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Daily News - Tuesday, 06 May 2008

The JCE's new scanners
The Central Electoral Board has tested the scanners that will be used for the first time in this election to expedite the vote count. The scanners will make it possible for results to be transmitted electronically from polling stations to JCE headquarters in Santo Domingo. The first tests of the scanners, with data sent from San Cristobal and Santo Domingo provinces, took place over the Labor Day weekend in the presence of observers from the Organization of American States, the political parties and JCE judges. In the first 26 minutes of testing, using 100 scanners, 885 result statements were sent to the JCE, covering 1,321 polling stations.
JCE Administrative Chamber President Roberto Rosario assured the public that the 742 scanners that will be installed will be able to receive 6,195 statements in the first 26 minutes. He said the vote count should be in by midnight.
Rosario said a shipment of 400 is expected this week and that another shipment would arrive next week.
Minority party candidate Guillermo Moreno (MIUCA) is questioning whether the statements could be manipulated so as to give the results first that would favor the PLD, whose candidate Leonel Fernandez is seeking re-election.
PRD delegate to the JCE Jose Delio Ares said that the "show" was nice but that during the 16 May elections the JCE will have to deal with a national system. PRSC representative Tacito Perdomo explained that the system didn't work in four voting stations, where results took more than an hour to arrive.

Young could decide elections
Voters under the age of 35 make up 43% of all eligible voters in the DR (5,764,986 in total). A full 34% (1,948,016) of people registered to vote listed studying as their occupation or reflecting the fact they have not changed their occupation to reflect the fact that they have graduated.
Today's Listin Diario reports that this means that this age group could decide the election. Voters between the ages of 18-25 make up 18% of the universe, with 1,018,042 voters, and those aged 26-35 make up 25%, or 1,448406.
Voters aged 36-45 are 22% of the total (1,272,548) and those 56-65 are 10% or 561,110. Voters over the age of 66 make up a further 10%, or 570,617 voters.
The vote is divided between 5,609,590 in the DR and 154,797 Dominicans abroad who have registered to vote.
By gender, women are the majority. A total of 2,905,881 women are registered to vote, for 50.41% of the universe, or 47,375 more than men. This composition changes, though, when the expatriate voters are analyzed. A total of 78,921 men registered to vote abroad, compared to 75,876 women.

Voter stats
At least 2,075,181 votes are needed in order to win the election on 16 May, according to a report in Diario Libre. One of the candidates needs to obtain 50%+1 of the vote to avoid having to hold a run-off election in June. In 2004, President Leonel Fernandez received 2,063,871 votes, or 57.1% of the valid votes. For the 16 May 2008 election, 5,764,387 people are eligible to vote.

Book Fair extended to 9 May
The organizers of the National Book Fair have announced that it will be extended through Friday, 9 May, five days longer than originally planned. Fair organizers report that around four million people have visited the fair this year due to the Ministry of Education authorizing students from public schools from all around the country to attend the event for day excursions. Likewise, the metro has been providing free transport to and from the fair, making it more accessible.
The book fair will continue to operate from 10am to 9pm. Culture Minister Jose Rafael Lantigua said that the metro will continue operating as long as the fair remains open. He said, nevertheless, that several international delegations would be returning to their countries as planned.
Lantigua also announced that the guest country for next April's fair would be Brazil.

The Metro power controversy
Diandino Pena, director of the Transport Reorganization Office (OPRET), also known as the Metro Office, says that the metro has been using power from one of its nine plants that generate 2.5 megawatts each and that are being alternated during the test phase. Pena was disputing claims by geologist Osiris de Leon who told Listin that the metro had been connected to the Palamara and Centro de los Heroes distribution lines, and this, he said, had caused the recent increase in blackouts.
Pena says that one of these plants is turned on per day and that they have a surplus of 18 megawatts from the power plant, to dispute speculation that running the metro had caused the recent spate of prolonged blackouts.
Pena said that once fully operational, the metro could be moved by power plants generating 40 megawatts. Pena, nevertheless, said that the metro will also be able to source power from the national grid because this will be cheaper than operating its own power plants. Their power plants require between 40,000 and 50,000 gallons of diesel per day.
De Leon had claimed that the blackouts are caused by the operation of the metro. He said that Pena has said in the past that the power plant would be used for emergencies and that the metro would operate interconnected to the national grid. The geologist, who has been critical of the government not carrying out the right geological studies for the metro project, also said that OPRET was taking advantage of the book fair to synch the power plant operation. The metro has been operating two test cars.

Renewable energies ruling on hold
The ruling that would open the way for the implementation of Renewable Energy Law 57-07 is on hold at the Presidential Legal Advisor's office. El Caribe reports that several major renewable energy projects have not been able to fully take off because of the delays in approving the ruling. Among the projects mentioned are Globasol, which involves the production of 18 million gallons of biodiesel; Masada Resource Group, for biofuel using solid organic waste; STC Engineering for generation of electricity using solid waste; Burbank Recycling for two solid waste recycling plants; Fluitecnik, solar energy production, and wind energy projects in Montecristi and Barahona.

'Popular' taxis will be popular
The CNTU transport union has announced a new public transport project, the "Taxi Popular". These 1,000 taxis will run on natural gas and will only transport three passengers at a time. Fares will cost RD$40 per person. Listin Diario reports that 200 of these taxi units are already in the DR. CNTU president Ramon Perez Figuereo says that the project involved a RD$300 million investment, which the union and its drivers acquired through a private bank. Perez says the government is not involved in providing financing for the private owners of the taxi vehicles. Car owners are being given a financial package consisting of a RD$30,000 down-payment and daily repayments of RD$200 over the next five years. Perez said that initially the cars would operate using gasoline until natural gas becomes readily available. At that point the union will sign an agreement with the natural gas distributors. If the new taxi system works, it could be a popular alternative to the oft crowded, dirty and dangerous 'carros publicos'.

Energy deficit balloons
Listin Diario is reporting that the deficit for the energy distributors will balloon to US$818.9 million by the end of 2008, according to the Action Plan for the Recovery of the Energy Sector 2008. This deficit is up 54% from 2007 when the deficit was US$380.7 million. Spending for the distributors is estimated at US$1.89 billion with revenues only totaling US$US$1.080 billion. According to Listin Diario, the distributors (EdeNorte, EdeSur and EdeEste) will purchase 47.2% more energy than they invoice. The purchase of energy equals 80% of the Edes' total spending, which is 3% lower than in 2007. Payment on interest for late payments alone will total US$24 million. According to the Action Plan, the government will spend US$342.85 million on covering the deficits.

Asthma concerns
As much as 18% of children in the DR suffer from asthma and 17% of adults are also afflicted with the condition, according to a report in Diario Libre. DL writes that asthma is one of the main reasons for emergency room visits by children. Worldwide, 300 million people suffer from the respiratory ailment.

Fire at Mercado Nuevo
An early morning fire on Sunday destroyed 23 businesses and affected 13 others at the Mercado Nuevo on Santo Domingo's busy Duarte Avenue. Damage is estimated at RD$100 million, and most of the businesses were not insured, according to Bolivar Perez, spokesman for the businesses. Perez is asking for government aid for uninsured stallholders. At the moment crews are cleaning up the debris. Electricity and telephone services have yet to be restored to the market. Fire Chief Colonel Jose Luis Frometa says that they have determined where the fire started, but not the cause.

Ovalles and the US$569,000 case
Saturday's El Caribe reports that the District Attorney established bail of RD$5 million for pilot Luis Miguel Ovalles Tejeda, but decided that the plane's owner, Rafael Alberto Luciano Corominas and plane passenger Juan Jose Martin Gomez should be registered only as witnesses in the case. District Attorney Perfecto Acosta said that Ovalles Tejeda has taken full responsibility for attempting to covertly introduce US$569,000 in cash into the DR on board a private plane that flew in from Aguadilla in Puerto Rico without registering a flight plan. Acosta said they had three months to investigate the case, but in the meantime decided that only Ovalles needed to post bail of RD$5 million.
Nuria Piera denounced on her radio talk show that Ovalles has been tied to drug operations in the past. An Internet link shows a pilot named Ovalles was detained at Miami International Airport on 21 March 2001, in the company of pilot Rafael De la Cruz after a drug dog alert, with US$167,000 in currency seized. Pilot de la Cruz was subsequently caught attempting to smuggle 455 kilograms of cocaine from the DR to Fort Lauderdale on a Caribair flight on 7 August 2002.
District Attorney Acosta explained that in the US$569,000 case, they decided to deal with it as strictly money contraband.
Rafael Alberto Luciano Corominas is the son of Supreme Court of Justice judge Rafael Luciano Pichardo.
Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Board suspended Luciano Corominas from his work at the Civil Registry Office in Boca Chica, until the investigation concludes.
See http://www.law.mercer.edu/academics/coursepages/lw2final/Case2.pdf

No one guilty in passport scandal
A National District Tribunal has declared the former deputy secretary general of the Municipal League, Amaurys Antonio Guzman, innocent of all charges against him. He was the only person accused in the scandal of sale of Dominican official passports for travel to Europe through the Dominican Municipal League.
As reported in El Caribe, the case dates back to 2005 when the Attorney General prosecuted 35 people from a ring allegedly made up of mayors, aldermen and civil registry officers who sold official passports for travel to Europe. No one was found guilty of the scandal that affected the Dominican Municipal League. Dominican Municipal League president Amable Aristy Castro is running for President on the PRSC ticket.

Horford and Hawks out
Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks' bid to shock the world was not meant to be, though it did make for great drama. The Rookie, Horford, put up a spectacular performance during the series, punching in 12.6 points, 10 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. His play was crucial in helping the once lowly Hawks gain some respect and put the once unbeatable Boston Celtics on the verge of elimination. Horford and the Hawks were playing with reckless abandon and then came Game 7 in Boston. It looked like the Celts tired of playing playground b-ball and put a thumping on the Hawks, and there was nothing Horford could do. The Cs came out blazing with dazzling passes, spectacular moves and stifling defense. When the massacre was done the Cs were up 99-65, for a 34-point victory. However, Horford was touted for his tremendous play and gained the respect of current NBAers who see Horford as a future perennial All-Star. This will certainly not be the last time we see Horford in the NBA playoffs.

Tuesday sales
Bravo is advertising its Tuesday 30% off fruits and vegetables for their cardholder members.
Jumbo has its usual Tuesday sale on fruits and vegetables. Red and yellow bell peppers are RD$12.95lb, red onions are RD$6.75lb, squash is RD$5.95lb, sweet potatoes are RD$9.95lb, and cantaloupes are RD$19.95lb
Carrefour is advertising its usual Tuesday meat and seafood sale. Beef fillet is selling for RD$164.95lb, ground beef for RD$39.95, beef short ribs for RD$36.95lb, dorado for RD$84.95lb, Black Tiger 16/20 shrimp for RD$249.95, and Cantabrico sardines for RD$39.95lb.
La Nacional furniture store has sales of sofa sets at its Duarte Ave store. All sets are going for RD$14,990 (2-seater + 3-seaters).
Gonzalez Muebles has 30-70% off its furniture at their 27 de Febrero 336 branch.
Batavia is advertising 60% off their furniture at their Rafael Augusto Sanchez 37, Piantini store.
Telas Etcetera has a 50% sale on their upholstery materials.
Casa Alegre has 30-50% off on upholstery materials.
Peravia Motors is selling the Daihatsu Terios from US$22,900, the Sirion from US$16,000 and the Terios Long from US$28,000.
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