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Vieques Cancer Rate Continues To Be High…Art From Puerto Rico… Prats Changes Tone On Pork Barrel Fund Elimination…Calderon Sure Voters Back Acevedo Vila…U.S. Supreme Court Hears Padilla Case…Prescription Drug Subsidy OK’d…Vieques Another Isla Verde?, Residents To Get Land Titles, Navy’s Exit Anniversary To Be Celebrated

Cancer Rate Continues To Be High In Vieques

By Laura Rivera Melendez of the Associated Press

April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN - The Vieques cancer index registry, with statistics updated until the year 2000, revealed that newly reported cases in the island municipality are 25% more likely to occur than in the Puerto Rican mainland, announced on Thursday Health Secretary, Johnny Rullan.

Rullan, who is an epidemiologist, stated that in Vieques there are 40 new cases of cancer reported per year, one for every 250 residents.

"To this day, the levels of cancer in Vieques are 25% higher than that of Puerto Rico," said Rullan after a meeting with Vieques civic leaders.

He noted that the comparative study between Vieques and the rest of Puerto Rico has not been completed, and added that breast and prostate cancer are the most common forms of the diseases identified.

Rullan said that 2000 statistics show that other types of cancer have not seen an increase on the island municipality.

Rullan also announced that test performed by environmentalist Arturo Massol to detect the presence of heavy metals in fruit trees on the island of Vieques have resulted negative one year after the US Navy left the island.

The Dept. of Health also assured island residents that they will be tested for the presence of heavy metals in May, civic leaders warned that they will not put up with further delays on testing.

Rullan said that the test, originally geared towards testing children, will include adults.

The final report would be released in August, Rullan said.

Art From Puerto Rico

April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Hartford Courant. All rights reserved. 

Real Art Ways' first traveling exhibition opens Saturday, May 1, a showcase of recent work by 16 Puerto Rican artists called "None of the Above."

Paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs and installations are among the artworks selected by exhibit co-curators Deborah Cullen, Silvia Karman-Cubiñá and Steven Holmes. More than an exploration of Puerto Rican identity, the exhibit surveys the variety of art being made on and off the island.

Saturday's opening takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Real Art Ways' Main Gallery. The exhibition runs through Sept. 19 before traveling to San Juan later in the year. Information: 860-232-1006.

Prats Changes Tone After Criticism Of Barrel Fund Elimination

April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP)– The strong criticism that Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Roberto Prats’s proposal to eliminate pork barrel funds received from colleagues prompted the PDP senator to change his position on Thursday, by saying that he only wants to revise it.

"I am not proposing it’s elimination, but rather a change in the way the funds are handled," said Prats in a press conference.

Even after Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora said the possibilities for ratifying the bill were slim, Prats insisted that they still have time to review it before the conclusion of the Senate session in July.

The bill has met opposition of all parties which have argued that too many people benefit from the funds.

Those who favor the elimination of the funds have claimed that such funds may be easily utilized in corruption schemes as well as to buy votes.

Governor Sure That Voters Support Acevedo Vila

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

JAYUYA (AP)- Gov. Sila Calderon stated on Thursday that a large majority of Island residents support Anibal Acevedo Vila’s gubernatorial candidacy.

The statement came after Calderon was asked whether the party’s legislative leadership had left Acevedo Vila to fend for himself in his campaign to become Puerto Rico’s next governor.

"A large majority of Puerto Ricans support Anibal Acevedo Vila, all of us that want honest government are behind Anibal Acevedo Vila," said Calderon.

According to the Governor, "those who stand alone are those who again wish to steal from Puerto Rico. They are alone and they shall remain so."

She added that Acevedo has been upfront about the $20,000 campaign donation that he received from Dr. Richard Machado.

"I have no doubt that he (Acevedo Vila) will attend the matter of the donation, as he has done so far," said the governor adding she believes in Acevedo Vila honesty and integrity.

In other matters, Calderon seemed to openly endorse the investigation by the Treasury Department to New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello.

"The Secretary of the Treasury, not I, is conducting an evaluation of legitimate concerns regarding Pedro Rossello’s tax forms. The issue must be addressed, the people deserve an explanation," added Governor Calderon.

Court Hears Case on U.S. Detainees


April 29, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

PHOTO: Associated Press

Prof. Jennifer Martinez after arguing on behalf of Jose Padilla, a Chicagoan the government calls an enemy combatant.

WASHINGTON, April 28 — The Bush administration yielded no ground before the Supreme Court on Wednesday in arguing that the open-ended military detention of United States citizens as enemy combatants, without criminal charges or access to lawyers, was justified both in law and as policy..

A majority of the justices expressed some degree of concern over the breadth of the administration's position.

[I]t was far from clear…the court would tell the administration that it had gone too far, either in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American-born Saudi who was seized in Afghanistan [Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, No. 03-6696], or Jose Padilla, a Chicagoan taken into custody at O'Hare Airport [Rumsfeld v. Padilla, No. 03-1027].

Mr. Hamdi and Mr. Padilla, now in a brig in Charleston, S.C., have spent two years in military custody. Several justices questioned the open-ended nature of the detention.

The outcome in both cases may well turn on how the court interprets the resolution Congress passed a week after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against organizations or "persons" involved in planning the attacks or aiding the terrorists. If the detention of citizens requires Congressional authorization, said Paul D. Clement, principal deputy solicitor general, that resolution provided it.

"To read it to deny the government the authority to detain a latter-day citizen version of Mohammed Atta is to simply ignore the will of Congress," he said, comparing Mr. Padilla to a chief Sept. 11 hijacker.

Governor Announces Subsidy For Prescription Drugs

April 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said Wednesday that starting on July, over 50,000 Medicare recipients may benefit from a $600 a year subsidy to help the with cost of medications.

The subsidy comes from a transition fund, while the reform to Medicare Law is implemented.

The subsidy program, named Medimed, will benefit people who are over 65 years old, don’t have private insurance, are not participants of the government insurance plan, and whose monthly income does not exceed 931 dollars.

Over 500 drugstores will accept the card, said Calderon.

"To receive the Medimed card the recipients must visit the offices of the Program for Medical Assistance where they will be indicated what are the documents they must file, and they must show evidence of income. The people who wish to receive the subsidy may apply for the card as soon as May" said the Governor on a press conference after inspecting several remodeling works at some public hospitals.

Calderon visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Pediatric University Hospital Dr. Antonio Ortiz, where 4 million dollars have been invested in renovation.

"With the remodeling of this unit we’ll be benefiting about a third of the babies that weight less that three pound and four ounces, providing an adequate and safe environment that allows the families to participate in the baby’s care", said Calderon.

The Unit, which will have two new isolation rooms to control some infections, will be finished by November.

The Governor also inspected the remodeling of the State Insurance Fund Corporation Industrial Hospital, which costs over $25 million.

Renovations include the physical plant, the restoration of green areas and the acquisition of technological equipment, the remodeling of the Unit of Immediate Care, and the operating room, a room for biomedical waste and the installation of a system to call for nurses.

Repairs will be finished by June 2008, said Calderon.

Vieques In Danger Of Becoming Another Isla Verde

April 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Warning that Vieques should not be allowed to become another Condado or Isla Verde, Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) gubernatorial candidate, Ruben Berrios, urged Puerto Ricans and members of government to take action against "land surveyors."

A year after the United States Navy withdrew from the island, Ruben Berrios stated that the Puerto Rican Independence Party has elaborated a development plan that takes into consideration the needs of Vieques residents.

"We require firm and decisive action on the part of all citizens and a solid commitment from government to avoid a tragedy. We must not allow Vieques to become another Condado or Isla Verde," said Berrios in a press conference.

Acknowledging that plans for low environmental impact housing and eco tourism have been suggested, Berrios said that the more sound suggestion the better it will be when it is time to implement development.

Vieques Residents To Be Granted Land Titles In August

April 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Vieques Mayor, Damaso Serrano, announced on Wednesday that starting in August he will give those Vieques residents who do not have proper documentation for their land the proper title deeds to the properties, as well as for those who had their lands expropriated by the United States Navy 68 years ago.

Serrano indicated that the deed presentations will begin with 860 plots in the island’s two oldest neighborhoods, Bravos de Boston and Santa Maria, whose residents will receive the deeds at minimal cost, ranging from $1 to payments established based on annual income.

"We hope to begin the process sometime in August or September," said Serrano in a press conference held at the Photo Journalism Workshop to announced the commemoration of the one year anniversary of the Navy’s withdrawal from lands it occupied for more than six decades.

Serrano’s announcement comes in the wake of demands by local leaders and independence activist for more government action in preventing land developers from seizing the newly returned lands.

Mayor Announces Navy Withdrawal Anniversary Activities

By Laura Rivera Melendez of Associated Press

April 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the United States Navy’s withdrawal from its bombing range on the Island of Vieques, Mayor Damaso Serrano announced a string of religious, artistic, and athletic events to mark the anniversary.

Serrano said the activities will begin 12:01 midnight on Saturday with a fireworks display.

"The victory achieved by the Puerto Rican people and those human beings that seek peace in the world was reached when we decided to stop naval activities in Vieques, it is a date that must be remembered and celebrated in a non-partisan inclusive manner for many years to come," said Serrano in a press conference.

At 5:00 in the morning on Saturday there will be a morning rally in which Vieques municipal band will perform.

Celebrations will continue with a volleyball game at 12:30 in the afternoon, a one-mile children’s marathon at 4:00 in the afternoon, and a five-kilometer run for teens at 5:00 in the evening.

At around 6:00 in the afternoon, father Nelson Lopez will hold mass in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in memory of those killed during the six decades that the Navy held practices on the island.

Official protocols will begin at 7:30 at night followed at 8:30 by musical performances by Andres Jimenez, Haciendo Punto en otro Son, Mapeye, Danny Rivera, Fiel a la Vega and Millo Torres & el Tercer Planeta, among others, stated Serrano.

The ceremony will be close at 4:00 in morning on Sunday with a fireworks display.

The mayor stated that the Port Authority has established special ferry schedules to meet the demand increase traffic. With boats leaving Fajardo to Vieques at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 6:00PM on Saturday.

Boats will also be departing Vieques en route to Fajardo at 6:30 AM, 1:00 PM, and 6:30 PM.

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