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Daily News - Thursday, 12 June 2008

Tourism action plan
Minister of Tourism Felix Jimenez met with representatives of hotel, travel agent, airport and tour operator companies in Boca Chica yesterday to present his plan to keep the industry going in response to recent announcements of major airline flight cuts. The plan will be presented to President Leonel Fernandez. Among the points covered, as reported in El Caribe, are:
1) Elimination of the ITBIS tax on aviation fuel.
2) Awarding of 5th Freedom to European airlines, that is the right to enplane traffic at one foreign point and deplane it in another foreign point as part of a continuous operation also serving the airline's homeland. This would allow a European airline to touch down in the DR and then carry traffic to Central America, Mexico, the US or the rest of the Caribbean if it wants to.
3) That airports reduce their charges on passengers by 20%.
4) That airports in Punta Cana, Romana and Santiago support Ministry of Tourism promotional campaigns the way Aerodom has been doing (airports in Puerto Plata, Las Americas and Samana).
5) The strengthening of Air Dominicana, an affiliate of Air Europa that has a minority investment by the Dominican government, is also contemplated. The plan is for Air Dominicana to begin serving the US and Puerto Rico by October-November. The airline has already started operations serving Venezuela.
6) A proposal for incentives for at least two European airlines set up their hubs or mother ports at DR airports.
7) Increase advertising campaigns promoting the DR abroad
8) Work to increase travel from lagging markets.

Air Dominicana to start 16 June
Air Dominicana (AD) has announced the start of daily flights to Caracas, Venezuela as of 16 June. This is the second Dominican airline to start international operations this year. The first was PAWA that began service to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico on 2 June 2008.
AD president, Juan Jose Hidalgo Arena said that the new airline would use a Boeing 737 plane, with capacity for 148 passengers. AD, a mixed enterprise with private (Spanish Air Europa affiliate) and Dominican government capital, was started with a US$10 million investment. A second Boeing 737 is expected to commence service from the DR to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Hidalgo says the airline could also provide charter flight services between Mexico and Santo Domingo.
The announcement comes at a time when the DR has received notifications of flight cancellations form major airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Continental and US Airways, as part of global flight cuts. Jimenez is optimistic the flights would be resumed in the future. Amid all this bad news, Jet Blue has announced that it will increase its flights to the DR. And the Ministry of Tourism also reports that Air France, Iberia, Transaero from Moscow, Russia and Copa from Central America have increased their frequencies to the country, as reported in El Caribe. Likewise, Air Europa will be flying direct from Madrid to Puerto Plata later this year.

Subsidy to stay
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes says that the LPG (propane) subsidy would not be phased out by August, but that it would be "targeted at taxis and households." Paredes said that the government would continue to seek ways of compensating middle class families that also use LPG in their vehicles. He mentioned that natural gas would become available over the next four months. At the moment 52% of LPG is used for vehicles while the remaining 48% is used in the home.

"Water + sugar" for breakfast
The Dominican Pediatrics Society (SDP) is calling for the Ministry of Education to discontinue the purchase of a breakfast drink that a TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera determined fails to meet its own established minimum standards of nutrition. Dr. Tharsis Hernandez, president of the SDP said that what the Ministry is serving is "whey" or "water with sugar."
Recently, investigative TV journalist Nuria Piera disclosed the contents of the milk for schools produced by Ladom, which has 40% of the contracts to serve the breakfasts nationwide. The drink sourced by another supplier was found to be almost within the established contents parameters. Dr. Hernandez criticized the fact that this has been going on for quite a long time.
Hernandez called for an investigation by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Health. Hernandez proposed that a quality control team should permanently monitor the rations. As reported in Diario Libre, Minister Alejandrina German defended the quality of the rations. She said that they are tested periodically by the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology and Industry (IBII) that guarantees their quality. She said the suspension of the program is not necessary, because the school year has just ended.
Cattle farmer Cesar Taveras of San Francisco de Macoris, said on the Nuria y Huchi radio talk show on CDN, that this was fraud to the tune of RD$3 billion by the Dominican government, and merited the intervention of state corruption prosecution office.
The president of the Dominican Association of Public School Teachers (ADP), Maria Teresa Cabrera said it is a crime to serve whey in the school breakfast instead of milk. She said she would be meeting with the Ministry of Education this week to discuss the matter.
On her Channel 9 Saturday TV program, Piera revealed that a daughter of Education Minister Alejandrina German works in the administration department of Ladom.
The president of the National Cattle Ranchers Association, Eric Rivero said that local milk producers were aware of the situation. "The sector has been denouncing the violation of Laws 27-01 and 180-01 for a long time and demanding that the Ministry of Education fulfill agreements that date back four years, without any answer," said Rivero. He also criticized the fact that the contents listed on the packaging does not necessarily correspond with the actual contents. As reported in Listin Diario, he said they had held dozens of meetings and had been insulted by the Department of Student Welfare after showing them the results of the analysis of the product being served to public school children. "We haven't achieved anything", he said.

Cranes aren't regulated
Large construction projects have become part of the landscape in Santo Domingo, and with this comes the need for large cranes that now commonly scatter the city skyline. But there is rising concern in some quarters because there is no regulatory body for those cranes or any rules of operation, which could lead to tragedies if workers and crane operators aren't careful. What's most concerning, according to Diario Libre, is the fact that the Public Works Ministry and the Santo Domingo municipality have both washed their hands off the issue and say they are not qualified to take up crane regulation. Concern over the cranes increased after the recent collapse of two cranes in New York City.

Tragedy at Dario Contreras
Family members of a deceased child are still trying to cope with the loss after it was determined that nurses at the Dario Contreras hospital gave him the wrong injections. Two other children were also given the wrong medication. One is currently in intensive care while the other is in stable condition. The events occurred on Monday and an investigation has led to the suspension of the hospital's pharmacy staff. Listin Diario reports that the three children were given potassium chloride instead of distilled water and that the mistake originated at the pharmacy, after attendants failed to read the label of the medicine they were dispensing. Listin reports that the deceased child was at the hospital with a cast on his leg. Hospital director Hector Quezada Maceo said that the mistake was understandable considering that the labels of the two medicines are practically the same.

DNCD keeps at it
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) is reporting that it had seized 96 kilos of pure grade cocaine that had been dropped by an unidentified plane over el Batey Monte Carlo in La Romana. No one was arrested in connection with the haul. United States Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Dominican Armed Forces personnel were also on hand for the find, which occurred on Wednesday at around 4am. Officials are still carrying out investigations in the area, while the drugs have been taken to the forensic lab for testing.

Mana fights for environment
Top Mexican rock group Mana understands the importance of protecting the environment and its members have been part of the Fundacion Selva Negra since 1995. Mana made their statements during a press conference at the Jaragua Hotel in Santo Domingo. The group says that the DR is on the most beautiful island in the world and that they have been in love with the country for many years. Mana is in the DR for a concert on Thursday, 12 June and there is a buzz around town as this has been a highly anticipated performance. Concert officials say that scalpers and fake tickets have been a problem and are warning concertgoers to be aware of both.
The concert will be tonight at 8:30 at the Estadio Quisqueya and tickets can be purchased at the Nacional Supermarket, Jumbo, Ticket Express and at Orange shops. Tickets are RD$3,500 for VIP and RD$1,500 for floor tickets. Regular tickets are RD$900 and RD$400 for general admission. Mana says they will give the Dominican public an unforgettable show with many surprises in store.

Big Papi is a big citizen
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, "Big Papi" became a US citizen yesterday. He was accompanied by his wife Tiffany Ortiz, his daughter and young son during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Ortiz was noticeably moved by the honor of becoming a US citizen and was joined by 220 other immigrants who hailed from 57 other countries. Ortiz has been the heart and soul of Red Sox nation since he came to Boston in 2003 and helped the Bean Town ball club win two World Series trophies in the process. Ortiz said that the US is a great country and that he is proud to be there. Speaking about Ortiz, Red Sox president Larry Luchino said, "He is the personification of what a great citizen should be. He's the heart and soul of Red Sox Nation."

18 tons of baseball equipment
Dominican children nationwide will be receiving new and gently worn baseball equipment collected in the United States by Roberto's Kids, a non-profit organization founded by Stephen Pindar and Steve Tremitiere, with the support of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the family of the late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. This May and June, the organization distributed its largest shipment so far, 18 tons of equipment collected from baseball leagues, charitable organizations, individuals and retailers in 26 US states and 3 Canadian provinces for disadvantaged youth in the DR.
Pindar says that Rafael Perez, director of International Player Development with the NY Mets, helped him start the baseball equipment distribution in the DR. Onfalia Morillo, director of public relations for LEIDSA, the leading local lottery and a well known sports broadcaster in the DR, worked with Pindar distributing the equipment on the north coast and connecting Pindar with the Ministry of Sports.
Pindar explained that the partnership with SEDEFIR ensures that all donations shipped are received through government channels.
Transportation this year was donated by Grupo M, the free zone conglomerate in Santiago.
In North America, Lily Transportation Corporation, Needam MA, partnered with Roberto's Kids by providing domestic transportation from key collection hubs directly to their international holding company in Florida.
In the DR, Roberto's Kids director of logistical affairs, Valentin Contreras is working with SEDEFIR, Ronaldo Peralta, MLB Senior Manager of International Baseball Operations in Latin America and Oscar Perez, of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities MLB Program identifying worthy and deserving leagues and organizations.
For more information about how you can be a part of this international baseball collection program contact Stephen Pindar at their NY Office (607) 432-7440 or their Caribbean Office (305) 395-4012 AST or by e-mail at: [email protected]
Visit RK on the web at: www.robertos-kids.org
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