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Legislature: Wal-Mart-Amigo Merger Not To Be Approved... Garcia Sure He Will Be Confirmed…"Urban Train Should Win Awards"…Ecumenical Ceremony Held For 'Poster Child'…Polar Bear Dies On Flight Out…Discovery Day Commemorated…Justice To Continue Case Vs. Navy…U.S. Cong. Oberstar Praises Airport Security

Legislature: Wal-Mart-Amigo Merger Not To Be Approved

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — A joint committee that evaluated the impact of the Wal-Mart/Amigo merger in the Puerto Rico’ economy concluded that the acquisition of supermarkets by big chains would create a higher concentration of power that will destroy the competitiveness of the local market.

The committee recommended that the government take all the necessary actions within the law to prevent the transaction from happening.

According to published reports, the report findings were approved by the Legislature on the last day of the current session.

The report states that if approved the merger would affect more than 4,700 businesses and 35,270 permanent and temporary jobs.

Personal and businesses bankruptcies would severely damage the banking sector, and according to the report independent supermarkets and small grocery stores would lose approximately $296 million and $1,240 million, respectively.

With the merger Wal-Mart and the government would become the two largest employers in Puerto Rico.

Humberto Garcia Sure He Will Be Confirmed By U.S. Senate

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — Interim U.S. District Attorney Humberto Garcia expressed Wednesday his confidence that he will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the chief of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in San Juan.

Garcia said in a press release that he was pleased that President George W. Bush had announced his intention to nominate him as chief of the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in San Juan and was sending his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

He said he was sure that he will be confirmed by the Senate and will not make any more comments about the process going on in the Senate.

Garcia has been the interim chief at the office since he was transferred there in June.

Before Garcia’s appointment, almost a decade had passed without a U.S. District Attorney because prosecutor Guillermo Gil occupied the interim post for nine years.

Garcia, of Mexican descent, was U.S. District Attorney in Texas for 19 years.

Minnesota Congressman Tours Commuter Rail

November 20, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A Minnesota congressman took a test ride on San Juan's not-yet-completed $2.1 billion commuter rail system, calling it smoother than the subway in Washington.

U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, toured the so-called Urban Train on Tuesday, the San Juan Star reported Wednesday.

"This should win awards," Oberstar said. "And the ride was smoother than the Metro in (Washington,) D.C."

Funding will come from $2.1 billion already approved by the U.S. government, officials said. Oberstar's committee is one of two House committees that authorize funding for federal infrastructure projects, the newspaper reported.

Oberstar's weeklong visit to Puerto Rico will also include meetings with local government officials to discuss other transportation projects which rely on federal funding, the San Juan Star reported.

The Urban Train is scheduled to begin operating in September. The U.S. Caribbean territory must speed work to avoid risking approval by the Congress and President George W. Bush of an additional $400 millionfor the next construction phase, which is to begin by 2005, officials say.

When the first phase is finished, trains will run between the central neighborhood of Santurce and the suburb of Bayamon. Costs for that phase already have ballooned from an initial estimate of $1.1 billion to $2.1 billion amid delays and lawsuits between contractors and the island's government.

The next phase is to extend tracks to the San Juan suburb of Carolina at a total cost of up to $800 million.

Ceremony For Little Milivy Held At Ecumenical Chapel

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

November 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

The sky turned gray, and under the pouring rain, Milivy Adams Calderon’s casket was escorted by dozens of mourners from the Ecumenical Chapel on Winds Hill in Puerta de Tierra. Minutes later, and once the small box had reached the funeral carriage that would take her to the airport and Vieques for a holy burial, the rain stopped, and the sun shined again.

Jose Adams, the child’s father, visibly affected but armed with the strength achieved from knowing that everything possible was done for his daughter, took a minute to thank those who expressed their support.

"I want to thank the people of Puerto Rico for loving my daughter. We are very grateful to all. . .My daughter was an angel of God," Adams said.

Milivy’s fragile five-year-old body could not endure any more pain and lost the battle to cancer on Sunday while she was receiving treatment at the Philadelphia Children’s Center.

Her last days, according to Adams, were difficult. She could barely breathe, and the left side of her body turned numb. Still, her father takes comfort in knowing that during her last minutes, no pain was endured as Milivy died in her sleep.

"She did not suffer a lot; she went away in her sleep," Adams said.

Milivy was made into a symbol in the fight for the permanent cessation of U.S. Navy bombing in Vieques.

Her parents and anti-Navy demonstrators have alleged that the child got cancer from the contamination from military exercises. The Navy has denied that the bombings contaminated the island, causing health problems for Vieques residents.

The struggle to oust the Navy from Vieques began April 1999 after the accidental death of civilian guard David Sanes from a Navy bomb.

Since then, thousands of civilians have engaged in campaigns to denounce what they claim to be the Navy’s violation of Vieques residents’ civil and human rights.

Milivy was made into a symbol because she was one of the many municipal residents with cancer. On Tuesday, the child’s death was mentioned again as a symbol of the consequences of contamination in the municipality of Vieques.

"If David Sanes represents rapid death, the one that is slow, bit by bit, one caused by cancer, is reflected in Milivy," said Rev. Wilfredo Estrada of the Ecumenical Council.

Estrada was one of dozens of demonstrators who visited the Ecumenical Chapel on Tuesday morning to pay their last respects to Milivy.

The simple ceremony was held in silence, which was broken only by the tears of those who approached the small silver-colored open casket where Milivy, dressed in white, laid and by one or two religious songs.

Adams and his wife Zulayka Calderon, dressed in black, stood next to their child’s casket and received words of comfort from New Progressive Party legislators Norma Burgos, Pablo Lafontaine, Miriam Ramírez de Ferrer, and Anibal Vega Borges, as well as Puerto Rican Independence Party Vice President Maria De Lourdes Santiago and others.

No one from the Popular Democratic Party was present at the ceremony, even though the Ecumenical Chapel is in front of the Capitol, where the last day of the ordinary session was being held.

Pro-Vieques leaders such as Julio Muriente, Hector Pesquera, and Jose "Che" Paraliticci were also present.

Although its main purpose is a site for prayer and reflection, the Ecumenical Chapel has been a center of controversy where anti-Navy and pro-Navy demonstrators have clashed more than once.

On Tuesday, some police agents assigned to prevent clashes temporarily abandoned their primary duties and expressed their condolences to Adams and Calderon.

Such was the case of agent Brenda Anglada, who took off her cap as a sign of respect while she stood in front of the small casket, which by then, was filed one by one with stuffed animals left by children who went to see Milivy.

"I’m also a mother. . .," said a teary eyed Anglada.

Milivy’s body was to be transported to Vieques on Tuesday afternoon. She will be buried Wednesday afternoon.

One Of Puerto Rico Polar Bears Dies On Flight Out

November 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 REUTERS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - One polar bear died on Tuesday during a journey to take six bears confiscated from a Mexican circus away from the sweltering island of Puerto Rico to cooler new homes in U.S. zoos, a zoo official said.

``One bear died during the flight,'' said Jane Ballentine, a spokeswoman for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association that had helped organize the move to zoos accredited by the group.

The six bears -- Wilhelm, Masha, Boris, Kenneth, Royal and Baerle -- range in age from 16 to 19 years.

Wilhelm, Masha and Royal were headed to the North Carolina Zoo, while Boris and Kenneth were going west to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington. Baerle, the only female, was headed to the Detroit Zoo.

It was not yet clear which one had died on the trip, which was made in the company of a bear expert and a veterinarian.

Puerto Rico Discovery Day Commemorated

November 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

AGUADA — Deputy Secretary of State Miguel Soto Lacourt was the main speaker at the official ceremony for the commemoration of Puerto Rico Discovery Day held in Aguada, with a parade reaching the Christopher Columbus monument.

"The discovery of Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth’s Constitution, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, are two events that have defined Puerto Rican life," Soto Lacourt said.

The deputy secretary, representing Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado, made his statements in Aguada during the delivery of the Proclamation of Puerto Rico Discovery Day on Nov. 19.

"The two events we are commemorating have put Puerto Rico at the crossroads of the two great civilizations that have inherited this land called the New World: the Hispanics, to which we belong through our culture and language, and the United States, to which we belong because of our political affiliation and affinity, the emigration of our people to their territory, and the cultural alliances that unite us," Soto Lacourt said.

On Nov. 19, 1493, Christopher Columbus reached the coast of the island, called Borinquen and named it San Juan Bautista, on his second voyage to the Americas.

"The commemoration of Puerto Rico Discovery Day represents a favorable occasion of the affirmation of the culture of the Puerto Rico people," read the proclamation delivered by Soto Lacourt to Aguada Mayor Miguel Ruiz.

Justice To Continue Case Against U.S. Navy

November 19, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) — The Justice Department decided to continue the case against the U.S. Navy for violations of the local Noise Law.

"The lawsuit is not going to be withdrawn," a Justice Department spokesperson said in published reports.

On the contrary, the Justice Department announced that New York, Connecticut, Nevada, and Hawaii have joined the lawsuit as friends of the court, in support of the arguments.

Rodriguez, through her spokesperson, indicated that the objective is to continue the lawsuit so the Navy complies with the island’s environmental laws.

Judge Gladys Kessler, of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., dismissed the case in 2001 because the local Noise Law does not provide a remedy from federal court.

The Puerto Rico government appealed the decision before the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled a hearing for February 2003.

U.S. Congressman Commends Airport Security In Puerto Rico

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

November 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico has beaten the Nov. 19 deadline that the U.S. Congress had set to ensure that all passenger security screeners are employees of the federal government and of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA,) said Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila on Monday.

The resident commissioner made the announcement following a ground inspection of every security checkpoint at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, accompanied by U.S. Representative James Oberstar (D-Min.,) TSA Director in Puerto Rico Marlene Hunter, Ports Authority Executive Director Jose Baquero, and Transportation and Public Works Secretary Jose Izquierdo.

The U.S. congressman, who authored the Aviation Security Improvement Act, said he was impressed with the efficiency and professionalism of federal passenger security screeners at the airport.

"What you have seen at the airport here is personnel at the security checkpoints who have a high level of skill, a high level of recurrent training, of oversight and of personal pride that has elevated security skills to a higher level than any other place in the world with the possible exception of El Al, although this morning I think maybe we’ve surpassed El Al. I think we could be very proud of it," Oberstar said.

However, he noted that the work on aviation security is not over.

"That doesn’t mean that we are finished. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any more to accomplish…yes, we do," he added.

One of the areas which he believes needs improvement is the passenger-bag match for continuation flights in the U.S. He said airlines should make sure that if the baggage in on board, the passenger is on board as well. Oberstar explained that this extra effort would help prevent tragedies such as the Pan Am 103, which exploded in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. In that case, a terrorist had checked his luggage carrying explosives but got off the plane in London.

"The major obstacle I think to a perfect security system is having positive passenger-bag match on all connecting flights in the domestic United States," Oberstar said.

However, Puerto Rico has complied with every TSA requirement and will also comply with having explosive detection systems for all check-in luggage by Dec. 31.

Oberstar said 95% of all 498 passenger security screeners in Puerto Rico are island residents. Meanwhile, Hunter said they all underwent a rigorous evaluation and training.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation officials, since its creation in November 2001, the TSA has ordered the reinforcement of all cockpit doors, implemented screening procedures for checked baggage at all 429 airports of the U.S., introduced positive passenger bag match, deployed Federal Air Marshals, and reduced the average passenger screening wait to under 10 minutes.

Travelers may visit www.TSATravelTips.US. to learn more about the security process and what they need to do to make their holiday travel smoother.

On another note, Oberstar will also be visiting the grounds of the Urban Train, the site for the future construction of the transshipment port in Ponce and Guayanilla, as well as the Martin Peña channel.

The resident commissioner said that as senior democrat on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Oberstar’s visit is important for Puerto Rico, as he will participate in the next session during which a bill will be approved to establish the transportation budget for the next five to six years.

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