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Bush Fetes Chita Rivera…Gov’t To Spend $25M On Public Art…Pesquera Favors High School Military Recruitment …Marc & Dayanara Renew Vows …Judge Blocks Wal - Mart Buy…Economy To Grow 2.7%…Governor: Wal-Mart Suit To Balance Interests…Union OK Moving Expos' Games…PIP Asks Exclusion From Federal Recruitment Law

Bush Fetes Kennedy Center Honorees

Compiled from wire services

December 9, 2002
Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Sunday toasted the two-time Tony Award winner, actress-singer-dancer Chita Rivera, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, Academy Award-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor, Grammy-honored singer Paul Simon and actor James Earl Jones for their achievements in the performing arts.

"This year we've brought together in one room a legend of Broadway, the conductor of the Met, the composer of 'Mrs. Robinson,' the face of Cleopatra and the voice of Darth Vader," said Bush, addressing the honorees at a White House reception.

"Each one of you is known to the American people in a way that runs deeper than fame."

A mix of politicians, Hollywood celebrities and performing arts legends joined Bush in celebrating the five honorees.

Bush hailed " Rivera for setting standards on Broadway that "few have ever reached."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell paid a special tribute for Ms. Rivera, the original Anita in "West Side Story," declaring that the Broadway musical was his "favorite form of art," before adding "You give us a lot of problems" at embassies around the world where people line up saying, and here the secretary broke into full-throated Puerto Rican-accented song: "I like to be in A-mer-i-ca!" Ms. Rivera threw back her head and raised her Champagne flute as the room exploded in laughter.

Ms. Rivera, 69, "a musical theater star of the highest magnitude", grew up in Washington as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero, the daughter of a clarinet and saxophone player in the Navy Band who died when she was 7. She is the first Hispanic-American to receive the Kennedy Center Honors, and asked during cocktails what she thought when she heard the news, she blurted out: "That they had the wrong person. You're so used to doing, that to be stopped and congratulated is quite a gift."

After the reception, Bush and the first lady attended the 25th annual program, where the careers of this year's honorees were being celebrated.

Government To Spend $25 Million In Public Art

December 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - At a cost of $25 million, the government will start a Public Art Project intended to develop 97 works of art in 18 municipalities of the island as part of the revitalization of urban centers.

The Public Art Project, directed by architect Miguel Rodriguez, is under the supervision of Urbanism Directorate of the Department of Transportation & Public Works. The project will provide amateur and professional artists to participate, said Gov. Sila Calderon during a press conference this weekend.

"I am pleased to announce the selection of 97 proposals that will turn into spectacular works of art across the island. Seventy-two of them are Puerto Rican artists and 25 are from other countries," the governor said.

The initiative is part of her campaign promise to revitalize the urban centers with housing projects, community areas, parks, and recreational spaces to give back life to those centers.

The municipalities to benefit from this program are Aibonito, Arecibo, Barranquitas, Cabo Rojo, Coamo, Culebra, Guanica, Guayama, Humacao, Isabela, Jayuya, Luquillo, Mayagüez, Morovis, San German, San Juan, Toa Alta, and Yauco. Hatillo, Loiza, Ponce, and Vieques were added to the list.

Pesquera Favors Military Recruitment In High Schools

December 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

PONCE (AP) - New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera favored that the U.S. Army obtain data of young Puerto Ricans studying in local high schools.

A new federal law authorizes the military to find out the name, address, and telephone numbers of public and private school high schools for recruitment purposes.

"What they are asking for is the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of those students. That way the Recruitment Office can contact them and give them information of what the military service can give them," said Pesquera in a radio interview.

The statehood leader asked citizens to not see this from an ideological point of view.

"The Education Department greatly depends on federal fund for education programs for our youth. Let's not see this as an issue other than what it really is," he said.

Marc Anthony And Dayanara Renew Vows At Lavish Wedding

December 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) - Singer Marc Anthony and former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres renewed their wedding vows Saturday, emerging from a Mass holding hands as bridesmaids in scarlet gowns showered them with white rose petals.

Hundreds of well-wishers lined the narrow streets outside the Cathedral of San Juan and shouted "Kiss, kiss!" The couple responded with one more kiss before being whisked away in a black limousine.

The nuptial Mass was the apparent triumph of a reconciliation by the couple. Although they announced a split-up in July, they never legally filed for separation, and Torres had described the church wedding as "a new beginning." Anthony, the Grammy-winning singer born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, first married Torres in a Las Vegas civil ceremony on May 10, 2000.

"The plan was always to do the church wedding," said Jennifer Neiman, Anthony's publicist. "It was one of those things that they always intended to do and they never found the time to do."

Torres, a Puerto Rican crowned Miss Universe 1993, was wearing an ivory satin body-skimming dress with a trumpet skirt and a long train. The gown, by New York designer Reem Acra, was adorned with crystals and pearls and hundreds of yards (meters) of twisted thread made of pure gold.

Hundreds of pink and white roses were laid on the cathedral's steps hours before the 27-year-old bride's father, Jose Torres, accompanied her into the Mass. The Rev. Ricky Gerena led the ceremony.

The private ceremony was held under tight security in Old San Juan amid the city's quaint Spanish colonial-era homes. A choral group and a string quartet reportedly accompanied the ceremony.

While the couple didn't say how much they were spending, some estimated the wedding's cost at up to $1 million. The press in the U.S. Caribbean territory dubbed it "the wedding of the year."

Stars among about 175 guests included 'N Sync singer Lance Bass, Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough and actress Leah Remini of the CBS television series "The King of Queens."

Top names of Puerto Rican society also were in attendance, including Gov. Sila Calderon, singers Ednita Nazario and Danny Rivera and former world boxing champion Felix "Tito" Trinidad.

A private reception followed in the courtyard of a colonial-era garrison located a short distance from the cathedral. Cameras and children weren't allowed, but exceptions were made for the couple's 22-month-old son, Cristian, and Anthony's 8-year-old daughter, Arianna, of a previous relationship.

Anthony, 34, is known both for Spanish salsa hits like "Contra la Corriente" and crossover English pop tunes such as "I Need to Know". He was wearing a black Giorgio Armani tuxedo and had half brother Bigram Zayas as his best man. Puerto Rican news reports said the couple plans to honeymoon on a private island owned by Anthony in the Bahamas.

Puerto Rico Judge Blocks Wal - Mart Buy

December 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A judge temporarily blocked Wal-Mart's acquisition of a local supermarket chain on Friday, saying it could substantially reduce competition or it could create a monopoly.

Superior Court Judge Milagros Rivera Guadarrama issued a decision responding to a government motion filed Friday claiming Wal-Mart's purchase of Supermercados Amigo's 35 supermarkets and 4,500 employees violated the island's antitrust laws.

Wal-Mart Puerto Rico Inc. officials didn't immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

``The court has determined that the plaintiff, the State, has demonstrated the Amigo's acquisition by Wal-Mart could have the affect of substantially reducing competition or could create a monopoly,'' Rivera Guadarrama wrote in her decision.

The decision prohibits Amigo from transferring its holdings to Wal-Mart until the matter is resolved in the courts, the judge said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree Nov. 29 validating the February acquisition and freeing up Wal-Mart to close the purchase, which it did Thursday morning.

The U.S. retail giant has said antitrust concerns surrounding the acquisition, reportedly worth $225 million, were already addressed by the consent decree.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. already operates 19 stores including eight Sam's Clubs in Puerto Rico. With the Amigo acquisition, Wal-Mart will employ about 10,000 people in this U.S. Caribbean territory, the company has said.

Founded in 1966, the Amigo supermarkets will continue operating under the Amigo brand name.

Planning Board: Economy Will Grow 2.7% In Fiscal 2003

By Marialba Martinez of Caribbean Business

December 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico Planning Board (PB) President Angel Rodriguez said his agency’s economists are projecting a 2.7% increase in Puerto Rico’s GDP in fiscal year 2003 (ends July 30, 2003).

Rodriguez made these comments during an event sponsored by the Puerto Rico government to present an economic report for 2002.

"According to PB analysts, first quarter 2003 economic indicators point to an increase in at least 10 categories in relation to the same period the previous year," said Rodriguez. "These are employment up 4.2%; new housing units up 33.4%; total exports up 9.6%; electric power consumption up 2.8%; commercial electric power consumption up 1.8%; construction permits up 15.2%; private construction permits up 12.6%; public construction permits up 108%; construction permit investment up 21%; and retail sales up 3.2%.

By reducing the steps involved in the construction permit process and creating the Express Process Center, the PB has handled more than $847 million in permit investment during the first half of fiscal year 2003.

Governor: Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart To Balance Interests

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said Friday that with the lawsuit against the U.S. megachain Wal-Mart, the government seeks to establish a balance of interests rather than stop the transaction.

The governor was reluctant to comment on the Justice Department’s decision in a press conference after her administration presented her economic report for 2002.

"There is no intention of stopping the transaction but of establishing a balance of interests," she said.

In response to another question, the governor affirmed that her administration’s public policy is to promote "a balance among economic development, outside investments, and Puerto Rican capital. . .and it does not have to do with any transaction in particular."

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it will file a lawsuit in the courts to stop the sale of the Amigo supermarket chain to Wal-Mart.

Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said she is convinced that the purchasing of Amigo by Wal-Mart violates Puerto Rico’s anti-monopoly laws and goes against the best interests of Puerto Rican consumers, business owners, and distributors.

Union OK Moving 22 Expos' Games to P.R.

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The players' association agreed Friday to allow the Montreal Expos to move 22 home games to Puerto Rico next season.

The deal is subject to a joint inspection of San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium by the union and the commissioner's office Dec. 16.

``Families will be allowed to travel with the Expos' players, they will be allowed access to the charter, and there will be additional allowances for both meal and travel,'' said Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official.

The team's first homestand in Puerto Rico has games against the New York Mets (April 11-14), Atlanta (April 15-17) and Cincinnati (April 18-20).

The second homestand will have games against World Series champion Anaheim (June 3-5) and Texas (June 6-8), and the last includes Florida (Sept. 5-7) and the Chicago Cubs (Sept. 9-11).

Montreal hoped to move up the last series to Sept. 8-10, but it was reset Friday for the original dates. Because the Cubs are home the following day, the final game in Puerto Rico will have to be played in the afternoon.

``With the exception of maybe Chicago, the travel of the visiting teams is actually easier,'' Orza said.

PIP Asks Island Be Excluded From Federal Recruitment Law

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved.

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) will ask Gov. Sila Calderon to ask the federal government to exclude the island from the federal law that obliges public schools to provide the U.S. military with information regarding high school students.

PIP Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago said the federal law seems to be the preemption of obligatory military service.

"This is a price we do not have to pay," Santiago said.

The PIP vice president said if the proposal for the exclusion is not granted to Puerto Rico, the PIP will begin an orientation campaign in schools.

Section 544 of the "No Child Left Behind Act" establishes that military recruiters will have access to the name, address, and phone number of high school students, just as is provided by universities and employers.

Santiago also said she would ask Education Secretary Cesar Rey to give opposing groups the same access recruiters have to students.

On the other hand, she said PIP members will hold a meeting Dec. 15 to establish future strategies to counteract the intentions of the U.S. Defense Department.

According to Federal Affairs Legal Advisor Cesar Dominguez, the new law affects 165,000 students in 209 island public schools, as well as 3,000 students in private schools that receive federal funds from Title I.

Leaders from the Teachers Association and Federation have already expressed their opposition to the law.

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