a new contract -- as a composer and guitarist.

MPL Communications, a music company owned by former Beatle Paul McCartney, signed Williams last week.

Williams' first CD, "The Journey Within," will be released in July.

"It's a home run," McCartney said.

Williams gets a kick out of those who think he's merely a baseball player dabbling in music.

"I'd say it's the other way around," Williams recently told the Bergen (N.J.) Record. "Baseball is a good escape from music. I know that sounds weird."

Williams was trained to play classical guitar as a youngster and has devoted more of his time to music as he has gotten older.

As a teenager, Williams, a native of Puerto Rico, enrolled in the Escuela Libre de Musica (Free School of Music), a high school for budding musicians in San Juan. The curriculum included traditional subjects such as math, science and English, but the primary focus was music.

The second half of each school day was devoted solely to music, and students were prodded to concentrate on one instrument.

Williams considered taking piano lessons but followed the advice of his tutors and stayed with the guitar.

The music, however, wasn't his only talent. Williams became a track star, setting Puerto Rican records at 400 meters and winning four gold medals at age 15 at an international meet. He equally was gifted on the baseball diamond, and major-league scouts soon took notice.

His career would take a turn for New York and the Yankees, but he never put down that guitar, and it finally has culminated in his own CD. He recorded the 11-cut disc in January at New York's prestigious Globe Studios, where the likes of Sheryl Crow have produced hit tunes.

The CD's release will coincide with the all-star game July 15 in Chicago.

Williams, 34, wrote seven of the cuts on the mostly instrumental CD, which is jazz-oriented.

"It's an extremely good gig, playing center field for the New York Yankees, having a wonderful family, enjoying my music," Williams told the Record.

"You can't really ask for anything more."

Government To Aid Bristol Myers’ Laid-Off Employees

June 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Officials of the local Department of Labor & Human Resources announced on Monday the activation of a fast-response unit to provide emergency services to nearly 300 employees who will be laid off during the shutdown of the Bristol Myers Squibb pharmaceutical company in Humacao.

Occupational Development & Human Resources Council Director Xavier Gonzalez Calderon said the company’s management has announced that the layoffs will be implemented gradually starting September and continuing until 2007.

Gonzalez said agency staff will visit the company’s facilities on Friday to provide their services to the employees.

"We want them to start having access to other options of labor development through training and employment services provided by the Workforce Investment Act," Gonzalez said in a prepared statement.

Since June 2002, the agency has been providing support to Bristol Myers’s employees of Barceloneta after the company announced that it would lay off 60 employees between June 2002 and December 2003.

NAMI: Government’s Efforts For Mental Health Reform Not Enough

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Two weeks away from the renewal process of the health reform contracts, the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym) became a target for criticism again when Sylvia Arias, president of the Puerto Rico Chapter of the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) on Monday said the government needs to do more in order to protect the rights of mental health patients under the health reform.

Arias said the budget for prescription drugs for mental health patients increased by 57% from July 2002 to April 2003 and that from October 2001 to March 2002, the budget for prescription drugs also increased by 39%.

However, Arias said the latest increase covered only 30,400 people or 19% of the 160,000 mental health patients under the health reform, which means that 81% of diagnosed mental health patients under the government’s healthcare system are being deprived of medication.

NAMI president said many of these patients are tricked into believing that they don’t need medication in order to save money. She also said many healthcare practitioners and patients don’t dare complain because they fear government retaliation, even being kicked out of the reform.

"Many mental health patients have difficulty expressing themselves and don’t have the capacity to denounce what’s going on. That’s why we are here," Arias said.

On top of this, Arias said that while more than 77% of the drugs prescribed under the health reform are generic, 72% of the $32.1 million budget to purchase prescription drugs goes to pay for brand names.

"This means that the so-called increase that the government has been boasting about is not really an increase, and when you have only 19% of mental health patients receiving medication, something has to be wrong," Arias said.

Arias urged ASES Executive Director Orlando Gonzalez to start fining insurance companies and healthcare providers to dissuade them from violating mental health patients’ rights to appropriate treatment that includes the right kind of medication, psychotherapy, and support group participation.

"Medication alone doesn’t work. Psychotherapy alone doesn’t work," Arias said.

The NAMI president acknowledged that starting July 1, 2003, prescription drug refills for mental health patients will be issued twice a year instead of every month, thus eliminating some of the bureaucracy that so often had patients going for months without their daily medication.

However, she said bedside manners toward reform patients leave much to be desired. Some patients have been told by staff members to dress appropriately for their doctor’s appointments. She said they have also been scolded for arriving late and made them travel long distances in order to receive a particular treatment.

"They are made to feel as if the staff is doing them a favor," Arias denounced.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Sila Calderon met with mental health organizations to discuss what she admitted to be a deficiency in mental health services on the island. However, Arias said the government moves too slowly in solving the problems and urged the ASES chief to stop being lenient with health reform providers.

Arias said she is contemplating the possibility of taking legal action if the government doesn’t come up with a more efficient plan to protect the rights of mental health patients.

ASES chief Orlando Gonzalez could not be reached for comment.

2,500 Arrested In Drug Raids

From The Miami Herald Wire Services

June 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003
MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- Police arrested more than 2,500 people throughout Puerto Rico in an anti-drug operation that lasted six days and ended Sunday, Police Superintendent Víctor Rivera González said.

The raids, which started Tuesday, netted nearly $290,000 cash, 138 vehicles and 157 weapons, Rivera said.

Police also confiscated large amounts of heroin, cocaine, crack and marijuana from 154 drug-selling points in the U.S. Caribbean territory, authorities said.

A man on Puerto Rico's 10 most-wanted list for escaping from prison committed suicide during raids Thursday, authorities said.

Calderon Heads To Washington For Economic Talks, To Philadelphia For Voter Drive

June 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico's governor will discuss the island's economic development program with officials in Washington this week and hold a voter registration drive in Philadelphia, officials said Sunday.

Gov. Sila Calderon is scheduled to meet with officials from U.S. President George W. Bush's administration on Monday and Tuesday, said Luis Torres Negron, a Calderon spokesman.

On Wednesday, Calderon will accompany Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell on a campaign to register Puerto Rican voters in Philadelphia, Torres said.

U.S. census figures show there are more than 90,000 Puerto Ricans living in Philadelphia County, where there are more than 1.5 million residents.

In July 2002, Calderon began the three-year, $6 million "Let Nothing Stop Us" campaign to encourage the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland to vote in elections wherever they live.

The registration drive, coordinated with the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, specifically aims to get Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland to vote in the 2004 elections.

So far, the drive has netted more than 70,000 new voters in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, among other places, officials said.

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