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Daily News - Friday, 04 April 2008

PGA tees off in Cap Cana
It is before and after for golf in the Dominican Republic with the celebration of the PGA Seniors Champion Tour in the DR from 4-6 April. The colors, grass and the vistas were aired to the world by Golf Channel. The eyes of the golf world focused on the seventy-eight 50-year plus golf legends that teed off from Cap Cana's Punta Espada Golf Course on Friday morning for the weekend event. Tournament first place winner grabs US$1 million, 2nd gets US$500,000 and 3rd US$300,000.
The PGA Champions Tour players were especially challenged by strong winds and even water spray coming up from the sea over the greens. The course has eight holes right beside the sea.
During a press conference at Cap Cana, golf great Jack Nicklaus said that the PGA Seniors Champions Tour has gained in popularity regular golf tour. "If you look at the names of players on the senior tour, there are probably as many name players as there ever has been," said Nicklaus. California Golf Writers Association Mike Hamiel commented that the PGA senior tournament was the "best step to take to appeal to the affluent golfer with disposable income to fly to the DR and invest in the DR."
"We were amazed by the support of the Dominican people as relates to the Founders Program when the development started, and continued to be so," said Nicklaus. He stressed that while Pete Dye was the first to bring people to play golf at Teeth of the Dog course in Casa de Campo, "now there are other resorts, it is going to be obviously a big destination for golf."
See http://www.dr1.com/forums/east-coast/73867-cap-cana-pro-am-report.html for a day-to-day report on the tournament.

Where your money goes
According to Hoy, public institutions have spent an estimated RD$114.5 million on re-election campaigning between 18 February and 23 March this year. Francisco Checo, coordinator of civic group Participacion Ciudadana (PC), says that the money spent on campaigning is unequally distributed and that the PLD spent almost triple the amount spent by the other parties. The total spent on political propaganda so far this year equals RD$267,635,085. However, it's not just the PLD, which spent RD$93,373,412. The PRD has spent RD$30,664,606, the PRSC RD$20,665,119, Cuarta Via RD$7,362,734, PAP RD$1,043,645 and MIUCA RD$9,800. Checo says that PC members have seen government sponsored vehicles being used during Fernandez's re-election campaigning as well as vehicles registered to the Dominican Municipal League, which is headed by PRSC candidate Amable Aristy Castro. Although in last place in the polls, the PRSC have spent the most money on press ads, totaling RD$1,960,140, or 38.46% of the total money spent. The PLD is ruling television and radio airwaves, having spent RD$83,124,808 and RD$1,366,206 in ads or 62.71% and 57.56% of the total value on TV and radio ads. PC also reiterated the amount of money spent during the first period of the year, between 1 January and 17 February when the parties spent RD$188,599,768 on their re-election campaigns.

PLD wants its payroll
The PLD just won't let the CB (Comites de Base) payroll scandal go away. Yesterday, PLD Secretary General Reinaldo Pared Perez and Cesar Pina Toribio, the party's representative at the Central Electoral Board (JCE) deposited an appeal at the Supreme Court on the grounds of unconstitutionality against the board's decision to force the PLD to cease the CB payroll. Pina and Pared were accompanied by lawyer Lino Vasquez Samuel. According to Pina Toribio, the PLD filed the motion because it felt that the JCE Contentious Chamber had overstepped its boundaries when it made the decision against the party. According to Pina Toribio, the decision interferes with the functions and attributes of the executive branch. Pina Toribio also argued that the JCE never let the PLD present a defense in the matter and that too was in violation of the Constitution.
The JCE nonetheless continues to defend its judgment on the case. Administrative Chamber President Roberto Rosario said that the PLD has the right to submit an appeal on the basis of unconstitutionality.

Opposition still at it
The opposition won't let the CB scandal go away either. Last night, during the second summit meeting between opposition political parties, representatives agreed to file charges against the government officials responsible for orchestrating the CB payroll and allegedly using state funds illegally. According to PRSC president Federico Antun Batlle, the PLD has ignored the Central Electoral Board's decision on the CBs and has continued paying the PLD party faithful.

This happened in the DR?
After so much talk of greedy politicians earning high wages, a report from San Juan province tells of the mayor of Sabana Alta, Carlos Julio Orozco, who has reduced his, and the town councilors', wages in order to prove that progress is possible with a small amount of money and good administration. The mayor has also stopped taking his allowances and representation costs. As if that were not enough, Orozco also donates his small salary to non-profit organizations and social projects. But his humility isn't enough to spare him the anger of local politicians who are not happy about the salary reduction. According to the new municipal law, salaries are now RD$9,000, down from RD$12,500. Orozco says that the Sabana Alta municipality receives RD$583,000 a month, which has been used to pave all the streets and sidewalks, complete the construction of a funeral parlor and some other projects.

Nuria explains
Investigative journalist Nuria Piera is explaining why she hasn't purchased a lavish summer home located in the hills of Jarabacoa from Education Minister Alejandrina German. After releasing the story of the vacation home that contrasted with the poor conditions at the public school in the same community, German said she would sell the home to Piera. Piera says the purchase didn't take place, not because of a lack of money, but because the land the house is built on is the subject of litigation. Piera said that herplan for the home was to either build a children's home or to give it away, but that she decided not to buy it on advice from friends.

Young people speak out
Although more often than not young people are apathetic when it comes to politics and corruption issues in government, a group of young activists is proving that this is not always the case. For the second time this year a group of young people gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to protest against the highly controversial Sun Land corruption case. The group members were dressed up in mime artist costumes, and holding up signs expressing their concerns about the case, which has almost completely disappeared from the radar. A spokesman for the group, Lorenzo Losado, said that the group organized the protest as a way of putting pressure on the SC judges to rule on the case.

Hipolito on the campaign trail
No, you don't have to worry, former President Hipolito Mejia is not running for president in May, but he is throwing his support behind current PRD candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado. Mejia was campaigning in San Cristobal yesterday, and he referred to the people who might not vote for Maldonado because of Mejia in his usual blunt manner. "Don't vote: they can go to hell. Those are the same losers as always." Mejia said that yesterday's campaign outing was "just to warm up the engines", and that he would do his best to support Vargas.

The downside of technology
While helping create a more connected world through advances in radio, television and internet technology, Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) president Jose Rafael Vargas believes that these developments have also led to the promotion of sex, violence, prostitution, and domestic violence and abuse. During a conference on the theme of "New Technologies: Opportunities and Risks in the Family" Vargas called on families to remain alert and supervise the content that children are exposed to. He said that these new technologies aren't meant to replace the values that a child should receive at home. During his speech, Vargas quoted the startling statistics that 11 is the average age for a child to come into contact with pornography for the first time, and that one in seven children get online invitations to join a sex club.

Human rights going to charge
President of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) Dr. Manuel Maria Mercedes has announced that the CNDH will file charges against National Police Chief Rafael Guzman Fermin next week for "extrajudicial murders" in confrontations with the police. According to Mercedes, the total number of such killings is 160, and not 145 as is claimed by the police. The human rights campaigner is taking this case a step further by s seeking justice for all extra-judicial murders that have taken place in the last 10 years. Mercedes says that these murders constitute a grave violation of human rights, which are guaranteed by national and international law. Mercedes, quoted in Hoy, made the claim that from the time of Pedro Jesus Candelier to the current Police Chief's tenure, 5,000 people have been killed extra-judicially and 2,000 of these can be attributed to Candelier.

First food now this
First it was food, and then it was construction materials. Now medicines are the latest products to experience steep price increases. In some cases, according to pharmacies, high demand medicines have experienced 9% and 36% hikes. Although price increases seem to be constant, so are the excuses to justify the skyrocketing prices. Ho Chi Vega, president of the Dominican Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (Infadomi) and vice president of the Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives, Agents and Producers (Arapf) Fernando Ferreira say that the increase in raw materials and the devaluation of the dollar, among other things, are behind the price increases. Ferreira says that the equation is simple, considering that producers need to find more money to buy raw materials.

No rice for the beans
After much debate on whether price increases in the DR have been real or fictitious, the Dominican Rice Factory Federation (ADOFA) president Miguel de Moya admitted that rice prices have gone up, but tried to downplay the increase by saying that it has only been worth between 12% and 14%. De Moya says that at this very moment a 125lb. sack of rice costs RD$1,750, up from RD$1,650. He justified the increase on the grounds that fertilizer, which used to cost between RD$500 and RD$700, now costs between RD$1,200 and RD$1,400, and that the price of fuel has doubled, increasing freight and transport costs.

Fire chief give warning
Santo Domingo Fire Chief Oscar Guillermo Garcia is warning the public about the dangers of selling propane gas alongside gasoline and diesel in gas stations. According to Garcia, there is an increased danger of explosions and fires at the gas stations. The fire chief said that the smallest leak of propane fuel, a highly flammable substance, could spark off an explosion. He added the fact that many young people frequent gas stations with convenience stores increases the possibility of fatalities if something were to go wrong.

Chickens in Haiti
Listin Diario is reporting that although the ban on Dominican chicken and egg exports to Haiti is still in effect, a loophole is allowing Dominican exporters to get their goods across the border. The paper quotes a report by Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez which explains that through secret deals, that aren't necessarily illegal, Dominican exporters are still selling their eggs and chickens to wholesalers in Haiti. Jimenez says that the Haitian government has been lax in enforcing its ban on Dominican chicken and derived products, although there is no indication whether the official ban would be repealed, or when this was likely to happen. The ban has been in place since January when several bird flu cases were detected in the DR. Jose Lopez, president of the Dominican Chicken Producers Association (ASOPOLLON) says that he has no knowledge of these backroom deals with Haitian wholesalers, while Jimenez added that he doesn't know the volume or the value of the cross-border transactions.

Shower in the rain
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has issued a 36-hour rain warning for Puerto Plata, Espaillat, Maria Trinidad Sanchez and Duarte provinces. The Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is forecasting rain for between 24 and 36 hours. Warnings have also been issued for small ships sailing off the Atlantic coast, in the Bay of Samana and through the Mona Passage. COE director Juan Manuel Mendez has warned members of the public to stay away from rivers because of the risk of flash floods.
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