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Rullan Backtracks From Remarks That No Navy-Vieques Cancer Tie Exists… Pirates' Pride…Dominicans' Boat Capsizes, Killing 3…NPP Denies Anti-Press Agenda…Gov’t To Help Laid Off Sara Lee Workers…Comptroller: Prepa Should Repay $50m…Bad Economic Conditions For Gas Retailers…CUD: Police Criminalize Small Businesses…11k Graduate From UPR…NJ's 1st Hispanic Justice Okd

Rullan Clarifies His Declaration Of Vieques’ Cancer Rate

June 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Health Secretary Johnny Rullan alleged that his comments about Vieques’ cancer rate were "misinterpreted" and said that they were intended to dramatize the importance of scientific data, like the newly established Cancer Registry.

Rullan referred to comments he made that there was no statistic evidence to substantiate the relation between the island’s cancer rate and Naval ballistic exercises in the municipality.

"Under no circumstance should our comments be interpreted as a belittling the struggle undertaken by Vieques residents or the decisions they have taken. We understand and recognize the efforts exercise to remove the U.S. Navy and the concerns residents still have to deal with," said Rullan in a prepared statement.

"We want to dramatize the necessity of obtaining and maintaining current data that represents the conditions facing Puerto Rico. Had the Cancer Registry been updated by the time of the withdrawal we would’ve had a stronger case to prove the culpability for the condition," he added.

Rullan also confirmed that the cancer rate for the municipality is much higher than on the big island and estimated that some 40 Vieques residents are diagnosed with cancer each year.

"One out of every 250 residents has cancer and we continue to investigate why the incidence is higher in Vieques than any other municipality. We are conducting a study into heavy metals that should be ready by August as well as a comparative cancer study," said Rullan who did not give further details.

Rullan Sees No Real Navy-Vieques Cancer Tie

June 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--No evidence exists that a slightly higher cancer rate in Vieques was caused by the former U.S. Navy bombing range, Puerto Rico's top health official said in comments published Sunday.

Activists have long said that the bombing exercises damaged the health of Vieques' 9,100 islanders, including a high rate of cancer compared to the rest of Puerto Rico.

"The (cancer) incidence is a little bit higher, but not very much higher," Health Secretary Johnny Rullan told El Nuevo Dia newspaper. Rullan was basing his comments on a recent study by the U.S. Caribbean territory's Health Department.

One in every 250 Vieques residents has cancer, not one in four as activists have claimed, Rullan said. Cancer figures for the rest of Puerto Rico weren't immediately available.

The Health Department estimated that on average there are 40 new cancer cases in Vieques each year, but most are breast and prostate cases - the most common type in Puerto Rico, he said.

"There is not an excess of leukemia, lymphoma or cancer of the kidneys," Rullan said.

Officials said they will continue to examine whether Vieques residents have higher levels of heavy metals in their systems compared to the rest of Puerto Rico.

The Navy closed the Vieques training range in May 2003.

Pirates' Pride Of Puerto Rico


June 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Bradenton Herald. All rights reserved. 

Even though it's been 25 years since his death, he still has a magical name."

So begins the 1997 documentary honoring arguably the greatest Pittsburgh Pirates and Latin American player of all time, Roberto Clemente.

Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh…. relive(s) the life of a man who paved the way for today's Vladimir Guerreros and Sammy Sosas much like Jackie Robinson did for African-Americans.

As this poignant program, narrated by actor Jimmy Smits, exemplifies, Clemente's value went beyond his 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, four batting titles, 3,000 hits and 1971 World Series title.

Right on The most telling moments dealt with racism.

"It was probably harder on him than it was on me," Hank Aaron said. "He had to adjust to a new language."

Joe L. Brown, the Pirates' general manager from 1956-76, recounted how the team put black-and-white players in separate hotels during spring training in Fort Myers.

Shocked he wasn't allowed to eat with his teammates, Clemente reasoned, "My mother and father never told me to hate anyone."

The great Clemente mastered the English language once foreign to him and was far ahead of his peers when it came to accepting them as individuals beyond the color of their skin.

Dominicans' Boat Capsizes, Killing 3


June 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN -- An overloaded boat carrying more than 90 illegal Dominican migrants capsized Saturday, leaving three dead, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The boat overturned after a U.S. Customs plane spotted it some 25 miles west of the southwestern coastal town of Cabo Rojo, said Lt. Tony Russell, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The Coast Guard cutter Chincoteague rescued 89 of the migrants. All were in good condition. Police divers found three bodies trapped under the boat.

The rescued Dominican immigrants were to be deported Saturday.

NPP Denies Agenda Against Members Of The Press

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

NPP Rep. Jorge De Castro Font said on Friday that there is no need for former governor Pedro Rossello to apologize for NPP Electoral Commissioner Thomas Rivera Schatz’s outbursts against certain members of the press, and denied that the NPP could have a grudge against the media.

"You all have known me for many years and we have always treated each other with respect, but I must say that I have never seen a reporter address the former governor in such a vicious way," said De Castro Font referring to the reporter with whom Rivera Schatz had the verbal altercation.

The NPP representative made his statement in reaction to a petition from several press organizations demanding an apology from Rossello.

"We the journalists of this country demand a public apology for such a disrespectful treatment, as well as immediate action to stop this type of conduct in press conferences," the group said to the AP.

Rossello, however, said he supports Rivera Schatz 100%.

For his part, former Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera said disagreements such as Rivera Schatz’s with members of the press are normal because they are human and they have the constitutional right of free speech.

"The press cannot be the exception," Rivera said.

Rivera Schatz has been known for his name calling and confrontational demeanor during NPP press conferences, especially towards journalists who report negative news about the party.

Government To Help Sara Lee’s Laid Off Workers Find Jobs

By WOW Staff

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Labor Secretary Frank Zorrilla Maldonado, Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra and the Director of the Occupational and Human Resources Council Brenda Sepulveda announced initiatives on Friday to deal with the elimination of 940 employees from Playtex-Sara Lee Corporation’s Corozal and Vega Baja operations.

According to Zorrilla Maldonado, the Rapid Response Unit for Local Displaced Workers and Employers will be activated at 10:30 a.m. in both the Corozal and Vega Baja locations.

"We are confident that we will be able to return these workers to the labor force as soon as possible. To that end, we will use every resource available to us, so that we can reach our goal," said Zorrilla Maldonado.

For his part, Segarra explained that the Department of Economic Development & Commerce would identify local industries that have increased their needs for workers through the use of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTCA), hoping to match workers with available jobs on the island.

Zorrilla said Sepulveda would be in charged of coordinating the 30-member intervention unit which will provide displaced workers with assistance.

He said that among the services provided to displaced workers would be counseling, support groups, a job fair, and the free renovation of health certificates and criminal records.

Sara Lee Branded Apparel will close its Corozal plant and reduce operations at its Vega Baja plant by the end of the year.

In Vega Baja, approximately 250 employees will continue working on cutting patterns and sewing underwear while the assemblage of other pieces and brassieres will be transferred to another installation by 2004 eliminating 290 jobs.

The closing of Sara Lee’s Corozal plant will affect 640 employees with operations being absorbed by other Sara Lee facilities, most probably in the Dominican Republic. In 2001, Sara Lee closed its Barceloneta, Comerio, and San Sebastian operations and reduced operations in Camuy and Guanica, affecting 2,200 employees.

The company stated it was closing five underwear and sportswear apparel brands’ plants in Puerto Rico, Honduras, Mexico, and the U.S. mainland as well as certain administrative operations at their headquarters. The decision was made due to changes in production requirements and the need to prepare for apparel trade restrictions by the end of the year. Approximately 4,175 employees will be affected by this decision.

Comptroller: Legislature, Governor Should Make Prepa Pay

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – If the Puerto Rican Electric Energy Authority (Prepa) refuses to return overcharged fees to its clients, the legislature or the governor should intervene to force a reimbursement of nearly $50 million, announced on Friday Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña.

Prepa Executive Director Hector Rosario said the calculations made by the Comptroller’s Office, which estimated an overcharge of $49.8 million, had been incorrect and insisted no funds would be returned.

Attorney Nicolas Nogueras filed a class action suit for $100 million against Prepa to force the agency to return the money to consumers.

"The final say lies with Prepa’s Executive Board," said Diaz Saldaña.

He said that if the Executive Board concurs with the Rosario, the matter should be taken to the legislature and the governor.

Bad Economic Conditions For Gasoline Retailers

By Jose Fernandez Colon of Associated Press

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE – The President of the Gasoline Retailers Association, Efrain Reyes Hernandez, said on Friday that a profit margin freeze and the high cost of gasoline has translated into economic hardship for retailers.

Reyes Hernandez said incentives offered to wholesalers are another factor that has placed gasoline retailers in the dire situation.

"The situation for retailers is very bad. Oil companies have used improper influenced in curtailing the discretionary powers in operating their business, and incentive plans offered to Shell, Texaco, and Esso have lowered our profit margin," said Reyes Hernandez.

He announced the hiring of a specialist to perform a study that the Retailers Association will present to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym). The study is expected to prove the ever increasing cost of operating self service and full service gas stations in Puerto Rico.

Reyes Hernandez maintains that the study will show that the 20.7¢ per gallon profit cap leaves retailers with too small of a gain.

He added that the decision by former DACO Secretary Fernando Torres Ramirez to set a profit cap threatens thousands of gas station jobs.

In his opinion, the recent OPEC announcement that it will raise oil production should lower gas prices. However he doubted that prices would ever go bellow 25¢ per litter again.

CUD: Police Criminalize Small, Medium Size Businesses

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Police are criminalizing small and medium businesses dedicated to the retail of alcoholic beverages in their crusade to check for permits and licenses, announced United Retailer Center (CUD by its Spanish acronym).

CUD president Enid Toro criticized comments made by Police Deputy Superintendent Col. Jose Denis who said license searches aren’t performed in American franchises that serve liquor because in those establishments people behave better and foster a family atmosphere.

"We wonder what sociological study Col. Denis used to come to that conclusion. Those comments denote a discriminatory attitude toward a very important sector in the Puerto Rican economy," said Toro in a prepared statement.

"His comments are a clear sign of the crusade against the small and medium size businessman and demonstrated the double standard used by the police when enforcing the law in establishments that sell liquor," added Toro.

She pointed out that CUD doesn’t oppose law enforcement, but said that of the 5,000 plus pubs searched, only about 1% were found to be in violation of regulations.

She added that if the police want to verify permits they could do so during morning hours without the drama that characterizes their operations.

11,000 Graduate From UPR This Year

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN – Some 11,000 students will graduate from the combined campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, which celebrates 100 years of educational excellence.

Commencement ceremonies began June 4 and will continue until June 22 with the graduation ceremonies at UPR’s Utuado Campus.

Nine of the 11 campuses have already celebrated graduation ceremonies among them, Humacao, Medical Sciences, Bayamon, Rio Piedras, Mayaguez, Carolina, Ponce and Aguadilla.

UPR’s Arecibo Campus will hold its graduation at 4 p.m. on Friday, said campus chancellor Edwin Hernandez Vera.

UPR’s Utuado Campus will be the last to hold commencement ceremonies on June 22 beginning at 6 p.m., to be held at the inner courtyard, said campus chancellor Luis R. Clos Contreras.

"In closing our first 100 years as an academic institution, we cannot honor our people with anything else but our commitment to continue being the premier university in Puerto Rico," said University President Antonio Garcia Padilla.

State's First Hispanic Justice Okd

By Tom Bell
Associated Press

June 11, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved. 

Roberto Rivera-Soto will be the first Hispanic to sit on the New Jersey Supreme Court after his nomination was unanimously approved by the state Senate yesterday.

Rivera-Soto's term will begin Sept. 1, when he replaces Associate Justice Peter Verniero, who decided to step down from the bench rather than seek reappointment.

Rivera-Soto, 50, is a career trial lawyer and is best known in the legal community for the 10 years he represented the Sands Hotel Casino in Atlantic City. The Haddonfield resident most recently was a partner with the Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild.

The nomination of Rivera-Soto received strong support from New Jersey's Hispanics, who make up about 13 percent of the state's population. Rivera-Soto's parents still live in Puerto Rico but will attend his swearing-in ceremony in September.

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