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Daily News - Thursday, 17 September 2009

Government promises $ for POP
President Leonel Fernandez met in Puerto Plata yesterday with tourism sector representatives, and committed government funding for projects on the province's development agenda. Jose Natalio Redondo, president of the Puerto Plata Tourism & Cultural Cluster expressed optimism that progress would be made following the President's visit.
It was agreed that the government would fund the reconstruction and expansion to four lanes on the Navarrete-Puerto Plata highway, as well as a new tunnel.
They also agreed to fund the construction of a hospital in Sosua, bridges, aqueducts and the rehabilitation of the port.
A bypass road through Cabarete would be built, and the current road would be pedestrianized.
It was also agreed that a decree would be issued to increase the maximum permitted building height of Cabarete from three to four floors.
Agreements with the city governments were also announced for the paving of streets in Sosua, Cabarete and Puerto Plata.
The government also approved a RD$35 million promotional campaign in the US, starting next week.
In Puerto Plata for the meeting were Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, Public Works Minister Victor Diaz, and director of the National Aqueducts Institute (INAPA), Mariano German.

Funglode is IG, the university
The Instituto Global de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Sociales (Global Institute for Advanced Social Science Studies) was officially inaugurated at the Global Foundation's headquarters in Santo Domingo yesterday. Marcos Villaman will be the first rector of the new university. The university incorporates several higher learning programs already taking place at the Global Foundation for Development (Funglode), the think-tank set up by President Leonel Fernandez upon leaving the presidency in 2000. "The Global Institute is not here to compete with the rest of the country's universities, but to serve as a sister school to the others," said Fernandez.
Speaking at the event, Funglode director Marcos Herrera had words of praise for the people who have made the new learning center possible: President Leonel Fernandez, the first director of Funglode, Frederic Emam Zade, Ramon Flores who was in charge of developing the concept, and Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez and Carlos Munoz for their constant efforts.
The university board members are:
Frederic Emam-Zade, Carlos Munoz, Laura Faxas, Margarita Cedeno, Flavio Dario Espinal, Max Puig, Manuel Corripio Jr., Luis Jose Asilis, Marco Herrera, Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez, Carlos Dore Cabral, Luis Manuel Bonetti, Aida Montero, Pedro Gonzalez-Trevijano, Jesus Sanchez Lambas, Eduardo Gamarra and Ramona Hernandez.
Speaking at the event, President Fernandez stressed IG's role as complementary to the university level education in the country. He spoke of his vision of turning the DR into a "hub of ideas" thanks to initiatives that are bringing academics from Europe and the US to the DR at the highest level.
"This is the fruit of globalization or the internationalization of higher education," said Fernandez. "Today, Spain, England, France, the United States... come here to contribute their knowledge through study programs and we need to make the most of our geographic location. Perhaps a student from Puerto Rico, Haiti, Venezuela or Central America... it may not be a good idea to go to Spain to study or another place to do a Master's but they may see the DR as an option."

Slot machines get out of hand
The rule was that slot machines could only be installed in hotel casinos. But some how, someone in government looked the other way and 5,269 permits for slot machines to operate in colmados, bars, bingos, and betting shops have been issued by the Ministry of Hacienda. The machines pay the Ministry RD$4,000 a month in Santo Domingo and Santiago, and RD$4,000 in other towns. But an estimated 15,000 slot machines operate without any kind of permit.
Community and church organizations have been pressuring the Ministry of Hacienda to take action. They explain that children have become addicted, and to support their vice are resorting to crime.
So now, Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa is considering sending a bill to Congress to regulate the situation. He took the case to the press, to rally for support.
Bengoa feels the slot machines should only operate inside casinos, as originally was stipulated. He told the press he does not know where all the slot machines came from, nor who imported them.

DR + Haiti to fight eco degradation
Haiti and the DR have joined forces, with United Nations support, to tackle environmental degradation caused by rising water levels in two lakes on either side of their common border. The resulting floodwaters have caused noticeable damage to biodiversity and agriculture, increasing poverty.
The UN says that even if the heavy rainfall of the last few years declines, water levels in Lake Azuei in Haiti and Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic - both at the foot of mountains - will continue to rise.
To address the problem, the two countries are working with the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Food Program (WFP).
The partnership seeks to boost research on the watersheds supplying the lakes, implement a plan for reforestation, slow down the rate of erosion, and promote development to increase income for lakeside communities.
The environment ministers of Haiti and the Dominican Republic signed a declaration last month, making a commitment to cooperating to find a solution to the problem.

Legislators seek to protect corruption?
True to his words, Deputy Alfonso Crisostomo (PLD-Puerto Plata) has submitted a bill to Congress aimed at reducing citizens' freedom of access to public information. Crisostomo had said he planned to do this after journalist Alicia Ortega revealed that his father and brother were on a Senate payroll under his control. The new bill includes 17 new points, including one stating that the person requesting government department information must sign a sworn statement giving the reason for requesting the information.
The new bill is not expected to move in Congress. The spokesperson for the PLD block, Alejandro Montas, rejected the bill, explaining that government employees who handle pubic funds need to be transparent.
But the initiative is the just one of several that have been moving through Congress, following the journalistic reports of corruption in office. El Dia reports that others include a bill presented by La Romana senator Amarilis Santana aimed at obliging the media to grant space for promotions by government institutions.
Also, the Verification Commission for the Constitution has inserted the concept of "truthful information" where the Constitution refers to freedom of expression. There has been opposition to this from press sectors on the grounds that government officials could manipulate the clause at the expense of public liberties. The president of the verification committee, Frank Martinez of the PRSC said that the "truthful information" term was not approved in the first reading. He agreed it could be used to manipulate.
The new initiatives come at a time when Ortega, together with TV journalist Nuria Piera and online journalists have revealed scandals about the use and abuse of funds and vehicle exoneration facility granted to legislators as a perk.

Vigilante justice gains popularity
The rising violence in their neighborhoods has led residents in San Francisco de Macoris to set up small community protection groups called "ronderos." However, the Ministry of Interior and Police has described the formation of these groups as "dangerous". Minister Franklyn Almeyda says that only the Police have the mandate to protect the citizenry against crime and violence.
The creation of self-protection groups armed with guns and other weapons could lead to other problems with the police, said the minister.
Almeyda added that citizens should go to the National Police if they have any concerns. Nonetheless, a lack of trust in the Police has been the main factor behind these local protection groups.
Today's Clave newspaper reports that the police's inability to provide security has led to the de-facto privatization of the service, with an estimated 10,000-60,000 private security guards employed by 230 companies across the country, compared to the 30,000-strong police force.
"The poor quality of public security here has led to a huge increase in the use of private security," says political scientist Daniel Pou.
The newspaper says that the lack of regulation of the private security sector has led to distortions where private guards can sometimes pose a threat to public safety.
The report also focuses on the low wages earned by private guards, about RD$7,100 for 12 hours of service, 6 days a week. Companies are under pressure to keep their charges low due to intense competition in the sector.

Emergency landing at AILA
An airplane owned by Ambev Dominicana was forced to make an emergency landing at Las Americas International Airport yesterday. The landing occurred at 10:45am and officials say mechanical problems forced the landing. The plane had 6 Ambev executives on board and was arriving from Brazil. Due to the problems with the Ambev plane, a Copa Airlines flight had to circle around Las Americas for 30 minutes before it could land.

DR "too vulnerable" to drug trade
The DR and three other Caribbean nations are on a narcotics list published by the US. Under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the US President is required to notify Congress of the countries that his staff identifies as major illicit drug producers and transit countries. There is no change from last year's list.
The 20 countries designated on the 2009 list are: Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Burma, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
The US Department of State says, "that a country's presence on the list does not necessarily reflect its counter-narcotics efforts nor does it reflect its cooperation with the United States."
The designation, however, can reflect a combination of geographical, commercial and economic factors that allow drugs to be produced and/or trafficked through a country despite its own best efforts.
DR National Drug Control Department (DNCD) spokesman Roberto Lebron says the US has recognized the DR's efforts in fighting drug trafficking. He said that the US and the DR are allies in the fight against narcotics.

Expo Cibao in Santiago
The Santiago Chamber of Commerce is inviting the public to visit Expo Cibao, the goods and services trade show open at the La Barranquita sports complex. The theme of this year's fair is "Dominicans, it's time to export! A total of 225 companies are taking part with 400 stands. The trade show is expected to attract 350,000 visitors and generate RD$350 million worth of sales.
In his keynote speech during the opening ceremony, Santiago Chamber of Commerce president Oliverio Espaillat stressed the need to change the paradigms in the country and create an export culture. He said that the trade deficit was increasing every year, requiring finance from foreign investment, remittances and foreign loans. "This deficit went from US$3.72 billion in 2005 to US$9.14 billion in 2008", he said. He added that this trend was unsustainable for any economy, in the medium and long term.
For more on upcoming events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar

Olympic gold Diaz fights again
Dominican boxer and Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz will put on his gloves for his second professional fight tomorrow. Diaz will fight Luis Ortiz Adorno in Miami. The fight will be transmitted on the ESPN2 network. During Diaz's first fight he knocked out Mexican pugilist Hugo Pachecho in a match at the Carlos Teo Cruz boxing stadium. Pachecho was a weak opponent, but served as a starting point as Diaz prepares to put his pro boxing career in full swing. Ortiz looks to be a tougher opponent, with a 6-5 record, with 3 knockouts and 5 draws.

Papi's Big heart
David Ortiz might be having his troubles at the plate, but he is still known around the league as one of real good guys of the game. Ortiz has been warmly received everywhere he goes due to his demeanor and genuine affection for fans.
With this in mind Ortiz has decided to throw his name and support behind a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital. Earlier this week Ortiz announced that the David Ortiz's Children's Fund has formed a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital. According to MLB.com, Ortiz's charity has funded roughly 60 heart surgeries for children in the Dominican Republic over the past year, and the efforts will now extend to Big Papi's baseball home of Boston.
During a ceremony at Big Papi's Grille, which has recently opened in Framingham, Ma., Ortiz presented Peter Slavin with a US$100,000 check. Slavin is the hospital's president. "Whenever you provide an open-heart surgery for one of these kids, it changes the whole family's life situation," said Ortiz. "It's an unbelievable change. I started doing this a few years back. I was doing it because I love kids, and I love to see the smile on children's faces. I had no idea, seriously, what I was walking into."
Nelva Pelaez, the secretary of Heart Care Dominicana said, "I remember the first time David came into the hospital. I was very touched to see a guy who was so big and so strong fall into the arms of a baby, basically, crying," "He couldn't stand to see their pain. I was truly touched at that moment. I said to myself, 'This is a genuine guy, and he will come back and help more children,' and he did."

Mota's tribute
Manny Mota arrived in Los Angeles in 1969, and 40 years later the legendary Dominican is still with his beloved team, living what most would consider a dream. And for a few moments, before yesterday's Dodgers Pirates game, Chavez Rivine Stadium, was converted into the Caribbean, as the Dodgers paid tribute to Mota's 40 years of service to the organization.
Celebrations included Dominican folkloric performance and a section of the park was labeled "My Town Dominican Republic." The section included typical Dominican foods and was draped in the colors of the Dominican flag. It was also a fitting celebration as the Dodgers have six Dominican players on their active roster.

Beach clean-up day
Volunteers can still sign up to contribute their efforts to Beach Clean-Up Day, which is taking place on Saturday, 19 September in the DR as well as all around the world. The Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Clean-up initiative is coordinated in the DR by Fundacion Vida Azul, the leading marine environmental group. The clean-up work will take place from 9am to 12pm. This voluntary organization is coordinating an event where thousands of volunteers will visit beaches, rivers and coastline to collect garbage and solid waste. More than 11,000 volunteers have already signed up for Saturday's event.
To take part your the nearest beach, call 809 566-7780 or visit www.vidaazul.org and
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