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Fortuño Determined To Strengthen English Skills… Pay To The Order Of Puerto Rico… U.S. Fish & Wild Life Service Sued Over 4 Seasons… Drug Bust Nabs 37… Bishop Consecrated… Citizen Security Comm. Created…Vieques, Culebra Plan 60% Done… PRImage Campaign Unveiled… Prasa, Facing EPA Sanctions, Accused Of Sample Tampering

Fortuño Set On Strengthening English And Reading Skills

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The need to improve English language skills in Puerto Rico’s public schools has prompted New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for resident commissioner Luis Fortuño to focus on obtaining federal funds if elected in November.

Fortuño said children are graduating without the tools to enter today’s competitive job market and said he would do his best to get Puerto Rico to benefit from federal programs that have been around for the past three years without a single dime being allocated this way.

"English is not a political issue. Ninety percent of job ads require fully bilingual candidates," Fortuño said.

He said he intends to obtain funds from President Bush’s Reading First and Early Reading First initiatives to this end.

According to the NPP candidate, 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are participants of this program. He said that for the past three years they have received more than $1.8 billion.

He also said he would try to obtain funds from the Striving Readers program to improve high school students’ reading skills. According to Fortuño, for fiscal year 2005 Bush has proposed a $100 million allocation for that program.

Fortuño also promised to seek federal funds to train professionals into becoming school teachers.

He said Title II Transition to Teaching program has almost $42 million for helping U.S. states and non-profit organizations hire professionals in other areas. For example, Fortuño said that through this program a certified public accountant could be trained into becoming a math teacher.

Fortuño added that the Troops to Teachers federal program enables the training of men and women who return from active duty in the military to become teachers. This program, he said, has almost $29 million available.

When Will Puerto Rico Pay Its Fair Share? New Book Shows Why Puerto Rico is Kept A Dependent Colony

May 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved. 

U.S. Newswire

WASHINGTON, May 13 /U.S. Newswire/ --In their cutting-edge new book Pay to the Order of Puerto Rico, (Allegiance Press), economist Arthur Laffer along with businessman and Puerto Rico resident Alexander Odishelidze reveal the onerous burden that Puerto Rico places on the United States.

According to Laffer and Odishelidze, American families pay $22 billion per year to maintain a dependent colony.

"Since the 1920's industries on the island, particularly U.S. pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed a targeted tax break that essentially relieved them of all U.S. corporate income tax on their earnings in Puerto Rico. This tax giveaway no longer accomplishes any meaningful purpose for the Puerto Rican economy. Instead, it benefits a wealthy and well-connected few. Moreover, it punishes the Puerto Rican people who suffer the fraud of dependency," said Odishelidze.

Today Puerto Rico is ranked 52nd in per capita income among U.S. states and territories.

"Puerto Rico has had less than full freedom within the American system for more than a century. Indeed in that the Congress of the United States has not once passed legislation that would permit Puerto Rico to stage a clear and consequential vote on acceptable options for a permanent status," write Odishelidze and Laffer.

Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. Fish & Wild Life Service

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

May 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Unsuccessful talks between U.S. Fish & Wild Life Service officials and environmental groups in Puerto Rico ended in the filing of a lawsuit on Thursday to repeal the biological opinion that favors the development of the Four Seasons’ San Miguel Resort on the northeastern ecological corridor of the island.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said the biological opinion was based on insufficient scientific data to effectively analyze the effect that the tourism project would have on the area, especially on endangered species such as sea turtles.

The organization officials said the buffer zones and the elimination of the idea to fill a river mouth as well as the inclusion of efforts to protect sea turtle’s nesting areas would not eradicate the threat of serious environmental impact.

"Building a resort on this unspoiled beach would be like razing Old San Juan to build a giant strip mall," said Fernando Alboronoz, regional organizer for the NWF. "It would be destroying one of Puerto Rico’s great treasures."

According to Randy Sergeant, Wildlife Conservation Council for NWF, sea turtles are extremely sensitive to human disturbance. She said the resort would expose the nesting areas to thousands of people as well as domestic animals whose activities could hinder those of endangered species.

Ricardo de Soto, local representative for Water keepers’ Alliance, said the potential damage entails much more than the extinction of sea turtles. He said the 3,200-acre coastal fringe is one of Puerto Rico’s last remaining ecologically significant unprotected areas. It is home to more than 40 endangered, threatened, and endemic species. It also contains coastal wetlands, mangroves, and a bioluminescent lagoon.

According to the NWF, the resort would cover more than four of the seven miles of beach. It would draw approximately 5,000 people to the isolated region. It would include 250 hotel rooms, 174 condo-hotel and timeshare units, 1,025 single and multi-family units, a 27-hole golf course, a golfing club, a tennis center, and a water sports center.

Drug Bust In San German Leaves 37 Arrested

May 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN GERMAN (AP) – 37 people, including five minors, were arrested early Thursday during a raid at two public housing projects in San German.

Fugitive Jorge Cordero Mercado, who escaped from prison in 2001, was among those detained, police said.

Col. Jose R. Dennis said the raids took place at Rossy and Recreo public housing projects.

"We are pleased with the results of the raid," said Mayaguez police area commander.

According to Carbo drug dealings in the southwest part of the island were dealt from San German.

Six marijuana plants and 25 bags of extasis were seized during the raid.

Mayaguez district judges Carmen T. Lugo and Emilio Mulero, set a global bail at $860,000 for the 32 adults arrested.

The five minors were sent to that minors court.

Puerto Rican Bishop Consecrated

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Worshippers at a North Staffordshire church saw the consecration of a Bishop at the weekend.

Father Jose Antonio Santiago, of Puerto Rico, was consecrated as bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande - which covers Northern Mexico and El Paso - at the Holy Catholic Church Western Rite Cathedral of Our Lady Of Grace in Newport Lane, Middleport. He was accompanied by 12 members of his congregation and during their stay in Stoke-on-Trent visited the Lord Mayor's Parlour.

The Western Rite Catholic Church is similar to the Eastern Orthodox Church and has thousands of worshippers around the world. It split from the Anglican Church in 1983. The English diocese has its origin in Stoke-on-Trent, and membership in England consists of former Anglican clergy and laity, determined to reconnect with their roots in the undivided Catholic Church.

Committee Created For Citizen Security Concerns

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Governor Sila M. Calderon signed on Tuesday an executive order creating the Committee for Cohabitation and Citizen Security Concerns, a permanent authority that will offer public policy alternatives against violence.

Gov. Calderon said that the creation of the committee compiles to recommendations made by One and All Against Violence for the creation of a trans-partisan entity that will treat violence as a matter of public health, offering fresh ideas for its eradication.

"The Executive Order recommends that private citizens and civil society with knowledge and experience in the matter take an active role in fighting violence, by participating in community discussions," stated the Governor’s Office in a press release.

The new Committee will be headed by psychologist Salvador Santiago, an will count with Demographer Judith Rodriguez and pediatrician Brenda Mirabal.

The Committee will also consist of professor Julio Muriente, penal law professor Dora Nevares, and United for Life president Nestor Muñiz.

One of the Committees seat is yet to be filled, and will be announced shortly.

The committee received a budget of $120,000 for expenses incurred until June 30th 2004. After which legislature initiatives and Dept. of Health will be responsible for its budgeting needs.

Vieques And Culebra Development Plan 60% Completed

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – 60% of the master plan for the development of Vieques and Culebra has been completed, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra said Wednesday.

Segarra and Vieques and Culebra mayors, Damaso Serrano and Ivan Romero, said residents from both municipalities have had participation the creation of the plan, which will allegedly be implemented regardless of who becomes the elected in the general elections of November.

"This plan has ten objectives, six of which have been completed. We are at 60% completion," said Segarra accompanied by community leaders and Estudios Tecnicos, the company responsible for formulating the plan.

Segarra hopes that the plan is completed by June and be approved by August.

He added that public hearings on the second phase of the plan will be held between May 18 and May 20th. After that the land-zoning phase of the process is schedule to begin.

"Zoning will be key in ensuring that land is not misused as zoning will assign all land specific purposes," said Jose Rivera Santana of Estudios Tecnicos Co.

He added that the plan focuses on promoting eco-tourism, natural resource, and cultural tourism.

When asked about manufacturing, Rivera Santana said that all development in manufacturing must be resource efficient, particularly of water and electricity, and must conform to geographical limitations.

In light of the demand by Vieques residents that the island’s cattle and farming industries are revived, he said that both would be redeveloped using hydroponics, which allow for plants to be cultivated without ever touching the ground.

Rivera Santana refrained from naming industries in particular that would be developed, citing the plan just lays out the guidelines for development and it is up to industries to decide whether they want to join Vieques and Culebra in their sustained development.

Segarra reiterated that priority has been given to strategies that increase community participation in economic growth; to promote the lowering of the cost of living while raising income, increasing overall quality of life and giving island residents equal rights to the rest of Puerto Rico.

The Master Plan progress report, as it has been dubbed, is available on the internet.

New Island Promotional Campaign Unveiled

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra announced on Wednesday that his agency would be launching this summer the PRImage (Puerto Rico Image) project to establish a positive image of the island’s government agencies abroad.

Segarra stated that the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. and the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. will invest a lot of money to promote the island’s image, but they do so departing from different ideological goals.

"We need to solidify the message we are sending out regarding Puerto Rico so that every time someone hears of Puerto Rico they are receiving a consistent message or sentiment…We are trying to align all promotional campaigns," stated Segarra in published reports.

Segarra hopes that PRImage will give agencies in the development field the same guidelines to project an uniform image of the island for investors.

Prasa Accused Of Sample Tampering In Treatment Plant

May 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – An employee of the Regional Sewer Water Treatment Plant in Carolina accused Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa) officials of tampering with water samples to avoid sanctions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Day-time plant operator Carlos Hernandez stated that do to the high levels of pollutants derived from human waste, a valve was installed to recycle sewage water and later release it into the sea on days that samples are not being collected for the EPA.

"They open the valve on days samples are not being taken so that on sampling days there are fewer pollutants. Samples have also been switched," stated Hernandez in an interview.

He added that the EPA testing is conducted in 24-hour cycles from Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Friday.

Hernandez, also a delegate of the Independent Employee Union, said that due to the poor state of equipment, plan instruments are unable to remove fecal matter, which overflows into the very hallways used by employees.

EPA Director for Puerto Rico Carl Axel Soderberg said he could not confirm whether there is an criminal investigation into sample tampering.

There was no immediate reaction to charges by the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

The operator made a lengthy declaration of the many problems of the Carolina Plant, which handles 23 million gallons of sewage water per day.

Hernandez said he believes conditions deteriorated when Prasa management was transferred to a private company, which failed to conduct regular maintenance.

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