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Daily News - Friday, 15 August 2008

Inaugural events and preparations
Security has been enhanced near Congress with three generals supervising a contingent of 600 military and police officers on occasion of 13 visiting heads of state and important dignitaries that are here for the Presidential inaugural on Saturday, 16 August. President Leonel Fernandez will be at Congress in the morning.
Also avoid traveling in the environs of the Presidential Palace from 4pm to midnight on Friday, 15 August and again from 5pm to midnight on Saturday, 16 August.
On Saturday morning, unless necessary, avoid driving by Congress in the Centro de los Heroes. On Saturday afternoon, the President will attend a mass at Cathedral of Santo Domingo. In the afternoon, the President is scheduled to be at the Presidential Palace to swear in new government officers.
For the inaugural, the Ministry of Tourism is hosting the Alicia Alonso Ballet of Cuba presentation at the National Theater for invited guests on Friday, 15 August. There will also be a 7pm dinner at the Presidential Palace for special visitors, including heads of state, and another at 9pm for guests of the 2008-2012 administration and the PLD ruling party, on Saturday, 16 August.

Drink if you want
The Ministry of Interior and Police has lifted drinking hour limits for the weekend on occasion of the Restoration Day holiday. The holiday this year coincides with President Leonel Fernandez's inaugural ceremonies. Alcohol can now be sold around the clock on 15, 16 and 17 August.

PLD leader dies
Norge Botello Fernandez, a PLD leader since it was founded in 1973, has died. Botello began his career in politics at an early age as an anti-Trujillo activist and was a member of the 14 June revolutionary movement. He was also a participant in the April 1965 civil movement.

Back to school
The 2008-2009 school year begins on Monday, 18 August with 2,710,524 children registered in public and private schools around the nation. There are 100,000 more children entering school this year than there were last year. Education Minister Alejandrina German says that 2,096,532 are registered in public schools and 613,992 in private schools. She said 90 new schools and 4,000 new classrooms have been added to the public school system.

Doctor's protest march still on
Public hospital doctors will be marching tomorrow to Congress demanding an increase in their wages. Yesterday, they held their 8th strike so far this year. Interior and Police Minister Franklyn Almeyda said that the protesters will not be allowed near Congress tomorrow. Almeyda says the nation has to take into consideration the security of the visiting heads of state and dignitaries.

Liberians interested in cooperation
The Liberian government has shown interest in signing bilateral agreements with the DR in the areas of tourism, culture and communications. Lawrence K. Bropleh, Information, Culture & Tourism Minister of Liberia, who will be representing Liberia at the 16 August Presidential inaugural, says the DR and Liberia share a common history and many interests. The West African nation is rich in natural resources like gold, iron, diamonds, bauxite, rubber, wood, coffee and cacao. The country also has 600 kilometers of beaches.

French ambassador recognized
French ambassador Cecile Pozzo di Borgo was awarded the Merit Order of Duarte Sanchez and Mella for her work as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso gave di Brogo the medal during a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Morales highlighted the connections between France and the DR and added that France was one of the first countries to recognize the DR's Independence in 1844. Di Borgo, who was recently appointed ambassador to Chile, thanked the government for the recognition.

Cibao in a frenzy
Protesters, in response to continuous blackouts in Santiago and surrounding areas, took to the streets causing chaos and damage yesterday. Listin Diario reports protesters knocked down two energy towers, removing 69,000 MW of energy from the energy grid. The communities of San Francisco de Macoris, Arenoso, Villa Rivas, Castillo, Hostos, El Factor, Nagua, Sanchez, Samana have all been affected by the loss of the two towers. Also, protesters in Las Matas made their way to the EdeNorte offices and burned it, breaking windows and signs. In order to calm the situation police backup came from Cotui. EdeNorte officials say the prolonged blackouts are due to maintenance at the San Felipe generator in Puerto Plata. Sosa is asking for the public to be patient. Sosa also attributed power outages to the reduced capacity of hydroelectric generators in the Cibao.

Moreno calls for zero tolerance
Former Santo Domingo district attorney and ex-presidential candidate Guillermo Moreno feels that Attorney General Radhames Jimenez, Interior Police Minster Franklyn Almeyda and other government officials should be fired for failing to follow up on the continuous warnings of complicity of the Bani authorities with drug traffickers made by Senator Wilton Guerrero.
Moreno says that the lack of political will to fight drug trafficking in the country is to blame for the increase in the trade. Moreno says that the tolerance and complicity in government jeopardizes the nation's security. "We aren't going to defeat drug trafficking by creating commissions that garner publicity and give the government more time, while the situation in Bani is forgotten." He says the way you beat drug trafficking is by not allowing drug money to be legitimized. He added that the government lacks the authority and will to face the issues at hand and says Dominican society should have zero tolerance towards drug trafficking.

HR group wants answers
The Inter American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States deplores the murder of cameraman Normando Garcia on 7 August in a resolution by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The journalist was gunned down on 7 August while waiting at a car wash. Garcia covered drug dealer operations for a Santiago TV news program. The Commission asks for crime investigators to present their findings into the murder and says that all states should prevent, investigate and penalize violations of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Cocaine colonel to jail
Lt. Colonel Ricardo Rafael Guzman Perez, his wife, Scarlett Aristy Rojas and their driver Marcos Fajardo have all been sentenced to one-year preventive custody after being caught with 8 kilos of cocaine earlier this week. Guzman was sent to La Victoria and Aristy and Fajardo to Najayo jails. The trio is also facing charges of theft as Fajardo and Rojas stole the vehicle in which the drugs were being transported.

Fatal bus accident in the East
More than 20 people are believed dead and several more injured after a frontal two-bus accident on the La Romana-Higuey highway at 8am on Friday, 15 August. It has been raining intensely. El Caribe reports that the accident occurred at the 35th kilometer of the highway, at the point known as "Curva del Gordo" (fatman's curve). Diario Libre reports that tourists were on board one of the buses.
Initial reports are that the intra-city Sichoprola bus collided into the FL Tours bus with tourists that was coming from Bavaro. The tour bus turned over, and a pick up truck also crashed at the tragic scene.
Colonel Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia told the press that 15 Dominicans and six tourists died, and there are 24 persons injured, as reported on El Gobierno de la Manana talk show.
East coast regional bus transporters had gone on strike precisely last week to protest maintenance problems of the road, despite taxes from the region being the main source of funding of the Ceiztur infrastructure fund managed by the Ministry of Tourism. Transporters complain that the roads need to be expanded to accommodate the intense traffic in the area.
To follow the news, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/living/...

New US travel requirement
Citizens and eligible nationals of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) of the United States need to be aware that beginning 1 August 2008, the US Customs and Border Protection is now asking all to seek authorizations to visit online through the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This does not apply to Dominican nationals, rather to travelers that do not need a visa to enter the US. These VWP travelers are being asked complete an application online seeking authorization to travel to the US. Travelers are encouraged to apply early as effective 12 January 2008, when all VWP travelers will be required to obtain the electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the US.
VWP countries are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends that applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel. In most cases a response will be received within seconds authorization travel or not. An authorization to travel is valid, unless revoked, for up to two years or until the traveler's passport expires, whichever comes first. It is also valid for multiple entries into the US. As future trips are planned, or if an applicant's destination addresses or itineraries change after the authorization has been approved, the traveler may easily update that information through the ESTA web site. ESTA explains that the authorization is not a guarantee of admissibility to the US at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the US under the VWP.
For more information, see http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/esta_faq.xml

Olympics update
Dominican hurdler 30-year old Felix Sanchez's dreams of a second Olympic gold were dashed in less than 60 seconds. Sanchez, who has been recuperating from a foot injury, came in fifth place during his first round classificatory race in Beijing. The Athens Olympics gold medalist hours before the race had been saddened when he learned about the death of his 70-year old grandmother.
The DR's female table team was eliminated from competition after losing to Croatia 1-3. It has been a disappointing Olympic Games for the table tennis team as they also lost to Australia. Star athletes Nieves Xue and teammate Jennifer Lian Qian have had subpar performances.
Yuderkis Contreras, one of the DR's brightest hopes for an Olympic medal, left the Olympic village in Beijing yesterday visibly disappointed in her performance. Contreras finished fifth in the 53kg weight class.
The DR's hopes for a medal with boxer Felix Manuel Diaz.

Strong rains forecast
Puerto Rico is on Friday under flooding watch this Friday, 15 August due to a tropical wave that is crossing over. It has been raining in the DR already today, and the forecast is for more rains through Saturday. On Saturday, 16 August the tropical wave is expected to have become a depression as it crosses the island. It would then become Tropical Storm Fay as it makes its way towards Cuba and the Bahamas in the northwest. Heavy rains and gusty winds are forecast for the island today and tomorrow.
The Weather Department says that residents in the DR should monitor the storm's progress. We are now entering the peak hurricane weeks for the Caribbean - late August and September. Two more storms have formed on the Caribbean track and need to be monitored as they make their way in this direction.
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