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Daily News - Tuesday, 01 December 2009

Fernandez and technology
During his address to the XIX Summit of Iberoamerican Heads of State and Government, President Leonel Fernandez urged fellow regional leaders to change their attitudes towards the growing technological divide in Latin America. Fernandez encouraged fellow leaders to try to find solutions to this widening gap. Speaking at the Summit, Fernandez said that this digital divide could lead to new types of social, economic, political and cultural divisions. Rather than feel defeated, Fernandez says what needs to be done is to change attitudes and mentalities, turning what is currently a gap into a development opportunity for each nation. Fernandez continued by saying that in the process of developing human resources, cooperation policies need to be set up between universities and research centers in order for knowledge to be passed on. Speaking on competitiveness, Fernandez declared that the new economic model should have increased competitiveness for regional economies as its goal, with better insertion in international markets.

Constitution date set
Legislators have finally agreed that the proclamation of the new Dominican Constitution will take place on 26 January 2010. The date has been postponed twice. The reading of the final version of the text will begin at 9am and is expected to end at 4pm.
For a copy of the text of the new constitution, please visit: www.senado.gov.do/PortalSILSenado

There could be natural gas here
During a conference at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), Octavio Lopez, director of Mining in the DR, speculated that there could be natural gas in Dominican territory. He said that a team of experts from the Department of Geodynamics at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid had found indications of a possible natural gas deposit. He said the research does not establish whether there was sufficient natural gas to make it commercially exploitable.
In a press release, Lopez stated that more research needed to be done in the south and eastern coasts to assess the significance of the discovery.

Pina downplays drugs
The battle of public perception is usually the toughest to win, yet Cesar Pina Toribio is doing his best to save face in response to the finding that 52.6% of Dominicans believe that drug trafficking has penetrated the DR because of complicity between drug dealers and the authorities, and that 80.4% of those polled believe that drug trafficking is on the rise. These results are from the Gallup-Hoy public opinion poll published yesterday.
Pina, the Presidency Press Minister, says that while the public perception of drugs is exaggerated, the authorities need to turn their attention to the fact that there is a widespread perception of complicity between the authorities and drug traffickers. He urged the authorities to redouble their efforts in the fight against drug trafficking.

Sobeida's smokescreen
Time goes by and the story of Sobeida Felix (Feliz) enters the world of folklore and myth. The housewife-turned-drug fugitive has captured the imagination and the headlines of Dominican media, and for whatever reason has overtaken the real story, which involved her alleged lover, drug kingpin Jose A. Figueroa. According to Presidential Drugs Advisor Vincho Castillo, Sobeida is still in the country, either hiding out at a resort or being protected by a "fat cat" drug lord. Castillo made the point Figueroa himself lived in the DR unperturbed flaunting his wealth for 9 years. Figueroa is a fugitive of Puerto Rican justice, who escaped from serving a 209-year term in prison. Castillo denies the claims that the DR's security forces are weak. In a recent Gallup-Hoy poll it was revealed that 70% of Dominicans believe that Sobeida has left the country.

Gallup: Corruption on the rise
The perception is that corruption is on the rise in government, according to results of a recent Gallup-Hoy poll. According to the poll, more than half the Dominican population perceives that corruption has increased over time, that there is more corruption in this government than there was under Hipolito Mejia, and that impunity is frequent. 64.4% of the population believes that in this government there is more corruption than before, up from 47.6% four months ago. 46.8% of those asked could not pinpoint a specific office where corruption was more rampant, but the highest level of corruption was attributed to the Armed Forces and the Police, with 16%.
To the question of whether with the passing of time, corruption increases, declines or stays the same in the DR, 70% answered that it is increases.

Inflation, blackouts and crime
According to a recent Gallup-Hoy poll, inflation (59.2%), blackouts (48%) and crime (47.8%) are the three main areas of concern for Dominicans. The lack of jobs (37.3%), drug trafficking and consumption (18.4%), administrative corruption (12.8%) and the shortage of potable water (11.2%) follow.
When citizens were asked where they would invest the bulk of resources if elected President, 58% mentioned education and health and only 0.03% said the Metro. Other priority areas were welfare for the poor (41.7%), job creation (31.4%), electricity (28%), potable water (14%), housing (14%) and social security (8.7%).

Vodka, please
For many years Dominican rum was the standard alcoholic beverage for Dominicans. Then whisky captured significant market share as a popular alternative for some. Now, according to a Mercadata and Stegic One survey, vodka has moved up, ending rum's reign as the drink of choice, especially among younger people. Hoy, quoting the survey reports that vodka is now the number one selling alcoholic beverage in Santo Domingo, and is the preferred drink amongst young drinkers. Wine has also seen a spike in popularity, highest among all spirits. However, beer consumption is still tops over wine.

DR most connected
The DR received the highest marks in the Caribbean for internet connectivity and is second among all Central American nations, according to the "2008 Web America Evaluation Index." The information was released by Juan Zavattiero, ITU Regional Office head. Among all countries on the index the DR is 10th on the list, which also includes the US, Canada and Mexico.

HIV rates high in children
Every year in the DR 1,200 children are born to mothers with HIV, 11% of whom are also born with the virus. Listin Diario reports that 1,300 children in the DR are currently living with HIV, and some of them receive treatment from the Presidential HIV/AIDS council. COPRESIDA president Gustavo Rojas Lara said that every time a child is born with HIV it represents a failure for the Dominican medical system. Rojas made his comments during the inauguration of 9 counseling centers and 12 integrated care centers.

Love scandal brewing
An ethics committee in Miami Dade County in Florida is investigating suspended Miami mayor Cesar Casara for allegedly running up a US$50,000 telephone bill in calls to the DR. Diario Libre reports that initial investigations reveal that Casara was calling a woman named as Santagracia de Leon. De Leon says she is Casara's girlfriend.
Suspicions about the calls were aroused after officials noticed the enormous phone bill on a city-issued phone, and there was no reason for the calls since the office did not have any official dealings with the DR.
There are also charges from the city phone to a local lawyer called Judith Thomas. Casara's lawyer says that his client did not know the phone had restrictions and that if it did, he would cover the costs.

US cars exempt of taxes in 2010
Consider choosing an American-made car for your next purchase, even if it is a Toyota, because as of 2010 cars with at least 35% US components will benefit from tax exemptions included in the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement. The
Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement also applies to vehicle spare parts, batteries and tires, as long as they are made in the US.
Listin Diario reports that the tax break goes into effect in 2010.
For the time being however, these vehicles pay 5% tax, given that the gradual dismounting of taxes began in 2005 when the rate was at 20%, and US cars are not bargain-priced. Despite the duty free treatment under DR-CAFTA, the Dominican government levied a 17% first license plate tax on vehicles, preventing consumers from benefiting from the duty free exemption.

AILA expects more traffic
Authorities at the Las Americas International Airport (AILA) are expecting more than 2 million travelers during this year's holiday season. This will include Dominicans living abroad. This is a 40% increase over the volume of passenger traffic in 2008. Spokesman Carlos Cota said the airport is ready to receive these additional numbers. The Immigration, Customs and airport security authorities have all increased their personnel for the busier holiday season. Cota says that December will see a specific increase of about 42,000 travelers.

Diplomatic Ladies Bazaar
This Saturday, 5 December, diplomatic wives and female embassy staff in the Dominican Republic are holding their annual Diplomatic Ladies Bazaar.
The embassies contribute goods that represent each country, including arts and crafts, liquors and products not readily available in local markets. The event will take place at the main hall at Casa de Espana from 10am to 5pm.
There will be stands selling goods from Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Switzerland, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, the Order of Malta, UNICEF and the US, among others.
For more on upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar

The baseball scores
After a dismal start to the Dominican Winter League season, the Aguilas have made a change that should give them an instant boost. The Aguilas have hired Tony Pena as their manager. If you recall, Pena is the bench coach for the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees. Pena comes with years of managerial experience and could be that missing link for helping this team back to its winning ways. Pena will have Miguel Dilone and Denio Gonzalez by his side. Pena was a coach with the team between 1997 and 2000, winning two crowns.
And on the field the games went on as usual, with the Lobos de Arecibo taking the Escogido 4-2 and the Toros del Este beating the Estrellas Orientales 8-6.
Standings
Team W-L Avg. Diff.
ESCOGIDO 21 - 14 .600 --
LICEY 21 - 14 .600 0.0
AZUCAREROS 19 - 16 .543 2.0
GIGANTES 17 - 18 .486 4.5
AGUILAS 16 - 19 .457 5.5
ESTRELLAS 12 - 23 .353 9.0
 
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