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NY Pols Say Vieques Cleanup Vital…Space Rock Revealed…P.R., U.S., In Olympic Hoops Group…Ex D.R. Leader: Puerto Rico Should Rethink Economy…Rossello Closes Campaign With Statehood Promise…Number Of P.R. Soldiers In Iraq, Kuwait Low…Coliseum Promised By Spring 2004…Bill On RR Closing Unaltered…Factory Closing Will Leave 200 Jobless

New York Politicians Visit Vieques, Say Cleanup Vital

By Michael Levitin of Associated Press

November 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

A delegation of New York politicians visited the island of Vieques on Saturday and said they want to help make sure the U.S. government does an adequate cleanup following this year's halt to Navy bombing exercises on the island.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley and State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, both Democrats, toured the island in a group of New York officials and were briefed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has managed some 15,000 acres since the Navy's withdrawal April 30.

"I think there's a moral responsibility on behalf of the Navy to clean this up," Crowley said in a telephone interview.

The Navy has pledged a cleanup, and Fish and Wildlife officials have said they are preparing a plan for the effort.

Crowley, who visiting some of beaches that were previously off-limits, said cleanup efforts need to be coordinated better.

Gov. Sila Calderon has already asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list the island of 9,100 people as a Superfund site to make it a priority.

Space Rock Revealed

From wire reports

November 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003
. All rights reserved. 

Astronomers have rediscovered an asteroid that's been missing for 66 years and found it's been hiding a surprise all this time. New radar observations, taken at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, reveal that the asteroid Hermes isn't a single lump of rock half a mile across, but rather two chunks orbiting each other. It is the first "binary" near-Earth asteroid found where the two pieces are roughly equal in size, rather than consisting of one main asteroid orbited by a moonlike smaller one. Discovered in 1937, Hermes moved out of sight that year and wasn't seen again until Oct. 15, by an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. It became visible now because it's moving closer to Earth and getting brighter.

P.R., U.S., In Olympic Hoops Group

November 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- The defending champion United States was grouped Saturday with Puerto Rico for next year's men's basketball tournament at the Athens Olympics.

They are joined in Group B with Angola, Australia, Greece and Lithuania. Serbia-Montenegro, the 2002 world champion, and Argentina are in Group A with New Zealand, Italy, Spain and China.

The draw for the 12-nation field was designed so neither group would have three teams from one continent.

Besides host Greece, the teams qualified from continental championships. After playing each other in the group, the top four teams from each advance to the quarterfinals.

Each group winner faces the fourth-place team from the other group in the quarterfinals while the second-place team meets the No. 3 finisher from the other group. The tournament begins Aug. 15.

Ex Dominican Leader: Puerto Rico Should Rethink Economy

November 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - A former president of the Dominican Republic said Puerto Rico should reposition its economy with the approach of the planned Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Leonel Fernandez, who served as president from 1996 to 2000, warned on Friday that the FTAA - which is planned to take effect in 2005 - could hurt Puerto Rico's economy, which has traditionally enjoyed advantages as a U.S. territory.

"That advantage is going to erode with the free market because all of Latin America's nations will have (opportunities) which up until now have exclusively belonged to Puerto Rico," Fernandez said in a speech at the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce.

He said Puerto Rico should "rethink" its economy and proposed strengthening commercial ties between the Caribbean neighbors.

Fernandez, who plans to run again for the Dominican presidency next year, also met with Gov. Sila Calderon during his visit Friday.

Dominicans make up the largest immigrant group in Puerto Rico. Experts have estimated their number at about 100,000, though the exact figure isn't available because many are illegal immigrants.

Some Dominicans who live in Puerto Rico will be eligible to vote in Dominican presidential elections scheduled for May, said Eladio Espinal of the Dominican Liberation Party.

Rossello Closes Campaign With Promise For Statehood

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

With less than 36 hours to Sunday's primary, thousands of New Progressive Party (NPP) sympathizers packed the premises of the Pedrin Zorrilla Coliseum to cheer gubernatorial pre-candidate Pedro Rossello in his closing rally Friday.

.At around 9:15 p.m., the former governor, who has been called the messiah, took the podium wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt. As soon as he reached the podium, he rolled up his sleeves and raised his arms in triumph as the theme of the movie Rocky played on loudspeakers, while the crowd went crazy, weathering heavy rain, while waving U.S. flags and banners with Rossello's name on them.

In his speech, the pre-gubernatorial candidate promised to hold a referendum in 2005 to urge U.S. Congress to present non-territorial options to solve the status of Puerto Rico should he become governor once more in 2004.

Rossello emphasized his commitment to obtain statehood for the island in 2008 during his speech, in which he kept repeating his well-known slogan: "We can do it."

"It's time to stop fights among brothers and to concentrate on achieving the progress we deserve," the former governor said.

Accompanied by the four pre-candidates for resident commissioner, Rossello thanked each of them for their support. Although he maintained his stance not to favor any one in particular, banners of Republican Party National Committeeman in Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño with both their names could be seen throughout the premises.

This detail coupled with the wild cheers of the crowd raising and waving flags of Fortuño and Rossello gave a feeling of the public's preference for the committeeman instead of for NPP Sen. Miriam Ramirez de Ferrer, former Senate President Charlie Rodriguez, and former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo.

During his speech, Rossello also reiterated his promise to increase salaries and improve work conditions for the police in his fight against crime, establish a universal healthcare coverage for all Puerto Rico citizens, and build mega projects such as an islandwide train and a world class transshipment port.

"With this new big project, we will prove again that we can do it," Rossello said to an enthusiastic crowd.

Rossello's speech followed a recording of the recently deceased former Gov. Luis A. Ferre, founder of the NPP, in which he urged party members to set aside their differences and to not waste time in petty disputes.

Although his contender, NPP President Carlos Pesquera, was never referred to directly, the use of such recording comes in times when both candidates have lashed out at each other during their campaign.

Ferre's voice recording was followed by a song interpreted by renowned Puerto Rican musician Rafi Escudero, in honor of the late party founder who passed away last month.

Number Of Puerto Rican Soldiers In Iraq, Kuwait Low

November 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Less than 1% percent, or some 825 of the 18,000 soldiers of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve posted in Iraq and Kuwait are Puerto Rican, the U.S. Army announced Friday.

According to a press release from Jose Pagan, Army spokesman in Puerto Rico, units 755, 770, and 292 of the Puerto Rico National Guard and units 456, 432, 346, 394, 430, and 338 of the Reserve are in the region.

"The units are all for combat support and not for direct combat. With the exception of some companies of the military police, they generally are far from the zones of greater danger," he said.

The number provided by Pagan does not include Puerto Ricans who serve in the active Army or those with Puerto Rican heritage who reside or enlisted in the United States.

The information was offered a day after a coalition of organizations urged Gov. Sila Calderon to officially ask President George W. Bush to order the immediate return of the Puerto Rican soldiers deployed in Iraq.

Puerto Rican Alliance for Peace spokeswoman Rev. Eunice Santana said Thursday that Puerto Rico "has already paid too high a price in blood" in the war against terrorism.

The demand of the non-governmental organizations follows the news that four Puerto Rican soldiers have died this week in Iraq.

Coliseum Promised By Spring 2004

November 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The inauguration of the Puerto Rico Coliseum could take place between April and June of next year, said the executive director of the Infrastructure Financing Authority, Roxanna Santaella.

However, she said the coliseum should be completed and handed over to the government on or before March 31.

For the first inaugural function, Spectator Management Group (SMG) will contract a well-known Puerto Rican artist, the firm’s marketing manager, Priscila Velez, said in published reports.

There are still some 1,000 adjustments and details that have not been completed, including the concessions area, the kitchens, the elevators, the roof, and the railings for the stairs.

Government Development Bank President Hector Mendez said that due to the cancellation of the contract with Mexican company ICA, which did not finish the work according to its agreement, the bank is in the final process of negotiation with Federal Insurance, which will provide compensation to the government.

Bill On Roosevelt Roads Closing Unaltered

November 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — A legislative proposal to change the language of the bill President Bush already signed authorizing the closure of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Ceiba was defeated in Congress, Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila said.

The bill, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), was an effort to postpone the transition process already agreed upon by the military and the Puerto Rico government, according to published reports.

"We have won another battle in the fight for the closing of the Roosevelt Roads base to be a closing that will allow the base to become an economic development center. I emphasize that we have won another battle because I expect Inhofe and other allies of the Republicans and statehooders here in Puerto Rico will try to continue to obstruct what we have already achieved," Acevedo Vila said as he arrived on the island from Washington.

Factory Closing Will Leave 200 Without Jobs

November 7, 2003
Copyright © 2003
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Some 200 employees will be left without jobs starting in January when electronics manufacturer Molex in the industrial sector El Tuque in Ponce begins a shutdown of operations after 19 years of operation on the island.

Molex Public Relations Director Margaret Batkiewicz said upper management personnel will travel Monday from the United States to explain the decision to the employees.

"Closing a plant is always a very difficult business decision. This one was especially difficult because we have been in Puerto Rico for a long time and because of the quality of our employees," Batkiewicz said in published reports.

The dismissals will begin in January, and the plant’s closure should be completed in June. According to the company, to remain competitive in the global economy, it needs to consolidate and simplify operations.

"All of our employees will receive a severance package, in addition to their final pay, which will include job counseling," the spokeswoman said.

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