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Daily News - Friday, 25 July 2008

Andalucia gives funds
President Leonel Fernandez met with the Vice President of the Andalucian City Hall, Gaspar Zarrias yesterday. Zarrias is in the DR to donate EU2 million (RD$114 million) for the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged in Monte Cristi during last year's tropical storms Noel and Olga. The funds were agreed upon after a visit Dominican Vice President Rafael Alburquerque made to Spain recently.
During his visit, Zarrias invited President Fernandez and Vice President Alburquerque to the bicentennial celebration of the 1812 Cadiz Constitution. Hoy writes that Andalucia is planning future investments worth upwards of EU4 million through various NGO's in the DR.

Alicia Alonso coming for inaugural
The Cuban National Ballet will perform for the festivities marking the third period of President Leonel Fernandez on 16 August, according to the Cuban News Agency. Legendary Cuban prima ballerina Alicia Alonso has prepared a new work as homage to the 145th anniversary of the beginning of the Restoration War (that marked independence from Spain) and the start of the second consecutive term of President Fernandez.
Alonso says that she choreographed the ballet, ?A la caida de la tarde? (At dusk) inspired in a symphonic poem by Dominican composer Jose Dolores Peon. ?I have always been fascinated by dusk, which it is of great beauty in Cuba, as it is also in the Dominican Republic, something common in the Caribbean," said the Cuban dancer. This will be the sixth time that the Cuban National Ballet has performed in the Dominican Republic since its first show in 1976. The other performances took place in 1983, 1987, 1996 and 2003.

FTZs will get boost
Luisa Fernandez, director of the National Free Trade Zone Council (CNZFE) announced that Dominican free trade zones (FTZ) will get a big boost as of 15 August when two of the three mechanisms incorporated to enhance their competitiveness under the DR-CAFTA come into effect. The mechanisms are expected to foster growth and help the sector recover contracts lost in 2006 and 2007 due to rising local costs and increased competition from China. Listin Diario writes that beginning on 15 August apparel manufacturers operating in the FTZs will be able to export tariff free apparel of up to 100 million meters squared made with Mexican cloth. Mexican textiles cost less than US textiles, thus helping to bring production costs down. On this same date, the "2x1" program will come into effect. This program establishes that for every two pants made with North American fabric, one pant made with fabric from any other part of the world, can be exported tariff free to the US.

Running the Chamber of Accounts
President Leonel Fernandez announced yesterdays that the Comptroller General and the National Treasury will form a commission to temporarily run the Chamber of Accounts, the government body in charge of auditing government departments. The Chamber of Accounts was left without management when eight of its nine presiding members resigned and one was fired after Congress looked into charges of mismanagement and irregularities by the members.

A nuclear commission
The government has created the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in charge of all things nuclear in the DR. The commission is entrusted with guaranteeing the safe handling of all nuclear goods used in the DR. National Energy Commission (CNE) president Aristides Fernando Zucco says Argentinean nuclear expert Raul Racana leads the team of experts that are advising the country on nuclear matters. Zucco says this is a transcendental step for the nation and is a sign that the DR will have the capacity to deal with nuclear security issues in the future. According to a mention in Google, Racana is a retired general, nuclear engineer from MIT and president of the Argentine Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN), and his work has met with the opposition from Greenpeace Argentina.

School drink parameters
Education Minister Alejandrina German continues to make headlines regarding the nutritional quality of drinks her department purchases for public school children.
The latest development carried by Hoy newspaper focuses on her criticism to the press for its handling of her statements. But Hoy today stands by what it had published on the minister changing the parameters for nutritional quality standard of the breakfast drink, and contradicting herself when announcing the new standards.
The Ministry of Education's own Student Welfare (Bienestar Estudiantil) department establishes 3.3% minimum protein in its written requirements for school breakfast drink providers. The Ministry program costs RD$18 million a day. But now Education Minister Alejandrina German says that a level of 2.64% is "normal" and acceptable.
Hoy newspaper had made the point yesterday, and received accusations of manipulating the news. The minister said she was "amazed and impressed" by the capacity of the press to manipulate information on the school breakfast drink. German says that the media publishes its own truth and not the "real" truth.
Today, Hoy responded to the criticism by publishing the minister's exact. In the recording German can be heard saying: "3.3 is what the required standard states." But then she goes on to contradict herself by saying that the Institute of Innovation in Biotechnology and Industry (IIBI) has a different scale to rate the acceptability of drink from suppliers, and that she uses these parameters "until they are changed." According to her, IIBI accepts 80% of the protein standard as normal and 90-100% as good.
But when afternoon Nuria & Huchi talk show journalist Huchi Lora called Bernarda Castillo, director of IIBI to question her on the new lower parameters that now German says IIBI has set for the school breakfast, Castillo denied setting a new standard. Castillo said that the parameters have not changed and are 3.3. "The Ministry of Education sends the parameters. We only analyze [the drink], we do not change parameters," said Castillo.
Recently, investigative journalist Nuria Piera presented a report on the low nutritional quality of the school drink sourced from Ladom, that has received 40% of drink allotments.
Piera also presented the findings of a comprehensive UASD chemistry thesis that also determined the low nutritional quality of the drink from samples in 2005-2006, and singled out one company with well below the minimum protein levels.
Piera presented a Ladom company recording where the receptionist corroborates that a daughter of the minister at the time was a high-ranking employee of the company that has carried out millionaire investment in new installations. The journalist has also carried a report on a luxury home the minister has built in the Jarabacoa mountain area.
To see the original videos on the school breakfast by Piera, see http://www.nuria.com.do

DNCD cleans house
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) says that in the past 23 months it has fired more than 5,000 agents who were found to be involved with drugs and other crimes. DNCD president Rafael Ramirez Ferreira that the firings are part of a purge that began two years ago. Ramirez explained the purge is difficult because at times agents protect each other.

Schools that don't teach
Luis Sanchez Nobel, president of the National Business Council (Conep) Education Commission, questioned the quality of instruction at schools and says that they are graduating students with little skills to show for their degrees. In an interview in Hoy, Sanchez called for a revision of subjects taught at schools. Sanchez feels that schools should be teaching basic studies in business management and business etiquette, as well as creativity, competitiveness and personal growth. He added that schools should cooperate with the business sector to encourage students to study careers in tune with the nation's true needs. Sanchez feels that many of the majors in Dominican universities are unnecessary.
Sanchez believes the government and private sector has been slow in recognizing the importance of a strong educational system. Also participating in the interview were Josefina Pimentel Pedro Justo Castellanos, Antonio Isa Conde, and Victor Jose Herrera. The group of educators and businesspersons concurred that changes are needed at all levels in the Dominican educational system to better prepare kids to enter the workforce. The group agreed that there needs to be a change in mentality so kids know they can aspire to more than being baseball players and see the full range of opportunities. Industry sector advisor to the Executive Power, Antonio Isa Conde made it clear that without education there is no development.

EU not kicking anyone out
According to Secretary of State for the European Union in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Diego Lopez Garrido the EU has no intentions of mass deporting of immigrants from Spain, or from Europe for that matter. He added that contrary to popular belief, immigrants aren't going to worsen the situation in Europe. Lopez visited at an invitation by Economy, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas. Lopez made his statements during a speech at the Presidential Palace to discuss Europe's recently announced European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. The European Minister said that confusion arose after a Spanish newspaper erroneously printed that the EU had plans to expel the estimated 8 million illegal immigrants within its borders.

No need for visa
The European Union Court has decided that spouses of EU citizens can travel to and live in any EU member nation without previously applying or receiving permission. Family members of a citizen of the European Union also have the right to move and reside in the member states with that citizen.
The court held that a "non-community" spouse of an EU citizen who accompanies or joins that citizen in the host country can benefit from the directive "irrespective of when and where their marriage took place and of how that spouse entered the host member state".
The ruling supersedes a ruling handed down in 2003 that stated that spouses needed permission to reside in or enter the EU. The Irish law only granted residency to spouses who have previously lived in an EU member state. The ruling came to light after an Irish court denied the right of four African men married to EU citizens resident in Ireland to reside in Ireland.
EU officials are concerned that the ruling could have grave consequences. The Court says that the European Union, however, could deny entrance to any person that may pose some sort of threat.

Who threw the baby away?
Residents of Los Minas are in shock after 22-year old mother Sorangel Collado was sent to jail for three months, while her case is processed by justice. She is suspect of throwing her six-month old baby off a bridge into the Ozama river. Initially it was believed Collado had entered into a discussion with her spouse and in a scuffle the baby fell to the river. Another version claimed that Collado was being robbed when the baby slipped from her hands. But state prosecutors suspect Collado herself, because she contradicted herself in her versions of what had happened. Her neighbors find it hard to believe that she intentionally killed the baby. Most say the mother was very quiet and easy going and loved her child, taking her everywhere.

Crime and survival
A study by cultural anthropologist Tahira Vargas in the Guaricanos sector of Santo Domingo reveals that for many youngsters selling drugs or stealing isn't a crime, just a way to survive, as reported in Hoy. One youth who remained anonymous, "when that money comes in it's a relief because I've helped my mother buy a stove, a bed, a television." The interviewed youth said he was aware that violence and delinquency are bad, but he justified it as a way to survive. Vargas explains that many of these youths are drawn into this lifestyle because of vulnerability, lack of job opportunities, expulsion from school, among other things. The anthropologist says that most of these youths lead normal lives and even have regular jobs but still partake in illegal activities as a way to get by, a modus vivendi in Dominican society. Vargas' research indicates a general distrust of police authority from these youth. One young man said that every time the police come around he removes his pants so the cops cant plant drugs on him and take him to jail.

Scammer's apartments seized
Dominican officials seized 12 apartments owned by Oscar, Carlos, Jose and Luis Benitez, the four brothers accused of scamming the US Medicare system out of US$110 million. The apartments, located in the Malecon Center, were valued at US$1 million each. FBI officials also participated in the seizures. The fully-furnished apartments are now under the Money Laundering Unit at the Attorney General's Office. Last week, authorities seized luxury vehicles, speed boats, a hotel, a water park and and homes belonging to the family in Punta Cana and Bavaro. Diario Libre reports that funds laundered by the family, and its associates, could total at least RD$300 billion. This is just the latest twist in the case that involved the kidnapping and safe return of their younger sister and also includes the participation of their father, Carlos Benitez.

WBO certifies Dominicans
The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has accredited Javier Benzan, Horacio Rodriguez and Rafael Isenia as international judges. The accreditations mean that the three men are now part of the Association of Boxing Commissions, which regulates boxing's judges and referees.

Pedro says goodbye to dad
Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez is in the DR today to attend funeral services for his father, Paulino Jaime Martinez. The 79-year old Martinez passed away Wednesday, at his home in Manoguayabo, after a long battle with brain cancer. Pedro said his father's health has affected him this season and added that his dad was always big support factor in his life. News outlets report that Martinez had traveled to the DR days before the All-Star game and the family had been expecting the worse. Jaime Martinez will be buried today at 10am.
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