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Daily News - Friday, 08 May 2009

Aqueducts and children's library
President Leonel Fernandez visited the southwest yesterday to inaugurate 12 aqueducts built at a cost of RD$630 million. The aqueducts will benefit an estimated 231,000 people in the provinces of San Cristobal, Peravia (Bani), Azua, Barahona, Elias Pina and San Juan de la Maguana.
As a symbolic gesture that marked the formal inauguration of all the aqueducts, Fernandez was in Azua for the inaugural of the 1.3 million gallon drinking water supply system.
Yesterday, back in the capital city, Fernandez also was present at the inauguration of the DR's Children's Library opposite the Presidential Palace, an effort of the Office of the First Lady Margarita Cedeno. Built at a cost of RD$69 million, the new facility is located on the premises of the former Biblioteca Republica Dominicana and is promoted as a place perfect for combining technology and learning.

David Birnbaum flips DR apparel
David Birnbaum, one of the leading world experts on the apparel industry is telling Dominicans that manufacturing in the DR "must change from being a product industry to a service industry". He spoke at a workshop organized by a Inter-American Development Bank and Ministry of Foreign Relations program that seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of Dominican exports.
Birnbaum stresses the need for more value-added in Dominican products. He said that the DR's advantage is in its multi-tasking, trained workers, and a history of better garments, such as suits and jackets. "The worker is a capital investment," he said, commenting on how the DR has a history of producing fine garments.
Nevertheless, he made the point. "We are taking that and we are making cheap lingerie, and we are finding it difficult to compete!" said Birnbaum, an advocate of the DR capitalizing on its higher skilled labor. He said the country has the trained labor to be specializing in the better-priced children's wear, men's suits and coats.
Birnbaum will be working with small and large Dominican apparel companies, from this May to August to prepare the way for a turn around in the industry. "Re-launching of the Dominican Apparel and Textile Industry: Tools for Survival" was a first seminar that took place in Santiago and Santo Domingo, coordinated by the Dominican Free Zones Association. A council with members of both free zone and domestic market manufacturers has been put together, with the support of Adozona, the National Free Zones Council and the Center for Export and Investment (CEI-RD).
Birnbaum made the point that the DR once had 50% of the US apparel export market share in the DR-CAFTA region, but if measures are not taken it could practically disappear as an exporter.
He stressed that this is not about prices, as Dominican costs are at the same level as China. "It is about value, and value-added to the product," he mentioned. He said that Italy is "doing well" exporting at costs around five times those in the DR.
Birnbaum observed that Dominican manufacturers outside the free zones are better structured than the free zone. "As the industry moves from basic production to greater service, the model we need to be following is the one that is being done by the small local factory. They might not be the world's most efficient at it, they might be reinventing the wheel, but they have the wheel," he said, commenting they are better organized to work in the world market than most Dominican large free zone plants.
He urged export factories to move their production to local settings, and to invest money in regional labels. "Because at a difficult time the regional market is safer and more profitable. Unfortunately most major Dominican factories are still not able to put together the full production".
He also stressed that the DR needs to make the most of its free trade agreement with Europe. "There are restrictions to ship to the USA. To Europe you may get fabric from anywhere around the world, and the European market is larger than the American market," he said.
Birnbaum went on to say about Europe: "It is our future, and the fact that we are in a recession, is an opportunity to take the future and grasp it."
He challenged Dominicans to change. "Most of the world today is not going to change, and most of the world is going to be gone by 2011. You have better skilled workers, and a background of making good quality. You have been making clothes for 40 years, you have the skills, use them."
The forthcoming seminar dates are 20/21 May, 17/18 June and 1/2 July. Each time, the Wednesday date will be in Santiago, the following Thursday date in Santo Domingo. There is no cost. The workshops are essential to all in the textile or apparel industry. For more information, contact Jose Torres at [email protected]
As part of the program, a database of garment manufacturers is being created.
See http://www.adozona-garments-and-textiles.org/
For more on Birnbaum's work around the world, see www.birnbaumgarment.com

Vin Diesel in the DR
Hollywood star VIn Diesel, known for being a big fan of the Dominican Republic, chose the Villa Juana sector of Santo Domingo as the location for the premiere of his short film "Los Bandoleros." Another reason for choosing Villa Juana was because it is the neighborhood where President Leonel Fernandez comes from. Actress Michelle Rodriguez, actor Las Alonso and rapper Tego Calderon were also present at the Club Mauricio Baez on Wednesday. According to Hoy, Diesel's love for the DR could also be partly related to the fact that his biological father is Dominican. Diesel, speaking before the screening of his film, said he was thankful for the cooperation demonstrated by the DR authorities and said he loves to eat rice, beans and sancocho.

Miguel Cocco is stable
Doctors at the CEDIMAT advanced medical center at Plaza de la Salud say that Customs Director Miguel Cocco's health is stable after having a kidney removed on Wednesday following complications. Cocco began feeling pain on Wednesday and underwent tests, which found a hematoma in one of his kidneys. A team of physicians led by Dr. Eduardo Yermenos said that the next 48-72 hours would determine whether he could overcome this crisis. Cocco has suffered from chronic kidney disease for the last 11 years and requires dialysis three times a week.
Miguel Cocco, known for his professionalism and honesty at the helm of the Customs Department, is one of the government officials who is most critical of government corruption.

Ede-Este gives a chance
The energy distribution company Ede-Este is giving customers with overdue bills or who are illegally connected to the energy grid until 31 May to go legit. As part of their "Ede-Este makes it easy" program, the company is facilitating the steps for consumers to regulate their status. Ede-Este spokesman Marcos Cadet said this would be the last time the company gives clients a chance to rectify their situation. He said that the aim was to ensure that all visitors to their offices leave with a solution.

New aviation security corps
President Leonel Fernandez has created the Civil Aviation Security National Committee (CONASAC) through decree 325-09. The new committee will be part of the Ministry of the Armed Forces instead of the National Airport Security Council. The Committee will report back to President Fernandez on policies and developments in the area of airport security. The committee will also coordinate its efforts with the nation's aviation institutes.

PRA has corruption
State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura has admitted that there was corruption during Marcos Lara Lorenzo's six-month tenure as director of the Blackout Reduction Program (PRA). Speaking at a press conference, Segura said that an audit revealed that of the RD$894,248 designated for use on repairs to the PRA offices in Herrera and Lincoln Avenue, Lara took RD$300,000 to build himself an office on 27 de Febrero Avenue. The audit also revealed that 18 members of his church, "Los Escogidos de Dios," ("God's Chosen Ones") and 18 family members received monthly checks. Segura announced that Lara and the other PRA officials involved would not be charged with corruption and that the information would only be sent to the Department for the Prevention of Administrative Corruption (DPCA). In the past, several other PRA officials have been suspended in the wake of similar allegations.
The scandal was originally broken by investigative journalist Nuria Piera on her TV show. After resigning as PRA director, Lara said he had employed family members and paid them excessive salaries, in some cases RD$120,000 per month, but denies ever having used PRA funds to build his office.

Fenatrado confronted in Haiti
Dominican truckers are complaining that Haitian truckers are preventing them from transporting cargo to Haiti. Goods transported include food and construction materials.
The Haitian truckers say that they should be transporting cargo into Haiti. Listin Diario reports that more than 50 trucks are being held up on the Haitian side of the Jimani-Malpasse border crossing with Haiti. On Wednesday one of the Dominican trucks was set on fire in Haiti and two others had their windows broken, according to Blas Peralta, president of the National Federation of Dominican Transport, a union that has itself used violence in the past to force companies in the DR to use its services.
"If they don't let us cross the border to Haiti, then no Haitian trucker will cross over to this side," said Peralta when he arrived in Jimani for a meeting with Dominican and Haitian truckers. Cargo crossing from the DR to Haiti greatly exceeds the volumes traveling in the opposite direction.
Peralta said that this was a problem caused by the Haitians, not the Dominicans, and that his union would not allow itself to be trampled upon. A meeting to discuss a solution to the issue is scheduled for today.

Herrera killer turns himself in
Confesor Reyes has handed himself over to police for his role in last week's incident in which a Haitian national was decapitated in the Buenos Aires de Herrera sector of Santo Domingo. The killing took place as revenge after the victim allegedly decapitated a construction worker, a relative of Reyes. Police are also looking for the victim's brother Rusbert de Leon Lara (Ningo), who is also believed to have been involved in the gruesome crime. Listin Diario reports that a judge has sentenced Reyes to three months preventive custody.

Shooting at Diamond Mall
Police say two men were wounded following an attempted robbery at the DC-Joyas store, at Santo Domingo's Diamond Mall. Brayan de Jesus Lopez and Francisco Henriquez were shot and eventually caught by police. Johnny Garcia and Jose Luis Fernandez have also been detained as the investigation continues.

Mannygate II
It seems there are no clean baseball players left. At least, this is the underlying sentiment felt by fans after it was revealed that star slugger Manny Ramirez had been suspended for 50 games after failing a drug test. Ramirez is suspected of testing for hCG, a testosterone booster usually prescribed as a fertility treatment for women. He was also found to have elevated levels of unnatural testosterone in the body. According to sources, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a substance of choice for many athletes because it restarts the body's natural testosterone production, acting as a masking agent for other drugs and is difficult to detect by some standard tests. The news has sent shock waves around Major League Baseball as Ramirez was thought to have been one of the few superstars who would emerge untainted from the dirt known as the Steroid Era. More damaging for Ramirez is the timing of his positive testing. In the past, athletes have hidden behind excuses like they "didn't know" or "it was a mistake." These excuses were used by Alex Rodriguez or even Rafael Palmeiro, but the prevalence of MLB's testing program and continued warnings by baseball officials against using unknown substances could be said to reflect Ramirez's indifference or arrogance towards the game and its policies. No longer can Ramirez's lackadaisical play be chalked up to "Manny being Manny." Ramirez is expected to lose US$7.5 million from his US$25 million salary for 2009. Players aren't paid when they are suspended for performance enhancing drugs. In a prepared statement released by the players' association, Ramirez said: "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation." Word of the scandal quickly reached the White House, when WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described the incident as shameful.

Rodriguez is back
Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez couldn't have picked a better time to make a comeback after having off-season hip surgery. Rodriguez's return to the field, his off-field drama, steroid baggage and a new and slanderous book by author Selena Roberts were sure to be the news de jour, but the announcement that Manny Ramirez had tested positive for steroids has usurped all media coverage and left Rodriguez's return in the shadows. However, this might be exactly what Rodriguez needs. As Rodriguez returns, a reduced spotlight as he eases into the game could be of great benefit.

Lorraine Galow stars in gymnastics
Dominican Lorraine Galow Leon contributed to the University of Bridgeport women's gymnastic team's historic achievement last month by helping the Purple Knights become the 2009 USA Gymnastics Collegiate Co-National Champions with Cornell University. This was the university's first national gymnastics championship title. UB and Cornell tied for first with a score of 191.675. The team almost made it to grab a share of the 2009 USA Gymnastics College Team National Title, but still wrapped up the three-day USAG National Championship Meet at Southern Connecticut State University by earning five All-America honors in three different individual event finals. In the vault, Dominican sophomore Lorraine Galow Leon (Suwanee, GA) took fifth place with a score of 9.700.
In the winning of the co-national championship, Galow played a major part in her team's success by winning the all-around competition with a score of 38.850. Her teammate, freshman Miranda Der (Palo Alto, CA) was fifth in the all-around with a total of 37.225.
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