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Arecibo Telescope Will Map Galaxy… Is That You ET?… Comptroller Doesn’t Know Extent Of PRIIF Losses… PREPA Won’t Refund Over Charges… Izquierdo Attends Torrijos Inauguration… Public Health Conference Opens… Ponce Seeks Las Americas Free Trade Zone… Feds Oppose El Yunque Zoning Changes

Arecibo Telescope Will Map Known Galaxy

By Frank Griffiths of The Associated Press

September 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The radio telescope at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory will begin mapping the known galaxy on Friday, scientists said.

The radio telescope, the world's most sensitive listening device that is powerful enough to hear planets forming several billion lights years away, received six more radio receivers to expand its range.

The $1 million upgrade, nicknamed the ALFA project, was completed a few weeks ago and 12 scientists will begin using the telescope Friday to map the night sky for future generations, astronomer Dan Werthimer said.

Arecibo expects to find thousands of new pulsars, supernovas, black holes and planets.

The map, with its collection of detailed data about location, identity and properties of what is in space, will go far beyond anything currently in use, researchers say. No such map has been made until now because the telescope had a limited field of view.

"The new upgrade is like having seven Arecibo observatories at once," Werthimer said. "You can see seven different parts of the galaxy simultaneously. The mapping will be seven times faster."

The mapping could be completed in a few months if the observatory devoted all of its telescope hours to the ALFA project, said Sixto Gonzalez, observatory director. However, the process is likely to take at least two years to allow other astronomers to work on other projects like searching for extraterrestrial life, he said.

ALFA, which stands for the Arecibo L-Band Feed Array, discovered its first pulsar last month during a test run, Gonzalez said.

The 1,000-foot-wide parabolic receiver _ composed of 38,000 aluminum tiles _ allows researchers to listen to sounds in space instead of depending on optics, like the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The information gathered will be compiled in a worldwide database scientists can access on the Internet, scientists say.

Is That You ET?

By John Ingham Environment Editor

September 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Express Newspapers. All rights reserved. 

RADIO signals from outer space raised hopes yesterday that there is life on other planets.

Scientists hunting for aliens say they have picked up a signal on three occasions from between the constellations of Pisces and Aries.

Each time the weak signal has become stronger, yet there is no obvious star or planetary system within 1,000 light years.

The Puerto Rico-based Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) sifts through signals picked up by the world's biggest single-dish telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

The signal transmits at a frequency scientists believe aliens would choose to send signals, because it is the one at which hydrogen absorbs and emits energy.

Díaz Saldaña: I Doesn’t Know How Much Was Lost On PRIIF

September 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) - Manuel Diaz Saldaña insisted on Thursday that he did not have a count of how much was lost by the government treasury because of the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentives Fund, the creation of which was approved when he was Treasury Secretary in 1997.

But he immediately cleared up that, although he does not have figures of the possible loss, the $961 million loss established in the report by the Blue Ribbon Committee is incorrect.

"When you submit the list of how the committee arrived at the figure of $961 million, which was cited in the Blue Ribbon report, then we can talk," Diaz Saldaña said under questioning by Rep. Francisco Zayas Seijo.

In his third day of appearances before the House Treasury Committee that is investigating PRIIF, the commonwealth comptroller said they should summon witnesses that know about the transactions that were made under PRIIF, since he approved it without having interference to choose which firms benefited from the incentives.

PREPA Won’t Return Millions In Alleged Excess Charges

September 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The $49.8 million that, according to the Commonwealth Comptroller, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) excessively charged its clients, will not be returned to the customers, said the corporation’s executive director, Hector Rosario.

Rosario said that this would be the position of the public company when it replies to the Comptroller’s report, released on June 3, which contained the recommendation to return the funds.

According to newspaper reports, the deadline to reply to the report expires this week, but PREPA has asked for a 20-day extension in order to present a complete document.

Rosario said that the reply very probably will be similar to that circulated in a press release June 17 by the board of governors of the company.

At that time, PREPA’s president and executive director Jose del Valle, said the comptroller’s analysis was incorrect and that PREPA had not charged clients excessively.

Izquierdo Travels To Panama For Torrijos Inauguration

September 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Secretary of State Jose Izquierdo, on Tuesday thanked the president-elect of Panama, Martin Torrijos, who personally came to receive him, after his arrival in the country to participate in the swearing in of the new leader.

Izquierdo headed the government delegation from Puerto Rico that will participate in the ceremony, which was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the ATLAPA Convention Center in Panama City.

"President Torrijos was very thoughtful to come personally to the hotel and receive us, breaking traditional protocol, in a gesture we appreciate very much in the name of Puerto Rico," Izquierdo said.

Izquierdo took advantage of his time in Panama City to meet with Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, in order to discuss the issue of illegal migration of Dominicans to Puerto Rico.

Public Health Conference Begins

September 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — The second Puerto Rican Conference on Public Health began Wednesday at a hotel in San Juan with an appearance by Ronald Labonte, the creator of Canada’s public health system, which is recognized worldwide.

The president of the organizing committee, Hiram Arroyo, said that at the gathering the School of Public Health of Grounds of Medical Science also will try to revive the organization that brought together these health officials through the creation of the Alliance for Public Health.

"We have to rescue a similar organization to open the door to discussion with participation of different community groups," Arroyo said, according to newspaper reports.

He said that since 1989 there has not been an organization that brought together health workers in this group.

Dr. Labonte spoke to the entire group about the challenges of public health, an issue with which he has lots of experience, having created the model of universal insurance legislation in Canada, in which the government acts as the insurer for all its citizens.

Until Tuesday, two of the three candidates for governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party and Ruben Berrios of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, had confirmed their attendance at a forum about their proposals for public health, Arroyo said.

Ponce Asks That Puerto Las Americas Land Be A Free Zone

By Jose Fernandez Colon

September 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — The executive director of the International Free Trade Zone of Ponce ("CODEZOL"), Johnny Raymond Fernandez, said Wednesday that he petitioned U.S. authorities to ask that all the land of Puerto Las Americas be converted into a free trade zone.

The petition was put before the Free Zone Regulatory Board in Washington and Fernandez said he hoped it would be approved no later than October.

"We are hoping that the Free Zone Regulatory Board in Washington will give us the go ahead, the authorization to include all the land that the port of Ponce has to be used for the Puerto de Las Americas under the operation of CODEZOL," he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

According to Fernandez, the petition received the endorsement of the Federal Customs in Puerto Rico.

Fernandez said the possible approval of this request, together with legislation that clarifies that merchandise "domestic or foreign" that is stored in free zones will be exempt from paying taxes, strengthens the possibility of developing a mega-port.

According to the former municipal secretary of Ponce, the free zones are the "right arm" of every transfer port.

The tax exemption on cargo that is stored in Ponce’s free zone means a significant savings that will reduce operational costs of the firms that own the merchandise.

Federal Agents Frustrated By Zoning Changes At El Yunque

By Jose Fernandez Colon

September 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — The supervisor of the Caribbean National Forest, known as "El Yunque" said on Wednesday that several federal officials were frustrated with the state agencies for passing zoning changes in areas neighboring the tropical reserve and the destruction of nearby green areas.

Pablo Cruz, supervisor of El Yunque, criticized the chairman of the Planning Board, Angel Rodriguez, for presumably having ignored objections to changes in the zoning of areas adjoining El Yunque.

"We are very frustrated with the Planning Board. In all of the conferences we have had on all the variants in the surrounding zone, or the special zone of El Yunque, we have been firmly in opposition to zoning changes," he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Cruz said that Rodriguez had approved the changes to convert areas within the zone surrounding the Caribbean National Forest into areas for development, which is not compatible with the protection of the natural reserve.

There was no immediate reaction for the Planning Board.

The federal official said decisions about zoning changes were made by the Planning Board without scientific evidence.

"He (Angel Rodriguez) is protected by the authority he has to award variants and maybe by the right of the owners of the parcels to develop it, for the economic development and the creation of construction jobs and the development of hotels," said Cruz.

He said the many proposals for residential development threatened the integrity of El Yunque.

Rodriguez also said that the Natural and Environmental Resources Department allegedly had permitted the destruction of a second forest for the construction of a commercial center on the access road to Hotel Westin Rio Mar.

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