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Daily News - 27 July 1999

PRD chooses to re-elect president of Senate
Senate president Ramón Alburquerque was re-elected as the PRD candidate to preside the Senate from 16 August 1999 to 16 August 2000. Alburquerque (Monte Plata) defeated Milton Ray Guevara (Samana), 16 votes to 5. There were three abstentions. Since the PRD has majority in the Senate (24 PRD senators), Alburquerque is most likely to win the 16 August vote call and continue as president of the Senate.

Neighborhood donates jeep to Police for area patrol
Residents of El Millón Primero neighborhood in Santo Domingo chose to help the National Police's declared war on crime. The neighborhood gathered sufficient money to purchase a jeep, and the Police has committed to use it to permanently patrol the neighborhood. Speaking for the neighborhood, Gilberto Pérez Matos said that they felt citizens need to cooperate with the Police to put a stop to crime that has surged in the past months. Instead of increasing the number of individual private watchmen in the area, the neighborhood felt that the Police was better trained to do the job. Pérez Matos feels all neighborhoods should join efforts with Major General Candelier Tejada to confront crime.
The government recently announced it will be bolstering the Police with a RD$150 million project soon to be underway.

Investigating the whereabouts of missing equipment at JCE
The Junta Central Electoral, the government body in charge of organizing the upcoming 2000 presidential election said that a commission of members of the JCE and Datocentro (the firm contracted to issue the new voting cards) will determine the whereabouts of 37 computer equipment that were purchased but do not appear to be installed at the JCE. The commission will carry out an inventory of the equipment installed at the JCE.
Datocentro was contracted at a cost of US$18 million. The government has paid US$14 million dollars on this contract, but there are major delays in the issuing of the voting cards.
An OAS-sponsored audit by CAPEL showed technical and administrative problems have caused the delays. The audit also showed that 37 important computer equipment were missing.
Recently, the government disbursed an additional RD$15 million so that the JCE could accelerate the process of issuing the voting cards and meet deadlines for the 2000 election.

The most expensive passport in the world
The New York Daily News carries a report today on the high cost of Dominican passports issued by the DR consulate in New York City. The story reports that Dominicans need to pay the highest fee of any passport in the world to obtain the document at the New York City Consulate. The newspaper says that the runner up most expensive passport, that of Ecuador, costs US$103.
Reportedly, the Dominican Consulate in New York City sells the passports for US$200. The document can be obtained in Santo Domingo for US$40. This violates the legally established fee set by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The New York Consulate has defended itself against the charge of expensive services in the past alleging that the moneys are poured back to Dominican expatriates in efficient services (passports can be obtained in an hour and a half) and many free services offered by the consulate.
The Daily News says that the moneys add up to about US$70,000 a day, of which Dominican law allows the consul to keep 25%.
The newspaper also reports that the Consulate will soon be reducing the passport fee by US$50, bringing it to a US$150 charge.

Red Cross alerts on low blood reserves
Dominican Red Cross alerted that there are insufficient reserves of blood to face a national catastrophe. The director of the Blood Bank Department of the Red Cross, Dr. Socrates Sosa said that the opening of regional blood banks in San Francisco de Macorís, Santiago in addition to the one in Santo Domingo has been positive. Blood banks are set to open in Barahona and La Romana. But he alerted that the nation does not have the capacity to supply the blood that will be needed in case of a phenomenon such as a catastrophic earthquake. The present level of blood donations is at 26,000 units per year. The organization points out that normal demand is 25,000 units per year, leaving very little for reserves. The Dominican Red Cross encourages donations. If only 1% of the population donated blood, this would be sufficient to create needed reserve levels.

DR shows little respect for those in wheel chairs
El Siglo newspaper highlighted the lack of compliance to existing rulings for facilities for persons in wheel chairs in the DR. Vicente de Peignand, of the Dominican Rehab Association complained that not even at the Las Americas International Airport are these rulings being met. Decree 284-91 established that the Ministry of Public Works would not approve architectural plans that did not include facilities for those in wheel chairs. Unfortunately, this has not been followed. The ruling establishes dimensions for doors, sidewalks and ramps in order to facilitate the movement of handicapped persons.

Tragedy near Boca Chica
In La Caleta, a community near Boca Chica beach, three children died (1, 3 and 5 year olds) when the shack in which they lived burned down. Their 25-year old mother had left a candle lit in the house. She also left an uncle looking after the children. The uncle had left and the mother had not returned when the tragedy occurred. The children died when the house caught on fire, and neighbors weren't able to get the children out in time. At the time of the tragedy, the father had been drinking at the house of a 22-year old woman with whom he had two children. The police interrogated the parents, but did not make any arrests. The father is a "motoconchista", that is he carries fare-paying passengers on his motorcycle to make a living. The mother is eight months pregnant.

DR wins silver in women's karate in Pan Ams
Katia Acevedo was heart broken when Brazilian Lucelia Lobeiro defeated her 6-0 and won the gold medal in the 60 kilogram event at the Pan American Games. It would have been the third DR gold in a Pan Am games and the first time it was won by a woman. Katia Acevedo had earlier defeated contenders from Cuba and the US. Her silver medal is the only medal won by the Dominican team in the Pan Am Games so far. The DR hopes to win more than 14 medals by the time the games are over. The medal places the DR in 15th place in the standing as of Monday, 26 July.

Mark McGwire ties with Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire hit his 36th home run yesterday and tied with Dominican Sammy Sosa, of the Chicago Cubs. McGwire batted his three-run homer in the game the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants, 10-8. This is McGwire's ninth homer in his last 12 games.

Festival de Merengue
Plan on having dinner in one of the Colonial City restaurants. Afterwards, take a stroll down to the Malecón or the Avenida del Puerto to enjoy some of the best Dominican merengue bands playing live and free for the entertainment of all. The crowds are not big, and there's room for all to get a close up look at one of the leading bands.
Schedule for the week is as follows:
Tuesday, 27 July
Los Toros Band, Sergio Vargas, Rockabanda
Thursday, 27 July
Fernando Villalona, Manole Banda del Truco
Friday, 30 July
Eddy Herrera, Parada Joven and Juan Manuel
Saturday, 31 July
Kaki Vargas and Ramon Orlando
Also part of the Merengue Festival, the Second Gala of Unpublished Merengues 1999 will take place on Thursday, 29 July at the Teatro La Fiesta of the Hotel Jaragua. Fifteen compositions were selected from 400 submissions and are being arranged by leading Dominican musicians for the upcoming competition. The event is part of the Merengue Festival that opens 23 July and will end 1 August in Santo Domingo, and the southeastern beach communities of Boca Chica and Juan Dolio.
The Gran Encuentro de Música Típica is set for Friday, 30 July at 8:30 at Plaza Nico Lora (in front of Parque Eugenio María de Hostos) on the Malecón. Francisco Ulloa, Jose y su Artilleria Pesada and La India Canela will perform their own particular brand of grassroots music. 
Merengue Festival will close with a bang on Sunday, 1 August. In Boca Chica Beach, Fernando Villalona and Francisco Ulloa entertaining all at the main parking lot as of 3 pm. That same evening, in Santo Domingo, the festival closes with an all night party at the Avenida del Puerto starring Toño Rosario, La Banda X and Peña Suazo y su Banda Gorda.

Alice in Wonderland arrives by the Internet
Dominican playwrights Enrique Chao and Gabriel Paulino have done a rewrite of Lewis Carol's legendary "Alice in the Wonderland" tale that opened last weekend at the National Theater. Reviews have been very good for the presentation that continues this weekend, Saturday 31 July and Sunday, 1 August at the National Theater. In the adaptation, Alice arrives by the Internet. A Fidel Lopez production, the play will star Stephanie Fatule Báez in the role of Alice. The music score is by Frank Ceara. Tickets are still available at the National Theater box office.

Gastronomy Festival set for 3-4 August
25th National Gastronomy Festival is set for Tuesday, and Wednesday, 3 and 4 August. The most important gastronomic event held in the DR, this festival is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, the National Association of Hotels & Restaurants, the Hotels Association of Santo Domingo, the Association of Chefs of the DR and the Caribbean Traveling Network, a travel television channel. It will be held at the Hotel V Centenario Intercontinental.
Tuesday, 3 August:  soups, appetizers, salted dishes, meats, Dominican cuisine, rices, and pastries will be judged.
On Wednesday, 4 August: salads, pastas, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetable, sweet dishes and Dominican sweets.
An admission fee of RD$500 per person is charged, as this year the festival is a benefit for the Hogar de Niños Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, and Father Luis Rosario's Casa de la Acogida.

Carolina Herrera to show her winter collection in DR
Carolina Herrera will be showing her winter '99 collection at the La Romana Casa de Campo Convention Center. The showing is part of a benefit organized by the Mir Foundation. It is set for 14 August. Funds will go for projects underway at the Casa de Paz, Campo Nueva Esperanza and Taller Tecnico Vocacional in La Romana. Jewels and accessories by the fashion houses of Gucci, Celine, Channel, Ferragamo, Bulgari among others will be for sale. This year the organizers have programmed several sports events in order to attract entire families to spend the weekend in La Romana. A beach fiesta will be held at the Minitas Beach and Fernando Villalona will be entertaining at a giant dance that is also part of the activities.

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