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Daily News - Wednesday, 19 August 2009

New border security chief
President Leonel Fernandez appointed a new chief of the border security force. Brigade General Francisco Gil Ramirez was chosen to replace General Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase at the Cuerpo Especializado de Seguridad Fronteriza (Cesfront). Yesterday, the government also announced a new chief of the National Drug Control Department (DNCD), Police General Rolando Rosado Mateo.
The regional directors of the Police have been changed.
President Leonel Fernandez also ordered yesterday that to earn a promotion military officers do a year of service at the border with Haiti.

Marrazini sworn in
Upon taking office yesterday as executive vice president of the State-Owned Electricity Companies (CDEEE), Celso Marrazini says his first order of business is the audit from the Chamber of Accounts, a routine business operation that will establish the financial situation he receives. He said he will ask that the CDEEE be audited annually.
Marranzini received the administration from Radhames Segura, who had five consecutive years under the Fernandez administration. Segura declined his new appointment as presidential advisor on energy matters.
Marranzini had criticized Segura for failing badly at the helm of the state electricity sector.

Will online power decide in 2012?
Economist and historian Bernardo Vega writes today in Hoy on how the successful nationwide rejection of the construction of a cement plant in Los Haitises is evidence of a new "soft power" in the DR. He makes the point this is the same online community effort that is said to have taken Barack Obama to the presidency in the US.
Vega says the proponents of the cement plant at the site adjacent to the National Park seemed to have it all in place to impose the site over the initial opinions of Ministry of Environment technicians who had rejected it. He writes it was President Leonel Fernandez himself who had suggested the site for its easy access from the new Samana highway. Furthermore, Monte Plata senator Charlie Mariotti, of the ruling party, proposed the specific location. Moreover, the beneficiary, Grupo Estrella is the owner of the very influential CDN multi-media group, including El Caribe newspaper.
"But soft power prevailed," writes Vega. "Thousands of youths made the environmental cause theirs. On the Internet, in chats, they sent out hundreds of messages and videos. Priests, the state university and the Academy of Science fed the discussion. Car stickers were widely used by those who protested.
Vega points out that even Environment Minister Jaime David Ferandez admitted he was watching from his balcony the passing of his political corpse. Indeed, his popularity as an aspirant to the presidency in 2012 dropped to a practical all time low.
And then a recent Gallup poll showed 85% of Dominicans rejected the project, an all time high among the usually indifferent and very tolerant Dominican people. Moreover, Vega highlights that the cement plant even received a 81% rejection rate among those identifying themselves as PLD partisans in the poll.
Given the widespread rejection, President Leonel Fernandez called in a team of experts from the UN that at a cost of US$100,000 will give their opinion in late September. Vega speculates this means the plant will be relocated.
"But it is most interesting to speculate whether this 'soft power' could play an important role in the 2012 presidential election. If sufficient youths, older than 18 [voting age], can undertake an effort to sponsor a new person, perhaps with the support of a minority party," he wonders out loud.
"The conditions are given because the possible candidates of the PRD and the PLD probably just mean "more of the same" and the PRSC is no longer an option. The question remains whether a new face among us could come forward, propelled by the new forces that opposed the installation of the Gonzalo plant," he writes.

Refidomsa sale doesn't violate DR-CAFTA
According to US Embassy in Santo Domingo Charge d'Affaires Roland Bullen, the US government does not oppose the sale of 49% stake in the Dominican Refinery (REFIDOMSA) to the Venezuelan government petroleum company, PDVSA. He said this is a sovereign decision of the Dominican government. Bullen was quoted in Listin Diario saying: "I believe the Dominican government analyzed the benefits of the deal." Bullen's comments come a month after California State Representative Loretta Sanchez asked the US State Department to investigate the deal with Venezuela, saying it could violate certain provisions within the DR-CAFTA trade agreement.

Taiwan donation
The Taiwanese government will donate US$416,000 to the Ministry of Foreign Relations' Diplomacy School and the construction of the Ministry's Center for Trade Policy. Foreign Relations Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso received the funds from Taiwan Ambassador Isaac Tsai. Tsai commented that education has always been an important part of the Taiwan's cooperation.

Cedulas canceled
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has canceled 28,478 cedula identity cards of which 775 were for identity fraud and 1,345 for duplicity in JCE records. The cancelations are part of an overall project by the JCE to clean its records and guarantee that the identity cards it issues are legitimate. Last week alone the JCE had announced it had canceled 2,000 cedula cards.

Dominguez Brito is OK
Santiago Senator Francisco Dominguez Brito is in stable condition. He traveled to New York City early Monday morning for a second opinion on a congenital heart condition at the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Mayor charged with embezzlement
Villa Altagracia Mayor Pedro Peralta and treasurer Franklin Vargas are being accused of embezzling an estimated RD$108 million in public funds. The charges were brought by the Department for the Persecution of Administrative Corruption. The charges come after an audit by the Chamber of Accounts showed the politician "used RD$108,952,197.77 without the proper transparency, evading the controls established by law."
The charges indicate that millionaire sums of cash were given to people who didn't even work for the city hall office. One of the charges includes the purchase of a parcel of land for the price of RD$4,950,000 without the proper valuation of the land. The report indicates that this particular plot of land was overvalued by RD$2.8 million.
Charges indicate that Vargas issued 37 different checks for a total value of RD$3.13 million from the "Account of Investments Programming" fund. Of those 37 checks, seven were made in the name of the treasure's wife, and members of the city hall's offices.
An extra RD$6,331,990 were drafted to family members of city government employees.

Health debate stalemate
Making an analogy to war, Dominican Medical College (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero said that an army can't leave any soldiers on the battle field. This explains why Suero continued yesterday to argue for the reinstatement of five doctors and two nurses fired by the Ministry of Public Health. The topic was so contentious that it took up the bulk of the five-hour meeting between both sides. A commission was named look into the situation.
This is the second meeting that looks to find a solution to demands by the CMD, primarily an over the board increase in wages for the public hospital doctors and nurses.
Dr. Fulgencio Severino will represent the CMD in the commission, Dr. Roberto Peguero will represent the government and Cesar Mella will be the mediator. This commission has 48 hours to come up with a solution so the talks about the real issues can continue.

Indiana University and the monkey
Leading US science publications are reporting on what has been one of the most important scientific discoveries in the Caribbean in recent times. University of Indiana researchers have uncovered the bones of a small primate and others identified as from now-extinct Caribbean animals in an underwater cave. The remains were found in a cave along with stone tools estimated to be about 4,000 to 6,500 years old, according to Geoffrey Conrad, director of the Mathers Museum of World Culture at IU Bloomington. He said the primate could be between 4,000 and 10,000 years old.
"I know of no place that has sloths, a primate (possibly an extinct monkey) and humanly made stone tools together in a nice, tight association around the same time," Conrad said in a statement.
"Right now it looks like a potential treasure trove of data to help us sort out the relationship in time between humans and extinct animals in the Greater Antilles. This site definitely is worthy of a large-scale investigation."
The primate skull is believed to that of a howler monkey, which is extinct in the Caribbean. The sloth bones came from several species of sloths, one of which was the size of a black bear and another the size of a large dog.
The researchers say the treasure trove holds clues to the Caribbean's earliest inhabitants.
"I couldn't believe my eyes as I viewed each of these astonishing discoveries underwater," said lead researcher Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs at Indiana University, Bloomington. "The virtually intact extinct faunal skeletons really amazed me, but what may prove to be a fire pit from the first human occupation of the island just seems too good to be true."
The discoveries extend by thousands of years the scope of investigations led Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs at IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and his interdisciplinary team of collaborators.
The researchers' focus has been on the era a mere 500 years ago when the Old World and New World first met after Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in the Caribbean -- and on scintillating pirate lore. This rare find is expected to give insights into the earliest inhabitants of the Greater Antilles and the animals they encountered.
The study is underway in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture through its Office of Underwater Heritage and the Museum of Dominican Man, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Environment.
The same IU team is also assisting the government in the developments following the finding of the Captain Kidd ship, the Quedagh Merchant, in waters off Catalina Island in the nearby area. The pirate ship had been sought for years.
http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/11644.html

Sadness for Sanchez
In recent years injuries kept the DR's first Olympic gold medallist Felix Sanchez from reaching the top again. But Tuesday's race at the World Championships in Berlin added a new set of "what ifs?" Sanchez went into the final round of the 400m hurdles as the frontrunner and heavy favorite and all looked good. But right out of the block he tripped over the first hurdle. He could not recover. Sanchez said he took 21 and a half steps before the first hurdle instead of the regular 21. He said this caught him off balance. Sanchez finished last.

Villanueva, Horford & Garcia
For the first time, on the DR's basketball team are three players that are active in the NBA league of the US. Charlie Villanueva (Detroit Pistons), Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks) and Francisco Garcia (Sacramento Kings) will be playing for the DR in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas. Up for grabs are four slots to play in the FIBA World Championship set for Turkey in summer 2010.
This threesome joins Josh Asselin, Luis Flores, Jack Michael Martinez, Kelvin Pena, Juan Coronado, Marlon Martinez, Alex Salas, Ricky Greer, Carlos Morban, Franklin Western and John Garcia.
The team is training at the Arena del Cibao in Santiago. They will play a final game at 8pm on Thursday at the Polideportivo Mauricio Baez in Santo Domingo, prior to leaving on Friday to Puerto Rico for the tournament that will take place 26 August to 6 September in San Juan.
Presidente Beer is one of the sponsors of the tournament that gathers some of the best in basketball in Latin America and the Caribbean.

DR wins 7 medals in wrestling
The Dominican wrestling team won seven medals, including one gold and a silver during the IX Panamerican Wrestling Championship held in Nicaragua. Yomaylen Manon, in the 58 kilo category, won gold and Anderson D'Oleo in 50 kilos freestyle won silver. Team trainer Olgui Sabua Montero said seven of eight team members won medals in the championship.

Miss DR stars in Miss Universe
Miss DR Ada Aimee de la Cruz is getting very good press during the events leading to the 84-contender Miss Universe pageant on Sunday, 23 August. News agencies and online reports have her as one of the 15 favorites to win the crown.
In its 58th year, the Miss Universe pageant is taking place at the Atlantis Paradise Island, in Nassau. The event is televised by NBC and Telemundo. In the DR, the contest can be seen on Antena Latina.
De la Cruz represented the DR in the Miss World competition in 2007 and now repeats in the Miss Universe 2009 pageant.

Folklore Ballet Gala
The National Folklore Ballet is staging its 2009 Gala at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes). The 21, 22, and 23 August event features the star participation of merengue queen Milly Quezada and 150 Dominican folklore artists. It will be an evening of song, dance and dramatizing Dominican traditions and customs.
Josefina Minimo, director of the National Folklore Ballet, named the show, "Dominican Passion." Scenography is by Liliana Soto, costumes by Gaby Malagon and Anita Bencosme, illumination by Roberto Leon. She stresses this is a fresh focus on Dominican culture, and funding has allowed for what should be a memorable folklore extravaganza.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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